Best Places to Visit in Italy
One of the things that makes travel in Italy so spectacular is its abundance of cities, villages, islands, and scenic landscapes to visit. It is nearly impossible to rank these places in any particular order as they are all incredible for their own reasons. With this in mind, we urge you to read on to learn our top picks for the best places to visit in Italy, what to do in each destination, and why we think they are worth seeing. We hope this travel guide will inspire your future travel and help you determine where to visit on your next trip to Italy!
Rome: The Eternal City
There is no better way to start our grand tour of Italy than in the country's capital, Rome. Also known as the Eternal City, Rome is famous for its ancient ruins, lush parks, priceless churches, and abundant museums. Furthermore, Rome is overflowing with iconic fountains, picturesque cobblestone streets, and world class shopping. Though the city dates back thousands of years, today's Rome is a well-functioning modern metropolis.
The Eternal City makes our list of the best places to visit in Italy simply because of the sheer amount of historic sites and exciting things to do there. Among the most popular tourist attractions are the famous Colosseum, Castel Sant'Angelo, Trevi Fountain, and Spanish Steps; but that's not all. You can also take in the fresh air at Villa Borghese, wander through Rome's charming neighborhoods, and of course, enjoy the traditional Roman cuisine! There are also many hidden gems in Italy's Lazio Region to explore nearby that make for the perfect day trip outside of the city.
Inside the Walls of Vatican City
Located within the borders of Rome, you'll find the smallest country in the world; Vatican City. Complete with its own post office and railroad, this fully self-sufficient country even produces its own currency. However, Vatican City is most famous for being the heart of Catholicism and the residence of the Pope. When visiting Vatican City, you have to visit St. Peter's Basilica and the famous Vatican Museums; both of which are home to some of the world's most beloved artworks.
Within the Vatican Museums you'll find masterpieces such as Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling and Last Judgement fresco. Other famous works within the museums include Raphael's School of Athens, the Laocoon group sculpture, the Apollo Belvedere and so much more. Meanwhile, St. Peter's Basilica features Michelangelo's Pietà sculpture and jaw-dropping architecture designed by none other than the Baroque legend Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
Needless to say, there are many reasons why you have to visit Vatican City at least once in your life. To have a truly one of a kind experience on your trip, consider joining one of our top rated Vatican tours where you will learn all about the history behind Vatican City and its many treasures.
Discovering the Amalfi Coast & Capri
One of the most glamorous vacation destinations found in Italy's Campagna region is the Amalfi Coast. This seaside landscape is famous for its picturesque towns built upon the cliffside. There are many colorful cities in the Amalfi Coast so you'll have plenty of choices of where to stay upon your visit to the gorgeous coastline of Southern Italy. Among the most famous towns in the Amalfi Coast are Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello; all of which feature outstanding views of the sea and pristine waters to swim in.
If you plan to visit this glorious region in Italy, we highly recommend taking a boat ride to the stunning island of Capri which is located just a short distance away from the mainland. Once you arrive in Capri, you can take in the remarkable views of scenic rock formations, snorkel off the island's beaches, and enter the glowing Blue Grotto cave. Looking for more to do in Capri? Ride the chairlift up to Anacapri, enjoy the island's cuisine, sip the locally produced limoncello, and even shop for a pair of handmade sandals!
Florence: Heart of the Renaissance
Florence is most well known for being the main hub of the Renaissance era, but the city also features medieval architecture and more modern elements as well. Thus, walking through the city streets feels like you are taking a marvelous journey through time. Plus, there are a ton of things to see in Florence that will definitely keep you busy during your stay. Perhaps the most iconic symbol of the city is the massive Duomo of Florence, also known as Santa Maria del Fiore. This gigantic cathedral is recognizable for its dome designed by Brunelleschi and its elaborate white and green marble facade.
