Are you planning a trip to Italy? If so, be prepared to fall in love with an extraordinary country. The food, the wine, the history, the art and architecture, the quaint, hillside towns in Tuscany, and the underrated Dolomites…there is something here for everyone. The list of best places to visit in Italy is long. So long, in fact, that it would take months to see all of them. Most people have just a week or two to explore this amazing country.
Here is a list of Italy’s best destinations, a good starting point for having the best holiday here.
Best Places to Visit in Italy
Rome. Just hearing the name conjures up some of the most famous landmarks in the world…the Colosseum, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican. The history here spans 28 centuries, making Rome one of the oldest inhabited cites in Europe (and one of the best places to visit in Italy).
This city is a wonderful blend of historical sites, charming piazzas and neighborhoods, world-class museums, and iconic sites. For the first-time visitor, Rome belongs at or near the top of your list. It’s a big, bustling city but the main sites are clustered around the historic city center.
Top Experiences: The Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, and the Borghese Museum. Walk through the historic heart of Rome, explore Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori, and have dinner in Trastevere.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Rent bikes and bike the Appian Way. It’s a fun way to spend a morning or afternoon and it’s the perfect sightseeing break for kids.
How Much Time Should You Spend in Rome? You can hit the main sites in a rushed one-day tour of the city. With two to three busy days you can visit the highlights, what we list above under top experiences. With even more time, you can explore Rome’s nooks and crannies, take a food tour, and venture off-the-beaten-path.
SEE MORE OF ROME: 2 Days in Rome: The Perfect Itinerary for Your First Visit
Without a doubt, Florence (Firenze) is one of the best places to visit in Italy.
This city was the birthplace of the Renaissance and the art museums here are a testament to that. Michelangelo’s David, the amazing Uffizi Gallery, the murals inside the dome of the Duomo, and the statues that are on display in the historic city center are spectacular sights to see. But there are enough towers to climb, gelato to eat, and shops to visit that you don’t have to feel like you are on museum overload on a visit to Florence.
Top Experiences: See Michelangelo’s David, climb the Duomo, tour the Uffizi Gallery, stroll across Ponte Vecchio, eat lots of gelato, and watch the sunset over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Florence can feel like museum overload for kids. In between museum visits, climb the towers and treat them to gelato. Tyler and Kara loved seeing Michelangelo’s David, climbing the Duomo, and walking through Boboli Gardens. They also enjoyed the Galileo Museum.
How Much Time Do You Need in Florence? You can race through the best of Florence in one day, however, two to three days allows you to slow down and visit some worthwhile off-the-beaten-path spots. Florence also makes a great home base for day trips into Tuscany.
LEARN MORE: 10 Things to do on Your First Visit to Florence
With scenic, picturesque hillside towns rising up amidst vineyards and rolling hills, Tuscany is gorgeous and a joy to explore. You could easily spend one week in Tuscany, settling down in a Tuscan villa, with day trips out to the surrounding towns.
The view over San Gimignano
Top Experiences: Tour the hill towns of Tuscany. Siena (see below) is one of the larger towns and, like Florence, makes a great home base for exploring this region. Top hill towns include San Gimignano, Pienza, Montalcino, Montepulciano, and Volterra.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Tuscany is a nice break from Italy’s bigger cities. It’s possible to rent bikes and take a cycling tour of the wineries. The kids can’t taste the wine, of course, but they might enjoy biking between the wineries, depending on their age. We did this with Tyler and Kara in other wine regions in the world and they really enjoyed it.
How Much Time Should You Spend in Tuscany? With one day you can day trip into Tuscany from Florence, visiting a few of the smaller towns. But more time, ideally three to five days, allows you to relax and soak up this region. Stay in Siena or one of the smaller hill towns and explore Tuscany and its wineries.
LEARN MORE: Touring the Hill Towns of Tuscany
Technically, Siena is a hill town in Tuscany. But it is such a great place to visit that it deserves its own mention. Siena is similar to Florence, but quieter and smaller. We actually liked Siena more than Florence. There’s just something about this town that we fell in love with. You may fall in love with it too.
Top Experiences: Wander the cobblestoned streets, overlook Siena from Torre del Mangia, visit the Siena Cathedral, and spend time in Il Campo.
How Long Do You Need in Siena? It’s easy to visit Siena as a day trip from Florence or Tuscany. If you have more time, spend at least one night here to really experience Siena.
LEARN MORE: One Perfect Day in Siena
Milan is home to the Duomo, world-class museums, trendy shopping areas, and Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” This city is undergoing an architectural Renaissance and it is worth even a few hours on the fastest of itineraries.
Top Experiences: Walk on the roof of the Duomo, see Da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” go shopping at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Climb to the roof of the Duomo for a bird’s eye view over the city.
