Planning your first trip to Italy and wondering what are the best places to visit? This article should help you decide what to see and where to go in Italy, even though the choice might look overwhelming at first.
Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and one of our favorite places that we return to again and again. History, architecture, bustling cities, charming villages, beaches, islands, mountains… Not even to mention the food, wine, and friendly people… This country is incredibly diverse and has so much more to offer than you’d ever be able to do in one trip…
Even after so many trips in Italy, we feel like we just scratched the surface of this incredible country. There is just so much to see and do!
In this article, we share the very best places to see in Italy. This list is not just about the best Italian cities. As beautiful as they are, there is so much more to Italy than its cities! In this guide, you’ll also find the most stunning Italian regions and islands, coastal areas, picturesque little towns, but also the most beautiful nature and jaw-dropping sceneries.
These are one by one amazing destinations that are each worth a trip from the other side of the world. You cannot go wrong with any of these places! But combine a couple of them together and you’re in for a real treat – one of the best trips you can ever make. Find out!
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Without further ado, here is our list of the best places to visit in Italy:
The Eternal City is an absolute must when visiting Italy for the first time! Without any doubt, Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
I often refer to Rome as the city-museum. And it sure feels like the entire place is one huge open-air museum! Every street, every building, every town square, every park, every church, and every monument breathes centuries-old history. It’s an incredible experience to see all that art, architecture, and history that you previously only saw in books or in the movies.
No matter how much time you have planned in Italy, you really have to include Rome in your itinerary!
Not to be missed: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, the Vatican with St. Peter’s Basilica and Sistine Chapel, St. Angelo Bridge and Castel Sant’Angelo.
Nice to see: Campo de’ Fiori market, Trastevere district, Circus Maximus, Piazza Venezia, Belvedere del Gianicolo, Piazza del Popolo, Borghese Gallery, and many many more.
How much time do you need: One day is an absolute minimum in Rome and you’ll just get a glimpse of the main sights. If you want to see all the best places in the city and not just take a picture of the exteriors, plan at least 2-3 days. If you want to explore deeper and get off the beaten path in Rome, you can easily spend 5-7 days in the city.
LEARN MORE: Tips for Planning a Trip to Rome
There are few places in the world that speak to one’s imagination as Venice does. Without any doubt, Venice is one of the must-see places in Italy!
The entire city of Venice and its lagoon with 118 small islands is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And when you see it, you’ll understand why. The whole town is an architectural masterpiece!
The best way to explore Venice is on foot, so prepare to walk. A lot. Stroll the narrow streets, cross hundreds of bridges, and take the time to admire the details of medieval buildings and stunning gothic palazzi (palaces). You should also take a gondola ride! Not only does it give a very different perspective of the city, but it’s also a real bucket list experience.
Not to be missed: Venice canals and Venetian gondola ride, St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace, Grand Canal, Rialto Bridge, Bridge of Sighs, and the pedestrian waterfront promenade Riva degli Schiavoni.
Nice to see: Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute and an excursion to the nearby islands of Burano and Murano. Libreria Acqua Alta, Campo San Polo, and many churches of Venice.
How much time do you need: One day is enough to see the main landmarks of Venice. If you make it a very long day, you can even take a short excursion to the nearby islands Murano, Burano, and Torcello. For a more relaxed experience, plan at least two days for all the sights in Venice and the nearby islands.
READ ALSO: How to See the Best of Venice in One Day
A trip to Italy, especially for those visiting for the first time, involves visiting lots of cities and towns. And even if you’re not a big fan of city trips, there is one more city that you absolutely should see in Italy, and that’s Florence (Firenze).
Florence, the capital city of the Tuscany region, is considered the cradle of the Renaissance. It’s here that you’ll find works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and many others. The old city center is quite compact, but it’s packed with incredible masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture.
Not to be missed: Duomo (Florence Cathedral), Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria, and the view from Piazzale Michelangelo. Michelangelo’s ‘David’ at the Galleria dell’Accademia.
Nice to see: Palazzo Pitti, San Lorenzo Market, Piazza Santo Spirito.
How much time do you need: One day is enough to see the best of Florence. If you want to visit more museums and explore deeper, then you may want to spend two days here. Plan an extra day for a tour to the Tuscan countryside (more info below).
LEARN MORE: Best Towns in Tuscany
Italy has 20 regions and, in all honesty, they are all worth a visit. However, if you are traveling to Italy for the very first time, Tuscany is one of the nicest regions to visit. Not only because it’s conveniently located between Rome, Venice, and Milan, but also because it has so much to offer.
