What to do in Italy: 8 Top Attractions

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Italy, with its breathtaking art, architecture, and cuisine, is no minor player on the global scene. This European virtuoso virtually groans with the weight of its cultural cachet as the core of the Roman Empire and the cradle of the Renaissance.

The difficulty is not so much where to go - an incredible experience is guaranteed wherever you wind up - but rather how to get there. An experienced tourist to Italy's advice on the greatest things to do may help you transform every vacation into a once-in-a-lifetime event.

1. Visit Rome, the heart of the Roman Empire

Choosing how to spend your time in the Italian capital is a cultural quandary. Rome was the former caput mundi (global capital), the hub of the Roman Empire, the spiritual headquarters of the Christian world, and the repository of almost two millennia of European art and architecture. The city oozes must-see attractions from every pore.
One alternative is to zoom about Italy's Eternal City on the back of a Vespa scooter, which is a terrific way to experience the dolce vita. There's history and culture at every turn, from the Colosseum (purchase a "Full Experience" ticket to explore the subterranean vaults) to the Pantheon and the Roman Forum to Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums.

To assure a future visit to this enthralling city, drop a penny into the pool under the wild horses and cascading rockfalls of the Trevi Fountain before you depart.

2. Visit the Valle d'Aosta ski slopes and hiking routes

The Aosta Valley, surrounded by some of Europe's highest peaks, including Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa, and Gran Paradiso, has some of the greatest winter sports facilities on the continent. Winter skiers descend hair-raising courses into France and Switzerland from trendy Courmayeur, passing glaciers and returning by soaring cable cars.

When the snow melts, there are beautiful hiking paths in the Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso and surrounding Mont Blanc to be discovered. Whatever the season, keep an ear out for Franco-Provençal (also known as Valdôtain), the peculiar native language of the Franco-Italian valley.

3. Take in the drama and thrill of Naples' nightlife

This highly charged, captivating city in Italy's deep south is a unique mix of nail-biting history, classical art, and a grungy grassroots concoction of frescoed ruins, frantic marketplaces, and epicurean experiences. In raucous Napoli, where street life plays like a great opera, drama is the rule of the day.

Shop for swordfish heads and delicious ricotta pastries at Naples' oldest market, appreciate street art in the Centro Storico, take in views of Mt Vesuvius from the Lungomare seashore, and then join the after-dark passegiatta (promenade) on Via Chiaia. You can bank on drama 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

4. Take in Sicily's ageless beauty

Sicily, the perennial crossroads of the Mediterranean dazzles with its stunning range of landscapes and cultural riches. Syracuse, located in the southeast, was the greatest city in the ancient world, larger even than Athens and Corinth, and played an important part in classical Greece. Its mesmerizing ancient ruins rise from lush citrus orchards and the glittering blue Mediterranean, encapsulating Sicily's eternal beauty.

Planning tip: Greek tragedies, as well as modern theater and live music, continue to thrive at Syracuse's vast amphitheater. Plan to attend a performance on the antique stage at Teatro Greco under the stars - it's a memorable and enchanting experience.

5. Visit artwork as part of Tuscany's ecological tourism initiative

The majority of Tuscan itineraries begin in Florence, a filmic feast of Renaissance palazzi (palaces), medieval-frescoed churches, and art museums bursting with Botticelli and Michelangelo masterpieces.

The Uffizi, located in Florence's historic center, attracts millions of tourists each year because of its unparalleled Renaissance paintings. The five-year Uffizi Diffusi initiative began in 2021 to inspire art enthusiasts to venture into Tuscany's hinterland - on foot, by bike, or by automobile - following an untrodden track to Italian treasures.

This sustainable tourism concept is introducing pop-up galleries to remote chapels, castles, hilltop towns, and other unexpected settings in order to alleviate Florence's enormous visitor load. It not only takes tourists off the usual path, but it also enables them to examine artworks in the Tuscan surroundings that inspired the artists: rolling hills steeped in the morning mist, ageless cypress alleyways, silver olive orchards, and terraced rows of vineyards. Check the Uffizi website for current locations.

6. In Piedmont, savor leisurely food

Rare white truffles from the vine-strewn hills surrounding Alba provide the most authentic Italian dining experience. There is no turning back once these fantastic mushrooms are hunted down by dogs in the woods, ceremoniously smelled, and avidly devoured.

Aside from truffles, the Piedmont area, the home of the Slow Food movement, entices gourmets with delicious, creamy hazelnuts from the rolling Langhe hills and smooth chocolate and numerous cocoa delights in gilded cafés in beautiful Turin. Nebbiolo grapes transform into beautiful Barolo and Barbaresco wines, and opulent dinners match these delectable pleasures with sacred aperitivo.

Go hungry and relish the leisurely feast one delicious bite at a time!

7. Travel the Via Francigena pilgrimage route

Cycling and walking are excellent ways to see Italy's varied landscapes, and there is no better long-distance track than the ancient Via Francigena. A great, less-traveled alternative to Spain's Camino de Santiago, Italy's most famous pilgrim path runs for 1900km (1180 miles) from Canterbury in England to Rome.

The scenic Italian section meanders through Tuscany and Lazio at a meditative snail's pace, stopping for breath at beautiful hilltop villages, volcanic lakes, Etruscan ruins, remote monasteries, and enchanting emerald hills around Lucca, the Unesco-protected Val d'Orcia, Viterbo, and other gloriously overlooked spots.

8. Get glammed up on the stunning Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Shore is one of Italy's most attractive places, whether you explore the jagged cliff-laced coast in quest of a wild swimming spot or enjoy the high life with spritz-sipping A-listers in Positano. From searching out classic marquetry in Sorrento's maze-like old town to garden-hopping in Ravello, this spectacular coastal strip offers thrills and spills to suit every taste and budget.

Make time for the Sentiero dei Dei, sometimes known as the "Path of Gods," a rocky hiking track with genuinely angelic vistas.
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