10 Best Cities to Visit in Italy
Choosing between the Italian cities, and deciding what to visit in Italy can be always hard. There’s so much to see in every region, every city! With this post, we will be exploring the 10 best cities to visit in Italy, to make that choice easier. Or harder, if this list will make you want to visit them all! The Italian cities are full of history, stunning architecture, great food, and life. However, each of them has its own specialty, that you won’t find anywhere else. The reason is mostly related to Italian history and the fact that before the unification of Italy, each Italian city-state had its own culture, architecture, and rulership. This makes Italian destinations diverse, but still similar.
10 best cities to visit in Italy
On this list, you’ll find 10 of the best cities to visit in Italy. These cities are also some of the major cities in Italy, so if you love urban destinations, busy streets, and have a huge variety of things to do on your vacation, you’ll love these places!
Piazza Navona, Rome – photo by Helga Dosa
You’ve never seen Italy if you’ve never visited Rome! It is true, that the Italian capital is itself a huge museum. On every hill, street, or square there’s something incredible awaiting you to discover it. When you visit Rome, you can’t miss the essentials, such as the Colosseum, Pantheon, or the Trevi Fountain.
You must also visit the Vatican City, the St Peter’s Basilica, and the neighborhood of Trastevere! Rome isn’t just about landmarks and museums. Rome is about colors, life, and food! Discover the authentic neighborhood of Trastevere and stop by in a local Trattoria/Osteria for some traditional Italian food.
Also, do not miss the beautiful Piazza Navona, and the neighboring Roman streets. Stop by on Via del Governo Vecchio for an aperitivo, or a great Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe! Rome is definitely one of the best cities in Italy, that you must visit!
The birthplace of the Renaissance. Florence is definitely one of the best cities to visit in Italy! Arriving in Florence is just as easy as arriving in Rome. The city has its own airport, but it’s easy to get there by car, bus, or train as well! Florence is full of art, culture, and museums that you must explore. Do not miss the highlight of the city, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and the surrounding area.
Another of the best things to see in Florence is the Piazza della Signoria. Walk around the square to explore the many sculptures, and if you have time, enter the Palazzo Vecchio as well for some Renaissance touch. Do not miss the Uffizi Gallery, and the Galleria dell’Accademia for some stunning Renaissance art, as well as Michelangelo’s David statue.
If you’re in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio bridge is a must-see, as well as watching the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo. Besides these, make sure you’ll try some dishes with Tartufo (truffles) and the famous Bistecca alla Fiorentina paired with some great wine! Florence is not just one of the best cities to visit in Italy, but it’s also one of the major cities in Italy.
Venice is one of the best cities to visit in Italy, that must be on everyone’s Italy bucket list! The beautiful city with narrow streets that are running alongside the labyrinth of canals is just amazing! Venice is an island city that can be reached by train, bus, or boat. If you are flying into Venice, you can also take a ferry from the airport.
The Vaporetto and the water taxis are the main way for getting around Venice if you don’t want to walk. One of the highlights is always to get a gondola ride, though these are used for the experience, and not for transportation. The center of Venice is Piazza San Marco or St Mark’s Square. This is the one spot in Venice that you cannot miss! Stop by for a coffee or have an aperitivo on the square, listen to music, and take in the beautiful view of the square and the buildings surrounding it.
Another highlight must be also the Doge’s Palace in Venice, and the Grand Canal (Canale Grande) which’s the main canal sliding Venice. As for the many canals in the city, as you can imagine, there are several bridges as well that you must see. A highlight would de the beautiful Rialto Bridge. If you want to find out where to stay in Venice, where to eat and the best day trips, we’ve gathered these in different posts to check!
Milan is the financial capital and the fashion capital of Italy. The Lombardian city is a highlight of the best cities to visit in Italy, especially for its many faces. Once you’re visiting Milan, you must visit the Duomo di Milano, as well as the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II, that’s located nearby.
This is the oldest and most famous shopping mall in Italy, hosting the most famous Italian and non-Italian luxury brands. Milan is also home to one of Europe’s most famous opera houses, the Teatro alla Scala. One of the best things about Milan, as I have mentioned is, that it has many faces. You can travel in time while you explore the city!
First, there comes the modern era, the financial district, and the Isola neighborhood. From that, you can dive into the chic neighborhood of Brera, which’s full of cultural sights, art galleries, and showrooms. Crossing the historic center of Milan, you can have a glimpse of the real Italian Milan by visiting the Navigli neighborhood, and stopping for a drink at one of the many bars along the canals.
Bologna is the capital city of the Emilia Romagna region. It’s located just about an hour away from the east coast, and it’s halfway between Florence and Milan. Also, getting to Bologna is super convenient, as it has an international airport, as well as many train lines that are passing the city. Alternatively, you can reach the city by bus or train as well!
Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university that’s dating back to the 11th century. You can also visit the old anatomy classroom while you’re exploring the city! Another highlight of Bologna, and also the reason why it’s one of the best cities to visit in Italy, is the food! Bologna has some of the most famous Italian dishes, including the popular Bolognese sauce (Bolognese ragu) and different types of handmade egg pasta.
If you’re in the city, you must have at least once a Tagliatelle al Ragu. You won’t taste a bolognese as great as it’s done in its birthplace! Strolling around the city center, and discovering the Piazza Maggiore, the small streets nearby where you can also find street markets with fresh food is a must.
Bologna is famous for its porticoes as well! In fact, the city has 38km of porticoes with beautiful arches and columns. Last, but not least, you must also visit the two leaning towers of Bologna, Garisenda, and Asinelli. You can also climb the Asinelli Tower for a breathtaking view over the city of Bologna!
More of the best cities to visit in Italy
Verona, Italy – photo by Helga Dosa
Verona, one of the best cities to visit in Italy is also one of the most romantic cities up north. The famous story of Romeo and Juliet made Verona known worldwide, and it feels like the vibes of their love are just all around the city center. Verona has some really charming streets, aligned with beautiful houses, plants, and stunning piazzas.
If you’re in Verona, you must visit the Piazza Bra, as well as Piazza delle Erbe. This second is without question the most beautiful square in Verona! Since you’re in Verona, do not miss the Arena di Verona, which’s the 3rd largest amphitheater of the Roman Empire.
Besides these, you must see in Verona is Juliet’s House, the stunning Castelvecchio, and the Castel San Pietro for stunning panorama! From Verona, you can also visit one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy, Lake Garda.
Torino, while it appears to be an underrated city in Italy, it is however one of the best cities to visit in Italy! It’s located in the north of Italy, just an hour away from Milan. A city where you can discover a lot about the royal history of Italy!
Torino was the capital of the House of Savoy during the 16th century, and it was also the capital of Italy for a short period in the 19th century. The city is aligned with elegant streets and breathtaking palazzos reflecting the Baroque age. There are also impressive royal palaces, an Egyptian Museum, the Cinema Museum, and the stunning Mole Antonelliana.
While you’re in Torino, you must also know that the city is really famous for its automotive history, since it’s the home of the two famous brands, the Fiat and the Lancia. You can also visit the Automotive Museum in the city!
Naples is one of the most colorful, and diverse, and also one of the major cities in Italy. The southern city is offering a really exciting experience for its visitors that’s followed by the most famous dish in Naples, like pizza, pastries, and many others! Naples has its own international airport so you can fly directly into the city, but you can also get there by car, train, bus, or even ferry boat!
Some of the highlights of Naples are the Duomo di San Gennaro and the stunning Castel Nuovo right near the sea. Among the many things to explore in the city of Naples, we must highlight the most famous Italian volcano that’s also nearby. You can also plan a day trip to visit the Vesuvius volcano, as well as the ancient cities that were destroyed by its eruption. Pompeii is the most famous city to visit that was covered by the lava of the volcano, but Herculaneum is just as important and stunning as Pompeii!
When it comes to food in Naples, you can’t leave the city without eating pizza! The Neopolitan pizza is something incredible, and something so delicious, that it’s a sin not to try it! Simple and delicious! Make sure you also check our list of best places to stay in Naples!
Genoa was once a really powerful maritime city-state and it’s one of the highlights of the best cities to visit in Italy, more specifically in the North of Italy. Genoa has its own airport, but it’s also close to Milan and Turin (about an hour away from both).
Wandering around the historic center is the first must-do when you visit Genoa. Right after that, you must see Porto Antico, which is the old port of Genoa. Here, you can find the largest aquarium in Europe, the botanical gardens, and Bigo Crane, which’s taking you up to 40m to get a stunning view over the city of Genoa.
Some other things to do in Genoa are visiting Palazzo Reale, the Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Spinola, and let’s not forget the seaside and the fresh seafood and fish dishes either! Make sure you also check the best restaurants and the best hotels in Genoa.
Now let’s head down south again, to the beautiful island of Sicily. Palermo is definitely one of the best cities to visit in Italy with mixed culture and great vibes. The city has its own airport, but you can reach the city by other transportation methods as well.
Palermo is colorful, with street markets, and stalls overflowing with fresh products from fruits to fish. We must highlight, that Palermo is rich in culture as well, as Italy’s biggest opera house is to be found here. The city is also full of unique, characterful churches and beautifully decorated squares and fountains.
Quattro Canti is one of the highlights you must see in Palermo! The four Baroque buildings standing face to face with each other, the statues that represent the four seasons. This city is rich in stunning architecture, real Sicilian vibes, amazing food, sea, and sunshine. It’s a major city in Italy that you shouldn’t miss, especially if you love warm destinations!
