Leisure activities in Italy

leisure in Italy
Updated 2023-04-23 11:53

Living in Italy also means benefiting from a multitude of leisure activities. Between museums, art cities, archaeological areas, natural parks, bars, restaurants, events, international trade fairs and sports activities, it is impossible to get bored, and everyone will certainly find something to occupy their free time.

Activities in Italy

No matter which region you are in, there is always something interesting to see and do in Italy.

Suppose you're an expat in Milan. If you're a culture and art lover, visit the Duomo (not to mention the rooftop with its beautiful view of the mountains), go to La Scala or discover the beautiful museums the city is home to. From Palazzo Reale, to the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Prada Foundation, you are spoilt for choice. Looking for a weekend getaway? Go and see Lake Como, which is about an hour away by car, and don't hesitate to take a boat, it's the best way to discover sumptuous villas.

Have you chosen to live in Rome? The city is a real open-air museum: Colosseum, Roman Forums, Trastevere, Via Appia Antica Park, Villa Borghese, a real pleasure for the eyes. Here too, there is no shortage of museums, and the municipality even offers 48-hour and 72-hour passes for the museums and archaeological sites.

If you are in the south of Italy, don't miss the town of Matera, in the Basilicata region, a town of troglodyte dwellings listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, as well as Alberobello, the town of Trulli in Puglia. In Abruzzo, don't miss the Abruzzo Lazio and Molise National Park or the Gran Sasso National Park, where the mountains and landscapes are breathtaking.

The typical streets of Venice, the Amalfi Coast, the gentle hills of Tuscany with Chianti and Val d'Orcia, the Alps with the snow-covered mountains of the Dolomites or the crystal-clear waters and beaches of Sardinia, the Aeolian Islands in Sicily and volcanoes such as Vesuvius or Etna, are other must-sees.

Most towns have parks open to the public, where you can go for a walk, have a picnic or go jogging. There are also numerous gyms and large sports complexes on the outskirts of the cities.

Good to know:

Many regions allow students to visit museums free of charge or at a reduced rate; all they need to show is proof of their status (a student card, for example). In addition, on the first Sunday of the month, in major cities such as Rome, Milan, Bologna or Florence, municipal museums are open free of charge to all.

The FAI (Fondo per l'Ambiente Italiano) is a non-profit association that works in collaboration with the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività culturali e per il Turismo. It works for the restoration and preservation of the Italian historical, artistic and landscape heritage. It makes special places, previously closed or abandoned, available to the public on Heritage Days twice a year. It is possible to become a member and support the FAI in its mission or contribute at a very reasonable price to the visit on these days.

Places to visit alone or with your family in Italy

Whether you are an expatriate alone or with your family, there are many places to visit in your free time in Italy.

Families with children in Italy will enjoy museums, walking and playing in parks on sunny days, or sledding in the mountains in winter. National parks are also a perfect playground for families to discover the local flora and fauna. There are many marked trails wherever you go, but you can also hire a nature guide. The same goes for archaeological parks. However, keep in mind that these guides are not always well-equipped. Some museums are also dedicated to discovery for families and offer adapted price packages. Some museums are even exclusively dedicated to children, such as the Museo dei Bambini in Rome or the one in Milan.

When you are alone, the choice is even easier: museums, guided tours of historical and natural sites or of the city, walks in parks or on footpaths, cooking classes, and concerts. Everything is possible, with each region and city offering an endless combination of activities.

For example, the website of the Municipality of Milan is a good basis for exploring museums. In addition, Milano Guida is a source of inspiration for leisure activities in the city or, more widely, in the region.

Rome has its own website for museums and events, Musei in Comune.

Shopping in Italy

Shopping is one of the most popular activities in Italy among Italians, expatriates and tourists. Every city has a main shopping street, such as Via del Corso in Rome or Via Torino and Corso Garibaldi in Milan, commercial areas dedicated to department stores. In big cities like these two, there are also many independent shops all over the place, in the historical centers but also more on the outskirts. There are also shopping malls everywhere, and the larger cities have several small, medium and large ones. In Milan, as in Rome, it is also common to see outlets selling designer clothes and accessories at discounted prices.

