Italy… Where to start? It’s the country which is an absolute recorder in the world in UNESCO Heritage sites. No wonder it’s one of the most visited countries in the world, with over 46 million tourists visiting every year. Some people visit it to witness the amazing architecture and history that stretches thousands of years ago. Others visit to witness a sensational range of art masterpieces and try famous Italian food. Others visit for the luxurious travel experience, beautiful mountains and even more beautiful mountain towns, or famous historical places. The reasons for visiting are countless. However, it’s a fact that there are certain things that you can experience only in el Bel Paese. That’s exactly what I will try to show you in this article; things that you can experience only in Italy.
Overdose on Renaissance Art
Italy is the cradle of the Renaissance, a period that brought a cultural, artistic, economic and political rebirth of Europe. As such, there’s no other country in the world where you can ‘overdose’ on Renaissance art. Cities like Florence are packed with artistic masterpieces behind every corner. But don’t you think I chose the word overdose to hype this up. No, no, no! There have been several cases of visitors falling victim to the Stendhal Syndrome or as some like to refer to as the Florence Syndrome. This causes people that have a deep emotional connection with artworks to fall ill, suffering to dizziness, tachycardia, sweating, and even fainting. Don’t believe me? Google it.
The next thing on my list would be…
Staying in a trullo
Italy is the only place in the world where you can stay in a trullo. Trulli are white, conical-roofed huts that you can only find in the Puglia region of southern Italy. Most of them were built in the 19th century as storehouses for the rural population. Spending the night in a trullo is certainly a great way to experience the culture of the Puglia region and to indulge in a unique experience that you can’t have anywhere else.
Now that we have that covered, let me share a few experiences regarding Italians’ favorite thing in the world: food!
Try the rarest kind of pasta in the world
Su filinde is a semolina pasta dough stretched into not more (or less) than 256 strands which are then placed on a circular frame in three overlapping layers. The final result is an incredibly thin pasta that is dried in the sun and then cooked in mutton broth and finally mixed with pecorino cheese. You need to be an expert to prepare this pasta and according to locals, only 3 people on this planet can still prepare it.
Try the best pizza in the world
You can’t say you tried real pizza if you didn’t eat pizza in Naples; the birthplace of this Italian delicacy we all know and love. Forget about the topping-loaded pizza that you’re used to and enjoy a typical Neapolitan Margarita or Marinara. Starting from the introduction of flatbreads by Greek conquerors more than 2,000 years ago to the invention of the Margherita in 1889, Naples has had a long love affair with pizza, its most famous food. There are hundreds of pizza shops in the city and the local pizzaiolos sure know how to make some fine pizza. Anyway, the next thing you would want to eat after eating your way through Italy is to…
Drink wine from a fountain
The famous Dora Sarchese Vineyard put the small town of Caldari di Ortona on the map when it decided to install a red wine fountain that works 24/7. The fountain’s initial purpose was to promote the pilgrimage route of Camino di San Tomasso but it became a real tourist attraction in recent years. Talking about drinking, another unique experience you can have only in Italy is to…
Have a drink in the smallest bar in the world
Covering an area of only 13 square feet, the bar Backdoor 43 in Milan is undoubtedly the smallest bar in the world. Backdoor 43 is the size of an average walk-in wardrobe, it has only four stools, a small bar table and a couple of shelves filled with liquor bottles and vintage curiosities. The bar can fit up to four people at a time, including the bartender and people can book it for 90 minutes at a time. It’s probably the only bar in the world where you’ll never see a bar fight. Talking about fights, Italy is also a place where you can…
Witness the largest oranges fight in the world
I don’t support events in which a large amount of food goes into waste but I just had to mention this event. It has been around since 1808 as a part of the Ivrea Carnival, which commemorates the death of the city’s tyrant at the hands of a young girl by the name of Violetta. However, keep in mind that oranges are no joke and a lot of people come out of this event with a black eye or several bruises. After this festival, the next station for a lot of participants is the pharmacy. This leads us to our next only in Italy moment…
See the world’s oldest pharmacy
The Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy is another site you have to visit while in Florence. In fact, it’s so old that the most famous residents of the city, Dante and Giotto weren’t even born when the pharmacy was built. People today don’t need the cure to the black plague, you can still find some of these old traditional potions on the shelves of the Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy. However, if you ask Italians, they’ll tell you the best cure for any condition is to…
Try Il dolce far niente
The sweetness of doing nothing. One of my favorite things about Italy. A saying so powerful that it’s almost a tradition in places like Sicily. Here you can see a lot of people sitting around and doing nothing. Taking it easy is a way of life on the Mediterranean where the days are a long and all it matters is living in the moment. It’s a great way to enjoy time passing by, letting your thoughts take over.
