Looking at the map of Europe you can see the boot-shaped country stretching out to the Mediterranean Sea. From the coastline beaches to the highest mountains you can experience very different kinds of scenery in one country. The long and rich history of the region we call today Italy is represented by many historical buildings, churches, palaces, archaeological sites, and landmarks.
Cities and Attractions in Italy
Things to see and do in Italy
Skiing and mountaineering in the Alps
The highest point of the country is Monte Bianco, in Northern Italy, Alta Italia, as the Italians call this region. For ski lovers, I recommend the ski resort of Courmayeur, the highest comune in Italy. You can enjoy hiking, skiing, mountaineering up here, but also a nice spa and the breathtaking alpine landscape. Here in Alta Italia (High Italy), you find cities like Milan, Bologne, Venice, or Pisa, just to mention a few of the most famous ones.
Take a long walk under the porticoes of Bologna
The two biggest cities in the north are Milan, the world’s fashion center and Bologna, the home of the world’s oldest university. Boccaccio, Dante, and Petrarca were students here at the University of Bologna. It is mentioned in chronicles as a settlement as far back as 1000 BC. Bologna, just like other cities throughout the country, has a very well-preserved historical center. The old porticoes (porches with columns) stretch along 24 miles (38 km) in the historical center alone and an extra 4 mi (6,5 km) beyond. Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca is located on a hill, overlooking Bologna, and it is connected to the center of the town by a 12 454 feet (3 796 m) long portico. A stroll you should definitely take, and maybe enjoy a nice Italian handmade gelato (ice cream) along the way.
Visit the racetrack in Imola
If you are a racing enthusiast, or married to one, like I am, you should visit Il Autodromo di Imola, the racing circuit situated 25 mi (40 km) east of Bologna. It is the home circuit of Ferrari, used by Formula One. Its official name is Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e, Dino Ferrari.
Take a night walk in Venice
The floating city of Venice is beautiful during the day, but just wait for the night to come. It is utterly romantic to take a walk down the narrow streets and through the superbly crafted bridges, while the glittering lights of the city are reflected in the water of the canals.
Swim in an alpine lake
If you are also looking for other things to visit, not just crowded cities, visit the lakes of Northern Italy, situated in the Alps. Lago Maggiore is the longest Italian Lake – 40 mi (64 km) long. Lake Garda is the largest, situated about halfway between Milan and Venice. Both lakes have a mild climate both in the summer and in the winter, resulting in Mediterranean vegetation, with gardens growing rare plants (on Borromean and Brissago Islands). At Lake Garda, you can even find olive and citrus trees, both very uncommon so far up north. The water has a nice temperature of 68-72°F (20-22°C) in July and August, so this would be the perfect time to visit and enjoy swimming in the lake.
Get drunk on Renaissance art and architecture
If you wander further south you end up in Central Italy, with its medieval towns like Gubbio or Perugia and also the Renaissance town called Urbino. In this central part of the boot, you should visit beautiful Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance and hometown of the great Medici family, in the Tuscany region. Because of the large number of historical buildings, churches, and monuments, Florence has been named one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The Duomo, The Uffizi Gallery, and the Palazzo Pitti are just a few landmarks of Florence that you should visit. The Uffizi Gallery is full of Renaissance art you can feast your eyes on.
Drive through the hills of Tuscany
I suggest you take a drive through the hills of Tuscany for a view you will remember, the countryside is extraordinary. Take a break and stop at a Tuscan village and enjoy the warm welcome of the Italian people, the local cuisine, and wines. You can also try grappa, a traditional Italian drink, a grape-based strong brandy (37-40% alcohol content).
Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain in Rome
Visit The Eternal City, Rome, the capital of Italy in the Lazio region. The capital has so much to offer its visitors that it’s impossible to even scratch the surface of it all in one trip. After seeing the Pantheon, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, don’t forget to toss a coin into Trevi Fountain and make a wish.
Read more in our blog post: Chill of the North vs Sun of the South
Eat pizza in Naples
The pizza was invented in Naples, a city well known for its cuisine and wines. Pizza Napoletana is something you should try right here at the birthplace of this famous dish.
Spend a day on the beach with black sand
Once you are in Southern Italy you should go visit the Island of Sicily, previously notorious for the mobs, but still famous for the landscape, the cuisine, and tasty wines. Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe is located here, just above the city of Catania. The biggest city of the Island is Palermo, very rich in architectural sites, many buildings were built in Norman style, this particular variation that developed here is also called the Sicilian Romanesque. Just a few miles away from Palermo you can go to the beach to Mondello Lido, packed with restaurants, hotels, and bars, offering great nightlife. From the town of Milazzo, you can reach by boat a very exotic type of beach, with black volcanic sand on the Vulcano Island.
Typical travel costs
In terms of accommodation, Italy is fairly expensive, but you can find decent and budget-friendly accommodation too. A double room at a bed and breakfast in Florence, for example, varies between 65-85 EUR, depending on the season. The same room in Rome starts around 74 EUR and may go up to 150 EUR, depending on the season and the location of the bed and breakfast.
Italy has a very extended railway system, so the train is one of the main transportation options between cities. In many cases, you could also use the bus, but for longer distances you are better off traveling by train, saving some extra hours. A train trip from Milan to Venice starts from 13 EUR, from Venice to Florence 26 EUR, from Florence to Rome 26 EUR, from Rome to Naples 26 EUR. Metros exist in Milan, Turin, Rome and Naples, and also smaller ones in Genoa, Perugia, and Catania. All Italian towns and cities have well-constructed bus lines, both urban and suburban. A metro or bus ticket is around 1,30-2 EUR. Make sure you buy the tickets before you get on a bus, metro or train, and validate it once you are on!
Food is not too expensive in Italy, it just depends on the place you are buying it from. You can buy food at low prices if you go to a local supermarket or grocery store, provided you have a kitchen in your apartment and you can have dinner there. If you eat out at a mid-range restaurant, you should be ready to pay an average 50 EUR for a meal for 2 people. A domestic beer is around 4 EUR at a restaurant. If you buy a mid-range bottle of wine at the market you will pay around 5 EUR.