For the last several years, we have been traveling to Italy over and over again, each trip deeper and richer than the last… and yet, our Italy bucket list seems to keep getting longer instead of shorter!
Discovering all of the best things to do in Italy is a lifelong project and one that we absolutely relish taking on.
We adore traveling in Italy. The food, the distinct regional differences, the landscapes, the sheer breadth of places to visit… this is truly a magical place, and there is a reason that foreigners like us have been getting caught up in its web for centuries.
As a travel destination, Italy is simply unbeatable.
We spend a lot of time writing about Italy, a lot of time traveling in Italy, and a lot of time dreaming and scheming about how to get back to Italy once we leave… so it only makes sense that we finally commit our (ever-growing) Italian bucket list to print.
Looking for some epic ideas to help you decide what to do in Italy?
Here’s what we suggest, from the obvious to the unusual. Some we’ve done, some we haven’t, and some we fully plan to do again.
I’m going to do my best to list each of these Italy bucket list items as a single experience, but let’s be real–many of them are best experienced a dozen times or more!
Table of Contents
Once You Narrow Your Italy Bucket List Down…
Obviously, no one Italian vacation could possibly cover all of the tourist attractions, bucket list experiences, and incredible destinations listed here (believe me, if there was a way, we’d be all over it).
Once you narrow down your wish list ever so slightly, we recommend heading over to our Italy itinerary guide to start putting your trip together!
We also recommend reading our comprehensive list of Italy travel tips before you go, our suggested packing list for Italy, and, if you’re hoping to self-drive part of your trip, our advice on structuring an Italian road trip.
One of my favorite things to write about Italy are detailed itineraries, and we have suggestions for Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, Milan, Naples, and more (and in the cases of some cities, several versions depending on how long you have to explore!).
With more than 100 posts on Italy alone here on Our Escape Clause, there is no shortage of information to peruse here!
Head to our Italy archives to view all posts in order, or if you’re looking for details on a particular destination, the search bar at the top right of the page is a great tool to use.
Epic Things to Do in Italy’s Cities
Stare in wonder at the Colosseum.
For many of us, the first Italy bucket list destination we ever dream of is the Colosseum… and it’s well worth the visit.
Ride in a gondola in Venice.
I originally wrote under this Italy bucket list item that I wasn’t sure the price tag would ever justify us actually crossing this off–but now that we’ve experienced it, I can say that taking a gondola ride in Venice absolutely lives up to the hype (if you follow certain tips, that is).
Visit the mummies of Palermo.
Definitely not among the best things to do in Italy for those with a weak stomach, but certainly among the most interesting, is to tour the Capuchin Crypt of Palermo.
The mummies found in the capital of Sicily are among the best-preserved we’ve seen anywhere, and are definitely an incredibly memorable sight.
Admire the rooftops of Milan’s Duomo up close.
Other Italian cities are prettier, but when it comes to intricate cathedral rooftops, Milan has them all beat.
Watch the sunset from the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence.
Crowded? Sure. But also magnificent.
Admire Verona from the Castel San Pietro.
One of the prettiest viewpoints we’ve found in Italy so far is from Castel San Pietro in Verona–and it tends to have a fraction of the crowds of similar viewpoints in, say, Florence or Rome.
Like much of Italy, this city’s history is long and many-layered, and its setting is beautiful.
Pull ourselves out of bed to see the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, and Pantheon empty at dawn in Rome.
When I originally wrote this list of things to do in Italy, I noted that our lack of desire to set alarm clocks for dawn made this one of the technically simplest but personally hardest bucket list item to check off.
However, one bout of landing in Rome with massive jet lag later, we’ve managed to see all this and more in Rome as the sun rises (with the assistance of an Italian coffee or three, of course).
Also, pull ourselves out of bed to see the Piazza del Duomo and Ponte Vecchio empty at dawn in Florence.
Still working on this one, but can’t wait to experience it!
Climb the cupola in Florence’s Duomo.
