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Things to Do in Italy - page 4

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Campo San Bartolomeo
29 Tours and Activities

Sitting at the southeastern end of the steps leading up to the Rialto Bridge, the lively Campo San Bartolomeo is named after one of the Apostles; at its southwestern end is the church of San Bartolomeo, which was formerly the place of worship for German traders in the city. The long, narrow piazza is dominated by a flamboyant bronze statue of comic Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni (1707–93), created in 1883 by sculptor Antonio Dal Zotto. Thanks to its location near the Rialto, it is nearly always crowded and is a popular meeting point for visitors and locals alike. It is lined with smart boutiques and restaurants fronting elegant, ocher-tinged Venetian townhouses and just a step away from the city’s upmarket shopping district of Mercerie, whose narrow streets link the Rialto Bridge with Piazza San Marco.

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Marina Piccola
82 Tours and Activities

Located on the southern side of the island of Capri, Marina Piccola was once the main port on the island, used by Roman emperors Augustus and Tiberius. Sheltered from the wind and enjoying a southern exposure, the beaches here are typically the warmest on the island. The marina is split into the Marina di Mulo and the Marina di Peannauro by the Scoglio delle Sirene cliff. Legend has it that the cliff was once inhabited by bewitching sirens described by Homer in the Odyssey.

Out to sea from Marina Piccola are the rock formations known as the Faraglioni Stacks, which must be passed when leaving the marina by boat. Near the small square where the buses stop in the marina are stairs that lead down to a pebble beach and to the Church of Saint Andrea, built in 1900. Visitors may also wish to hike along the historic Via Krupp, a switchback foot path that leads from Marina Piccola to the Charterhouse of San Giacomo and the Gardens of Augustus.

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Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
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Grab your shopping bag to go browsing in the world’s most elegant covered arcade, the glass-domed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Many shopping arcades have tried to copy the Galleria’s scale, grandeur and glorious decor, but few have matched it. Completed in 1877, the cross-shaped shopping mall is bright and airy, thanks to its iron and glass curved roof, and the floor is patterned in marble mosaic tiles. Shops with awnings and large plate-glass windows line the ground floor, including luxury Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton boutiques. You’ll also find some of Milan’s most lauded and historic cafes, including Biffi and Zucca’s Bar.
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Piazza Castello
45 Tours and Activities
To stroll through Turin’s Piazza Castello is to walk through the city’s history, as this vast square is home to sumptuous buildings like the Savoy Royal Palace and Palazzo Madama, the first seat of the Italian parliament. Lined with elegant porticoes, shops, and cafés, the square is a highlight of this vibrant city.
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Venice Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo
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Venice is home to many important churches, including the huge Basilica of Saints Giovanni and Paolo (John and Paul). Known as “San Zanipolo” in Venetian, this Basilica was the setting for every Venetian doge’s funeral from the 15th century on, and is the burial site for 25 of those doges. Santi Giovanni e Paolo was built in the 14th century on land donated by a 13th century doge. The church is enormous - one of Italy’s biggest - and contains artwork by notable Italian artists as well as several tombs. Because the church also holds a piece of a saint - in this case, one of the feet of St. Catherine of Siena - it rises to the level of “Basilica.” Artists whose work appears in Santi Giovanni e Paolo include Bellini, Veronese, and two generations of Lombardo sculptors. Not only does a painting by Bellini hang in the church, Bellini himself is also buried inside. Other tombs in the church include 25 Venetian doges and the 3rd Baron of Windsor, who died in Venice in 1574.
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Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati (Basilica dei Santi Quattro Coronati)
12 Tours and Activities

The ancient basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati is dedicated to four unnamed saints, all martyred. The name means “four crowned saints,” meaning they were martyrs.

The church was first built in the 6th century, but mostly destroyed in the 11th century. The rebuilt church was much smaller, preserving the original apse. In the 13th century, the Chapel of San Silvestro and a cloister were added – the former decorated with frescoes, and the latter with intricate inlaid stonework designs. The four saints to whom the church is dedicated are buried in tombs in the crypt.

