Top things to do in Italy

Must-see Italy sights

From north to south, Italy is as varied as can be. It’s a paradise for foodies, with its gelato, pizza and aperitivo, as much as it’s a haven for history lovers, with its ancient Roman history still visible across sites, museums and art. Those who enjoy making the most of the outdoors will be charmed by its natural landscapes, whether they want to tour coastlines and lakes or go hiking in the Alps or Dolomites.

  1. Embrace the Amalfi Coast
  2. Toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, Rome
  3. Be wowed by Matera
  4. Stroll around Piazza San Marco, Venice
  5. Check out the beaches of Sardinia
  6. Tour the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum
  7. Escape to Lake Como

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1. Embrace the Amalfi Coast

The uninterrupted beauty of the Amalfi Coast makes it one of the best things to do in Italy, with its white cliffside houses, bursts of zesty lemons and glittering-blue waters to enjoy. There are hairpin roads that zigzag down to the coast, where a boat excursion allows you to look back at the gorgeous, UNESCO-listed area from the water. Within the area itself there are maze-like alleyways to navigate, narrow stairways to wander down and your next favourite bar or restaurant to discover, whether it’s for a glass of limoncello or simply the breathtaking views.

Best for: Romance.

While you’re there: Sights to see include the Cathedral of St. Andrew, Handmade Paper Museum and Ancient Arsenals of the Republic.

2. Toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain, Rome

You can’t go to Rome and not check out the Trevi Fountain. It might be crowded, but it’s easy to see why: the large fountain is topped with an impressive sculpture of Oceanus and backs onto the Palazzo Poli, looking regal, historic and intimidating all in one go. Wondering why so many are keen to part with their coins and toss them into the fountain? It’s believed that one coin indicates you’ll return to Rome, while a second coin is to ensure romance and a third for marriage.

Best for: Top Rome sightseeing – and a chance of romance.

While you’re there: Nearby are the genteel landscaped gardens of Jardines del Quirinal.

3. Be wowed by Matera

Matera is an Italian city like few others, with its iconic sassi (cave dwellings) clustered across the rocky gorge. These sassi have been occupied for thousands of years, although the living conditions eventually became so bad – livestock and family shared the same grottoes – that residents were eventually asked to leave. However, it offers a fascinating opportunity to explore restored recreations of traditional sassi life, and in 2019 it was selected as the European Capital of Culture.

Best for: Time travel.

While you’re there: Head up to the duomo (cathedral) for superlative views.

4. Stroll around Piazza San Marco, Venice

What to do in Italy? Make the most of Venice, of course! Kick-start your visit by strolling around the wide-set Piazza San Marco, or St Mark’s Square, home to plenty of attractions as much as it is a starting base to venture further out. The highlight has to be the campanile, a 16th-century square tower, where a walk to the top offers great views across the square and waterways beyond.

Best for: Must-see sights.

While you’re there: Aside from the tower, head inside the Basilica and adjoining museum.

5. Check out the beaches of Sardinia

If you’re looking for things to do in Italy, they don’t all have to be about the best museums, galleries and buildings. The large island of Sardinia, to the west of the mainland, offers fabulous beaches that are perfect for those looking to enjoy a slower pace. Slap-bang in the middle of the Mediterranean, the beaches are sublime meaning that you’re spoilt for choice: among some of the best include Cala Goloritze with its transparent water and secluded feel; La Pelosa Beach with its paddle-friendly shallow waters and even a 16th-century tower; and Cala Brandinchi, a more popular spot with its gorgeous white sand and thriving vegetation. The choice is yours!

Best for: Beach life.

While you’re there: Porto Istana is a popular spot for divers, snorkelers and surfers.

6. Tour the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum

In 79AD, Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Centuries later, excavations re-discovered these two once-thriving Roman towns: from mosaic-tiled villas to fresco-lined bathhouses, as well as spartan brothels, wide-stone roads and hole-in-the-wall shops. In fact, thanks to the volcanic eruption, it allows us in the modern day to discover just what ordinary life was like in the Roman Empire, away from the emperors and their gluttonous wealth. Take a tour of these two historic sites for a glimpse into ordinary Pompeian life; it’s possible to visit both in a day or two. Browsing Italy holiday packages? Start off at the Amalfi Coast, where it’s possible to see Pompeii and Herculaneum on the same trip, before moving on to the rest of your itinerary.

Best for: Seeing ordinary Roman life.

While you're there: Look at the Paris of plaster casts of those discovered.

7. Escape to Lake Como

Add a splash of glam to your trip to Italy with a visit to Lake Como, located in the northern Lombardy region of the country. It’s something like the Monaco of Italy, with its flashy cars, decadent buildings and ultra-swish clientele. There’s still plenty for the everyday visitor to enjoy, though, from historic palaces, well-clipped gardens and tasty cappuccino to enjoy while watching the colourful, beautiful scenes around you.

Best for: The Italian Lakes.

While you're there: Situated at the foothills of the Alps, Lake Como also makes prime walking territory.

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