Ah, Italy. A country synonymous with carbohydrates, George Clooney’s fancy lakeside house, and lopsided architecture. Just kidding. There’s a reason Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world. In 2019, there were apparently 65 million tourists making their way around the country – but don’t let that put you off visiting. There are always tricks to avoiding crowds – and sometimes it’s the crowds that make an experience.
If you’re pondering a trip to Italy anytime soon, you might be overwhelmed by the choice. With movies like Under the Tuscan Sun and Letters to Juliet influencing travellers, everybody has their ‘must-visit’ places.
So, where should you visit in Italy? That’s a great question and it really does depend on what’s on your bucket list. Below, we’ll run you through some of our top recommendations for where to go in Italy.
Let’s be honest. Italy is one of those countries where you could basically go anywhere and get quality food. However, in the spirit of narrowing things down…
1. Tagliatelle al Ragù:
Also known by its more generic name Spaghetti Bolognaise, Bologna is the perfect place to go if you’re wanting to sample this iconic Italian dish. I was only in Bologna for three nights, but I am unashamed to admit that I had this dish at least four times. It’s different everywhere, so no judgment!
Rome. Hands down, the best gelato I’ve ever had was while wandering around the Fontana di Trevi with my family some years back. It was winter and my parents thought me insane for it, but my frozen lips were nothing in comparison to that tasty goodness. Gelato did originate in Florence though, so that’s also a great option.
Not quite food, but one always needs a drink with every meal, no? Nothing says summer more than sitting by the sparkling waters of the Amalfi Coast with a big bowl of pasta and a refreshing glass (or three) of limoncello. Throw on a wide-brimmed hat and sundress, and suddenly you’re Frances from Under the Tuscan Sun.
4. Bistecca alla Fiorentina:
You’re going to need a quality steak knife for this one, folks. Head over to Florence and devour a Bistecca alla Fiorentina (“Florentine Steak”). Typically served pink, I’d challenge anyone to ask for a well-done steak (guilty) because that’s just not how it’s done. Afterwards, you might need to walk it off around Florence.
My mouth is watering just thinking about this. While gnocchi didn’t originate in Verona, they’ve definitely perfected the dish. If you can time your visit just right, you might be there in time for the Venerdì Gnocolar festival which celebrates – among other things – all things gnocchi.
You can visit all of these cities on our Rabbie’s tours to Italy.
We pride ourselves on taking our passengers off the beaten track and, while we definitely take you to the iconic must-see places like Venice and Positano, we’re always on the lookout for those unique experiences and towns you’ll remember forever.
Nicknamed “the Pearl of the Adriatic”, Trani boasts beautiful beaches, a city centre filled with history, and the best that Italian food can offer. Trani is also famous for its slower pace, so there’s no need to rush around the old town.
Matera is a unique-looking city perched on a rocky outcrop, and may just be Italy's next big thing. It is growing in popularity lately seeing as it was featured in the latest Bond movie, no surprise there. We take you there on our 6-day Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast & Irresistible Italy tour because we want you to experience this wonderful little town.
This town is known for its stunning early Christian and Byzantine mosaics, plus you won’t be fighting to see them. It’s an enchanting little town and the locals are friendly and laid-back. Top activities are checking out the mosaics, exploring the old town, and shopping.
Who doesn’t love making their friends jealous by uploading a picture of themselves standing by the sparkling waters of some gorgeous Italian town? Exactly. Rub it in a little, it’s good for the soul.
1. Cinque Terre
Perched high above the Italian Riviera are the five colourful towns of Cinque Terre. Get out your walking shoes and camera, you’re going to need both in equal measure. And if you head there in summer, a swimsuit may also come in handy.
If you fancy a swim, check out Vernazza’s picturesque swimming hole tucked between luscious green hills and multi-coloured buildings. Spend the day in Cinque Terre on our 6-day Cinque Terre, Florence & the Flavours of Tuscany tour.
Nothing says “Hello, I’m in heaven, aren’t you jealous?” like Positano. If you join us on our 6-day Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast & Irresistible Italy tour, you’ll spend a whole day exploring the Amalfi Coast.
Sorrento and Positano are the highlights of the day, reached by a quaint local ferry, so you can enjoy the water as much as possible.
Tucked far down south is the gorgeous little coastal town of Otranto. Unlike Cinque Terre and Positano, you may not have heard of Otranto and all you need to do is have a quick Google to see why that’s a shame.
Stroll along the town’s impressive fortifications or the harbourside promenade, before rewarding yourself with a delectable local dish. Let us do all the hard work and drive you there ourselves on our 6-day Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast & Irresistible Italy tour.
