Where to Go in Italy
Where to Go in Italy
Our Guide on Where to Visit in Italy
There is so much to see and do that it’s hard to know where to begin. Where there are plenty of famous hotspots like Venice, Rome, and Florence, nearly every small village has something interesting that makes it worth a visit, even just to wander narrow streets, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells for an authentic look at daily life. This is a country steeped in culture, history, endless servings of pasta and tasty wine to go with it.
Of course, if you’re like most, you’re limited in time which means you’ll need to prioritize according to your tastes and interests as not everyone enjoys a lifestyle or job that allows for a month-long trip. Exploring the hill towns could easily take up a week or more and if you’re passionate about Renaissance art you’ll want to plan more time in Florence. For the most stunning mountain scenery, be sure to include the Dolomites. Beach lovers have 4,723 miles of coastline with some of the most stunning stretches of sand on the planet, with the Amalfi Coast one of the most awe-inspiring of all. If history is your priority, you’ll be spoiled for choice, with some the top spots Rome, Pompeii, and Venice. The so-called ‘cave city,’ Matera is an unforgettable destination as one of the world’s oldest inhabited settlements. It’s known for its many cave dwellings which now serve as restaurants and hotels. With much of the countryside covered in vineyards, Italy provides many great choices for wine enthusiasts too. The village of Montalcino makes an ideal base for exploring the vineyards of Tuscany at the heart of one of the top wine-producing regions in the country.
With the list of possibilities so long, these destinations provide a good head start for creating an Italian itinerary that covers a little of everything.
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Best places to go in Italy
To whet your appetite we’ve offered some additional colour on Italy’s most commonly visited destinations below. There’s so much more besides though – our specialists will be delighted to discuss their personal favourites and off-the-beaten-path highlights with you.
One of the most beautiful cities in Italy and one of the most important centers of Renaissance art and architecture, Florence is considered a must-visit for any Italy itinerary. Its cobblestone streets are home to incredible museums like the Accademia Gallery which showcases many of Michelangelo’s works like the marble statue of David that stands over 13 feet tall. The Uffizi Gallery, which dates back to 1541, is one of the most famous and oldest art museums in the world, showcasing one-of-a-kind works from Michelangelo as well as Raphael, Botticelli, and da Vinci, primarily spanning from the 12th– to 17th-centuries. The magnificent churches of Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella are veritable art galleries, while the Brancacci Chapel in the Church of Santa Maria del Carmine is often referred to as the ‘Sistine Chapel of the early Renaissance. Its painting cycle is among the periods most influential and well-known, created between 1425 and 1427.
Venice is an island city, the greatest seaport in Europe’s late medieval period, once the center of a maritime republic. It’s unique historically, architecturally, and environmentally and it’s still a major Italian port today as well as being one of the oldest cultural and tourist centers in the world. Few people aren’t at least somewhat familiar with the so-called “Floating City” as its long been on the bucket lists of countless travelers and oozes romance, making it a popular place for honeymooners who can be serenaded on its famous gondolas. Built on the water in the middle of a lagoon, just wandering along the canals is a magical experience. It’s easy to lose yourself in its charms while exploring iconic landmarks like Saint Mark’s Basilica in Piazza San Marco, which also hosts Doge’s Palace and the famous clock tower, Torre dell’Orologio, a fine example of Venetian architecture.
Rome is one of the most charismatic places you’ll ever visit, birthed in the 8th-century BC , growing from a small town on the Tiber River into an empire that encompassed the majority of continental Europe, Britain, northern Africa, the Mediterranean islands and much of western Africa. As you stand in front of the Roman Empire’s largest amphitheater, the Roman Colosseum, you can almost hear the deafening roar of the crowd that included as many as 50,000 spectators, and see the gladiators battle it out. This is a city that’s filled with iconic attractions with just a few of the others including the Roman Forum, the Vatican (technically in Vatican City, a city-state), Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, and the Pantheon. As the capital of modern Italy, you’ll find a wide range of shopping, nightlife, and dining experiences too, from world-class eateries to opportunities to learn to cook authentic Italian with local chefs.
