With historic cities and ruins, gorgeous wine-growing and agricultural areas, stylish and modern cities, splendid beaches, soaring mountains, and more, Italy ticks all the boxes when it comes to a diverse and interesting vacation filled with fun and discovery. Whether you love art, cuisine, nature, shopping, sightseeing, or a range of other activities, Italy has something for all. One of the birthplaces of Western culture, Italy boasts the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. It’s easy to see how Italy gets its nickname of the Bel Paese (the beautiful country)!
With so much diversity and relatively long distances between the top and bottom of the country, choosing where to add to your Italy itinerary can be difficult. There’s just too much to try and take in! Plus, while many travel guides cover the well-known attractions in Italy, it’s also nice to know about lesser-visited places and hidden gems.
Our team of dedicated travel writers has searched high and low to produce the ultimate guide to the best places to visit in Italy. We’ve included a variety of both famous and offbeat destinations, and included places that will appeal to differing tastes and holidaying preferences.
We’re sure that some of these best places to visit in Italy will simply amaze you!
Best places to stay in Italy
Of course, there are plenty of great accommodations all across the country, with budget-friendly hostels, luxury hotels, charming guest houses, cabins, and campsites among the many options. We’ve chosen three of our all-time favourite places to stay in Italy — they’re well worth checking into if you find yourself in those areas!
Best Hostel in Italy: Hostel Santa Monica
Hostel Santa Monica is in beautiful Florence. One of the oldest hostels in the city, it is filled with character and ambience—it is housed in an old convent from the 15th century! It has cosy mixed dorms that sleep between six and 16 guests. There are also dorms just for females and private rooms for two. All rooms have lockers and big windows that help create a bright and cheery atmosphere. You can cut costs by cooking your own meals in the shared kitchen, chat over a meal in the spacious dining hall, unwind in the lounge, peek inside the auditorium, and catch some rays on the sunny terrace. The onsite minimart may come in handy if you’ve forgotten anything, and you can grab snacks and drinks from the vending machines. Other convenient features include free Wi-Fi, public-use computers, laundry facilities, luggage storage, a tour desk, and bike rentals. It’s definitely one of the best hostels in all of Italy.
Best Budget Hotel in Italy: LOVELYHOME
LOVELYHOME is among the best places to stay in Italy’s fashion capital of Milan for anyone looking to save money. The budget-friendly accommodation is warm and welcoming with comfortable guest rooms. All rooms share bathrooms. Twin and double options are available. No need to worry about dragging heavy bags up and down the stairs—the property has a lift. Free Wi-Fi is accessible around the property. One of the best things about this place, other than the cleanliness, comfort, and affordable rates, is the location—it’s just a short walk from the metro station, from where you can get to almost anywhere around Milan.
Best Luxury Hotel in Italy: My Suite Rome
Located in Vaticano Prati, one of the coolest neighbourhoods Rome, My Suite Rome is in a top location for exploring the Eternal City. There are lovely double rooms, all with a private bathroom and balcony, and all rooms come with a fridge, free Wi-Fi, a desk, and a TV. There’s a shared TV lounge where you can relax, and you can conveniently book a range of tours and activities (like cooking lessons, culture classes, and fishing) onsite. Laundry services and child-minding services are available for an extra fee, and you can arrange airport pickups too (surcharges apply). If you’re thinking about where to stay in Italy’s Rome the friendly and comfortable My Suita Rome is a top choice.
These are the BEST Places to Visit in Italy!
And, after those handy tips, here are our recommendations for the best places to visit in Italy:
#1 – Rome
Possibly one of the most important places to visit in Italy
- Long and fascinating history
- Wondrous ruins and churches
- Excellent dining and nightlife
- Photo opportunities aplenty
Why it’s awesome: The capital city of Rome is one of the most famous places in Italy. Nicknamed the Eternal City, it was once home to one of the greatest civilisations on Earth. The historical heart is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are many splendid legacies from times gone by. The city draws huge numbers of visitors every year, with its long sense of history, fascinating culture, gorgeous architecture, fabulous museums and art, and various activities. Visitors will find myriad places to eat and drink, and there’s also a wealth of shops and a burgeoning night scene with something to suit most night owls. Rome is most definitely one of the most exciting hotspots in Italy!