We’ve climbed the bell tower and absolutely adored the view, but I’ll always feel like I have unfinished business with Brunelleschi’s Dome until we visit the cupola ourselves.
Take a selfie with the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Touristy? Sure, but plenty of fun things to do in Italy are!
Get lost in Venice during the winter.
Visiting Venice in winter is one of the best ways to avoid the crowds (during Carnival is the exception) and we absolutely love it: the fog, the empty canal views, the ambiance.
Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain.
What better way to ensure that we always, always return to Rome?
Move to Rome for 6 months and study Italian.
May through October would be just about perfect.
I may be 60 before I finally cross this off my list of things to do in Italy, but I’m determined to get to it eventually!
“Live” for a month in at least 6 different Italian cities.
Then we stayed in Florence again… and then Rome again.
Basically, we have trouble stepping outside of our favorites for this one, despite our best intentions!
Stroll along Lucca’s city walls.
Lucca’s city walls, which fully envelope the historic center of the city, are among the best-preserved in Italy–and today, you can walk or bike along the tops of them, soaking in beautiful views of Lucca along the way.
Tour the Royal Palace in Turin.
When Italy was unified in the second half of the 19th century, the House of Savoy became the Italian royal family–and since they were from Turin, Turin was quickly recognized as the capital of Italy.
The capital quickly moved to Florence and then Rome, but Turin’s royal palace, which dates to the 16th century, still stands in the city, and we’d love to see it.
Take a day trip to Burano from Venice.
This colorful island may be in the Venetian lagoon, but in many ways, it feels worlds away from Piazza San Marco!
Climb Asinelli Tower for unforgettable views of Bologna.
Even if this did test my fear of heights more than just about any of our Italian bucket list items, it was worth the terror!
This view remains one of my favorite in the country.
Unforgettable Food + Cultural Experiences in Italy
Tour one of Italy’s best art museums.
Whether that’s the Uffizi in Florence, the Borghese in Rome, or somewhere else, there’s no doubt that visiting an Italian art museum with a knowledgeable guide makes the experience much more magnificent than visiting alone!
Take a food tour.
Or, in a perfect world, several food tours in many different cities–it’s the fastest way to appreciate just how varied and regional Italian cuisine is.
Taking food tours is one of those things to do in Italy that we’ll never check all the way off our list–we’ve taken tours in Rome, Palermo, Florence, and Emilia-Romagna so far, with plenty more to come!
… And a cooking class.
Pasta, pizza, gelato, and tiramisu are all popular… but you can find more eclectic ones, as well.
We’ve taken Italian cooking classes in Florence, Lucca, at a villa outside of Siena, and at “home” in a villa that we were renting in the countryside, and all of them were fantastic.
Explore the food scene in Emilia-Romagna.
Especially the traditional balsamic vinegar, the parmigiano-reggiano, the parma ham, the tagliatelle al ragu… the food in Emilia-Romagna is among the best in Italy, and we never get tired of enjoying it!
Buy gold jewelry on the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.
Yes, I’ll absolutely overpay by doing this, but at least once in my life, I plan to enjoy the splurge!
Enjoy a wine tasting in the Tuscan countryside.
Bonus points if the vineyard has an amazing view!
Splurge on a very nice piece of leather.
This one probably won’t be crossed off our Italy bucket list anytime soon, but we’ll get around to it one day!
Visit a parmigiano-reggiano factory.
This travel experience in Italy most definitely lived up to the hype!
So much so, in fact, that we fully intend to do it again one day.
Ship a case of wine home from Italy.
And not only wine–traditional balsamic vinegar, fresh olive oil, and truffle oil all make incredible Italian souvenirs that can extend your trip well past your flight home!
Hunt down Michelangelo’s masterpieces.
The Sistine Chapel and David are obvious starting places, but Michelangelo’s art is all over Italy.
Overpay for an Aperol Spritz in order to enjoy an epic view.
Whether it’s a Venetian canal, the coast of Capri, or a piazza in Florence, some views are simply worth paying a few dollars extra for.
Tour a vineyard during harvest season.
