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How to Stay Fit and Healthy While Traveling in Italy

To celebrate my 50th birthday, my husband, our 15-year-old son, and our 13-year-old daughter packed our bags and headed to Italy for over two weeks. Our trip took us to Bologna, Venice, Verona, Florence, Sorrento (with day trips to the Amalfi Coast and Pompeii), Ischia, and a short time in Rome.

Despite enjoying our nightly ritual of gelato, we managed to stay fit and healthy. Here are some helpful tips for you to do the same.

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  • Eat like the Italians: real food, not processed, natural ingredients, simple clean ingredients.
  • Walk everywhere
  • Stay hydrated

Skip Breakfast or Eat a Light Italian Breakfast

You’ll be hard-pressed to find an egg sandwich or bagel at any Italian restaurant. I asked a few locals what they usually eat for breakfast, and they all seemed to agree: a cappuccino and a slice of toast.

A small coffee at a local café became our morning ritual. My kids grabbed a pastry. Generally, we ate a late breakfast, a snack later in the day, and a larger dinner. This quick and light start kept us energized for our busy days without feeling weighed down. It’s an easy way to begin the day, embracing the dolce vita.

Our hotels that included breakfast offered yogurts and fruit, freshly squeezed orange juice, toast, croissants, pastries, and jam.

Walk Everywhere

One of the best decisions we made was to walk everywhere. We never took public transportation, and our kids didn’t complain once, even while rolling their suitcases over uneven cobblestones and up and down stairs and bridges.

Walking through the streets of Italian cities allowed us to fully immerse ourselves in the beauty and charm of our surroundings. Since we stayed mainly in Airbnbs, we could pop into local bars, shops, or cafes and feel like real residents rather than tourists.

We also avoided the risk of known pickpockets in crowded trains, especially in Rome, saved money on transportation, and enjoyed the opportunity to discover local spots.

Comfortable shoes were essential. I wore my Dr. Scholl’s Madison shoes with everything, including dresses, and my Crocs Brooklyn sandals provided both comfort and style for the entire trip.

collage of images light green background showing earrings, a dress, sunglasses and shoes for Italy Travel Fashion.
Found in Photo:

Brooklyn Crocs Sandals / Foldable Sun Hat with UPF / Bracelet Hair Band / Sundress / Leaf Earrings / Sunglasses / Boho Dress / Dr Scholl’s Madison Sneakers

Take the Stairs

I stick to this in my non-vacationing life: choose stairs over elevators when possible. We stayed in several Airbnb flats on the 5th floor and always took the stairs. Besides, the elevators are tiny and not for the claustrophobic.

Italy is known for its beautiful but often challenging landscapes, including the countless stairs we encountered. They were inevitable.

I consider myself in fairly good shape and found myself out of breath frequently. This was especially true in Venice, Florence, Sorrento, and Prochida.

apple watch on wrist showing steps walked in venice and verona italy.

Stay Hydrated

Are you hungry or thirsty? For me, it’s often the latter.

Always carry a bottle of water with to stay hydrated throughout the day.

We went to Italy in June, and it can get much hotter later in the summer. Rome is known for its public fountains, where you can get fresh cold water directly out of the tap.

We carried refillable water bottles with us. I especially love this flat one that takes up little space in a purse and this collapsible silicone bottle.

Coffee Breaks

Similarly, when I felt like I needed a pick-me-up, a quick shot of espresso often did the trick. Italy’s coffee culture is an experience in itself, and these breaks gave us the chance to rest, people-watch, and recharge without overindulging in calories. It was a good way to stay in line with the Italian lifestyle.

close up of cappuccino with foam heart and michelle platt standing on street in bologna.

Cook at Home

We chose to stay mainly in Airbnbs throughout our trip, which allowed us to cook some of our own meals using fresh, local ingredients. Italian markets are brimming with fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole foods.

Pack Healthy Snacks

We carried healthy snacks like nuts, fruits, and protein bars. These snacks kept us fueled between meals and prevented us from reaching for junk food or other unhealthy options.

