If you’re planning to tour Italy, chances are you’ve already gotten quite a few recommendations, either from friends who’ve been there, or others who only dream of going. Hopefully, you’ve packed enough time into your schedule to visit a lot of places, because there are a lot of things to see and do. Besides being a hub for great fashion, exciting nightlife and fantastic food, Italy has a lot of culture to absorb. Make sure you add the following 10 must see places to your list when you tour Italy.
The Pantheon – Located in Rome, the Pantheon was built during the reign of Augustus from 27 BC to 14 AD. It was designed to be a private temple and is one of Italy’s oldest, most well-preserved buildings. The Pantheon has been used as a tomb since the Renaissance and houses the remains of several notable historic figures including painters Raphael Sanzio da Urbino and Annibale Carracci, the composer Arcangelo Corelli, and the architect Baldassare Peruzzi. It is open from 9 am to 7:30 pm on most days, and 9 am to 6 pm on Sundays. It closes at 1 pm on public holidays.
The Colosseum – Another historic site to see in Rome is the infamous Colosseum. This building was the largest amphitheater in Ancient Rome and was capable of holding anywhere from 50,000 to 80,000 spectators. In its heyday, the Colosseum featured everything from reenactments of famous battles, all the way to executions. Perhaps most famously, it was the main place where gladiators fought.
Today, the Colosseum is a tourist attraction, having been made unusable by both earthquakes and stone thieves. However, it’s still a must see spot when visiting Rome. The Colosseum is generally open from 8 am to 6:30 pm on most days, however, the hours change based on the season so you should check before you go.
The Venice Canals – Venice is a city in Northern Italy that’s perhaps most famously known for its canals. The city is made up of 117 separate small islands, which are attached by bridges and waterways. Venice sees on average, about 50,000 tourists a day. Many choose to travel the city via gondolas. These flat bottomed Venetian rowing boats used to be the main form of transportation across the canals, but now are mainly used by tourists, as well as for wedding parties and other celebrations.
If you want to save money, you can always take a water taxi. These are known as traghetto boats are generally cheaper than the gondolas, though they move a bit faster. However, if you’re price conscious, a ride on a traghetto boat will cost around $5, as opposed to the $65 per person that most gondolas charge. Regardless of what transportation you choose to take, if you’re going to tour Italy, a ride through the Venice canals is an absolute must.
The Amalfi Coast – The Amalfi Coast follows the southern coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula in the Province of Salerno in Southern Italy. With its Mediterranean climate and beautiful scenery, this coast is a popular spot for tourists and residents alike. In fact, the scenery is so stunning, it’s been featured heavily in pop culture. From the television series Entourage, to novels by John Steinbeck and major motion pictures like Under the Tuscan Sun, the Amalfi coast is a popular setting when it comes to fiction, both of the classic and pop culture variety.
If you’re going to travel the Amalfi Coast, make sure to try out one of their most popular liquors, limoncello, made from the lemons grown on the terraced gardens of the coast. Just remember, they’re only in season from February to October.
Vatican City – With an area of less than 110 acres, and only 842 residents, Vatican City is the smallest recognized independent state in the world, by both size and population. It is most famously known for housing the Pope. Inside the walls of Vatican City are a few of the world’s most well known cultural sites, including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. Vatican City also has one of the most unique economies in the entire world, as it is supported mainly on the sales of tourist mementos, postage stamps and museum admission fees. This is a tourist hot spot, and a place of pilgrimage for Catholics around the world. Most of the museums and chapels in Vatican City sell tickets from 8 am to 4 pm, with the last exit being allowed at 6 pm.
If you want to go to Vatican City, remember it’s a religious community. Visitors in revealing clothes will be prevented from entering any holy places. Sleeveless clothing, miniskirts and hats are all forbidden if you want to enter most of the attractions there. Be sure to dress conservatively, kind of like you’re going to church, and you’ll be ok. If the summer heat is getting to you, then bright a lightweight scarf to cover up.
The Sistine Chapel – The Sistine Chapel is located inside of Vatican City and is so popular, it deserves it’s very own mention. This chapel is most well known for its ceiling, which was painted between 1508 and 1512, and is said to be a cornerstone of Renaissance Art. It is considered one of Michelangelo’s most recognizable pieces. One of the most iconic images viewed on the ceiling is known as ‘The Creation of Adam’, which features two hands reaching towards each other. The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museum tour, and closes at 6 pm most days.
One thing to note is that in the Sistine Chapel, photography is prohibited. If you’re caught using a camera, you can expect to get it confiscated. While people have been known to sneak in cameras, generally any photography taken without permission will be taken and destroyed.