How Long Do You Need in Milan? One day or more. Milan makes a nice day trip if you are traveling between cities such as Florence, Venice, Lake Como, and the Cinque Terre. From Milan, you can easily day trip to Lake Como (see below).
LEARN MORE: How to Spend One Perfect Day in Milan
#6 Lake Como
Nestled at the foot of the Alps, Lake Como is one of Italy’s most romantic spots. Leave the hustle and bustle of Italy’s cities behind on a visit here.
Top Experiences: Visit classy Bellagio, explore the town of Varenna, cruise past the villas on Lake Como, and visit Villa Carlotta and Villa del Balbianello
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Rent a boat and cruise past the villas (this is fun for kids and adults). Kids will also like the riding Funicolare Como-Brunate for amazing views over Lake Como.
How Much Time Do You Need in Lake Como? Lake Como is a very easy day trip from Milan. With more time, spend the night in Bellagio and have fun wandering the picturesque streets once all the day trippers leave for the day.
Venice is one of our favorite spots in Italy. Why? It is small and compact, perfect to be explored with just a few days time. Venice is romantic, historic, and gorgeous. The canals, the gondolas, the architecture, the colorful towns of Murano and Burano…what is not to love?
Venice is one of the best places to visit in Italy and makes it to the top of the list for many first-time visitors.
Top Experiences: Wander along the canals, take a gondola ride through the city, see St. Mark’s Square, walk across the Rialto Bridge, and visit the Doges’ Palace and Saint Mark’s Basilica.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Tyler and Kara loved the gondola ride. We also really enjoyed renting bikes and cycling around Lido island.
How Long Should You Spend in Venice? Plan on spending at least one busy day to see the highlights of Venice. Two to three days gives you more time to visit Murano, Burano, and Lido and to explore the quieter neighborhoods away from the main touristic area.
LEARN MORE: 9 Must-Have Experiences in Venice
#8 Cinque Terre
The Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most scenic spots. It is here that five colorful, gorgeous towns precariously sit on the hills that tumble into the Mediterranean Sea. Hike it or hop from town to town by train…this is a gorgeous spot to explore in Italy.
Top Experiences: Exploring the five towns…Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Monterosso al Mare, Manarola, and Corniglia. If you like hiking, you can hike between all five towns in one day. The more you hike the more gelato you get to eat. End in Monterosso and cool off with a quick swim in the Mediterranean.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Hiking from town to town can be fun for older kids. Spend some time at one of the beaches. Our top pick is Monterosso al Mare. Rent a paddleboat with a slide…hours of fun for kids and the adults get to enjoy beautiful views along the coastline.
How Long Should You Spend in the Cinque Terre? It is possible to visit the Cinque Terre on a long day trip from Florence. However, for the best experience, plan on spending at least one night (two or three nights is ideal) in one of the five towns. With one full day, hike or take the train to connect all five towns. With more time, relax on one of the beaches or day trip to Portofino.
Verona is the famed city where Romeo and Juliette took place.
This small city is gorgeous, similar to Venice but without the canals, the decay, and the huge numbers of tourists. It is also an underrated Italian destination and is worth the visit, even if you just have a few hours.
I have a hunch that if you include Verona in your travel plans, you will be thrilled you did so.
Top Experiences: Walk across Ponte Scaligero, visit Piazza delle Erbe, visit the Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore, overlook Verona from Piazzale Castel San Pietro, and stroll through the town in the evening (the passieggiata). The busiest spot is Juliette’s house, but expect big crowds here.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Climb to the top of Torre dei Lamberti for one of the best views of the city.
How Much Time Do You Need in Verona? It’s possible to visit the highlights of Verona in just a few hours. However, for the best experience, spend one night here and stroll the city streets at night after the day trippers leave.
LEARN MORE: 12 Best Things to do in Verona
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is world famous. But is it really worth the visit? We say yes, but only if you already have plans to be in the area. Pisa is worth a quick stop if you are traveling from Florence to the Cinque Terre. Take two hours to pose for photos (along with tons of other travelers) and maybe even climb the tower.
Top Experiences: Climb the tower if heights and vertigo is not an issue for you.
How Long Do You Need in Pisa? You can visit Pisa in two hours if you are traveling between cities such as Florence and the Cinque Terre.
LEARN MORE HERE: Day Trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa
#11 The Dolomites
The Dolomites are often an overlooked spot for travelers to Italy. But what if I told you that the Dolomites are unbelievably gorgeous and you could have this view without hiking? Would you want to go?
The Dolomites gets our vote as one of the best places to visit in Italy, not only because it is a hiking paradise, but also because the scenery is stunning.
This photo was taken from a spot that was just a short walk from a cable car at the start of the Puez-Odle Altopiano hike. You do not need to be a hiker to appreciate the Dolomites. But if you are a hiker, the Dolomites are world-class. Expect to see some jaw-dropping scenery here.