There are many small shops as well, ranging from artisans to designers to small neighborhood thrift shops or producers of local products.

Eating out in Italy

Eating is one of the main activities of Italians, and in almost every conversation, you hear about food, with particular dishes being highlighted. It is literally part of the culture and has virtually become a religion. It is no wonder that the country is full of restaurants and places where you can eat typical dishes but also discover the cuisine of new chefs. There are several types of eating places, including the following:

  • Trattoria and Osteria, which offer a menu based on typical quality products and recipes, each region of Italy having its own
  • Ristorante, generally a more chic restaurant
  • Pizzeria
  • Bar Tavola Calda/Fredda (called differently depending on the region)
  • Piadineria, where you can eat piadine, a kind of pancake-shaped flatbread usually stuffed with cold cuts, vegetables and cheese

If you are a dessert lover, you must try the Italian gelato. Go to a gelateria and choose a cono (cone) or a coppetta (bowl) and enjoy your gelato like the Italians do, while strolling. If you prefer pastries, go to a Pasticceria (often a bar and pastry shop) and try the local specialities with an espresso at the bar. If you live in Milan, you must try its famous panettone. Also, at Christmas time, why not take a stroll along the illuminated streets of the center and enjoy a hot chocolate with a slice of panettone? If you're in Rome, we recommend you try maritozzi, a soft brioche filled with whipped cream. Bars in Italy offer all kinds of coffee and drinks, from the famous croissants, cornetti in Rome, croissants or brioche in Milan, to be enjoyed with a good cappuccino but also often the famous aperitivo at the end of the day.

Good to know:

Gastronomy being very important in Italy, there are frequently organized events, and seasonal fairs around regional products or specialties in which you can participate. For example, in autumn, there is the White Truffle Fair in Alba in Piedmont, the Porcini Festival in Emilia Romagna, the Wine Festival in Tuscany and Piedmont where it is possible to do tastings, not to mention the sagre, local festivals that often take place during the summer months and celebrate, for example, mozzarella, tagliatelle, olive oil, etc.

Sports in Italy

Whether you are a great sportsman or not, it is possible to do any kind of physical activity in Italy. Firstly, there is a wide choice of gyms and fitness centres offering annual, quarterly and monthly subscriptions. The parks are great for running, walking and cycling.

There are also many specialized centers, such as yoga and martial arts centers, as well as swimming pools, tennis, football and rugby clubs.

If you like outdoor sports, Italy is the ideal country to enjoy nature. You can go trekking or skiing in the Aosta Valley or in the Dolomites. Italians are also keen on cycling, so you will find many cycle paths, for example, around the lakes in northern Italy. The new pedestrian cycle path around Lake Garda should be mentioned. As Italy is surrounded by the sea, it is possible to do a lot of water sports, from windsurfing and water skiing to diving and kayaking. There are many clubs in all regions of Italy, club nautico, where you can take lessons and practice these activities in complete safety.

Good to know:

Italians are very active and travel a lot. Whether it's during the week after work for a drink and a meal in a restaurant or at weekends and on public holidays, they generally like to spend their free time doing things with friends and family. For example, they love having a Sunday walk to the lake, countryside, or beach after lunch in a restaurant, or a weekend in the mountains to enjoy the first snow, but also a cultural afternoon at the museum with the children in town. You will also see many Italians practicing sports with friends, such as running, hiking, or cycling.

Thermal baths in Italy

A popular activity in Italy is spending time at the thermal baths. The country is home to many natural thermal sites, where thermal water cures are renowned, especially for cold, joint pain, or simply to relax. Italy also has a wide range of spas from one region to another. It is possible to spend a day or a more extended stay in one of these centers, which also offer good hotel services. Some of the most popular thermal centers are the Terme di Chianciano, the Terme di Bormio and the San Pellegrino.

Useful links:


Fondo per l'Ambiente Italiano (FAI)


Ministry of Culture - Heritage sites

Milano Guida


Itinerari del gusto

Thermal baths

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