What to do there: Travel back in time to the days of the mighty Roman Empire and tour some of the most historic attractions in Italy. Marvel at the Colosseum, hear whispers from the past at the Roman Forum, snap a picture of the Arch of Constantine, see the ruins of Flavian Palace, descend underground into the splendid Golden House of Nero, view the Baths of Diocletian, and head off the beaten path to explore the ruins along the Appian Way. The Pantheon is a Rome must see. Go up Palatine Hill for stunning views and legends of old. Feast your eyes on an abundance of spectacular artworks at museums and galleries such as Galleria Borghese, Galleria d’Arte Antica, Museo Nazionale di Villa Giulia, and Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna. Learn more about history at the National Museum, have a romantic moment on the Spanish Steps, stroll alongside the River Tiber, visit the offbeat Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana, and soak up the amazing views from the top of the Vittoriano. Throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain for good luck; local legends also say that it will guarantee a return trip to Rome. There are many stunning churches to add to your itinerary too, including San Giovanni, St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Clemente, and Santa Costanza. If you’re visiting Italy’s capital city with kids, great places to visit include the Planetarium, the Children’s Museum, and the Time Elevator. Of course, many of the ruins and ancient sites are also fascinating for younger minds too. Indulge in a spot of people watching and enjoy glorious architecture at Rome’s many pleasant squares; some top piazzas include piazza Navona, piazza di Monte Citorio, piazza di Spagna, piazza Colonna, piazza della Rotonda, and piazza della Minerva. Satisfy your appetite in one of the many excellent eateries in Trastevere, treat yourself to some high-class shopping along via Condotti and nearby streets, catch a football game at the Olympic Stadium, and watch an engaging show. There’s definitely plenty to keep you busy in Rome!
#2 – Venice
Great place to visit in Italy for couples!
- Water-based city
- Romantic vibe
- Ride on a gondola
- Visit traditional islands
Why it’s awesome: Visiting Venice is often thought of as being an Italy must do for people seeking romance. Many of Venice’s key sights are spread across more than 100 islands in the Venetian Lagoon, though the city also has interesting areas on the mainland too. Many of the islands are connected by bridges, though there is plentiful water transport for exploring too. A huge part of Venice’s charm is that there are many waterways, combined with the fact that the city looks almost exactly as it did several centuries ago. Once ruled by the Byzantines, Venice was, at one time, one of the most affluent cities in Europe. Later ruled by France and Austria, the city became part of Italy in 1866. Venice hosts a gigantic carnival each year, which is renowned for its opulent and extravagant masks. With art, architecture, historic sites, museums, and canals, there are many ways to enjoy a stay in Venice.
What to do there: Explore Venice from the water with a ride in a water bus or water taxi, and treat yourself to at least one trip in an iconic gondola. Allow plenty of time to explore Venice’s beautiful churches. The spectacular Basilica di San Marco is an Italy must see when in Venice. See the famous golden horse statue, admire the rich collection of artwork and antiques, appreciate the gorgeous architectural details, and go to the top of the Campanile di San Marco for incredible views. Marvel at the sublime interiors of the Santa Maria dei Miracoli, visit one of Venice’s oldest churches (San Giacomo di Rialto), enjoy the statues, sculptures, and art in the large Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, and be dazzled by the statuesque San Giovanni e Paolo. Pay a visit to the famous Doge’s Palace, a Gothic masterpiece that dates back to the 1300s and today boasts many stunning antiques, treasures, and works of art. You can also see the cell where Casanova was held! Stroll through the atmospheric Venetian Ghetto, where you’ll find five synagogues and can see local Jewish life. Cross the famous Rialto Bridge, watch gondolas being made at the Squero, admire the excellent collections in Galleria dell’Accademia di Venezia, see the large clothing collection at Mocenigo Palace, observe traditional glass-making techniques at the Glass Museum on Murano Island, enjoy modern art at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, and escape the crowds at the serene San Michele Cemetery. Wander hand in hand with your love through the quaint streets of Torcello, step inside the old Gothic palace of Scala Contarini del Bovolo to be wowed by the splendid spiral staircase, learn about a traditional craft at Burano’s Lace Museum, and pick up gifts and souvenirs at the Rialto Market and Piazza San Marco.
#3 – Pompeii
One of Italy’s coolest historical sites!
- Well-preserved historic remains
- Abandoned after a volcanic eruption
- See how people lived in the past
- Choice of tours
Why it’s awesome: The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pompeii is one of the most fascinating historical points of interest in Italy. The area was inhabited since the Bronze Ages, coming under Roman control in around 200 BC. At the start of the new millennium, the mighty Mount Vesuvius erupted in a spectacular fashion, burying the town of Pompeii and causing devastation. Many people perished with many more fleeing the town, leaving it deserted and engulfed in ash and other volcanic residue. Now excavated, the well-preserved site offers fascinating glimpses into life in times gone by.
