Top 10 things to experience in Italy

Of all the European destinations, arguably none captivates visitors like Italy. Together with Greece, it is known for the birthplace of Western culture and is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites.

Prepare to immerse yourself in a culture steeped in history, art, high-end fashion, wine and delicious regional cuisines. 

Rome - the capital city, and a must-see for any traveller as it was also the impressive power base of Ancient Rome.

Florence -considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, this Tuscan city is renowned for its art and architecture.

Milan - the ‘global capital’ of fashion and design is also a hub of high-end dining and shopping.

Naples - not only is it one of the oldest cities of the Western world, it’s also the birthplace of pizza!

Venice - there’s no roads and cars, only beautiful canals and boats that ferry you to and from the mazelike alleys and hidden town squares.

It was one of the most explosive periods of science and creativity in recorded history, and it began in Florence in the 14th  century. Take a walking tour through the historical city centre and see icons such as the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and Piazza Della Signoria. While you can buy a tourist map and see these sites yourself, it’s a much better experience with an enthusiastic tour guide. Your guide can also help you skip the lines at museums like the Accademia, where Michelangelo’s David is on display.
History buffs could spend a year in Italy and still have sights to see. Founded in 753 BC, Ancient Rome was where much of Western civilization began. Practically everywhere in Italy, you’ll find reminders of the glory that once was this former world superpower. In Rome itself, the Colosseum and Roman Forum dominate the city centre. In the north of Italy, Sicily is another treasure trove with the Roman Theatre, Piazza Armerina and many other ruins.
Stretching 1,200 kilometres across 8 European countries, the Alps form a mountainous border across the northern edges of Italy. The rugged terrain is popular with skiers, hikers, glacier walkers and rock climbers. The surrounding deep blue lakes are often filled with boats, and castles and medieval churches are perched in the hills. Quaintly, the people in some of the border towns only speak the language of the neighbouring country. There’s no shortage of charming accommodation, ranging from ski chalets to luxury hotels.
The moment an entire city was destroyed is eerily frozen in time. In 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius literally blew its top and covered nearby Pompeii under metres of molten ash. Today, the excavation of the site by archaeologists provides a window into Roman life as it was 2,000 years ago. The volcano’s poisonous gas clouds caused many deaths, and the ensuing fallout of ash preserved both the bodies and the buildings around them. Pompeii is an easy day trip south of Rome, and guided tours are available as a full trip (including transport there and back) or onsite.
Italy has a beautiful coastline and hiring a sailboat is a great way to see the nearby islands. Sardinia, Sicily and Capri are some of the largest and most popular islands, and it’s easy to see why. Upscale beach resorts blend with 14th century towns built upon rugged, sandy cliffs. For some, these islands are destinations rather than stopovers as the dining, shopping, sightseeing and watersport activities guarantees travellers both relaxation and adventure. Sailboats can be fully chartered with a crew or, for the experienced, ‘bare bones’ rental boats are also available.
Soccer in Italy is a passion approaching a religion. It’s completely normal for the locals to have animated arguments over games, and even boycott retail brands if they sponsor rival teams. The football season runs between August and May, and fans at the bigger matches make AFL crowds look like golf spectators. If you’re brave enough to try it, tickets can be purchased at club outlets in the city or online — although some online vendors have steep prices.
The movies suggest that bicycling through Italy involves visits to terracotta-coloured provincial towns and picnics in fields of wildflowers — and for once, Hollywood has it right. With the country’s mild climate, beautiful scenery and charming culture around every corner, it’s easy to have an enjoyable time cycling around. The Tuscany region, which includes Florence and Pisa, is very popular. It’s packed with wineries, Renaissance art and architecture, and a diverse landscape spanning beaches and mountains. There are plenty of day tours that cater to all fitness levels, as well as longer treks and self-ride options.
Wine is such a part of Italian culture that you can’t turn around without being offered a glass. And it’s not just tasty — it’s an experience. The wine industry stretches back over 2,000 years, and the best way to learn the history is to dive right in. There are wine regions all over Italy, with each known for distinct regional flavours. Some of the most celebrated and scenic vineyards are found in Tuscany, Piedmont and Veneto. And for connoisseurs of white wine, the little-known Fruili region tucked up in the northeast is a must-visit location.

There’s more to Italy than pasta and pizza (but we recommend those too!):

Risotto - Arborio rice is sauteed in butter, cooked in a wine and stock broth until creamy, and flavoured with things like seafood and mushrooms.

Arancini - little balls of rice are stuffed with meat, tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese, then coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried.

Gelato - Italian-style ice-cream that comes in a mouth-watering variety of flavours including espresso, hazelnut, lemon and pistachio.

Tiramisu - a dessert made with strong coffee, cream, Marsala wine and grated chocolate.

DISCLAIMER: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all information as of the date of publishing, Allianz Global Assistance does not accept liability for any errors or omissions. Allianz Global Assistance strongly recommends seeking the guidance of a professional travel agent/agency for further information on a specific destination. On your next trip, whether to another province or country, ensure you have travel insurance as it may assist you in cases of unforeseen medical emergencies and other types of mishaps that can happen while you travel. Travel insurance does not cover everything, please always refer to the policy document for full terms and conditions, including limitations and exclusions. Travel insurance is underwritten by CUMIS General Insurance Company, a member of The Co-operators Group of Companies, administered by Allianz Global Assistance, which is a registered business name of AZGA Service Canada Inc.
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