Italy, as we know, is often associated with a cuisine, a language, Roman ruins, or some would even say Hollywood’s notoriously famous underworld. But there’s certainly more to this charming European country than that. Lying on the borders of the Mediterranean Sea, the Republic of Italy is the birthplace of some of history’s greatest scholars, artists and emperors.
Over the centuries, Italy has influenced many cultures with its unique additions. From Pompeii’s perspective of civilization to Florence’s architectural marvels, here we look at the best places to visit in Italy. Enjoy!
Believed to be the largest standing amphitheatre in the world, the Colosseum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a world-famous tourist destination located in Rome. It was dedicated to the public by Emperor Titus in 80 BC and could accommodate up to 50,000 people. Back in the day, the Colosseum never was at rest. Every other day it is said to have hosted combats between gladiators, humans and animals and other engagement activities.
The Ancient ruins that stand now are the least of what’s remaining. Since the middle ages, the Colosseum was abandoned, and most of its fine architecture and marble decorative were stolen. However, the tourist experience is never limited. It is one of the best places to visit in Italy.
Discover more fascinating facts about this attraction here: The Colosseum – Interesting Facts & Historical Significance
2. Trevi Fountain
A Baroque creation of the 17th Century, Designed by famous Italian architects Nicola Salvi and Giuseppe Pannini, Trevi Fountain is a world-famous tourist destination. Travellers from around the world visit the beautiful city of Rome to take a glimpse of this masterpiece and toss a coin. This is a fascinating folk tradition that tourists often add to their bucket lists. The folklore states that if a tourist tosses a coin from their right hand over their left shoulder, it will bring them back to the Eternal City of Rome. The second coin suggests finding true love.
Looking at its engineering, the water that flows into the Trevi fountain is considered to be the oldest water source in Rome. This waterway once sourced water to public baths in Rome back in the bygone ages.
3. St. Peter’s Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican city is a renaissance papal church. The church is the largest and one of Christendom’s holiest churches. Construction of the Basilica in Rome began in the early 1500s and is the iconic symbolization of classical Baroque and Renaissance architecture. The interior is other-worldly, and it is home to Michelangelo’s Pietà.
Today, a major pilgrimage site, St. Peter’s Basilica is the burial location of Saint Peter – chief of the Apostles and the First Bishop of Rome. If you’re intrigued by classical Italian architecture, St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the best places to visit in Italy.
4. Palazzo Vecchio
If you are looking for historically pleasing places to visit in Italy, Palazzo Della Signoria is a must-visit site in Florence. It is also the town hall of Florence city which was founded in the 13th century. Standing 94 meters in height, Palazzo Vecchio’s breathtaking Romanesque architecture is undoubtedly the highlight of Florence. It holds a fascinating blend of Roman, Medieval and Renaissance architecture. With each level ascending, the next stage of history is denoted in the structure.
Palazzo Vecchio is also home to Salone dei Cinquecento – known as the Hall of the five hundred. Some countless frescoes and sculptures are worth seeing at least once in your life.
5. Galileo Museum
Located by the Arno River, Galileo Museum is yet another awe-inspiring location to visit in Florence while you’re in Tuscany. It, however, may not be your slice of Pizza if scientific discovery doesn’t intrigue you. Known as the father of Modern Science, Galileo Galilei was at the forefront of astronomy and mathematical findings that are beneficial even today.
The museum was first opened in 1927, and most of the exhibits at the Galileo Museum are instruments and maps from the 17th Century, indicating the development of science over the centuries. If you are visiting the Italian city of Florence, do add Galileo Museum to your bucket list.
6. Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
The Florence Cathedral – known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, is a 14th Century structure famous for its marble-covered interior. Inside Cattedrale Maria Del Fiore stands walls and pedestals of art and sculptures designed by famous artists and architects such as Lorenzo Ghiberti, Paolo Uccello, Nanni di Banco, Donatello and many more. The distinct touch brought in by each of these individual artists transforms the Cathedral into a paradise, especially for modern architects.
Travellers can also reach up to the bell tower dome that promises a stunning aerial view of the beautiful city of Florence. If you happen to be in the Tuscany region, make sure to visit the Cathedral, it is surely one of the best places to visit in Italy.
