14 Unmissable Things to Do In Italy (North and South Suggestions)

Looking for the best things to do in Italy? Whether you’re exploring the north or south, read on to discover a bunch of amazing options for your Italy itinerary!

In this post, I’ve compiled a list of unmissable places to go and things to do in Italy.

49.8 million people visit this incredible country every year.

And, when planning an Italy trip, it can feel like there are almost as many things to do. Ancient monuments, iconic cities, beaches, food, fashion, mountains, wineries…the list is endless!

So, how do you pick? What should you prioritize?

Based on the two months I spent exploring Italy recently – and the items still on my bucket list – here are 14 top attractions I think belong on your Italy itinerary.

Northern Italy Things to Do

Northern Italy has the lion’s share of tourist attractions, and it’s also where I spent most of my trip. I chose to include Rome in this section, too. Yet, technically, the capital is midway down the country in central Italy.

Definitions aside, here are 9 of the best things to do in Italy in the north!

1. Visit Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre Things to do in Italy
Exploring Cinque Terre offers a picturesque escape to Italy’s stunning coastline… Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Cinque Terre is a network of five ancient fishing villages perched on the northwest coast. And yes, it’s as beautiful as it sounds!

Expect colorful buildings, cobbled streets, and boutique stores stacked with charm.

Trails that boast stunning views connect each village, so I highly recommend walking here. However, a useful Express train zips between them throughout the day, increasing accessibility and how much of Cinque Terre you can see when strapped for time.

Like most of Italy’s famous tourist attractions, Cinque Terre gets extremely busy. But don’t let that put you off. Whether you visit for an afternoon or have a few days here, it’ll be a highlight of your trip.

Here are some tips on where to stay in Cinque Terre if you go.

2. Laze at a Lake

Lake Garda in Northern Italy
Relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the stunning lakes of Italy… Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Northern Italy is home to several world-famous lakes. Lake Como, just North of Milan, and Lake Garda, by Verona, are the most popular. However, they all boast sparkling waters, mountain views, and picture-perfect villages, so don’t feel bad if you skip the best-known ones.

For example, I went to Lake Iseo, between Como and Garda. Fewer tourists go here – always a plus in my books – but there’s no shortage of beauty, charm, and attractions. Wherever you go, a day or two at the lake will provide a wonderful, relaxing counterpoint to the busy sightseeing you’ll be doing elsewhere.

3. Visit Verona

Verona in Italy panoramic view
Verona’s timeless allure makes it one of the best things to do in Italy. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Verona surprised me. I knew it was famous for its connection to Romeo and Juliet, but beyond that? No idea. I couldn’t believe it when I saw its giant amphitheater, a colorful historic center laden with character, the mighty Adige River running through it, and, yes, Juliet’s House. Looking back, it felt like visiting Rome’s younger sibling.

There’s lots to see in Verona. Lots of great places to eat, too. And lots of bars and cafes where you can sit, rest your legs, and sip coffee or beer as you soak up the sights.

Verona’s also well-located. It’s a gateway to the Dolomites in the north or Venice to the east. You could, as I did, spend a day or two there on your way through.

4. Head to the Dolomites

Hiking in Dolomites, Italy
Experience the breathtaking landscapes and outdoor activities available in the Dolomites. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

The Dolomites were a highlight of my Italy trip. Located in the northeast, this mountain range is renowned for its iconic pale, jagged peaks that rise vertically from the surrounding terrain.

If you love hiking, nature, fresh air, and the great outdoors, don’t miss the chance to go. The Dolomites are sublime.

The entire region is breathtaking, but the most famous bit is Tre Cime di Lavaredo (or the Three Peaks of Lavaredo). Hike to it/them along the eponymous loop trail. You’ll share it with many other hikers/visitors, but for good reason.

The views of this unique geological feature and the surrounding area are second to none.

5. Explore Venice

Canal Grande in Venice, Italy
Venice’s charm is notorious around the world. Explore its canals, history, and culture… Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Visiting Venice is like stepping into a fairytale. It’s as unique as European destinations get – a medieval city built on islands. There are no roads or cars here, just canals, boats, and bridges. Distinctive Gothic buildings emerge seemingly from the water. Front doors open onto wharves. Narrow cobbled streets ooze a sense of history and intrigue. The place attacks the senses and feels totally magical.

For these reasons and many others – not least the long list of attractions, such as getting a gondola ride down the Grand Canal or visiting the Doge’s Palace, Rialto Bridge, and St. Mark’s Square – it’s always packed. However, you can’t blame people for wanting to visit. Venice is special.

