You may think of Italy as a cliched holiday destination. Sure, 52.4 million tourists visited the peninsula in 2016, and during the Italian summer months, many of the must-see attractions are congested with travellers. Yet, Italy is a country like no other in the world. It combines art, fashion and culinary delights better than any nation. The country’s diversity in landscapes allow you to have a mountain holiday or a beach break; and its cities have some of the most famous landmarks you will ever see.
It is Italy’s famous landmarks that attract many of the visitors to its borders. The Colosseum, the Vatican and the Pantheon are just three of the places tourists mustn’t miss on a trip to Italy. Fortunately, all three are in Rome. But if you are heading somewhere else in Italy this year, there are plenty of other great historic sites to explore.
The capital of Italy is awash with brilliant piazzas and pizzerias. It is also full of spectacular monuments, fountains and ruins from the city’s past. No attraction is more important to visit in Rome than the Colosseum. It is the landmark of Rome and what so many people think of when they consider a Roman holiday. The Colosseum’s size cannot be done justice by mere photographs. Standing outside of it gives you a true idea of the Colosseum’s girth, but it is inside the landmark that you really understand how large it is.
For anyone planning to visit the Colosseum – or any of the other attractions – it is a good idea to buy a Rome Pass. This allows you entry into the various attractions and you can skip the long lines. The Colosseum’s lines can be daunting and ruin the entire experience, if you have to wait for an hour or more to get in.
Vatican City is the home of Pope Francis, St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square. It isn’t just a destination for Catholics, but a fantastic state with in the city of Rome that oozes with history. Just being in St. Peter’s Square is fascinating, and even if you don’t go inside the basilica, it is still worth an exploration.
One of the coolest things you can do in Vatican City is to send a postcard to a friend or relative. The Vatican is its own country, so sending someone a postcard from it is quite cool, especially due to the stamp the postman puts on it.
After perusing the various museums, galleries and giftshops in and near the Vatican, venture to the Pantheon. What looks like a small, roundish museum on the outside is actually a grand, open planned cathedral on the inside. It is beautiful and unbelievably well-preserved. The Pantheon has been around for the last 2000 years, but you wouldn’t know it while walking around. While touring the Pantheon, you may come across the tombs of former Italian kings and the artist Raphael. It is truly a can’t miss venue, and thanks to his preservation, may be your favourite Rome attraction. Making it all the better are the restaurants, bars and gelateria just outside its door.
Bologna is in the northeast of Italy and tourists can reach the city by train in just under two hours from Rome. While Bologna may not be the most visited city in Italy, it offers treasures to those who explore it. Known for its university, Bologna is hip and chic, and has the vibe of an educated town. Due to the students and university, Bologna has several museums and galleries offering visitors the chance to marvel at art and ancient wonders. The Museo Civico Archeologico (Archaeology Museum) is a perfect destination to explore the wonders of the past.
Bologna is a favourite for those who like to travel off the beaten path. We have included this article by this young at heart blogger “Hole in the Donut” travel blog. The photo of the Open Air Bookshop is courtesy of the Hole in the Donut.
Bologna has 20 towers throughout the city with two that are famous for their leaning. You may have heard of or visited the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but Bologna has a pair of towers leaning at angles far more incredible than the one in Pisa. You can climb to the top of these towers and have a picturesque skyline view of Bologna.
Florence is world-famous for the art that resides in the city’s museums. But Florence is more than art as this Italian destination has some of the most wonderful cathedrals you can find on the peninsula. The Piazza Duomo allows tours of its cathedral, museum and bell tower. All showcase the majesty of Florence’s ancient past.
Of course, no trip to Florence would be complete without the obligatory stop off at the Uffizi Palace and Gallery. While Paris’ Louvre gets most of the headlines, the Uffizi rivals its French counterpart with a collection of artworks that changed the western world. The gallery is home to the most extravagant work by artist Francesco I de’ Medici. Seeing his work in the gallery’s Tribunal is a must.
Hollywood films and documentaries have framed Sicily as a mafia hotbed. A no-go zone of crime, corruption and greed. The island isn’t quite what it is portrayed as, and what is often overlooked is the beauty and ancient treasures travellers can find there. In recent times, Sicily has seen its tourism increase dramatically thanks to the television show Inspector Montalbano, which takes place on the island.
Whether you are inspired to visit Sicily due to the fictional detective or for another reason, you won’t want to miss Agrigento’s Valle dei Templi. The site has well-preserved Greek temples that were built on the island. In some cases, these temples are much more intact than ones you will find in Greece.
Sicily is also home to the Ancient Greek Theatre of Taormina. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and Sicily’s famous volcano Mount Etna. You can explore the ancient theatre and its surroundings. If you are lucky, there will be a production taking place during your visit.
In Italy’s northwest corner is Genoa. While it is an often overlooked and unthought of travel destination, at one time, Genoa was the most important port city in the world. Today, there is a grittiness to the city that is left over from its more glorious days of ships coming and going.
Little do many travellers know, but Christopher Columbus was born and raised in Genoa. Yes, the Columbus that sailed the ocean blue and discovered the Americas. Tourists can visit the home Columbus lived in as a boy. It is located near the Porta Soprana (a gate in the city’s old wall).
Genoa is also home to the Santa Maria di Castello. Religious buildings on the site of the castle date back to the 12th century. One of the buildings still standing is the Santa Maria church. Further buildings were erected around it or near, and some of these date to the 1400s.
Article by Drew Farmer
We are excited to announce that Drew will be a regular writer for us (bio coming soon)
Drew can be contacted on his Twitter @DrewMTwitter