Italy Travel Guide: 8 Transformative Adventures Beyond The Cities

Italy is home to several iconic landmarks like the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the ruins of Pompeii, to name a few. However, Italy is more than just these buildings and more than the popular cities of Florence, Milan and Rome. Beyond these cities, this Italy travel guide will take you deeper into other Italian highlights you might not have heard of. With so much to do, instead of a hurried trip around Europe, we suggest you spend up to two weeks travelling to Italy, exploring and soaking up what the Italians have to offer.

Fun fact: Italy is divided into 20 regions, including Sicily, Tuscany and Calabria. Rome, the capital of Italy, is also the capital city of Lazio, located right in the centre of the country. Other capital cities are Venice in the region of Veneto and Milan in the region of Lombardy.

The Ultimate Italy Travel Guide

1. Marvel At the Beauty of Duomo di Milano, Lombardy

Milan Cathedral Italy
The country’s largest church is the Milan Cathedral or Duomo di Milano. | Credit: Ouael Ben Salah via Unsplash

This church dedicated to the Nativity of Saint Mary took about six centuries to build. You might think the largest church is in Rome, and you would be half right. St. Peter’s Basilica is the world’s largest cathedral but is located within Vatican City, an independent city-state within Rome. If we’re considering just the Italian Republic, then the Milan Cathedral ranks at the top—and one of the best places to visit in Italy.

Also known as the Duomo to the locals, the church’s interior is built with phenomenal marble decorations and equipped with a stunning altar. When you visit this cathedral, check out the roof area, as you can climb the staircase to the top and see all of Milan. Along the way, there are plenty of Italy travel guides that you can also grab for reference. You’d be surprised to see the number of things to do in Italy.

2. See The Temples Of The Acropolis in Selinunte, Sicily

Acropolis Selinunte Italy
Once a political hub in Sicily, the Acropolis also has five different temples. | Credit: Sung Shin via Unsplash

When you travel to Italy, there are great chances to travel back in time, as you’ll discover at the Acropolis of Selinunte. Believe it or not, the Acropolis was once a political hub in Sicily before it became this wonder you see in magazines today, among the best places to visit in Italy.

Inside the Acropolis, you’ll find five very different temples. The popular 6th-century BC Temple C was dedicated to the god Apollo. Also, from the same period, Temple D was believed to be dedicated to Venus. Temple A and O are said to have been built between 490 and 480 BC, and as these two were constructed together, people also believed they were dedicated to the well-known twins, Castor and Pollux.

3. Go Deep Into the Frasassi Caves, Marche

Frasassi Cave Italy
The Frasassi Cave system is rich in water and filled with stalactites and stalagmites. | Credit: Giordano Rossoni via Unsplash

Located deep in the grounds of Ancona, the Frasassi Caves are so breathtakingly beautiful you will feel like you’re travelling to the Earth’s core. An underground walk here is one of the more unusual things to do in Italy, which averages about 75-80 minutes. The route is on a well-lit walkway, taking you through many exciting and stunning karst formations.

One of the highlights here is the Ancona Abyss—a chamber so vast that it is said to be able to fit the entire Milan Cathedral (mentioned above)! Get the most out of this mind-boggling trip with a guided tour, which will provide you with more in-depth information.

4. Toss a Coin Into the Trevi Fountain In Rome, Lazio

Trevi Fountain Italy
Your luck will flourish, and your wish may come true when you toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain. | Credit: Michele Bitetto via Unsplash

No matter how cliché it is, you’ll still have to visit Rome when you travel to Italy. And of all the attractions here, the Trevi Fountain is a must-see. Built in the Baroque style and carved from Carrara marble, it is lit at night, making it a spectacular hangout spot and undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Italy.

According to local lore, you will return to the city when you toss a coin into the fountain using your right hand over your left shoulder. Do it twice, and you will find romance with an Italian native, and a third time will result in marriage. It is one of those typical things to do in Italy, an old wives’ tale, but that has not stopped the thousands of tourists doing so daily.

