Italy is one of the world’s most-visited countries and for good reason. The boot-shaped peninsula has long been a cradle of civilization, with the buzzing city of Rome playing host to some of the most fascinating and well-preserved ancient architecture on the planet. There is also a wealth of things to see and do once you get out of the capital, with rolling vineyards of Tuscany, the colorful clifftop towns of the Amalfi Coast and canals of Venice particular attractions.
If you plan to visit the Bel Paese (Beautiful Country) soon, we have a list of reasons that should get you even more excited than you probably already are. Read on to find out more!
1. Ancient Ruins
If someone were to ask you which country has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you might be tempted to say China, Greece or France. In fact, the answer is Italy, with 55!
Among Italy’s most notable sites are the archeological areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata that were covered by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. Others include fantastically colorful Amalfi Coast, the ancient City of Verona, Rome’s Coliseum and Venice and its Lagoon.
Most people think that they have tried Italian food – that is until they have tried the real thing! As any Italian will tell you, there really is no substitute for authentic pizza and pasta made according to the centuries-old culinary traditions for which Italy is so famous.
The great thing about Italy is the sheer diversity of regional dishes. Some of the most delicious ones include Abruzzo’s lamb with cheese and eggs, Basilicata’s làgane with olive oil and chickpeas and Calabria’s macaroni with pork, eggplant and salted ricotta.
Many of the cities in Italy are examples of some of the oldest examples of urban planning in the world. The Romans hold a well-earned reputation as master civil engineers. Their understanding of the importance of urban design in making their cities worthy sites to be centers of economic, political and cultural power.
Aside from the well-known wonders of Rome, Milan and Venice, there are many others that should feature on your itinerary, including Florence, Bologna, Palermo, Sienna, Genoa and Naples, among others.
4. Mountains and Lakes
The Italian peninsula is hemmed in along the country’s northern border by the majestic Alps. For those people who prefer to spend their time in the fresh mountain air than lounging on the beach, Italy’s northern provinces offer some incredible scenery in which to enjoy walking trips.
Nestled in among the peaks is Lake Como, a body of water that is world-renowned for its beauty. Italians and foreigners alike visit the lake for its views and incredible fine dining opportunities.
The gorgeous beaches and rocky coastline of mainland Italy are no secret. However, Italy’s scattering of Mediterranean islands should not be overlooked by anyone looking for a dose of coastal paradise.
Surrounded by crystal-clear turquoise waters and dotted with high-end resorts and fascinating historical sites, the islands of Lampedusa, Stromboli and Capri are just some of the many jewels that make for a memorable beach vacation Italian-style.
6. Cultural Events
Italy is home to some incredible festivals and cultural events. If you time your trip right, you can catch some once-in-a-lifetime events that will really spice up your time in Italy.
Among the most famous festivals is Venice’s Carnevale. Held annually, Carnevale in Venice attracts up to 3 million people who come to dress up in some of the most elegantly outlandish getups that you will see anywhere in the world.
You will also be able to find a wide range of traditional horse racing festivals in places like Sardinia and Sienna where riders race it out to take first place and the prestige of the weekend.
Tourism has understandably taken a hit in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but hopefully it will be business as usual next year and we can again sample the delights of Italy’s famous cultural heritage again soon. If you do plan to make a trip to Italy in 2021, make sure you do not miss any of the incredible attractions mentioned above!
Note: If you are a U.S. citizen who is planning to visit Italy in 2021, you should be aware of some changes in the visa requirements. From January 2021, you will have to apply for the new ETIAS visa waiver scheme to enter the EU. If you would like to learn more about the scheme, check out this comprehensive ETIAS visa guide.