Palazzo Pitti – Located in Florence, Italy is the beautiful Renaissance palace, the Palazzo Pitti. This palace was built to house Luca Pitti, who wasn’t royalty, but simply a very ambitious banker. In 1549, it was purchased by the Medici family. By the 18th century, it was used as a base for Napoleon. As you can probably tell, the Palazzo Pitti has been in the hands of more than a few ambitious people.
Today, it is the largest museum in Florence. The main gallery features works by pretty much every well known artist in Italy, including Titian, Perugino, Raphael, Correggio Pietro da Cortona and Peter Paul Rubens. The Palazzo Pitti is a must stop for every single art lover out there. It is open Tuesday to Sunday, from about 8 am until about 7 pm.
The Uffizi Gallery – Another important stop for art lovers is the Uffizi Gallery, located in Florence. This gallery is one of the oldest and most famous galleries in Europe. The museum features works from famous artists like Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian. Some of the more famous works it holds include The Birth of Venus, Madonna with Child and La Primavera. The Uffizi Gallery starts selling tickets at 8:15 am and stops selling them at 6:05 pm. It’s best to get in early, as the Uffizi tends to pull in a crowd.
You are allowed to take photos and videos while inside the Uffizi, but flash photography is strictly prohibited, as it can cause the priceless works of art to fade.
Pompeii – Pompeii is a city located in Naples and is most famously located at the based of Mount Vesuvius. In 79 AD, this city was buried in a volcanic eruption, killing the majority of the residents. Due to the nature of the eruption, the city and its inhabitants were almost frozen in time in the way they were buried. It wasn’t until it was discovered during the construction of an aqueduct in 1784 that people realized what a rich, full history was available right under the ash. Excavations have been done since that time in order to preserve the history of the old Pompeii.
The new Pompeii is a booming, cosmopolitan community that features night life, restaurants and hotels. It currently has more than 26,000 residents and is a favorite spot for tourists looking to visit Italy. People choose to stay in or near Pompeii during their trip to Italy, as it is convenient to public transportation and easily accessible by car.
Trastevere – Known as Rome’s favorite neighborhood, Trastevere is a charming historic community that can’t be missed on a trip to Italy. This neighborhood is ideal for people looking for a fun nightspot, or a place to sample the excellent coffees and foods available in Italy. Everything is accessible through the famous cobblestone streets. This former working class district is the very essence of Italy, with old school buildings mixed in with new businesses. This versatile neighborhood offers everything from simple slices of pizza, all the way to complicated traditional Roman dishes.
Of course, the neighborhood really comes to life once the sun goes down. Around sunset, shutters are raised to reveal lively bars and nightclubs. The streets fill with tourists and locals looking to have a good time at one of the many establishments there. Everything from craft beer, all the way to wine from local vineyards is available for sale.
The Best Time To Tour Italy
Most of the museums have close times of around 6 pm, with early closings on Sundays or religious holidays. When you’re looking at what season you want to visit Italy, it’s important to look at the main goal of your visit, as well as your budget. Prices are lowered during the slow seasons, and those seasons occur from November though March. May, June and July are some of Italy’s busiest months, but they are also the months with the best weather.
In the major cities, there is also a summer low that can help reduce prices. If your goal is to visit Rome, Florence and Venice, hotels tend to drop their prices in late July and all through August. If your goal is the Amalfi cost, the prices are higher all summer long, but the weather is better as well.
Italy has a relatively temperate climate, so you won’t see a lot of snow. For most, the most popular months to go are May and September. Your own needs might differ, so be sure to discuss it with your booking company before you go.
Things To Remember
When you’re planning on touring Italy, remember that public transportation tends to run slow, so don’t plan on catching the last bus at 6:30 to make it to a museum before it closes at 7. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going if you’re using public transportation.
If you’re using a rental car, avoid shortcuts and bring plenty of money for tolls. While you might be tempted to try and work around tolls, keep in mind that Italy’s road structure can be very confusing. In order to stay on schedule and not spend half your vacation lost, follow your GPS and resist the urge to go off route.
Despite what you might have learned from pop culture, not everyone in Italy speaks English. Be sure to bring a translation book or install an app on your cell phone before you go. While the people there are very polite and helpful, you’ll save yourself a lot of time if you at least attempt to be conversational in Italian first. Tourist areas may feature more English speaking sales people and signs, but at least understand the basics before you go in order to avoid confusion.
If you’re planning to tour Italy, remember to give yourself plenty of time. There are so many sights to see there, and trying to see them in a few short days will leave you exhausted. When you want to tour multiple cities in Italy, you should either book an extended stay, or pick one city at a time. Rome alone has enough culture to fill an entire week’s worth of stops. Aside from the ten places already mentioned, there are countless things to see in the areas of art, fashion, architecture and more. Make sure to bring a camera and very comfortable walking shoes. Italy is a great place to visit and everyone should make an attempt to see it once in their lives.