7. Pompeii & Mount Vesuvius
The city of Pompeii is not merely what pop culture interprets it to be, but more. Located in Southern Italy – in the Campania Region of Naples, Pompeii is widely known for the volcanic eruption that took place thousand years ago. Presently, the city is frozen in time where travellers can walk into a time portal that takes them through the lives and times of the sophisticated Romans and visitors of Pompeii and the moment of tragedy that turned the city and its residents into stone.
Travellers can visit the House of the Faun, the ancient ruins of Temple Apollo, Lupanar di Pompei and many more preserved sites. You can also witness Mount Vesuvius – the volcano that caused the Pompeii catastrophe in 79 AD. Those that are looking for a thrilling adventure can hike Mount Vesuvius. Although it’s an active volcano, it’s presently safe and a unique place to visit in Italy.
8. Amalfi Coast
A long pristine shoreline lying on the southern border of Sorrentine Peninsula, Amalfi Coast is a fishing village and a renowned holiday destination amongst locals and tourists. A UNESCO World Heritage site, this town is a clear example of Mediterranean coastal beauty. Dotted with beautiful beaches, cliffs, vast vineyards and pale hue houses, Amalfi Coast attracts over 5 million tourists annually.
The town is quite exclusive and offers luxury accommodation, yacht experiences and fine Italian dining – similar to Capri. However, unlike other resort cities, Amalfi Coast is not just a wind-down destination but a destination of knowledge as well. The Norman Tower is an intriguing place to visit in Italy if you’re a mythology fan – you’d probably know.
Read more on the Amalfi Coast here: Searching for La Dolce Vita in the Exquisite Amalfi Coast (Map Included)
9. Cinque Terre
A series of laid-back fishing villages located on the Italian Riviera Coastline, Cinque Terre translates to ‘five lands’, the agriculture-driven scenic towns that resemble Amalfi Coast. These cities are Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. This beautiful place is also a UNESCO Heritage Site surrounded by lush nature and breathtaking hiking trail landscapes.
Cinque Terre borders the Ligurian region, hence why the city is famous for its Pesto sauce – a herb-blended pasta sauce. Tourists often visit Cinque Terre for its countless scenic viewing angles, cliffside terraces, vineyards and seafood. We urge you to explore this Italian city on your visit to Italy.
10. Juliet’s Balcony
History’s most noble and famed couple Romeo and Juliet may just have been a fantasy brought to life by Shakespeare, but the inspiration for this creation all began with Juliet’s house in Verona. This beautiful city screams courtly romance unlike any other. There are medieval houses and stores, narrow cobbled streets that connect sites, and Juliet’s Balcony plays the greatest part in attracting young travellers from across the world.
Juliet’s house is a 13th-century Gothic architectural residence which once belonged to a famous Italian family. Even though Juliet never existed – neither in the house nor in Verona – this is where Inspiration struck for the masterpiece.
11. Roman Forum
Known in Latin as ‘Forum Romanum’, Roman Forum is a unique museum in Rome, found in 500 BC, and a very important historical location in ancient Italy. Once a government headquarters where elections, speeches and commercial affairs took place, the Roman Forum was also the tragic deathbed of many significant figures such as Caesar, Caligula and even Remus.
Today what’s left of these Roman ruins is beyond restoration. The towering columns and ancient ruins of the Temple of Antonius Pius, the Temple of Saturn, the spellbinding arch of Septimius Severus and the house of the Vestel Virgins, are some of the highlights here in the Roman Forum. Guided Tours are available if you’d like to learn Rome’s history. It is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Italy.
12. Blue Grotto
Located on the Coast of Capri in Southern Italy, Blue Grotto – also known as ‘Grotto Azzura’ is an enchanting underwater Sea Cave. This stone cavity allows faint daylight to enter through the surface that reflects and illuminates the water, thus giving it the magical blue hue. Blue Grotto is a famous destination amongst photographers and natural site-seekers.
If you are a tourist, you can take a boat ride to witness this phenomenon. These boat rides are not cheap as the Blue Grotto is an overrated destination – meaning there’s always a demand. But it is one of the best places to visit in Italy. However, it is forbidden to swim in the Blue Grotto due to wave threats caused by tides. Although some swimmers choose to dive after sundown, it is advised not to.
13. Grand Canal
Canal Grando – also known as Grand Canal in Venice, is Italy’s most breathtaking water channel and a major water-traffic corridor. This Italian city was informally known as the Capital of Europe a few hundred years ago, so one would find the Grand Canal being mentioned many times in various literature across Europe – including Shakespeare’s plays. What’s unique is that Venice is completely connected through canals, hence you may never find roads to walk.
