Italy is an incredible place for a vacation. The country has a rich cultural heritage and has many iconic landmarks. Italians have made significant contributions to the world of arts, food, literature, architecture, and more, so if you’re interested in any of those things, you’ll find something you’ll love here.
I spent five days in Italy in September of 2019 and was able to travel to Rome, Florence, and Bologna. If you’re planning a similar trip and are considering those three cities, here are some things you should know:
Rome is Italy’s capital city and it’s a popular destination for a reason. Rich with culture and history, this city has a variety of things to discover and explore. You can sip on espresso, see some ancient ruins, go shopping, and experience some exciting nightlife – all on the same day!
What to Do:
- Tour the Colosseum – this iconic historic amphitheater is one of the biggest ever built and it dates back to 80 AD.
- Visit the Forum, which was a central point for life in Ancient Rome. This plaza is surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings. It’s located right next to the Colosseum and you can buy the standard admission ticket that covers three major monuments – the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill.
- Toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain, especially if you don’t want this visit to be your last. It is said that if you toss a coin into it over your left shoulder using your right hand you’ll visit Italy again, and many people partake in this tradition: it’s estimated that tourists throw over 3,000 euros into the fountain every day!
- Explore St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City. This historic structure is the largest church in the world and was designed in part by Michelangelo.
- While in the Vatican City, you can tour the Vatican Museums, which feature a massive collection of artifacts. The full archives contain about 70,000 works of art and 20,000 are on display.
Florence was my favorite place to visit. It has so much history and so many delicious things to eat. It’s also located in Tuscany, which is one of Italy’s most famous regions for many reasons, including wine. It’s the home of Chianti, and you can try some in any of Florence’s incredible restaurants.
What to Do:
- Visit the beautiful Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fior, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the third largest of its kind in the world, and when you visit you can see amazing frescos throughout the Gothic-style structure.
- Climb up all 463 steps of the Duomo to the highest point in Florence to enjoy an indescribably beautiful view. It was incredible!
- See some of the most iconic works of art at the Galleria dell’Accademia. This art museum is where you can see the famous statue David which was sculpted by Michelangelo in the early 1500s. There’s also plenty more to see, especially if you love music! One highlight is the beautiful collection of about 50 musical instruments formerly belonging to members of the prominent Medici and Lorraine families, which later passed to the Cherubini Conservatory of Florence.
- Spend some time relaxing at Piazzale Michelangelo. This historic square offers panoramic views of the city and is a great place to watch the sunset while listening to talented street musicians.
Located in the northern part of Italy, Bologna is the country’s seventh-largest city. It’s one of Europe’s cultural capitals, and in 2006 it was declared a UNESCO City of Music. We didn’t spend too much time here so we weren’t able to book any official tours or activities. However, it’s an absolutely beautiful city to just wander through. The architecture is magnificent and you can see a variety of historic sites and sculptures as you walk.
What to Do:
- Taste some spaghetti Bolognese! Bolognese sauce originated here which makes it the perfect place to sample the delicious dish. If you’ve never had it before, the sauce is made from ground meat (usually beef), soffritto (celery, carrot, onion), tomato paste, white wine, and milk!
- Bologna is also the birthplace of another classic dish: tortellini. This stuffed pasta is ring-shaped and stuffed with meat, cheese, egg, and nutmeg. While not specifically from Bologna, another alternative is tortelloni – this dish is very similar but stuffed with ricotta cheese as opposed to meat.
One of the things Italy is most famous for the wide range of culinary traditions that originated here. Here’s a list of some of the best food to try when you’re in Italy:
There are so many more things to see or do in Italy – you could spend a lifetime here and still have things to do. Florence was definitely my favorite part, but I loved visiting Rome and Bologna as well!