Italy is possibly the most beautiful country in the world. And I’m not just saying that because I’m in Italian.
Whether you’re searching for beautiful architecture, stunning natural landscapes, unique historical artefacts, pristine beaches, delicious food or friendly locals, Italy has it all.
With so much to offer it can be hard deciding what to visit in Italy. Which is why I’ve put together this ultimate Italy bucket list! Discover all the most beautiful places to visit and most epic things to do in Italy.
In this guide you’ll find some of the popular tourist attractions, as well as some local hidden gems! So what are you waiting for? Let’s dive in!
- 1 Northern Italy bucket list
- 1.1 Ski in the Alps
- 1.2 Hike in the Alps
- 1.3 Go for a gondola cruise in the canals of Venice
- 1.4 Visit the colourful island of Burano
- 1.5 See the sunset from the rooftop of the Duomo of Milan
- 1.6 Hike the Sentiero Azzurro in Cinque Terre
- 1.7 See the sunset over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
- 1.8 Explore the Old Town of Siena (and maybe see the Palio!)
- 1.9 See the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- 1.10 Visit Elba Island
- 1.11 Visit the Duomo of Florence
- 1.12 Explore Verona
- 1.13 Cruise around Lake Como
- 1.14 Be in Venice for the Carnival
- 1.15 Sail on Lake Garda
- 1.16 Relax at the Terme di Saturnia
- 2 Central Italy bucket list
- 3 Southern Italy bucket list
- 4 Italian islands bucket list
- 5 Italian culinary bucket list
- 5.1 Piadine, tigelle and gnocco fritto in Emilia-Romagna
- 5.2 Drink spritz & have aperitivo!
- 5.3 Pasta carbonara in Rome
- 5.4 Seadas in Sardinia
- 5.5 Risotto alla Milanese
- 5.6 Cannolo Siciliano in Sicily
- 5.7 Trofie al pesto in Liguria
- 5.8 Espresso coffee – drunk at the counter!
- 5.9 Pizza in Naples
- 5.10 Focaccia in Liguria
- 5.11 Wine tasting in Chianti
Northern Italy bucket list
Ski in the Alps
I divided this Italy bucket list in regions, and couldn’t help but start at the far northern most point in the country. One of the absolute best things to do in Italy, if you’re visiting in winter, is skiing in the Alps!
The Italian Alps are blessed with some of the best slopes in the world. Whatever your skiing level, you’re sure to find slopes for you, as well as incredible views, tasty food and fun après ski.
Skiing in Italy is without a doubt one of the best things to do in Europe in winter.
Hike in the Alps
If you’re visiting Italy in summer, then why not try hiking in the Alps? I visited the Alps in summer for the first time last year and loved it.
The feeling of hiking amongst grassy fields, as the mountain peaks in the distance are still covered in snow is unique. If you’re an outdoors and nature lover you have to add the Alps in summer to your Italy bucket list.
Go for a gondola cruise in the canals of Venice
Is there anything to do in Venice that is more iconic than a gondola ride? With its canals and bridges Venice is one of the most popular and visited cities in Italy.
A gondola ride might be touristy, but it also gives you the opportunity to see this beautiful city from a completely different angle.
As you cruise slowly around the canals your gondolier will share with you stories of Venice, and maybe even sing!
Visit the colourful island of Burano
Not far from Venice you will find the island of Burano. This island is famous for its colourful fisherman houses, and the adorable canals.
Burano is only a 45-minute ferry journey from Venice. If you’re already there it’s a must-see!
See the sunset from the rooftop of the Duomo of Milan
The Duomo of Milan is an imposing gothic cathedral, which towers over the main square of Milan. You can climb to the rooftop of the Duomo for a closer look to the elaborate spires and the famous golden “Madonnina” statue.
From up there you can enjoy an incredible view over the rooftops of Milan. If you time it right and visit at sunset you will also see the beautiful golden light washing over Piazza del Duomo, and lighting up the white marble of the Duomo.
Hike the Sentiero Azzurro in Cinque Terre
I love hiking, and the Sentiero Azzurro in Cinque Terre is one of my favourite hikes in the world.
This 12km trail goes all along the coast and connects Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, the “Cinque Terre” (or five towns in English).
I personally love it because there are incredible views all throughout, not just once you reach the peak as is the case with most hikes. You will have the steep green cliffs on one side and the bright turquoise sea on the other.
The beautiful natural landscapes will at times be broken up by the colourful houses of the Cinque Terre towns.
The sight of the colourful houses perched on the cliff side over the sea is, without a doubt, one of the most incredible sights in Italy.
