Despite incessant praise, Italy continues to surprise and delight. If you get it right, travelling in the bel paese (beautiful country) is one of those rare experiences in life that cannot be overrated.
In few places do art and life intermingle so effortlessly. This may be the land of Dante, Michelangelo, da Vinci and Botticelli but it's also the home of Salvatore Ferragamo, Giorgio Armani and Gualtiero Marchesi. Food, fashion, art and architecture – you'll quickly learn that the root of Italian pathology is an unswerving dedication to living life well. A surprising number of Italians care deeply about the floral aftertastes of sheep cheese, the correct way to cut marble and the nuances of a Vivaldi concerto. Lurking behind the disinvoltura – the appearance of effortlessness – is a passionate attention to life's fine print. So slow down, start taking note of life's details and enjoy your own bella vita.
Then there's the food. Italy is quite literally a feast of endless courses, but no matter how much you gorge yourself, you'll always feel as though you haven't made it past the antipasti. Even the simplest snack can turn into a revelation, whether you're downing a slice of Slow Food pizza, a paper cone of fritto misto (fried seafood) or pistachio- flavoured gelato. The secret is an intense, even savage, attention to top-notch ingredients and fresh, seasonal produce. Although the origins of Italian food are earthy and rustic, and the Slow Food Movement aims to protect those artisanal roots, the modern Italian kitchen is also endlessly inventive. Get creative in Eataly's Slow Food supermarket, sample top-class wines at Rome's International Wine Academy and tour vineyards and olive groves to learn the latest production techniques that go into making that award-winning wine and olive oil sitting on your dining table.
As if in homage to its people's love of fashion, Italy's outline – a 'boot' – makes it one of the most recognisable countries in the world. It is long and elegant – c'e bella – and is flanked on three sides by four Mediterranean seas (the Adriatic, Ionian, Ligurian and Tyrrhenian). The northern wall of the Alps and the Dolomites frostily encircle the north, fringed by sparkling glacial lakes, while fiery volcanoes – Vesuvius, Etna and Stromboli – simmer in the south. Beyond the stereotypical image of art cities and museums, Italy is a place for doing as well as seeing. What can top descending the vertical chasm of the Gola Su Gorropu gorge or riding cowboy-style across the marshes of the Maremma and diving sun-split waters full of coral and barracuda? So, just when you think every nook and cranny of this amazing country has been explored, experienced and exhausted, do a little reading and discover that some of Italy's best-kept secrets lie right beneath your nose.
Best places to stay in Italy
These adventures will keep kids and grown-ups smiling while exploring the world. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Step into a fairy tale in Prague, Czech Republic Prague Castle. Image by Fandrade / Flickr / Getty Images.
The top cities in Italy
The top places to experience Italian culture
Italy destination guides
An icon of Italy; Renaissance art and picturesque vineyards.
Best beginners' climbs
Lace up your boots and slip on a harness as we bring you 10 beginners’ climbs to blow your mind. This article is adapted from Lonely Planet's 1000 Ultimate Adventures. Imja Tse (Island Peak), Nepal Trekkers on Island Peak. Image by Christian Kober / Robert Harding World Imagery / Getty Images.
Best places to eat in Italy
Skip the Line: Vatican Museums Walking Tour including Sistine Chapel, Raphael's Rooms and St Peter's
Visit the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica on this must-do Vatican walking tour, in a group of no more than 20 people! With some 12,000 rooms spanning nearly 4,000 years of history, the Vatican’s magnificent museum complex can be overwhelming, so let an expert guide introduce you to its defining highlights on this 3-hour tour.
Skip the Line: Ancient Rome and Colosseum Half-Day Walking Tour
Leave the crowds behind and head straight inside the Colosseum with your skip-the-line entrance ticket! In a group of no more than 25 people, explore the first and second tiers of this A-list attraction with a guide, learning about the gladiators who competed in the Colosseum’s gory gladiatorial games.
Hold tight: the world's best rafting rivers
Zip up your wetsuit, cinch your helmet: we bring you the biggest, baddest and raddest rivers for rafting the world over – and all guided commercially for your convenience. Sun Kosi River, Nepal Raft negotiating the 'Meatgrinder' rapid on Sun Kosi River. Image by Anders Blomqvist / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images.
Sights in Italy
Activities in Italy
Tours in Italy
Restaurants in Italy
Budget hotels & hostels
Guesthouses and B&Bs
History, human genius and the hot midday sun have conspired to make Rome one of the world’s most seductive and thrilling cities.