Fancy visiting Italy, but not able to right now? Well, mi amico, let me take you on a virtual tour of Italy instead!
I get ya; I know what it’s like. I’m a frequent visitor to Italy, and the place has my heart. The people, the scenery, the scent of lemon and pine on a sea breeze. The language lilting through the air, or laughing through cypress trees. The feeling of warm Italian sunshine, and eating wonderful Italian food al fresco. Siiiiiigh.
But, most of us can’t travel the world full time. You might not always have the money, vacation time, or ability to pack up and go visiting Italy whenever you like, because life is terribly cruel like that. Sometimes it seems as though when you need a trip to Italy most, it just isn’t possible.
But don’t despair, because I’ve compiled the ultimate virtual tour of Italy for you! This is the definitive guide to having that perfect Italian experience without ever leaving home, ideal for those times when your heart craves Italy so badly, but you just can’t get there. This is how to see and experience the best of Italy from your own home!
Visiting Italy from home
Okay, this is how it works!
I’ve thought long and hard about the very best aspects of visiting Italy; the experiences, sights and scents that I love the most. I’ve researched what other people enjoy about visiting Italy, scrutinizing their primary motivations (including much silent judgement if sampling pizza in Naples isn’t on their bucket list. C’mon folks), and analyzing the most popular attractions. That all sounds terribly scientific, but it means that I’ve been able to distill your average trip to Italy into its most potent, addictive essence.
I’ve then stuck this bottle of Italian magic under an imaginary microscope, sucked out individual elements with a pipette, and researched just how you can experience that element from home. Museums, food, culture, and wonderful scenery – I discovered that it was all possible!
Against the backdrop of a sky filled with lightning, I have created my masterpiece – a virtual tour of Italy, which harnesses the power of the interwebs to bring the best Italian experiences into your own home! You can see it all, and you don’t even need travel insurance! Hahaha! Mwahahahaha!!!
Ahem, yeah. This is my virtual tour of Italy, designed especially for you, because everyone needs some Italy in their lives sometimes. Look, we’re about to land in Rome!
Virtual art galleries
We’ve arrived in Italy – hurrah! And we’re getting straight into our virtual tour of Italy; we’re just going to throw our suitcases into our rooms and head straight out to the art galleries. Visiting Italy without setting one sandal-clad foot into an art gallery is tantamount to treason, people.
Art galleries are perfect for virtual tours. After all, you get all of that gorgeous, culture-laden art with none of the crowds, and none of the achy feet from standing on the spot for too long. You can check out some lesser-known gems, things you might’ve missed on another visit. You can stay as long, or as little, as you want!
My favorite art gallery in the whole of Italy is the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, and their HyperVisions online tours are a wonderful way of seeing their collection. Their artworks are most definitely among the world’s best, and a thorough explanation of each gives you far more info than you’d receive if visiting in person! The tours are based around themes, and all of them are most certainly worth checking out.
Florence’s other star gallery is the Accademia. Although the home of Michelangelo’s David doesn’t go as far down the virtual tour route as the Uffizi, its site still contains a plethora of information and beautiful photos of its most important pieces, including some rather nifty videos!
However, if you want to get your virtual tour of Italy off to the very best start, check out the Vatican Museums Virtual Tour. This amazing resource gives you full 360-degree views of some of the most beautiful rooms and art-filled corridors in the world – yep, including the Sistine Chapel! Even on a computer or phone screen, the beauty of the place simply leaps out at you, and there’s no pesky tourists to ruin it. You can zoom in on individual artworks, and get a better view of that famous Sistine Chapel ceiling than you probably could in real life. It’s a must-see!
Virtual tour of Italy: city walks
So, what else do we love about visiting Italy? I don’t know about you, but I love just strolling around. Taking in the sights of blue seas or glorious architecture, whilst sunshine gently warms your skin. Seeing Italian putter past on their Vespas. Experiencing local life in the city, or soaking up the natural surroundings of the countryside. Surely there’s not much we can do to include that on our virtual tour of Italy?
Guess again! As with so many things in life, YouTube is your friend. If you can think of an Italian location – whether it be Rome, Venice, or Cinque Terre -there is almost certainly a high-quality walking tour video out there. The very best ones will even give you a bit of history and local culture notes, too!
