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, stunning landscapes, 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. Here’s a look at the best places to visit in Italy:
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.
9. Italian Lake District
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. Garda is the largest lake, and offers stunning scenery, especially in its mountainous northern stretches. Como is equally stunning, with forested slopes rising directly from the water’s edge. Further west, Maggiore is less popular yet just as beautiful, with several popular family resorts.
The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily is an autonomous region of Italy that also includes several smaller isles. It is separated from the mainland region of Calabria by the 5 km (2 miles) Straits of Messina.
Home to every great Mediterranean civilization, Sicily is rich in art and history; from Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples to Palermo’s Baroque churches. The island’s most striking geological feature is Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano.
7. Cinque Terre
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.
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.
While Milan is famous for its abundance of upscale retail shopping that includes name brands like Prada, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, the city also offers several outlet centers where tourists can buy affordable designer products.
5. Amalfi Coast
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.
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.
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 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.
Italy’s most famous region, Tuscany conjures images of beautiful rolling hills, olive groves, vineyards and cypress trees. The many pleasures of Tuscany include tasting wine in Chianti, simply relaxing in hill towns such as San Gimignano or exploring Renaissance art in Florence. The medieval city of Siena also holds excellent works of art while its historic center is one of the most popular destinations in Tuscany. Elba, the largest of several Tuscan islands, offers great beaches while Pisa is world-famous for its Leaning Tower.
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.