Wrapping up the 10 best cities to visit in Italy
As we’ve mentioned before, the 10 major cities in Italy, which are also the best cities to visit in Italy can help you choose what to visit next! If you love the south, definitely add to your list, Palermo or Naples. If you’re looking for places rich in culture and history, Rome and Florence are a must! If you’re looking for an Italian city that’s calmer, and it has amazing food, then Bologna is your place! For stunning and unique experiences, choose Venice! To discover the North of Italy, Verona, Milan, Turin, and Genoa is definitely a must-see! So these are the 10 best cities to visit in Italy!
12 Best Places to Visit in Italy
Located in Southern Europe, this boot-shaped country is one of the world’s most popular travel destinations for a number of reasons that include art treasures, charming towns, passionate people and top-class cuisine. It’s a place where you can see some of the most iconic sites in the world – the leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, to name but a few.
There’s the chance to see renowned Renaissance masterpieces and shop for high-end fashion too. Italy offers a magnificently rich array of sumptuous natural scenery and numerous opportunities to get out into nature. Cinque Terre, Sardinia, and the Dolomites all boast incredible landscapes and fantastic hiking routes.
You could spend your time in this culturally rich land learning about the lives of the Romans, discovering the destruction caused by Mount Vesuvius at Pompeii, or simply lazing alongside one of the many Italian lakes and languishing in the opulence of the Amalfi coast. Italy offers so much to see and do that it would take a lifetime to explore. Plan your trip to this wonderful Mediterranean travel destination with our list of the best places to visit in Italy.
12. Naples [SEE MAP]
One of the busiest metropolitan cities in the country, Naples is the capital of the Campania region in Southern Italy. As it is nearby famous sites like the Bay of Naples and Pompeii, Naples presents an ideal base to stay while exploring the area.
Naples itself features one of the world’s largest historic city centers with one of the highest concentrations of historical monuments, Baroque churches and Roman ruins, offering an endless feast for lovers of history and art. Extending beyond the city center, tourists will find scenic landscapes, picturesque villas and castles in addition to ancient Roman baths and volcanic craters. Top attractions in Naples include the grand Piazza del Plebiscito, the royal palace of the Capodimonte Museum and the National Archaeological Museum, which showcases a marvelous collection of artistic works and artifacts excavated from the ruins of Pompeii.
Many favorite Italian foods originated in Naples and its surrounding area such as pizza, spaghetti and parmigiana. These dishes are taken seriously in Naples and usually feature fresh, locally grown ingredients. Other Naples food specialties include fresh seafood, mozzarella cheese and pastries such as baba, zeppole and sfogliatella.
11. Milan [SEE MAP]
© Spongecake / Dreamstime
Nearly destroyed from heavy bombing during WWII, Milan has since reconstructed and now shines as one of the wealthiest cities in Europe. Widely regarded as a mega fashion center teeming in designer shops, Milan also attracts many to its surviving world famous treasures like Leonardo da Vinci’s painting, The Last Supper, the La Scala Opera House, the Castello Sforzesco and one of the world’s largest Gothic cathedral.
Located in Italy’s northwestern region of Lombardy near the Alps and the scenic Lake District, Milan is a fast-paced city excelling in business, shopping and football. More of a glamorous city with modern architecture and attractions, Milan appears less Italian compared to the country’s predominantly historic cities.
10. Pisa [SEE MAP]
Located along the Arno River in the northwestern region of Tuscany, the city of Pisa still bears the striking remnants of its former golden days as a commercial empire during the Middle Ages. While the Leaning Tower is a must see, visiting this city only to take a photograph of it’s most popular landmark is like looking at one tree and missing the whole forest. Pisa is so much more than just the Leaning Tower.
Surrounding the famous landmark is one of Italy’s most beautiful squares, the Campo dei Miracoli, or Field of Miracles. This remarkable plaza contains magnificent examples of Italian Renaissance that include the Duomo Cathedral, Baptistry and Camposanto Monument, all of which contain marble features, sculptures, frescoes and historic relics. Sprinkled throughout the plaza are various shops selling souvenirs and bakeries offering tasty biscotti.
Beyond the Field of Miracles, the beauty of the Arno River is what often leaves a lasting impression on many tourists. Because Pisa is divided by the river, there are several charming bridges connecting one side to the other such as the Ponte di Mezzo. The riverbanks on each side present a picturesque setting of residential houses, impressive buildings and greenery.
With 60,000 students, the University of Pisa provides the city with an atmosphere of youth and animation. The streets and waterways of Pisa often play host to lively cultural events such as the Luminara Festival, the Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics boat race, and the Game of Bridge, a friendly, medieval contest between the city’s two sections.
9. Italian Lake District [SEE MAP]
The Italian Lake District stretches across Northern Italy. The southern ends of most of the lakes are relatively flat but the northern ends are mountainous as the lakes reach deep into the Alps. Popular with tourists for over 100 years, the Italian Lakes combine good weather with attractive scenery.