One of my very favorite YouTube channels (yes, one of my favorites on the whole site!) ,is ProWalk Tours. I’ve linked to his Amalfi Coast tours on my articles about Sorrento, Positano, and Capri for one simple reason: they’re flippin’ awesome. He straps a GoPro to his head, and takes a leisurely, scenic walk around some of the loveliest places in Italy. That also explains some of the weird looks he gets from passers-by; seriously, watch out for those!
So, what are the best videos to watch in order to get that true, virtual tour of Italy feel? Check out my favorites from some of Italy’s most iconic cities!
Virtual museum tours
If you’re visiting Italy, whether in real-life or sitting in your jammies by a computer screen, you’re going want to visit some museums! Seriously, what kind of virtual tour of Italy would this be without some museums?
Predictably for somewhere that has been at the center of human history, Italy has some of the world’s best museums, with Rome leading the way. The city’s museums are practically overflowing with Roman history, and you can easily spend one day – and a very full day at that – simply soaking in the collection of a single institution. So what does the city have to offer for the virtual tourist?
Well, how about the Capitoline Museum, one of my favorites in Rome? It’s a great place to go and see antiquities (it’s within spitting distance of the ancient Roman Forum, after all), and the excellent virtual tour does a brilliant job of bringing it to life, and allowing you to virtually skip down its corridors! It’s easiest to navigate if you use the floor plans, but you can spend many an hour feeling like you’re walking through its stately passageways. Check out all those Roman goodies, especially in the Great Hall!
Want more Roman history in your life? No problemo; have a look at the Trajan’s Market virtual tour, an impressively-rendered landscape which lets you poke around one of the most recognizable buildings in Rome. This really is a treat; again it’s located right on the boundaries of the Forum, and it allows you to explore a building which is incredibly impressive, but far less famous than it should be! It’s actually the world’s oldest shopping mall, though probably lacking a branch of Forever 21.
But let’s be honest – if you’re visiting Italy, or just taking a virtual tour of Italy, there’s one place you want to see in particular. Pompeii is one of the most-visited historic sites in the world, and quite rightly so. Pompeii and Herculaneum were destroyed by a volcanic eruption of nearby Mt Vesuvius in AD 79, and they’ve been shrouded in mystery and archaeological excitement ever since their rediscovery. If you’re staying in Rome or Naples, a day trip to Pompeii by train is a must!
But don’t worry, virtual tourists! You don’t need to miss out. Our old friend ProWalk Tours has got a 360-degree tour of Pompeii. That means that you can drag your mouse, or tilt your phone, and look around you as he’s walking. Yep, you can look in any direction you want! How. Awesome. Is. That?
Virtual Italian cooking class
I know, I know. I can hear you, shouting through your computer screen.
“Giiiiiiirl, this is all well and good, but what about food? What about my beloved Italian food?! I can’t get that virtually through my screen!”
Well… no, you can’t. The internet is super-clever, but as yet we have no reliable way of 3D printing a genuine Neapolitan pizza. I know, it’s a crime.
But how about the next best thing? How about a cooking class with a genuine Italian grandma, where she and her friends can teach you how to make those delicious dishes you love, in the comfort of your own home?
That’s exactly what you get if you sign up to Nonna Nerina Live! This adorable 84-year old is a local legend in her village, holding the undisputed title of Pasta Master. She’s also a budding entrepreneur: having gained an excellent reputation for her cooking classes hosted through AirBnb, she’s now gone online with her granddaughter Chiara to teach the entire world how to cook authentic, delicious Italian dishes. You’ll even be emailed a list of necesssary ingredients and equipment beforehand – but don’t worry, there’s nothing too obscure!
Nonna Nerina teaches on two or three days a week; on other days, you’ll be taught by Chiara or one of the other grannies in the village. These ladies are having an absolute ball with their new internet fame, and their passion really shines through. It’s incredibly reasonably-priced, you won’t have to worry about language issues, and it’s just as much fun as taking a cooking class in Italy! Plus if you go a bit wrong, no-one’s going to see the charred embers, which is definitely a plus for me!
If you want a sneak preview, plus some bangin’ Italian tunes, here she is being utterly awesome!
Italian language classes
One of my top travel tips for visiting Italy, especially if it’s for the first time, is to learn some Italian. It’s not a difficult language to learn, there’s a lot of words that are very similar to ones we use in English, and it’ll help you in situations where you need to read instructions – in a train station, for example. Plus it makes you seem generally a bit cool when you get home. Win-win!