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Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco)
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The Castello Sforzesco (or Sforza Castle) is a huge, classically crenellated pile of red-brick masonry on the western edge of central Milan. The castle was built by the earlier Visconti dynasty, but became home to the ruling Sforza family in 1450. Stark and domineering, the castle is propped up with massive round battlements, and a stepped tower overlooks the central courtyard and gardens. Leonardo da Vinci helped design the defensive walls. Today the castle houses a handful of excellent museums and galleries. See sculptures by Michelangelo in the Museum of Ancient Art off the courtyard, and a rich collection of paintings by the likes of Titian and Bellini in the Pinacoteca ("art gallery") on the 1st floor. Wooden sculptures and furnishings fill the Museum of Applied Arts, again on the 1st floor, next door to the Museum of Musical Instruments. You’ll also find Egyptian and prehistoric collections in this huge castle complex.
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Piazza della Repubblica
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The Piazza della Repubblica is a public square in the center of Florence that sits on some of the city’s most important historic sites. It was once the city’s Roman Forum — then subsequently its market and old ghetto, after the forum was extensively built over in the early Middle Ages. The present square was established in the 19th century Risanamento during the period in which Florence was briefly the capital of a reunited Italy. The expansion of the square meant the demolition of many significant structures.

The square was revitalized after the war, and today is the home to many street performers and artists as well as historic literary cafes and traveling exhibitions. Sitting in the piazza you can see the Colonna dell'Abbondanza (Column of Abundance) and the Arcone, the most prominent remaining structures of the past.

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Piazza Statuto
3 Tours and Activities
Ringed by neoclassical buildings, flanked by busy roads, and crowned with a statue that commemorates the workers who built the trans-Alpine Fréjus Rail Tunnel, the Piazza Statuto is one of Turin’s most prominent public squares. Completed in 1865, it was built while Turin was the newly formed Kingdom of Italy’s first capital city.
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Medici Chapels
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30 Tours and Activities

The Medici chapels (Cappelle Medicee) are two architectural gems flanking the Basilica of San Lorenzo in the heart of central Florence. Brunelleschi designed the basilica for the Medici family in the 1400s, and it became the family church and mausoleum.

The New Sacristy is the more famous of the basilica's two chapels. Designed by Michelangelo, it stars his reclining funerary statues, Night and Day, Dawn and Dusk. The simple design features a somber color scheme of gray and white.

The tall domed Princes' Chapel is a riot of multicolored marbles and semi-precious gems, filled with carved niches, statues and armorial plaques. The chapels' richly carved tombs are empty, as the deceased Medicis now lie in the crypt beneath.

Pop inside the basilica to see Donatello's pulpits, the cloisters and the famously sweeping steps designed by Michelangelo leading to the Laurenziana Medicea Library.

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More Things to Do in Italy

Brera

Brera

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In a city of many trendy neighborhoods, the Brera district in Milan is one of the most charming. Located very close to the Duomo in the historic center, this is the part of Milan that might make you forget about the city’s hustle-bustle reputation.

The Brera neighborhood is a maze of narrow, cobblestoned streets lined with boutiques and cafes - during nice weather, cafe life spills onto the sidewalks and makes for an excellent place to do some serious people-watching. The designer shopping district called the Quadrilatero d’Oro is nearby, so you can get a peek at some of Milan’s shopping class making their rounds, too.

Aside from just wandering through the Brera and enjoying the scene, the main attraction in the neighborhood is the Pinacoteca di Brera, a fantastic art museum with works by Botticelli, Raphael, Hayez, Titian, Caravaggio, Tintoretto, Mantegna, Piero della Francesca, Rembrandt, and Rubens.

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Dorsoduro

Dorsoduro

23 Tours and Activities

Venice is one of Italy’s most iconic destinations—and as a result, it’s also one of the country’s most crowded. But travelers in the know say Dorsoduro, one of the city’s six sestieri, is home to incredible museum, delicious rustic food, impressive architecture and plenty of old-world churches with just a fraction of the crowds.

Visitors can wander along the canal, then check out the Gallerie dell’Accademia, which houses dozens of masterpieces by some of Venice’s most-prized painters, or the Peggy Guggenhein Colletion, which is home to an equally impressive array of modern artworks.

Dorsoduro’s San Sebastiano, one of the sistieri’s most famous churches, offers visitors incredible access to ornate fresco ceilings and gilded altars without the crowds. And travelers looking for tasteful souvenirs at a fraction of the cost can find them at Calle Sant’Agnese.