See the sunset over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo
Piazzale Michelangelo might be a touristy spot in Florence, but there’s a valid reason for that.
From Piazzale Michelangelo you get the most incredible view over the Florence skyline, with the iconic dome of the Duomo towering above all other rooftops.
Both tourists and locals alike come here at sunset, to watch the golden light wash over this beautiful Tuscan city, and the skyline light up as the sky darkens. It’s one of the most beautiful places in Italy.
Explore the Old Town of Siena (and maybe see the Palio!)
Siena has one of the best preserved medieval Old Town city centres. Most of the streets within the Old Town walls are pedestrian, and walking around them feels like stepping back in time.
At the heart of Siena you will find the iconic Piazza del Campo. This is where every year they run the famous Palio di Siena, a famous horse racing competition. If you’re visiting Italy in summer, you have to check it out!
See the Leaning Tower of Pisa
If you don’t take a photo while you pretend to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, have you even been to Pisa? Located in Piazza dei Miracoli, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is only one of three must-see sights in Pisa.
In the same square you can admire the Leaning Tower, the Cathedral and Baptistery of Pisa. It’s a unique place with some incredible architecture.
Visit Elba Island
Located just off the coast of Tuscany, Elba Island is a beautiful little gem. It’s famous for being the place of exile of Napoleon in 1814-15, and more recently for its beautiful beaches.
Visit the Duomo of Florence
The Duomo of Florence is one of the most imposing and beautiful buildings in Italy. Just being up close to it will amaze you in a way few other things can.
You can visit the inside of Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and marvel at the artworks, the intricate architecture, and spectacular views over Florence.
Verona is the home of Romeo and Juliet. Whether you’re travelling with your significant other, solo or with friends, it’s a must see for anyone with a romantic soul.
In Verona you can visit Juliet’s balcony, and even leave a letter for Juliet if you need love advice (Have you seen Letters to Juliet? It’s a great travel movie)!
The city itself is also very beautiful and offers some great foodie experiences.
Cruise around Lake Como
Confession time; I grew up half an hour away from Lake Como and I’ve only been there once. Whenever I tell people I’m from Milan the first thing everyone asks is if I’ve been to Lake Como, and I guiltily have to admit not really.
So don’t be like me, don’t miss out on this magical experience! Cruise along the banks of Lake Como, and spend some time exploring the cute towns and lush nature that surround it.
Be in Venice for the Carnival
The Carnival of Venice is one of the most famous in the world. People come from all over the world to participate in this annual festival and see the elaborate Venetian masks.
While Venice is beautiful all year round, it’s an even more amazing sight during Carnival. The streets are flooded with people in fancy dress, adults and children alike, adding colour to the streets and canals of Venice.
Sail on Lake Garda
Another must-see lake in Italy is Lake Garda. Sailing across the beautiful blue water, surrounded by the lush green hills is a once in a lifetime experience.
Relax at the Terme di Saturnia
The Terme di Saturnia have gone viral on social media, and have recently see an increase in popularity. These are a group of natural springs located in Tuscany.
They’re the perfect place to relax after a long trip exploring all the best Italy has to offer. Just make sure to get there early in the morning, as they can get quite busy!
Central Italy bucket list
Visit the Colosseum
The Colosseum is one of the most famous attractions in Rome. It’s one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It’s an oval amphitheatre that dates back to the Roman Empire. No trip to Italy would be complete without a visit to the Colosseum!
The view over the Colosseum from the walls of Via Nicola Salvi is one of the most iconic views in Rome.
Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain
They say that if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain you will one day go back to Rome. I do it every time I’m in Rome and so far I’ve always returned!
The Trevi Fountain is a stunning masterpiece. With its 26 metres in height and 49 metres in width it’s the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. The statues that decorate it are beautiful, and guaranteed to leave you amazed.
Drive a vespa scooter around Rome
Want to live your Roman Holiday movie dreams? Then learn to drive a vespa in Rome! Vespa scooters have become an iconic Italian symbol around the world. So what better place to drive a vespa than the Italian capital?
Driving a vespa around Rome can be a bit bumpy because of the “Sampietrini”, the typical cobble type of pavement you find all over the city, but it’s a fun experience nonetheless.
It’s also a very local experience and you know what they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”!
Visit the Sistine Chapel & the Vatican
The Vatican is the home of the Catholic Church, and even if you’re not religious, it’s a must-see in Italy. It’s a huge part of Italian (and global) history and culture, and there you can find many historical artefacts and treasures.
The most famous amongst them is without a doubt the Sistine Chapel. Painted by Michelangelo in the 1400s it covers the entire ceiling, and is considered a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art.
If you’re travelling to Europe in the fall there’s also a chance that there will be smaller crowds in Rome.