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Now, for some more adventurous activities…
Explore Pompei, one of the ancient wonders of our world
When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, Pompei was buried under ash and remained inaccessible until the excavations of the 1700s. Walking around the remnants of the ancient city will give you the unique feeling of traveling through time. Seeing how advanced the city was in 79 AD will certainly impress you. The aqueduct, amphitheater, gymnasium, and frescoes on the walls are in a surprisingly good condition and you can even see some ancient graffiti if you look hard enough. If you like this experience, then you surely will enjoy….
Walking on ice knowing there’s a whole city beneath you
The small town of Curon Venosta was flooded during an incident after WWII. The only remnant of the city today is the local church’s bell tower, while the rest of the town is still under water. Since the city is located in the north of Italy, under the Italian Alps, the temperatures get very cold in the winter. The lake freezes and one can walk on it knowing that there’s a whole town right beneath your fit. However, this isn’t the only Italian city which is under water. If you find this interesting, you should also…
Explore Italy’s very own Atlantis
Baia was, once upon a time, a very prosperous Roman city located in the Gulf of Naples. The city served as a resort for people that want to enjoy self-indulgence and it was considered to be the Sin City of the Roman Empire. That’s why many people believe God decided to punish the residents and many locals refer to it as the Roman Sodom. Today, the sunken city has become a famous archeological park, providing visitors with a unique experience of exploring an underwater city. While the topic is still underwater things, another unique experience you should try out is…
The first underwater farm in the world
A few years ago, a team of Italian scuba divers from Liguria started growing tomatoes, strawberries, and basil. They had a vision of a vegetable garden underwater, inside a transparent balloon filled with air. Today, this vegetable garden is the first and largest underwater farm, housing more than 700 plants. If you want to learn more about it, Google Nemo’s garden. Talking about famous cartoons, another only in Italy experience that you probably didn’t know about is…
The Sword in the Stone- it actually exists
This sword in the stone isn’t only a Disney movie. It’s actually real and you can visit it in the Italian town of Chiusdino and not in Camelot. A knight and hermit by the name of Galgano Guidotti supposedly had two visions in which Archangel Michael and the 12 apostles spoke to him. Both of his visions happened on the same spot in which he marked with a cross and place a sword in the ground. The legend says the ground around the sword hardened instantly and no one could pull it out. The sword has been around since the 12th century and Guidotti posthumously became the first saint who the Roman Church canonized in a formal process. Talking about Christian history, let’s go even more back in time and…
Visit the world’s first Catacombs
Rome is one of Europe’s most important historic cities. It’s also one of the largest cities in Europe by area, encompassing more than 50 villages and small towns. It’s filled with hidden gems and one of them lies beneath the streets of the eternal city. Under the surface, you’ll find the oldest catacombs on our planet (and also some other mysterious underground temples).
In Rome, there are six Jewish, and 40 Christian catacombs. The followers of Christ used the catacombs to bury the dead, while the Pagans burned their bodies. It’s really fascinating to walk around these underground passages and imagine how these people felt when their religion was banned and they had to hide underground to practice it. Another similar experience would be…
Visiting the Salem of Europe
The region of Liguria hides Italy’s very own witch town and the Salem of Europe. The city of Triora witnessed one of the largest witch trials when a group of women were blamed for the bad weather and the shortage of crops. It was at this time when the witch trials of Triora began. It got so bad, that the Vatican had to intervene to put an end to the madness. Today, despite the gruesome history, locals seem to be proud of it and even managed to turn the town into a tourist attraction.
