Temples, coastlines & iconic cities: 7 places in Italy & Greece you have to visit this summer
From ruins where you’ll walk in the footsteps of legendary heroes to cities where you can share a rooftop drink with the locals, adventure awaits when you tour the best places in Italy and Greece in the summer. Longer daylight hours and warm evenings offer more opportunities to explore—and more excuses to eat gelato.
Join us on a tour of Italy or trip to Greece this summer to soak up some sun and make some memories that will last all winter (and beyond!). Plus, read on to see the seven top places in Italy and Greece to cross off your bucket list.
The best places to visit in Italy this summer
1. Capri: the lush, mountainous island paradise
The island of Capri is in full bloom in the summertime. It’s located in the Tyrrhenian Sea off the west coast of Italy, and warm summer breezes drift across the water to tousle the island’s sweet-smelling flowers.
Board a boat and explore the island’s caves and grottos, and see the Faraglioni—large rock formations that jut out of the sea. If you want to get an even closer look at the surrounding scenery, use free time to explore the famous Blue Grotto. This is a flooded cave that seems to glow with electric blue light, an effect caused by the sun shining through an underwater cavity.
After a day on the water, make your way to the Gardens of Augustus, terraced gardens that offer a panoramic view of Capri and the sea beyond. The gardens are one of the top things not to miss in Capri for good reason. Before you leave, make sure to pick up some locally made limoncello or floral-scented perfume to take home.
If you join us on one of our trips to Capri between March and October, you’ll have the option to add on the Rustic Italy: Farmhouse Dinner & Wine Tasting excursion. Spend some time on an Italian agriturismo farm learning about the area’s bountiful produce before sitting down to a glass of prosecco and a four-course dinner and wine tasting.
Add Food & Wine: Piedmont & Tuscany with America’s Test Kitchen to your travel wish list and experience the best of Italy's cuisine →
2. Pompeii: the ancient city frozen in time
The ancient city of Pompeii lies in the shadow of the world’s most famous volcano, Mount Vesuvius. The port city was once wealthy and prosperous due to its strategic location and fertile volcanic soil before the volcano’s eruption in 79 A.D. The town was buried in just over 24 hours, leaving many of its businesses, villas, and even citizens preserved under the ash. “It was amazing to walk through Pompeii and see the ancient temples and houses,” said staffer Jamie. “Our guide pointed out that there are still grooves in the stone roads from the carts that drove over them thousands of years ago. There were even names carved into the stone walls. It was like stepping back in time.”
If you visit this UNESCO World Heritage site in the summer on one of our Pompeii tours, you’ll have plenty of daylight hours to view the town’s many original mosaics, frescoes, and ancient graffiti. You’ll also likely be treated to a warm afternoon sea breeze as you explore the Temple of Apollo.
Check out some of the top things to see in the ancient city of Pompeii in a single day →
3. Rome: the Eternal City of art and antiquity
Rome, Italy’s capital, is teeming with culture and history. Known as the Eternal City, it’s home to the famous Colosseum and the Forum. Summer is the perfect time to visit many of the city’s ancient sites—between stops for gelato, of course—since several of them stay open late into the evening for tours. Some, like the Baths of Caracalla, even serve as the backdrop for open-air operas and dance performances.
In the summertime, Rome hosts the Lungo il Tevere festival on the banks of the Tiber River. Visit during free time to browse the artisan goods on display at the many kiosks, or sample some local treats while enjoying the warm evening air.
If you join us on one of our trips to Rome, you can book our Iconic Sights: Vatican City excursion to tour the world’s smallest country. Visit the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel to see Michelangelo’s famous masterpiece and tour St. Peter’s Basilica, the heart of the Roman Catholic Church. (You’ll find out that these icons earned top spots in our Beginner’s Travel Guide to Rome for good reason!)
Travel tip: Even if you’re visiting Rome and Vatican City in the hot summer months, there are still places where dress codes are strictly enforced (such as St. Peter’s Basilica). Make sure to pack long pants or skirts that fall below your knees and tops that cover your shoulders.
