One of the trickiest questions I frequently get asked as an Italian is what are the best places to visit in Italy.
You see, Italy is a special country. And I don’t just say it because I was born and raised here, and it’s the place I call home. This is the kind of place where you will find beautiful cities and quaint villages; mighty mountains and paradisiac beaches; art and archeological sites like nowhere else (this is the country with the highest concentration of UNESCO World Heritage Sites); delicious food and even better wine. In other words, whatever you are looking for, you will find it!
With so much on offer, I can’t possibly include all the places to visit in Italy in just one post – besides, it would take you a lifetime to visit them all. So, I have made a selection of what I think are the best places to visit in Italy, the ones you should consider visiting during your holidays, especially if you are a first timer.
The 21 Best Places To Visit In Italy
Number one in the list of the best places to visit in Italy has to be Rome. This city has so much history, so much art, so much good food, and it looks so breathtakingly beautiful that you could spend months there without ever getting tired.
Rome has an incredible range of attractions. Among the places you really can’t miss in the Eternal City there are the Colosseum, Borghese Gallery and the Pantheon. Most visitors will also use Rome as the access point to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and its Dome, as well as the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.
You need three to five days to see it properly, but some try to see Rome in a day – I don’t recommend it, because it is too rushed. For more information and itineraries in Rome, check out these posts:
- 37 Unmissable, Fun And Cheap Things To Do In Rome
- 31 Incredible Places To Explore Rome Off The Beaten Path
- A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Rome
- A Great Itinerary For A Fabulous Week In Rome
- A Wonderful Itinerary For 5 Days In Rome
- A Fantastic Itinerary For 4 Days In Rome
- The Perfect Itinerary For 3 Days In Rome
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In 2 Days
- The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In A Day
The following are some of the best guided tours of Rome:
- Rome in a day tour with Vatican, Colosseum and historic center – it goes to all the most important tourist attractions in town, in a day, and the only thing you have to worry about is making the reservations.
- Full day walking tour of Rome – another great option but keep in mind it doesn’t go to the Vatican.
- Faster than skip the line: Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica tour – a Vatican only tour, which is perfect for a full day.
- Skip the line ancient Rome and Colosseum half day walking tour – a good tour that takes you to some of the most important sights in town.
- Best of Rome: Vatican, St. Peter’s Basilica and Colosseum pass – an more budget friendly option as you only have an audio-guide.
Viterbo and Tuscia
Viterbo is a lovely mid-sized city at the heart of Tuscia. You will find it at about 100 km from Rome, and – let me tell you – one of the best places to visit in Italy. Not many people outside of Italy have heard of it, so if you decide to visit you’ll find a city that has yet to be discovered by mass tourism and with an interesting history.
The medieval center of town is very well preserved. As Viterbo held the papal seat for about 24 years in the 13th century, you will find a gorgeous papal palace. Make sure to also visit the Duomo of San Lorenzo and the Church of Santa Maria Nuova, and to walk the narrow alleys of San Pellegrino. You can also hop to the thermal baths – which are open to the public for a real steal.
If you visit at the beginning of September, stay along for Santa Rosa festival on the night of 3 September. It’s been added to the list of UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage and a real treat to get to see it.
Most people visit Viterbo on day trips from Rome but I wholeheartedly recommend spending a few days in town to explore the city and the rest of Tuscia, which is a perfect place for a road trip. Places such as Bomarzo and Soriano nel Cimino, in the Cimini Hills; Bagnaia with the stunning Villa Lante; Vitorchiano; Bracciano with its Odescalchi Castle and the more famous Civita di Bagnoregio (known as the Dying City) all deserve a visit.
For Civita di Bagnoregio, I wholeheartedly recommend taking a guided tour. This Civita di Bagnoregio – the dying city walking tour is an excellent option.CLICK HERE TO FIND THE BEST TOURS IN VITERBO FIND YOUR HOTEL IN VITERBO HERE
Naples and Pompeii
There is little doubt that Naples is one of the best cities to visit in Italy. This buzzing city has a friendly atmosphere, it’s really full of life, interesting sights and delicious food – did I hear you say pizza? Indeed, let’s not forget this is where pizza was invented in 1830. You will have to pick between many kinds – pizza a portafoglio (folded); pizza fritta (fried) and the classic one: you honestly can’t go wrong!
Needless to say, Naples has some fantastic attractions. Piazza del Plebiscito, Castel d’Ovo, San Severo Chapel, San Gennaro Catacombs, the Archeology Museum, the Royal Palace and the Cathedral are all a must-see.
Finally, don’t forget that Naples will give you easy access to Pompeii, the city that was abandoned in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted killing more than 2000 people and covering it in a blanket of ashes.
I recommend spending 2 days in Naples and Pompeii before moving on to the Amalfi Coast.
