As one of the most visited countries in Europe, Italy offers visitors an unparalleled experience. From art, architecture and fashion to food, history and incredible views. There is something here for everyone. So, whether you’re planning a trip to Italy for the first time, or coming back, here are 10 reasons to visit Italy.
To give you some context, Italy is a country I have visited many times over the years. I have learned a lot about it and the people who live there. I don’t think I will ever understand everything about it, but that is what keeps me going back. I have many reasons to visit Italy and here are the most important ones.
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My Italian affair
My first trip to Italy was as a history student many years ago. I came with my boyfriend to visit his family. I was beyond excited at the opportunity to see all the places I have learned about in school. After all, nothing beats experiential learning, and when you visit Italy, that is what you get.
I have returned many times since that first trip. My boyfriend became my husband, and that relationship gave me insights into the Italian culture. On each visit, I discover something new to love and learn. I also found more reasons to visit Italy with every visit.
Over the years, we have briefly lived in Italy on different occasions. Having family with property here, we were fortunate to enjoy their hospitality. This allowed us to visit Italy extensively by train, car and bus.
Being in a foreign country for an extended period allows you to discover its many quirks. You experience local culture at a deeper level than when you’re just passing through. I never thought Italy was that different from what I was used to until I got there. Part inexperience, part hilarity, it was an education for me that went beyond anything I learned in school.
10 Awesome reasons to visit Italy
Whether you’ve already been or are planning a trip to Italy, you won’t be disappointed. There is pretty much everything for everyone here. Italy is also home to most UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites, more than any other country.
Italian food, beaches, sights and shopping will make any trip to Italy a success. Let’s not forget about fashion. Italy oozes in it. Let’s take a look at all the reasons to visit Italy. You might even find yourself coming back again and again.
1. Visit Italy for the history
For me, history is the most interesting of all the reasons to visit Italy. Although Italy is a relatively young country, it has a long and convoluted history. It is also considered the birthplace of Western civilization.
Ostia Antica and Herculaneum are reasons to visit Italy for Roman ruins.
The Romans built their vast empire here and ruled the Mediterranean for centuries. However, many other civilizations have also made their home here. The Etruscans and Samnites flourished long before the Romans conquered them. The Phoenicians, Arabs and the Greeks established settlements and colonies, some still surviving today. Then came the rule of the Roman Catholic church from its seat of power at the Vatican.
When you visit Italy today, you will note cultural differences all over the country. That’s because this was home to several important maritime republics. The better known – Venice, Genoa, Pisa and Amalfi – might seem familiar destinations today. Others were lesser-known but just as important.
2. Visit Italy for the architecture
If you love architecture, it’s one of the great reasons to visit Italy. Here you will find ancient ruins and other well-preserved buildings from antiquity. In places like Sienna, Florence and Urbino, you can experience the magnificence of the Renaissance and Baroque.
Sometimes, these once notable buildings are in disrepair. Sometimes you find them abandoned and boarded up. Despite this fact, there are many marvels to be found. Visiting Palermo was a bit like that. The local government has made an effort to fix some of these places, so my hopes are high for the former glory to appear.
Beyond buildings, architectural gems are all around you. From ancient aqueducts, ornate fountains, statues and monuments. Then there are the stairs, windows and doors. Make sure to bring your camera and expect to take many pictures.
3. Visit Italy for the art
When you visit Italy, you need to pay homage to its masters. It’s not as daunting as it sounds. The work of Italian masters can be found pretty much everywhere. Cathedrals, churches, monuments, museums, galleries, palaces, and gardens all have roots in Italian art’s golden age.
Visit the Vatican in Rome, the Uffizi in Florence or the palace in Reggia di Caserta. Take a walk along Venice’s many canals and visit the residences of the influential people who once lived in them. Visit museums and hidden gardens. They are truly spectacular.
Venice can be quite overwhelming. Lena’s three-day itinerary is a good place to plan your visit.
You don’t have to be an art lover to appreciate the arts. You might be surprised at the exquisite details of these pieces, completed centuries ago. The sheer scale of some is enough to leave you in awe. There are many reasons to visit Italy and art is an excellent one.
4. Visit Italy for the culture
Italian culture can be pretty amusing, and it’s one of those reasons for visiting Italy that you either love or hate. Having been exposed to it for so many years, I am used to it now, and it still amuses me. Yes, Italians place a significant emphasis on family, but they also enjoy drama. They certainly have a flair for passion, from opera to literature to movies. I once sat through a very heated argument between Alex’s mom and her sister as they differed in opinion about who was a better actress – Sofia Loren or Gina Lollobrigida. It got heated. Go figure.
Italians love watching game shows. They go on for hours. The hosts, guests and participants are all dressed to the nines, glammed up and fabulous. Those beautiful people are watched by an equally dressed-up audience who seems enthralled by what’s happening. I don’t get it.
As Italy is a young country, many Italians emphasize their identity as it relates to their families, towns, villages and regions before the country. Those in Sardinia are Sardinians, just as Sicilians are Sicilian before they are Italian.