Top Experiences: There are hikes in the Dolomites for all ages and ability levels. In the summer, cable cars whisk riders to viewpoints like these.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Depending on the age of your kids, take your pick from short to long hikes. Tre Cime di Lavaredo is one of the easier hikes in the region. The hike at the Lagazuoi Tunnels is mostly downhill, since a cable car whisks you up to the highest point, so this is also great for kids over the age of five (and the views are incredible!).
How Long Should You Spend in the Dolomites? Two to three days for scenic drives, rides up in the cable cars, and enough time for some hiking. If you enjoy mountain scenery and want to experience Italy with a dash of Austria, you could easily spend a week here. We spent four days in the Dolomites and cannot wait to go back. This is our favorite spot in Italy.
At the foot of Mt. Vesuvius sits the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii. This is your chance to walk through a preserved, ancient city and get one of Italy’s best history lessons.
Top Experiences: You can explore Pompeii on your own. But for the best experience, consider hiring a guide or joining a tour to get the most out of your visit.
How Much Time Do You Need in Pompeii? Two hours is the average amount of time spent in Pompeii. You can visit Pompeii on a day trip from Rome, from Naples, or from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. For the ultimate experience, consider adding on the hike up to the summit of Mt. Vesuvius.
#13 The Amalfi Coast
The drive along the Amalfi Coast is said to be one of the most scenic drives in the world. Yes, it’s another pretty spot in Italy, but beware, if you are here in summer, these roads get clogged with drivers and tourists. The Amalfi Coast is worth a visit, but if you have to make a choice, the Cinque Terre is a better option (in our opinion).
Top Experiences: Visit the towns on the Amalfi Coast such as Positano, Amalfi, and Salerno. You can get around using public transportation (the SITA buses) but in our experience, we were left stranded on multiple occasions, making bus travel in Italy a nightmare. After our experience, we would recommend paying the extra money and hiring a driver.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Rent kayaks in Positano. Kids will love this and the views of the town are amazing from the water.
How Long Should You Spend on the Amalfi Coast? You can drive the entire Amalfi Coast in one day. However, if you enjoy coastal towns, several nights in Positano would be a great experience.
LEARN MORE: Positano, Our Favorite Town on the Amalfi Coast
Sorrento is a great home base for exploring the island of Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and the historic ruins of Pompeii.
Top Experiences: Stroll along the Corso Italia, explore the lagoon at Bagni della Regina Giovanna, taste Limoncello, and see Marina Grande.
How Much Time Do You Need in Sorrento? Seeing the main sights in Sorrento only takes about half of a day. But since this makes such a great home base, we recommend at least three days here. That gives you enough time to day trip to Capri, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast.
LEARN MORE: Three Days in Sorrento
#15 The Island of Capri
Capri is a small, mountainous island that sits off of the coast of Italy. To get here, hire a boat in Sorrento. You can visit Capri as a day trip or linger several days (or longer if your heart desires).
Top Experiences: Take a boat ride around the circumference of the entire island, visit the Blue Grotto, or take the chairlift up to Mount Solaro for views like this photo.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Tyler and Kara loved the Blue Grotto and the chairlift on Mount Solaro.
How Long Do You Need in Capri? A visit to Capri can easily be done as a day trip from Sorrento. Stay overnight or longer to really get to know the island.
LEARN MORE: Is the Blue Grotto Really Worth It?
#16 Emilia Romagna & Bologna
Emilia Romagna is one of the 20 administrative regions of Italy. It is located in northeast Italy and it is one of the wealthiest regions in Europe. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, and Ducati are all located here.
But you can find much more here than luxury cars. Visit the popular coastal resorts that line the Adriatic Sea, explore the eleven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, visit the former Roman Empire capital city of Ravenna, and visit the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world. Emilia Romagna is also home to Ironman Italy, a full distance triathlon.
Bologna is the capital city of Emilia Romagna and it is world renowned for its cuisine. This is where Bolognese sauce originated. Other local specialties include mortadella, the original Bologna sausage, as well as lasagna, tortellini, and tagliatelle. If you are a foodie, Bologna is one of the best places to visit in Italy.
In 2018, Lonely Planet listed Emilia Romagna as the best place to visit in Europe.
Top Experiences: Eat all of the food in Bologna, visit the coastal resorts, visit Ravenna, take a food tour in Parma.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Take kids to the coastal resort towns of Cervia, Rimini, and Cesenatico.
How Much Time Do You Need in Emilia Romagna? It really depends on your interests. With one day you can visit Bologna and take a food tour. With more time, relax on the beaches at one of the coastal resorts. To thoroughly explore this region, you need 5 to 7 days.