Tuscany is home to some of the most beautiful towns in Italy. Florence, Siena, Pisa, Lucca, San Gimignano, Volterra, Prato, Arezzo – all these towns are worth a visit! And there are many, many more…
Tuscany is also known for its picturesque landscapes with rolling hills and winding roads lined with cypress trees. It’s also a great destination for foodies and wine lovers. Some of the best Italian wines are produced in Tuscany! Even if you are not visiting the wineries, make sure to try Brunello di Montalcino and Chianti wines at the local restaurants.
Not to be missed: Florence (see above), Siena, Pisa (see further below), and the stunning landscapes of Val d’Orcia.
Nice to see: Lucca, San Gimignano, Volterra, Prato, Arezzo, and the wineries.
How much time do you need: You need at least 2 days for Tuscany – one day in Florence, and one (very packed) day for Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and Chianti. If you want to see so much in such a short time, consider this tour that visits all the main highlights in one day. Ideally, you spend at least 3-4 days in Tuscany as that will give you more time to enjoy all the main sights in a more relaxed way. If you have enough time, I recommend a week in Tuscany. There’s just so much to see and do!
LEARN MORE: Tuscany Itinerary
5. Cinque Terre
No list of the best places to visit in Italy would be complete without mentioning Cinque Terre. This coastal area is so scenic that it’s hard to believe that it’s real!
Cinque Terre is the collective name of five picturesque hillside towns along the coast of the Italian Riviera in the Liguria region. The 5 Cinque Terre towns are Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare.
These colorful towns are perched between the azure-blue sea on one side and the steep hills dotted with vineyards on the other side. This means that you can’t easily get to Cinque Terre by car and the best way to visit is by boat, by train, or by hiking the Cinque Terre trail between the villages. For more practical information, please check our travel tips for visiting Cinque Terre.
Not to be missed: Manarola, Vernazza, and Riomaggiore.
Nice to see: Corniglia and Monterosso al Mare. Also, the nearby Portovenere and the Gulf of Poets are well worth your time!
How much time do you need: You can see the best of Cinque Terre in one day (also as a day tour from Florence). If you want to explore deeper and also see some of the stunning coastal areas nearby, plan 2-3 days here.
6. Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast in the Campania region is another popular tourist destination in Italy. This area stretches between Sorrento and Salermo and has some of the most beautiful coastal landscapes in Italy. The rugged coastline is dotted with colorful fishing villages and small beaches. It looks like a real-life painting. The Amalfi Coast is also a very popular vacation destination.
The main attractions of this area are the coastal towns Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. But also Sorrento and Naples. The nearby Capri Island (more info further below) and the Blue Grotto should also be on your list! Nature and outdoor enthusiasts will love the coastal hike Path of the Gods.
Nearby, you’ll find the ruins of Pompeii, the ancient city that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. It’s one of the most interesting places to visit for those who would like to learn more about the Roman times.
Nice to see: Naples, Sorento, and the Path of the Gods hike.
How much time do you need: One day is enough to get a taste of what the Amalfi Coast is about. If you have two days, you can also visit Capri. Or you can also spend a week here… If you want to explore all the main highlights of the Amalfi Coast at a leisurely pace, we recommend 3-5 days in the area. See the itinerary recommendations below for more info.
TIP: You can visit Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast as a day trip from Rome with an organized tour. It will be rushed, but well worth it!
7. Lake Garda
Lake Garda is one of our personal favorite places in Italy. Lake Garda is located in northern Italy, about halfway between Venice and Milan, and can easily be incorporated in your Italy itinerary. It is one of the most scenic lakes in the world and absolutely worth a visit!
Lake Garda is a very big lake. If you want to drive all the way around it, it’s a 150 km (93 miles) drive that would take at least 3-4 hours without any stops or traffic. The best way to explore the lake is by taking a ferry between various towns, but driving the scenic road all the way around the lakes is also an unforgettable experience.
Along the shores of Lake Garda, you’ll find some stunning towns and picturesque little villages. Most famous is the town of Sirmione at the south end of the lake. Malcesine, Limone Sul Garda, and Riva del Garda are also very much worth a visit, even if just to see the northern side of the lake. And there are many more places to explore, but that requires a lot more of your time.