Italians know how to throw a party from festivals and celebrations to carnivals and family dinners. Any event is also a great reason for spectacular firework displays. The Italians love their fireworks. And they do it so well.
5. Visit Italy for the food
If you’re planning a trip to Italy and you’re not excited about food, you’re missing out. It shouldn’t even be one of the reasons to visit Italy – it should accompany every one of them.
Gorging on Italian food should be a no-brainer. Be that pasta, pizza, gelato and everything in between. Italian food is famous all over the world, but it tastes the best in Italy. Every time we come here, I have a different dish each day. Some days I love a good risotto. On other days it’s all about pasta. Then there are pizza days. I consider gelato as its own Italian food category and usually consume vast amounts of it.
When it comes to Italian food, there are many flavours that vary between the regions. The fish and seafood specialties of the north are complemented by buttery risotto, polenta and meat dishes, including one of my faves – fried zucchini flowers. We can’t forget the delightful tiramisu and a range of fine wines.
The cuisine of central Italy is considered simple and hearty. An extension of the peasant diet, based on olive oil, tomatoes and beans. Here you have your hams, salamis and game in rich sauces and lots of flavours. Let’s not forget the mushrooms, truffles, lemon tort and cheeses.
Southern Italian food is versatile, depending on the region. Here we can’t forget the Neapolitan specialty – the pizza. The food in this region involves olives, fish, cheeses and stuffed pasta. Sun-dried tomatoes, ricotta cheese and artichokes are often incorporated into cooking. Cannoli anyone?
6. Visit Italy for the landscapes
When most people think about Italy, they picture pretty towns, vineyards, olive groves and lemon trees. All are accurate, but there is so much more nature to explore here. Mountains cover more than 75% of Italy. Between the two main mountain ranges – the Alps and the Apennines – there are countless hills, mountains, lakes and green areas all over Italy.
While you might be planning a trip to Italy with the hopes of driving through the rolling hills of Tuscany, I’d suggest exploring other areas as well. You’ll find the majestic Dolomites, the stunning Lake Garda and the charming Lake Como in the north. Those are just a teaser of how stunning Italian landscapes are.
While I’m more of a city girl, I get blown away by the endless hills. Sometimes they are covered in mist, which creates a spectacularly breathtaking visual. At other times, they bask in sunshine and make you smile. I love seeing Italy by car. The landscapes and the road trips you can take rightfully belong on the list of reasons to visit Italy.
7. Visit Italy for the beach culture
When you’re planning a trip to Italy, you can’t miss a stop at the beach. Italy has the longest coastline in Europe, with access to the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Ionian, Tyrrhenian, and Ligurian seas. It’s not surprising that beachgoing is a popular activity.
Out of the 20 Italian regions, 15 have access to the sea, which provides terrific opportunities for spending an unparalleled holiday, basking in the sun and admiring the beauty of the azure blue sea. The beaches differ from one region to another but still can meet all demands and satisfy all tastes.
With most people heading to the beach in August, Italian beaches tend to get very busy then. Italians are very committed to their beach time. They have been enjoying vacations at seaside resorts since Roman times. Places like Pompeii and Herculaneum were popular destinations before they were buried under volcano ash.
We’ve devoted a lot of our time visiting Italian beaches. From the islands of Capri, Sardinia and Sicily to others across Calabria, Campania and other parts of Italy. We’ve stayed at many seaside rental properties, hotels and homes. It’s one of my favourite reasons to visit Italy, especially when the weather is hot.
8. Visit Italy for island hopping
Why are islands one of the reasons to visit Italy? For one, there are over 450 of them to choose from. This includes everything from sea islands and archipelagos to river, lake and lagoon islands. This list also includes Isola Tiberina, which’s on the Tiber river in Rome and the 32 inhabited islands of Venice.
Only four Italian regions don’t have any islands. Those are Abruzzo, Aosta Valley, Molise and Marche. Sicily is the largest of the Italian islands. There are many others you can add to your Italian itinerary. Capri, Sardinia, Ischia and Procida are probably names you are most familiar with, and there are many others to discover.
Most of the islands are accessible by ferries from larger ports, and some are big enough for an airport. In Sicily’s case, you can reach the island by train that crosses from the mainland by ferry.
9. Visit Italy for the shopping
If shopping is your thing, then this will outrank all other reasons to visit Italy. Renowned for fashion and quality products, Italy is a shopper’s paradise. So, what exactly should you buy in Italy?
Italy is known for its fashion. Clothes, leather products and shoes made in Italy are renowned for their quality. Depending on the region of the country you are in, you can also get Italian lace, hats and exceptional fabrics. Then there is the famous Murano glass and gorgeous ceramics along the Amalfi Coast.
