Things to see and do in Italy
Attractions in Italy
Be inspired by the scenic Cinque Terre
WB Yeats, Ezra Pound, Byron and Shelley all garnered inspiration from Italy’s picturesque Riviera. Hardly surprising considering the dramatic curving bay and pine-covered mountains banded with vineyards and olive groves. Get a taste of the high life in the pastel-hued villas of Portofino, Rapallo, Portovenere and Lerici.
Bring out the binoculars and go wildlife watching
In the National Park of Abruzzo, you might spot Marsican brown bears (unique to Italy), chamois and eagles. In the Molise region, the Matese mountain range is still a haven for wolves, while bird-watchers should head to Sardinia during the autumn migration to spot Eleonora’s falcons and the rare cirl bunting.
Coo at culture on the canals of Venice
With marble palaces afloat on teal-blue waters, garden islands yielding speciality produce and golden glimpses of heaven in St Mark’s Basilica, Venice is a work of art in itself. Drift down the world’s most beautiful boulevard, the Grand Canal, and see where Casanova was imprisoned in the Doge’s Palace.
Dare to visit Europe's most active volcano
Offering skiing in the winter and hiking in summer, Mt Etna is Sicily’s most famous natural attraction. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and active volcano, it is also the highest mountain on the island currently measuring 3,350m (10,990ft) – the height varies with each eruption. According to Ancient Greek mythology, Cyclops forged Zeus’ lightning bolts deep within the sweltering centre of the volcano.
Delve into Ravenna's wealth of UNESCO sites
Discover early Byzantine and Christian monuments decorated with stunning mosaics in Ravenna, including the splendid Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the golden flourishes of Basilica di San Vitale and the serene Neonian Baptistery. A trove of religious art and culture, the city boasts eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Discover the delights of Padua
Home to Italy’s second oldest museum and a bastion of free-thinking, Padua harbours unique treasures. Almost 200 years before Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel came Giotto’s groundbreaking frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel. Copernicus and Galileo taught at the University’s Palazzo Bo and pilgrims still seek miracle cures at St Anthony’s tomb in the Basilica.
Explore the glorious Greek sites of Sicily
Hot, dry and wracked by earthquake and eruption, Sicily has been on the tourist trail since Goethe wrote home about Agrigento's Valle dei Templi in 1786. Part of Greater Greece for over 500 years, Sicily's sites outshine many in Greece. The catacombs at the Capuchin Monastery contain thousands of mummified bodies and classical Greek plays are still performed in Syracuse's Greek Theatre.
Explore the religious riches of Vatican City
Enter the Vatican City, an independent sovereign state best known for the magnificent St Peter's Basilica. Among the principal features of the Vatican Palace (the Pope's residence) are the Sistine Chapel – featuring Michelangelo's famous fresco, The Creation of Adam, and the Vatican Museums.
Hike, climb and ski picture-perfect peaks
In the Valle d'Aosta region, go hill walking or climbing in the Gran Paradiso National Park and Mont Avic Regional Park, home to wildlife including the chamois and ibex. On the Swiss border, the flower-cloaked slopes of the Dolomites are also ideal for hiking and mountaineering. In winter, heavy snowfall, chic hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants attract a stylish ski crowd.
Learn about geometry at the Leaning Tower of Pisa
Constructed in 1174, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, located in Pisa's Campo dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles) is famous both for its striking beauty and awkward geometry. Today, one side is 5m (16ft) closer to the ground than the other. Galileo used the tower for experiments to prove his theory of motion when he was chair of mathematics at the town’s university.
Live a life of luxury among the Italian Lakes
Basking in a Mediterranean microclimate, the Italian Lakes have been a popular holiday spot since Roman times. The Borromean princes built their palaces on islands in the middle of Lake Maggiore, while modern-day movie stars and Russian billionaires now seek shelter in art deco villas amid Lake Como’s blooming tropical gardens.
Look for love in Verona
Soak up the romantic sights of Verona, the setting of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The Casa di Giulietta (Juliet's House) attracts thousands of visitors to its balcony each year, whilst the vast Roman Arena, built in the 1st century, is the site of an annual opera festival.
Look under the carpet at Siena cathedral
Admire Siena's extraordinary humbug-striped cathedra (Duomo). With a grand, upper façade mosaic, peeping gargoyles and large bronze door, there is plenty to attract the eye from the outside. Inside though, the fine blue and gold interior adds to the grandeur. Go in September to see its intricate patterned floor (pavimento) which remains covered most of the year.
Revel in the beauty of Florence
Visit Florence and see Brunelleschi's revolutionary design for the magnificent cathedral (Duomo). Cross the medieval Ponte Vecchio bridge, see the art collections of the Uffizi Gallery and Michelangelo's famous statue of David at the Galleria dell'Accademia, all among the city’s beautiful Renaissance architecture.
Sail around spectacular Sardinia
With its turquoise coastline, spectacular grottoes and coral-rich seas, Sardinia is a diver’s paradise. Above sea level, winds blow along the northern and southern coasts, attracting wind and kite surfers to Santa Teresa di Gallura and Chiaia, while sailors cast off beneath the granite cliffs of the Golfo di Orosei.
Take to the coast for watersports
From water skiing to windsurfing, head to the coast where all types of watersports are available. Popular spots include the Italian Riviera in Liguria, the Adriatic and Amalfi coasts. Less busy are the beaches in Sicily, which has large sandy stretches on the southern coast, and in Sardinia. Many of Italy's best dive sites are located in Sardinia.
Tour the Tuscan wine cellars
Typically, the landscape of Tuscany is one of vine-covered hills, cypress woods, fields of sunflowers and remote hilltop villages. Chianti, the best-known Italian wine, is made in the area north of Siena. With several vineyards open to the public, wine fans should drink their way around a Tuscan tasting tour.
Tour the ancient heart of Rome
With its epic history and monumental museums, Rome is the repository of over 2,500 years of European art and architecture. Start at the beginning with the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon and the Capitoline Museums. Then get intimate in the reconstructed bedrooms (cubicula) of Museo Nazionale Romano.
Walk through the remains of Pompeii
Understand how 1st-century Romans lived their daily lives when you see the remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum, engulfed in the great eruption of 79 CE. Wander the narrow streets of these well-preserved archaeological sites to see their amphitheatres, their forums and plenty of striking colourful mosaics. In Pompeii, plaster casts have been made of the doomed resident's remains.
Italian Tourist Board (ENIT) in the USAAddress: 686 Park Avenue, New York, 10065
Telephone: +1 212 245 5618.
Not open to public.
Italian State Tourist Board (ENIT) in the UKAddress: 1 Princes Street, London, W1B 2AY
Telephone: +44 20 7408 1254.