Today, you can climb to the top of the iconic Florence Duomo and see amazing panoramic views of the city. However, if you don't want to traverse up all those steps, you can visit the other amazing churches of Florence, such as the Basilica of Santa Croce where the legendary Michelangelo is buried! Other top tourist attractions include Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio, the Uffizi Gallery, and the Accademia Gallery where Michelangelo's marble sculpture, David, is on display. Lastly, make your way to Piazzale Michelangelo to see a glorious sunset over the skyline before you enjoy a dinner full of traditional Tuscan food!
Check out our many Florence tours to learn how you can avoid the lengthy museum lines and get an insider's perspective on the city.
Crossing the Many Bridges of Venice
From a swampy marshland, Venice, Italy, was transformed into a fully functioning city complete with stunning canals, abundant bridges, luxurious palaces, and breathtaking basilicas. For these reasons, it is no wonder why this city has become a worldwide attraction for tourists, writers, and filmmakers alike. Whether you wish to ride in a gondola or visit the Biennale, a world renowned Contemporary Art exhibition, Venice has got you covered. Complete nearly 400 bridges connecting the city's tiny islands, it is fair to say that no other place in the world exists quite like this.
Throughout its history, Venice served as one of the world's most important trading ports and even housed the famous Doge's Palace, where the leader of the Venetian Republic ruled for over 1,000 years. Whether you are taking a midnight stroll in Saint Mark's Square, peering out at the gorgeous skyline from the top of the Campanile, or taking a boat ride to the surrounding islands of Burano or Murano, you surely won't be disappointed with the views. Just make sure you don't plan your visit during the rainy season, unless you are prepared to wade through the flooded streets!
Pompeii: A Rare Glimpse Into the Past
Pompeii is an ancient city with a devastatingly fascinating history. Located at the base of Mount Vesuvius, the residents of Pompeii were instantly killed following the great volcanic eruption of 79 AD. However, under surprisingly unique circumstances, the city and people were preserved under a layer of volcanic ash. This rare preservation of an ancient city earned Pompeii the title of a designated UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
Today, you can wander through the remains of what was once the thriving city of Pompeii. After observing the ancient villas complete with well preserved frescoes and mosaics, make your way to see examples of ancient pottery and statues. For those who aren't faint of heart, you can even pay your respects to the hardened casts of many people and animals who were instantly killed in Pompeii on that fateful day long ago.
To visit Pompeii with an expert guide, check out our Pompeii Day Trip from Rome which also features a stop in the Amalfi Coast's stunning town of Positano.
Shop Til' You Drop in Milan
Milan is well known for setting fashion trends across the world, but that's not all that is special about this bustling metropolis in Northern Italy! This modern city is home to over 1.3 million people and features world-renowned shopping, thriving nightlife, and museums galore. Best of all, Milan is a great place to visit anytime throughout the year. It does get quite cold during winter however, so make sure to pack accordingly!
A trip to Milan would not be complete without visiting the incredibly detailed Milan Cathedral. This towering church was built in the Italian Gothic style and took more than 600 years to complete. The Grand Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II also deserves a spot on your Milan itinerary as the architecture is extremely impressive. While the interior of this massive building may look like a museum, it is actually a luxurious shopping mall!
The Rolling Hills & Quaint Towns of Tuscany
Tuscany is easily one of Italy's most beautiful and famous regions. Why you ask? For its breathtaking cities, rolling hills, and of course, its wine! Tuscan soil is known for producing some of the best organic grapes in the world so it is no wonder why its wine is known across the globe. That's why we think that seeing the region's picturesque towns with a wine glass in hand is definitely a must when visiting Italy.
As you traverse the lush countryside you will come across various charming and historical towns that make for the best Tuscan getaways. Siena for example, is a hilltop town known for its age-old tradition of holding annual horse races which take place in its town center. San Gimignano is another Tuscan city worth visiting that is complete with a handful of tall towers constructed during the medieval period. The last, but certainly not least, Tuscan town we will mention here is Pisa. Upon entering the Pisa complex you can pose for a picture with the famous leaning tower of Pisa!