Even if you’re not into clothes and fashion accessories, there is lots of shopping to be done for food. Italian specialties include olive oil, truffles, wine, pasta, balsamic vinegar, limoncello and sweets. Some of the best places to buy food items are grocery stores. Usually, the prices are lower than what you find in tourist shops. I love grocery shopping in Italy. There are a lot of cool and funky items to be found in grocery stores.
10. Visit Italy to find yourself
Out of all the reasons to visit Italy, this one might not be so obvious. Once you come here and experience it all, it’s hard for it not to change you. After all, the movies and books set in Italy are often about a personal journey. That can include escaping the ordinary, finding something new or discovering your inner self. Italy won’t fix your problems, but it will inspire you.
Once you leave Italy after that first trip, you’ll be reminiscing about it. The food, culture, art and way of life will follow you wherever you go. There will always be a part of you that will want to go back. You won’t need more reasons to visit Italy. You’ll go back because all these reasons will be calling you back.
Best time to travel to Italy
Now that you got all the reasons to visit Italy, you might wonder when is the best time to go. The good news is that you can visit all year round. Travelling in the offseason means the crowds are smaller, and you don’t have to compete with others for space.
Summer is probably the most popular time for visiting Italy, but it can also be busy and hot. Prices are usually higher, and the availability of accommodations is lower. But I’m not going to lie, Italy in the summer is spectacular.
Need more reasons to visit Italy? Check out what’s hidden underneath Naples!
However, if you’re not planning a trip to Italy in the summer, you’re not going to be disappointed. It’s a beautiful country in the fall, spring and winter. With so much to keep you busy, it doesn’t matter when you go.
Italy travel tips
You have many reasons to visit Italy, and there are a few more tips to share. There is nothing more embarrassing than making a faux pas in a foreign country. Italians are very particular about the way they do things. Sometimes, it’s easy to give yourself away as a tourist. Here are some things you might want to avoid.
Italians take their coffee seriously. In the morning, they usually have a coffee and a cornetto – to non-Italians, which translates to a cappuccino and a croissant, often filled with jam or other deliciousness. They usually have their coffee at the counter, and nobody drinks cappuccinos after 11 (noon if you want to push it).
If the coffee shop has a seating area, you can enjoy your coffee there, but expect to pay more than you would at the counter. Also, don’t order a latte unless you want a glass of milk. Your coffee (especially an espresso) will typically come with a small glass of mineral water. It’s supposed to aid you with digestion.
We always have many reasons to visit Italy. This time we brought the dogs. This is what it was like.
To Italians, food is like a spiritual experience. They like to eat and do so with gusto. While some dishes people outside Italy might assume are Italian cuisine actually aren’t in Italy. You won’t find spaghetti and meatballs, fettuccini Alfredo or pizza with pineapple. That is not authentic food here. You might discover some dishes like this in very touristy areas, but it’s not what the locals eat.
Also, do not eat your spaghetti with a fork and spoon, and take cues about cheese from the restaurant staff. If they offer it, it means the dish demands it. No cheese means they don’t think you need it. In Italy, they also don’t serve tap water. You can buy a bottle of still or sparkling water, but no tap.
Italians are laid back. They don’t hurry. They also close for a few hours during the day for a siesta. Don’t expect everything to operate the way it does at home. Just because you are on a schedule, it doesn’t mean that everyone else is too.
Cash is still handy, especially if you visit markets and street vendors. Learning a few Italian words will come in handy, especially in smaller towns where English isn’t widely spoken. Don’t forget to validate your train ticket before you board and expect to buy bus tickets in places like coffee shops or a convenience-type store called “sale e tabacchi.” They are easily identified with a large T sign outside.
In busier touristy places, beware of scams. Overly friendly people trying to engage your attention or offering you free things. Stay away. I simply say “no” and walk away. No matter your reasons to visit Italy, getting scammed isn’t one of them.
SIM cards and connectivity
Whenever we travel to Italy, we always get a local SIM card. They are pretty affordable (especially compared to the plans we have in Canada) and come with a generous amount of data. We tend to get anywhere between 20 and 40 GBs of data, depending on where you are. Access to data is another of many reasons to visit Italy. Those SIM cards work across the European Union if you want to visit other places on the continent.
Venice had limited tourist choices, and we paid about CAD $25 for 20 GBs in the city. This seemed high, but I think that had something to do with it being a touristy area. At the airport in Rome, I got 35 GBs for 11 Euro from a kiosk. The provider was TIM, and I can refill the card on the next visit. That doesn’t always work, but you can just get another one.
Final thoughts on reasons to visit Italy
Over the years, the reasons to visit Italy and how I feel about it have changed. For a long time, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the country. Part of it was frustration with a culture that was so different from what I was used to. I had a hard time coming to grips with the way things were done in Italy.
As I’ve spent more time in Italy, I’ve realized that this country has become a part of me. In a way, I think Italy has also changed over the years. It’s become a place where I am comfortable and happy. As they say, sometimes the most obvious things are in front of us the whole time.
There are many reasons to visit Italy. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ones I listed as they are what makes Italy so special to me.
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