13 things to do in Italy

Many people believe Paris to be the city of love, but anyone who has travelled to Italy will soon be seduced by the many gifts that Italy has to offer; The language, culture and sights that start from the Trentino Alto Adige mountains to the bottom of the Sicilian straight have charmed and allured filmmakers, sports fans and historians for centuries and, should you try these next few activities, you too will experience ‘that amore’.

Visit the Sistine Chapel

The Vatican museum on its own is an astounding work of art and architecture, but the real jewel in the crown sits well above the 

head; Michelangelo’s famous ceiling design spans the entire 800-sq-m ceiling of the Sistine chapel and depicts in vivid detail chapters of the bible, including the legendary scene of God bringing Adam to life through the connection of a fingertip. Surrounding the room are mesmeric frescoes and for the thrill-seekers amongst you, make sure to check out the neighbouring illustrations of muscly male nudes!

Jon RawlinsonTop tip: Make sure to book ahead, particularly if you are heading there in the summer.

Eat pizza from a Neapolitan restaurant

Whether you like stuffed crust or thin based, there’s no better pizza in the world that tastes the same as the stuff the Neapolitan serve up. The famed tomato sauce topping, made from San Marzano tomatoes, combined with the mozzarella cheese – normally having been churned from water buffalo milk! – make mouth-watering pizza like you’ve never tasted.

Top tip: Don’t just believe every ‘world’s greatest pizza’ sign when you pass it in Naples. Ask the Italians where they would recommend.

Drink the wine in Florence

Florentine wine is known across the world, and there’s a good reason for it. The Chianti, known for it’s bloodlike appearance, gains its distinctive flavour from the Sangiovese purple grapes ripened in the Tuscan sunlight. Great for dinner parties and first-time wine drinkers, the Chianti Classico is exactly the type of drink you should be having in Florence.

Top tip: Don’t just go to any wine tasting tour, head to a wine festival and try out the Chianti Reserva.

Take a boat ride in Lake Como

If you fantasise about George Clooney sunbathing topless in a small rowing boat regularly, then your dreams could soon become a reality! On top of Lake Como being a beautiful place to live, it’s also one of the most stunning lakes to go for a boat ride in. Surrounding the crystal blue waters are the Grigna Mountains, creating a postcard picture of paradise – one you’re must make sure not to miss!

Top tip: When you get to the centre of the lake, why not take a dip in the water. It’s warm and fairly clean, though it’s not recommended as drink water unless you’re looking for a stomach ache.

Photo by Jussarian

Cycle one of the stages of Giro d’Italia

Keen cyclers will be pleased to know that they can access some of the most beautiful and most challenging rides in the world when they head to the north east of Italy. Following in the footsteps of professional cyclists Vincenzo Nibali and Fausto Coppi, you too could be climbing the mountains of the captivating Dolomites by saddle, taking in some of the wonders of this incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Top tip: Make sure you bring a camera and plenty of water! Not for amateurs!

Find a karaoke bar in Rome

Whether you’re a singer or not, you’ll soon find out that ‘when in Rome’ is not just for over spending or taking a second piece of cake. Unlike most Brits, the Italians take their karaoke seriously, but not in a normal, one person stands up and screams ‘How can I live without you?’ until their parents drag them off stage. We’re talking full on crowds jumping up and down and cheering along with you. It will be a night you won’t want to forget, even if you probably should.

Top tip: Try some limoncello beforehand. Ok it may taste a little like Cillit Bang but it does give you that ‘added confidence’.

Make cheese in the Tuscan hills

All lactose intolerant friends, I’m afraid it’s time to look away because this one is for like-minded cheese lovers across the world. Mozzarella, parmesan, parmigiano reggiano, Italy boasts some of the best cheeses in the world, and we owe the Italians BIG time for allowing us to learn their precious secrets about how to make cheeses from scratch.  Head to Pienza for a class in the ultimate pecorino cheese-making challenge and eat as much as you can!

Top tip: Take notes! You can take the recipe home and make your own homemade cheese.

Create your own souvenirs in Murano

Hidden away north of Venice, you can find yourself off the beaten track on the Murano islands. Connected by bridges, the eight separate islands are quiet and in a world of their own due to their valued and significant history in the trade industry. Known for its respected glass-making techniques, artistic tourists are encouraged to take a tour around a Murano Glass Museum or even seek out classes to make your own Venini-inspired glass jewellery or antiques.

Top tips:  Take a boat across the Venetian lagoon to get to Murano.

Visit Sicily to try the cannoli

Have you ever watched Cake Boss and imagined what the one-of-a-kind sweetened cannoli from his home town in Sicily tastes like? Well don’t worry because you won’t have to travel all the way to New Jersey to find out. These high in calorie but oh-so-worth it bitesize pastries are worth the ferry trip to Palermo and can be found at most bakeries and patisseries. All great things really do come in small packages! 

Top tip: Rumour has it, Piana degli Albanesi is where you can find the best cannoli. 

Visit Pompeii

Budding historians must take a trip to the incredibly moving old ruins of Pompeii when travelling to Naples. Discover the fascinating culture and lifestyle of the people that lived there prior to the devastating Mount Vesuvius’ eruption that swept away and buried the city in A.D. 79. You can see the old bath houses, peruse the brothels and even take a sip from the fertility fountain found around the grounds. And, on a clear day, you can even see Mount Vesuvius itself!

Top Tip: Wear comfy shoes and look out for the phallic drawings on the floor stones – they will direct you to the old brothels!

See a concert in Milan’s La Scala

If you’re a fan of the opera then there’s no other experience in the world that compares to seeing a show in La Scala. The theatre, opened in 1778, has hosted some of the world’s best opera singers including Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi and Pavarotti himself, and puts on some of the most memorable and risqué shows.

Top Tip: Head to the venue on its season open day, December 7th, which coincides with Saint Ambrose’s Day. It’s double the celebration and normally a great atmosphere!

Photo by Irene Tong

Connect with your inner romantic in Verona

Get inside the mind of Shakespeare and visit the setting of the notorious balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet, especially if you’re travelling with a  partner. Not only can you stand in the balcony itself of Juliet’s house but you can also seal your affections with a letter which you can place in the courtyard.

Top tips: Go off-season to avoid jam-packed tours. And, for all the single ladies, make sure to place your hand on the Juliet’s statue to get lucky in love (the recommended spot is her right breast!).

Experience the bloomin’ lovely in Siena

Take a break from sightseeing and end a holiday by relaxing at the stunning Orto Botanico botanical garden. Surrounded by some of the most extraordinary views, you can immerse yourself in an oasis of calm whilst admiring some of Mother Nature’s finest gifts. Divided into four sections and covering more than two hectares, you can spend hours getting lost amongst the woodlands and plants grown in this beautiful green spot.

Top Tip: Also check out the wonderful gothic architecture around Siena’s Duomo – it’s another kind of serene!