But even for our virtual tour of Italy, I’m going to recommend learning some Italian. Partly for those vital street cred points, but partly because one of the joys of visiting Italy is hearing the language in action. Italian is a beautiful language, and being surrounded by it is one of the joys of a trip. Just doing a little bit of learning per day seriously has you picking it up in no time! So unless you import a household of Italians into your home, which can probably be considered an extreme way of going immersive with your staycation, you’re probably going to want to download some language learning apps!
Which language learning app to use?
Let’s go through the big hitters one by one, because they each have their own pros and cons. First up, and most well-known of the language learning apps, is Duolingo. Fun, well-developed and attractive to look at, Duolingo is the undisputed king of language apps, and it has a great community surrounding it. It’s also completely free to use, which is always a major plus point in my book! But there are one or two flaws – there’s not enough notes on why a particular grammar rule is the case, or just the little details that make you understand what you’re learning a bit better. You can feel like you’re just parroting words. And there are many, many people scarred for life by the Clitics section.
Memrise is similar to Duolingo in some respects (it’s also free, and designed to be game-like), and it certainly manages to go a little more in-depth on some of the vocabulary (I found that even the beginner’s course brought up some words that Duolingo never did). It prides itself on being one of the quickest ways to learn a language, and the style it teaches you in certainly seems to work – I did a large chunk of their Japanese course, and can still remember a lot of the kanji characters very clearly. But again, it’s severely lacking on notes, and background detail.
Rosetta Stone is a survivor from the days when you learned languages on a cassette tape (remember that? No? Oh, you sweet summer child). Impressively, it adapted with the times, and is now an online course and app! It very much likes to immerse you in the language – you won’t find heaps of English instruction – but there’s no denying that it’s a tactic that works, even if it might be confusing to begin with. It’s also got an impressive amount of vocabulary to teach you, way more than the free options. The downside? The cost. But it’s worth checking out, and doing a free trial at the very least!
Babbel falls somewhere in the middle of all of these – and that alone actually makes it my favorite of the bunch. I learnt Italian from this very app; it has a paid subscription, but it won’t break the bank. The amount of vocabulary on offer is incredibly extensive (it’s more than possible to come away with a very good grasp of the language, well before you finish all the modules), and using the app is easy and fun. And hurrah: it actually has notes on why grammar rules are set the way they are, as well as cultural notes! At last!! It’s a must for any virtual tour of Italy; click the link, and give it a look!
Driving through Italy… virtually!
What would a virtual tour of Italy be without a little road trip? Winding the window down, seeing the Italian countryside zip by, relaxing in your seat…
I have loooong been a fan of Euro Truck Simulator 2. It’s on my list of the best travel TV shows, books, and video games, and if I’m being totally honest, it takes over my life on occasion. Especially when I’m trying to get things done, or get this blog written. It’s mellow, relaxing, and perfect for a virtual trip through any country in Europe.
Download ETS2 from Steam, and after a few loading screens, you’ll be in charge your own trucking business. Choose a base in Italy, and after a few practice runs you’ll be free to drive wherever you so choose. Haul goods from Sicily to Milan, or from Rome to Venice – all beautifully and realistically rendered. This is no generic landscape, but one intended to be as close to real life as possible – you can drive past the Vesuvius National Park, for example, and actually recognize it exactly.
Want to expand your virtual tour of Italy a little? Well, the clue is in the name of the game: most of Europe is lovingly recreated for you to take relaxing drives through. France, Scandinavia, the Baltics… it’s all there for you, with some remarkably beautiful scenery.
If you want to take a drive through Italy, revel in the thought of not having the real-life consequences of crashes, and ensure that Italy is properly supplied with everything from fishfingers to empty wooden pallets, this is the video game for you!
Books about Italy
Sometimes, using your own imagination can be the best way of taking a virtual tour of Italy. Whether it’s beautifully-written fiction, or travel guides that’ll help you visualize visiting Italy in real-life, there’s a number of wonderful books set in Italy that’ll have you transported there in seconds.
Let’s have a look at some of my favorite books about Italy!
Lonely Planet’s Italy: The Bible of Italy travel – if it’s not in here, then it’s quite possibly not worth visiting. I love Lonely Planet guides and have read them for years; you can read through them almost like a novel, and visualize visiting every hotel, restaurant and attraction. Cultural notes and history add extra appeal.
