Enjoy these Unusual Things To Do in Italy

By Abi King | Italy

Mar 22
The Best Things to do in Italy for culture and food

The Best Things to do in Italy for culture and food

Italy is one of the most visited (and arguably most beautiful) countries in the world. It has the colosseum in Rome, half the Renaissance in Florence and even Romeo and Juliet in Verona (with a romantic stretch of the imagination. You know they didn't really exist, right?!)

LOOKING FOR THE UNUSUAL

But what if you're looking for more unusual things to do in Italy? Well, you check out this handy list! All tried and tested with my own fair hands. Even the crazy mountaineering one (well, I was younger and bendier back then...)

So without further ado...

UNUSUAL THINGS TO DO IN ITALY

VISIT GLITTERING TRIESTE AND DISCOVER ITALY'S ROLE IN THE IRON CURTAIN

High in the north, over to the east, Trieste dazzles with its waterfront and horrifies with its history. Name-checked in Churchill's famous Iron Curtain speech, the 20th century saw Trieste switch from the Austro-Hungarian Empire into the Italian fold. 

The result is a fascinating city with a mix of architecture and great food (think sauerkraut and pasta, and that's just for starters.)

But that's not all. Trieste offers so many things to do, from drinking hot chocolate in the footsteps of James Joyce to wandering around tourist-free canals. 

Top tip: visit Caffe Tommaseo for great coffee and an interesting glimpse into history.

Walk the Path of the Gods

Head south to the steep, sunshine-flecked coast and, quite literally, walk the path of the gods. It runs between hot spots Amalfi and Sorrento yet provides solitude, authenticity and tourist-free eateries. 

Swim in the sea at the start and end of the day and cap it all off with limoncello. In this region, this is authentic, and you'll walk surrounded by lemons. 

Insider tip: combine a walking trip with a look at Vesuvius.

Swap Tuscany for Umbria

Everyone and his wife (or her husband) knows about Tuscany. Those trees that stand tall and pierce the sky. Those rolling hills. That appearance in Gladiator.

What many people miss is just how beautiful Umbria is, and she only lives next door. 

Look for slow food, the gardens of Assisi and Etruscan remains that are older than ancient Rome.

Unusual dish: try roasted goose and fried perch fillets in Lake Trasimeno

DANCE TIL DAWN AT A FOLK FESTIVAL

Carpino overlooks the twinkling Lake Varano, which spills on down through the olive groves to the popular beach resorts of the Gargano National Park.

And every year, this village of 5000 welcomes back its travelling sons and daughters, those who left to find work. What began as a family sing-song and long stories told over deep red bottles of wine has evolved into the region’s biggest folk festival, attracting crowds from all around.

The multi-generation spirit remains, though, as grandmas and grandpas (nonnas and nonnis) take to the stage belting out haunting melodies and giving accordions a good work out as darkness falls.

Insider tip: hire a car from Barri Airport and enjoy drives through the rich forests and sandy beaches near Carpino.

LEARN HOW TO COOK A REAL RAGU

“This is the classic ragù that my grandmother taught me: a delicious, versatile sauce that can be used in many ways. ” Lella from Cuoche in Vacanza

Let's face it. Italian food tastes good. Really good. But only if you know how to make it well. And where better to learn than in Italy?

Don't just spend your time eating. Learn how to make a real ragu as well. 

CLIMB THE WORLD'S OLDEST VIA FERRATA

 

Via ferrata means “iron path” and it’s an adventure sport that began as a survival mechanism during the dubiously named Great War.

The bloody, icy dispute that straddled the Dolomites during the First World War left the Italians in trouble. Just a brief hike from the fashionable ski resort of Cortina, young men battled for their lives on the mountainous border between Austria and Italy.

While the Austrians excelled at mountaineering, Italy found itself with soldiers more used to the sun and sand of the south than the spiky peaks of the north. Their army included men who had never seen the snow, let alone knew how to climb mountains with a crippling load of ammunition on their backs.

Italy had a problem – and the solution was via ferrata.

Today, you can enjoy this soft adventure sport in the Dolomites around Cortina.

Insider tip: if you're a beginner, make sure to hire a qualified guide.