It’d be so cool to see the harvest up close!
Learn all about olive oil, preferably on a vineyard.
We’ve tasted more than our fair share of olive oil, but we’d love to learn more about the work behind it.
Splurge on a Michelin Star meal.
With how delicious even non-award-winning restaurants typically are in Italy, I imagine this will be an unforgettable experience.
Visit Venice for Carnival.
The masks. The costumes. The foggy February weather. It all sounds epic.
Attend the Palio di Siena.
Festive, biannual horse races located in the center of one of our favorite cities in Tuscany? Sign us up.
Go truffle hunting.
All the better to appreciate what goes into finding these delicious morsels.
… And attend a truffle festival.
There are truffle festivals held all over Italy each fall, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the world’s tastiest fungus.
Go on a pizza-crawl in Naples.
Make a list of the best places, start with a very empty stomach, end the day ridiculously full, regret nothing. True Italy bucket list material.
We loved our self-planned Naples pizza tour, though I have to admit–we didn’t eat pizza again for months afterward.
… and a gelato crawl in Florence.
Unlike our Naples pizza crawl, we haven’t formally set up a gelato crawl for ourselves in Florence–but we have probably eaten enough gelato to justify saying we have.
That won’t stop us from using the excuse to eat even more gelato on our next trip to Florence, though!
Attend an Italian football game.
… To experience a whole different side of Italian culture.
Pay a visit to Pompeii.
There’s something incredible about strolling the literal streets of Pompeii–it’s an unforgettable experience that belongs on any list of what to do in Italy!
… and Herculaneum.
Less famous than Pompeii but equally impressive in its own way, the resort city of Herculaneum was buried in the same eruption that obliterated Pompeii.
Visit one of Italy’s ghost towns.
My grandparents once accidentally wandered into one–we’d love to see these for ourselves!
Learn how to make excellent pasta carbonara from scratch.
There are plenty of cooking classes in Italy, but many of them cover the same things: basic pasta, pizza, gelato, tiramisu.
All of that is delicious, but we want to master carbonara!
Check out the Christmas markets in Bolzano.
Honestly, as much as we adore Italy, it’s hard to say that the bulk of the Christmas markets belong on a list of the best things to do see in Italy–places like Germany, Austria, and France simply outrank Italy in this category.
Bolzano, though, is not only one of our favorite Italian cities, but has significant Austrian heritage that makes their Christmas markets something special!
Tour the Prosecco region of Italy and enjoy all the bubbly.
Prosecco is delicious–a trip through this beautiful region north of Venice sounds divine!
Outdoor Adventures to Have in Italy
Hike to Lago di Sorapis in the summer.
Less popular than iconic Italian lakes like Como or Lago di Braies, but still incredibly beautiful and reasonably accessible, Lago di Sorapis is a magnificent Italian bucket list destination.
Hike to Fiesole from Florence.
Sure, there’s also a bus that runs there, but hiking sounds like more fun.
Visit the crater of Mount Vesuvius.
Because it’s the only active volcano in mainland Europe, and why not?
As a bonus, it’s also home to some incredible views of the surrounding coastline, including the Bay of Naples and the island of Capri!
Soak in the hot springs in Tuscany.
Saturnia is the best-known, and considering how beautiful it is, that’s no surprise!
Hike the villages of Cinque Terre.
… Particularly from Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza, and from Corniglia to Manarola.
Hike the Path of Gods.
What a way to get amazing views of the Amalfi Coast!
Visit the Instagram-famous Lago di Braies.
… Because those views look like they’d be worth the crowds.
Visit Civita di Bagnoregio.
This tiny Italian hilltop town may just be the most dramatically placed of them all: you have to take a pedestrian bridge in order to access it!
Explore the beaches of Sardinia.
Photos from Sardinia immediately make me dream of bathing suits and sailboats.
Go horseback riding in Tuscany.
Horseback riding past vineyards and villages? Yes, please.
Visit Mount Etna in Sicily.
What better way to start getting to know this mysterious island than by visiting its incredible volcano?