On our Private Siena Day Trip from Florence, you'll be able to explore the countryside with a private driver, enjoy traditional Tuscan cuisine and discover San Gimignano with ease!
Bask in the Beauty of Lake Como
Located in Northern Italy at the base of the Alps is Lake Como; the third largest lake in the country that boasts spectacular views. This luxurious destination is perfect for those who love to eat amazing food, explore nature, and set sail on the open water.
Wondering where to stay on your dreamy lake getaway? Some of the dazzling cities that line the lake are Como, Varena, Tremezzina, and of course the absolutely awe-inspiring water side town of Bellagio. Best of all, no matter where you stay, the next town is a short boat ride away. While there are many things to do in this area of Italy like visiting the historic churches, museums, and castles, let's be real- the main reason you go to lake Como is for unobstructed views of the beautiful lake and mountains!
Sunbathe in Sardinia
Does your ideal vacation consist of lounging on the beach, hiking through exquisite terrain, and diving in crystal clear turquoise waters? If you answered yes, Sardinia may just be the place for you! This island of the western coast of Italy holds some of the most pristine and untouched natural landscapes in all of the country.
Of course, the ideal time to visit this island is during summer or early fall when the water is warm enough to swim in. While there are many places to stay in Sardinia, some of the most popular destinations are Alghero, Cagliari, Olbia, and Sassari. If you are looking for beautiful beaches to visit, you'll definitely want to check out Cala Goloritzè, Porto Istana, and the shores of Principe and La Pelosa. This island is covered with sandy beaches so if none of these fit your desires, you'll be sure to find the perfect fit for you around the next corner!
See the Ancient Caves of Matera
Located in the region of Basilicata in Southern Italy, you'll find Matera; a very unique place known for its all white buildings and ancient cave dwellings. In fact, it is said that this area has been inhabited since the Paleolithic era- that is the 10th millennium BC! For this reason is no wonder why Matera was awarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993 and even made the list of the 2019 European Capitals of Culture. Intrigued yet?
Though this destination is a little further off the beaten path in terms of popular tourism in Italy, there are many things waiting to be discovered in Matera. The "Sassi" are caverns within the ground that once housed ancient settlers in the city. If you plan ahead, you can even spend the night in one of these age-old caves as many have converted into hotels and B&Bs! There are also many gorgeous churches and museums nearby so you'll be sure to get a dose of the history of this incredible location during your visit.
Adventure in the Dolomites
The Dolomites are a picture-perfect mountain range located in northeastern Italy. If you love nature and outdoor sports, this is definitely the place for you. Complete with an abundance of national parks, mountainside villages, picturesque cabins, and crystal clear lakes, you'll be sure to find your inner tranquility within the lush landscape of the Dolomites.
So what is there to do here? You will find plenty of cycling trails, scenic hikes, and ski slopes within the Dolomites that will surely give you your fix of nature. Furthermore, there are many places to mountain climb, fish, and participate in other outdoor activities. If you prefer a more relaxed style of travel, you can sit back and enjoy the views from the stunning towns of Bolzano, Brixen, Bruneck, Cortina d'Ampezzo, and Klausen.
The Flavorful Island of Sicily
Last but not least on our grand tour of Italy is the large island off its southern coast; Sicily. This island is famous for its unbeatable beaches, historic city centers, and friendly locals- not to mention amazing food and wine! While you can visit Sicily at any time of the year, we recommend you go while the weather is warm so you can enjoy its many beaches.
On the island of Sicily you'll find many beautiful cities with gorgeous architecture that line the coast such as Palermo and Catania. The city of Syracuse, also located along the shore, is nearly 3,000 years old and is home to several important archaeological sites and ruins from ancient Greece. Another notable place to visit on the island are the incredible white cliffs known as La Scala dei Turchi. Made up of a hard-mud material, these cliffs are a natural phenomenon that you have to see to believe!
While it is possible to go on for ages about all of the amazing things to do in Sicily, we will leave it up to you to decide which of these beautiful places in Italy you would like to research more!