What to do there: Walk around the historic site, learning more about the tragic past events that led to the town’s abandonment and see how people lived some 2,000 years ago. Audio tours are available, or you can explore with a tour guide for even greater insights and a more interactive experience. See the blend of Italian and Greek styles at the large House of the Faun, admire the frescoes in the House of the Vetti, stand in the Forum, which was once at the heart of public life, and appreciate the hunting frescoes in the House of the Ancient Hunt. The paintings in the Villa dei Misteri are unusual and though provoking, with many people believing that they depict initiations into an ancient cult. Absorb the sense of spirituality in the remains of the Temple of Apollo, see where ancient people used to practice sports at the Gymnasium, visit the former entertainment ground of the amphitheatre, once used for gladiatorial battles and animal fights, sit in the once-bustling theatre, and marvel at the ancient basilica. The Lupanar is one of the most unusual sites within Pompeii—it served as a brothel in times past! Wander the ancient streets, passing old homes, stores, public baths, granneries, bars, and other amenities and facilities, and see artefacts that date back thousands of years.
#4 – Bologna
A must-see for foodies!
- Foodie capital of Italy
- Historic university
- Luxury car industry
- Diverse museums
Why it’s awesome: A popular city with Italians but not so visited by international tourists, Bologna is often considered to be the foodie heart of Italy. Furthermore, the city has a long history and is home to the oldest university in the Western world; the educational institute was established in the 1000s. Many of the historic buildings are painted with warm and attractive hues of red, orange, brown, and yellow, and the city boasts one of Italy’s most stunning cityscapes. A large number of influential people came from (or spent significant periods of time in) the city, including scientists, artists, composers, and musicians. With myriad museums, gorgeous buildings, Instagram-worthy landmarks, numerous excellent restaurants, and a lively nightlife, there’s plenty to enjoy on a trip to Bologna.
What to do there: Eat your way around Italy’s culinary capital and sample the delectable specialities that hail from this part of the country. Savour delicious stuffed pastas like tortellini and tortelloni, sink your teeth into meaty Bolognese, try tigelle, enjoy authentic aged Parmigiano Reggiano, dine on tasty lasagne, and drool over garlicky mortadella. Why not take a cooking class too and learn how to recreate your favourite dishes back at home? Once you’ve had your gastronomic fill, tour local museums like the Jewish Museum, Archaeological Museum, Ducati Museum, Anthropology Museum, and Museo Civico Medievale. Admire art in places like MAMBo, the National Picture Gallery, and the Museum of Giorgio Morandi. See the gorgeous architecture that surrounds the bustling Piazza Maggiore, throw a coin into the stunning Fountain of Neptune, snap pictures of the Gothic gem of the Palazzo della Mercanzia, pass under The Arcades, and pay your respects to deceased notable locals at the Glossatori Tombs. Looking to relax outdoors? Bologna has a number of excellent parks, gardens, and green spaces, including the art-filled Giardino del Guasto, the verdant Margherita Gardens, the lush Botanical Gardens, the picturesque Parco Montagnola, and the nature-filled Parco Cavaioni. Head to the top of the iconic Torre dei Garisenda or Torre degli Asinelli to admire the excellent vistas of Bologna, feel at peace in the magnificent St. Luke’s Basilica, see the valuable artefacts housed in the Basilica of San Petronio, and leap back in time at Palazzo Comunale. Motoring fans, particularly those with a love for luxury vehicles, shouldn’t miss the Lamborghini Museum.
#5 – Vatican City
One of the most religious places to see in Italy
- Home of the Catholic Church
- Splendid architecture and art
- See the Pope
- Independent state
Why it’s awesome: Although generally considered to be a part of Rome, the Vatican City is actually an independent enclave. It’s the smallest sovereign state on the planet. While not technically even part of Italy, for all practical purposes The Vatican City is treated as being Italian. Covering some 110 acres (4 hectares), it is the heart of the Catholic Church. Popes have lived at the Apostolic Palace almost continually since 1377. There are many historic, cultural, and religious sites within The Vatican City, along with museums and art galleries aplenty. Indeed, you’ll find some of the world’s most famous artworks and buildings in papal state.
What to do there: Stand in the magical St. Peter’s Square and gaze in awe at the beauty all around. Constructed around an ancient Egyptian monument, the gigantic square dates back to the mid-1600s. Some 400,000 people can stand in the piazza at any given time, and the Pope holds his audiences here most Wednesdays. There’s no charge for the ticketed event either, so if you happen to be around mid-week it’s well worth seeing the Pope speak to the crowds. Marvel at the glorious façade of the majestic St. Peter’s Basilica before stepping inside to enjoy even more splendour. Go to the top of the famous dome for incredible vistas and descend into the grottoes to see splendid tombs. You can also see St. Peter’s Tomb in the Vatican Necropolis as part of a guided tour. Smile for a selfie with a member of the Swiss Guard, the traditional military minders of the religious city. Visit the Vatican Museums and be amazed by the huge collections of priceless art. With more than 1,400 rooms, allot plenty of time to discover the many jewels in the museums. Don’t miss the Sistine Chapel, the Raphael Rooms, and the Hall of Maps. Take a break and relax in the pretty Vatican Gardens, visit the Castel Sant’Angelo, and send a postcard home with a Vatican City stamp. The Art Museum here is world-class.
#6 – Lake Garda
A beautiful and scenic place to check out in Italy
- Natural splendour
- Many charming towns and villages to visit
- Outdoor activities
- Excellent lakeside beaches and markets
Why it’s awesome: Nestled between soaring mountains and rolling hills, the picturesque Lake Garda is the biggest lake in Italy. Among the top Italy vacation ideas for couples seeking lashings of romance, it’s also a fabulous destination for families and all fans of the great outdoors. The scenic lake is located in the northern part of the country and surrounded by many quaint towns and villages. The lush surroundings are also prime wine- and olive-producing lands, as well as other fresh produce. Fresh fish, caught from the lake, can also be found in abundance. There are weekly markets in lakeside sounds where visitors can fill up on plenty of delicious delights. Because of the lake’s large size, it offers completely different experiences in different areas. There are many cool things to do and see around the lake, from pretty lakeside beaches, ruins from the Roman era, grand homes of old, and boating, to adventurous fun, hiking, and immersing yourself in local life.
What to do there: Check out the town after which the lake was named—Garda. On the eastern side of the huge water body, Garda has a gorgeous medieval core. Visit the atmospheric mountainside church of Madonna della Corona and relax at the pretty beach at Punta San Vigilio. Spend time in the nearby town of Malcesine, and Italy must do for anyone who loves natural splendour. Often considered as one of the most stunning towns around Lake Garda, Malcesine is a popular wedding and honeymoon destination. Ride the cable car to the summit of Monte Altissimo for awesome views, take a boat ride on the lake, and visit the incredible and well-preserved historic monument of Castello Scaligero. Other top places on the eastern side of Lake Garda include the wine town of Bardolino, Lazise, with its thermal features, and the historic town of Peschiera del Garda. Take kids for a day out to Gardaland, a fun amusement park with rides and attractions for people of all ages. At the northern end of Lake Garda, get active in Torbole sul Garda, with hiking, cycling, and sailing. Riva del Garda offers plenty of outdoor adventures too, with hiking, mountain biking, boating, lake diving, rock climbing, parasailing, and windsurfing among the many activities available. To the west, scenic Gargnano offers plenty of ways to relax while enjoying amazing views. Don’t miss visiting Villa Feltrinelli, which was once Mussolini’s lakeside retreat. Stroll along the stretching promenade in Salò. In the southern part of the lake, soak up the enticing Mediterranean vibe in Sirmione and visit the handsome Scaliger Castle, a gorgeous building that looks as though it could have been lifted right from the pages of a fairytale. Other best places in Italy’s Lake Garda include Desenzano, with its excellent archaeological museum, Limone, and Vittoriale degli Italiani.
#7 – Milan
A great place in Italy if you love to shop!
- Fashion capital of Italy
- Long history
- Lots of fabulous art
- Luxury shopping
Why it’s awesome: Despite being one of Italy’s most modern cities, Milan is also one of Europe’s most historic cities. It manages to retain an air of history and yields many treasures from times gone by; visitors just need to scratch beneath the modern and cosmopolitan surface. Milan is also a global fashion centre, famous for luxury designers, exciting fashion events, and amazing high-class shopping. The city is lively and energetic and visitors will find plenty to do away from the shops too, including seeing incredible art, admiring glorious buildings, and dining on delicious cuisine. A place to really enjoy life, the city also has great opportunities to watch exhilarating football matches, marvel at moving operatic performances, mingle with trendy souls in cool bars, and dance the night away in vibrant nightclubs.
What to do there: Satisfy your creative side with a visit to Milan’s outstanding art museums and galleries, most of which contain striking Renaissance and Baroque treasures. View a wealth of 20th-century works at the Museo del Novecento,appreciate modern art at Galleria d’Arte Moderna, see iconic pieces and works by masters at the renowned Pinacoteca di Brera, and get even more art fixes at Bagatti Valsecchi Museum and Poldi Pezzoli Museum. Travel back in time and see many ancient antiquities at the Civico Museo Archeologico and Sforzesco Castle, get hands on and be amazed at the fascinating Leonardo da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology, and admire the rich architecture and art of the splendid Royal Palace. Step inside one of the world’s most famous opera houses—the elegant, magnificent, and refined La Scala Theatre. Marvel at the Duomo and visit some of Italy’s oldest churches. Milan has many wondrous places of worship, but highlights to visit include the Basilica of Saint Ambrose, Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie, Sant’Alessandro Basilica, Saint Lawrence Basilica, and the Basilica of San Nazaro. Many of Milan’s glorious churches are free to enter, though you should remember to dress modestly and act respectfully. Enjoy a moment of tranquillity and reflection in the peaceful and attractive Cimitero Monumentale, be wowed by the mirror gallery in Palazzo Clerici, feast your eyes on the Palazzo Serbelloni, relax in the green and pretty Sempione Park, and visit numerous fine old mansions, palaces, and homes. Give your credit cards a good workout at the fancy Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a luxurious shopping centre housed in a fine palace. Purchase haute couture along Via Dante and Via Montenapoleone and gaze longingly at fabulous window displays in stores (some of which are flagships) like Gucci, Prada, and Armani.
Quick Note – Staying Safe in Italy
Most visitors who travel to Italy have no problems and return home having had a great trip. You should still exercise healthy levels of caution, however, particularly in the larger cities and major tourist areas. Safety advice naturally varies depending on where you are in the country.
In general, violent crimes are rare. Travellers should, however, be cautious of pickpocketing and bag snatching in busy places. It’s quite common for petty thieves to use distraction techniques, so don’t let your guard down!
Scams are fairly typical in larger cities, particularly the capital. Be careful of people claiming to give you small gifts—there is usually a substantial charge for the items. Don’t change money for people—often, the larger notes are good fakes. Check ATMs for signs of tampering. If police ask to see your documents, request to see their ID first—some conmen try to use such scare tactics to extort money from tourists.
Always let someone know your plans if you go hiking or skiing alone, and pay attention to any hazard warnings (involving avalanche risks, earthquakes, fires, etc.). Don’t swim out of your depth when visiting the seaside, and take steps to avoid sunburn and heatstroke.
Topics to avoid talking about in Italy include football (rivalry can be strong), politics, negative historical events, and the Mafia.
Drugs are illegal in Italy and penalties can be harsh. Most areas are generally fairly safe to walk around at night, but solo female travellers should exercise caution. It is often better to get a licensed cab back to your accommodation, especially if you’ve had a few drinks.
No destination is perfect – check out our Italy safety guide here and learn about this destination’s unique problems.
Do you need Travel Insurance for your trip? I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, professional and relatively affordable. They may also let you buy or extend a policy once you’ve started your trip and are already abroad which is super handy.
If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads. To find out why I use World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
#8 – Lecce
A nice non-touristy place to visit in Italy
- Off the beaten track
- Beautiful buildings
- Relaxed pace of life
- Delicious local cuisine
Why it’s awesome: A lesser-visited jewel in Italy’s region of Apulia, the charming city of Lecce is well worth stepping away from the typical tourist trail for. Filled with stunning Baroque architectural masterpieces, the city is often nicknamed the Florence of the South by Italians in the know. Narrow streets wind through the quaint old town, and the ambience is olde worlde. It’s easy to explore the heart of the city by foot and photo opportunities await visitors around every turn. There are local culinary specialities to delight in, and the charming atmosphere is likely to make people linger for longer than they initially planned.
What to do there: Take a stroll through the charming old streets of Lecce, pausing to peek inside antique shops and artisan food shops. Pick up some locally made wine and olive oil, and buy papier-mache goods good in the city. You can stop for a rest in one of the lovely cafes, perhaps sampling the local pick-me-up of caffè Leccese and a sweet pasticciotto. Take a picture of the statue of a saint in Piazza S. Oronzo, visit the stunning Baroque cathedral, marvel at the dazzling interiors of the Paisiello Theatre, and take a trip back in time at the Roman Amphitheatre, half of which still lies buried beneath the streets. Gaze up at Porta Napoli, one of the most prominent local landmarks, and walk the remains of the city walls. Looking for a break from typical sightseeing? Team up with your family or friends to try to conquer the challenges of Red Door Escape Rooms.
#9 – Capri
One of the most romantic places to visit in Italy!
- Popular Italian island
- Brilliant beaches and water activities
- Stunning sunrises
- Favourite relaxation spot for Roman rulers
Why it’s awesome: Capri is a small island in the scenic Bay of Naples. It has long been a popular getaway destination and was even popular with Roman emperors. Steeped in legends and myths, it is just a short ferry ride away from the mainland. The island vibe is romantic and there are plenty of pretty beaches where couples can soak up the sun and relax together. There are other cool attractions too, ideal for lovely days out with that special someone. The island is also a great place to witness a spectacular sunrise, watching the sun come up over the mountains and a new day spring to life. There are several lively festivals on the island throughout the year too, including a cool film festival each December. Visitors will find a wide selection of places to eat, drink, sleep, and shop on the island.
What to do there: Sit back and relax with a sightseeing boat trip around the surrounding waters, seeing spots like the natural stone arch, sandy bays, mountains, and interesting rock formations. The Blue Grotto is a splendid Italy must see. For an even closer look at some of the island’s natural jewels, explore by foot and spend days hiking in the great outdoors. There are many marked footpaths that let you explore the island with ease, and relatively few people make use of the trails, meaning that you can enjoy a peaceful atmosphere as well as great view and natural beauty. Unwind on sandy beaches, rent your own boat, and, if you’re feeling fancy, you can also charter a luxury yacht for a decadent day! Ride the Seggiovia chairlift to the top of Monte Solaro for awesome views. Stroll through the captivating town of Anacapri, calling into local highlights like the baroque Church of San Michele Arcangelo and the lovely Villa San Michele. Don’t miss exploring the gorgeous gardens of the villa. Another great place to visit in Italy’s island of Capri is the Villa Jovis, an elegant and impressive home once used by Emperor Tiberius.
#10 – Pisa
One of the most amazing places in Italy!
- Home of the iconic Leaning Tower
- Wealth of gorgeous architecture
- Youthful ambience
- Fabulous city views
Why it’s awesome: Pisa is known for being home to one of the most famous landmarks in Italy: The Leaning Tower of Pisa. There is, however, much more to discover in the city along with the tower. Glorious architecture, including monuments, churches, and ruins, abounds in the city centre, and there are interesting museums too. Numerous enticing restaurants and shops add to the leisure options. The atmosphere is quite youthful, largely because of the large university, and there are many parties and cool events during the evenings.
What to do there: Snap plenty of pictures of one of the most iconic hotspots in Italy: The Leaning Tower. Known as the Torre Pendente, it was originally built to serve as the bell tower for the cathedral. It began to take on its tilt shortly after its construction in the 1100s. As well as looking at the tower from the outside, it is possible to go to the top for great views and unique experience. The city has a couple of other, less-famous, slanted towers to see too; head away from the tourist trail and go and see the towers of San Michele of Scalzi and San Nicola Church. Take plenty of time to enjoy the sights around the stunning Piazza dei Miracoli. Step inside the grand Pisa Cathedral to see splendid artworks and gorgeous architectural details, climb to the dome of the stunning Baptistry, admire the handsome monuments in the large Monumental Cemetery, and see varied pieces in the underrated Sinopie Museum and Museo del Opera del Duomo. Stand in the charming Piazza dei Cavalieri and feast your eyes on the lovely surrounding buildings, take a stroll along the banks of the River Arno, soak up the large collection of Renaissance artwork from Tuscany in Museo di San Matteo, explore La Cittadella, and enjoy nature in the University Botanical Garden. Looking for even greater bliss and relaxation? Check out Casciana Terme, a spa with mineral-rich healing waters.
#11 – Florence
One of the nicer places in Italy to sightsee!
- Home of the Italian Renaissance
- Cultural heart of Italy
- Many splendid buildings and artworks
- Numerous varied museums
Why it’s awesome: Known in Italian as Firenze, Florence is Italy’s cultural heart. The birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, the Tuscan gem is one of the best Italy vacation ideas for any lover of art, architecture, history, and culture. Once one of Europe’s most important cities, Florence was responsible for a number of key developments. People from the city were instrumental in the Age of Discovery, with funding given to famous explorers, many scientific discoveries, and more. Many eminent artists came from Florence and the city was responsible for the birth of opera. The renowned Medici Family hailed from Florence. The family was perhaps one of the most important families to have ever existed, introducing major ideas and changes to the city, the country, and to Europe. They are also known for having been avid art collectors. Today, the fabulous Italian city offers a wealth of exciting experiences for visitors. There are more than 80 museums to discover, numerous religious buildings (including one of the biggest churches in Europe), a huge collection of art, bustling shopping streets, and much more to charm visitors.
What to do there: Touring Florence’s museums should definitely be a priority when you explore Italy’s cultural heart. The Galleria degli Uffizi is one of the top art museums across the globe, with a vast collection of striking Renaissance fine art by artists like Botticelli, Titian, Giotto, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, and Parmigianino, to name just a few. Even more fantastic artworks are housed in places like the Pitti Palace (former home of the powerful Medici Family), the Accademia Gallery, the Palazzo Vecchio, Bargello, and Palazzo Strozzi. Add something different to your museum discoveries with a trip to the Gucci Museum and enter the world of high fashion and timeless style. Curious minds of all ages are sure to love the Institute and Museum of the History of Science. Gaze upon the enormous dome of the cathedral and see the statue of Brunelleschi situated in front of the religious building. Go inside the cathedral and admire the views from the top, go into the archaeological section underneath, and explore the different beautiful areas within the large cathedral. Next door, you can climb Giotto’s Tower for more splendid views of the city. Walk across the historic Ponte Vecchio, see the many statues around Piazza Signoria, watch the sun go down from the top of Fiesole Hill, and shop for local souvenirs at Mercato del Porcellino. Some key churches to add to your travel plans include Santa Croce Church, which houses attractive tombs of many famous people from history, the art-filled Santa Maria Novella Church, Santa Maria del Carmine Church, and San Lorenzo Church. Learn how to cook local cuisine at one of the cooking schools, walk through the pretty Boboli Gardens, watch street entertainers in front of Vecchio Palace in the evenings, and explore the under-visited streets of the Oltrarno neighbourhood where you can see artisans at work and peek inside quaint stores.
