How to Plan a Summer in Italy: 15 Things That Should Be on Your List

Steve Cummings


If you go to Italy for your next summer vacation, you will have a memorable experience. Lush countryside, busy and modern metropolitan areas, quaint little villages, massive and imposing mountains, and coastal areas home to many fantastic beaches offering dramatic views of the Mediterranean Sea. 

There is also much to see and do that will teach you about the history of Italy and the Roman Empire, as well as about world history and heritage. Are you struggling with what to pick and where to go? That's why we have put together this guide, to help you see and do the things you really must. 

When planning your trip to Italy, as is the case when planning any getaway in a warm climate, you need to consider the temperature when deciding what you are and are not going to do. How hot does it ge t in Italy in the summer, then? Well, generally speaking, the hottest month for the north of Italy is July, where the temperature can fall between 32 and 35C (89 and 95F). In the south of Italy, it is August, where the temperature can fall between 38 and 42C (100 and 107F). Once you know which area suits you best, you can figure out where to visit in Italy in summer. 

Here are 15 great suggestions. 

1. Herculaneum and Pompeii

Credit: Depositphotos

Starting with obvious choices, Herculaneum and Pompeii have the same infamy: they were two populated and noteworthy cities left in ruins when lava devastated both during the Roman Empire's reign. Although they are very touristy, with Pompeii being slightly more popular than Herculaneum, they are still worth all the hype. 

Thanks to the ruins remaining after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, there is much to learn from the various city landmarks about what life was like and the power of nature. 

2. Lake Maggiore

There are many beautiful lakes in Italy, with Lake Garda being the most popular for an Italian summer holiday. However, if you are looking for a breathtakingly beautiful lake to visit but want to avoid the crowds that Lake Garda and others attract, Lake Maggiore should be at the top of your list. It is not nearly as large as its name may suggest, but it is still spectacular. 

The waters of this lake serve Lombardy and Piedmont. In addition to the sparkling clear water and the dramatic backdrop of the nearby mountains and hills, you should visit Lake Maggiore for the surrounding areas. You can see many exciting villas, castles, and parks when you are not strolling around or sitting by the lake itself. 

3. Assisi

If you are interested in all things religious or even if you are an agnostic or atheist, Assisi is one of those places you should visit at least once in Italy. For those unfamiliar with the name, it is the birthplace of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals.

The city has a long and profoundly religious heritage and features many stunning examples of religious architecture alongside many of the most beautiful buildings, religious or not, in Italy. 

4. The Tre Cime di Lavaredo 

The Dolomites are often featured high up on other lists of must-see places in Italy. They stretch across an area of 15,942 square kilometers (6159 square miles) and reach an elevation of 3,343 meters (10,967 feet) at their highest point. Unsurprisingly, this mountain range in the Southern Limestone Alps is popular with locals and tourists for Italian summer holidays.

Suppose you want to avoid crowds or get a unique perspective on the grandeur and intimidating nature of the Dolomites. In that case, consider visiting the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Found in South Tyrol in the Bolzano province, this part of the Dolomites is viewed by experts and local enthusiasts as “the symbol of the Dolomites.” You can visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site any time throughout the year, but we recommend going in summer, as the sunlight illuminates these mountains in various vibrant colors. 

5. Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Another of the must-see places in Italy in summer is the Amalfi Coast. The journey to and from the various towns along the dramatic and majestic coast is a must, as it is ever-so-slightly dangerous but offers the best way to get to all the little towns and villages that sit on the edge of the country. Many cities are set just in from the edge of the cliffs. 

Among the cities on the Amalfi Coast of Italy you should visit are Ravello, Amalfi, and Atrani. You will find many great accommodation options in each of these should you wish to use one of them as a base for your trip. 

Related: 10 Coastal Italian Cities To Visit That Aren’t Amalfi But Just As Scenic

6. Hop Between the Stunning Aeolian Islands

Although island hopping may be more commonly associated with Greece, you can do it in Italy by visiting each of the distinctive and uniquely beautiful Aeolian Islands. Located in the cobalt-blue-hued seas off the northern coast of Sicily, these islands are UNESCO-protected for their natural beauty and heritage and offer little paradise spots. 

It is possible to visit all seven islands in this archipelago. We recommend you stop at Alicudi, Filicudi, Stromboli, Panarea, Salina, Lipari, and Vulcano whether you are looking for excitement, relaxation, or great food and an education into history. 

7. The Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, Italy
Credit: Depositphotos

The Cinque Terre, translated into English as Five Lands, is an area along the coast of Italy in Liguria to the north that features five stunning little villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare. Each is a reminder of Italy of old with beautiful homes, vineyards, and terraced harbors with trattorias and fishing boats. You can hike through all five of the towns by following the Sentiero Azzurro while also taking in the astonishing sea views. 

While in the region, why not indulge in the sauce from Liguria pesto? 

8. Rome 

Rome, Italy
credit: depositphotos

At one time, Rome was the caput mundi, the world's capital city. If that isn't enough to whet your appetite for Italy's capital, consider the two thousand years' worth of stunning architecture and inspirational art within its boundaries. If you are heading to Italy for the first time, you really should take time out to visit Rome. However, be warned. If you start planning a lot of things to do in Rome, you may need to spend many days there for your explorations. But it's where people have some of their best Italian summer holidays.