Starting in the west is Lake Maggiore, a narrow lake known for its lush vegetation and picturesque islands. The 40-mile-long lake sits on the southern side of the Alps and extends into the Canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland. Its most popular attraction is Isola Bella, a charming island famed for its royal palace and immaculate gardens.
Catering to celebrities, royals, and affluent visitors, Lake Como is famous for its lavish, dramatic setting and extravagant Renaissance villas. At the heart of the lake is Bellagio, a romantic town with cobbled streets and brightly-colored mansions.
Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, offers the perfect mix of history, culture, and outdoor adventure. Stroll through lemon groves in Limone, windsurf in Riva del Garda, or explore ancient castles in Malcesine. On the southern end of the lake sits Sirmione, a popular resort town with Roman ruins, medieval castles, and thermal baths.
Lake Iseo is one of Italy’s lesser-known lakes, although it’s home to the largest lake island in central Europe. Monte Isola is dotted with quaint villages and several stunning 15th-century churches.
8. Sicily [SEE MAP]
The largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily lies just across from the southern tip of Italy, on the narrow Strait of Messina. Due to its location, it has long acted as a crossroads, so is very distinct from the rest of the country in terms of its history, culture, and cuisine.
This is best exemplified by Palermo, Sicily’s capital and largest city, which was remarkably founded more than 2,700 years ago. Since then, it has been ruled by everyone from the Phoenicians and Romans to the Arabs and Normans, with each civilization leaving behind artistic and architectural treasures and culinary influences.
In addition, a wealth of important archaeological sites lie scattered around the island; these now make for some of Sicily’s most popular tourist attractions. The impressive ruins of the Ancient Theatre of Taormina and the age-old edifices in the Valley of the Temples date to the Ancient Greeks; others, such as the mountaintop castles of Erice, were built in medieval times.
Renowned for its rugged beauty, Sicily’s rugged cliffs and secluded beaches are lined by sparkling waters, while fertile farmland and mountains dot its interior. Towering over everything is Mount Etna, one of the world’s most active volcanoes and the highest peak in Italy south of the Alps.
7. Siena [SEE MAP]
Established upon three hills in the heart of Tuscany, Siena offers tourists a step back into the Middle Ages with its well-preserved historic center and medieval horse racing tradition, famously known as Il Palio. Formerly a wealthy city, the historic center of Siena is one of the most popular places to go in Italy as it still retains many of its stunning works of art and architecture from that time period.
Siena’s Piazza del Campo is regarded as one of the finest Medieval squares in Europe. This fan-shaped plaza is noted for its architectural treasures such as the Fountain of Joy, the Palazzio Pubblico and the Mangia Tower. Another of Siena’s architectural gems is its Duomo, a stunning black and white cathedral of Italian Romanesque design with exquisite features like marble floors, stained glass, sculptures, paintings and carvings. The piazza is also a good place to relax, watch people and enjoy the local delights of wine, coffee, pizza, focaccia and gelato.
Hosted twice every summer in the Piazza del Campo, the Palio horse race draws huge annual crowds. This 700-year old tradition involves representatives from 17 different districts racing bareback on the cobblestone plaza. Siena is also home to one of Italy’s oldest public universities, the University of Siena, widely recognized for its Schools of Medicine and Law.
6. Cinque Terre [SEE MAP]
© Muststr / Dreamstime
Five quaint fishing villages awash with colors of blue, yellow and pink all hug cliff sides that slope down to the sea. These villages and the surrounding green hills make up the Cinque Terre National Park, one of Italy’s popular tourist destinations. Located in Italy’s northwestern coastal region of Liguria, the villages of Cinque Terre feature some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes that include wine terraces dating back to hundreds of years.
Meaning “Five Lands,” Cinque Terre comprises the five villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, Monterosso and Corniglia. Riomaggiore boasts a medieval castle and the bustling main street of Via Colombo while Manarola is filled with colorful boats, swimming holes and caves. Surrounded by olive groves, Vernazza offers a lively nightlife scene. The beautiful beach of Monterossa is lined with resorts while sloping vineyards adorn Corniglia. Rich in agriculture and fishing, the Cinque Terre villages are teeming in cafes and trattorias, which serve locally grown wine, olives, cheeses, pasta, seafood and homemade breads.
Among its many gems, Cinque Terre boasts a centuries-old complex of hiking paths that offer some of Italy’s most stunning coastal views. The Blue Trail, also known as Trail No. 2, is a paved trail connecting all five of the villages and is suitable for all ages.
There are very few cars in Cinque Terre as the villages are all small and easy to get around in by foot. However, all the villages are linked by a rail system that runs regularly from Genoa and La Spezia. Serving all five villages.
5. Amalfi Coast [SEE MAP]
Situated in Italy’s southwestern region of Campania, the Amalfi Coast is known for its extraordinary beauty that makes it one of Italy’s top tourist destinations. Stretching 30 miles along the southern side of the Sorrento Peninsula, the Amalfi Coast is prized for its picturesque coastline that features shimmering bays, craggy cliffs, lemon tree gardens, multicolored villas and ritzy resorts.
One of the most romantic and posh towns along the Amalfi Coast, Positano‘s many calling cards include beautiful pebbled beaches, pastel houses, scenic mountains, waterfalls and a 13th century Black Madonna.
One of the larger towns, Amalfi, features lovely plazas lined with restaurants and souvenir shops. Perched on a hill overlooking Amalfi, the town of Ravello is favored for its beautiful villas of gardens and art works as well as its lively art and music festival. Often called the Painted Town because of its many mural-painted houses, Furore also features an enchanting bay.
4. Pompeii [SEE MAP]
Carlo Mirante / Flickr
One of Italy’s most visited tourist destinations, Pompeii is a famous Roman city which was buried under several feet of volcanic ash for nearly 1,700 years after the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Excavation of Pompeii began in 1748, and the site is yet to be totally unearthed. The site is located near the modern city of Naples.
A tour of Pompeii offers a fascinating insight into the everyday life of the ancient Roman world. Visitors can walk along the ancient streets to see the remains of shops, bars, bakeries, brothels, baths and residential homes as well as buildings that served as commercial and religious centers. Some of the most significant structures include the Amphitheatre, the Forum, the Temple of Apollo, the Basilica and the Granary Market, which contains a large number of artifacts and plaster casts of people and dogs that died during the catastrophe. Within the architecture of Pompeii’s ancient buildings, there is a large number of art works and frescoes depicting erotica, mythological characters and hunting scenes.
Near the entrance of the Pompeii site, visitors will find several souvenir shops as well as food vendors selling snacks and beverages. While there are only a few dining options within the site itself, there are several cafes and restaurants located around the nearby train station.
3. Venice [SEE MAP]
One of Italy’s top travel destinations, Venice is a unique city in that is built upon a lagoon surrounded by the Adriatic Sea. Located in northeastern Italy, Venice is an archipelago of 118 islands all connected by hundreds of beautiful bridges and scenic canals. Of the canals, the Grand Canal is most famous and divides the city into two sections. Picturesque waterways and historic architecture make Venice one of the most romantic cities in the world.
Venice is often crowded and expensive but well worth visiting to see its magnificent landmarks like Saint Mark’s Square and Basilica, Doge’s Palace and Rialto Bridge. One of the most popular things to do in Venice is to take a gondola ride along the Grand Canal. However, it is just as equally enjoyable to ride a vaporetti along the quiet back canals.
Every year, Venice hosts one of Italy’s liveliest Carnival festivals where the streets are filled with people dressed in colorful costumes and masks, and the Grand Canal is packed with fleets of decorated boats and gondolas. A popular souvenir to purchase in Venice is one of the beautifully crafted carnival masks.
There are no cars in Venice, so people either walk or ride the water taxis along the canal system. Travelers should note that Venice frequently experiences high water in the spring and fall.
2. Florence [SEE MAP]
The capital of Tuscany, Florence is often described as a colossal outdoor museum because of its mass of art and architectural treasures. Internationally observed as the birthplace of Italian Renaissance, Florence is also credited with propagating many artists, inventors, writers, scientists and explorers as well as inventing opera and the florin currency, which lifted Europe from the Dark Ages. Additionally, Florence is known as the home of the wealthy and powerful Medici dynasty that produced several kings and popes, impacting the entire world in a number of ways culturally, economically and politically.
Florence’s hoard of art masterpieces are found all over the city, contained within the large numbers of museums, stunning churches, like the domed Santa Maria del Fiore, and internationally esteemed art galleries like the Ufizzi and Pitti Palace. The Piazza della Signoria, the main square, is home to beautiful buildings and world famous sculptures like Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa, Ammannati’s Fountain of Neptune and Michelangelo’s Statue of David.
Walking is the best way to see the major sites in the city center. Some of the best places to walk include the Ponte Vecchio, a beautiful bridge spanning the Arno River and featuring a number of jewelry shops. Florence’s markets are another good place to walk. The San Lorenzo markets are among the most popular where tourists can find an array of locally grown foods and handcrafted goods.
1. Rome [SEE MAP]
Formerly the capital of the Roman Empire, Rome today is the government seat and capital city of Italy. Located in the country’s central region of Lazio, Rome is a vast and complex city that is both historic and modern at the same time. Best known for housing ancient Roman structures and the Vatican City, Rome has endured for more than 2,500 years as an important center for culture, power and religion.
Rome is divided into several districts with its center, the Colosseo district, containing the most ancient attractions like the Colosseum, the Forum of Augustus, Capitoline Hill and the Roman Forum. On the outskirts of the center is Old Rome, featuring the Pantheon, stunning cathedrals, plazas and Renaissance architecture. The Vatican is well known for St. Peter’s Basilica, the Apostolic Palace and Sistine Chapel.
