Backpacking in Italy on a Gap Year

Countries  »  Italy

You probably know Italy for a few things: incredible food, famous historical sites, beautiful Mediterranean coastline, and Super Mario (alright, maybe not that last one).

Italy more than lives up to this reputation. Its iconic cities – Rome, Florence, Venice, and more – are just as sun-baked and beguiling as you expect, and its countryside runs the gamut of snow-shod mountains to rolling hills and alpine lakes. Italy is also home to the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, testament to its central role in the formation of modern Western Europe.

More than anything, backpacking in Italy makes you feel effortlessly cool. Hire a soft-topped Fiat, don your most stylish sunglasses, and discover what this amazing country has to offer.

Cities in Italy

Whether you’re travelling in Italy for just a weekend or much longer, you shouldn’t miss capital city Rome. Its famous landmarks – the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Basilica – speak for themselves. The real joy lies in exploring on foot, choosing turns down inviting alleys and cobbled lanes, discovering coffee shops and boutiques, and making this historical city feel like your own.

Arguably Italy’s second-most famous city is Venice, similarly iconic for its gondola-dotted canals, wide piazzas, and relaxed artistic spirit. You can’t turn a corner without seeing some magnificent piece of architecture (Saint Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace perhaps the most impressive), witnessing some new fashion, or being drawn into a spectacular street performance.

In some countries, you need only see the capital city. Take a gap year in Italy and you wouldn’t be crazy to try and see them all: Florence, home of the Renaissance, fashionable Milan, stunning coastal Amalfi, elegant Turin, and more.

Countryside in Italy

Italy’s location in the south of Europe means it comfortably delivers on its promise of Mediterranean beaches, exemplary vineyards, and winding mountain roads. Just like its cities, taking the time to explore the centre of Italy gives you the chance to discover countless sights off the tourist trail, including tiny villages, mountain paths, and glimpses of history.

The Amalfi Coast on the ankle of the Italian peninsula is a Mediterranean paradise, offering guaranteed sunshine and stylish beaches set against a mountain backdrop. Head to Italy’s north and you’ll find the landscape in complete contrast, the Alps playing host to some of the world’s best ski resorts and dramatic vistas. Whatever your flavour, Italy has a view to match.

Top Experiences in Italy

St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome

Found within Vatican City, the papal enclave within Rome, this Italian Renaissance church is one the largest and most spectacular in the world, its famous dome an iconic sight of the city.

Pompeii

Everybody knows the story of Pompeii, but walking through its ghostly streets, parts of them eerily well preserved, is a simultaneously fascinating and sombre experience.

The Amalfi Coast

We’ve mentioned it a million times on this page for a reason: towns like Amalfi, Positano, and Sorrento are impossibly picturesque, the quintessential Mediterranean experience.

Basilica di San Marco, Venice

Venice’s extraordinary cathedral dates back to the 9th century, a profusion of domes, mosaics, and ornamentation. There are few buildings in the world as sumptuous as this.

The Dolomites

Responsible for Italy’s most impressive scenery (and the competition is fierce), the Dolomites are a haven for hikers and skiers of all levels, the natural parks hemming them in refuges for wildlife and untouched natural beauty.