Bill Bryson – Neither Here Nor There: I always enjoy Bryson’s grumpy looks at the world, and Europe comes under scrutiny in this classic. It’s clear that Italy holds a special place in his heart (he’s even impressed by a pickpocket who relieves him of his traveler’s checks), and the whole book is worth reading purely for his descriptions of Sorrento and Capri. The section on Capri in particular will have you transported into a flower-scented, sunlit world.
Tim Parks – Italian Neighbors: I read this a few years ago, and it really stayed with me. On the surface, it doesn’t sound that exciting – it’s the author’s experience of moving into a small village in northern Italy – but the local characters, scenery, and his seemingly insane neighbors will instantly be recognizable to anyone who has ever visited the country. Reading it feels like moving into the village yourself, and it’s easy to imagine yourself in Italy for the duration!
E.M. Forster – A Room With A View: This was one of my exam texts back when I was in school. I don’t know about you, but I always think that if you have to study a book for school and you don’t end up hating it, then it’s clearly a very good book! That certainly holds true for Forster’s classic tale of upper-class English folks visiting Florence as part of the Grand Tour. Love interests enter the scene, but you may well fall in love with the descriptions of the city instead – you’ll certainly think of the novel every time you see bluebells.
Donna Leon – various titles: Fancy some crime and mystery? Donna Leon’s novels focus around the investigations of Commissario Brunetti, an intensely likable Venetian police officer who patrols his home city solving crimes, and trying not to have too many mobs of tourists getting in the way. Light-hearted without being all-out comedic, Leon has a talent for taking situations which seem almost surreal, then unraveling it until it makes perfect sense. Beautiful descriptions of Venice, too!
Michele Giuttari – various titles: Okay, another crime series, but these are far more gritty than the Donna Leon novels. Giuttari is a retired police officer turned novelist, and you get the distinct impression that his novels – which expose the darker side of Florence without ever turning you against the place – are based on real experience. The dealings of the Mafia are certainly his favorite topic to write about, and it provides a realistic, occasionally dark, view of life in Italy.
Other Italian goodies
Okay, we’ve got all the visual elements we need for our virtual tour of Italy! But what about some of the other elements of visiting Italy? What about scent, or taste?
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered here too! I like to grab Italian products when I can – anything that brings back memories of the place, so I can add to my own virtual tour of Italy – and I’m going to share some of them with you! These all evoke some of my very favorite parts of Italy… except fishing villages, because I don’t need to experience the scent of those, thanks.
Nesti Dante soap: I LOVE THESE. Italy’s premier soap company is based in Florence, and specialize in creating bars of suds which represent different cities and regions of the country. Aside from soaps which smell like Tuscan hills, monasteries, or Italian forests, my pick would be the Dolce Vivere range. These capture the typical scents of plants found in places as diverse as Rome, Venice, Lake Como or Capri, and they’re absolutely glorious. And they last forever, too! Pick your favorite part of Italy, and just breathe it all in.
Limoncello: Nothing says a trip to the Amalfi Coast region than a little bit of limoncello! Italy’s favorite lemon liqueur most typically comes from the region, and it’s a great way of bringing a little taste of the country into your own home. Any Italian will tell you that Sorrento is where the good stuff comes from, and fortunately for us all, it’s available online! PèpeCello is one of the best brands out there – I’ve seen it on the shelves of the local supermarket in Sorrento, which is always a good sign – and is well worth getting!
Carthusia perfume: Also from the Amalfi Coast region – specifically the glorious, flower-strewn island of Capri – are the wonderful perfumes made by Carthusia. I always include these on my lists of the best souvenirs from the Amalfi Coast, because they’re sooo good at bringing back memories! The scent is so evocative… I own a bottle of their Mediterraneo perfume, which is based on lemons and green leaves, and every time I smell it, I’m transported back to Capri in the sunshine. They truly manage to capture Italy in a bottle, and applying a bit of this per day will definitely enhance your virtual tour of Italy!
I really hope you’ve enjoyed this article about taking a virtual tour of Italy in your own home! Visiting Italy isn’t always a possibility, for whatever reason – but there’s no need to be disheartened when there’s some easy steps to bring Italy to you!
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Psst! This article contains some affiliate links! These incur zero extra cost to you, should you choose to purchase the product provided, but it earns this blog a bit of commission which goes towards running costs. Any extra money earned gets spent on my beloved Nesti Dante soaps, specifically pinging them around my bathtub.