Not to be missed: Sirmione (Castello di Sirmione, Grotte di Catullo, and a 20-minute boat tour around the peninsula), Malcesine, and a boat ride on the northern end of the lake.
Nice to see: Limone Sul Garda, Riva del Garda, Desenzano del Garda, Garda, Peschiera del Garda, Salo, Bardolino, Torbole, Isola del Garda (requires a boat tour).
How much time do you need: You can see the main highlights of Lake Garda in one day (by car and/or boat or with a tour). But you’ll need at least 2-3 days to explore this area a bit deeper. You can find more details in our Lake Garda itinerary suggestions for 1 to 3 days.
LEARN MORE: What to See at Lake Garda
8. Lake Como
Lake Como, just north of Milan, is another stunning lake that also deserves to be on any list of the best of Italy. It’s a place loved by the rich and the famous and you’ll find some grand villas dotting the shores of this lake.
Lake Como is set at the foot of the Alps, just near the border with Switzerland. Many places here have been used as filming locations for countless Hollywood movies. When you’ll see the scenery, you’ll understand why.
Como Lake is not as big as Lake Garda, but it’s quite long and has a very unique shape that looks like an upside-down letter Y. The roads around the lake aren’t very wide and it would take you a good part of the day to drive all around it. Instead, you can take a boat and easily explore the most interesting places in a day or two. There are also car ferries at around the middle point of the lake, so you can easily explore the best places by car. Just beware that parking is very problematic.
The main town in this area is Como, located at the south end of the lake. Here you can also take a funicular to the mountain town of Brunate for stunning views of the surroundings. Other nice towns to visit are Bellagio (a must-see), Varenna, and Cernobbio. But the main attraction of Lake Como is its villas and especially Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello.
Not to be missed: Como town, a boat ride on the lake, Bellagio, Varenna, Villa Carlotta, and Villa Balbianello.
Nice to see: Brunate funicular, Villa Olmo, Cernobbio, Lecco, Villa Melzi and Villa Serbelloni, Pescallo, and Ghisallo Pass.
How much time do you need: You can see the best of Lake Como in one day, also with a day tour from Milan. You’ll need at least 2 full days if you also want to visit the two most beautiful villas. Count 3-4 days if you want to explore deeper.
LEARN MORE: Best Things to Do in Bellagio, Lake Como
9. Italian Dolomites
With so many incredible towns to visit in Italy, the country’s most beautiful natural attractions often get overlooked by first-time visitors. Don’t make this mistake! The Italian Dolomite Mountains are worth a trip from the other side of the world! The scenery here is simply phenomenal and I don’t say this lightly.
We’ve seen a lot of the world and some of the most incredible mountain scenery in Switzerland, Western Canada, New Zealand, or Norway to mention just a few. Yet, it took us years to get to the Italian mountains… After spending almost two weeks in this region, I can say that it’s as beautiful as it gets.
No matter which mountain pass you drive, which gondola ride you choose, or which hike you make, you’ll find the most remarkable landscapes.
Not to be missed: Hard to say because every place is so beautiful. The most popular areas for first-time visitors are Val Gardena and Cortina d’Ampezzo with the iconic 3 peaks Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Also Pragser Wildsee (Lake Braies) and Lake Sorapis.
Nice to see: Everything! Check out the Cinque Torri area that offers stunning mountain views and easy access to some incredible Great War sites. Also the mountains of the nearby Trentino region are really beautiful. Check out Val di Fumo, a spectacular place that’s still under the radar of most international tourists.
How much time do you need: You can get a glimpse of the Dolomites in a day if you take a guided tour with a local guide. There are day tours from Bolzano, from Venice, or from Lake Garda. If you are traveling in summer and love hiking, plan at least 5 days in the area (stay in Val Gardena). We spent almost two weeks here and are planning to go back again very soon. There is so much to see that you could spend many vacations in this area alone.
Good to know: In winter, you can ski here. There are countless ski resorts in the South Tyrol and Trentino regions.
LEARN MORE: Best Hikes in the Dolomites
One more beautiful town that I feel deserves a mention on this list of the very best places to see in Italy is Verona. World-famous as being the setting for Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Verona is known as Italy’s most romantic city. But there is so much more to it than just Juliet’s tiny balcony!
Verona is a very old town with a rich history and beautiful architecture. Its most famous attraction is the 1st-century Roman amphitheater. You can visit it inside during the day or get tickets for one of the many concerts and performances in the evening. There is always something happening here!
