Italy tops the bucket lists of Americans each year, consistently ranking one of the most visited countries in the world. Known for its beloved pizza and pasta, historic architecture, and picturesque small towns, it is no surprise that millions of people flock there each year to lay on the beaches of the Amalfi Coast or drink wine in the Tuscan vineyards.
As travel restrictions continue, travelers are looking further ahead to plan big trips when the Europe/U.S. borders do open. There’s no better place to get revenge on lost vacation time than a dreamy trip to Italy when travel resumes.
That’s why I spoke with Steve Perillo, President & CEO of Perillo Tours, America’s leading tour operator to Italy and an expert on travel to the country. Not only is he the third generation-owner of the 76-year-old tour company, but also a music composer, founder of the virtual reality travel start-up PerilloTravelVR, and most recognizably known as the spokesperson for Perillo Tours’ legendary commercials.
Steve shared a comprehensive list of the ten must-do experiences in Italy, along with some photos. Whether you’re a foodie, history lover, or Italophile yourself, get ready to make some additions to your bucket list.
#1: Take a Lemon Tour in Amalfi
Today, limoncello is available for purchase just about anywhere in Italy. If you want to try the original, you’ll need to head to the Amalfi Coast where the shops are devoted to everything lemon, including lemon salts, citrus soaps, and limoncello.
On a lemon tour, travelers can walk through lemon groves, discover the secrets of making limoncello and, of course, buy a few bottles to bring back home.
#2: Order Pizza in Naples
Legend has it that in 1889, Raffaele Esposito created the Pizza Margherita for Queen Margherita of Savoy. He topped it with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil to resemble the Italian flag. Whether you love pizza or not, eating a Pizza Margherita in Naples is a must do.
The top three suggestions for the best pizza in this area are Antica Pizzeria Da Michele, Pizzeria Sorbillo, and Antica Pizzeria Port’Alba, which is widely believed to be the world’s first pizzeria.
#3: Explore Ancient Cave Homes in Matera
Matera in the Basilicata Region is one of the most unique places in Italy for its ancient town, the Sassi di Matera, where Mel Gibson filmed The Passion of the Christ.
The Sassi originated in a prehistoric settlement, and these dwellings are thought to be among the first human settlements in Europe. The natural caves and grottoes were adapted to modern homes over the centuries and still stand today.
#4: Feast in Italy’s Gastronomic Capital, Bologna
Though it is often overlooked by the average traveler, Bologna should be on every food lover’s list. Try their world-famous tagliatelle al ragù, authentic Bolognese sauce, green lasagna & tortellini in brodo. Bologna is the capitol of the region of Emiglia Romagna, which is famous for its Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, Balsamic Vinegar, Mortadella, and White Truffles.
#5: Breathe in the Salty Coastal Air at Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is comprised of five small towns (hence the name, which translates to “Five Lands”) on the western coast of Italy in the region of Liguria.
This ruggedly beautiful stretch of coastline is spotted with tiny fishing villages perched along the Italian Riviera. Life is simple here and unspoiled without cars. Breathe in the salt air and enjoy the beauty of it all.
#6: Visit the Knights of Malta Keyhole in Rome
The keyhole of the Knights of Malta is one of the city’s most intriguing off-the-beaten-path sights in Rome. A door leads into the Priority of the Knights of Malta and when looking through its mysterious keyhole, you will see a perfect miniature view of The Dome of St. Peter’s.
It is still unclear to this day if the keyhole was deliberately placed there to frame St. Peter’s Dome or whether it was an accident.
#7: Dine Local in Castelli Romani
Castelli Romani is home to a beautiful collection of wine-producing hill towns just southeast of Rome. It’s a perfect under-the-radar stop, where you might be the only tourists in town. The region produces some of Italy’s most popular white wines.
It is packed with “fraschette,” also known as modest restaurants, where locals enjoy great food, wine and spectacular views of Rome on the weekends. Each fraschette offers dozens of specialties, including cheeses, breads, cold cuts, salami, Roman pasta dishes and the local roasted pork dish of “porchetta.”
#8: Shop the Trulli-Lined Streets in Alberobello
Alberobello, a small town in the region of Puglia, is famous for their Trulli, which are traditional homes made of limestone with conical roofs. These expertly crafted beehive structures have been in Puglia since the 4th century. Shopping the trulli-lined streets is something out of a fairytale.
#9: Visit the Colorful Town of Burano
A short vaporetto ride away from Venice is one of the most colorful towns you’ll ever visit, called Burano. This picturesque town is known for its brightly colored houses (hot pink, bright blue, yellow, and more!) and its casual eateries serving delicious seafood from the lagoon. Spend a few hours here wandering the canals and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch.
#10: Take a Winery Tour and Truffle Hunt in Tuscany
Tuscany is filled with many wineries surrounded by the beautiful Tuscan countryside of rolling hills and vineyards. Many create their own wine and serve delicious meals made with ingredients from their own land.
Tuscany is one of the most important regions in Italy for truffle production. Going on a truffle hunt and watching the Portuguese water dog sniff around for these delicacies is an unforgettable experience.
Ready to start planning your next trip to Italy? Book a Complimentary online travel planning session with Sue to choose an itinerary that will best fit your travel style.
Is Italy a country you would like to see? Which particular attractions/areas are on your bucket list? Have you visited any and what do you remember of the experience? Please share with the community!