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Best Italy Guided Tours All Italy Trips
Highlights of Italy
100+ Reviews $ 2,67513-days trip
Italy: The Lakes
5 Reviews $ 4,7487-days trip
Ultimate Italy
100+ Reviews $ 2,89914-days trip
Classic Italy
100+ Reviews $ 3,48821-days trip
Top Trip Memories
  • Strolling through the photogenic Tuscan countryside by day and staying in an atmospheric inn at night while on a walking tour of the region.
  • Gliding through the canals of Venice by gondola.
  • Enjoying delicious regional Italian specialities on a food tour.
  • Wandering the ruins of the Roman Forum, where an empire was overseen two millennia ago.
  • Gazing at the Roman Colosseum, lit up at night, from the terrace of a nearby outdoor restaurant.
  • Admiring the works of the Old Masters in the Uffizi Gallery or any of Michelangelo’s sculptures in Florence, perhaps the greatest art city of all.
  • Visiting the ruins of Pompeii, buried in ash and preserved for thousands of years by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.
  • Sipping a morning cappuccino in a piazza anywhere in Italy.
  • Drinking in the views from atop the cliffside city of Taormina in Sicily, including the Straits of Messina and volcanic Mt. Etna in the distance.
  • Enjoying the chaotic vibrancy of Naples while welcoming a respite on the nearby Isle of Capri.
  • Driving the winding Amalfi Coast near Salerno, a World Heritage Site and scenic wonder.
  • Touring Vatican City’s St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest cathedral (in the world’s smallest state), and the incredibly rich Vatican Museums, highlighted by the Sistine Chapel.
  • Taking a small-ship cruise along the Po River and through the Venice Lagoon.
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Tour Tips
  • Don’t expect to see all of Italy in one trip, unless you can find a six-month-long tour. Concentrate on a few cities or regions -- or even just one city or region -- per trip.
  • Taking a tour of Italy, which charges admission even to enter many churches, can save you money from a comparable independent trip.
  • A tour can also save you time -- bypassing impossibly long lines for main attractions.
  • Summertime can get very crowded with tourists in many parts of Italy, so consider offseason tours -- when you might also have cooler weather and less expense.
  • Once you’ve seen the most famous sights and regions, there are still many world-class cities and areas to explore in Italy, so consider tours that get off the beaten path a bit.
  • Similarly, look for tours that patronize authentic local inns and trattorias so you get the real Italian experience rather than the strictly tourist version.
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Italy Travel Reviews & Ratings
4.7 out of 5

99%

recommend

2,260 Reviews

Excellent 1,383 Great 442 Average 50 Disappointing 9 Terrible 3

Rating Details

Value
4.7 Guide
4.7 Activities
4.7 Lodging
4.7 Transportation
4.7 Meals
4.7
Tour Reviews

Expensive trip for what we got

Rome to Paris

4.0 June 2017 Intrepid Travel Recommend: No Went on this trip with my wife and my sister. First off the positives.
Europe is quite different from North America. History is abundant, the Europe experience is really interesting. Visited many very historic sites, cities, monuments and many amazing structures such as the Colessium, Palletine hill, fountains, Leaning tower of Pisa, so many structures and areas it is hard to name them all, but all amazing. Overall the three week trip kept us busy and we learned much about past cultures.