6. See the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Leaning tower of Pisa, Italy
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is nothing short of iconic. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Like the Colosseum or the Trevi Fountain in Rome, you’ve probably seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa a thousand times before on travel ads, postcards, Instagram, etc. So, if you’re traveling to Italy, it makes sense to see it in person, too!

That said, I don’t think you need to spend much time in Pisa itself.

It’s a fabulous city with history, shops, bars, restaurants, and a youthful atmosphere. Plus, the Arno River runs through the middle, and old European cities built around rivers all have something about them.

Here’s the “but” though: other Italian cities offer the same attractions and many more.

In my opinion, you’ll get better bang for your buck by spending more of your limited time in Italy elsewhere.

7. Explore Florence

Florence cathedral in Italy
Florence Cathedral is another breath-taking building to visit in Italy. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Things to do in Italy don’t get much better than visiting Florence. The birthplace of the Renaissance has everything you could want in an Italian city. Food, wine, history, art, striking architecture, memorable activities, iconic attractions… it’s all here.

A few highlights include Michelangelo’s statue, David, in the Galleria dell’Accademia, the Uffizi Gallery, the medieval Ponte Vecchio (an incredible covered bridge), and Florence Cathedral with its famous dome. Like other cities in Bel Paese, Florence transports you into the past.

Walk around, take in the sights, stop for gelato, do some shopping – simple pleasures hold extra appeal.

8. Travel around Tuscany

small village in Tuscany in Italy
Embark on a scenic journey through Tuscany, Italy, with its vineyards, villages, and culinary treasures. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Although visiting Florence and/or Pisa technically means you’re already in Tuscany, this popular region in Italy deserves and invites further exploration.

Tuscany’s reputation precedes it. Get ready for rolling green hills lined with vineyards, charming hilltop towns, seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and fresh produce, food, and wine to die for.

9. Witness History in Rome

Colosseum on first day of 3 Days in Rome
An unmissable thing to do in Italy is visit the Colosseum in Rome. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

I rarely enjoy big cities these days, so it says something that Rome was one of my favorite places in Italy. The history on show here is unbelievable.

From the Colosseum and Roman Forum to the Pantheon, Vatican City, and countless other historic sights, it’s as close as you can get to stepping back in time.

Rome impresses in other ways, too. As you’d expect from Italy’s capital city, the food scene is fantastic. Bars, cafes, and restaurants of all varieties are everywhere – most only a stone’s throw from one attraction or another.

The atmosphere is electric here as well. With 4.3 million people, it’s constantly abuzz with energy and life. I’d encourage anyone to spend at least three days in Rome to experience as much as possible. However, here’s more info on how many days in Rome I think you need.

Southern Italy Attractions, Sights and Activities

I was gutted I didn’t get to explore much of southern Italy. From what I gather, fewer tourists go, so the culture and general vibe are very different.

Unfortunately, by the time we’d done what we wanted up north and explored the Amalfi Coast, it was time to leave. For now, most of the following things to do in Italy remain on my bucket list. Here are some of southern Italy’s highlights.

10. Explore Pompeii

Pompeii ruins in italy
A city frozen in time, Pompeii is another historical marvel in Italy. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Located just south of Naples, Pompeii was once a thriving city popular among wealthy Romans.

Yet that changed in 79 A.D. when Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that towers above it, erupted. Ash and rocks buried the city, killing thousands of people and leaving the city frozen in time. Pompeii remained in that buried state until its rediscovery almost 1700 years later.

It’s hard not to be captivated by Pompeii. It lifts the curtain on ancient life and the people who lived there in a way that no other historical site can.

You can see actual men, women, and children who lived there at the time – plaster casts of their bodies reveal the exact positions they were in when they died. Some even show their facial expressions. Anyone fascinated by history should go.

11. Visit the Amalfi Coast and Capri

Amalfi Coast in Italy
With its stunning cliffs, picture-perfect villages, and azure waters, the Amalfi Coast should definitely be on your Italy itinerary. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Not far south of Pompeii is the inimitable Amalfi Coast. Another place that needs little introduction, this heavenly stretch of coastline is one of Italy’s most popular – and luxurious – destinations.

People adore the Amalfi Coast for its history, natural beauty, and exclusive vibe. It’s striking, too. Age-old towns cling to cliffs that rise steeply above gorgeous blue waters. Roads wind between them, with each twist and turn revealing a more impressive view than the last.

Wherever you go, you’ll be able to hike, swim, sunbathe, and explore cute cobbled streets lined with bright white houses. You’ll dine on fantastic food, splash some cash in boutique stores, and much more.

You should also consider taking the ferry to Capri. Located just off the coast, this beautiful island is full of history and 100% worth exploring, even if only for a day trip.

