Europe & Britain | Destination Guides

These are the 13 best places to visit in Italy

Italy is a dazzling destination that inspires dreams of rolling countryside with vineyard-dotted Tuscan hills dividing stone villages, or coastal scenes where beautiful people lounge about sipping spritzs and twirling spaghetti with clams. Italy is cities are packed with art, baroque architecture, and ancient history, and it’s a place to slow down and appreciate the good things in life.

It isn’t hard to convince someone that visiting Italy is a brilliant idea, but it is hard deciding where to go. Italian destinations are diverse, ranging from the high-altitude mountains in northern Italy, through the olive groves and sandy beaches of the sun-kissed south. 

Whether you’re a city, coast or countryside person, read on to discover our list of the best places to visit in Italy. No matter the season, you can expect to live “la dolce vita” at these Italian destinations.

Rome

Woman taking a selfie at the Trevi Fountain in Rome

There’s nothing more surreal than driving through Rome and casually passing by 2,000-year-old artifacts, temples, and ruins that seem to pop up all across the ancient city. Rome is unlike most capital cities – here old and new collide, and the city is a magnet for every visitor to Italy. And who can blame them! We all want to snap a selfie with the magnificent Coliseum, pass by the Pantheon, and visit the magnificent Vatican City. 

Better yet, Rome is the heartland of four favorite pastas: Carbonara, Amatriciana, Cacio e Pepe, and Gricia. If you’re a fan of one or all of them, make a foodie pilgrimage to try what will surely be the best executions of this dish.

TAKE A TRIP: Best of Italy

Amalfi Coast

View of a colorful cliffside town in Italy, seen from the water

The sun-kissed Amalfi Coast conjures images of Positano or Amalfi, where the gorgeous villages cascade down steep hills right into the sea. In this part of Italy, beautiful people are found lounging beneath candy-colored umbrellas by the water, or slurping down bowls of creamy lemon or seafood pasta. 

Beyond beauty, the journey to these cliff-side villages, located south of Naples, is memorable, with hairpin turns and narrow roads that the locals navigate with ease. It’s all part of the fun while exploring this 30-mile-long (50 km) patch of coastline, where 13 little seaside towns each offer something different. Most travelers base themselves in the two larger towns – Positano and Amalfi. 

VISIT AMALFI: Italian Concerto

Florence

Rooftop view of the Florence skyline, featuring the Duomo

Packed with picturesque piazzas and Renaissance art, Florence is a must-stop city for anyone passing through Tuscany and easily one of the best places to visit in Italy. The splendid city is famous for its art, which can be spotted at seemingly every corner of the historic center. Stumble into Piazza del Duomo to take in the marble-clad Santa Marea del Fiore Cathedral. Catch your breath and pick your jaw up from the floor before entering the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s most famous pieces, including the statue of David. While it’s a bucket-list moment for art aficionados, we’re sure it’ll impress even the toughest critic.

Cross over the romantic 14th-century Ponte Vecchio bridge, and seek out one of Florence’s ancient wine windows at happy hour. Ask your Travel Director where you can find one! They are hidden.

RELATED BLOG: What to know if you’re travelling to Italy in June

Lake Como

View of colorful houses overlooking Lake Como, with a sailboat on the water and mountains in the distance

Rub shoulders with royalty at the glamourous Lago di Como in northern Italy. The Rhaetian Alps tower above the beautiful blue lake, where luxe villas and small palaces are dotted around the water’s edge. Each stunning home houses the rich and famous, from movie stars to actual royalty. Get a taste of the five-star life when you board a scenic cruise out on the lake, or swan about a stunning flower-filled garden that laps the lake.

If you’re really lucky you’ll run into George Clooney himself! 

TAKE A TRIP: Best of the Italian Lakes

The Dolomites

View of green meadows and a small Alpine commune with the jagged Dolomites in the background

Keen hikers will love the Dolomite region. In the north of Italy, The Dolomites mountain range rises from the Earth in the most dramatic fashion, with jagged edges and a pink hue. These spectacular mountains are popular with outdoor enthusiasts who can appreciate the stunning vistas from the comfort of a hotel hot tub or while trekking hiking trails through the region.

Time is right to catch the mountains dusted with spring wildflowers, or under a blanket of white snow. In the winter there are ski resorts to test your skills….

RELATED BLOG: 7 places where you can discover Italy’s hidden gems

Cinque Terre

Colorful buildings nestled on a rugged coastline with a small harbor

Five colorful seaside towns make up Cinque Terre – Manarola, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia and Riomaggiore – a postcard Italian destination that draws many tourists to Italy’s north-west Ligurian coast. Each town has a unique character. Manarola is the oldest, with its ancient bell tower and tiny streets, while Vernazza is considered one of Italy’s most beautiful villages.

The five villages are wedged between cliffs and the water, with a national park encircling the lot. Those that enjoying hiking can move between towns along the clifftop Sentiero Azzurro trail. There is now a train that connects the villages, but until the 20th century the only way between them was these pedestrian paths or via the sea.