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The best places to visit in Greece this summer
4. Nafplio: the most romantic town in Greece
According to mythology, the city of Nafplio is said to have gotten its name from Nauplius, the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. The romantic and relaxing town was the first capital of modern Greece and is full of charming streets, lively tavernas, and secret passageways.
In the summer, Napflio’s ancient battlefields and cobblestone streets are overrun with flowers. Use a free afternoon on our Greece tours (when it’s not as hot) to climb the 999 steps to Palamidi Castle, a Venetian fortress on a hill, for panoramic views of the city below. Gaze out over the city and see if you can spot Bourtzi Castle, another fortress situated on an islet in the harbor.
After you’ve taken in the enchanting views of Nafplio, settle in for a meal and some people-watching at one of the many cafes in the Old Town’s central Syntagma Square, or spend some time relaxing at one of the city’s many pristine beaches.
Read on to see 19 of the most beautiful beaches in Greece to visit during your free time →
5. Epidaurus & Mycenae: the cities of myth and legend
Epidaurus & Mycenae are among the best places to visit in Greece if you want to take in the country’s history—especially if you’re an archaeology buff or a fan of legendary heroes.
The city of Epidaurus developed around the sanctuary of the healing god, Asclepius, son of Apollo. People from all over would flock to this ancient place of healing to be treated with methods that became the basis for many modern medical practices.
Next to the sanctuary, you’ll find the Ancient Theater of Epidaurus, a masterpiece of Greek architecture and acoustics. During the summer, the theater is still used to host performances of Greek dramas.
“Epidaurus and Mycenae… left me speechless,” said traveler Amanda after her time on our Italy & Greece tour. “Seeing something that is so grand and massive that was built so long ago was unbelievable. The amphitheater is still in use today and has never once needed a microphone.”
Visit nearby Mycenae, the ruins of a once-great fortified city and the setting for Homer’s epic works The Iliad and The Odyssey. According to Greek mythology, the city was founded by Perseus, the monster-slaying hero, before being passed down to the legendary king, Agamemnon. Enter the town through the Lion Gate and visit the Tomb of Agamemnon, a beehive tomb thought to be constructed during the Bronze Age sometime between 1400 and 1200 BC.
6. Athens: the vibrant city where ancient meets modern
The list of things to do in Greece’s capital city has no end. On a trip to Athens, you’ll find ancient architecture, spectacular museums, delectable food, and vibrant nightlife. Visit the iconic Parthenon and Arch of Hadrian, and then stop for a frothy frappé (Athens’ popular coffee drink) before exploring the city’s many ancient temples.
Athens is one of the best places in Greece to get out and hit the town like a local. After nightfall, make sure you experience a true summer in the city moment—join the Athenians at one of the city’s many outdoor cinemas, or enjoy a cocktail at a rooftop bar overlooking the Acropolis. “There is a rooftop restaurant at the Athens Gate Hotel, which is open to the public,” says staffer Lauren. “It offers one of the best views of the city and the Acropolis, and the fried feta appetizer topped with caramel and raisins is to die for.” Get more free time tips in our Athens Travel Guide.
Discover the heart of Europe’s oldest city on our tour of Athens & Ancient Greece →
7. Santorini: the picture-perfect island in a volcanic crater
The gleaming island of Santorini was formed by the collapse of a volcanic crater and is one of the must-see places in Greece. Most of the crater, or caldera, is submerged beneath the bay, with the crescent-shaped island forming its outer edge. Explore the soaring cliffs, whitewashed villages, and black sand beaches, or ride to the top of Mount Profitis Ilias and take in panoramic views of the whole island. Get more ideas in our Travel Guide to Santorini.
If you join us on a tour of Santorini between May and October, you’ll have the option to book our Santorini Caldera Cruise & Dinner excursion. You’ll board a catamaran and sail through the caldera to the volcanic island of Nea Kameni. Cruise past the picturesque city of Oia before stopping to snorkel in the ocean or bathe in the natural hot springs formed in the former volcanic crater. “Highly recommend the lunch/dinner cruise in Santorini!” said traveler Mary Frances. “That was the best day out of the whole trip.”
Want to explore these extraordinary places on tour in Italy and Greece? Check out the full itinerary for our Italy & Greece tour!