When it comes to traveling to a new place, research can only get you so far—you need a local to lead you to those hidden gems. Thankfully, we tapped the travel gurus at Go Ahead Tours for all the best places to eat, play, see and even Instagram in Italy. From the gondolas in Venice to the crystal-blue waters of Capri, here’s your comprehensive guide to experiencing this beautiful boot-shaped country like an Italian girl.
Brunch With Nature, Sorrento
Sorrento is known for its lemon trees, so what better way to admire them than over brunch? A local favorite, Ristorante 'o Parrucchiano is a feast for the eyes and the mouth. We recommend ordering their famous Delizie al Limone (lemon delights) to settle your sweet tooth.
Corso Italia, 71, 80067 Sorrento NA, Italy
The Best Gelato In The World, Florence
We've never met a gelato we didn't love, but this hole-in-the-wall spot, Gelateria Dondoli, holds the coveted spot of Gelato World Champion. Tucked away in the often-skipped city of San Gimignano, right outside of Tuscany, this hidden gem is the perfect place to get your fix. We guarantee there will be a line out the door, but that's only because there's little room to stand inside—you’ll need time to think about what flavor(s) you're getting anyway.
Piazza Della Cisterna, 4, 53037 San Gimignano SI, Italy
Farm-To-Table Lunch, Sorrento
Nestled at the top of a mountain, overlooking both the Amalfi and Sorrento coasts, the agricultural bed and breakfast Fattoria Terranova is the perfect home away from home. From the minute you sit down for your meal, the family-run staff keeps the food and wine flowing. All you have to do is admire the views and the lavender-and-tomato-lined ceilings.
Via Pontone, 80061 Massa Lubrense NA, Italy
Dinner And A Show, Rome
Soak up local culture at Tanagra Caffe Concerto, the perfect place for foodies and opera aficionados alike. Don't like opera music? We guarantee you'll be singing a different tune once you experience the lively and upbeat performances over pasta and wine.
Lungotevere Flaminio, 57, 00196 Roma RM, Italy
The Antique Carousel Of The Picci Family, Florence
Whether you’re entertaining children or enjoying a romantic date in the city, the carousel in the Piazza della Repubblica of Florence is especially magical at dusk. On any given night, you can find street performers serenading crowds and alleys lined with lively locals. If you get hungry, there are plenty of restaurants in the square to choose from.
Piazza della Repubblica, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Wine Tasting, Tuscany
You'll likely be drinking wine in every city you visit in Italy, but if you make it to Tuscany, a stop at the family-owned Tenuta Torciano Winery is a must. The close-knit cousins who host daily tasting sessions are not only informative but also super fun. And resident heartthrob Andreas isn’t bad to look at either.
Via Crocetta, 18, 53037 Ulignano, San Gimignano SI, Italy
The Blue Grotto, Capri
If you find yourself on the Sorrento Coast, you're just a 40-minute ferry ride from the island of Capri. Once you arrive, book a boat ride around the island and into the Blue Grotto, a small cave where sunlight creates the illusion of glowing water beneath you. Look for a boat that can also take you to a safe place to swim off the coast. Because Capri is built on cliffs (aka no shores), this will be your only opportunity to take a dip.
Capri NA, Italy
Pasta-Making Class, Rome
If you've ever thought about learning how to make pasta, Italy is the place to do it. We caught up with Fabulous Cooking Day in Rome to shop for ingredients at the local outdoor market and learn how to make ravioli, fettuccini and cavatelli—with wine in hand, of course. Once our pasta was ready, we sat dawn and enjoyed our dinner family-style.
Piazza S. Bartolomeo All'Isola, 19, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
The Colosseum, Rome
No tour to Rome is complete without a visit to the Colosseum. Fun fact: The exterior of the Colosseum was covered in marble before being recycled to build St. Peter's Basilica—and it’s just as breathtaking without it. This is one of those landmarks that you should plan to see in broad daylight and in the evening, as it completely transforms when the sun goes down.
Piazza del Colosseo, 1, 00184 Roma RM, Italy
Sistine Chapel, Vatican City
While technically not a part of Italy, Vatican City is its own freestanding state that houses some of the most precious works of art in the world. Our highlight was gazing up at Michelangelo's iconic painted ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. If you visit on a Wednesday, catch a glimpse of the Pope as he gives his blessing to the crowd outside of St. Peter’s Basilica. Now that you’re in the smallest country in the world (positioned smack dab in the middle of Rome), stop by their only post office and send a few postcards embellished with Vatican City's own stamps and postmark.
Via di Porta Angelica, 00120 Città del Vaticano, Vatican City
Michelangelo's Statue Of David, Florence
We all know Michelangelo's famous Statue of David. Get to know it even better when you visit Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia, which is walking distance from the carousel and il Duomo di Firenze. Tickets start at about $15 and there's almost always a line. If waiting isn't your thing, you can find an exact replica in front of the Piazza della Signoria.
Original: Via Ricasoli, 58/60, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Replica: Piazza della Signoria, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
The Lost City Of Pompeii, Campania
Pompeii is one of those places you read about but never imagine as a real place you can visit. The archaeological site near the coast of the Bay of Naples was buried under meters of ash and pumice after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD until it was excavated 2,000 years later. You're free to roam the 160 acres freely, but we recommend getting a guide to explain what you're actually looking at.
Pompei NA, Italy
Explore A Colorful City, Burano
We dare you to take a bad photo in the tiny fisherman island of Burano. With technicolor houses and laundry hanging across alleyways, this place seems too Insta-worthy to be true. Basically, get ready to change that profile photo. Plus, the seafood risotto is the best we've ever had.
Piazza Galuppi 285, 30142 Burano VE, Italy
Take A Gondola Ride, Venice
It's not a trip to Italy without a ride in a gondola—grab the family or your lover and enjoy floating down the Venice canals. Keep in mind that it costs extra to book musicians, but it's worth it. Plus, it adds a little something to your Instagram video.
Hold Up The Leaning Tower, Pisa
Just outside of Tuscany, the old-time city of Pisa is as playful as it is rich in history. Between its iconic leaning tower, quirky street vendors and tourists doing silly poses, the city is the whimsical escape your vacation has been missing. Join the fun and enlist a friend to get that shot of you "holding up" the tower with your bare hands.
Piazza del Duomo, 56126 Pisa PI, Italy
Throw Coins In The Trevi Fountain, Rome
The legend goes: Throw one coin with your right hand over your left shoulder into the fountain and you’ll return to Rome someday. Throw a second coin to secure a new romance. The third coin ensures marriage. While you're at it, don't forget the Boomerang! We were pleasantly surprised to find out that the coins are collected from the fountain nightly and donated to the Italian Red Cross. However, do beware of pickpockets here.
Piazza di Trevi, 00187 Roma RM, Italy