The Grand Canal’s illustrious backdrop gets its rustic glam from 14th-century palaces lined along both sides of the water stream. Venice’s romantic Gondola rides are the highlight of this beautiful city. The Grand Canal passes many bridges such as Rialto Bridge, Ponte Degli Scalzi and more.
However, the only surprise would be the summer stink that comes from all the sewage directly being dumped into the canal. Apart from that downside, it’s one of the best places to visit in Italy.
14. Uffizi Gallery
Located in the historic centre of the Tuscany region’s Florence, Uffizi Gallery is an early-renaissance, elite art gallery founded by Francesco I de Medici. A focal point in art and design, the Uffizi Gallery attracts over 2 million visitors annually. Most of these visitors are art admirers from across the globe.
Florence has always been the heart of the Italian Renaissance. Uffizi Gallery currently exhibits works of art by world-renowned artists such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Raffaello and many more. The gallery is also home to a variety of medieval arts found from the 12th century upwards.
If you are a tourist with a particular interest in art, design and architecture, we insist you visit Uffizi Gallery. While you’re in Florence, you can also visit the Academia Gallery, which houses ‘David’ – Michelangelo’s greatest masterpiece – and many other equally stunning sculptures.
15. Leaning Tower of Pisa
The famous Leaning Tower of Pisa is a 14th-century bell tower that stands at a height of 60 meters and leans at about 10 degrees. Built in the medieval ages, the Romanesque architectural influence is simply fascinating.
The structure is held together by its marble and rock, whilst the tower survives due to its firm centre base. It is part of the Cathedral complex – Campo Dei Miracoli. Consisting of eight stories, the first construction of the tower began in 1173 AD.
Designed to be vertical, this miraculous mistake today brings over five million visitors from around the world, simply to capture creative pictures and reach the apex to steal a stunning view of the town of Pisa. It’s undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in Italy.
16. Sforzesco Castle
Castello Sforzesco – also known as Sforzesco castle, is a famous citadel in Milan – in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy. A 15th-century masterpiece, Sforzesco is not a palace of a royal member but a house of a Duke named Sforza in Milan, who had aspirations of a prince and dreamt of creating a palace of his own. Back in the 14th Century, Castello Sforzesco used to be one of the biggest citadels in Europe, encompassing over 25 hectares of space.
Presently it’s a museum exhibiting some of Italy’s and the Netherland’s finest creations, arts and instruments by renowned Renaissance artists such as Andrea Mantegna, Filippo Lippi and more. It’s one of the best-known historic landmarks in Milan and an amazing place to visit in Italy.
17. Santa Maria Delle Grazie
Directly translating to ‘Holy Mary of Grace’, Santa Maria Delle Grazie is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Dominican church located in the Italian city of Milan. Housing the famous painting ‘Last Supper’ by Leonardo Da Vinci.
The church was built in 1463 by Donato Bramante and Guiniforte Solari and went through renovations up until the latter of the 15th century. The structure was commissioned by the Duke of Milan – Sforza – to replace the small chapel that once occupied the very space.
If you enjoy visiting churches, Santa Maria Delle Grazie is surely a charming place to visit in Italy.
18. Chianti Wine Route
When you’re in Tuscany, make sure to take a road trip along the enchanting SR 222 Route – commonly known as Chianti Wine Route. This road connects Florence to the city of Sienna, passing acres of breathtaking vineyards and olive groves.
These vineyards produce one of Italy’s most refined wines. If you enjoy road trips, the Chianti region is the ideal spot. Not only can you taste various types of wine, but you can also enjoy the allures of the neighbouring sites – including medieval palaces.
The cultural heart of Sicily in Southern Italy, Palermo is a medieval wonderland that still expresses its olden glory. Although today it’s an Italian city, Palermo has been inhabited by Greece, Byzantines and Arabs. In the 12th Century, Sicily was invaded by Normans who named Palermo ‘Kingdom of the Sun’.
It’s the only part of Italy where tourists get to witness a blend of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean culture. You’d come across souks, stunning palaces, delicious food, theatres and a beautiful beach stretch. One of the most important places to visit here is Palazzo Dei Normanni – an opulent palace that is sure to take your breath away.