The town is compact and you can see a lot in a short time. Stroll around the old town, get just a bit off the beaten tourist path, and you’ll find a great atmosphere of a real Italian town that’s often hard to find in many other most popular towns and cities in Italy.
Not to be missed: Verona Arena, Juliet’s Balcony.
Nice to see: Castelvecchio, Ponte Scaligero, Piazza delle Erbe, Torre dei Lamberti, Arche Scaligere.
How much time do you need: Half a day is enough for the main highlights of Verona. If you have one full day for the city, you can cover most of its best attractions.
For many years, I was convinced that Milan was not as beautiful or worth a visit as most other Italian cities. However, my recent visit proved me wrong. Milan is a fascinating city and one of the very few places in Italy where history and modern-day life go so well together. I can’t compare it to any other Italian city as none of them have the same vibe as you’ll find in Milan.
Milan is a bit of a rough diamond and you have to make some effort to explore deeper in order to truly appreciate it. But even if you just visit for a day and focus on the main tourist attractions, it’s still well worth a visit!
Nice to see: Sforzesco Castle, La Scala, Milan canals, Brera & Braidense National Library, Porta Nuova district.
How much time do you need: One day is enough for the main landmarks of Milan. If you have more time, I suggest taking a day tour to Lake Como.
LEARN MORE: One Day in Milan
12. Italian Riviera
Italian Riviera is a beautiful coastal area of the Liguria region in western Italy. It’s best known for the picturesque coastal villages of Cinque Terre (mentioned above) and the luxury holiday resort for the rich and the famous – Portofino. But also here, there is so much more to see and do!
This part of Italy is just as beautiful as, say the Amalfi Coast, but you won’t find many tourist groups here. It’s more a place for a repeat trip to Italy than for those visiting the country for the first time and so many tourists never get to see more of this region beyond Cinque Terre. Yet, I think it surely deserves a visit if you can squeeze another day or two in your Italian itinerary.
The biggest city in this area is Genoa, but if you have to choose one or the other, I find that the coastal towns are worth your time more.
Not to be missed: Portofino, Cinque Terre, Camogli (featured image on top of this article).
Nice to see: Genoa, Santa Margherita Ligure, Portovenere.
How much time do you need: You need at least one day for Cinque Terre (see #5 above) and at least one day for Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, and Camogli. If you also want to visit Portovenere and Genoa, you’ll need at least 4 days in this region and it will be rushed.
LEARN MORE: Most Beautiful Towns of the Italian Riviera
The centuries-old rival town of Florence, Pisa is another place that most people consider must-see in Italy. And it’s well worth a trip, even if just to see the famous leaning tower of Pisa!
It seems that everyone in the world has seen the famous leaning tower (even if just on a pizza box of a local pizzeria in your home town). But not many people know that there is so much more to see in Pisa than its tower.
Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) certainly does its name justice! The architecture here is stunning. Most buildings here date from the 11th and the 12th centuries. Don’t miss the Duomo, the leaning tower of Pisa, Baptistery, and the graveyard.
After a visit here, make sure to also visit the city center of Pisa. You’ll find a very pleasant Italian town with more locals than tourists, trendy cafes, restaurants, and nice little shops. When you come here from the busy Piazza dei Miracoli, you can’t believe this is the same town.
Not to be missed: Piazza dei Miracoli.
Nice to see: Pisa town center.
How much time do you need: Half a day is enough for the main highlights and a visit to the city center. You can take a guided tour that covers all the main places in about 2 hours.
TIP: Because it doesn’t require that much time, Pisa is often visited as a half-day trip from Florence or in combination with other places nearby. For example, you can take a day tour from Florence that combines Pisa, Siena, and San Gimignano or a day tour that visits Pisa and Cinque Terre from Florence. There are also day tours from Rome that visit Pisa and Florence in a day and many other options. In other words, it’s really easy to include Pisa in your itinerary when planning a trip to Italy.
14. Emilia Romagna
Probably one of the most underrated regions in northern Italy, Emilia Romagna is a true hidden gem just waiting to be discovered!
If this place was anywhere else in the world, it would be overrun by tourists. But surrounded by such grand neighbors like Venice, Milan, and Italian Lakes in the north, coastal areas of Italian Riviera in the west, and Tuscany in the south, Emilia Romagna is often overlooked by most first-time visitors.
