It’s been a weird year for travel, but here’s hoping 2021 will mean more attractions open their doors again! If you’re already planning your adventures, here are some of the most iconic attractions and exciting things to do in Italy. From the fan favourites to the classics, put these on your Italy bucket list and get planning.
The fan favourites to add to your Italy bucket list
750,000 of you told us what you thought of the museums and attractions you visited in Italy, in 2020. Based on your reviews, here are the fan favourite museums and attractions in Italy. We think they’re all worthy additions to your Italy bucket list.
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“It was one of the greatest galleries I have ever visited. Thank you!” – Johana, Czech Republic
Built between 1609 and 1613, the opulent grandiose Galleria Borghese, starring pink marble walls and frescoed ceilings and surrounded by fountains and flower-filled gardens is a must-see! When architect Flaminio Ponzio designed it for the cardinal and art collector Scipione Borghese’s “party villa” he probably never expected it would become one of Italy’s best museums, or such an attraction for tourists in Rome, but here we are in 2020, making awestruck faces at his achievements, wishing we’d been there in the beginning! See sculptures by Bernini and Canova, paintings, by Caravaggio, Raphael, Titian and more.
““A fantastic experience. Great aquarium, for adults and for kids! Lovely time! Definitely recommended!”
If the idea of swimming with the fishes doesn’t appeal, leave your Italian Godfather thoughts at the door of this top aquarium, which also happens to be Europe’s largest! Watch all your finned and flippered friends in action from sharks to dolphins, penguins, seals, jellyfish and more. There are a whopping 70 rooms to explore here in one of Italy’s top water-logged attractions, housing 12,000 animals and sea creatures. Kids will love that one of Italy’s best museums is constructed inside an old ship in the harbor, making a visit one of the most visually inspiring places you’ll encounter as a family. Did we mention, you might learn a thing or two about mermaids here, too?
“This experience was surreal. An incredible opportunity to see some of the best artistic works and architecture in the world.“
The Vatican Museums themselves are works of art – just a stroll through the richly decorated halls and galleries is enough to make your jaw drop! Stand in awe of classical statues and marvel at marble, such as the grand candelabra in the Galleria dei Candelabri. The tapestries are to die for but not to be touched in the Galleria degli Arazzi, and you might develop wanderlust over 40 topographic maps from the 16th century in the Gallery of Geographical Maps. Once you reach Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, your eyes will be so dazzled you might need a rest!
“An amazing historical site and the views from the top are breathtaking. Well worth a visit” – Kirsty
This towering beauty on the banks of the Tiber is an eye-catching reminder of Rome’s storied history. Enter this magnificent mausoleum, monument, and museum and immerse yourself in the sagas behind the scenes of Rome, which according to this, was most definitely not built in a day. Soak up the lavish Renaissance interiors (cast your eyes up to the ceilings for the murals!), and imagine what your weapon of choice might have been at the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo as you browse the military memorabilia. This top Rome attraction also promises rare rooftop views of the Eternal City!
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“A magical place, the representation of the earthly paradise. An unforgettable experience for the whole family. Well-kept park, an oasis of peace and tranquility. A little paradise!”
Bring your own bike or rent one on-site, stroll casually alone the flower-lined trails, or jump on board the train that circles the gardens. Stand beneath the imposing 400-year-old Great Oak, and walk a kilometer-long trail full of roses. Don’t forget to take some time to smell ‘em. Then take the kids to pet sheep, goats, chickens, turkeys, and ducks on the farm, or test your wits in the maze. There’s a wealth of things to do at Parco Giardino Sigurtà, but the ultimate goal is to get back to nature. Embrace the buzzing of the bees and the birdsong in this little slice of Verona paradise.
6. Parco Cavour
“Beautiful place with large and manicured open spaces” – Manuel, Italy
If you haven’t met your inner cannonball yet, here’s the perfect place to encourage an appearance. Parco Cavour is one attraction near Lake Garda that will make a massive splash with the whole family. On a hot day there is nothing better than zooming down water slides, paddling in cool pools and tropical lagoons in a respite from the blazing sun, and skipping across stepping stones. The kids will love crossing the rope bridges as cannons blast them with water, the same way you will love chilling out with a beer or three under a shady palm tree. Just 20 minutes from Lake Garda – add Parco Cavour to your Italy bucket list now!