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Rome Corsini Palace (Palazzo Corsini)

Rome Corsini Palace (Palazzo Corsini)

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Not to be confused with Florence's Palazzo Corsini, Rome's own Palazzo Corsini and the land it sits on changed hands many times over the centuries before coming to house the offices of the National Academy of Science and first-floor Corsini Gallery as it does today. Surrounded by formal gardens, the Baroque palace's gallery exhibits Italian art with Renaissance showstoppers such as Caravaggio's St John the Baptist (1606), St Sebastian (1614) by Rubens and works by Guido Reni, Fra'Angelico and Carracci. In addition, late 18th-century pieces, historical art and landscape paintings are included.

Otherwise known as the National Gallery of Antique Art or the Galleria Corsini, this gallery is somewhat of a hidden gem with its light crowds and extensive collection of ancient art. Travelers will love exploring the manicured grounds and can note that the gallery's Roman sister collections include Palazzo Barberini and Galleria Borghese.

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Milan Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale di Milano)

Milan Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale di Milano)

8 Tours and Activities

Some cemeteries are like small cities, such as the Monumental Cemetery in Milan. It's the second-largest cemetery in Milan, and its paths are adorned with a fantastic array of sculptural tombs. Milan's Monumental Cemetery (Cimitero Monumentale in Italian) was opened in 1866, originally built to consolidate the large number of smaller cemeteries around the city. Two new and very large cemeteries were created: one for the wealthy (Cimitero Monumentale) and one for everyone else (Cimitero Maggiore). Because it has been the final resting place for so many wealthy and famous people over the years, the tombs and mausoleums are often works of art.

Argentina's Eva Peron was secretly buried in this Milan cemetery until 1971 because of anti-Peron sentiments in her home country, and Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi was buried here for about a month before his body was moved. Today, the main draw for non-Italian visitors is the way the cemetery resembles an outdoor sculpture garden.

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Rome Jewish Ghetto (Ghetto Ebraico di Roma)

Rome Jewish Ghetto (Ghetto Ebraico di Roma)

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There is a neighborhood in Rome still known by the population that called it home in the 16th century. The Roman Jewish Ghetto, formally established in 1555, was where Jews in Rome were forced to live after that year, although Jews had lived in the city for centuries. The city erected walls around the ghetto, and they were torn down only after the ghetto was officially abolished in 1882.

Despite this unhappy history, this part of Rome is now a relatively popular tourist destination. The former Jewish Ghetto is still a center of Jewish life in Rome - the city’s synagogue is here, and this is where you’ll find restaurants, markets, and butchers serving and selling Kosher food products. In fact, in the spring when artichokes are in season, this is the part of the city where you’ll find Rome’s famous “carciofi alla giudia,” or Jewish-style artichokes.

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Bologna Piazza Maggiore

Bologna Piazza Maggiore

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Bologna’s beating heart is Piazza Maggiore, in the city’s old center. A classic example of Renaissance town planning, it is one of the most graceful public squares in Italy.

The pedestrianised square is surrounded by the Basilica di San Petronio, the Palazzo Communale (city hall), palatial public buildings and Bologna’s trademark covered walkways ringed by arches.

Sit at an outdoor cafe to enjoy people watching in the sunshine during the day, and visit in the early evening to see the beautifully floodlit Fountain of Neptune, sculpted in 1566.

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Largo di Torre Argentina

Largo di Torre Argentina

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A small and relatively unknown archaeological site of ancient Rome, the Largo di Torre Argentina is a square set around the sunken Area Sacra. The remains of four temples built between the 2nd and 4th centuries BC are some of the oldest ruins in the city. What’s left of the Republican-era structures was only just discovered in the 1920s due to construction in the area. The remains of the Theater of Pompey were also found here, said to be the site of Julius Caesar’s assassination. The four temples are distinguished by letters A, B, C, and D, with temple D being the oldest (it is estimated the columns date back to the 2nd century BC.) They’re off limits to humans — however, the piazza has become somewhat of a cat sanctuary. There are nearly 300 stray cats that stay there, lounging on ancient platforms and strolling among history. The area is maintained by volunteers. Sidewalks surrounding the ruins lead to viewing platforms where visitors are welcome to interact with the cats.