If you’re all about the buildings, Italy definitely won’t disappoint. Steeped in history, this country has some of the world’s most iconic sites.
Surely, you’ve heard of Rome’s Colosseum. It’s the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built and, despite its age, is still standing strong today. With 80 entrances and the capacity for 50,000 spectators, you can’t miss it.
2. Leaning Tower of Pisa
Famous due to its odd lopsided nature, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has inspired an unknowable number of tourists to come by for that iconic photo. Are you strong enough to push the building upright? Well, don’t – because that’s why people love it.
It’s incredible to think we’re still so obsessed with something that happened in 79 CE/AD, but the story of Pompeii has fascinated people ever since. Hidden under the eruption for 1,500 years, you can now visit Pompeii and learn more about the people that lived there.
4. Doge’s Palace
Venice is filled with amazing spots to see. But I adore Doge’s Palace. My favourite part is the fact that it has a room called the Chamber of Torment. This was a place the prisoners were kept while they awaited trial, sitting in complete darkness listening to the screams of his fellow inmates… or actors hired to freak them out. I’m a dark-minded person, alright?
One of the main landmarks of Venice, Doge’s Palace was the residence of the Doge of Venice, the supreme authority of the former Republic of Venice. You can spend an entire day exploring all Venice has to offer on our 6-day Venice, Garda & Romantic Northern Italy tour.
If quirky and unique architecture is your thing, you’re going to adore the trulli. On our 6-day Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast & Irresistible Italy tour, we visit a little place called Alberobello. There you’ll find over 1,500 small and rounded white houses – almost as if the town was built for hobbits or gnomes. These beehive-shaped buildings are called trulli and are so unique they claim UNESCO World Heritage status.
If you’re all about the hubbub of a big city, Italy sure has plenty of those. Depending on what you’re looking for, here are a few of our top suggestions:
While you should definitely visit the Duomo Cathedral while in Milan, those of you who love a good shopping spree will literally gape in awe when you visit the Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade. This elegant nineteenth-century shopping arcade is the oldest in Italy and makes for the perfect Instagram photo.
For those with more than one superstitious bone in their body, be on the lookout for the mosaic of a bull depicted on the ground. Legend has it that if you spin three times with your heel on the bull’s private area, good fortune will come your way. #WorthAShot
Rome is home to 280 fountains and over 900 churches. Have at it. There’s plenty to do and see in Rome, including being one of the thousands of people who throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain. But don’t go fishing that small fortune out of the waters at night, proceeds go to charity so it’s all for a good cause.
While you’re there, you could visit a whole other country – Vatican City. Even if you’re not religious, you can still get a kick out of the incredible Sistine Chapel frescoes.
I use the term ‘city’ loosely here, since the only ‘traffic’ you’ll find in Venice is by foot or on the water, but Venice draws people back time and again for a reason. I’m already planning my fourth trip there, no joke. Dust off your walking shoes and get lost. Literally. Don’t stress about maps in Venice, because you can’t really get lost. Wander the streets and enjoy the shops and sites. When it’s time for you to head to a piazza, simply be on the lookout for the scribbled signs on the walls that show you the way.
It’s hard not to know a thing or two about Verona, being the setting of Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet. While you’re there, it’s worth a visit to Juliet’s House and the iconic balcony. There’s also a statue of Juliet and if you see people rubbing her right breast, worry not, since it supposedly brings you love and fertility.
Verona also boasts the 3rd largest Roman amphitheatre in Italy, plus a number of other amazing sites and beautiful streets to wander.
Florence is a treat – I have nothing but fond memories of that city. Not only is it a gorgeous place to visit, but there are also some really cool things to see. It has the third-largest cathedral in the world, Il Duomo, and the largest masonry dome in the world.
It’s also the birthplace of gelato – so it’s a must while you’re there.
Italy is irresistible for a reason and wonderful to travel in during any season. I’ve been there during winter and autumn myself, and already planning my return trip in the new year. If this blog has convinced you that a trip (or a return trip) is now necessary, Rabbie's has several multi-day, small-group tours on offer so why not check them out and treat yo self to an Italian feast. And if you want more of la dolce vita, we've even got extended 13-day tours.
Bronwyn lives and breathes words. Before coming to work at Rabbie's, she spent 7 years in publishing and is a published author of YA fantasy books. Born and raised in Sydney, she was drawn to Scotland and affectionately calls it her 'soul home'. An avid traveller herself, Bronwyn's favourite places (so far) are Mongolia, Iceland, Morocco, and Scotland (of course). When she's not writing, she can be found exploring the Scottish Highlands with her camera, on the lookout for coos and men in kilts.