Now the negatives
Upon our first group meeting we met our guide, or so we thought as she informed us she was our "leader" not our guide. I never thought much of it at the time, but as the trip progressed I understood more what she meant.
Our "leaders" name was Lauren Nichols, young lady from England. To start off, Lauren was a very bad communicator. Our group was made up of seven people, and very rarely were we informed of what was going too happen during a day we were scheduled to travel. Our first travel day was when we left Rome to head to Luca I believe, We had never travelled on a train in Europe and did not know what to expect, Lauren did do a quick explanation of how to read the train schedule board, but this was while we were walking through the busy Rome terminal, there was no explaination what we were supposed to do with our luggage when we got on the train. Any questions that were asked were just either ignored or quickly answered so she didn't get bugged anymore. This pretty much was the case throughout the trip. We were basically forced to just follow her through terminal and city metros trying to keep up and not really know where we were going. Once we would arrive at our destination there was no direction as to how far we had to walk from the train stations to our accommodations, again follow and try to keep up while dragging your luggage through the streets. At no time did she ever make an effort to inform us as a group what the day travel would entail. Became very frustrating near the trips final week, very stressful when moving through big city train stations. Once we made it o our accommodations, it was a 15-20 minute turn around and we were expected to be ready to go for our orientation walk, which was as fast as she could make it so we could get to our "free time", more so she could get to hers. Any interesting sites we passed on these walks was quickly passed by and we told to go back on our own, even when the group was ok with stopping to take pictures, which everyone wanted to do.
I my opinion, Lauren wanted to complete her duties as our " leader" as fast as possible so she could be on her own. When we were in Stressa we met her boyfriend who came to the hotel we were staying at and had supper with our group.
As far as the accommodations I felt they were the cheapest possible options that Intrepid could come up with. In Luca there were five of us staying in one apartment, and my sister had to stay in the laundry room where a bed was placed, very under whelming for the cost of the trip. Our guide always had a room to herself, or was housed with the smaller part of the group.

I myself will never use Intrepid again and will certainly NOT recommend this company to anyone. The guide and accommodations were the two issues that were very lacking, but overall the countries and sites were wonderful. If we ever return to Europe I would plan the trip ourselves, not that hard once we experienced it, and using a competent travel agent hotels would easily be done on your own.

The overall experience in Europe was favourable, some stress but we really enjoyed the month we were there, no thanks to our guide.
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Sicily Food Tour

Sicily Food Adventure

4.0 May 2017 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes A wonderful introduction to this enormous island, combining the must-see sites (Etna etc.) with wine, cheese, chocolate, gelato and other tastings. A lot of movement with 6 different hotels.
The stunning church at Monreale. Our local guide in Palermo/Monreale, Marina, was exceptional, so knowledgeable and so much fun. And the visits to the markets.

Very kind and well meaning but inexperienced and her English not good enough for such a tour. (At one point there was almost a mutiny, which was averted when a Spanish-speaking Norwegian group member intervened and conversed with her in Spanish which she was more comfortable with than English.) This was my fourth Exodus tour in Italy and I'd have to say the guide was definitely the low point/biggest disappointment of the trip.

It would be nice if Exodus could include the room taxes, after paying so much for a tour it does seem very "cheap" that we must pay a Euro or two at every hotel. Some dinner suggestions at each stop as we were sometimes "dumped" in a hotel either on the edge of town or not visibly close to any restaurants. Also a farewell dinner inclusion would be nice.

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Wildflowers, empty roads and big, big hill climbs!

Cycling in Sicily

4.0 May 2017 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes Sicily is an intriguing place full of history that is very much alive all around you. The highlands, with empty roads and big views, were lovely. In April there were very few tourists and there were amazing wildflowers everywhere. The weather was rather 'English' though! The food was amazing.
In Syracuse, walking down a little alley, an operatic aria was playing on a sound system somewhere, and all the street traders suddenly started singing along, joining in one by one, with beautiful voices. It was magical!
Everywhere we went there were beautiful wildflowers like I've never seen before. Definitely recommend going in April for that reason, as well as the fact that the tourist draws and beaches are very quiet.

The group leaders were excellent, really worked hard to look after us and passionate about their homeland. The picnic lunches were outstanding.

Make sure you practice riding up hills! Overall level 3 is fair, but there are some really hilly sections, with sustained climbs. Also, in April, bring clothing for a range of weather.

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Amalfi

Highlights of the Amalfi Coast

5.0 April 2017 Exodus Travels Recommend: Yes A good trip all round.The welcome at the Naples air port was just wonderful, it set the right atmosphere for the whole holiday,very important.The week was well managed, and exceeded my expectations through out.Hotel Due Torri,in Bomerano,was excellent, Albert Callewaert superb, what more can i say. Well done,will most certainly use Exodus again.
Walking Around Vesuvius.