There is so much to see and do in Rome, that it could take months to see it all. However, one way for tourists to experience the best of the city is by taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour. This bus tour stops at major places of interest and top museums, and tourists are free to get off and on as they wish.
Map of Italy
© OpenStreetMap © MapTiler © Touropia
30 Top Tourist Attractions in Italy
Italy is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. High art and monuments are to be found everywhere around the country. Its great cities of art, like Rome, Venice and Florence are world famous and have been attracting visitors for centuries. Besides its art treasures Italy also features beautiful coasts, alpine lakes and mountains. No wonder it is often nicknamed the Bel Paese (beautiful country).
With so many amazing sights, putting together a compilation of top tourist attractions in Italy is no easy task. The following list however should give a good indication of why over 40 million foreign tourists visit Italy ever year.
30. Verona Arena [SEE MAP]
Son of Groucho / Flickr
The city of Verona is largely known for its role in the play Romeo and Juliet, but dating back even further is the Verona Arena. This incredible arena is actually a Roman amphitheater constructed 2,000 years ago. Despite its age, the Verona Arena is remarkably well preserved, and at its peak it hosted performances for more than 30,000 people. Today, visitors are still able to attend musical performances at the arena, bringing Italian culture and history to life.
29. Herculaneum [SEE MAP]
At the base of Mount Vesuvius is the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum. Nearly 2,000 years ago, a volcanic eruption destroyed Herculaneum. However, just like its larger rival Pompeii, the eruption and resulting layer of mud preserved and fossilized much of the architecture. Visitors to Herculaneum can see original homes, refurbished to appear as they did 2,000 years ago, as well as fossilized skeletons, ancient advertisements and beautiful mosaics that showcase art from millennia past.
28. Elba [SEE MAP]
The island of Elba has a long history, and it was previously inhabited by Ligures Ilvates, Greeks, Etruscans and Romans. Elba’s most famous resident, however, was Napoleon, who was banished to Elba in 1814. Napoleon’s winter and summer homes still stand, and they are available for the public to tour. Italy’s third largest island boasts more than 150 beaches too, from wide stretches of sand to sheltered coves.
27. Gran Paradiso National Park [SEE MAP]
Fulvio / Flickr
Nestled in the Graian Alps is Gran Paradiso National Park, a gorgeous destination with stunning mountain views and incredible hiking opportunities. The Gran Paradiso National Park was first established as a way to protect the local ibex population, and wildlife today includes those ibex as well as badgers, wolves, lynx, ermine and more than 100 bird species. Seasonal activities include summer hiking, spotting the foliage in autumn, snowshoeing or cross-country skiing in winter and photographing flowers come spring.
26. Palazzo Ducale in Urbino [SEE MAP]
Palazzo Ducale, or the Ducal Palace, is a Renaissance building located in the city of Urbino. Built in the 15th century, the palace is enormous, housing an average of 600 residents at its peak. The Palazzo Ducale is now open to the public, with many of the rooms refinished to look like they did in the 15th century. The palace is also home to the National Gallery of the Marche, which displays an enormous collection of Renaissance paintings.
25. Trevi Fountain in Rome [SEE MAP]
Josep Enric / Flickr
One of the must-see attractions in the city of Rome is the Trevi Fountain. The fountain was constructed in 1762 by Nicola Salvi, and it depicts the god Neptune surrounded by underwater creatures in battle. Trevi Fountain is known as a place to throw in a coin to secure a return trip to Rome, and throwing two coins can secure a loving relationships with a Roman man or woman. At night, the fountain is illuminated, making it a magical and romantic place to visit.
24. Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan [SEE MAP]
xiquinhosilva / Flickr
The Holy Mary of Grace, or Santa Maria delle Grazie, is a convent and church located in Milan. The structure is a striking example of Renaissance architecture, boating details like a decorative nave and a bright, light-filled entrance. Most notably, the Santa maria delle Grazie is home to the famous mural The Last Supper, which was painted by Leonardo da Vinci. Many visitors come to the church specifically to see this iconic painting in person.
23. La Pelosa [SEE MAP]
Tommie Hansen / Flickr
Off the western coast of the mainland, and in the heart of the Tyrrhenian Sea, is the island of Sardinia. While Sardinia boasts a number of stunning beaches, none is so picturesque or well-known as La Pelosa. The beach is so spectacular because of its sandy shores and shallow waters, making it easy to see right down to the ground through crystal-clear sea. La Pelosa is often compared to the Caribbean, bringing some of the tropics to Italy. Surfing, kayaking and even scuba diving are all possible at or near La Pelosa.
22. Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna [SEE MAP]
The city of Ravenna in Northern Italy was once the capital of the Western Roman Empire, and today it is best known for the Basilica of San Vitale. The basilica was constructed in the sixth century, and it is home to an extensive collection of mosaics. These mosaics depict stories from the bible, and they cover every inch of the available surface in certain rooms. Bold designs and a cacophony of color make these Ravenna mosaics a popular spot for religion, architecture and art enthusiasts in Italy.