Portion Control

Italians understand portion control, and it’s the key to enjoying pasta and other meals without overindulging. We often shared dishes too, savoring each bite slowly.

Like most Americans, upon returning to the States you realize how much we often get over-served at restaurants and we overeat.

close up tortellini pasta with asparagus and almonds.

Avoid Touristy Restaurants

Stick to the restaurants locals go to and avoid those focused on tourists. Our final stop was in Rome, and on our last night, we went to a restaurant catering to tourists. Not only were the portions larger, but we also found items like french fries and heavily dressed salads on the menu.

Italians eat real unprocessed food, choosing ingredients available by the season. We often shared a Caprese salad and a side of grilled vegetables (usually eggplant and peppers).

There’s a reason why nutritionists favor the Mediterranean diet, with foods cooked in extra virgin olive oil and incorporating whole grains.

Leisurely Meals

You’re unlikely to find any Italians eating on the go. I got strange looks when asking for a cappuccino in a takeaway cup.

Italians take the time to sit and enjoy a leisurely meal, which is healthier because they allow us to savor our food, listen to our body’s hunger cues, and enjoy a more mindful eating experience

Eating slowly and without rushing improves digestion, as it gives our stomach enough time to signal to our brain that we are full, helping to prevent overeating. This mindful approach reduces stress, which can negatively impact our digestive system and overall health. 

Additionally, leisurely meals often promote better food choices, as we are more likely to enjoy and appreciate fresh, wholesome ingredients rather than opting for quick, processed options. 

Italians also value family and human connections, which sharing a relaxed meal with someone fosters. 

Glass of Limoncello overlooking Sorrento.

Sun Protection

The Italian sun can be intense, especially during summer. We made sure to apply sunscreen regularly and wore hats and sunglasses.

I wear this makeup every day as my regular foundation. Not only is it the perfect shade for my skin, giving me great coverage, it also has SPF 50+. I have a history of skin cancer, so protecting my family from getting sunburned and reducing the risk of long-term skin damage is essential.

Managing Stress with the TripIt App

Traveling can be stressful, but the TripIt app helped us manage our itinerary efficiently. It organized all our travel plans in one place, reducing the stress of keeping track of reservations and schedules. This was especially helpful for special events and navigating train stations. A stress-free trip contributed significantly to our overall mental health.

Resting and Not Overdoing It

While it was tempting to see and do everything, we listened to our bodies and rested when needed. Scheduling downtime in our itinerary to relax and recharge was essential. It’s OK not to do everything. My family not only appreciated our breaks in the Airbnbs but needed them.


Every mattress was different, and not all were comfortable. Some rooms had inefficient air conditioning or didn’t filter out the outside sounds well. I did a Peloton sleep meditation every night and when I woke too early. This really helped me to improve my sleep.

Additional Useful Tips

  • Travel Insurance: It’s always a good idea to have travel insurance for unexpected medical attention or emergencies.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Carry hand sanitizer to stay healthy, especially when visiting busy tourist spots and souvenir shops.
  • Mosquito Bites: Protect yourself from mosquito bites by using repellent, especially in rural areas.
  • Stay Balanced: Enjoying Italian meals doesn’t mean you can’t maintain healthy living. Choose extra virgin olive oil over butter and opt for dishes with lots of fresh vegetables.
  • Local Markets and Grocery Stores: Shopping at local markets and grocery stores provided fresh and healthy food options, allowing us to enjoy high food quality and local culture.

Final Thoughts

After graduating from college, I backpacked across Europe with some of my best friends. So, I had been to Rome, Florence, and Venice, but it was a long time ago.

By incorporating healthy habits—walking everywhere, cooking our meals, staying hydrated, wearing comfortable shoes, managing stress, eating smaller portion sizes, protecting ourselves from the sun, ensuring we rested, doing nightly sleep meditations, packing healthy snacks, and exploring local parks—we stayed fit and healthy while enjoying all that Italy has to offer.

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If you enjoyed these tips, subscribe to our newsletter for more travel and wellness advice. Have your own tips for staying fit and healthy while traveling? Share them in the comments below! Buon viaggio!

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