These are some of the best tours in Naples and Pompeii:
- Catacombs of San Gennaro guided visit
- Naples street food and sightseeing tour
- Pompeii ruins skip the line small group tour
- Pompeii skip the line two hour private group tour
- Pompeii skip the line with audio-guide
Amalfi Coast and Sorrento
It is a well-known fact that Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast are among the best places to visit in Italy. Visiting these world-famous coastal destinations is a must-do, and a road trip along the coast is the best way to take in all the scenic views. And if you enjoy eating fish or seafood, you will be in for a real treat. Don’t worry if you eat too much: you can wash everything down with limoncello at the end of the meal.
From Sorrento you can also catch a ferry to the nearby island of Capri, another Italian gem.
If you are short on time, you will be happy to know that a day or two are enough to take in the views of the Amalfi Coast. I am all for slow travel, so if you have more time, definitely spend a couple of nights there.
Visiting Amalfi Coast on public transportation can be a bit of a hassle, so you may want to do a guided tour such as this Amalfi all inclusive day tour from Naples (book it here) or hire a private driver for the day (driving in this part of Italy may not be a great idea if you aren’t used to narrow, winding streets).CLICK HERE TO FIND THE BEST TOURS IN SORRENTO FIND YOUR HOTEL IN SORRENTO HERE
Easily one of the best cities in Italy, Florence is synonymous with art. Visit, and you won’t stop marveling at all that it has to offer. Among the top sights, make sure to visit the Duomo and the Uffizi Gallery, see Michelangelo’s David, admire Ponte Vecchio and go all the way to Piazzale Michelangelo for a magnificent sunset view over the city.
The city’s top tourist attractions can be visited in a day, but once again I don’t recommend racing it. Art deserves patience! You will probably need to get a few tickets in advance for the top attractions. Here are the ones I recommend booking beforehand:
- Florence Dome climb priority entrance tour
- Uffizi Gallery priority entrance
- Timed entrance ticket to the Uffizi Gallery
- Timed entrance ticket to Michelangelo’s David
- Accademia Gallery fast track tickets
Siena and Tuscany
I love love love Siena. I honestly think it is the best city to visit in Tuscany – I actually enjoy it more than Florence! And by far one of the best places to visit in Italy. I went in October and the smell of freshly picked mushroom and the light that you get on beautiful fall days made me enjoy it even more.
When in Siena, make sure to spend some time wandering the narrow alleys; climb Torre del Mangia for incredible views of the city; visit the Cathedral and hang out in Il Campo – the city’s main square.
Many people visit Siena on day trips from Florence, but if time is not an issue plan to spend a night there and book yourself in one of the local trattoria for a fabulous meal.
Other places to visit in Tuscany include the popular Pisa – for which a day is more than enough to visit the Leaning Tower and Campo de’ Miracoli (you can even stop there on the way to Cinque Terre); San Gimignano; Lucca which actually is a real hidden gem, and Montepulciano.CLICK HERE TO FIND THE BEST TOURS IN SIENA FIND YOUR HOTEL IN SIENA HERE
The incredibly scenic Cinque Terre definitely is one of the best places to visit in Italy. It’s a series of extremely colorful, charming small towns that sit on the cliffs and sides of the mountain, overlooking the beautiful sea.
The best way to enjoy Cinque Terre is on a hike – you can walk from village to village and thus visit Manarola, Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare and Corniglia. You can also enjoy the beautiful beaches and taste the delicious food – some of the best olive oil in Italy is produced here.
Although you can visit Cinque Terre on day trips from Florence (read this post to find out how or book this tour or this one), I recommend spending at least a night there. When all day-trippers leave, you get to have the place all to yourself and it’s just special!FIND YOUR HOTEL IN CINQUE TERRE HERE
Milan is one of the most interesting cities in the country. It’s the center of Italian economic life, where all trends start; it’s a cosmopolitan city where old meets new and you will find contemporary art galleries next to museums and beautiful churches. It also has one of the best selection of restaurants in Italy.
Among the things not to miss in Milan there are the magnificent Duomo – make sure to climb to the top and get your tickets here – and the world-famous Last Supper, for which you need to buy tickets months in advance – you can get them here.
Most will tell you that a day in Milan is enough, but I recommend spending two to take in all that it has to offer. If you manage to rush through all the attractions, you can just go shopping!CLICK HERE TO FIND THE BEST TOURS IN MILAN FIND YOUR HOTEL IN MILAN HERE
Often visited on day trips from Milan, Lake Como easily is one of the best places to visit in Italy. At the foot of the Alps, this probably is one of the most romantic destinations in the country – and the fact that George Clooney owns a villa here and is regularly spotted only adds to the fame!
