Full of unforgettable towns, UNESCO heritage sites, and picture perfect landscapes, Italy has its fair share of marvels. But if you had to make a shortlist of your absolute favourites what would they be? We’ve been asking ourselves exactly that question, and after a lot of thought, we’ve narrowed it down to 21 absolute must-see places. Ready? Let’s visit the best the Bel Paese has to offer.
21 Best Places to visit in Italy – Unmissable sights
The Italian Capital is a treasure trove of art, fascinating history and charming atmosphere, with sights that transport you back to the time of ancient Emperors and philosophers. From the two thousand year old Colosseum to the Imperial Forums, Castel Sant’Angelo, and the Pantheon Rome is full of sights that will stay with you long after you visit them.
Rome also offers you world-famous squares like Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza del Popolo and Campo dei Fiori, where Italian life is at its liveliest, places full of memories of films and songs. And, of course, the chance to see the heart of Christianity in the Vatican: the biggest church in the whole world, St. Peter’s Basilica.
HOW LONG DO I NEED? At least two/three days to see the main sights
BONUS DELIGHTS: A walk along the Tevere, with views of Castle Sant’angelo and the statues along the bridge.
One of the must-see places in Italy, Florence is the city where the Renaissance was born. Here Brunelleschi created the famous Dome on top of the Cathedral, Michelangelo sculpted the David, and innumerable masterpieces are kept in the Uffizi, one of the world’s most renowned art galleries.
The Medici family lavished their city with beautiful art and palaces, while the Ponte Vecchio, placidly reflected in the river Arno, makes the whole sight quite magical. Enjoy high class shopping, colourful markets and antique shops, frescoed churches and enotecas.
HOW MANY DAYS: At least two days to see the main sights
BONUS DELIGHT: See the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo, the panoramic terrace on a hill.
3. TUSCANY’S COUNTRYSIDE
Tuscany has one of Italy’s most impressive landscapes. Florence is surrounded by one of the most spectacular countrysides in the world. Within an hour’s drive you immerse yourself in the immaculate vineyards and olive groves of the Chianti region, dotted with villas and castles. Further south you enter the Val d’Orcia, with its pristine landscape of rolling hills. A UNESCO site, this area is atmospheric and beautiful to a fault.
HOW MANY DAYS: you can spend as long as a month exploring the Tuscan hills, but allow at least a couples of day if you’re based in Florence.
=> CHECK OUT THE BEST TUSCANY TOURS FROM FLORENCE !
4. SAN GIMIGNANO & SIENA
While in Tuscany, don’t miss the chance to see some of the best preserved Medieval towns in Italy: Siena and nearby San Gimignano. While the first has the impressive Piazza del Campo at its heart, the top Medieval square in Italy, San Gimignano still boasts the original tower houses built/erected in the 13th century. A unique and unmissable sight for anyone who is fascinated by the middle ages.
HOW MANY DAYS: you can visit both town in one day to see the main sights.
BONUS DELIGHT: Climb to the top of the Torre Grossa in San Gimignano.
5. VENICE & THE ISLANDS
A city on the water. Venice is a place that you can’t help falling in love with. From the charming atmosphere of its ‘calli’, narrow streets that create a labyrinth in which it is a pleasure to get lost, to the impressive Piazza San Marco with its Basilica, and all the ornate palaces reflecting in the water of the canals. You can daydream on the Ponte Rialto, the ancient bridge in the city, visit the Palazzo Ducale and admire the mosaics inside the San Marco Basilica. Travel around the Canal Grande in the vaporetto and feel like a movie star.
HOW MANY DAYS: 2 days at least, one for the city, one to explore the Venetian Lagoon.
BONUS DELIGHT: Take a trip to colorful Burano, Murano and Torcello Island, the most atmospheric of the lagoons. Seeing Venice on your way back to the main island, at sunset, is not to be missed.
=> Don’t miss this Venice Sunset Cruise on a typical boat!
6. THE DOLOMITES
Set in the northern Italian Alps, the Dolomites’ majestic landscapes include peaks that rise above 3 thousand meters, pristine lakes , sheer cliffs and glacial landforms. A great destination for winter sports, hiking, biking, or simply enjoying the scenery and spectacular nature. One of the best places to visit in Italy for nature lovers!
