Here is our top 10 list of things you must see/do in Italy. Please note: we didn’t do a complete tour of the country, so there will be other places to see that aren’t on our list that probably should be. This list is a ‘personal’ top 10 list.
Also known by its Italian name: Firenze, the city of Florence is pretty much the birthplace of the renaissance. It was a popular central location for medieval European trade and was one of the wealthiest cities during the middle ages. Now it is a historic centre that attracts millions of tourists each year. You can expect to see a vast array of monuments, museums and galleries here; much of it being renaissance inspired. As a matter of fact, back in 1982, it was declared as a word heritage site by UNESCO. If you’re interested in beautiful, artistic depictions of historical events (who isn’t?) then Florence is the place for you.
You probably don’t know much about Pisa, but I’ll bet you’ve heard of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The number one tourist attraction in the city is a 56 meter tall bell tower belonging to the nearby church. During its construction, part of the ground gave way underneath due to soft soil and inadequate foundation. It has since been corrected, but only enough to keep it from falling. It was never re-erected. Conveniently, the tower is located only about 30 minutes (walking) from the train station. Since there isn’t a heck of a lot to do in Pisa, it’s a good day trip while taking the train between two cities, namely Florence and Milan. But beware: you will see a thousand people taking pictures in the same silly pose.
Da Vinci Museum
The Da Vinci museum is an exhibition dedicated to the universal creations and inventions of, you guessed it, Leonardo Da Vinci. Whether you know much about him or his inventions, you’ll enjoy strolling through the various rooms in the museum. There are many displays of his inventions throughout. Some of them you aren’t allowed to touch, but some of them you can use!! Ryker probably spent 20 minutes using the old-school bowflex workout machine that Da Vinci made. It was pretty funny, but the squeeling of the pulleys was driving everybody crazy. We had fun AND learned stuff. Win-win!
Hooooly smokes where do I begin? Italy has an estimated 100,000 various monuments from cathedrals to museums to palaces to statues. Different states and different eras brought forth many different architectural styles that are prevalent throughout the country. Italy is home to some very famous artists and architects: Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Donatello… how could Italy not be full of amazing architecture. And those are only some names that you might recognize. The list is huge, and wandering around the streets, you’ll realize quickly that the Italians take great care and pride when building these magnificent structures. Here’s a list of some of the major architects born in Italy.
Ahhh the Colosseum. A magnificent structure built for a barbaric cause. You cannot go to Rome without visiting it. You pretty much can’t, it’s dead center of the city. Also the largest ‘amphitheatre’ in the world, and could fit a football field surrounded by 50,000 people inside. It was built around 70 A.D. and was used for ‘entertainment’ purposes up until the 6th century. Unfortunately, since then, there has been major damage to the south wall. Most likely due to earthquakes, but some believe stone robbers played a part in its collapse. Nearly 4 million visitors come to see it annually and it is truly an awesome sight.
One of the coolest things about Italian cuisine is that the dishes and ingredients vary greatly throughout the country’s regions. If you enjoyed some white truffles in Northern Italy, you might not be able to even find them anywhere in the South. Italian cuisine is strongly influenced by local history and traditions, as well as the availability of seasonal ingredients. People tend to think that pasta will be amazing in Italy, and it is, but coming from North America, I can’t say that it was necessarily superior. What we did notice, however, was that the flavours were new and delicious because of the different types of cheeses used in their pizzas, lasagnas and other pastas. In conclusion: eat all the cheese!
Rome is the capital of Italy. It’s pretty central and has about three million residents (4.5 million if you include the metropolitan surrounding). Some of the finest architecture is in Rome, it has a long, eventful history, and there is so much to see and do. I suggest extending your stay a few days while here because you couldn’t possibly see it all in a couple days. It is home to the great Colosseum, and not even an hour’s walk away is the smallest country in the world: The Vatican, or Vatican City.
Vatican City is a small state within the city of Rome. At 109 acres, it is officially the smallest country in the world. It has a population of about 850, one of them being the Pope. It operates a post office, an astrological observatory, a radio station, and administers its own legal system. If that’s enough reason to want to visit the country, remember that it’s the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, so buildings and architecture are unlike anything you may have ever seen before. We went mainly because we wanted to cross another country off our list, but were absolutely awestruck by the magnificence of the statues, obelisks and cathedrals.
Cinque Terre is a string of five old villages along the Northwest coast of Italy. Literally translated, Cinque Terre means “Five Lands”. The villages were originally fisherman villages whose main resources were fish and vineyards. The architecture is very old-school and brightly coloured, making each village a beautiful sight to view from afar. A unique feature of Cinque Terre is that cars are unable to reach them. The only way in or out is via boat or train. For a small price, you can buy a train ticket to shuttle you to the other villages, or if you’re feeling energetic, you can hike along the mountainous coast between them.
Hiking Cinque Terre
Visiting these villages is a must-do in Italy, but if you have the time and energy, we highly recommend hiking between them. Starting at either end, you can begin your hike along to each one in a row. There is nothing but nature the entire way between villages and the view of the coast, the sea, and the villages themselves is nothing short of magnificent. Keep in mind, it can be very hot in Italy, so be sure to grab some water along the way. If you’re lucky, you’ll come across different fruits to snack on like apples, peaches and grapes. Travel between each town takes 1-2 hours. They can all be done in a day, but that wouldn’t give you enough time to truly visit each spot.
Here’s our video, for those who don’t like reading. Or who really like videos 🙂