Perhaps best known for its delicious foods and romantic cities, Italy is one of the most-loved destinations in Europe. Yet, many tourists who visit this wonderful country tend to focus their travels on popular attractions such as Venetian gondolas or the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which are must-dos but can be overcrowded and get a little boring after a while. Instead, for your next trip to Italy, why not explore one of these more unusual Italian activities:
Built within the garden of Prince Pier Francesco’s Italian home in 1552, the Park of Monsters was, unlike other Renaissance gardens of the time, created to shock those that visited. Filled with monstrous sculptures including a war elephant, giants fighting and an enormous fish head, the garden was a reflection of the Prince’s grief after the death of his beloved wife.
Find Galileo’s Middle Finger (Florence)
It’s not often you can see the severed fingers of famous ancient astronomers, yet that’s exactly what you’ll find in the Galileo Museum in Florence. Originally removed from his corpse in the 18th century, by admirers who were moving his body, the thieves also took a tooth and vertebra from his body. As well as his thumb and middle finger, visitors to the museum will also see some of Galileo’s only surviving instruments, including the telescopes he used to discover Jupiter’s moons.
Visit the Island of the Mad (Venice)
Reminiscent of Shutter Island, the Island of San Servalo is located just off the shores of Venice and served as the city’s mental asylum for over 250 years. Opening its doors in 1725, the asylum was run by the religious order San Giovanni di Dio and during its time, over 200,000 patients would enter the asylum, yet very few left. The museum itself is dedicated to the history of the asylum and features exhibitions of the original equipment that would be used on patients.
Corkscrew Museum (Barolo)
Italy is perhaps most famous for its wonderful wines, so it makes sense that a museum of corkscrews exists. Yet, you might not be entirely prepared for this Barolo museum that is home to over 600 of the most spectacular corkscrews from around the world, including designer editions created by the likes of Gucci, Cartier and Tiffany.
Hike One of the Largest Active Volcanoes (Taormina)
At over 3,300m high, Mount Etna is not only the highest volcano in Europe, but it is also one of the world’s most active. Located near the resort town of Taormina, thousands of people visit Mount Etna every year to hike up this breath-taking natural wonder. For the truly brave, and to rest after a tough day of hiking, stay in a traditional Italian home located at the base of the volcano. Just keep your fingers crossed that there are no eruptions!
The Mummified Corpse Museum (Ferentillo)
What you probably don’t expect from the tiny town of Ferentillo, south of Umbria, is a surprising Museum of Mummies. Located below the Church of Santa Stefano, the crypt holds some of the world’s most well-preserved mummies. This is due to a rare microfungus that turned the corpses held here into mummies.
The Gelato Museum (Anzola dell’Emilia)
Just like its famous wines, Italy is known for its mastery at creating delicious gelato. So, for any lover of the cool dessert, it’s an absolute must that you visit the famous Gelato Museum, just outside Bologna. The museum itself showcases the history of gelato, including the progression of machines used to make it as well as popular marketing paraphernalia. For the full experience, be sure to sign up for a Gelato Lab where you can try and make your own icy creation without the help of machines.
Look Through a Famous Keyhole (Rome)
We’ve all probably imagined looking though the keyhole of a famous celebrity to catch a glimpse of their homes, but have you ever imagined you could look through a keyhole and see a stunning view of Rome? Well hidden behind the keyhole of a very ordinary door on Aventine Hill in Rome is a perfect view of the famous St. Peter’s dome. The door itself was the entrance to the legendary Priory of the Knights of Malta. You may have to queue to see this wonderful sight, but the view is more than worth the wait.
See Where Leonardo da Vinci Tried to Fly (Fiesole)
He may be more famous for his paintings, but Leonardo da Vinci was also a keen inventor, and in 1505 created his very own flying machine, which he – infamously – got a volunteer to test in the town of Fiesole. The machine failed and the volunteer was lucky to escape with just a few broken bones. You can visit the site of the failed flight today, as part of a scenic hike up Monteciceri Hill, there is a plaque that commemorates the failed flight, however, it is known to be very hard to find.
Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory (Rome)
It may sound like an ominous place to visit, but the Museum of the Holy Souls in Purgatory actually makes for an incredibly interesting outing. The museum itself is a tiny 100-year old building near the Chiesa del Sacro Cuore del Suffragio and contains a vast collection of items such as clothing, prayer books and bibles that have allegedly been burned by the hands of souls held in purgatory. Some of these burn marks even resemble handprints.