It’s no surprise that Italy is one of Europe’s hottest and most popular holiday spots. Whether you’re looking for a break in a bustling city, a cultural experience, or simply a holiday spent relaxing on one of the many stunning beaches, Italy truly has something for everyone.
Here you will find breathtaking architecture, ruins from the Roman times, charmingly quaint rustic villages, amazing food and deliciously decadent wines on every corner. Italy is full of different places to visit and some amazing walking routes that you can enjoy.
So, if you’re planning your next holiday to Italy, read our guide below on the best places and the different activities you can get up to. With frequent flights from Ireland, it’s easy to reach all regions of Italy with ease. Here are three locations that definitely should be on your list of potential places to visit.
The birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is internationally known for its art and architecture, and deservedly so. Packed full of culture, the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just by simply walking around you’ll get a real sense of the history behind this beautiful city.
One of the best places to visit is Italy’s largest museum, the Uffizi Gallery, home to world-famous masterpieces from artists all over the world. Attracting millions of visitors every year, the best way to see the major sights of this city is by foot so you can fully appreciate places such as the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge spanning the Arno River featuring a number of high-end jewellery shops.
Florence’s array of museums, churches and palaces host some of the greatest treasures the world has to offer. The San Lorenzo library has an incredible exhibition of Michelangelo’s architecture and both Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce churches are also incredible art galleries that you must visit. Explore the oldest streets before reaching the Arno River and experiencing the ‘newest’ part of the city, Oltrarno. After a long day exploring museums and visiting different monuments, wind down in the great outdoors at Boboli Gardens or climb the hill leading you to San Miniato al Monte where you can take in some enchanting views over the whole of Florence.
Enjoying good food and excellent wine is not hard to do in this city. Just take a stroll down any street in Florence and you will come across many different restaurants that will seem appealing to you – from Michelin starred to traditional Florentine cafes and places for a quick bite. Below, we have put together some top picks for you to try out on your trip to Florence:
This highly rated deli and wine bar is the perfect spot for a quick pit stop and refuel before you explore the Uffizi. Tuck into one of their many hot dishes, salads, cold platters or their speciality cordon bleu panini – made with focaccia and fillings such as Zibello Ham, Robiola cheese and Crusco red peppers. Eat while perched on a bar stool with a wooden barrel as a table while enjoying a glass of wine from the list that is updated regularly.
LA BOTTEGA DEL BUON CAFFE
Heading out for a romantic evening? This is the place to be. Walk by the river and find this elegant restaurant within the shadows of Porta San Niccolo. Expect dishes such as pigeon, Cernia (fish) in a herb crust and Sachertorte – a type of chocolate cake – as well as steepish prices, but it’s all extremely worth it. It has an open kitchen so you can watch your dishes being made right in front of your eyes.
This is a little bit out of the way of the centre but nevertheless, if you’re exploring, pop in.
You certainly won’t get anymore Florentine than this, with an authentic menu that’s jam-packed with classics to make your mouth water just reading about them. It would help if visiting here for you to know a little bit of Italian, although there is usually someone on hand to translate.
As for the nightlife in Florence, there’s enough going to keep everyone entertained through the night. A typical night out in the city will begin with cocktails and a spread of free nibbles that is included in the price of a drink – this is called aperitivo. Many bars start the evening with aperitivo and then change into a dance scene when it hits night time. If you are looking for live music you want to head to places like Palasport Mandela Forum or Saschall on the river in the eastern suburbs. Clubbing venues have declined in the recent years since bar dancing venues have opened up, but there are a couple places you can go. Try Central Park – the biggest clubbing venue with five dance floors – or YAB that is popular among locals and visitors.
This is one of the most celebrated gastronomic regions in all of Italy and yet it’s almost unknown beyond its ski resorts. Birthplace of the Slow Food movement, it has some of the nicest rolling countryside views you will ever set your eyes on. Piedmont has a cuisine like no other Italian region, with gamey local meats, root vegetables and an array of different flavours that will send your tastebuds wild.
Described as the new Tuscany without the crowds, this picturesque countryside is filled with vineyards; a food lover’s paradise. Surrounded by the Alps and bordered with Switzerland and France it is often an overlooked tourist destination meaning you can enjoy Michelin starred restaurants, gorgeous scenery, fairytale style castles and great activities all without the hustle and bustle of tourists. A little like Tuscany used to be, in fact. The main areas of Piedmont are Langhe and Roero which are located about an hour from the main city, Turin. Langhe is a UNESCO World Heritage site and has vineyards that produce two of the best wines known in Italy: Barbaresco and Barolo.
