Birthplace of the Renaissance. Epicenter of the Roman Empire. Venice. The Riviera. Rolling Tuscan hills.
See for yourself why Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world.
From ancient Roman ruins in Pompeii to Botticelli’s Birth of Venus to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in Italy there’s a masterpiece around every corner. But pace yourself. Balance your hectic sightseeing with savoring the moments. That’s how you’ll best appreciate La Dolce Vita.
Rome will be your first test. Give yourself over to the chaotic magnificence of the Eternal City. Walk through the Coliseum where gladiators fought. Climb the dome in St. Peter’s Basilica and crane your neck at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Then stroll down the Spanish Steps and pause to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain. (That’s how you ensure a return trip.)
Now you’re safe to head north to Venice, a city of marble palaces bravely built on top of a lagoon. Spend a day deciphering the maze of streets, feeding pigeons in St. Mark’s Square and exploring Murano’s glass factories. At sunset, rest your feet during a gondola ride on the city’s Grand Canal.
Join the world’s fashionistas in Milan. Book a 15-minute viewing of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper, then window shop along the Quadrilatero della Moda, one of the most important fashion districts in the world. In the evening, revel in the drama on and off the famous stage at La Scala – where the opera audience is critical and vocal about their views.
Italy’s northern border with Switzerland has some of its most stunning nature. On Lake Maggiore, at the foot of the Alps, ride the ferry to Isola Bella to visit the Baroque Palazzo Borromeo with its 10 tiers of terraced gardens. In romantic Bellagio, on nearby Lake Como, aristocratic families, literary figures and celebrities have summered for centuries. Follow their lead in an elegant lakeside villa hotel, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Take a slow boat – battello – to the bustling town of Como, Europe’s silk-producing center. In Como’s historic district, wander from piazza to piazza, stopping for espresso or gelato.
Further south, the breathtaking hills of Tuscany offer vineyards, medieval villages, lots of art and Pisa’s famous tower. Taste Chianti on its home turf. In Florence, stand in awe before the masterpieces of the Uffizi Gallery, from Botticelli to Raffaello. Outside the museum, climb to the top of the Duomo, the city’s magnificent Renaissance cathedral. For some peace and quiet, cross the Arno River to the Oltrarno neighborhood, home to bookbinders, paper marblers, shoemakers, jewelers and mosaic artists.
In nearby Arezzo, forage for treasures at the monthly antique market and don’t miss the twice-yearly Palio horse race on Sienna’s cobblestone streets.
To balance out the sightseeing, book a stay in a local agriturismo property. Shop, cook and relax with the locals in small towns in Tuscany and across Italy in some of the most picturesque accommodations in the country.
Riviera translates to coastline in Italian – and the seaside has its own allure. Hike the Cinque Terre trail, mix with yachters in Portofino or head to Tuscany’s forest-lined beaches for peace and quiet. Further down the coast, sample pizza in its noisy birthplace, Naples, or explore the stunning seaside towns along the famous Amalfi Coast.
A few miles off the mainland is Sicily, the largest Italian island, with its own history and unique landscapes. Hike in Mount Etna’s protected nature reserves. Explore the Valley of Temples from the 6th century BC. View migrating flamingos and nesting loggerhead turtles at Vendicari Reserve. Golf or ride horses or kite surf. Afterwards, relax in a natural thermal spa or just swim in the island’s crystal-clear water.
Your must-see, must-do list in Italy could top a thousand. Pare it down. Pace yourself. And enjoy your La Dolce Vita.