First class man,Albert was the best.

Avoid BA.

Keep it coming,loved the holiday.

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Outstanding experience! A few tips and thoughts on Barcelona to Rome.

Barcelona to Rome

5.0 April 2017 Intrepid Travel Recommend: Yes As with all small group travel, your group and tour leader have a lot to do with whether or not you have an enjoyable tour. For this trip, we were lucky enough to have a great group and an absolutely amazing tour leader. Adrian (tour leader) was a huge part of why this tour was a resounding success!

Just a couple thoughts on this particular trip:

- Bring a suitcase! Don't buy the hype and strap a big old backpack to yourself. You'll regret it (trust me). A suitcase is easier and quicker to pack than a backpack. True, many streets in older areas of European cities have cobblestones. If your suitcase has wheels, you're probably ok on these streets and sidewalks. The trek between train station and hotel can be quite a haul in some instances. As long as you can safely carry your luggage up and down a flight of about 30 stairs and lift it above your head on occasion to store it in the train, you're fine. If you can't lift and/or carry your suitcase for these short distances, you have either packed too much stuff or you just might not be in shape to make this trip. We had a group of 10 travelers and 8 brought suitcases. Hauling a loaded backpack up and down train station stairs and from station to hotel and back was way more effort than it was worth.

- Don't be afraid to sample the local cuisine (sometimes). Following local customs and eating local dishes is part of why you travel. That being said, there is a reason some of these traditional dishes haven't become worldwide sensations. Some of them just aren't that great. It's hard to know what you'll enjoy ahead of time, but trust your gut and try things you wouldn't normally try at home. Just don't be shocked if, every once in awhile, you don't ask for seconds.

- Wear comfortable shoes! We're not talking about shoes that are soft and comfy while walking around the house. We're talking shoes that can keep your feet intact while walking uneven surfaces and pounding those previously mentioned cobblestone streets and sidewalks for extended distances and periods of time every single day. Imagine a strenuous 7-8km hike in the mountains over rocks of all shapes and sizes. Now imagine walking your ever-loving backside off through town the very next day, and every day after that. You absolutely need shoes that will hold up to a lot of walking. I would advise bringing two pair of shoes for this trip. Better yet, get yourself used to walking long distances in your shoes of choice prior to the trip. You'll be glad you did.

- European bandaids suck. Bring your own. You will end up with a blister, or ten. If you don't bring your own adhesive bandages, you will not enjoy the outcome.

- Bring an extra t-shirt or two, a couple extra pairs of underwear, and enough socks to last until the apocalypse. There are opportunities to have your laundry washed while on this trip but you really don't want to run short of the essentials. I also found time to sneak off to a laundromat for an hour. You don't want to be the stinky one in the group. :)

- The stars of the trip for me, supply-wise: Febreze, an awesome travel adapter with 4 USB ports, a lightweight day pack, a travel wallet that attached securely to my belt, my own soap, and earplugs.

- Things I wish I had brought with me: a couple washcloths (You won't find any in these hotels), another pair of shorts, more bandaids, and a wheeled suitcase.

- Oh, I almost forgot. Get your phone/data situation figured out ahead of time. If your cellular provider offers coverage while you're in Europe for a somewhat reasonable cost, take advantage of it. If not, make certain to plan ahead and locate a reputable big-name cell service provider store as soon as your arrive. 15-20 bucks will get you a couple GB of data. Wifi is available in your hotel but you need data to use Google Maps. You need Google Maps. Trust me on this one. Download the areas you will be visiting for offline use before your trip. If you don't know how to do this, search the internet. Do not try to navigate any of these cities without some assistance. You will get lost. Guaranteed.

That's about it, I think. All in all, awesome trip! If you are lucky enough to have Adrian as your tour leader, enjoy! Your group plays a huge role in how much you enjoy this trip. Make sure you contribute positively to the group. Make friends. Go out of your way to make sure others have a good trip as well. Try new things. Enjoy the tremendous scenery. Know your limits but be willing to push them here and there. Good luck and safe travels!

