There’s no doubt that Italy literally has something for everyone. From skiing snow-capped mountains, to driving the spectacular Amalfi Coast; visiting ancient archaeological treasures, and partaking of the ample culinary delights - Italy is an absolute feast for the senses. What you do when you get there will naturally depend on what takes your fancy, but if you’re looking for suggestions on what to do, check out this small selection of classic destinations and a few local gems.
In its ancient heyday, Baia was a hedonistic resort destination for Rome’s rich and powerful. Think of it as an ancient version of Las Vegas or the Bahamas. It was known for its therapeutic hot mineral springs, which were said to have powerful healing properties. Some of the most famous figures of Roman history were regular visitors to Baia, including Horace, Nero, Cicero, and Caesar.
The city was sacked during the barbarian invasions during the eighth century and by 1500 the remains were completely abandoned. As the coast gradually subsided over time due to volcanic activity, the city slowly submerged and the remains can now be visited in an underwater archaeological park. View this fascinating hub of past Roman glory on a glass bottomed boat tour, or snorkel or scuba dive amongst the ruins.
The Sicilian city of Palermo is home to one of Italy’s more macabre and fascinating tourist spots. Akin to the Catacombs of Paris (but with a somewhat different history) the Capuchin Monastery Catacombs are the final resting place of 8,000 bodies, all dressed in their Sunday finery. Originally intended only for friars, the crypts were excavated when the monastery outgrew its original cemetery.
The departed have been arranged in different areas, categorised according to what they did while they were living. For example, rooms have been dedicated to religious figures, professionals, and women, virgins and infants. What makes the catacombs so unique is the natural mummification that has occurred there, which is often attributed to the dry environment. For a remarkable insight into the customs and traditions of the Palermo society during the 17th-19th centuries, the Capuchin Monastery Catacombs are a sombre and evocative spectacle.
In a lush, green forest in the mountains outside Venice, you will find the most remarkable adventure playground ever made. Created solely by the hands of Bruno, the owner of Ai Pioppi restaurant, the amusement park has evolved over 40 years and is powered completely by human energy.
From swings, seesaws, gyroscopes, a Ferris wheel and swinging bridge, to a giant merry-go-round and roller coaster, each of the one of a kind rides run on kinetic energy – you only get out of them what you put in. For something completely off the beaten track, indulge your inner child on these incredible rides, and treat yourself to some of the traditional Sicilian fare at Ai Pioppi.
Head to the town of Alghero on the beautiful island of Sardinia to explore this magnificent cave filled with giant stalactites and stalagmites. The entrance to the grotto is about a metre above the water line at the foot of the magnificent limestone Capo Caccia cliffs, and can be accessed by boat when the waters are calm. There is also a ‘goat track’ that leads to the entrance to the grotto from the car park at the top of the cliffs. The 654 steps were cut into the side of the cliff in 1954. Walk around Lake Lamarmore, which takes up most of the first cavern and at 100 metres in length, is considered one of the largest salt water lakes in Europe. The incredible geological formations are lit by a curious blue-green light created by the tiny plant forms growing in the grotto.
The iconic Cinque Terre (‘five lands’) is nestled in the rugged cliffs of the Italian Riviera in the Liguria region of Italy. The five villages and surrounding coastline and hills form a National Park and Unesco World Heritage Site. The villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Corniglia, and Riomaggiore – are spread along the azure coast between Levanto and La Spezia and are very popular amongst tourists because of the breathtaking natural beauty, isolation and delightful food and wine. Access can be tricky, with few roads that are accessible by car. The best option is to drive to a nearby town like La Spezia and make the most of the train network that connect the Cinque Terre. Trains also connect from Milan, Rome, Turin and Tuscany. There is also a passenger ferry which operates between the villages.
If you’ve never been to Italy before, the Colosseum is a must-see. Also known as the Favian Amphitheatre, it is the largest of its kind built during the Roman Empire, holding between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators of various public events. Construction of the massive amphitheatre commenced in AD72 and since its completion in AD80, the structure has experienced many different uses including gladiatorial contests, animal hunts, executions, and other public spectacles. During the medieval era it was no longer used for entertainment and was utilised for housing, workshops, and religious functions. Although it is now in ruins thanks the ravages of time and earthquake activity in the region, the Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Rome and a nod to its long, rich history.
Stunning landscapes from coastal mountains that drop away into an impossibly azure ocean are a big part of what makes the Amalfi Coast one of Italy’s most popular destinations. Located on Italy’s western coast, in the Campania region, there is no shortage of luxury in this area if you’re after an indulgent experience. However, there are also some less grand hotels tucked into side streets that are still close to beaches – albeit with less spectacular views – for a fraction of the cost. If you’re a bit of a thrill seeker, take a drive along the road that snakes along this famous coastline. Whether you hire a driver or tempt fate by taking the wheel yourself, this is a heart-stopping ride that will take your breath away.
Overall, Italy is a fairly safe place to visit. You should take normal precautions like at home, such as exercising common sense and keeping an eye out for suspicious behaviour. The cost of travel insurance* can be nominal compared to unforeseen travel costs that can be incurred. Travel insurance may be viewed as an investment as it can protect against loss, damage, theft, delays and other unforeseen expenses.