Molise doesn’t often feature on ultimate Italy bucket list round ups like this one. Many of you might have never even heard of it.
Molise is a small region in the centre of Italy, which even many Italians wouldn’t be able to place on a map and may joke about it saying Molise doesn’t really exist.
And yet here you will find some adorable towns, a stunning mountain range with rich wildlife and trails, and incredible views. At the start of 2020 Lonely Planet even ranked it as one of the top underrated places to visit!
Visit the Fori Romani
If the Colosseum isn’t enough for you, another must-see in Rome are the Fori Romani. These are part of the ruins of ancient Rome, and are truly a spectacular sight for anyone interested in history.
Explore the cute town of Sperlonga
Perched on top of hill on the sea you will find the old town centre of Sperlonga. Sperlonga is a coastal town with some very pretty beaches, but the town centre is even more beautiful.
The old town centre is entirely pedestrian and looks like something out of a movie. You can wander around the cute little alleys, check out the local shops and eat in the main square.
Southern Italy bucket list
Go on a cruise to Capri
Is there anything more magical than sailing along the coast of Capri? Capri is an island not far from Naples, famous for its steep cliffs, crystal clear sea and fancy environment.
If you visit Capri in summer you will probably see the harbour and sea in front of Capri lined with yachts. A cruise to Capri, paired with a pizza and limoncello tasting, is a must on any Italy bucket list.
Sail along the Amalfi coast
If Capri wasn’t enough for you, you have to add a cruise along the Amalfi coast to your Italy bucket list. This whole area of Italy is beautiful, somewhat touristy, but stunning nonetheless.
One of the most famous spots on the Amalfi coast is Positano. The colourful houses perched along the side of the hill, overlooking the beach and sea are a unique sight.
Visit the ruins of Pompeii
An ancient city completely destroyed by a volcanic eruption, and yet perfectly preserved over the centuries. That’s what you will find in Pompeii.
Pompeii is a vast archaeological not far from Mount Vesuvius. It’s a very interesting place and a must-see on and Italy trip.
Hike up Mount Vesuvius
For the outdoors fans, you will love hiking up Mount Vesuvius! This iconic symbol of Naples has some incredible views over the surrounding landscape.
The hike is tough, but the views are well worth it! You can combine the two by visiting both Pompeii and Vesuvius in one day.
Stay in a trullo in Puglia
If you’re looking for something unique, you need to spend a night in a “trullo” in Puglia. These are traditional stone houses specific to Puglia, characterised by their conical roof.
Wandering along streets lined with trulli is pretty magical in itself, imagine spending a night in one!
Explore the Sassi di Matera
Matera is a unique city in Italy. The city is perched on a rocky outcrop, and is home to a series of cave dwellings that have been inhabited since the Paleolithic period.
It’s considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Matera had a rocky past (lol, get it?) with the cave dwellings first being associated with poverty and poor sanitation, and then being abandoned. However today it’s one of the most popular attractions in Italy, and it’s easy to see why!
Chill on the beaches of Calabria
Located all the way at the top of the Italian “boot”, Calabria often gets overlooked.
Don’t make that mistake! Calabria has some of the best beaches in the world, and is the perfect place for an Italian summer beach holiday.
Italian islands bucket list
Swim in the crystal clear water of Sardinia
I can’t claim to have seen every beach out there, but I’ve seen my fair share of beaches in the Maldives, Caribbean and South East Asia, and none of them can hold the comparison to Sardinia.
Sardinia is an island blessed with 2,000km of coastline, that’s a lot of epic beaches for you to explore! The beaches are always characterised by fine white sand and crystal clear turquoise water.
If you’re visiting in summer (or even spring and autumn, the water might be chillier but the beaches will be empty!) you have to add Sardinia to your Italy bucket list.
Go island & beach hopping in the Maddalena Archipelago
While all the beaches of Sardinia are incredible, my personal favourite are those of the Maddalena Archipelago. Here you will find an area called the “natural pools”, a well-deserved name.
The water is crystal clear, but that’s a given in Sardinia.
What’s special about this spot is the variety in the seabed, the changes from sand to rocks and algae create a patchwork of different shades of blue, giving the impression of multiple pools.
It’s an incredible sight to behold. Once you swim in the sea of Sardinia, nowhere else will compare to it.
Hike up Mount Etna
Because one volcano wasn’t enough! After Mount Vesuvius, you have to add a hike up Mount Etna in Sicily to your Italy bucket list.
The Mount Etna hike takes around 2 hours, and you’re guaranteed to see some incredible views over the Sicilian countryside once you reach the top.
