From the ancient architecture of Rome to the postcard-perfect views along the Amalfi coast, the fantastically varied sites of Italy have so much to offer the world traveler.
To help you choose where to go, we listed some of the country’s most well-known cities and some of the lesser-visited but equally stunning secret spots.
While this is not a requirement for entry, I highly recommend purchasing a good travel insurance option with Covid-19 coverage.
The capital of the Tuscany region, Florence, is often referred to as the alfresco museum of Italy, boasting a treasure trove of architectural gems, world-renowned art collections, and must-see museums.
Despite being a rather large city, Florence retains that small-town ambiance, with a selection of local eateries, hidden cobblestone streets, and lively plazas, ideal for watching the world go by. Exploring the city on foot is one of the best ways to soak up the atmosphere. Here are some must-see spots along the way:
- Basilica di San Lorenzo. A centerpiece in Florence, this is one of the city’s oldest Cathedrals and the resting place of the Medici family.
- Da Vinci Museum. See the works of Leonardo da Vinci like you never have before in this interactive museum exhibition.
- Boboli Gardens. Providing stunning vistas over the city and an insight into 16th-century sculptures, the gardens provide the perfect escape from the busy city.
- Galleria Dell’Accademia. Catch a glimpse of perhaps the most famous sculpture in the world, Michaelangelo’s David.
Related Article: Read more about Florence on my Italy Road Trip Itinerary Guide!
Once the capital of the mighty Roman Empire, Rome is now a cultural powerhouse and, like Florence, is often referred to as a huge open-air museum. And it is my favorite city in the world. I lived in Rome for three years and loved it to pieces. If you visit Italy and don’t see Rome, you’re missing out BIG time!
With its history stretching back almost 3,000 years, the remains of the ancient city, along with the museums that complement them, are the main sites to be seen.
Besides its awe-inspiring architecture, Rome is one of Italy’s best places to visit, thanks to its fantastic food scene. What shouldn’t you miss if you decide to visit Rome? The list could be so long that this article could become a book 🙂 But for the sake of it, here are (some) of the many top sites:
- Colosseum. Built between 70-80AD and used for gladiator tournaments and other entertainment for the people, you can now take a tour around these ancient walls.
- Pantheon. Thought to be one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings, the Pantheon offers a fantastic insight into the city thousands of years ago.
- Trevi Fountain. Lavishly decorated with marble sculptures, the Trevi Fountain is thought to grant good luck when you throw a penny over your shoulder.
- The Vatican. The smallest country in the world, The Vatican is the official residence of the Pope and one of the most significant sites in the Catholic Church.
Related Articles: Read more about Rome
I’m from Sardinia, the second biggest island in the Mediterranean sea, but today I want to give a shout out to her bigger sister just off the toe of Italy: Sicily. Often overlooked for popular cities on the mainland (like Sardinia, to be fair).
However, if you don’t mind exploring just a little further afield, Sicily provides some of the most stunning hikes, idyllic beaches, and authentic Italian food around.
While it may have a reputation for being home to the Mafia (and, alas, we can’t say those days are long gone), it also offers outdoor exploration, volcanic adventures, quiet seaside towns, and seldom-visited archaeological sites, such as:
- Mount Etna. Jump in a cable car and ride to the top of Europe’s most active volcano, enjoying the panoramic views along the way.
- Valley of the Temples. Enjoy a tour through the ancient Roman ruins, and learn more about the Hellenic architecture of the time.
- Gole dell’ Alcantara. Tucked away in the Gole Alcantara Botanical and Geological Park is a series of natural volcanic canyons created by the power of the sea and wind.
- San Vito Lo Capo Beach. One kilometer of uninterrupted white sands and crystal clear waters, flanked by towering cliffs at either end, make this one of the best beaches in Sicily.
Hidden away in the heart of Northern Italy, Lake Garda is the country’s largest and most popular lake. Surrounded by small villages, endless mountains, and lined by beaches, Lake Garda has long been a holiday favorite amongst both tourists and locals.