DELIGHT: Scenic drive from Bolzano to Cortina d’Ampezzo through majestic landscapes with the greatest peaks.
We love Turin. The main city of Piedmont is surrounded by beautiful mountains and blessed with plenty of attractions, that make it one of the best places to visit in Italy. You can explore the impressive Egyptian Museum, the Cinema Museum, beautiful Royal Palace, where the king of Italy used to reside. Its historical cafes offer the best hot chocolate in the whole of Italy
HOW MANY DAYS: at least two days to see the main sights
DELIGHT: When you visit the Mole Antonelliana (home of the Cinema Museum), head to the terrace on the top for some breathtaking views of the city.
Syracuse (Siracuse) is one of Sicily’s most attractive towns, and one of the not-to-be-missed places to visit in Italy. The old town, Ortigia, is set on a peninsula, where the blue water of the Mediterranean sea touches the luminous white stone buildings. Ortigia was an important Greek city, a strategic port where different cultures mixed. Testifying to its glorious past, there are ancient temples, archeological museum, the Duomo and beautiful palaces.
HOW MANY DAYS: you can see the main sights in a day.
DELIGHT: check out a pupi (Sicilian puppet) show at the Puppet Theatre
9. VALLEY OF THE TEMPLES, SICILY
The Valley of the Temples, located outside the town of Agrigento in Sicily, is an impressive complex of ancient Greek buildings. They date back to the 5th century BC, when Agrigento was one of the greatest cities in the Mediterranean region. This exceptionally well-preserved site is an extraordinary testament to the Greek civilisation, and a sight not easy to forget.
HOW MANY DAY: you need half a day to visit the temples
10. POMPEII and HERCULANEUM
This is a truly impressive sight, not easy to forget. Not far from Naples, this is a UNESCO site and a truly unique experience for any traveller. The two Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum were submersed and engulfed in lava, as a result of the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. What you see today is a city petrified in time, with buildings, paintings and statues still intact.
HOW MANY DAYS: allow half a day for the visit => Check out this small group Guided Tour to best experience the site.
11. AMALFI COAST
This famous stretch of coast near Naples is one of Italy’s symbols, romance and beauty all rolled into one. Scenic steep roads overlooking the Mediterranean, bouganvilles, picture-perfect little towns like Positano, Amalfi, Sorrento, long sunny days, amazing food, and all the smells of the sea make it a perfect destination to unwind and savour Italy’s many pleasures.
HOW MANY DAYS: at least three days
DELIGHT: get a ferry and hop to the magical islands of Capri and Istria.
12. VALLE D’AOSTA
Travelling north all the way to the top, Val d’Aosta is a small region bordering France, a land of imposing mountains, forests and ancient castles. Driving around its stunning scenery to discover fairy-tale like Fénis Castle, Issogne, Verres and the great Savoia Castle in Gressoney-Saint-Jean is a real treat for anyone who loves nature and history. The main city, Aosta, is getting more popular with tourists who love its fabulous views, Roman remains and street markets.
HOW MANY DAYS: at least three days to explore this amazing region.
13. LAKE MAGGIORE
Set between Lombardy and Piedmont, the Lake Maggiore is Italy’s second biggest lake (after Lake di Garda). Surrounded by mountains and beautiful nature, its 170 km perimeter is dotted with beautiful villas, fortresses and palaces. There are beaches that are very popular in the Summer, when the climate never gets too hot.
DELIGHT: hop on a ferry and visit the Isola Bella, a lovely small island famousr for its Italianate-style garden.
At the heart of Italy, in the small and hilly region of Umbria, you find Assisi, famous as the birthplace of Saint Francis, the patron saint of Italy. Assisi’s historic centre is a Unesco site, and the Basilica di San Francesco watches over it. The life and deeds of the saint have been immortalised on the walls of the Basilica where he’s buried. it’s one of the great christian shrine and welcomes a vast number of pilgrims every year. One of the best places to visit in Italy to get closer to the spirit of Saint Francis.
