words Alexa Wang
Although Italians have a reputation for being rather dramatic (especially when they’re watching or playing football), they’re really just being passionate! Whether its architecture, fashion, art, food, cars, or music, Italians pour their heart and soul into everything they do, and you’ll be able to understand why when you finally pay Italy a visit.
Though it’s true that there’s a lot to see off the beaten path in Italy, you still shouldn’t ignore the biggest and best sights the country has to offer (not to mention the delicious food). We’ve got some great tips for the adventurers out there on the Italian must-sees and must-eats.
Italy is well-connected to major metropolitan airports across the world, with its three largest being Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, and Milan Bergamo. Alitalia is Italy’s national airline and flies almost everywhere, while easyJet covers several popular routes in Europe, like from London, Berlin, and Barcelona. Traveling by bus is a good way to see the countryside and save some money if you’re going from one Italian city to another, as long as you don’t mind the longer travel times. Trains are considered quite reliable, fast and inexpensive when traveling within Italy or from another European country. If you’ve decided to travel to Italy, the best way to save money is to book everything in advance and have an itinerary.
What to see
Italy has no shortage of gorgeous cities, sunny weather, and epic landscapes. Here are the must-see places in this beautiful Mediterranean country:
Rome – It’s impossible to get bored in Rome, Italy’s capital. Though it’s a large city, it’s actually fairly easy to get around on foot. You’ll have your fair share of interesting museums and ancient monuments, as well as hundreds of tiny, cobblestone streets that have wonders around every corner. Other than the Coliseum, where gladiators fought thousands of years ago, you’ve also got the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, and of course Vatican City.
Milan – Big names in fashion, incredible architecture, and a lively nightlife make Milan one of the most exciting cities in Italy. Tourists can check out the Duomo, Parco Sempione, and the always-exciting Colonne for drinks at night. The Brera art gallery also houses some of the best Italian art and includes paintings from Bellini, Caravaggio, and Raphael.
Venice – Canals, canals, and more canals, Venice looks pretty from any angle and has architecture to die for. Though sometimes the city can flood and cause a bit of tourism chaos, most of the time it’s easy to walk around or catch a boat ride. Be sure to see the Bridge of Sighs, Saint Mark’s Square, Ducale Palace, and some nearby islands named Murano and Burano. There’s also the legendary Venice Film Festival that takes place roughly every September. Venice gets very crowded in summer, so it’s better to go in April, May, September, or October.
Of course, more spots are worth checking out in Italy, including Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, Verona, Naples, and some of the stunning islands and lakes.
Must-try food and drink
If you didn’t go to Italy for the pizza, then why did you even bother? Said to originate in Naples roughly around 1890, pizza is found on pretty much every street in Italy. While generally, the simplest pizzas are the best, you can find some truly great restaurants offering up the basics as well as pizzas with more exotic toppings. You’ll also find many pizza shops just selling by the slice if you want a quick snack.
No trip to Italy is complete without some gelato, and it’s highly recommended to be adventurous with the flavors (i.e. don’t just get chocolate). You’ll find that it’s quite different to ice cream. Don’t forget that you won’t need so many scoops – a little goes a long way. For coffee, keep in mind that most Italians simply order an espresso and drink it standing up at the bar, which is actually cheaper than sitting down.
Finally, if you want to try something in Italy that isn’t pizza or pasta, you’re in luck. Italian cuisine is as varied as it is flavorful. Risotto, turrón, and cannoli are just a few specialties in Italy that you can’t leave without tasting first. Make sure to bring an Italian phrasebook with you, as you might not be familiar with some of the names, but might know the food item from back home. An after-dinner liqueur, or ‘digestivo’, is very popular and a great way to end a meal.