My Top 10 Amazing Italian Experiences

Stacey in a Fiat Amalfi Coast

Italy has so many beautiful, historic, and delicious cities to visit. There are many things to do in Italy. Please start at the top to the toe and move to the Sicilian rock, which kicks to the south. Here are ten amazing experiences in Italy, which are just some of my favorite travel experiences.  Here are my top 10 Italian experiences while I lived in Europe.

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10 Amazing Experiences in Italy


1. Get Lost in the backstreets and Canals of Venice
The Largest Automobile Metropolitan City in Europe

Visit, but don’t spend all your time in the square, Doges Place or St. Marks. There is nothing more mysterious than the winding backstreets. They weave their way along the canals and medieval streets of Venice. It’s a shame that most visitors to Venice spend less than a day in the city. However, after the tour buses and cruise ships depart the city takes on a surreal and dreamy existence.

You experience something special when you are the only one on the street. And the noises you hear are your footsteps and sighs of wonder. Venice is expensive, so consider staying in a beautiful hotel like the Villa Pace Park Hotel Bolognese. Set in a historic 19th-century building in the middle of rich parkland, the Villa Pace Park Hotel Bolognese is just outside Treviso and a 20-minute ride from Venice for around a euro into Venice.

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2. Climb to the Top of the Duomo in Florence

The View Inside and Out Will Take Your Breath Away

The view from the top is an amazing experience. It will take your breath away if the climb doesn’t do it first. Climbing the 463 narrow steps requires a reservation. Take a break halfway up and you’ll be closer to the magical ceiling fresco. The dome was painted between by Giorgio Vasari and Frederico Zuccari in the 16th century and depicts the Last Judgment. It’s quite a trek but well worth the sweat to admire a 360 degree panorama of the red terra cotta roofs of Florence below and mountains in the distance. Hopefully you time it to hear the bells chime in the nearby bell tower (Campanile). You can also climb the 14th century tower. It offers a magnificent view of the city and the cathedral’s dome in particular.


3. Stay at an Agriturismo in Cinque Terra
Experience the Most Delicious Food You’ll Ever Eat

Although I didn’t hike the entire trail, Cinque Terra will forever remain on my list as one of the most awe-inspiring experiences I’ve had because of Lucca and his agriturismo in the hills above Framura. The Sostio A Levante is on a working farm at 1,313 feet above sea level. Vineyards surround the property, and the property produces its own Golfo dei Poeti Terre di Framura wine, oil, honey, and cheese. The food was of the utmost quality, abundance, and affordability.

Lucca is a real man, although a character I could have conjured from my own imagination. There are no “sites” to see in Cinque Terra which I have to say was a real departure from Italian experience. The sea, the cliffs, the hiking trails, olives, lemons and views culminated in some of the best food I’ve eaten t this day.


4. Ride a Vespa around Rome
When in Rome… 

I’m sure you already know Rome is amazing. There is so much to do, see, eat, and drink. With a decent map, it’s pretty walkable, too. But why walk when you can ride a Vespa for a change of pace? It gets you around the city quickly, you can always find a parking space, and it gives you a chance to flip a few birds (of love) to fellow roadsters.

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5. Drink lots of wine

Drinking wine in Italy is more than an amazing experience. This is fundamental in Italy. There are so many regions around Italy that produce their own varietals.

Prosecco Wine Trail

It was by accident that I found myself driving along the Prosecco Wine Trail. I planned to visit my son in Aviano but I hadn’t made the connection that this was Prosecco wine country until I was looking for something to do one day. I’ve never seen anything as dramatic as the vineyards of Prosecco. The Prosecco Wine Route is 30 miles north of Venice in the Veneto region. La Strada del Prosecco,or the Prosecco road is 60 km (37 miles) between the cities of town of Conegliano and the village of Valdobbiadene. There are dozens of mostly family-run vineyards, pouring the Veneto region’s best-known wine. Prosecco is a grape and not a region like Champagne, is also the base ingredient for Italy’s most popular cocktail, the Aperol Spritz.

Tuscany

What is a Super Tuscan Wine? I finally learned, eh understood this on a trip to Tuscany. The long and short of it is… a few decades ago Italian wine only had two classifications: quality wine or table wine. There were a LOT of rules (blends, quantity and traditions) to be be classified as a fine wine and a LOT of the Italian vintners were pretty pissed off about that so they created the category Super Tuscan to get around the rules. And I am so freaking glad they did. Chianti is cool as a table wine, but the introduction of Sangiovese, Merlot and other grapes made Italian wine, eh, super.