DELIGHT: If you’re based near Assisi , you can easily visit other lovely hilltop towns nearby like Gubbio and Spoleto.
=> Discover Le Celle, Franciscan Hermitage in Tuscany
15. SALENTO, APULIA
Right at the heel of Italy, there’s a magical place of azure water, fine sand and small towns built in white stone. Otranto, Gallipoli, Santa Maria di Leuca are small jewels on the coast of Salento, blessed with glorious sun, pristine beaches and a delightfully relaxed atmosphere. In the interior you find Lecce, Salento’s main town, with its beautiful architecture and squares bathed in light.
HOW MANY DAYS: a week would be perfect to experience Salento, if you don’t have enough time allow at least 3/4 days
DELIGHT: visit Otranto’s Cathedral and discover the splendid Medieval floor mosaics.
Centre of fashion, business and finance, Milan is a real European city, heart of one of Italy’s wealthiest regions. Shopping enthusiasts will enjoy the buzzing feel of its smart streets and high fashion stores, while art lovers can explore the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan’s finest art collection – mainly Renaissance and Baroque paintings – held in a 17th century building. Highlights include the splendid Gothic Duomo and the imposing Castello Sforzesco.
HOW MANY DAYS: at least two days to see the main sights
DELIGHT: the world’s most famous painting, “last Supper” by Da Vinci is in Milan, in the Santa Maria delle Grazie museum – book well in advance.
Bergamo, north-east of Milan, is one of Italy’s most attractive towns. The old part of town, Bergamo Alta, crowns the hill with a cluster of attractive Medieval and Renaissance buildings. Piazza Vecchia is the queen of all squares, and here you find all the main attractions, including the beautiful Palazzo della Ragione. The other focal point of the old town is the beautiful Piazza Duomo.
DELIGHT: Visit the collection of frescoes in the Museo degli Affreschi and climb the Torre Civica for a great view of the town.
18. CINQUE TERRE
The Cinque Terre National Park is one of the top places to visit in Italy, located on the coast of Liguria. A UNESCO World Heritage site, its rugged coastline shelters five (hence ‘cinque’) brightly coloured little towns that cling to the terraced hillsides above the sea. Exploring the Cinque Terre’ (literally: ‘five lands’) – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia Monterosso and Vernazza – means witnessing a unique way of life, complete with an entrancing old fishing port and vineyards overlooking the sea.
DELIGHT: walk the “caruggi” or narrow alleyways between houses that are typical of Liguria
The town of Matera, in Basilicata, is well-known for its ‘sassi’, ancient caves excavated inside the rocky hill that were inhabited until a few decades ago. A visit takes in the ancient dwellings and the ‘chiese rupestri‘ (rock-cut churches). The upper district, which is the old part of town, has some fascinating churches and museums where you can immerse yourself in the rich traditions of this place.
HOW MANY DAYS: a couple of days will allow you to see the main sights
DELIGHT: you can spend the night in one of the ancient dwellings, converted into accommodation.
Any history or art lover should put Ravenna on their list. A small town in Emilia Romagna, not far from the Adriatic coast, Ravenna is famous for its religious monuments. These ancient churches , such as the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, the Archiepiscopal Chapel, the Mausoleum of Theodoric, the Church of San Vitale are known for the splendid mosaics. They are a wonderful blend of Graeco-Roman tradition, Christian iconography and oriental and Western styles.
HOW MANY DAYS: you can see the main sights in one day.
DELIGHT: visit the tomb of Dante Alighieri, the father of the Italian language, He’s buried in the Basilica San Francesco.
21. SARDINIA’S BEACHES
If you love the sea, safe swimming and boat trips, then you absolutely need to explore the pristine beaches and the stunning coastline of Sardinia. The choice is vast, from the acclaimed Golfo di Orosei, the beach of Porto Istana near Olbia, or the Porto Giunco Beach that feel like a Caribbean landscape. Definitely one of the top places to visit in Italy!
DELIGHT: try the specialties of Sardinian cuisine, like ‘fregola con frutti di mare’ and ‘zuppa gallurese’ with local wine.