Italy isn’t just for travelers who crave the world’s best pizzas, pastas and wines. The food (and wine) in this uniquely boot-shaped country is one reason to add it to your bucket list, but the historic cities, snow-capped mountains, pristine coastlines and endless museums will assure you that one visit is not enough.
These 10 cities, sites, tastes and experiences are more than enough to lure you into Italy, but we guarantee you’ll return with a list of reasons all your own.
1. Falling in Love with Venice
You don’t have to be a honeymooner or even a lover of chick flicks to fall in love with Venice’s romantic vibe. The colorful, canal-filled city will make you want to snap photos until your memory card is full. In addition to the famed Grand Canal, with its rowing gondoliers, travelers can dine on fresh seafood, museum hop and stock up on souvenirs.
2. Hiking Along the Cinque Terre
Also known as “five lands,” the Cinque Terre region has become a sought-after Italian destination in recent years, and for good reasons too. The colorful towns, appearing as if they’re dangling from cliffs, along the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cinque Terre offer scenery that rivals Europe’s most famous sites.
3. Sunbathing on Deserted Islands
Italy is probably not the first country that comes to mind when you hear the phrase, “deserted islands.” However, Sicily’s Pelagie Islands are an off-the-beaten path alternative for travelers seeking turquoise water, white-sand beaches and postcard-worthy fishing towns. Visit Lampione to experience a truly uninhabited paradise.
4. The Crumbling Ruins of Rome
‘Crumbling’ isn’t a common term of endearment for a city, but it is when you’re referencing the ancient city of Rome. Travelers can enjoy all of the 21st-century conveniences of luxurious accommodations, award-winning restaurants and museums after exploring the ruins of buildings that were once walked by Julius Caesar and Romulus. History buffs haven’t lived until they’ve wandered among the 2,800-year-old columns, temples and buildings of Rome.
5. Snacking on Antipasti
It doesn’t matter where you’ve sampled antipasti around the globe, it’ll never be as good as those in Italy. Start nearly every meal with an array of cured cheeses, marinated vegetables, prosciutto and carefully-made spreads. The antipasti dishes vary throughout Italy’s regions and restaurants, which means you can start your own taste test around the country.
6. Walking the Streets of Florence
Even more than Rome and Venice, many visitors to Italy will tell you their favorite city is Florence. The city’s more compact size makes it ideal for exploring on foot. Wander from the Duomo to the Galleria dell’Accademia, the Uffizi, the Mercato Nuovo, Ponte Vecchio and discover the countless other pieces of the outdoor museum known as Florence.
7. World Heritage Site Hopping
Italy is home to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country in the world. Travelers can visit 47 cultural World Heritage Sites and four natural World Heritage Sites, ranging from the archaeological areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata to the Aeolian Islands and the Dolomites. Wherever you are around “the boot,” it’s guaranteed there’s a World Heritage Site nearby.
8. Touring the Rolling Hills of Val d’Orcia
When many travelers envision their trip to Tuscany, they imagine sipping glasses of Chianti among green rolling hills. This vision is mostly correct, but Tuscany is a surprisingly large area of central Italy. It pays to focus on a specific area — like the medieval towns of Val d’Orcia perched atop the hills of Montalcino, Pienza and Monticchiello. Cruise along the Val d’Orcia backgrounds, bouncing between wineries and snapping photos of the heavenly views.