Palermo is also one of the few places to visit in Italy where you’d find untouched Byzantine architecture, so make sure to visit Cappella Palatina on your trip.
Our comprehensive guide for Palermo: Amazing Things to Do in Palermo
20. Gola di Gorropu Canyon
A nature preserve located between Barbagia and Ogliastra of Sardinia, Gola di Gorropu canyon is a famous hiking spot that welcomes over 2 million tourists annually. The Gorge is shaped by the Rio Flumineddu River, and the canyon is 500 meters deep. If you’re an avid hiker visiting Italy, this canyon is your go-to place. The trails can be quite remote, but there are many locals to guide travellers.
Tours are usually carried out on jeeps, however, you must not underestimate the energy required for walking. Hikers will come across Sardinia’s unique wildlife, aeons-old plant species, and remnants of prehistoric civilizations scattered around the land space of Gola di Gorropu.
Orvieto is on top of a steep hill in Umbrian – central Italy. The natural setup alone makes your imagination go wild on the scenic magnificence this small town offers. You can reach the town by car or cable car.
Explore the famous gothic Duomo with its eccentric art interior style, then the tremendous St. Patrick’s Well (Pozzo di San Patrizio), which’s 62 metres and super surreal. Don’t miss a tour of the underground city that unveils the story of Orvetio since the Etruscan age! Over 1000 grottos, chambers and passages were discovered here. It’s an ancient wonderment!
Check out our full guide for Orvieto: Things to Do in Orvieto
22. Cala Luna & Blue Marino Caves
Located in Sardinia, off the Gulf of Orosei, nearby Cala Gonone village in Dorgali, Cala Luna is the perfect place for a getaway. A secluded beautiful beach with magical turquoise waves coming ashore. Cala Luna is an underrated destination located in a serenely picturesque village that most travellers aren’t aware of.
A few kilometres away, you will find a magnificent sea cave called Grotta del Bue Marino. The cave extends 5 kilometres deep and is home to colourful stalactites, stalagmites & Neolithic wall arts. The luminescent water reflective effect is also one of the highlights you’ll see while on a boat tour in the caves.
23. Lake Como
Immersed in scenic beauty, Lake Como is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Italy – some claim to have seen Hollywood stars around here too! Surrounded by a mountain and opulent villas that attract the rich, the lake offers a variety of activities, including sightseeing, ferry rides, and passenger-only boat rides.
The climate around the lake is mild, which can be compared to the Mediterranean climate; this has made the lakeshore perfect for gardening. Lake Como is encircled by several picturesque towns like Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio; you can also catch sight of an 11th-century abbey while you are here!
You might be interested in: Can you Swim in Lake Como?
24. Royal Palace of Naples
Naples is widely known for its yummy southern Pizzas, but grand palaces? Yes, the Royal Palace of Naples is one of the most historical destinations in Southern Italy. Built in the 17th century, the palace displays alluring Neoclassical and Italian Baroque architecture.
Over the centuries since its inception, the Royal Palace has hosted many elite families in Europe. These include the Monarchs of Spain, Austria, the Bourbons, and the Savoy dynasty. Visitors can witness paintings and statues of the eight kings who ruled Naples from the 12th century until the unification. If you happen to be in Naples for some Pizza, we insist you visit the Royal Palace.
A Roman Temple located in the beautiful city of Rome, Pantheon was dedicated to all gods who were believed to protect the empire. Re-built in 125 CE by Emperor Hadrian – according to various literature – the Pantheon stood as a symbol of Rome’s grandeur. Standing 43 meters in height, the Greek-influenced columns and the adjoining dome of the Pantheon is truly an architectural masterpiece of the period. Walking into the Pantheon would take you back in time to the golden days of Rome.
26. Mount Etna in Catania
A stratovolcano located on the east coast of Sicily, Mount Etna is a UNESCO heritage site that lies above the African and Eurasian Plate. It’s constantly in an active state producing frequent eruptions. Although you cannot hike up Mount Etna like Vesuvius, there is something else you’d enjoy doing here in Catania. Such as riding trains that offer scenic views of the great volcanic sites, and cable car tours to the crater – of course, when the volcano is not erupting.
If you happen to be visiting Sicily, we assure you Catania is one of the best places to visit in Italy. Not just for its giant volcano, but the whole coastal city experience is worth it.