In the area of Lake Como, Varenna and Bellagio are two must-sees. Make sure to also ride the funicular Como-Brunate for incredible views.
If you are short on time, a day in Lake Como is enough. These are the best guided tours departing from Milan:
- Lake Como, Bellagio, and Varenna: Full Day Tour
- From Milan: Lake Como and Bellagio Day Trip
- Lugano and Lake Como Day Trip
Venice is a city I never tire of. Crowded with tourists, extremely hot in the summer and humid and miserable in the winter, I still find it a sight for my eyes. It is full of history, art, mystery and romance. Ride a gondola through the canals and you will get a new perspective of the city.
Among the places you should visit in Venice there are Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Basilica and its Bell Tower and St. Mark’s Square; the Rialto Bridge and Market, the Jewish Ghetto and the small nearby islands of Burano and Murano.
Venice deserves at least 3 days – between the city and a day trip to Burano and Murano, that’s really a minimum!
Make sure to read my posts for more ideas on what to see and do in Venice:
- 22 Incredible Things To Do In Venice
- How To Get Doge Palace Tickets And Skip The Line
- How To Get St. Mark’s Basilica Tickets
You may want to consider this Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica tour to make the most of the city.CLICK HERE TO FIND THE BEST TOURS IN VENICE FIND YOUR HOTEL IN VENICE HERE
The city of Romeo and Juliet, Verona is one of those cities that truly deserves more visitors and that yet you’ll wish that it remains the way it is – local, pleasant, incredibly beautiful.
Verona deserves a full day to be explored, and possibly more if you want to take your time to fully enjoy its atmosphere. Among Verona tops sights there are the Arena, Ponte Scaligero, Piazza delle Erbe, the Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore. Make sure to also go to Piazzale Castel San Pietro for great views of the city.CLICK HERE TO FIND THE BEST TOURS IN VERONA FIND YOUR HOTEL IN VERONA HERE
One of the best places to visit in Italy that hardly ever makes it on first-timers itineraries is the Dolomites. Spread across the North West of the country, this mighty mountain range is best accessed from the region of Trentino.
Your experience there will vary depending on the season you visit. Go in the winter, and you will be hitting the slopes. Visit in the summer and it will all be about world-class hikes, lakes, open air concerts, charming small towns such a Mezzano di Primiero, Fiera di Primiero, San Martino di Castrozza, and Moena all deserve a visit, as well as the beautiful main city, Trento. Oh and there is obviously all the food and the delicious wine!
If you really want to make the most of the Dolomites, plan to spend at least 3 or 4 days there. I have spent a week last summer and could hardly get enough of it.
Make sure to read my posts for more information:
- A Great Itinerary For A Summer Week In Trentino
- 5 Short But Rewarding Hikes In The Dolomites Of Trentino
Bologna is one of the best cities in Italy for food lovers. It’s the kind of place you would hardly include in your itinerary, end up visiting and regret not spending more time there. A large student town, it is considered Italy’s liveliest city, with an excellent restaurant, bar and nightlife scene.
But if you are visiting for the sights, you won’t be disappointed. Among the places you shouldn’t miss there are Piazza Maggiorethe two towers and San Petronio church. Make sure to also sign up for a food tour and a cooking class – this is where lasagne were invented and you will want to unveil all their secrets.
I recommend spending at least 2 days in Bologna.FIND YOUR HOTEL IN THE BOLOGNA HERE
Have you ever heard of Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia? I bet you haven’t. It hardly ever makes the list of best places to visit in Italy. But I promise you it is worth the flight – and I am not just saying this because I was born and raised there, and still call it home. It’s the kind of place where locals are still the vast majority of people you see out and about!
Perched on the hills and overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Cagliari abounds in history but at the same time will offer the best nature experiences. Make sure to visit the Roman Amphitheater, the historical district of Castello where you will find the Cathedral, the two watchtowers and the Archeology Museum. Walk to Via Santa Croce for the best city views (the photo above was taken from there, and it gets even better at sunset!) and head to Poetto Beach for a day in the sun.
From Poetto, you can also access Molentargius Nature Reserve which is a haven for pink flamingoes. And if you fancy a hike, head to Calamosca Beach and hit the trail to Sella del Diavolo.
Cagliari deserves at least 2 full days, more if you want to use it as a base to explore southern Sardinia,
For more information about Cagliari, check out my posts:
- A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Cagliari
- A Guide To The Beaches In Cagliari And Its Surroundings
- A Guide To Hotels In Cagliari: Where To Stay In Sardinia’s Capital
La Maddalena Archipelago
If you are looking for heavenly beaches and one of the best places to visit in Italy in the summer, you found it. La Maddalena Archipelago, at the north eastern tip of Sardinia, is a series of small islands with some of the most beautiful coves in the world. Just picture white sand, clear turquoise and emerald waters, and thick Mediterranean vegetation.