Its varied terrain makes it one of the best places to visit in Italy for anyone searching for outdoor adventures.
At the same time, its laid-back atmosphere and temperate weather conditions attract families looking for a relaxing getaway. Other than the myriad of watersports and hiking opportunities, here’s what not to miss while you’re there:
- Sirmione and Castello Scaligeri. Sitting on the banks of the southern shore, this 12th-century fortress offers stunning photo opportunities.
- Desenzano del Garda. Head to this lively town for local eateries, quaint cafes, and laid-back bars.
- Riva del Garda. Home to lakeside beaches and a bustling town center, Riva del Garda is a great choice for a day out.
- Cascata del Varone. Head into the wilderness and find this stunning waterfall that falls from its glacial lake above into the cave below.
Related Article: Read more about lakes in Italy. Here is a Lake Como guide
Italy’s spectacular Amalfi Coast is full of must-see cities, but Positano is perfectly located if you want to explore a few different areas while you’re there.
It’s well known for its pastel houses that steppe down the mountainside until they arrive at a turquoise blue bay.
Positano lends itself perfectly to lazy days on the beach and afternoons spent sipping Aperol Spritz, but it’s also a great spot for some day trips to some of the region’s top spots. Check out some of the best things to do here:
- Spiaggia Grande. Positano’s most popular spot for beach bathing, spend your day catching the rays or grab a kayak and explore the waters.
- Path of the Gods. What was once an ancient mule route, this four-mile stretch along the coast offers stunning views of the Amalfi Coast.
- Day trip to Capri. Jump on a quick boat to the island of Capri to explore the hidden sites or enjoy a day of shopping.
It’s no secret that Venice has long been considered one of the best places to visit in Italy. Its winding canals, ornate bridges, and romantic open squares attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.
Made up of around 120 small islands connected by bridges and canals, it’s not unusual to spend most of your time on the water here.
However, once you’re on dry land, stunning basilicas, hidden foodie hot spots, and boutique hotels await. Here are some top spots to see while you’re there:
- Canal Grande. More like a river than a canal, this is Venice’s largest waterway and makes for a stunning picture opportunity when explored from the water at night.
- St Marks Basilica. Domed turrets and hand-painted frescos make St Marks Basilica one of the striking sites in the city.
- Venice Lido. Avoid the crowds in the center of Venice and find quieter beaches and blue waters in Venice Lido.
- Bridge of Sighs. Venice is home to hundreds of bridges, but none quite have the sinister history of this one. Head here for one last glimpse at the stunning city.
Watching over the Bay of Naples, the city of Sorrento is known for its Baroque architecture and warm, long summers. On the edges of the Amalfi coast, this tiny town is surrounded by orange groves and flanked by craggy cliffs that rise into the bright blue sky.
Once ruled by the Greeks, Romans, French, Spanish, and Turks, you’ll find a mixed heritage here, which can be enjoyed in the food, wine, and culture.
While most of your time here will probably be spent soaking up the small-town atmosphere, there are a few key things we’d recommend doing:
- Old Town. Admire the architecture and find some foodie gems in Sorrento’s Old Town.
- Piazza Tasso. The beating heart of Sorrento, Piazza Tasso is a heady buzz of colorful restaurants, cafes, and bars.
- Cloister of San Francesco. This spot is popular with weddings and a stunning 13th-century monastery, overgrown with vines and leafy shrubs, and makes a fantastic backdrop for a photo.
Italy offers an incredible variety of cities, towns, and coastal villages to explore. Whether you’re searching for a laid-back beachy getaway or a city break packed full of historical delights, Italy will not disappoint.
If you’ve got time, we’d recommend heading to a few different places on the list, so you can experience both sides of Italy, the history of the ancient empire in Rome, and the food and stunning coastal scenery of the Amalfi Coast.
If you want to be really prepared to visit the best places in Italy, you can’t skip my article about the top Italian hand gestures! 🙂
Ci Vediamo in Italia! See you in Italy!