Unfortunately, during our last road trip in Sicily, Mount Etna stayed stubbornly concealed by clouds and we didn’t get a chance to experience it!
Go hiking in the Dolomites in summer.
It’s hard to imagine anything more stunning than this. We wouldn’t say no to a fall foliage trip, either.
… And then skiing in the winter.
Jeremy has never been skiing and I haven’t been since roughly 2002, so this would definitely be outside our comfort zones–but I can’t think of a better place to try it out again than in Italy!
Explore Gargano National Park.
One glance at the photos of this coastline and the Tremiti Islands were all it took to add this offbeat destination to our bucket list for Italy!
Rent a boat for the day on Capri.
I can’t imagine a better way to experience the island than by admiring it from the water!
Hike part of the Via Francigena.
Less famous than the Camino del Santiago in Spain but equally stunning, the Via Francigena is a pilgrimage walk that runs from Canterbury, UK all the way to Rome–and while walking that far is probably never going to make our personal bucket list for Italy, we’d love to hike part of the Italian section, especially in Tuscany!
More Italy Bucket List Ideas
Take an Italian road trip.
Through Tuscany… or Puglia… or South Tyrol… or Umbria… or Emilia-Romagna… or Sicily… or all of the above.
We’ve rounded up our best suggestions for road trips in Italy here!
Set sail on the Amalfi Coast.
There’s a reason that the Amalfi Coast is considered one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world–and from the water is the best way to appreciate it.
Ride a Vespa through the countryside.
There’s no better way to experience the Italian countryside on a beautiful day than by renting a Vespa and enjoying one of the most classic things to do in Italy!
They aren’t too hard to drive–but if you’re uncertain on a scooter, we definitely recommend sticking to the countryside and not, say, trying to navigate Rome with one.
Spend a night in a trullo in Alberobello.
These houses are so unique and visiting them is currently a solid priority on our Italy bucket list!
Check out the village of my ancestors in Sicily.
It’s a very American thing to do, but what can I say–I’m a very American woman.
Some of my ancestors came from the tiny town of Francavilla in Sicily, and from what I can tell, it has very little to offer to tourists these days… but I want to go anyway.
Update: I went! Yes, very little to offer tourists (and the rain that day didn’t help), but I’ll never forget standing inside the church that was already more than a century old already when my ancestors left the island.
Rent a villa in Tuscany.
We’ve done this several times now, and can attest that it’s even more fun with extended family!
Spend a weekend relaxing at Lake Como.
The hikes! The villas! The views! The boat rides!
Lake Como is probably our most obvious bucket list Italian destination that we haven’t seen yet, and we can’t wait to explore it thoroughly.
Drive the Great Dolomites Road.
For some of the best mountain views in all of Europe, you can’t beat the Italian Dolomites.
Get professional portraits taken in Italy.
It’s hard for us to think about splurging on these since we take so many pictures together through our travels, but there are tons of places in Italy that would make an amazing backdrop for some professional shots!
Take a train to Sicily.
Sicily may be an island, but you can still get there by train!
You can board a train on the mainland that is then loaded in its entirety onto a ferry, which is then transported to Sicily–and that’s a unique enough transportation method that it’s on our list of things to do in Italy simply because it sounds interesting to experience!
Spend a summer living in Cinque Terre or along the Amalfi Coast.
Coastal Italy in the summer–it may be crowded, but it’s also stunning.
Our first two visits to Cinque Terre were both far too short (and also impacted by rainy weather and train strikes).
Our third was magical, but also rainy, and we still left dreaming about how to return ASAP!
Road trip in a Fiat 500.
Sounds like the perfect car to drive the Amalfi Coast with, right?
Visit each of Italy’s 20 regions.
We’ve visited 11 so far, and we absolutely cannot wait to cross this one off of our Italy bucket list.
With so many incredible things to do in Italy, we may need several decades to accomplish them all–but having the chance to enjoy so many magnificent experiences in Italy is well worth the effort.
We can’t wait to get back.