The famous Roman city that was buried under several feet of volcanic ash in 79 AD following the cataclysmic Mount Vesuvius eruption, Pompeii is one of the world’s most intriguing destinations. Located near Naples, the city was frozen in time, providing fascinating insight into how people lived nearly 2,000 years ago. Ash-encased mummies were created of the fleeing citizens who were left frozen in position mid-escape. Visitors can stroll the ancient streets where the indentation of chariot wheels can still be seen, along with bath houses, bakeries, an amphitheater, and even brothels with walls that still hold depictions of various sexual positions from which their customers could make their preferred choice. The best way to explore is to take an expert-led guided tour, but audio tours are available if you prefer to learn about the sites at your own pace. Don’t miss the National Archaeological Museum of Pompeii which displays artifacts excavated here.
Dive into Italy’s past on our Historic Rome & The Amalfi Coast example itinerary.
Also referred to as Apulia, Puglia is located in southeastern Italy, extending from the Fortore River to Cape Santa Maria de Leuca at the tip of the Salentine Peninsula, the “heel” of the boot. It’s one of the less-visited regions of Italy, missed by most tourists, yet it offers everything from the stunning coastal town of Polignano a Mare with its spellbinding sea caves to Alberobello with its famous cone-shaped Trulli architecture and the walled hilltop town of Ostuni. Discover brilliant turquoise seas, golden sands, olive groves, and delicious cuisine. The region offers all the Mediterranean favorites like fresh seafood, artichokes, and olive oil, all locally sourced. Here you can take winery tours and cooking classes to learn how to make fresh pasta and find out how olive oil is made. It’s the kind of place that offers a more authentic experience that’s best not rushed, slowing down and interacting with the locals.
See a different side to Italy on our Undiscovered Puglia example itinerary.
The Italian center of industry, finance, and commerce, as well as an international capital of architecture, fashion, and industrial design, Milan is a fast-paced city where looking good has been called an art form. But it not only offers lots of modern delights, it has a fascinating ancient history having been ruled by the Caesars, Napoléon, the Austro-Hungarians and Mussolini. It’s also home to one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous works, ‘The Last Supper,’ which was uncovered in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The Duomo is a standout too – the city’s magnificent gothic-style cathedral is the third largest church in Europe, taking over six centuries to complete. It contains 135 spires and 3,500 statues, dominating Milan’s great Piazza del Duomo which marks the center of the city because of its importance from a social, cultural and artistic point of view as well as from a geographic sense.
Amalfi Coast is the breathtaking coastline you’ve probably seen in countless images with its charming towns set atop cliffs towering above the azure Mediterranean. It’s known as one of the world’s most awe-inspiring destinations, a sensual blend of both cultural and natural wonders. Terrace vineyards and orchards are scattered about often bringing dazzling views of the brilliant water below. With the communities here looking as if they’re part of the rock, it adds to the striking natural beauty. The fishing villages have long been popular tourist destinations with many boutiques, restaurants and hotels, along with opportunities to take boat tours to visit the island of Capri and see the famous blue grotto. Towns like Ravello and Amalfi offer many excellent examples of art and architecture, while Sorrento’s Old Town is the perfect spot to haggle for a bottle of limoncello with the product made from Sorrento lemons.
There’s plenty of reasons to visit Sicily too with architecture across the island revealing evidence as its long history, with Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Spanish, Normans, and others all calling it home at some point. The indigenous Sicanians gave it its name, occupying the region as far back as 8,000 BC. Its capital city of Palermo is known for offering some of Italy’s best street food with the three main markets the famous Vucciria, Il Capo, and Ballaro. One can also explore impressive works of art by both high-profile current artists and Italian masters. Be sure to visit both the Museo di Arte Contemporanea and the Galleria di Arte Moderna, housed within the church and convent of Sant’Anna. It displays a collection that spans from the early 19th-century to the mid-1900s. Nearby is the idyllic seaside village of Mondello – only a 15-minute drive from Palermo’s historic center, it boasts pristine white sandy beaches.
The most famous of the Italian Lakes, Lake Como has stolen the show in many films like James Bond’s ‘Casino Royale’ and actor George Clooney owns a villa along is shores. The main town is Como, overlooking the southwest end on the Swiss-Italian border, while Bellagio lies in the heart of the lake, known for its upscale boutiques, five-star hotels and grand, historic lakeside villas. The small town of Tremezzo sits just across the water from Bellagio along the western shores as one of the lake’s most scenic places. It’s home to Villa Carlotta, a museum with a collection of works by renowned sculptors and painters, as well as featuring a 17-acre botanical garden. The famous Villa Balbianello, featured in ‘Casino Royale,’ sits on the tip of the Laveno headland nearby.
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