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Mt. Etna is Sicily, not Italy

My plan was to hike Etna, but in the research I also found that there were quite a few wineries at the base of the active volcano. So I decided to ditch the hike and opt in a couple wine tours instead. I picked a few great ones. The vintners on Etna are very proud of their wines. They are also quick to say they do not make Italian wine, they are unlike any other wine because of the volcanic sand and altitude. In addition grapes grown on the eastern side are different than the grapes grown on the western slope. I visited three wineries: Benanti Viticoltori, Palmento Biondi and Tenuta delle Terre Nere.

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6. Stand in Awe Under the Sistine Chapel in Rome

My first trip to Rome was when I was a college student. One of the best pieces of advice I received was to go to the Sistine Chapel early and wait in line. I did.  It’s the best advice I can give you too. As the third person in line, I made a beeline to the little chapel and found myself all by myself for more than 20 minutes. It was the most phenomenal 20 minutes I’ve ever spent not doing anything but lying on my back and staring up into Michael Angelo’s masterpiece. After exploring the rest of the museum, I decided to stop back in the chapel. It was packed shoulder to shoulder so I left.

7. Attend One of the Numerous Festivals

It seems like Italy celebrates a different festival every day. Many festivals in Italy are based on historic events and often include people dressed in period costumes, contests of skill or will between neighborhoods, flag-throwers, great food, include masks, race on horseback, boats or bikes, and joust. And they almost always begin with a procession through the streets and end with fireworks in the sky.

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8. Face the Gods on the Island of Sicily

Start in Catania, the second largest city on the island. The region’s history is long. More than 27 centuries long or 5 centuries BEFORE Christ. It has been shaped by many cultures including the Greeks, Romans, Barbarians, Byzantines, Moors, and the Normans and there are many well-preserved statues, temples and mosaics, that have changed from Christian to Muslim and back again. Catania has been destroyed a few times by eruptions and earthquakes only to be rebuilt in the architecture of the times. The last time was an earthquake in 1693.

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9. Town Hop Along the Amalfi Coast

As amazing experiences go, one of the most beautiful drives is along the Amalfi Coast. There are so many stunning towns tucked into and below the Italian cliffs that are only accessible by steep stairs. The coastline is made up of mountains that plunge into the sea in vertigo causing vertical scene of gnarly crags, homes and hotels that cling to cliffs’ edge, rocky beaches and unruly woodland.

The town of Sorrento has lovely side streets, shops, churches and fantastic restaurants that appears to cascade into the sea. The bright yellows, blues and greens of the town of Amalfi comes right out of a child’s coloring book. Atrani is a tiny town next to Amalfi filled with whitewashed houses, narrow alleys and arches that are perfect for wandering. Enjoy the infinite views into the horizon as you walk through the lemon groves in Ravello. The Villa Rufola is a 1,000 years old Italian villa and garden that houses traveling exhibits, Or take an exhilarating hike through the Valle dei Mulini where waterfalls and donkeys carrying supplies up the steep stairs are commonplace.

10. Eat Everything, especially the Gelato

Enough said. Really. I ate some spaghetti there a few years ago that I have yet to forget. It was THAT good and it was just spaghetti with a tomato sauce. Don’t be surprised that everything from fish to shrimp will probably stare back at you when served.

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Comments

  1. Laura

    When I went to Italy it was sooo beautiful and full of culture not to mention the amazing food. I need to visit these places as well. Currently I’m living in Ireland and flights are so cheap here in Europe.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Yes the flights are really inexpensive and abundant. You have no excuse, my friend, for not making the trip.

  2. Ruth I.

    There are so many interesting to do in Italy. I would love to visit one day and experience everything in this list.

  3. TColeman

    Italy is one of those places that I have always talked about going to when it comes to travel. There seems to be so much to do and see!

  4. Alicia

    You just described my perfect vacation. I want to backpack through the countryside, drink the wine, and enjoy all the wine and gelato I can indulge. Sounds like you had a great trip.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Awesome. I would love to do a glambacking trip one day myself, lol. Everyday I’d end it with wine and gelato.

  5. Angela Ricardo Bethea

    I have always wanted to visit Italy. and I’m just waiting for my son to grow up. Such a beautiful place to explore.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Happy travels. I’ve seen people traveling with their kids and its difficult but possible. Happy travels and come back to visit soon.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      It is a beautiful country. Tons of great food, architecture and culture. It’s one of my top 5 favorite countries to visit.

    1. duffelbagspouse

      Great history, architecture, food and people– Italy is an amazing destination no matter your interests.

    2. duffelbagspouse

      Great history, architecture, food and people– Italy is an amazing destination no matter your interests.

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