However, if you are looking to discover the more authentic side of Italy, you should really consider visiting at least a couple of places in this region. Emilia Romagna is like the best of Italy in one, but without as many tourists. It truly has it all: rich history, stunning architecture, art, beautiful beaches, lively towns, and lovely landscapes. Furthermore, Emilia Romagna offers some of the very best food in the whole of Italy.
Not to be missed: Ravenna, Bologna.
Nice to see: Rimini, Parma, Ferrara, Modena.
How much time do you need: You’ll need at least one day for Bologna and at least half a day for Ravenna. If you have more time, you can easily fill 4-5 days in this region.
LEARN MORE: Emilia Romagna
TIP: If you find yourself planning a trip to this part of Italy, make sure to plan a day for San Marino. This tiny republic surrounded by the Emilia Romagna region in Italy is a real fairytale-like destination and really worth your time. Pro tip: plan to stay a night in San Marino so that you can explore it without the crowds of day-trippers.
LEARN MORE: San Marino
Puglia (Apulia) is a beautiful region in southern Italy, right at the ‘heel’ of this boot-shaped country. Apulia is probably best-known internationally for its trulli houses. Trulli are dry stone huts with a conical roof only found in this part of Italy and mostly in Alberobello town and the Itria Valley. These houses are typically painted white, while the roofs are left grey.
If you are looking for more authentic places to visit in Italy, then you should definitely consider this lesser-known region. It has some incredibly beautiful areas and just a fraction of the number of tourists compared to the surrounding regions.
A visit here is about the colors, the smells, the tastes that somehow feel stronger than anywhere else. It feels as if time passes slower here and so this is a wonderful part of Italy for those who like to travel deeper and are looking for more local experiences.
Not to be missed: Trulli houses in Alberobello, Promontorio del Gargano (a scenic drive along the coast following the ‘heel’ between Peschici and Manfredonia).
Nice to see: the 13th century octagonal-shaped Castel del Monte, Lecce that’s often called ‘Florence of the South’, Bari, Cathedral of Trani, Cathedral of Otranto, Taranto, Grotte di Castellana.
How much time do you need: You’ll need a day to explore the Terra dei Trulli and at least half a day for the scenic drive at the Gargano NP. The rest really depends on what you’re planning to visit.
Sicily is not only the largest island of Italy but also of the whole of the Mediterranean region. The island has nice beaches and breathtaking sceneries and it’s also very rich in history. You can even find ancient temples dating to the 5th-6th centuries BC (don’t miss Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples!).
One of the main attractions of the island is Mount Etna, Europe’s largest and most active volcano. You can visit the volcano with various tours – by jeep, hiking, etc.
Sicily is also a great region for foodies as it has its own distinct cuisine. Sicilian food has been influenced a lot by its history and you’ll find dishes influenced by French, Greek, Arabic, and North African cuisines. Different regions within Sicily can have very different food as well.
TIP: If you’d like to get to know more about Sicilian food and taste a big variety of it, you may want to consider a local food tour. There are some really good tours in all bigger towns.
How much time do you need: You can see the highlights of Sicily in 3-5 days, but you can easily spend a week or two here as well.
Just a little bit smaller than Sicily, Sardinia is also a big island that is a good vacation destination in itself. It has some nice places for sightseeing, but it’s also a popular vacation island with azure-blue waters, rugged coastlines, and dreamy white-sand beaches. It’s a great place to experience the Italian dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing!
If you are looking for a more active holiday, you’ll find plenty to see and do as well. The island interior is mountainous and there are some nice hiking trails here. There are also nice little towns, archeological sites, and little islands to visit…
Sardinia is very different from the rest of Italy, with its own unique culture and food. It offers a lot of diversity in activities, sights, and sceneries and so it’s a great vacation destination for those who want to combine a beach holiday with some sightseeing.
Nice to see: Cagliari, Alghero, and countless beaches.
How much time do you need: You can see the main highlights of Sardinia in 2 days. If you are looking for a more relaxing vacation and want to enjoy the beautiful beaches, you can easily spend a few weeks here.
So, this is my list of the absolute best places in Italy. As you can see, many of these destinations can be like a trip in itself, while some others can be visited in just a day or even less.
I hope that these suggestions will help you plan a dream trip to Italy! No matter where you go and how much time you spend, one thing you can be sure of – you’ll want to come back!
For more detailed destination guides and practical tips for your trip to Italy, please check our other articles on the blog via the link below.
READ ALSO: Italy Travel Guide
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