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Basilica of St. Clare (Basilica di Santa Chiara)

Basilica of St. Clare (Basilica di Santa Chiara)

70 Tours and Activities
The Basilica di Santa Chiara in Assisi is dedicated to Saint Clare of Assisi, the founder of the Order of Poor Ladies, today known as the Order of Saint Clare. After she passed away in 1260, Saint Clare’s remains were transferred to the church and buried under the high altar. Her tomb was discovered again in 1850 and eventually, her skeleton was moved to a shrine in a newly built crypt of the basilica. It remains on display today in the east end of the crypt.

The exterior of the basilica is notable for its horizontal stripes of pink and white stone and its campanile, which is the tallest in Assisi. Inside, the walls of the dimly lit nave are now white, although they were covered in frescoes until the 17th century. Elsewhere in the church, frescoes dating to the 13th and 14th centuries still remain. To the south of the nave is a small chapel that holds the 12th century crucifix that is said to have spoken to Saint Francis of Assisi.

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Bologna University Quarter

Bologna University Quarter

35 Tours and Activities

Bologna owes much of its contemporary charm and vibrancy to its lively University Quarter. As in all good university cities, it has a good cache of cafes, bars and clubs to cater to its student population.

Bologna’s university has an impressive lineage, dating back to 1088, making it the first university in Europe. During the Renaissance and Baroque eras, it attracted some of Europe’s finest thinkers, including Renaissance scholars Mirandola and Alberti, astronomer Copernicus, and the artists Durer and Borromeo.

The university houses a number of museums, including an Anatomy Museum, Herbarium, Physics Museum, Museum of Anthropology, Wax Museum and Museum of Zoology.

Most museums are found in the Palazzo Poggi, the university’s seat after 1803. A highlight is the Astronomy Museum, along with the palazzo’s many frescoes and impressive decor.

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Salvatore Ferragamo Museum

Salvatore Ferragamo Museum

7 Tours and Activities

Even if you’re not a fashion addict, you’ve likely heard of one of Italy’s many fashion icons - Salvatore Ferragamo. Not every visitor to Italy can afford to bring home Ferragamo designer shoes, but you’ll be pleased to know that anyone can check out the historic collection of his shoes at the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum.

The Ferragamo Museum, opened in 1995, is housed in the Palazzo Spini Feroni on Piazza Santa Trinita, a 13th century former residential palace that Ferragamo bought in the 1930s to serve as his company headquarters and workshop. The museum’s collection started with a staggering 10,000 shoes created by Ferragamo from the 1920s until 1960, and has grown after his death. Exhibits are rotated every couple of years, and there are also temporary exhibits on display from time to time.

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Gucci Garden (Gucci Museo)

Gucci Garden (Gucci Museo)

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Italy is still at the forefront of the fashion world, but its history stretches back far enough that there are now multiple museums dedicated to Italian designers. The Gucci Museo, opened in 2011, is in Florence.

Gucci’s first store opened in Florence in 1921, and today the Gucci Museum is in the 14th century Palazzo della Mercanzia on Piazza della Signoria in the city center. The museum collection covers three floors of the palazzo, and is arranged not by year but by theme. The “Travel” theme on the ground floor is a nod to one of Gucci’s early design inspirations - the fancy luggage at London’s Savoy Hotel. Other themes include “Flora World,” “Evening,” and “Sport.”

The Gucci Museo also houses a cafe, a library of art and design, and a bookshop. The museum store sells items you’ll find nowhere else. The museum is open daily from 10am-8pm, and there’s a €6 admission fee.

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Pisa Cathedral (Duomo)

Pisa Cathedral (Duomo)

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Pisa’s marvelously striped marble cathedral is a textbook example of Pisan Romanesque architecture, dating back to 1064.

Roughly cross-shaped, the duomo features a galleried exterior topped with a small dome and completed with a rounded apse.

Inside, the building’s five naves create a sea of pillars rising to a golden coffered ceiling.

Much medieval detail was lost during a disastrous fire in 1595, but the mosaic by Cimabue surrounding the altar survived intact. Another highlight is the ornately carved pulpit by Giovanni Pisano.

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Porta Napoli

Porta Napoli

18 Tours and Activities
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