#12 – Pantelleria
An unknown (but awesome!) place to see in Italy!
- Little-known Italian island
- Volcanic features
- Rugged natural beauty
- Wine-growing areas
What to do there: Pantelleria is a small island in the Strait of Sicily. Closer to North Africa’s Tunisia than to the Italian mainland, the little-visited island belies the fact that visitors are actually still in Europe. Rugged terrain and dramatic landscapes help to add to the unspoiled feeling, and there are plenty of ways for people to immerse themselves in wild nature at its finest. The volcanic island covers some 83 square kilometres (32 square miles), and it’s possible to see volcanic action still in progress at the hot springs and steamy fissures. While raw natural beauty is one of the main reasons to visit Italy’s island of Pantelleria, visitors can also explore interesting archaeological sites and see noteworthy buildings.
What to do there: Visit the island’s large nature reserve and peer into the sparkling waters of Specchio di Venere, a lake in a volcanic crater. You can swim in the refreshing lake waters and slather volcanic mud all over your body for a natural spa experience. The saltwater lake of Laghetto delle Ondine is another top place to swim. Kayak around the rocky shores and see natural stone arches and other interesting features, go diving to discover more about the underwater world, and spend days fishing in the sunshine. Follow diverse hiking paths around the rugged island, admiring the views and natural details, or hop in the saddle for a few hours (or longer!) of excellent mountain biking. Tour the verdant and lush wine-growing areas on the island and visit local wineries to learn about techniques and to sample local drinks. Visit Cunelie to see the remains of many old tombs, walk around the remains of the Barbacane castle, and see the unusual dome-topped single-level huts that are scattered all around the island.
#13 – Naples
Cool place to see in Italy with friends!
- Home of pizza
- Long history with numerous historic buildings
- Historic theatre
- See a different side of Italy
Why it’s awesome: The birthplace of pizza, the huge city of Naples is one of the oldest continually occupied places across the world. Founded by the Greeks in the 7th century BC, the historic heart is a UNESCO-listed site with more than 400 churches and historical sites. There are also many excellent open-air markets throughout the city where visitors can observe local life and pick up a range of goods. Quieter in terms of tourism than other major Italian cities, it’s a terrific place to add somewhere different to your Italian itinerary. The city is, however, known for its strong Mafia links—it’s better to stick in a group and explore with a local guide. There is definitely an edgy and gritty vibe to the city.
What to do there: Discover Naples’s many handsome landmarks, including the historic monastery of Certosa di San Martino, the magnificent Baroque New Jesuit Church, St. Angelo on the Nile Church (with its exquisite altar created by Donatello), the Royal Palace, Santa Chiara Monastery, and Teatro San Carlo. Descend into the medieval Catacombe di San Gennaro, learn more about Roman times at the expansive Museo Archeologico Nazionale, feast your eyes on Naples Cathedral, and marvel at the ancient aqueduct of Napoli Sotterranea. Visit Porto Santa Lucia, home to Castel dell’Ovo and the Museum of Prehistory. Stroll along the seafront promenade, view modern art at Palazzo delle Arti di Napoli, see fine art collections at Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, and soak up the scenic vistas from the artificial cave of the Grotta di Seiano. Unwind in scenic parks such as Parco Virgiliano, Villa Floridiana, and Villa Comunale. Go diving at the Archaeological Park of Baiae and see ancient ruins that now lie submerged beneath the water. Watch a game at the Stadio San Paolo. Shop till you drop at the lively Poggioreale Market and La Torretta Market. And, of course, dine on lots of tasty pizza in the city that created the globally popular dish!
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#14 – San Marino
A must visit place to visit in Italy on the weekend!
- Small independent nation surrounded by Italy
- Affluent country
- Mountainous terrain
- UNESCO World Heritage Site
Why it’s awesome: One of the smallest countries in Europe, tiny San Marino is surrounded by Italian territory. Comprising a few small towns nestled in the mountainsides, the small nation is a great place to visit when travelling around the north-eastern coastal area of Italy. Covering just 61 square kilometres (24 square miles), the country shares many similarities with its neighbour, including language and currency. Well developed with a high standard of living, it’s one of the richest countries on the planet. It offers varied attractions and activities.
