There are few places on earth where you can experience the world’s greatest works of architecture and follow in the footsteps of Paul’s missionary journeys. In fact, we can only think of one—the Mediterranean, home to Italy and all of its wonders. For the Christian traveler wanting a taste of Italy, we put together a list of our favorite experiences.
The Mediterranean was one of the first regions where humans settled, meaning its civilization dates back to several thousand years before Christ! That makes Rome an open-air museum. Ancient buildings constructed during the writing of the New Testament still stand. Visiting the Colosseum and Roman catacombs, where early believers were martyred and then buried, is a meaningful and moving experience.
Consider the steadfast faith of early believers, like Peter, as you explore Mamertine Prison, where many were held captive and where Paul wrote the letters that would become a part of the New Testament. The Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls is said to have been erected over Paul’s burial site. The church even displays a set of chains traditionally believed to have imprisoned him—how incredible is that!
Vatican Cathedrals and Museums
Rome’s Christian history includes some of the world’s most priceless religious art, and no visit to Italy is complete without checking out some of these masterpieces. Take a quick pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Basilica, a work of art on its own and the largest Christian church in the world, or see Michelangelo’s biblical frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, which attracts six million people a year. Nearby, visitors can enjoy world-famous Renaissance art and sculptures inside the Vatican Museums.
Head down any historic cobblestone street in Rome and you’ll find traditional cafes serving fresh Italian cuisine. Grab an espresso or sample a local favorite, like rigatoni carbonara or the rich, lesser-known bucatini amatriciana. Italians enjoy more than 500 varieties of pasta, and whether you’re dining at a high-end restaurant or take-out from a small cafe, these dishes are sure to delight your taste buds.
Umbria Region and Orvieto
Most tourists flock to Rome, Tuscany, or Italy’s sparkling coasts—and rightly so. The central area of Umbria has its own charms. Among our favorite stops in this region is the Italian hill town of Orvieto, just 90 minutes from Rome. Its astonishing Duomo di Orvieto cathedral dates back to the 14th century and presents a stunning combination of stained glass, mosaics and other art. If you want to see something incredible, explore St. Patrick’s Well. Its double-helix spiraling staircase descends 175 feet down to the water and is an engineering marvel from the 16th century.
Florence and Tuscany Region
Widely considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Florence is considered the “Cradle of the Renaissance” and the capital of the Tuscany region. Its own Duomo cathedral is one of the world’s largest and renowned for its terracotta roof tiling, which dates back to the 15th century. The city is home to works like Michelangelo’s David and other famed art at the Uffizi Gallery, including Da Vinci’s Annunciation.
The Canals of Venice
One of the world’s most remarkable destinations, Venice, stirs the wanderlust of travelers worldwide who are eager to glide through its canals in a gondola, walk its iconic bridges and squares or visit its museums. The city’s lack of cars makes Venice extremely walkable and we love exploring its breathtaking architecture—including St. Mark’s Basilica, the enormous Frari Church, and the gothic masterpiece Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace).
Murano and Burano
Here’s a pro-tip, while the entire world flocks to Venice, savvy travelers know the quiet islands of Burano and Murano, located in Venice’s lagoon, are one of the best ways to experience the city’s culture while escaping its crowds. These fishing islands are connected to the larger city by water taxis or ferries. Murano is known for the world-famous Venetian glass, which you can still witness being produced by expert craftspeople. Burano’s artistry is softer, famed for its lace. On both islands, the pastel-colored buildings lining the famous canals are sure to remain vivid in your memory for years to come.
These are a few of our favorite places. Maybe you’ve heard of these places, maybe you haven’t, but one thing is for sure—as soon as you’re ready to go, we are ready to take you! If you’ve traveled there before, what experiences would you recommend for those wanting a taste of Italy?