Once the heart of the powerful ancient Roman empire, Italy possesses thousands of years of influential history. Visit one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Colosseum, the largest and one of the oldest amphitheaters, where ancient Romans used to watch gladiator fights and theatrical performances, among other spectacles. Snap the perfect Italy picture at the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the 14th century bell tower built on too-soft ground that sunk under on one side. Step into the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica, where Michelangelo’s La Pieta statue lives and where Saint Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, is said to be buried. Explore the ruins of Pompeii, an entire society frozen in time under a blanket of volcanic ash and pumice from a Mount Vesuvius eruption. Take a trip back in time to ancient Rome at the Pantheon, one of the empire’s best-preserved sites that started as a temple and became a Catholic church. Walk the streets of Vatican City, the capital of the global Christian faith for two thousand years. See the famous Florentine Duomo, the city’s crowning architectural jewel. Hop on a short flight from mainland Italy to Sicily and wander the Palazzo Conte Federico in Palermo, a palace full of extravagant mosaic floors, baroque ceiling frescoes, suits of armor, and antiques collected by the owning family over centuries of the palace’s history.
Not to be outdone by other popular European destinations, Italy boasts some of the most exquisite nature scenes on the continent, with plenty of activities for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy. Get a bird’s eye view of Tuscany’s breathtaking countryside of rolling green hills in a hot air balloon. Ski or snowboard your way through the Italian Alps, where the slopes, views, and powder rival that of their French and Swiss counterparts. Soak in the warm, sulfurous waters of Terme di Saturnia’s thermal springs. Take a boat ride to the Maddalena Archipelago in Sardinia for a day of sunbathing on crystal clear, turquoise water. Go flower picking on a balmy spring day in the fields surrounding Castellucio, an Umbrian mountain town. Work your way along the stunning Amalfi Coast to see some of the most colorful and charming small towns in Italy, overlooking pristine ocean views. For an equally seductive taste of the country’s natural beauty, roam the Italian Riviera in the northwestern corner of the country. Hike the active volcano Mount Etna or spend a whole weekend exploring the Cinque Terre National Park. Stroll through one of Italy’s many picturesque vineyards, where the grapes hang in rich purple hues on the vines. Picnic on the banks of Lake Como in Lombardy, where you can admire the Grigna Mountains and red-roofed villas of the surrounding landscape.
Much of the world’s most prized and skillfully crafted art hails from Italy and remains there, waiting for you to see it in person. From Michelangelo’s David sculpture to Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus painting to Da Vinci’s The Last Supper fresco at the Chiesa Santa Maria, great art survives around every corner. You’re just as likely to find art in the streets and on the walls of buildings new and old as you are in the museums. Wherever your Italian adventure takes you, carve out some time to view Raphael’s famous School of Athens fresco, Caravaggio’s dark and moody paintings, and Bernini’s elegant marble sculptures housed in the Galleria Borghese. Look up and marvel at Michelangelo’s murals on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Make a wish at the popular Trevi Fountain in Rome. Visit the National Archaeological Museum in Naples to view both ancient Greek, Roman, and Renaissance art and artifacts recovered from Pompeii, Herculaneum, and other ancient cities destroyed during the Mount Vesuvius eruption of 79 AD.