“Ques were minimal all day and the staff put on great shows, would love to come back on my next holiday 🤗” – Siobhan , Ireland
Lights, camera, action, and welcome to a taste of Hollywood in Italy. The whole family will get their five-minutes of fame in this world of movie-themed rides, live shows, rollercoasters, stunt shows, interactive games and more. Will you brave the Horror House and live to tell the tale? Will you test your mettle on the 50m-high drop from the Hollywood Action Tower, or dare to ride the Inverted Extreme Rollercoaster? While you’re psyching yourself up for an adrenaline rush, the little kids can bolt across the water through a Grand Canyon-inspired movie set on their own little speedboats. If you don’t want to get wet accompanying them… tough cookies!
“Very beautiful! Relaxing and mystical the bamboo labyrinth with its corridors between light and shadow! A really nice day! Even the museum and works of art!” – Mario, Italy
Dare to get lost in the monstrous bamboo labyrinth and sniff every flower in the gorgeous grounds of Labirinto della Masone – an essential member of Grandi Giardini Italiani. Get up close to the impressive art collection of Franco and Laura Ricci, starring exquisite sculptures and paintings from the 16th to 20th centuries. And lose yourself in the neoclassical essence of the courtyard. Leave your hayfever at the door and explore the 200,000 bamboo plants surrounding the central building, which was inspired by Roman villas and the architects of the French Revolution. It’s nature, art and architecture here in one of Italy’s most unique, must-see attractions.
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“Beautiful – highlight of our visit to Venice. This was a fantastic experience, we are in awe of such a wonderful collection, definitely worth a visit”
The Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice is home to some of the greatest 20th-century artists, the Hannelore B. and Rudolph B. Schulhof Collection and the Nasher Sculpture Garden. Inside this sprawling white home, where Peggy once lived, are faves from her personal collection. You’ll see works by Picasso, de Chirico, Dalí, Pollock, Kandinsky and Magritte and more as you stroll around the rooms in awe of the entire artistic spectrum from Cubism to Metaphysical Painting, to works of Futurism, European Abstractionism, avant-garde sculpture, Surrealism and more!
“The guide was excellent Luciano Leone was AMAZING. He was so knowledgeable and passionate about every aspect of the Herculaneum. He kept my 4 and 7 year old interested the entire time. I highly recommend this tour and this guide! 5 stars!” – Naomi , Italy
Gather the troops for an inside scoop on the perils of living in the vicinity of a giant volcano at Herculaneum, the 2000-year-old Roman city on the shoreline of the Gulf of Naples. Find out how lava and ash wound up actually protecting buildings, mosaics, roofs, beds, wood, and even sewers from the AD 79 eruption. You’ll also discover the grizzly fate of the 300 skeletons unearthed by archaeologists in Herculaneum, all found in near-perfect condition. This is of the most fascinating testimonies to Roman times you’ll find in Italy.
11. Palazzo Pitti
“Impressive Paintings on the wall and in the frames. Also very impressive furniture and informative texts in every room.” – Philippe, Germany
Florence’s only royal palace, and the largest museum complex in The City of Lilies lets you immerse yourself in the everyday opulence of the aristocratic families who reigned during the Renaissance. To get the most out of your visit to Palazzo Pitti, you can even don a fur-trimmed velvet robe! Once inside the stunning royal apartments there’s furniture, glorious gilding and stucco, paintings, and fine sculpture to wow you. You’ll have to resist lounging like a lizard on the beautiful period furnishings (get your own tiny four-poster bed!) but you can get up close to a host of works by famous artists, from Raphael to Titian, Rubens, and more.
“Naples underground tours was really cool. Our English speaking guide Ava was super informative and passionate. We got to see the underground waterways and then they brought us to a theatre …“ – Sarah, United Kingdom
Get underground in Naples for a view that few get to see, like the ancient theater of Neapolis, where Emperor Nero had a private dressing room! In this part creepy, part cool underground attraction you’ll see the ancient aqueduct, responsible for providing Naples with water for 23 centuries, and lay eyes on the Bourbon period drains covered in vivid blue tiles, still bright after all this time! In a city over 2,400 years old, here’s your chance to get to the real heart of how things once operated, and truly appreciate your gelato above ground at the end of it.