There are the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Sistine Chapel, a few key landmarks, and countless other places where you can learn something or see something spectacular. 

Related: 16 Things to Do in Rome as a Frugal Traveler

9. Sardinia

Sardinia, Italy
credit: depositphotos

If there is one place lovers of the beach and seaside must visit for a great Italian Summer holiday, it's Sardinia. Italy’s second largest island after Sicily, it is home to almost too many wondrous things to mention. For one thing, there are the immaculately crystalline seas surrounding it, which display a variety of colors from greens and blues to purples. 

Costa Verde, in particular, has stunning beaches with astonishing dunes in the background. At the same time, the wind-created façade of Golfo di Orosei and Santa Teresa di Gallura is worth experiencing in person. Make sure you have time to head inland away from the coast and find some well-preserved and excellent prehistoric remains and the Barbagia mountain villages, where the residents still follow the same traditions they have for hundreds of years. 

10. Venice

Island murano in Venice Italy. View on canal with boat and motorboat water. Picturesque landscape.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

There is something very dreamlike about spending summer in Venice, the Floating City. It really is one of the most unique places in the world. Everything here feels like a fairy tale, from the detailed palazzos to the world-class museums and stunningly gilded churches. Everything is on water and connected by pretty little canals. Rather than spending too much time at the main tourist attractions, you must spend more time in the alleys and quieter canals. Make sure you visit Piazza San Marco and Rialto Bridge, but then check out the less popular sites and landmarks. 

11. Milan 

Milan Italy
credit: depositphotos

Italy's capital of fashion and culture, Milan is one city many travelers complain about because it is too chaotic. However, don't listen to that. Milan is one of the only places to find many of Leonardo di Vinci's masterpieces, like the Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie church and Sala delle Asse within Castello Sforzesco. This might not be on most people's Italian summer destination list as it's not near the coast, but we think it deserves a spot on our list.

In terms of eating the most diverse range of Italian cuisine, Milan has some of the best restaurants and cocktail bars. The modern art scene and fashion scene are two of the biggest draws to Milan. 

12. Mount Etna

There are several reasons why you should take a trip to Mount Etna. As well as being the largest volcano in Europe, it is also one of the most active worldwide. Ancient Greeks knew it as “the column that holds up the sky” and believed the giant Tifone, or Typhon, inside its crater illuminated the sky with stunning pyrotechnics. 

She stands at 10,912 feet or 3,326 meters, towering over the Ionian Coast of Sicily and can be tackled either on foot or by taking a 4WD guided tour. Or you can trek on its lower slopes, where there are many mouthwatering wines grown and produced in its incredibly fertile volcanic soil. 

13. Emilia-Romagna

Are you a foodie looking to try new culinary experiences while visiting Italy in the summer? Emilia-Romagna is one part of the country you should set aside time to visit. Its capital city is nicknamed La Grassa or “the fat one.” Many of the country's most moreish and filling classic dishes and ingredients originate here. Think tagliatelle al ragu, tortellini, and mortadella. In addition to trying some of the many eateries, don’t forget the Quadrilatero district, which has many delis and food stalls. This part of the region has hosted food markets since medieval times. You can also take some time to visit Modena, the home of the most famous brand of mature balsamic vinegar. 

14. Tuscany 

Credit: Depositphotos

Tuscany is one of those parts of Italy well-known for its stunning scenery and as the central point for the Renaissance. Florence is the capital of Tuscany, and it is truly a feast for lovers of culture. Within Uffizi, you will find Botticelli's sublime Birth of Venus. It also has a stunning cathedral with an eye-catching dome. 

Regarding Renaissance art: you will find Raphael and Leonardo represented within the Uffizi, Donatello within the Bargello, and Michaelangelo within the Accademia. Florence isn't the only delight that Tuscany has, as you can explore Siena for Gothic architecture in all its glory, or the medieval town of San Gimignano with its almost NYC-like skyline. Then there are the vineyards in Chianti. This region lends its name to the famous red wine. 

15. Lago di Como

Lake Como
credit: depositphotos

Lake Como is the most famous of Italy's lakes, with the Obamas and Clooneys calling it home or temporary home. You find it under the dark shadow of the imposing Rhaetian Alps in the Lombardy region. It has sophisticated Liberty-style residences where the who's who of the literary, fashion, and movie worlds nest. These, of course, are off limits. However, you can explore the gardens of other regional villas, like Balbianello, Carlotta, and Melzi d'Eril, all bursting with pretty pink camellias, rhododendrons, and azaleas during April and May. 

The city that shares its name with the lake is a melting pot of visually striking architecture, including the Palazzo Terragni. It was built for the Fascist party headquarters and is an outstanding example of what is known as Rationalism in 30s Italy, It is also a reminder and warning of the various terrible deeds the regime committed. It's definitely one of the best places to visit in Italy in Summer.

Final Thoughts

Italy is much bigger than it seems on the map, so don't be deceived into thinking it's an easy place to visit and experience thoroughly. When you are looking for the best experience visiting Italy in summer, we hope you will let our guide above help you plan your trip so you can have an unforgettable time.

Please let us know in the comment section below if we missed a city, place, site, or landmark.

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