Talking about things with a gruesome history, what about…
The island that’s forbidden for visitors
Poveglia has the reputation of the world’s most haunted island. The island has a dark history, as it was used as a quarantine station for the plague victims and later as a sanitarium in which a mad doctor performed different kinds of experiments on the patients. There have been several reports of paranormal activity on the island and it has been recently closed for the public. Talking about haunted islands, how about…
A private island that supposedly took the lives of many of its owners
Isola la Gaiola is a beautifully-looking island on the Gulf of Naples. However, what you might not know about it is that a lot of its owners died in mysterious circumstances. One of the owners was found dead in a rolled carpet, another died of heart attack, another killed himself, one owner died of a very rare form of cancer, and the last owner was kidnapped and found dead months later. The island has been for sale ever since but needless to say, no one showed interest in buying it. Talking about dark tourism destinations, another only in Italy experience is…
Seeing a church that’s surrounded by 18 mummies
La Chiesa dei Morti (Church of the dead) is one of the most unusual churches in Italy. It was built in the 1380s’ in the Italian town of Urbania. What’s so unusual about it is that there are 18 mummified bodies that have stood guard behind the church’s altar ever since 1833. Each one of the mummies has its own story. One of them died of a cesarean section, the little girl was stabbed while dancing, one of the men was buried alive, etc. Talking about unusual churches, how about…
The only cathedral in the world with an Arabic inscription
The Martorana Cathedral in Palermo is the only cathedral in the world that has an Arabic inscription on the entrance. The reason for this is rather simple. The location in which the church was built was once a masjid. During the construction of the church, many of the pillars from the masjid were used. This interesting event makes the Martorana Cathedral the only one of its kind in the whole world.
With so many things to see and do in Italy, you might feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. Don’t worry, we got you covered. Check out this post for more ideas on how to spend your holiday in Italy.
A library that keeps its books in bathtubs
This Libreria Acqua Alta of Venice (one of our favorite hidden gems in Venice) got a lot of floods during the years. The library is home to more than 100,000 books and has a very unique way of protecting them. All of the books in the library are kept in bathtubs and boats. Talking about strange libraries, how about…
A library where the books are kept in chains
Biblioteca Malatestiana is a gorgeous medieval library where all of the books are kept in chains. This 15th-century library collected more than 400,000 books over the years and all of them are chained to the shelves.
Now that we’re done with the libraries, let’s go to the next unique experience…
The largest Christmas Tree in the world
The Italian medieval town of Gubbio is home to (officially) the largest Christmas tree in the world. This isn’t a real tree, though. It’s actually hundreds of colorful lights placed on the hillside of the Ingino Mountain. The Christmas tree of Gubio is a part of the Guinness book of records since 1991 and experiencing the various types of lights dominating this small medieval town sure is a unique experience. Talking about unique experiences, have you heard about…
The Alpine Wall
We’ve all heard about the Great Wall of China, the Walls of Ston, and the Berlin Wall but a lot of people forget about the Alpine Wall of Italy. The Alpine wall is an 1851-km-long fortification system in the far north of Italy built in the years before WW2. This alien-like fortress in the Italian Alps has been abandoned since the war.
And finally, I have to mention this experience, even though I personally think it’s kind of cliche.
Taking a selfie with the leaning tower
There’s not a lot I can tell you about the world’s most famous leaning tower that you don’t already know. Many people say that even though they didn’t want to take a selfie and they didn’t want to be a typical tourist there was something that just made them do it when they saw the grandiose tower of Pisa. No wonder it’s one of the most photographed monuments in the world…
Helpful resources for traveling to Italy
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Did you ever experience some of these things in Italy? Do you think I didn’t mention some other important only in Italy experiences? Let me know in the comments!