VISIT CINQUE TERRE: Northern Italy including Cinque Terre

Venice

Venice gondola and restaurant tables

Once a powerful trading port, the unique city of canals evokes old-world charm. Whether you visit in the depth of winter, when a mysterious fog may envelop the central piazzas, or during the highs of summer when the streets are packed, there is something eternal that draws people to this floating city. 

While the Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, and St. Mark’s Basilica will be packed during peak times. In the San Marco neighborhood you’ll find all the top sights along with lots of tourists. Tick those sights off then seek out smaller streets and canals to watch the locals go about their daily business by water taxi or water bus. Venice is one of the best places to visit in Italy, and, of course, you can’t leave without a ride in a gondola. Complete with a singing gondolier who will share the city that fills every inch of their heart!

VISIT VENICE: Great Italian Cities

RELATED BLOG: A free wine fountain? 15 bizarre Italian facts

Emilia-Romagna

Factory workers wearing white uniforms straining cheese in large copper vats

Keen foodies will have heard all about Emilia-Romagna, the Italian region best known for its gourmet products. Its capital Bologna is nicknamed “La Grassa” (the fat one). Some of your favorite Italian classics, from tortellini and tagliatelle al ragù to mortadella, hail from here. Nearby the smaller city of Modena is where balsamic vinegar comes from. You can visit a producer to taste top-tier aged vinegars that fetch hundreds for every tiny bottle.

Famous Italian chef Massimo Bottura calls Modena home. It’s here he opened Osteria Francescana, the Michelin-starred restaurant that took the world by storm a few years back. Continue pigging a path across the province in Parma, the homeland of bitey parmigiano reggiano cheese and, of course, parma ham or prosciutto di Parma. Both pair beautifully with a glass of the region’s Lambrusco.

San Gimignano

Hilltop view looking down at the roofs of San Gimignano with rolling green hills in the distance

Tuscany is the Italian region that captures us most from afar. It’s the place we read about in books, and fall in love with in movies. It’s why the town of San Gimignano makes this list of the best places to visit in Italy. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is famous for its many medieval towers, which you’ll spot on the drive into town. These skinny brick totems rise up above the village houses like a medieval metropolis, leaving us to imagine the jealousy and feuds that played out between wealthier families during this time.

While in Tuscany, you can’t miss driving through the romantic countryside with its olive groves and vineyards filling space between charming hilltop villages. Other Tuscan villages and towns you should visit include Siena and Chianti.

TAKE A TRIP: Italy Bellissimo

Sicily

View of beachfront with mountains in the background

It wasn’t just the Romans marking their mark in Italy. At the toe of the boot lies Sicily, an island state of the south-west coast. Many civilizations have left their mark on the volcanic island, from the ancient Greeks who have many legends about the land, to the local mafia who no longer hold the same power they once had. 

Sicily’s landscapes offer a huge number of contrasts, and you could spend over a week just exploring the island. Hike Mount Etna, Europe’s highest active volcano, or splash about in the sparkling azure waters. Take a day trip to islands off the island, or explore Baroque churches, architecture, and archaeological sites dotted across the land.

VISIT SICILY: Colors of Sicily

Verona

Closeup angle of Juliet's balcony in Verona, with tourists visible on the ground beneath

Starcrossed lovers and hopeless romantics must add Verona to their Italian destinations bucket list. The northern Italian city is most famous for its ties to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and you can make a pilgrimage to Juliet’s balcony.

But beyond the play, Verona’s historic center is a lovely surprise – the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with both Roman and Renaissance architecture on show. You can visit the Arena di Verona, a first-century Roman amphitheater that is still used today.

RAIL TOUR: Contrasts of Italy

Pompeii

Street view of the ruins of Pompeii with Mount Vesuvius in the background

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in A.D. 79 the city of Pompeii was buried in hot ash. Now you can visit the archaeological site of Pompeii and see the ancient Roman city that was frozen in time. Unearthed from the ashes, the preserved ruins of Pompeii give us a glimpse into the past and what daily life was like back then. This is an experience for both history buffs and curious souls, making it easily one of the best places to visit in Italy

More adventurous travelers could also hike Mount Vesuvius. From the top you’ll enjoy stunning views over the Bay of Naples and Sorrento.

Matera

Aerial distant view of the centre of Matera

For the past 12,000 years people have inhabited the southern Italian city. That makes it one of the world’s oldest continually occupied towns! Of course, Matera is a unique destination. Here you’ll find cave dwellings, known as sassi, which were lived in until the 1950s. 

Wandering around the golden town you’ll find plenty of lookouts and viewpoints to catch a glimpse of the unusual architecture. You can visit Sasso Caveoso to step inside Casa Grotta, a cave house inhabited until 1957. If there’s time, don’t miss the Church of Saint Mary of Idris, built into rock. Matera is very close to Puglia, so many add it into a Puglian itinerary as a day trip.

That’s our list of the best places to visit in Italy. Is there anywhere else you’d add to this list? Let us know in the comments…

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