Puglia, also called Apulia, geographically is the “heel” of Italy. Its long coastline sits on the Adriatic Sea. Bari is the largest city in the region and from here you can take a ferry across the Adriatic Sea to the Balkan Peninsula.
What brings most visitors to this part of Italy is the town of Alberobello and its white-washed conical huts. But you can also find colorful coastal towns, national parks, and stunning coastal cliffs.
Top Experiences: See the trulli houses in Alberobello, go swimming or take a boat tour of the coastal cliffs at Torre Sant’Andrea, visit Polignano a Mare, and visit Gargano National Park.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Spend a day or two at Gargano National Park. Visit the small towns, relax on the beach, or take a boat trip to see the rocky coastal cliffs and sea caves.
How Much Time Do You Need in Puglia? With one day, you can visit the town of Alberobello. You will need three days, or longer, to visit the highlights along the coast and Gargano National Park.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. It is home to Mt. Etna, the second most active volcano in the world, along with several smaller active volcanoes. It is also home to ancient Greek and Roman ruins, gorgeous beaches, picturesque towns, and hundreds of castles. Come for the beaches, the culture, the ancient historical sites, the cuisine, and the beautiful cities and towns.
K. Roy Zerloch/shutterstock.com
Top Experiences: Visit the Greek Theatre of Taormina, climb Mt. Etna, visit the Aeolian Islands, see Temple of Concordia at Valley of the Temples, visit Palermo, the capital of Sicily, and relax on the beaches.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Kids will love playing in the crystal-clear water of the beaches. With younger kids, take the cable car/bus combo to the top of Mt. Etna. Older kids might enjoy the hike up Mt. Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe.
How Much Time Do You Need in Sicily? You need a bare minimum of three days. This gives you a tiny taste of what Sicily has to offer. With three days, you can visit the historical highlights, relax on the beach, and visit Mt. Etna. However, more time is better. There is enough to do here that you could easily spend 7 or 10 days on the island.
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It sits just to the south of Corsica and to the north of Tunisia.
This rugged island is home to long, sandy beaches, prehistoric sites, and colorful coastal towns. The mountainous interior of the island is a hiking paradise, where you can visit one of the deepest gorges in Europe and the highest sand dunes in Europe.
If you are looking for a destination that combines beautiful beaches, historical sites, and outdoor adventures, Sardinia is one of the best places in Italy to put on your bucket list.
Top Experiences: Costa Smeralda (the Emerald Coast); Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia; visit Su Nuraghe of Barumini, an archaeological site that dates back to 1900 to 730 BCE; relax on the beaches; cruise around the island.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: The beautiful beaches will keep young kids happy. There are lots of options for adventurous and older kids. Go stand up paddle boarding, rock climbing, hike to Gorropu Canyon, one of the deepest gorges in Europe, and Sardinia is a great place to go kite surfing and windsurfing.
How Much Time Should You Spend in Sardinia? With two to three days you can visit the highlights. More time lets you lounge longer on the beautiful beaches, go hiking, or spend more time at the historical sites.
#20 San Marino
San Marino is a tiny, independent nation completely surrounded by Italy. It has a spectacular location, nestled in the mountains near the Adriatic Sea. The capital city, also called San Marino, is a maze of hilly, medieval streets, dotted with cafes and small shops. From the guard towers and the piazzas, the views over the surrounding countryside are gorgeous.
San Marino is a country that exceeded our expectations. It’s gorgeous, it’s fun to explore, the views over the vineyards of nearby Italy are breathtaking, and the food is delicious.
Top Experiences: Wander the city streets, visit Piazza della Liberta, climb Guaita and Cesta towers, watch the crossbow demonstration at Cava dei Balestrieri, and visit the weird museums.
Ideas for Traveling with Kids: Kids will love climbing the towers and exploring the medieval walls. The Torture Museum, Museum of Curiosity, and the World of Leonardo might interest older kids.
How Much Time Do You Need in San Marino? You can visit San Marino on a day trip from Bologna and the Emilia Romagna region or Tuscany. For the best experience, spend one night here. Have a leisurely dinner, watch the sunset, and enjoy the quiet streets after the day trippers go home.
Best Places to Visit in Italy: On a Map
How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
What do you think are the best places to visit in Italy? Let us know in the comment section below.
More Information for Your Trip to Italy:
- 2 WEEK ITINERARY: 14 Day Italy Itinerary: How to Spend Two Weeks in Italy
- 10 DAY ITINERARY: 10 Days in Italy: 3 Amazing Itineraries
- PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS: 10 Gorgeous Views of Italy and Where to Photograph Them
- FLORENCE: Where to Get the Best Views of Florence
- BELLAGIO: 8 Amazing Things to Do in Bellagio
Planning a trip to Italy? Read all of our articles in our Italy Travel Guide.
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