FIND SILENCE IN THE GHETTO IN VENICE

 Venice may have trouble with crowds but it's still remarkably easy to slip away and find an untouched spot. The secret? You'll have to find out how to get off the beaten path in Venice here.

Leave Milan for the Mountains

Most people visit Chiavenna as a day trip from Milan, or as they're passing into Switzerland. But the Valtellina area deserves more time. Explore deserted mansions, ski slopes, cheese cellars and a network of caves that residents have turned into fine eateries. 

Insider tip: try piping hot sciat with Valtellina wine. Perfection!

Find a gorgeous collection of unusual things to do in Italy here. From classics like Rome and Venice to unusual spots like Trieste and rural Puglia, these Italy travel tips and travel ideas will show you the authentic, beautiful side of the country. #Travel #Italy #ItalyTravel
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About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • Great list! I LOVED Trieste and the ghetto in Venice is spectacular!

    • Abi says:

      I absolutely loved Trieste too. I’m still so surprised by how off the radar it seems to be…Stunning place.

  • I’ve done none of these despite multiple trips to Italy! Must change that.

    • Abi says:

      Well, in a way that keeps me happy! At least they WERE unusual picks then! ;-)

  • Leah says:

    Well, as you know, I haven’t been to Europe yet but I’d love to do any one of these things when I finally get to Italy! I love the history behind Via Ferrata and I’m even more intrigued by it now that I know!

    • Abi says:

      It’s quite moving, retracing that first route. You can see a ruined hospital and the smoke from where the soldiers slept and hid in stone tunnels created in the mountains by dynamite…And yet the rest of the scenery is so stunningly beautiful. You do need quite a head for heights though…

  • Great list! We’d love to do the folk dancing! Not sure if this is considered unusual, but we would recommend going to see at least one Italian opera performance while in Italy. Tosca is my favorite!

    • Abi says:

      Ah…yes, I’m not sure if it “counts” as unusual but it certainly counts as “interesting” which is far more important after all. Any recommendations for where to see one?

      • Lisa says:

        Verona has a colosseum and has an outstanding opera season. Also Torre de Lago has an open air opera season

      • Abi King says:

        Ooh, yes. Love Verona – even though I only saw her in winter in the rain! Good suggestion.

  • I’d love to do the Via Ferrata. Sounds like a fantastic way to spend a few days followed by some good food and wine in the evenings.

    clementinebuttercup.blogspot.co.uk

    • Abi King says:

      Yes, it’s definitely the kind of activity that leaves you feeling that you’ve earned your relaxing evening!

  • This is such a cool list! I love the idea of exploring some of Italy’s lesser-known attractions. Your photo of the view from the road from Amalfi to Sorrento is absolutely gorgeous; it makes me eager to walk the road myself!

    • Abi King says:

      It’s one of the best walking routes I’ve done. Quite challenging (but not too much) and SO beautiful. Yet at the end of the day, you’re in an amazing Italian village with all the creature comforts you want. Perfect stuff.

  • Katrina Philippi says:

    My favorite place in Italy was Positano on the Amalfi Coast. If you want a real adventure, take what I refer to as the bus trip of death along the Amalfi Coast. It will make you glad to be alive when you arrive. Also, Pompeii is a great side trip. Especially when you see the destruction to the city.

    • Abi King says:

      Haha! The bus of death! Yes, I think I know what you mean. My knuckles actually did turn white. Unfortunately I never made it to Pompeii – I was still getting over some surgery and was advised that the walk was too far. So…it’s still on my list!

  • ishita says:

    I love this list! I esp loved Trieste, it turned out to be such a surprise :D Thanks for the rest of them. I miss Umbria!

    • Abi King says:

      Ah, yes, Trieste surprised me too! Fascinating place -and such a beautiful central square.

  • I’m excited to find this list! I’ve been to Italy and experienced all the typical locations, but it would be great to see Italy through unique experiences like these. I enjoyed your comparisons when describing Umbria and I loved your descriptions of the scents and sights of Italy. Taking a cooking class or experiencing a festival are awesome ways to explore any new place!

  • Feetouotofbed says:

    Watch Befana festival in Florence, January 6th!
    And what is definitely worthy is exploring Puglia!
    I adore this region!

    Thank you, Abi, for a nice article!
    And welcome to my blog as well :)

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