14 Best Places to Visit in Italy. Bucket List Guide (with photos)
Ahh, Italy, the home of pizza, pasta, and Pisa! This famous boot-shaped landmass in the Mediterranean is one of the most loved spots in Europe both for city breaks and summer vacations. With excellent cuisine, awesome architecture, passionate locals and a wealth of culture, Italy has something for everyone to enjoy.
From quaint beach towns to stunning islands as well as lakes, ski spots, and cities, Italy is eclectic and enchanting.
Read on to discover 14 of the best places to visit in Italy and add your favourites to your Bucket List!
Rome - An Amazing European City
The Italian capital city is full of charm and boasts epic buildings and monuments on what feels like every corner! No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the mammoth Colosseum, the spectacular Roman Forum next door and the iconic Trevi Fountain made famous by Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. The butterfly-shaped Spanish Steps, Pantheon (home to the tomb of Renaissance artist, Raphael) and the colourful Piazza Navona will continue to impress with their intricate designs.
Once you’ve been awed by this stunning architecture, make your way to the independent state, the Vatican City, in the heart of Rome. Here you can straddle two countries, with one foot in Rome and one foot in the capital of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican also boasts its own collection of amazing architecture including St Peter’s Basilica, The Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. Spend time soaking up Michelangelo’s incredible artwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (as you’re not allowed to take pictures!).
Rome is best explored on foot so you can stumble upon local gems such as little cafés down back streets, quaint art galleries and the all-important gelaterias where you can get your ice cream fix with some of the silkiest gelato in the world!
Florence - An Amazing Place You Have to Visit
The terracotta-roofed city of Florence is the capital of Tuscany, Italy’s home of good food and wine! This is highlighted in the many restaurants and cafés across the city that boast delectable cuisine made with the finest local ingredients. Spend your days roaming between coffee shops and restaurants, soaking up the Italian atmosphere and culture.
When you’re not drinking an espresso or enjoying a hearty bowl of pasta, take in the sights of the city with visits to the Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio and the world-famous Duomo that lies in the heart of Florence. The domed cathedral towers over the rest of the city and can, therefore, be enjoyed from both afar and up-close. The coloured marble of the cathedral’s façade makes it picture-perfect and is arguably one of the most beautiful buildings in the world!
Finish your trip to Florence watching the sunset from Michelangelo Hill. This square on the southern bank of the Arno River boasts impressive views over the city, with the cathedral, buildings, and bridges all on show. The Piazzale also features one of Michelangelo’s David sculptures which is wonderful for photographing as the sun drops below the horizon and the sky turns orange.
Venice - On Everyone's Bucket List
Venice is often referred to as one of the most romantic cities in the world thanks to its winding stone streets, beautiful buildings, and meandering canals that move their way peacefully through the city. With no roads, the only way to get around the city is on foot or on board a gondola along the water. Hop on board your gondola with your friendly Italian gondolier dressed to impress in a striped shirt and straw hat!
The city of Venice is actually made up of over 100 small islands that are connected by bridges across the canals. This makes it a wonderful place to explore; allowing you to get blissfully lost among the winding alleyways. Spend your time wandering the streets, drinking and dining in the city’s best bars and restaurants and snapping shots of Venice’s top spots. St Mark’s Basilica, the Rialto Bridge and Doge’s Palace are all worth a visit!
As you punt along the Grand Canal – the main ‘highway’ through the city – you’ll be able to take in the views of resplendent buildings that once would have housed noble Venetian families. You can just imagine the masquerade balls that would have taken place here, with intricately-designed Venetian masks concealing the faces behind!
We have a blog post on things to do in Venice, and another on how to hire a gondola and get the best value for money.
Milan - The Fashion Capital of Italy
While Milan is the fashion capital of Italy (and it, therefore, a must for lovers of designer clothes and shoes!), it also boasts a whole host of art, architecture, and culture that draws thousands of visitors here each year.
The Duomo di Milano is a huge Gothic cathedral in the centre of the city that took around six centuries to complete! The cathedral is the third largest in Europe and features delicate yet towering spires which can be seen up close during a trip to the top.
Elsewhere in the city, you can witness the impressive Sforza Castle, the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (which is home to The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci) and the Teatro alla Scala one of the best places in the world to watch the opera!
If you want to get your fashion fix, head to the elegant, glass-roofed Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II a major shopping mall that features haute couture retailers and high-end cafés and restaurants. You can while away hours window shopping here, stopping to enjoy a coffee and a cake before deciding on a purchase or two. The Quadrilatero d’Oro is the fashion district that biannually plays host to Milan Fashion Week with epic catwalks gracing the stages in palaces and museums across the city.
Amalfi - Italian Beauty at it's Finest
The gorgeous Amalfi Coast features beautiful bays and quaint coastal towns which are the perfect spot for a relaxing summer break. The town of Amalfi is set on steep cliffs leading down to the turquoise waters of the bay below.