5. Delve Deep Underground At the Colosseum in Rome, Lazio

Colosseum rome italy
The Colosseum was an arena for brutal gladiatorial games and served many purposes through the centuries. | Credit: David Kohler via Unsplash

While you’re in Rome, you cannot miss the historic Colosseum. Embodying the rich history of this ancient city, the Colosseum now allows you to explore its lesser-known areas underground. With 7 million visitors yearly, bookings are required. A guided tour will illuminate the history of the place, the tunnels and mazes, and the secret passageways and cells, all located deep under the arena floor.

You can also witness where the gladiators and wild animals gathered before their deadly showtime. Elephants, lions, leopards and even bears were locked in the hypogeum, an underground chamber with pulleys attached to the cage doors. They would then be lifted by enslaved people when it’s time for the fight, which never ends well for both animals and gladiators. For history, the Colosseum is one of Italy’s best places to visit.

6. Explore Duomo di Firenze, Florence, Tuscany

Santa Maria del Fiore
Climb to the top of the Florence Cathedral, or Duomo di Firenze, for sweeping vistas of the city’s architectural beauty. | Credit: Ilya Orehov via Unsplash

Ahh, Florence—one of Italy’s most dreamy, romantic and artistic cities, if not in all of Europe. Apart from fashion and art, you’ll need to see the Florence Cathedral, also known as Duomo di Firenze or Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. This cathedral is famed for its iconic dome, estimated to weigh 25,000 tons, built with ingenious engineering solutions never before seen in its day.

When you visit this cathedral, you can make a time-slot reservation to climb the 463 steps to the top of the cupola—the pinnacle of one of the best places to visit in Italy. Be warned. It is not for the faint-hearted! However, the close-up views of the ceiling frescoes and the extraordinary vistas of the city outside will make it a highlight of your Italy travels.

7. Catch the opera At Arena di Verona, Veneto

If you’re a music and opera enthusiast, don’t miss the chance to attend an opera when you travel to Italy. More specifically, an opera at the Arena di Verona. What makes this venue unique is that the amphitheatre was built in 30 AD and is still in use today, able to accommodate 22,000 guests!

The Verona Opera Festival takes place annually around June to August and is deemed one of Europe’s most important summer music events, right next to the Salzburg and Bayreuth festivals. A must-see on your Italy travels. In the proud tradition of open-air opera, the music can even be heard from Hotel Milano’s rooftop terrace, which also has a phenomenal view overlooking the arena.

8. Scale New Heights at the Cinque Terre, Liguria

Cinque Terre italy
The colourful cliffside villages of Cinque Terre are an iconic feature of many Italy travel photographs. | Credit: Bjorn Snelders via Unsplash

When travelling to Italy, spend at least a day away from the cities. The beautiful Cinque Terre provides a breath of fresh air as you soak in the stunning views of the coastline. Cinque Terre means “Five Lands”, and refers to the five villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. All villages are connected via many walking trails, the most famous of which is the 12 km-long Sentiero Azzurro, which comprises different sections of varying difficulty.

As of 2022, a few paths are closed for maintenance work, so check and plan your route. Remember that hiking the Cinque Terre requires good strength and stamina, proper footwear, and love for heights—many paths skirt the sheer cliffs above the sea! If this is not for you, you’ll be glad to know that there are train services as well.

9. savour Venice in a Gondola, Veneto

venice gondola italy
Drift along the canals in a gondola for the complete romantic experience of Venice. | Credit: Damiano Baschiera via Unsplash

There have been rumours that Venice is sinking, but before that comes true, you would want to ride along the canals and soak in the beauty and colours of this watery Italian city. And riding a gondola—the curvy, traditional rowing boat with a flat bottom—in Venice surely ranks among the top things to do in Italy.

You can find plenty of gondoliers along the Grand Canal by the Doge’s Palace and Rialto Bridge. They are usually waiting in white or striped shirts with straw hats. Or choose to hire a private gondolier if you have a few places you’d like to visit in the city. These good people can also be your tour guide, showing you the must-see spots in the city. But sometimes the best views are moments in passing, for example, when the Grand Canal palaces and restaurants light up at night, with their warm hues reflecting in the water.

Italy is filled with beautiful architecture, stunning views and great activities. Plan your trip around the entire country if you can, instead of focusing on just one city. With these eight things to do in Italy, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the lifestyle and culture of this beautiful country.

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