21. Dolomites [SEE MAP]
Maurice / Flickr
The Dolomites are a mountain range located in Northern Italy, and they are a popular spot for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. Whatever the season, the Dolomites beckon thanks to incredible scenery. At sunset, the peaks can look a pink or purple hue that is almost otherworldly. Visitors can hike in the region or shop at Trento, a charming town in the Dolomites with a spectacular castle.
20. Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi [SEE MAP]
The Basilica di San Francesco, or Basilica of Saint Francis, is one of the most significant religious pilgrimage sites in Italy. Located in Assisi, the basilica was constructed in the 13th century to honor Saint Francis himself. Although Saint Francis was a man of simplicity and poverty, the basilica is anything but. The Romanesque structure was built with two levels as well as a crypt, ornate windows and thousands of pieces of art.
19. Sassi di Matera [SEE MAP]
In the town of Matera, there are a collection of ancient cave dwellings known collectively as the Sassi di Matera. These dwellings are thought of as the very first human settlement in all of Italy, and they may be as many as 9,000 years old. The dwellings are carved right out of the rock, and many of these caves still house homes, businesses and cafes today. It is an incredible experience to tour ancient caves from early humans and then sip local wines from a similar cave just a short walk away.
18. Mount Etna [SEE MAP]
On the island of Sicily, one landmark towers over everything: Mount Etna. The volcano is one of the highest peaks in Italy, and it erupts frequently. Surrounding Mount Etna is a national park called the Parco dell’Etna. Visitors to Mount Etna can walk along the craters and fissures, often getting close enough to see the lava or steam. The volcanic soil is renowned for growing grapes, which means the visitors to Mount Etna will have access to an array of fantastic local wine.
17. Duomo of Orvieto [SEE MAP]
A shining example of Italian Gothic architecture is the Duomo of Orvieto. The 14th century Roman Catholic cathedral was commissioned by Pope Urban IV, but it took nearly three centuries to complete the structure. Today, visitors remark upon the staggering seven stories, the detailed facade and the horizontal stripes of marble used in the construction. Much of the artwork in the Duomo of Orvieto, which depicts apocalyptic stories and tales from Revelation, were done by Luca Signorelli.
16. Pizza Napoletana [SEE MAP]
Austin Keys / Flickr
While you’ll find excellent pizza all over Italy, there’s one place that’s absolutely the best: Naples. This is where pizza was born and where it’s still king. Unlike pizza in places like the United States, Neapolitan pizza is generally very thin-crusted and saucy and is expected to be eaten as a whole pie while sitting down. Although every pizzeria in Naples makes a decent pizza, some places display the label “Vera Pizza Napoletana” which indicates that the pizzeria follows the standards of The Naples Pizza Association.
15. Portofino [SEE MAP]
With its picture-perfect harbor, verdant scenery and haphazard rows of hilltop and waterfront homes, Portofino is one of the prettiest towns on the Italian Riviera. Located just a short drive south of Genoa, the little fishing village has been a popular day-trip destination for centuries. Portofino is home to landmarks like the 16th century fort called Castello Brown and the 11th century church called St. Martin, but the real attraction in Portofino is the relaxed way of life. Visitors come to stroll along the Ligurian coastline, shop for souvenir glass jewelry and dine on Italian cuisine paired with the local Pinot Grigios.
14. St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice [SEE MAP]
© Peter Probst / Dreamstime
St. Mark’s Basilica, known to locals as the Basilica di San Marco, is the crowning jewel of the Piazza San Marco in Venice. The enormous church was completed in the 11th century, and it boasts more than 500 columns, several stunning domes and countless Byzantine mosaics that use gold extensively. Also of note are the bronze Horses of Saint Mark, which date back to antiquity and watch over the basilica’s entrances. Be sure not to miss the treasury or the Museo Marciano, both of which contain a staggering collection of early gifts like jewels, sculpture and tapestries.
13. Capri [SEE MAP]
Dennis / Flickr
The island of Capri is just three miles from Naples, but it is a unique destination with its own culture and atmosphere. After arriving by boat, visitors often flock to the Blue Grotto, a spectacular cave that has been appreciated since Roman times. In addition to beautiful beaches and wonderful hikes, Capri boasts some historic architecture. Not to be missed is the Baroque Church of San Michele Arcangelo and the Villa Jovis, the former residence of the Emperor Tiberius.
12. St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome [SEE MAP]
Ed Yourdon / Flickr
The star attraction of the Vatican in Rome is St. Peter’s Basilica. The magnificent basilica is topped with a dramatic dome, on whose ceiling Michelangelo himself painted. Built in the early 16th century, St. Peter’s Basilica is now a huge church with an interior that could fit a space shuttle together with its booster rockets. While the facade and the proximity to the Pope are reasons to visit St. Peter’s Basilica, it is the art that is so memorable. Expect paintings and sculptures by the likes of Bernini and Michelangelo.