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13. Palazzo Ducale
“Great tour, very informative !!! It was splendid! Absolutely recommendable!”
Immerse yourself in the royal opulence and political intrigue of Venetian history with a few hours at the impressive Palazzo Ducale in Venice. Here at the Palazzo Ducale you’ll be in what was the seat of power in the city for hundreds of years. You can almost feel the walls trying to whisper their secrets, and the halls ooze opulence and gems from the Renaissance era art world sparkle from room to room. Scale a huge golden staircase, and be spirited around the lavish rooms adorned with masterpieces by artists like Titian, Veronese, Tintoretto, and more. Outside, cross the infamous Bridge of Sighs, uncover more Gothic goodness around the often-flooded Piazza San Marco.
“A fascinating experience in a stunning location. It was well worth buying these skip-the-line tickets, given the length of the queue. And that was in low season.” – Ben, United Kingdom
Get ready for your jaw to drop when you step through the dedicated gate into the beautiful St. Peter’s Basilica. This religious landmark and trusted temple of Christendom is an artwork in itself, bearing testament to the creative talents of Donato Bramante, Carlo Maderno, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and more. For more facts than you can find out yourself, get a guided tour and uncover the secrets of the ‘Chair of Saint Peter’, an ancient and legendary chair that may have been used by the first ever pope – and find out exactly how and why this monumental basilica was constructed. A humping piece of Venetian history and an unmissable landmark.
15. Torre di Pisa
“Way better than we thought it would be. The view at the top is worth it in itself but the tower is really interesting. We enjoyed that they didn’t try to shove information down our throats – they just left us to it which left us intrigues afterwords. We’ve spent the afternoon reading up on the tower.” – Sophia, United Kingdom
Hurry past the people taking selfies outside – inside is way more impressive. You’ve seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in movies, cartoons, and postcards, but did you know it’s actually a bell tower for the nearby Cattedrale Metropolitana Primaziale di Santa Maria Assunta? The poor building often gets overlooked, but when you see the tower you’ll realise why. It was once considered dangerous to climb, but restructuring efforts were successful, so it would be a shame not to ascend the tilted campanile. From its top, soak up sensational views and if you’re lucky, hear its seven bells ringing!
16. Duomo di Milano
“Duomo is something great and amazing. A realization of greatness inside and how capable and enthusiastic a person is to express himself. Everyone should see this if they plan to visit Italy” – Анастасия, Belarus
Undeniably Milan’s most popular attraction is the 14th-century cathedral and Gothic monument known as the Duomo. The top of this spectacular Milan attraction boasts jaw-dropping views of the city, which was surely something the builders had in mind, if not in the first century of construction… in the sixth? That’s right, the Duomo took six whole centuries to complete, so to miss a visit to this intricately crafted church would be a crime! Every element is a trip: its spires, stained-glass windows and arches are a testament to the love that went into its creation. So is the Madonnina, a 14-foot-high golden statue of Mary that marks the highest point of the building, which has been beloved by the Milanese for centuries.
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“Beautiful place and beautiful story of a great little man” – Silvia, Italy
Get your Ferrari fix and find out what made Enzo Ferrari tick. The Museo Enzo Ferrari in Modena takes you on a joy ride through some of history’s most notable Ferrari cars, and every 30 minutes, 19 high-definition projectors turn the hangar into a panoramic cinema, with a special film dedicated to the father of the Ferrari empire. Vroom around the rooms he grew up in, and witness his father’s original workshop, where the magic all started. This modern building is a real testament to Enzo Ferrari and celebrates the life of the iconic Italian who revolutionized the world of motor racing and sports car design.
18. Catacombe di San Gennaro / The San Gennaro Catacombs
“Great, the guide was lovely and answered every question before we could ask them. Excellent guide, awesome experience, special place. We loved it.”
There’s a lot to see at street level, but you’ll discover a whole other hidden world of Italian history below the streets of Naples. It’s best to join a tour, so a guide can explain the story behind the final resting place of Naples’ most revered saints and nobility. As you journey through thousands of years of history, say hi to a sleeping Saint Januarius – the patron saint of Naples. With its restored frescoes and high-vaulted ceilings, this impressive tribute to the dead is a must-see. Don’t worry if you get a little creeped out, it’ll still be sunny at street level!