Alba is a charming little town most famous for white truffles and Nutella at the Ferrero factory. If you visit Alba between October and the middle of November you can visit the International Alba White Truffle Fair that is held on the weekends. Here you can take part in wine and food tasting as well watching many cooking demonstrations. It will be no surprise that much of what you will do here involves eating and drinking.
Once you have overindulged yourself in good food and spent your days driving around the countryside, soak up the atmosphere while admiring the scenery. If you are planning a wine tasting trip on your travels Piedmont is one of the only places that only rarely allow walk-ins, so make sure you are organised and book your appointments so you don’t miss out.
While here, there are some local dishes you must try before heading home, such as bollito misto – boiled mixed meat comprised of beef, veal, pork, chicken, calf’s head, stuffed pig’s trotter and sausage as well as seven vegetables and seven condiments. Don’t forget their local pasta dish known as Tajarin or Egg Tagliatelle, which is made with 40 egg yolks and 400 grams of flour. Desserts that contain hazelnuts are another speciality here due to the number of hazelnut orchards within the are area, most of which are harvested and sent straight to the Ferrero Rocher Factory.
Other unmissable destinations here in Piedmont are Cherasco, known as the town of star-shaped walls, Savigliano, home to many ancient monuments rich in history and the Sacra di San Michele, an ancient sanctuary with religious aspects of architecture and natural environments.
Beyond all this eating and drinking there are lots of activities for you to take part in such as hiking and cycling. If you’re interested in history you should visit the Castello di Grinzane Cavour with an on-site enoteca where you can taste wine and cheese as well as a restaurant and museum.
Accommodation is always at the highest of standards in Piedmont with a selection of bed and breakfasts offering home cooked meals or a choice of hotels for those of you who would prefer a little more privacy.
This really is a beautiful place to admire, learn and overindulge yourself in good food and wine.
Beautiful all year round, always alluring, always romantic and rarely disappointing, you can never go wrong with Venice. Although it can get very cold here in winter, the sheer beauty of the place makes it magical even out of the peak holiday season; there’s never a bad time to go to Venice.
Known as the city for lovers, artists and poets, Venice is often referred to as the city of ‘gondole’ which is the transportation mode used across the canals that pass through the city. Gondolas are the most famous and romantic transportation means and by far the best way to explore the city. Here you will find many historic buildings, some with modern interior and others with traditional designs that are commonly run throughout the city.
The Piazza San Marco, also known as St.Mark’s Square, is the largest square in the city. With narrow passageways and canals, the square impresses all its visitors. The Piazza San Marco is the centrepiece of the city and is a great place for you to start your tour of Venice. If you are looking for some spectacular views you must visit the bell tower, rising up higher than the rooftops giving you the best views of the entire city. From this can see all the breathtaking architecture and can watch people and gondolas cruise down the canals.
Venice is home to some of the most unique and precious pieces of artwork. Dating from the late middle ages up until the 18th century, artists have made their mark all over the city. To this day you can still see Titian’s ‘Assumption’ positioned above the high altar at Frari church.
As Venice gets very populated and overcrowded with tourists you might want to head somewhere a little quieter. So, how about taking a hike on Torcello Island? Only a short trip from Burano it is the ideal spot for less structure and more nature. Here you can go hiking through the fields, enjoy the nature reserves and find one of the very few, yet delicious, places to eat. The main sightseeing excursion is the 7th century church, which is home to some exceptional mosaics.
Are you a foodie? If so, any part of Italy is the right place for you, especially the Rialto Market here in Venice. This particular food market has a cultural interest as well as being food related. As the surrounding areas are teeming with vegetable gardens and supermarkets, it is great to see how they source their food supplies. The locals will shop at this market from restaurant owner to everyday folk wanting to stock up their kitchens. Although it’s well known for being a fish market there is also an array of fresh fruits and vegetables. Remember though, don’t touch the merchandise unless you going to buy.
Venice is also renowned for designer clothes and shoes, and you’ll find some of the most beautifully handcrafted items. Le Mercerie is made up of a series of streets and has become one of Venice’s most popular shopping destinations, the perfect place for those of you who are wishing to keep up with the latest fashion trends. If designer boutiques are more your thing, or you fancy a bit of window shopping, Calle Larga XXII Marzo is the place to be. Full of Italian and international boutiques, you won’t know where to look when wandering around here.
While the nightlife here isn’t particularly lively compared to other cities, you’ll still find some great bars if you look in the right places. People tend to go out quite early here, almost straight after work before dinner time. For the a quicker pace, head to student friendly areas such as Campo Santa Margherita in Dorsoduro. During the summer months, you should head to Lido where the beach is full of people and parties.
If this has whet your appetite and filled your head with Italian adventures, start planning your trip to Italy