Hike in the “entroterra” of Sardinia
The beaches of Sardinia are the main attraction, however the interior is also worthy of mention. In Sardinia you will find Gorropu Gorge, the deepest gorge in Europe.
You can go on an incredible hike starting at the top of the valley, down to the river and then into the gorge. It’s one of the most awesome hikes I’ve ever done, with awe-inspiring views all throughout.
Visit the Ancient Theatre of Taormina
Are you ready to be left speechless? The Ancient Theatre of Taormina is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. This Greek amphitheatre is perched on top of a cliff, with gorgeous sunset and cliff views.
Here you can learn about ancient Greek culture, as well as the history of Sicily. It’s also one of the best views and sunset spots in Sicily.
Explore Ragusa Ibla
I didn’t expect to love Sicily as much as I did. Ragusa is one of the reasons I loved it so much. This cute town is perched on top of a hill, with other hills surrounding it.
The town itself is simply adorable, with narrow cobbled streets and Gothic architecture. However what amazed me were the views, both from Ragusa but also from the surrounding hills over Ragusa itself.
Italian culinary bucket list
In Italy we take our food very seriously, it’s the one thing all Italians are passionate about.
It’s only natural that my Italy bucket list would have a separate culinary section. Discover all the best and more traditional things to eat in Italy!
Piadine, tigelle and gnocco fritto in Emilia-Romagna
While these are all very different dishes they are all somewhat similar in the way they are eaten, and they are all equally iconic from Emilia-Romagna so I figured they all deserved a mention.
Piadina is a type of thin flatbread, tigella is a similar flatbread but much smaller, and gnocco fritto is a fried bread. You eat all of them with cheese and different cuts of salami or ham.
Drink spritz & have aperitivo!
This one isn’t quite a must-taste dish but more of a must-have experience.
Happy hour in Italy is very different from happy hour in the rest of the world. Instead of half priced cocktails you will find a fixed price for drinks, which includes a buffet of food.
The “aperitivo” experience is a must on any Italy bucket list. It originated in Milan but in recent years has become popular all over Italy. The typical drink you should have with it is a Spritz, a mixture of prosecco and Aperol.
Pasta carbonara in Rome
I’ve said this before, but spaghetti alla carbonara is always going to be one of my favourite pastas. You can find it in most restaurants all over Italy, but if you want the legit experience, you have to eat it in Rome.
Seadas in Sardinia
Do you like cheese? Do you like honey? Why not put them together! This traditional Sardinian dessert is made of a fried pastry with cheese inside, covered in honey.
It may sound weird but I can assure you it’s delicious!
Risotto alla Milanese
You’ve guessed it right, if you want to have the real risotto alla Milanese, you have to go to Milan! This risotto typical of my hometown is easily recognisable by its bright yellow saffron colour.
Cannolo Siciliano in Sicily
Cannolo Siciliano is probably my favourite dessert. The combination of a crunchy tube shaped biscuit, filled with a soft and sweet cheese filling is heavenly for me.
The cheese is usually topped with chocolate chips, candied orange or pistachio chunks. The recipe is originally from Sicily and that is where you’ll find the best ones.
Trofie al pesto in Liguria
Pesto, a basil based sauce, is the traditional pasta sauce in the Liguria region. You can have pesto with any type of pasta, but trofie is the traditional choice.
For an even more Ligurian touch you can add potatoes and green beans to the pasta. Lots of carbs but so worth it!
Espresso coffee – drunk at the counter!
Ask any Italian and they’ll tell you there is only one way to drink coffee; espresso coffee obviously. Lattes, frappuccinos and other type of weird Starbucks-type coffees are considered “dirty water”.
For the true Italian experience, you want to drink your espresso coffee as a shot while standing at the counter of a bar. Accompanied by a sweet pastry and a glass of water.
Pizza in Naples
Needless to say you can find excellent pizza all over Italy. However if you want the real pizza experience, you have to eat it in Naples.
Focaccia in Liguria
Liguria deserves a second mention in this Italian foodie bucket list. You can find focaccia everywhere in Italy, but this crossover between bread and pizza is especially tasty in the Liguria region.
Wine tasting in Chianti
Time for a more drinks based suggestion! Many people visit Italy for the delicious wine. If you want to have a unique experience you need go on a wine tasting and vineyard tour in Chianti.
Final thoughts on the ultimate Italy bucket list
There you have it, a complete list to all the most amazing things to and places to see in Italy, recommended by an Italian! I hope you find it useful in putting together your own Italy bucket list.
Have you been to Italy before? How did you find it? If there are other places you loved and would love to see on this list, just let me know! Write them in the comments below and I’ll add them to this bucket list!