“Very nice parc. I think it’s the best one I’ve seen so far. Would recommend to visit.”
A real safari in Italy! Yes please. At Parco Natura Viva, see lazy-eyed giraffes, stripy sunbathing zebras, grazing antelopes and lounging lions from the comfort of your car. Or walk the pedestrian trail and spot the different kinds of exotic birds, chimpanzees, and other creatures in the various themed zones. Want to know more? You can even stop by one of the regular talks with the park’s staff. Parco Natura Viva is one of the top family attractions in Bussolengo, Veneto, northern Italy, and the kids will never forget learning about the animals in such a special environment.
“Quiet and well-kept place, fun attractions and safety with little queue to access them, helpful and courteous staff” – Simone, Italy
At the splash-tastic Parco Acquatico Le Caravelle choose your own watery adventure. Kids big and little can whet their appetites for wetness on 15 epic water slides including Foam and Kamikaze, or bust a move at Aquadance, the only water disco in Italy. If getting slippery is appealing try Multipista, Rapids of the Rio Bravo, and Foam. You’ll find calmer pools for kids and wave pools for thrill-seekers, as well as activities like volleyball courts, rest areas, bars, restaurants, and more. It’s a kingdom of aquatic kicks for the whole family.
Award-winning venues to add to your bucket list
In addition to rounding up the best-rated museums and attractions, we also went on the hunt for the best hidden gems and the most innovative venues of 2020. Judged by a panel of tourism experts, here are the winners of Best Hidden Gem in Italy and Most Innovative Venue in Italy.
The Best Hidden Gem in Italy
21. Parco Archeologico di Rudiae
“1st-century Italic pottery and some silver denarii dating back to the reigns of Domitian and Trajan were found in the layers upon which the outer wall of the building was set. From this we can deduce that the monument dates back to the first twenty years of the 2nd century AD.”
Rudiae is one of the most important archaeological sites in the whole of the Salento Peninsula in Italy. It’s best known for being the birthplace of Quintus Ennius (239-169 BCE), also known as the father of Latin literature. The park was founded in the 80s and in 2011 the University of Salento, in cooperation with the Superintendence Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape and the Municipality of Lecce, began to excavate this massive amphitheatre. For those fascinated with ancient history, this archaeological site in Lecce is a must-visit for sure.
The Most Innovative Venue in Italy
22. Circo Maximo Experience
“The Circus Maximus is rather unique: a world-famous archaeological site with almost no remains. That’s because the area has been used throughout the centuries for various purposes: agriculture fields, Jewish cemetery, site of Rome’s first gasometer, site for fairs and exhibitions. We can call it a magnificent void. We filled that void with Augmented and Virtual Reality and created Circo Maximo Experience.”
To make their venue safe and easy to visit, the Circo Maximo Experience introduced a host of special measures to accommodate visitors. They reduced admission capacity from 60 to 24 persons admitted per hour; introduced a temperature check policy; requested that visitors sanitised their smart phones; started using disposable earphones for their audio guides; and gave each customer a protective plexiglass facial shield to avoid direct contact between face and reusable AR/VR visors.
Classic landmarks, museums and attractions for your Italy bucket list
23. Visit the Trevi Fountain, Rome
Built on the ‘terminal point’ of the Acqua Vergine, one of Rome’s most important aqueducts that delivers delicious drinking water to the Eternal City, the Trevi Fountain is as essential to the city’s flow as the flow of tourists who crowd around it. This Baroque beauty is one of Italy and Rome’s bucket list attractions and it sparkles anew, having recently undergone an intensive restoration and cleaning process courtesy of the Fendi luxury fashion house.
24. Sit on the Spanish Steps, Rome
The Spanish steps were built in 1723-1725 and remain one of the most visited attractions in Rome. Even if you just park yourself here and eat a sandwich, you’ll be part of the Eternal City’s living history as it bustles around you (no doubt taking photos). Consisting of 138 steps placed in an eye-pleasing array of curves, vistas, straight flights and terrace they form a pretty vertical bridge between the lower Piazza di Spagna and the upper piazza Trinita dei Monti, with its stunning twin tower church hogging the skyline.