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Classic Itineraries

Italy in 7-10 Days

If you only have one week in Italy, you will have time to see the “big three,” that is Venice, Florence, and Rome. Each is distinct and will provide a wonderful glimpse into the country. A word of warning though: once you’re there, you will not want to come back!

Day 1-3, Rome & Vatican City: Colosseum, Circus Maximus, Forum, Sistine Chapel, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain

Day 4-5, Florence: Shop along the Ponte Vecchio, see incredible works of art at the Uffizi, the Pitti Palace and The Galleria dell'Accademia di Firenze, visit the Duomo and other churches.

Day 6-7, Venice: Gondola rides, Piazza San Marco, walk over picturesque bridges for spectacular photo ops, and explore shops full of intricate Venetian masks.

See All One Week Italy Itineraries

Italy in 2 Weeks

If it's your first visit to Italy, try to plan two weeks in which you can see the countryside as well as the major tourist spots. 

Day 1-2, Rome & Vatican City: Colosseum, Circus Maximus, Forum, Sistine Chapel, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain

Day 3-5, Florence: Siena, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Tuscany, Wine Tasting 

Day 6, Milan: Pristine Milan is a great shopping city, also offering impressive history and the incredible cathedral at its center. 

Day 7, Verona: Famous for its star-crossed lovers, fair Verona is a lovely stop, with a long artistic history. 

Day 8-9, Venice: Gondola rides, Piazza San Marco, Doges Palace walk over picturesque bridges for spectacular photo ops, and explore shops full of intricate Venetian masks.

Day 10, San Marino: Marvel at stunning medieval architecture and stroll through classic piazzas.

Day 12-14, Naples: Take a day trip to Positano and Pompeii. Enjoy classic Neapolitan pizza and ocean views.

See All Two Week Italy Itineraries

Culinary & Wine Tour of Italy

If there's one thing Italy is known for, it's food! A culinary tour of the country will showcase their signature dishes, and the traditional way to make them. And a food tour would be nothing without a visit to some of the country’s premier wineries where you'll get a taste of classic old world wines.

Day 1-2, Rome: Enjoy your introduction to Italy in Rome, enjoying classic Italian fare at hole in the wall restaurants. Eat dessert al fresco as you taste delicious gelato while lounging on the Spanish Steps.

Day 3-6, Bologna: Learn how to make a traditional Bolognese sauce, and visit where true Parmesan Reggiano is made.

Day 7-10, Tuscany: The rustic charm of Tuscany will be revealed as you walk in fresh gardens, drink delicious wines, learn to make homemade pasta, and picnic in vineyards. 

See All Culinary & Wine Tours in Italy

Italy Trips & Tour Advice

A captivating epicenter for art, architecture, food, scenery, and history, Italy consistently ranks among the top five countries in the world for attracting visitors. From the shimmering lakes of the Alpine north, to the sun-kissed island of Sicily in the south, Italy offers an abundant supply of historical sights, sensory delights, rustic villages and countryside.

Drawn by the allure of some of the world’s most timeless art, architecture, and scenic beauty -- the Roman Colosseum, the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, the canals of Venice, the ruins of Pompeii, and the Tuscan countryside among them -- countless generations of travelers have made Italy one of the world’s most visited destinations. It’s the land of Puccini, parmesan, and pasta -- and so much more.

World-class art museums?  Check.

Ancient history and ruins? Check.

Some of the world’s most beautiful cities? Check.

Food and scenery to die for? Check.

Passionate people? Check.

A vast variety of landscapes and activities? Check.

All this in a country that’s a bit smaller in size than Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana combined. Italy packs in enough culture, scenery and other attractions to fill a continent.

Three Great Cities

Rome, Florence, and Venice form a rough triangle spanning the upper middle of the country and provide an introduction to the “essential Italy.”

Rome, which legend dates to 753 BC, is a repository of classical ruins now wedged against a backdrop of modernity. Rome is especially magical at night, when its monuments and fountains are illuminated and the glories of ancient Rome -- the Colosseum and nearby Roman Forum being the headliners -- seem not so distant past.

It’s also imperative to take the walk across the Tiber River to what is actually another country, tiny Vatican City, seat of the Roman Catholic Church, where mammoth St. Peter’s Basilica and the opulent collections of the Vatican Museums and Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel, await.

Art Capital

Florence, perhaps the greatest art city of them all, straddles the Arno River in the province of Tuscany northwest of Rome. The heart of the Italian Renaissance in the 14th to 16th centuries, Florence nurtured geniuses such as Dante, Giotto, Michelangelo, da Vinci, and Raphael.

The Uffizi Gallery contains the world’s top collection of Renaissance paintings, while the Accademia houses the most famous sculpture on earth, Michelangelo’s David. The Duomo, a cathedral whose immense dome is covered with white, green, and pink marble, serves as the city’s most striking landmark.

Rome, the Eternal City

Rome, which legend dates to 753 BC, is a repository of classical ruins now wedged against a backdrop of modernity. Rome is especially magical at night, when its monuments and fountains are illuminated and the glories of ancient Rome -- the Colosseum and nearby Roman Forum being the headliners -- seem not so distant past.

It’s also imperative to take the walk across the Tiber River to what is actually another country, tiny Vatican City, seat of the Roman Catholic Church, where mammoth St. Peter’s Basilica and the opulent collections of the Vatican Museums and Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel, await.

Tuscany to Rome

Tuscany is a large region in north-central Italy that extends from the Ligurian Sea on the west three-quarters of the way to the Adriatic Sea on the east, north to the Apennine Mountains, and south halfway to Rome.

Its capital is Florence, and it also encompasses such alluring cities as Pisa, Lucca, and Siena, as well as dozens of picturesque hill towns. Its scenic countryside fills the same romantic role that Provence does in France. the food, the wine, the sunshine, the landscape, the architecture, and the art make it an irresistible destination.

Siena makes a great base for exploring some of the hilltowns and wineries south of Florence. Its fan-shaped Piazza del Campo is one of Italy’s most beautiful central plazas, with steep, narrow medieval streets branching off it. It’s also the site of the famous Palio, a biennial horse race in which 17 different districts of the city compete with one another in a colorful, exciting pageant.

From Rome to Venice

The journey from Rome to Venice is one of the quintessential trips in Italy. It runs directly through Florence – the greatest art city of them all – and Tuscany, famous for its countryside of rolling hills, vineyards, hilltop villages, and sun-kissed cuisine. Bologna, also known for its food – Bolognese sauce is the headliner -- is the next big city encountered after Florence.

And before reaching Venice, you’ll come to the smaller city of Padua, known for its immense Basilica of St. Anthony, the Scrovegni Chapel with frescoes by Giotto, and the beautiful Prato Della Valle, the largest public square in Europe.

Side Trips from Florence

A tour operator can easily expand a visit to Florence with side trips to other Tuscan cities like Siena, a Medieval walled city; Pisa, best known for the Leaning Tower; and Lucca, where you can walk the old city walls. Genoa is farther up the coast but wewll worth seeing.

The Tuscan countryside is also home to a number of impossibly scenic villages that cling to steep hillsides, invariably topped by a church. Walking tours are a great way to experience the region. Don’t miss the walks through Cinque Terre, five towns perched on cliffs overlooking the sea and connected by trails.

From Florence to Pisa  

It’s just 50 miles from Florence to Pisa, and well worth the trip to see The Leaning Tower, one of Italy’s most iconic structures. Don’t overlook the chance to stop in the city of Lucca on the way – it’s just 40 miles from Florence, but quieter and pretty in its own right. Lucca has wide city walls that you can walk on or ride bikes along – great fun.

This part of the Tuscan countryside is also home to a number of impossibly scenic villages that cling to steep hillsides, invariably topped by a church. Walking tours are a great way to experience the region. Don’t miss the walks through Cinque Terre, five towns perched on cliffs overlooking the sea and connected by trails. They’re just north of La Spezia, up the coastal road from Pisa.

From Florence to Venice

Between Florence and Venice lie a number of potential stopovers: Bologna, Padua, and Verona among them. Verona requires a short detour west from Padua, but you won’t regret it. Made famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Verona is an ancient city with well-preserved Roman, medieval, and Renaissance monuments – and, of course, a house with balcony said to have bene Juliet’s.

A Guide to Venice

Venice itself lies on the Adriatic Sea northeast of Florence. Built on some 100 islands dotting a lagoon, the city clings precariously to existence despite the longtime ravages of flooding and pollution. Yet Venice’s grand palazzos and intricate mazes of canals and walkways somehow remain afloat amid almost surreal beauty.

Piazza San Marco, Italy’s most regal square, leads to the Byzantine splendor of the Basilica di San Marco and a passing parade of visitors from around the world. The famous Rialto Bridge crosses the Grand Canal, which snakes through the old city and connects the palazzos and museums by water. Gondoliers stick to the smaller, less commercially busy and more romantic canals that branch off the Grand Canal.

Practical Tips for Visiting Venice

There are essentially two ways for getting around the old city of Venice – walking or taking some type of boat. There are no cars, many streets are narrow, and there are numerous bridges to cross in the canal areas.

So keep this in mind when packing for Venice and selecting a hotel – can you wheel your suitcase up and down several steep bridges? How far is your hotel from the train station or nearest canal stop? Can you even find your hotel in the maze of streets that seem to wind around with no particular purpose?

In regards to the latter, it helps to have a phone with google maps that you can follow – or a guide if you’re on a tour. Paper maps are of little use in Venice except for locating the general direction of, say, St. Mark’s Square, because they can’t be sufficiently detailed.

Once you’ve located your hotel and settled in, the best approach to Venice is just to wander and not worry about getting lost, because you’ll get lost anyway and might as well enjoy it.

The city is relatively small and periodically you’ll see signs for the three main landmarks: “Ferrovia” (train station), “Rialto” (Bridge) – one of the main stops on the Grand Canal – and “San Marco” (St. Mark’s Basilica and Square). Follow those and you’ll eventually get to where you want to be.

Gondola rides are expensive and shouldn’t be thought of as regular transportation – but rather for a special occasion. Be sure to negotiate the price in advance with the gondolier. Singing gondoliers cost a bit more.

The least expensive means of water transport are the public water buses (vaporettos) that traverse the canals. One of the best sightseeing bargains in Venice is to circle the entire Grand Canal on the #1 Vaporetto, which you can access at the Rialto Bridge, San Marco, or a number of other stops -- just stay on the boat for the entire circuit (or longer).

Try to grab a seat near the front for the best views. And even though tickets are seldom checked, be sure to have one on you – if they do check and you don’t have a ticket, you’ll be heavily fined. If you plan to ride the vaporettos a lot – and you may well do so – consider buying a single or multiple day pass that allows for unlimited rides. You’ll save money.

As magnificent as San Marco is, there’s much to see off the beaten track in Venice: churches with artistic masterpieces inside, the old Jewish ghetto, streets frequented by locals and not tourists. And if your feet get tired, just hop on the nearest vaporetto for a water ride back to wherever you’d like to be. 

Southern Italy

Near Naples, the ruins of Pompeii and the lesser known Herculaneum were buried under ash and mud, respectively, when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. The result is a vast trove of archaeological treasure, including artifacts of Roman-era life preserved for centuries until re-discovered more than 1,500 years later.

The city of Naples, always colorful, beckons to the south, as do the islands of Ischia and Capri off the coast. Further south yet is the Amalfi coast, a stunning mountainous roadway passing villages overlooking the Mediterranean. And, across the Straits of Messina from the toe of Italy’s southern “boot,” the island of Sicily, has some of Italy’s most gorgeous scenery as well as its own culture, almost separate from that of northern Italy. Venture around the whole island for a wealth of vistas, vibrant cities and ancient ruins.

Northern Italy

Northern Italy gets increasingly mountainous and is dotted with shimmering clear-blue lakes, with Lake Como -- north of the Italian fashion capital, Milan -- being the best known. While touring the far-northern Alpine areas, you might think you were in Switzerland or Austria. You can ski there or enjoy lakeside walks.

With so much to see and do in Italy, it can be daunting as to which regions to explore first. So let Stride help you find the right Italy guided tour for your needs and budget.

Top Wine Regions in Italy

If the idea of Italy is synonomous with anything, it's food and wine. When you tour Italy, you will almost immediately get a sense of how integral the experience of food and drink is ingrained in the culture. A wine tasting trip through the famous wine regions is a great introduction to some of the world's finest old world wines.

1. Tuscany -- The rolling hills of Tuscany are home to some of Italy’s most picturesque wineries, which produce some of Italy’s best known wines. Chianti is famous the world over; Sangiovese and Montepulciano are other varietals. Castello Banfi and Biondi Santi in the Siena region are two of Tuscany’s largest wineries.

2. Veneto -- Except for Tuscany’s Chianti, the Veneto region near Venice and Verona produces Italy’s most widely exported wines: Valpolicella, Bardolino, and Soave (the first two are reds, the third white). Sparkling Prosecco is another product of this fertile region. Fratelli Bolla near Verona is known for its Soaves.

3. Emilia-Romagna -- With roots in the Po River Valley and Po delta, Emilia-Romagna is best known for producing Lambrusco, a light red wine with kick. Bologna -- renowned for its Bolognese sauce and fine food in general -- is the largest city and sits in the middle of the region, which extends to the Adriatic Sea south of Venice.  One winery to check out is the Cantine Romagnoli near Modena (which is also known for its balsamic vinegars).

4. Lombardy -- Another region with Po River Valley roots, Lombardy produces excellent sparkling whites.  Try the Guido Berlucchi winery in Brescia.

5. The Latium -- This is the wine-growing region around Rome, known for its Frascati and other white wines. The Fontana Candida winery is near Rome.

6. The Piedmont -- Located in northern Italy near France, the Piedmont is best known for its flavorful red wines. The Renato Ratti Cantina winery occupies a medieval abbey.

Top 10 Historical Attractions in Italy

1. The Roman ForumThe central public meeting place for the citizens of ancient Rome and the heart of one of the world’s great empires, the Roman Forum survives as a remarkable ruin in the middle of the city at the base of two of Rome’s seven hills. While the Forum is a “ruin,” there’s still plenty to see here: the remains of great temples, public buildings, and walkways where Julius and Augustus Caesar once strode and where orators addressed the issues of the day.

2. The Roman ColosseumThe world’s most famous amphitheaterstands just down the street from the Forum. While it, too, is a ruin, it’s a well preserved one, and it’s not hard to picture thousands of Roman spectators cheering or jeering gladiators who fought to the death here. Get in line early in the morning before the crowds arrive.

3. The Pantheon, RomeThe best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings, dating from the early 2nd century A.D., the Pantheon is a testament both to the  genius of Roman architecture and the staying power of concrete walls that are almost 20 feet thick. After entering via a classical Greek-style portico, the Pantheon is a round, domed structure. Originally built to honor Roman gods or perhaps the emperor (“God” on earth), it later became a Roman Catholic church.

4. St. Peter’s BasilicaThe world’s largest church is technically in another country (Vatican City), but since the Vatican is entirely surrounded by Rome and you can just walk across the street to enter, it qualifies. St. Peter’s, a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, is said to have been built over the burial spot of the apostle Peter. The basilica is simply immense, with multiple chapels, altars, and niches, one of which holds one of Michelangelo’s greatest masterpieces, the Pieta. It looks out over St. Peter’s Square, where popes often address huge audiences.  