What to do there: Get a souvenir stamp when you cross the border into San Marino and enjoy ticking another European country off your bucket list. Ride the short funicular to the top of Mount Titano and the historic heart of San Marino and enjoy the pleasant views on your ascent. Learn more about the micro-nation’s past at the State Museum of San Marino, watch the changing of the guard outside Piazza della Libertà (summer times only), and wander through the pedestrianized UNESCO-listed core. There are three iconic towers that you can climb for amazing panoramic views: Rocca Guaita, Montale, and Castello Cesta. Go fishing at San Marino Lake and sample local specialities such as piadina stuffed flatbreads and the sweet and hearty bustrengo. You can also pick up some affordable local souvenirs thanks to low taxes.
#15 – Bolzano
Quite the quirky place in Italy!
- Mixed cultural influences
- Bilingual city
- Unusual attractions
- Outdoor adventures
Why it’s awesome: Located in South Tyrol and at the point where the three rivers of the Talfer, Eisack, Adige meet, Bolzano is largely surrounded by mountains. Visitors needn’t try too hard to brush up on their Italian to visit here—German is widely spoken here too. One of the two official capitals of the Alps, the Italian city has a noticeable Austrian flavour. The cuisine is different to that in other parts of the country and the city hosts many terrific cultural events. There are many things to see and do, including one of the most unusual things to do in Italy—seeing the oldest natural human mummified remains in all of Europe!
What to do there: Ogle the mummified corpse of Ötzi the Iceman, found in the nearby mountains in 1991 and now on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. The museum also contains numerous other fascinating finds. The City Gallery and Museion are top attractions for art aficionados. Visit the grand Runkelstein Castle and the vineyard-surrounded Maretsch Castle, see Victory Monument, admire the Mercantile Palace, absorb the tranquillity of the stunning cathedral, and see striking frescoes inside the Gothic Dominican’s Church. Take a leisurely stroll along the Heinrichspromenade, soak up the Austrian vibe at Walther Square, and get out and about to explore tiny mountain villages in the close surroundings. In the winter, the mountains offer great skiing and snowboarding opportunities, and you can enjoy ice skating all year round at one of the skating rinks.
#16 – Sardinia
One of the most underrated places to see in Italy
- Autonomous island
- Beautiful beaches and rugged nature
- Prehistoric remains and mysterious ancient civilisation
- Rich folk traditions
Why it’s awesome: The large island of Sardinia is an autonomous region of Italy. Located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, it offers a plethora of sights and activities as well as the chance to see a different side of Italian life. People are generally quieter and more reserved than in other parts of the Mediterranean. The island combines sparkling waters, sandy beaches, rugged landscapes, prehistoric remains, folklore traditions, and quaint villages, and visitors can enjoy diverse activities, including swimming, sailing, yachting, hiking, horse riding, and sightseeing. The local food differs slightly to that found on the mainland, with delights like the ravioli-like culurgiones, seafood, the gnocchi-like malloreddus, and sweet treats like torrone and seada to tempt visitors.
What to do there: Spot the unusual albino donkeys in Asinara National Park, explore the traditional fishing community of San Pietro, tackle the sheer limestone walls of Domusnovas, ride along beaches and through the woodlands on horseback, and enjoy long and active hikes in the beautiful nature-rich mountains. Bask on stunning beaches along the northern and north-eastern coasts—San Teodoro is a top spot for any beach lover. Appreciate the island from the water with a sailing excursion, discover the sea caves around Alghero, explore the soaring sand dunes of Piscinas, and enjoy kitesurfing and windsurfing at Isola dei Gabbiani. Look out for prehistoric stone monuments scattered around the island, created by the ancient Nuragic people. Stroll through the atmospheric streets of medieval Bosa, see influences from both the Phoenicans and Romans in captivating Nora, and discover the diverse gems of Castelsardo. Natural gems include the Caves of Neptune and the gaping canyon of Gorropu. If you’re looking for a glamorous vibe and a swanky night scene, head to the jet-set favourite of Costa Smeralda.
Don’t forget to pack a good book! DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Italy: 2019 is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.
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A few more of the best places to visit in Italy
Discover Sicily, a beautiful and rugged island to the south of mainland Italy. Highlights include the volcanic Mount Etna, the Salt Flats in Trapani, the UNESCO-listed Valle dei Templi, lively Catania, the historic cities of Gela and Syracuse, exciting Palermo, and the beach-lover’s paradise of San Vito Lo Capo.
Bask on the beaches of popular Rimini, see the Turin Shroud, admire the picturesque towns of Cinque Terre, lap up the vistas around stunning Lake Como, wander the streets of Genoa, and travel back to Shakespearian times in Verona.
Sip wine in Montepulciano, soak up the sun in Sorrento, get off the beaten track in Vicenza, discover Byzantine heritage in Ravenna, go hiking in the Dolomites, stroll through Trieste, discover Padua, and visit the small island of Ischia.
Discover the best places to visit in Italy and make many magical memories on a fabulous European vacation.
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