Most of the archipelago is protected and you can only access the beaches via a short hike or during a boat tour. You can book this one.
A boat tour is enough to enjoy La Maddalena Archipelago. If you are curious about more beaches in Sardinia, check out my Guide To The Best Beaches In Sardinia.
Adding to the list of the best places to visit in Italy that you probably never heard of there is the small island of Asinara, located in the north eastern tip of Sardinia. Beautiful beaches, a barren landscape and lots of wildlife make this a special place.
Asinara is uninhabited – it was turned into a prison and leper colony and eventually a high security prison since the mid 19th century. When the high security prison was finally closed, the island was turned into a highly protected national park that most visit on day trips departing from Porto Torres or Stintino – but I recommend staying overnight to enjoy the surreal atmosphere, the silence and the starry night.
The best way to explore the island is biking or hiking, and if it is too hot for that you can opt to rent an electric golf cart. This way you can hit the many beaches and viewpoints.
Make sure to read my post A Complete Guide To The Island Of Asinara, Sardinia for more information.
There are two places to stay in Asinara. One is a basic hostel run and the other one is a lovely newly opened bed and breakfast. I recommend the second, which you can book here.
Lecce and Salento
Lecce is one of the best cities to visit in Italy and extremely underrated. Located in the southern region of Puglia, this medium sized town is famous for its baroque style architecture and for its historical center which is entirely built in white stone.
Among the places you should not miss there are the beautiful Cathedral, located in the airy Duomo Square; the amphitheater and Porta Napoli. A walk along the narrow streets will reveal a plethora of lovely shops, bars, cafés (have a pasticciotto, thank me later) and restaurants.
You can use Lecce as a base to explore Salento, but with such pretty places you’ll regret not spending a night out there. Places like Ostuni, Otranto, Gallipoli all deserve a visit.
Factor in at least 4 days to make the most of Lecce and Salento.CLICK HERE TO FIND THE BEST TOURS IN LECCE FIND YOUR HOTEL IN LECCE HERE
Added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1993, the lovely city of Matera is one of the best places to visit in Italy. This medium-sized city in the region of Basilicata, in Southern Italy, is famous for its Sassi – literally “stones” and which defines the typical architectural style the city became famous for. The city’s cathedral and the rupestrian churches are also a must-see.
A day is probably enough to visit Matera – you can check it out on the way to Lecce from Naples. But I recommend spending a night or two there to take in the unique atmosphere.CLICK HERE TO FIND THE BEST TOURS IN MATERA FIND YOUR HOTEL IN MATERA HERE
Catania is one of the most lively cities in the country and definitely one of the best places to visit in Italy. Between the beautiful churches, the airy squares, the markets and the delicious food, and the access to many beautiful nearby places such as Mount Etna, Syracuse, Noto and Ortigia and all the fantastic Etna wineries, you won’t have time to get bored there.
You will need at least 4 full days to explore Catania and its surroundings properly. Make sure to visit the Cathedral and the Roman Amphitheater; explore the markets where you should opt for a food tours, and don’t miss Mount Etna. You may want to consider this guided Mount Etna summit and crater trek.
For more information about Catania check out my posts:CLICK HERE TO FIND THE BEST TOURS IN CATANIA FIND YOUR HOTEL IN CATANIA HERE
The Aeolian Islands
Finally, among the best places to visit in Italy there are the Aeolian Islands. Easily reached by boat from Milazzo, at about one hour drive from Messina, this is an incredibly scenic place – volcanic islands dotting the bluest ocean and surmounted by mighty volcanoes.
I recommend spending at least 4 days visiting the archipelago. Start with Vulcano, where you will find some lovely beaches and the famous mud baths where you can immerse yourself – they are said to have great healing properties; a variety of hiking trails (the one to Gran Cratere will give you magnificent views, as pictured above) and then move to Stromboli, home to one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
Hiking to the crater of Mount Stromboli is a truly unique experience. You will need a guide for that for safety reason – keep in mind you hike in the afternoon to get to the crater at sunset and walk back down in the dark. This are the best guided tours of Mount Stromboli:
- Volcano Sunset Trekking at Sciara del Fuoco
- Panarea and Stromboli eruption by night
- Volcano Stromboli summit crater
For more information about the Aeolian Islands, check out my posts:
- Everything You Need To Know To Visit Vulcano Island, Sicily
- Everything You Need To Know To Hike Stromboli Volcano
Further readings about Italy
If you are planning a trip to Italy, make sure to read these other posts:
- 17 Reasons To Visit Italy As Soon As Possible
- 67 Extremely Useful Travel Tips For Italy
- What To Do And What To Avoid When Planning A Trip To Italy
- A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia