One of the top tour attractions in Italy, Duomo in Florence
Italy top tour attraction, the Colosseum in Rome

Italy - Best Tours & Trips 2019

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.

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Top Italy Experiences and Attractions


Top Italy Experiences

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Top Italy Attractions

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Italy Trip Reviews


4,439
Italy Tour Reviews - Summary
97% Recommend

4.7 out of 5
Excellent 3,189 Great 1,038 Average 159 Disappointing 36 Terrible 17
Value
4.7 Guide
4.7 Activities
4.7 Lodging
4.7 Transportation
4.7 Meals
4.7

K

Recommends

Very nice January 2019

5.0

Special needs at Sea Company Reviews

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
Very nice equipment & was delivered in room & picked up as told when it was ordered.

Operator Special needs at Sea

A

Recommends

Well done! January 2019

5.0

Special needs at Sea Company Reviews

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
The service was incredibly easy to use. You even delivered directly to my stateroom. Well done! You took the worry about getting around right out of my mind.

Operator Special needs at Sea

I

Recommends

Very easy from start to finish!! December 2018

5.0

Special needs at Sea Company Reviews

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
I recommended special needs group for a client of mine. We went on a cruise on Royal Caribbean cruise lines. The wheelchair was there when they checked into their cabin. No problems or issues at all. Very easy from start to finish!! The price was great also!! Highly recommend them to anyone needing assistance!! Read more

Operator Special needs at Sea

SN

Recommends

Always a positive experience December 2018

5.0

Special needs at Sea Company Reviews

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
We have rented from them for years, and it is always a positive experience. Good people with quality equipment.

Operator Special needs at Sea

J

Recommends

I definitely recommend it to any one with mobility difficulties December 2018

5.0

Special needs at Sea Company Reviews

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
I had a great experience in my recent cruise. As they told me, my scooter was near my stateroom, it was a bariatric scooter. I enjoy all 7 days in cruise. When time to go I just left it in the departure deck. It was a great experience and a great cruise. I definitely recommend it to any one with mobility difficulties. I will rent again with them in my next cruise. Read more

Operator Special needs at Sea

Italy Tours and Travel Guide


Italy Attractions & Landmarks Guide

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.

Florence, the 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, just as a trip to Switzerland wouldn't be complete without a hike through the Swiss Alps. 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 well 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 been 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 synonymous 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.

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). 

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