25. Lounge around Lake Como, Lombardy
It’s easy to take a tour to Lake Como from Milan in any season, but you might find yourself wanting to stay longer in this idyllic slice of paradise. Backing on to the Alps, Lake Como is a popular Italy bucket list resort and a base for adventurers wanting to explore the mountains of Northern Italy. Did you know it’s actually a glacial body of water spanning roughly 56 miles squared, and many locals believe there’s an aquatic beast called ‘Larrie’ lurking in its depths? Move aside Nessie, your Italian cousin is here to stay.
26. Party at Navigli District, Milan
One of the best districts for a night out in Milan is the Navigli district. Get your best dress on and head where the locals go for a good time, starting with a sunset stroll along the Naviglio Grande. Here’s where you can gaze at Milan’s impressive reflections in the water before the clock strikes ‘aperitivo.’ Listed among the top 10 Italian cocktail bars, Rita&Cocktails is a great place to start in this boozy hood. For classic jazz and soul Nidaba is a theatre with great live music shows that attracts both locals and tourists.
27. Climb Mount Vesuvius, Naples
While Naples is a hive of historical buildings, you can’t beat a hike up its legendary “living” volcano, Mt. Vesuvius. Classified as a Stratovolcano, Mount Vesuvius famously blew its top in 79 AD, causing destruction of epic proportions. Mounting it is like mounting a fiery dragon, but if you’re brave enough to put it on your Italy bucket list you can hike to the top in about 30 minutes. Peer into the crater and try not to think about how its molten fury once buried Pompeii and Herculaneum under a smouldering pile of ash (gulp).
28. Explore the island of Capri
A breezy boat ride from Naples harbour will whizz you over to cool Capri in just under two hours. Regular ferries chug between the island and mainland, and neighbouring Sorrento. Don your sunhats and flip flops and get ready to snack on cannoli and gelato overlooking craggy coastlines and quaint Italian piazzas. Take a sunny stroll through the scenic Marina Grande, and wonder who owns all the glitzy boats in the harbour. Don’t forget to check out the famous Blue Grotto Sea Cave, and get some piccies from the top of Monte Solaro.
29. Take a Gondola ride,Venice
No trip to Venice is complete without hiring a guy in a stripy shirt and red bandana to steer you along the canals in a gondola. If you’re lucky (or if you splash out extra to really enjoy this Italy bucket list addition in style) he might even sing to you. Gondolas are the classic symbol of romance in Venice, and the sexiest way to cruise those lagoons. The best time to hire a gondola in Venice is just before sunset, so you can be the envy of all those tourists taking in the sights on their own two feet – how boring! Raise a toast to your own romance as you pass them smugly by.
30. Act out some Shakespeare,Verona
In fair Verona where we lay our scene, Romeo and Juliet are still the talk of the town. You can’t move an inch without bumping into a stand selling Shakespeare-themed merchandise but it helps that Verona is an eye-pleasing place to be in general. While you’re there, you can’t miss the 13th Century house where Juliet is said to have lived. The former inn is now known as the Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s House) and remains one of Verona’s main attractions. You’ll hear it before you see it; people love to call out ‘Wherefore art thou Romeo’ when they’re standing below the balcony.
31. Count the colors of the Cinque Terre
The 5 gorgeous villages that make up the Cinque Terre in Northern Italy should be on anyone’s bucket list. These vivid towns are a relatively easy trip from bigger surrounding cities like Milan, Turin, and Florence, but feel like a world away. Dine on the region’s fare of seafood specialties topped with the Liguria region’s famous pesto. Explore picturesque fishing towns, sip wine as you gaze over azure waters, and relax as some of Italy’s most sensational scenery unfolds around you.
32. Eat real Bolognese, Bologna
Foodies should make a beeline for the Italy bucket list addition Bologna, Italy’s food capital. But don’t expect the Spaghetti Bolognese you’re used to. In these parts your favourite pasta dish comes with a heap of flat ribbon tagliatelle. It mops up the tomato sauce in a way that will ruin all your past experiences with spaghetti. If you make it out of the restaurants, Bologna’s Middle Age historical basilicas and piazzas are easy to walk around. From Piazza Maggiore, climb Asinelli Tower for panoramic city visits, shop til you drop in the Quadrilatero, or bag some free Mortadella samples from the market. This is one of Bologna’s prized cured meats.