5. St. Mark’s Basilica (San Marco)Besides the Grand Canal, Venice’s greatest landmark is St. Mark’s Basilica, which rises at one end of San Marco Square. As remarkable as it is to view on the outside, with its multiple domes and spires, its Byzantine interior – lined with gold and bronze mosaics -- is even more breathtaking. Be sure to take the stairway up to the second floor for the view overlooking the St. Mark’s Square from the balcony.

6. The Duomo, Florence – With its pink, white, and green marble exterior and distinctive red dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, the massive Duomo – the main cathedral of Florence – dominates the city’s skyline in Gothic splendor.  While the exterior is more impressive than the rather bare interior, there are still mosaics and frescoes to see, and you can climb up to the top of the cupola -- but that’s not for the claustrophobic or the acrophobic.

7. Milan Cathedral – For sheer Gothic wonder, nothing compares to the exterior of the cathedral in Milan. The façade is composed entirely of gleaming pink-hued white marble, and the 600-year-old cathedral is decorated by some 3,400 statues and hundreds of other figures and spires. The world’s fifth largest church, it covers an entire city block, and cleaning it requires constant attention (which means scaffolding may ruin your picture).   

8. Pompeii and Herculaneum – Two cities destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD are remarkably well preserved by fallen ash from the volcano. You can wander for hours amid the houses and public areas, standing just as they were two millennia ago.  Herculaneum is less well known than Pompeii but just as impressive. They can be reached on a day trip from Naples.

9. The Leaning Tower of Pisa – After a major shoring up operation in the 1990s, the Leaning Tower doesn’t lean as much as it once did – about four degrees rather than the previous 5.5 -- but then it’s not as likely to topple over, either. The Leaning Tower is actually the bell tower for the cathedral in Pisa. It was built in the 12th and 13th centuries on soft soil and clay and has been leaning from the beginning – more so as the centuries passed. Now it’s been anchored and it’s safe to climb again – seven stories with about 300 steps. Don’t do it if you have vertigo.

10. Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily – The world’s largest archeological site contains seven Doric temples, including the Temple of Concordia, which reflect the height of ancient Greek civilization in Sicily.

Touring Vatican City

Before you see St. Peter’s, before you see the Sistine Chapel, before you view the Vatican Museums’ incredible art collections, keep some things in mind: don’t go on Sunday, when the museums are often closed, and, during the rest of the week, the Vatican gets very, very crowded with visitors.  In summer, especially, the lines for both St. Peter’s and the museums are often brutal.

It helps to have a strategy. If you love art and want to spend several hours in the Vatican Museums (you’ll need it), try to arrive at least an hour before the 10 a.m. opening time to get in line. Don’t visit St. Peter’s first, because by the time you make it to the museums line, it will stretch clear back to Italy. (The lines for St. Peter’s are also long, but they move faster.)

You can pay extra for “Fast Track Tickets” available at some agencies in Rome, which will get you through a separate museum entrance from the main one, well worth the extra money if you can afford it.

One other key thing to remember: dress modestly, or they won’t let you in, no matter how long you’ve been waiting. That means no shorts or bare shoulders or midriffs for men or women. And by all means, wear comfortable shoes.

If you can, allow all day for a visit to the Vatican. The wealth of paintings and other artworks displayed in room after room are no less than astonishing. The most famous area, of course, is Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, with its ceiling filled with vibrant frescoes that the artist produced while lying on his back atop scaffolding high in the air. The chapel gets extremely crowded and you may find yourself being pushed along and out by the mobs of people, so try to find a quiet corner to have time to gaze up at and appreciate the masterwork.

St. Peter’s Basilica, one of the most important churches in Christendom and one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture – Michelangelo was one of the designers, the sculptor Bernini another – requires a couple of hours on its own. Inside, the sheer size and the masses of marble, gilt, and decorative extravagance can be overwhelming. You probably won’t have the time or energy to enter every chapel or inspect every altar, but be sure not to overlook Michelangelo’s Pieta sculpture, which occupies one out -of-the-way niche (there should be crowds milling around it). 

Related Guides

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Colosseum, Venice Canals, Pompeii, Santa Maria del Fiore, Amalfi Coast, Monarola (Cinque Terre) & Many More

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