11. Valley of the Temples [SEE MAP]
Valle dei Templi, or the Valley of the Temples, is an archeological site located in Sicily. The destination is home to several Greek temples, all constructed in the Doric style, and most of which date back more than 2,400 years. While it is worth touring the entire site, the most popular of the temples is the Temple of Concordia, which was restored in the 18th century and is now the best preserved of the structures.
10. San Gimignano [SEE MAP]
Nicknamed the medieval Manhatten, San Gimignano is a village in Tuscany famous for its 14 stone towers. At the height of San Gimignano’s wealth and power, more than 70 towers were built to defend the town against enemy attacks. After the plague devastated the city in 1348, San Gimignano’s power faded, which kept enemies away and preserved many of the city’s medieval towers.
9. Manarola [SEE MAP]
© Marco Saracco / Dreamstime
Mestled in the Italian Riviera, Manarola is one of the oldest towns in Cinque Terre. The “Five Lands” comprises of five villages noted for their beauty. Part of Cinque Terre charm is the lack of visible modern development. Paths, trains and boats connect the villages, and cars cannot reach it from the outside. The towns sprout out of the mountainside to provide a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean sea.
8. Leaning Tower of Pisa [SEE MAP]
The world famous Pisa Tower was built over a period of about 177 years. Soon after the construction started in 1173 the tower began to sink due to a poorly laid foundation and was left alone for almost a century. When the construction resumed the engineers built higher floors with one side taller than the other to compensate for the tilt and the tower was finally finished in the 2nd half of the 14th century. Since 2001, the famous tower in Pisa is again open to those wishing to climb it’s 296 steps.
7. Lake Como [SEE MAP]
Lake Como is part of the Italian Lake District an area popular with visitors for well over 100 years for its combination of fresh air, water, mountains and good weather. The lake is shaped much like an inverted ‘Y’, with two branches starting at Como in the south-west and Lecco in the south-east, which join together half way up and the lake continues up to Colico in the north. The lake is famous for the attractive villas which have been built here since Roman times. Many have admirable gardens which benefit from the mild climate and are able to include tropical as well as temperate plants.
6. Positano [SEE MAP]
Abdulsalam Haykal / Flickr
Positano is a small town located on the Amalfi Coast, a stretch of coastline renowned for its rugged terrain, scenic beauty, picturesque towns and diversity. The city seems to be scattered from top to bottom down a hillside leading to the coast. Though Positano grew and prospered in medieval times, by the mid 19th more than half of the population was gone. In the 20th century it went from being a poor fishing village to a very popular tourist attraction with the help of author John Steinbeck who wrote about its beauty.
5. Pompeii [SEE MAP]
Carlo Mirante / Flickr
On August 24, 79 AD, the volcano Vesuvius erupted, covering the nearby town Pompeii with ash and soil, and subsequently preserving the city in its state from that fateful day. Everything from jars and tables to paintings and people were frozen in time. Its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of people living two thousand years ago. Today Pompeii is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year.
4. Piazza del Campo in Siena [SEE MAP]
One of Europe’s greatest medieval squares, the Piazza del Campo is the principal public space of the historic center of Siena, Tuscany. It is renowned worldwide for its beauty and architectural integrity. The Palazzo Pubblico and its famous tower, as well as various palazzi signorili belonging to the wealthiest of Siena families surround the shell-shaped piazza. The twice-per-year horse-race, Palio di Siena, involves circling the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds.
3. Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence [SEE MAP]
Begun in 1296 in the Gothic style and completed in 1436, The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is Florence’s beautiful cathedral and symbol of the city. The exterior of the basilica is faced with polychrome marble panels in various shades of green and pink bordered by white. The basilica is one of Italy’s largest churches, and until the modern era, the dome was the largest in the world. It remains the largest brick dome ever constructed.
2. Grand Canal in Venice [SEE MAP]
Hernan Pinera / Flickr
Referred to as “The City of Water”, Venice is the crown jewel of water cities. Though, Venice has decayed since its heyday and has more tourists than residents, with its romantic charm it remains one of the top tourist attractions in Italy. The central waterway in the city is the Grand Canal, and it snakes its way through the city between the lagoon and the Saint Mark Basin. While strolling through Venice offers plenty of opportunities to see the Grand Canal, the best way to experience it is on the water. Locals get around via the water buses called vaporetti, but many travelers prefer the private water taxis or even the romantic gondola.
1. Colosseum in Rome [SEE MAP]
The Colosseum in Rome is the largest and most famous amphitheater in the Roman world. Its construction was started by emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty in 72 AD and was finished by his son Titus in 80 AD. The Colosseum was capable of holding some 50,000 spectators who could enter the building through no less than 80 entrances. Spectators were protected from the rain and heat of the sun by sails called the “velarium”, that was attached around the top of the attic.