The town was once an important maritime hub, the history of which can be explored in the Museo Arsenale Amalfi.
The Amalfi Cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo is a stunning work of architecture with a mix of Arab-Norman, Baroque, Gothic and Byzantine elements. This combination makes it both unique and extremely photogenic.
The Cloister del Paradiso is another sight worth seeing, with delicate white stone cloisters surrounding peaceful gardens that make a tranquil retreat in the city.
When you’re not exploring the city sights, discover some tasty food and wine of the region by visiting olive groves and vineyards that back on to the town, or soak up the rays while listening to the sound of the waves lapping the shore.
Sorrento - An amazing Coastal City
Sorrento is a stunning town on the southwestern coast of Italy that stands proud upon the clifftop above to bay. The town is separate from the harbour and beaches below but still offers a seaside vibe with boutique shops, seafood restaurants and local handicrafts and liquor on sale. Travellers can easily reach the harbour by stairs or elevator so you can enjoy both the beach and the town in one vacation.
The Piazza Tasso is situated in the heart of the town with cafés lining the square and bursts of green making it a tranquil and relaxing spot. Enjoy a coffee for breakfast before exploring the Baroque Church del Carmine and the statue of S. Antonino Abbate in the square. You can then spend your afternoons wandering around the winding streets of Old Town shopping for souvenirs.
The town is known for its tasty limoncello that is made from the juicy lemons that grow in groves on the outskirts of town. No trip to Sorrento would be complete without a taste of this lemon nectar so make sure you enjoy a tipple or two during your stay! This also makes for a great gift for friends and family.
Sorrento is also a great base for exploring some top spots nearby. With Mount Vesuvius on your doorstep and views over Capri, you’ll feel as though you are in the perfect Italian destination.
Capri - An Easy to Visit Island
The island of Capri lies in the Bay of Naples and is known as being one of the chicest islands in Europe. With a harbour full of swanky yachts and a coastline dotted with fine restaurants and upscale hotels, this is a great place to see and be seen!
Capri has a rugged landscape characterised by peaks of rock piercing the azure ocean. Take a boat trip to see these magnificent rock formations with gateways and grottos making for an exciting visit. The most famous grotto of Capri is The Blue Grotto, a sea cave located on the north west of the island. This grotto is unique in the fact that as the sun lights up the cave through an underwater cavity, the water glows bright blue! It is simply stunning and is well worth a visit.
Elsewhere on the island, the mountain of Monte Solaro is the highest peak and is a great place to enjoy spectacular views. Travellers can choose a gentle hike up the mountain or the more relaxing chair lift that can take you all the way to the top.
The island has loads of coves and caverns with scenic stony beaches and clear waters to entice you for a refreshing dip.
Cinque Terre - 5 Hillside Towns
The colourful fishing towns of the Cinque Terre epitomise everything that is great about the Italian Riviera. Bright buildings adorn the hillside making for a picture-perfect pastel landscape. Each of the little towns and villages along the Cinque Terre feature a small bay dotted with fishing boats that head out daily for the freshest catch of the season. Dine in the trattorias each evening to enjoy fresh fish and seafood served up in the rustic local style.
A wonderful way to explore the five towns of the Cinque Terre is to hike between them. Thankfully for us, the Sentiero Azzurro cliffside trails wind their way between the towns making the route easy to follow. Plus, there’s no shortage of cafés and restaurants in each town so you can stop off for a tasty pit stop en route! Visit the Castello Doria fortress ruins, Capuchin monastery, and picturesque harbours along the way.
Behind the towns lie local vineyards brimming with plump grapes and delicious wines that are simply begging to be tasted. The terraces of vines tumble down the hills and are the perfect place to spend an afternoon in the warm Italian sunshine.
Genoa - An Often Missed Destination
The port city of Genoa is one of the largest in the country and has been famed for making maritime connections all over the world for centuries. Despite being the fifth biggest city in the country, Genoa manages to retain its fishing village atmosphere, with colourful houses and boats lining the bay in the Boccadasse Quarter.
Genoa is home to some splendid architecture including the Teatro Carlo Felice opera house and the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. The city is perfect for culture lovers thanks to its array of art galleries housed in Renaissance buildings such as the Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco, and the Palazzo Doria Tursi. The Maritime Museums is also worth a visit if you want an insight into the city’s history.
The iconic lighthouse in the heart of the port of Genoa stands at almost 250ft and has become a symbol of the city. The museum next door features some interesting information about the city, port, and lighthouse.
With old and new standing side by side, Genoa brings in a whole range of travellers who fall in love with its charm and character. Kids will love the huge Aquarium of Genoa which houses resident manatees, sharks and rays.
Pompeii - A Place of History
The archaeological complex of Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the south of Italy that is a must for any trip to Europe.
