If you’re on the prowl for the best things to do in Italy, you gotta zoom way out — it’s all about the big picture here.
There are lost of lists that tell you exactly which places to see, which foods to eat and all the fab neighborhoods to stay in. We ourselves just so happen to have crazy cool researched guides to Italy to give you the scoop on all of that.
But if you wanna know how we structure our guides, our tours and our experiences, a nuanced approach to traveling this incredible country is the name of the game…
These five experiences will help you see Italy in a special way, immerse you waist-deep to truly feel it out and allow you to see it with fresh eyes.
Heads-up: they involve going all in to get beyond the usual suspects in each city. This is for travelers who wanna shake things up.
1. Get Hungry
When was the last time you reserved a cushy spot at the best restaurant in town… just because? When in Italy, you gotta do it. Especially since the “best restaurant” here doesn’t always mean it’ll be the most expensive.
Do some research about where locals eat (or check out our recos on things to do and eat in Italy in our city guides here) and make those bookings way, wayyy in advance. In Italy, the best restaurants can get booked out months in advance, especially if you’ve got a Michelin-starred one on your radar.
The next best alternative is booking a cooking experience (we love doing this pretty much anywhere), where you get to spend a couple of hours with a local chef to learn a recipe you can whip up back home to conjure up some tasty vacay memories. Plus, you get to chow down your creation right after.
2. Get Wet
We’re a team of water babies through and through — that’s par for the course considering most of us call the Cinque Terre home for most of the year. So take it from us — if you’re anywhere near water in Italy, get out into it! Italy is surrounded by gorgeous blue-green waters on three sides, and diving into the Mediterranean is high up there on our favorite things to do in Italy.
If swimming isn’t your thing, charter a boat (doesn’t have to be a fancy-pants thing — it’s super easy to do in Cinque Terre) and get them to take you out to secret swimming spots, cute coastal restaurants, and pretty picnic spots to enjoy fresh charcuterie and a glass (or two) of your new fave local vino. We do this on our Southern Italy tour among the Amalfi Coast, and on our Sicily Tour around the Aeolian Islands. If you’re visiting Venice, get a private vaporetto or gondola to guide you — they’ll show you the less touristy corners of the city that you wouldn’t get to see otherwise!
3. Get High
Like we said at the start — to figure out the things you wanna do in Italy, you gotta zoom out. And quite literally, one of those things is getting as high up into your city as you can to see it from top-of-the-tower levels. Here are some of our faves:
- In Florence, the view of this cobblestoned city from Piazzale Michelangelo or post-climb from the top of the Duomo is a non-negotiable on our list. You can reward yourself with gelato after!
- In the Cinque Terre, you don’t even have to do the whole big hiking trail — just start in Vernazza and head towards Corniglia, because it has the most stunning views you’ll ever see. Pastel-pretty towns perched next to bright blue waters you’ll wanna jump right into. *swoon*
- In Lucca, climb Torre Guinigi, a tower that has trees growing out of the top so that it already looks super cool from the ground — imagine how amazing it is when you’re at the tippy top!
4. Get Active
Getting your heart rate up in Italy can happen so many ways, just by finding The Painting you’re obsessed with in a galleria or digging into that perfect bowl of cacio e pepe after walking in the sun all day in Rome…
Or don your sweat-wicking gear and put those cute shoes to the cobblestones. When thinking about things to do in Italy, we love heading out early in the morning while the city is still groggy to tackle a big walk — from your hotel to those rose gardens on the other side of the city, for example. To a neighboring village if you’re on the Amalfi Coast. Along a vineyard, just outside of cities like Siena or Florence. To get on a trail in the Cinque Terre, before the heat fully kicks in. And if biking (or Vespa-ing) is more your speed, rent one and go on a day tour with a guide.
There’s more to Italian cities than what’s pulsing in the heart of them. Venturing out by foot or bike to explore is one of the things to do that most people miss when they’re swept up by the gorgeous cities they’re parked in. Do it!
5. Get Sexy
Yup, we said it. Let’s be real like the farm-fresh ricotta we’re spooning onto our plate right now — Italy is totally known for beautiful people. Beautiful clothes. Beautiful products. Seriously, that’s why we always allow for extra room to shop when we pack. And while window shopping is fun — c’ mon, you’re in Italy. The place to be inspired, but also, to take action. Our suggestions:
- Inspired by well-dressed, well-manicured Italians? Buy a new bra set or bathing suit in Italy! We love popping into Intimissimi, a chain you can find in pretty much any city.
- Spritzed a sexy scent on your wrist and walked away? Double back — buy local beauty products like pretty perfumes at the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy in Florence. In Italy they have something called profumerie. Literally translated as “perfumeries,” they’re places to buy beauty products and you’ll find them in cities big and small.
- Booked your restaurant reso and getting dolled up? Take it one step further and get your hair cut in an Italian salon. Not only will it be a fun experience, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon feeling like a local. Get ready for some fun hand gestures as you try and communicate the length of that cut.
There are truly so many things to do in Italy, but we’re all about the experiences. We believe it’s about how you wanna feel first, and what your camera clicks second.
Remember that when you’re planning your trip, our City Guides make that so much easier. We’ve been there done that, and we’re passing on decades’ worth of Italy travel knowledge inside.
Want more intel on things to do in Italy? Check out these posts:
- What To Do In Florence
- Florence Italy Attractions: What We’re Loving Right Now
- 5 Unique Things to Do in Rome You Haven’t Considered Yet
- One Perfect Day in Cinque Terre
- The Beginner’s Guide to Cinque Terre + Free Itinerary
Now we would love to hear in the comments, what’s one thing you would like to do when you’re there? Post below, and you may just help someone else find something great too.