12. Visit Castelmezzano

View of Castelmezzano in Italy
Get ready to enjoy medieval charm and an unforgettable Italian landscape in Castelmezzano, Italy. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Want to escape the crowds? Turn your back on the Amalfi Coast and venture inland to the small hilltop town of Castelmezzano.

This picturesque place is said to be popular with Italians, but it’s definitely off the main tourist track. As a result, it should offer a more authentic look into local Italian life.

That’s definitely not the only reason to visit. Nestled high among the Dolomiti Lucane Mountains, Castelmezzano is a hidden gem with amazing views, hikes, and even a Via Ferrata.

There’s also a novel way to explore another hilltop town in the area. Connecting Castelmezzano to nearby Pietrapertosa is a zipline called Volo dell’Angelo, or the Angel’s Flight. If you want to visit both places, it’d certainly be a memorable way to travel between them.

13. Sassi di Matera

Sassi di Matera in Italy
Southern Italy’s Sassi di Matera is another location full of natural beauty, history, and intrigue… Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that appeared in the 2021 James Bond movie No Time to Die. Yet that fun fact isn’t the only reason to feature it on a list of the best things to do in Italy!

Old stone buildings sit atop a rocky plateau with spectacular views. Stone streets meander through pretty little piazzas. Staircases zigzag up hillsides. And there’s also an aged elegance to the place; it’s yet another Italian destination that oozes charm.

But all that’s only surface-level. Literally.

The real magic of Matera lies underneath. It’s infamous for its intricate cave dwellings that have been lived in and built up over thousands of years. A sizeable chunk of Matera seems built into the actual cliffs. If you have time, book a night or two here to explore everything on offer.

14. Go to Sicily

Ruins of the Ancient Greek Theater in Sicily, Southern Italy
Sicily’s natural beauty and rich history bask in the glow of the Mediterranean sun. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

If Italy’s a boot, Sicily is the large island off the coast of its “toe.” It looks like paradise. Expect clear turquoise waters, white sand beaches, verdant hills, and dramatic cliffs with towns on top.

Sicily also has a tremendous amount of history. It sounds like every empire that’s ever existed has conquered it at some point. As a result, ancient temples, palaces, and cathedrals litter the landscape.

I’ve read that Sicily has a very different “feel” from other parts of Italy, though – especially away from tourist hotspots.

Everything sounds wilder, not necessarily in a bad way, just in a noticeable one. Note that Sicilians also have their own language and dialects, so even people who speak Italian may not be able to communicate as easily in certain places.

Tour in Rome
Searching for a hassle-free way to explore Italy? Consider joining a guided tour. Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Explore Italy the Easy Way

Still trying to figure out where to go or what to do in Italy? Wish someone else would plan everything for you? Check out G Adventures’ Iconic Italy Trip.

This two-week tour includes visits to Venice, Cinque Terre, Rome, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast. The company handles 100% of the logistics, including transport, food, accommodation, and experiences/excursions. This makes it one of the easiest and most stress-free ways to see the country.

G Adventures has also included some cool touches to make the trip extra special. For example, you don’t just visit Pompeii. You tour the ruins with an archaeologist who can answer your questions and tell you about the site.

Likewise, the company organizes a unique Agriturismo experience while visiting the Amalfi Coast. You’ll visit a converted monastery overlooking the Mediterranean, where you’ll cook and eat an Italian feast together.

If this sounds good, you can learn more about the Iconic Italy trip by clicking here.

See Italy’s Cities On a Map

As you can tell, many of the best things to do in Italy involve exploring its cities! Below is a map of Italy showing where 30 of these amazing metropoles are in the country. It might help you get your bearings as you plan your trip!

How this map works: Click each location on the map for more information. Click the little star next to the map’s title (it will turn gold) to add it to your own Google Maps account. To view it, open Google Maps, click on “Saved” in the menu, then go to the “Maps” tab. It should appear there.

Enjoy the Best Things to Do In Italy

Italy’s unique places, sights, and attractions have helped turn it into one of the most popular countries on earth. From food and culture to history and nature, it caters to all tastes and interests.

With any luck, this list of the best things to do in Italy will help you decide what to put on your itinerary. Whether you do one or all of them, you’ll walk away with memories that last a lifetime – and an urge to return for more.

Author: Danny Newman

Title: Writer and Content Creator

Expertise: Travel, Digital Nomadry, Outdoors, Blogging

Danny Newman is a writer, content creator, and digital nomad from the UK. He founded the travel and lifestyle blog What’s Danny Doing, a popular resource for people seeking more adventure, self-discovery, and purpose. A nationally syndicated writer, Danny’s work features in dozens of online publications, including MSN.com and news sites across the US.