The city that was once home to a flourishing Roman community was covered under piles of ash after a mammoth eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Despite the chaos and damage that ensued, we can now use the preservation of the site by the ash and lava to discover important information about the Roman civilisation. Buildings, tools, furnishings, and written works have all been preserved and can now be studied to uncover relationship dynamics, community statuses and the daily routine of those that lived within the city.
The site gives us a snapshot of Roman life frozen in time and is home to houses, thermal baths, temples, and amphitheatres as well as works of art such as mosaics, paintings, and sculptures! You could easily spend a whole day discovering the history of Pompeii and travelling with a guide gives you a real insight into the pieces that have been uncovered.
New discoveries are being made by archaeologists every year so you could visit time and time again to learn about their new findings.
Romeo and Juliet Balcony Verona
A visit to ‘Fair Verona’ would not be complete without standing at the foot of Juliet’s Balcony while re-enacting the scene from Shakespeare’s epic tragedy. This romantic city receives hundreds of visitors each year coming to the spot that is said to have inspired William Shakespeare to write this fascinating novel that has lived on in our hearts for centuries.
Juliet’s House, or Casa di Giulietta, was home to the Cappello Family in the 13th Century and is thought to have been the place that inspired both Shakespeare’s novel and the poems and works about Romeus and Giulietta that came before it. These days, people stuff love letters asking for guidance in the walls of the house and rub the left breast on the statue of Juliet to ask for luck in love.
Aside from Juliet’s house and balcony, Verona offers delicious local food, a great cafe culture and some of the best wines in the country so you won’t be short of drink and dining options.
Elsewhere, the Arena amphitheatre in Verona is one of the best places in the world to watch the opera with the acoustics making for a spectacular show.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa - Breathtaking Architecture
An absolutely iconic building, visiting The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a must. While the building is quite a bit smaller in real life than it looks in pictures, this doesn’t stop travellers visiting year-after-year to take the obligatory ‘holding-the-tower-up’ snap or selfie!
The tower itself is actually a bell tower that was built between 1173 and 1372. The Leaning Tower of Pisa stands in Cathedral Square along with the Pisa Baptistery and the Pisa Cathedral all of which feature classic Italian architecture. While the building is fairly beautiful, it is unlikely to have been as famous had it stood perfectly straight!
The tower now leans at an angle of just under 4 degrees.
The tower began tilting during the construction, but despite the poor foundation the tower has managed to survive at least four notable earthquakes that have hit the city!
Travellers can choose to climb the 294 steps to the top to witness the other sights of the city of Pisa.
When you’re not taking photos in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, spend time enjoying an espresso, gelato or a delicious bowl of pasta in one of the city’s cafés and restaurants. The town of Pisa lies around an hour away from Florence so can easily be visited as a day trip from the capital of Tuscan.
Lake Como - Northern Italy at it's Best
The glacial lake, Lake Como, in the north of Italy is one of the most picturesque regions in the country. The lake features a dramatic backdrop of the mountainous Alps which contrast with the stillness and serenity of the lake.
While the lake would have once been home to individual lakeside dwellings, it now features high-end hotels and boutique villas that cater to an upmarket audience seeking a luxurious break with spa services and fine dining.
Many of the luxurious lakeside residences now play host to art and museum collections including Villa del Balbianello and Villa Carlotta.
Of course, Lake Como is a place for relaxation, and there is nothing better than enjoying breakfast in a solarium or sitting in a spa tub. However, if you do want to get active, there are plenty of hikes around the region that allow you to make the most of the epic landscapes. Valsassina, Monte San Primo and Grigna hikes allow you to elevate yourself above the lake to take in panoramic vistas of the lake and valley. Alternatively, the Orrido di Bellano is a 15-million-year-old gorge with a flowing waterfall and turquoise water flowing down the river.
There are numerous places to stay around Lake Como, and each community offers its own slice to paradise.
Mount Etna - The Power of Nature
Mount Etna is a very active volcano on the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean. It is the largest volcano in the country and is in a constant state of activity which includes everything from plumes of smoke to eruptions of burning lava!
During the winter, the peak and slopes of Mount Etna are covered in snow which makes it a winter wonderland for skiers and snowboarders. Etna features two main ski resorts (Piano Provenzana and Nicolosi) which allow you to enjoy downhill and alpine skiing with views of the sea! Mount Etna skiing is a bit off-the-beaten-track so boasts lower prices, warmer temperatures and fewer people – what’s not to love?!
In the summer, guests can take the cable car from the Sapienza Refuge ski area up to the crater for epic views or take the scenic round around the volcano on the Ferrovia Circumetnea. These options make Mount Etna accessible for everyone so you can easily explore during your Sicilian vacation.
Sicily itself is simply stunning and with a combination of fishing villages, terracotta-roofed towns, beautiful beaches and top-quality vineyards (thanks to the fertile soil of Mount Etna) it offers the best of Italy all in one!
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