Visiting Italy can be compared to stepping into your favorite gelato shop — everything looks so good and it can be hard to make a decision. There are so many choices, all so different, and yet all so delicious. There is something in the Gelateria, or the country of Italy, that appeals to everyone. And just like a good gelateria, Italy invites you back time and time again to try a new flavor.
For the first timer a visit to the “Big 3” is essential: Rome, Florence, and Venice. But realize that because they are the Big 3, there’s a good chance that everyone else had the same great idea. For this reason, by getting off the beaten path, even within these famous cities, you can find some hidden gems of Italy. I’ll share my thoughts on some of these hidden gems of Rome, Florence, and Venice and save the other tastes of Italy for another time.
A first timer’s visit to Rome will likely see the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica as well as the sights of Imperial Rome, but let me offer a suggestion for my favorite museum in Rome, the Museo Borghese. Nestled in the middle of the Villa Borghese, a large and beautiful city park sits the Museum Borghese, a 17th century Villa converted to a museum. The museum houses several famous and spectacular Bernini sculptures as well as an impressive collection of art including pieces by Caravaggio, Raphael, and Reubens. While the Museo Borghese is popular, the crowds are well managed with a required reservation and timed entry for all visitors. The museum is a comfortable size and the entire collection can be easily enjoyed in under two hours. It’s a pleasant break from the city and the crowds. Afterward you can reward yourself with a nice stroll or bike ride through the massive park and finish off the afternoon at the far end of the park in the Terrazza del Pincio. This Terrazza commands an impressive view of the city of Rome and the Piazza del Popolo below.