Things to Do

The most beautiful places to visit in Italy

From cities rich with culture to seaside retreats and idyllic islands, here are some of the most incredible places to visit in Italy.

Places to visit in Italy

By Gayatri Bhaumik

Updated 8-3-2024

For a relatively small country, Italy sure packs an array of climates, topographies, and cultures into its 20 regions. New arrivals to the country will discover a dizzying collection of museums, a rich and variable culinary landscape, and even a plethora of local languages. If you are moving to Italy, you will no doubt be keen to explore the country’s compelling towns, incredible nature, and fascinating attractions. So to help you get started, here are some of the best places to visit in Italy.


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Lago di Como

Italy has lakes in spades – more than 1,500, to be exact. But few have the glitz and glam of Lake Como; a stunning body of water in Lombardy that sits at the foot of the Rhaetian Alps.

Since the time of the Ancient Romans, wealthy Italians have come to enjoy the area’s sweeping natural beauty while luxuriating in its grand villas. These days, celebrities, fashionistas, and jet-setters cool their heels in the lake’s crystal-clear waters during the height of summer.

As such, you may well run into the Clooneys, who have a home there, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen, who married there, and Steph Curry, who has been spotted in the area on vacation.

A view of Lake Como on a beautiful sunny day, house in the distance.
Photo: Lewis J Goetz/Unsplash

Needless to say, there is plenty to keep you entertained in this beautiful Italian haven: whether you want to hop on a boat trip or enjoy some water sports, explore the smorgasbord of small towns like Como, Bellagio, and Tremezzina, or indulge in ocean-fresh seafood. And, for the ultimate experience, you can always book a stay at the oh-so-glamorous Villa d’Este.

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Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is a truly unique experience for those looking to explore Italy’s stunning natural landscapes. The picturesque destination consists of five quaint fishing towns that tumble down the steep Mediterranean coast from La Spezia. Once upon a time, the only way to travel through the region was via the trails that meander along the hulking cliffs. However, with the arrival of the railway, these trails now offer some of the best hiking routes in Italy. In between active pursuits, those visiting the area can take the time to bask in the small-town charm and many attractions of the five villages.

Highlights include Riomaggiore’s medieval castle, the hidden swimming holes of Manarola, the olive groves and nightlife of Vernazza, the glamorous beach at Monterosso, and the hillside vineyards of Corniglia. Along the way, you can also enjoy colorful architecture, Insta-worthy photo ops, and plenty of tiny trattorias serving delicious local delights.

You won’t want to miss:

  • Sipping an aperitivo (or taking a pesto-making class) at Nessun Dorma
  • Exploring the vineyards above Manarola and trying Scaicchetrà, the local sweet wine
  • Hopping on a boat to explore the area’s caves and swim in the Ligurian Sea
  • Walking the Sentiero Azzuro (Blue Trail)
  • Catching the sunset from the rocks at Riomaggiore

Il Dolomiti

They might not be the world’s biggest, but these rose-tinted granite mountains in northeast Italy have been charming visitors for centuries. Perhaps that is why the Dolomites received UNESCO World Heritage status in 2009. Aside from admiring the rugged beauty of its dramatic summits, there are plenty of reasons to visit the Dolomites. Visitors can expect richly-hued blankets of wildflowers in spring, sophisticated ski resorts like Cortina d’Ampezzo and Alta Badia, and picturesque mountain villages like Sappada and Chiusa (Klausen in German).

A long shot of the Dolomites lit up by the sun
Photo: Mikolas Voborsky/Unsplash

There are 18 peaks in total – including the famous Three Peaks of Lavaredo – some of which soar more than 3,000 meters above sea level. There are also several glaciers to explore, along with some inquisitive wildlife. If you plan on visiting, be ready for a slew of outdoor adventures; from hiking and mountain climbing to biking and rafting.

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The ancient Roman city of Pompeii is one of the most famous places to visit in Italy, which is hardly surprising given its tragic history. Those visiting the famous site can travel back in time to 79 AD, when Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the bustling city in ash and preserving it for centuries. Curious explorers can wander around some of the buildings and public spaces that have come to life through careful excavations.

A woman preserved in ash in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii
Photo: Christopher Ott/Unsplash

They can also spend time strolling along the ancient streets and discovering what is left of the shops, brothels, baths, homes, and more significant structures like the Amphitheater, the Forum, and the Sanctuary of Apollo. Needless to say, you’ll want to have your camera ready to capture these jaw-dropping historic scenes.

You won’t want to miss:

  • A day trip to nearby Herculaneum; another ancient Roman city that was preserved in lava during the same explosion of Mount Vesuvius
  • The vivid frescos at the Villa dei Misteri (Villa of the Mysteries)
  • Hiking the rim of Mount Vesuvius
  • Checking out the intriguing Cave Canum (Beware of the Dog) mosaic at the House of the Tragic Poet

Costiera Amalfitana

It is no secret that the Amalfi Coast is among the most iconic places to visit in Italy. After all, there is a reason why everyone from Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway to Jacqueline Kennedy and Sophia Loren has visited. This glamorous retreat in the region of Campania is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its own right – and for good reason. The shimmering azure waters, dramatic coastal cliffs, lush vegetation, and postcard villages are stunning enough. But add to that a decadent culinary scene and luxurious resorts, and you have a winner.

There are 13 seaside towns and villages along the coast, each with its own unique charm. You probably already know the pastel-hued town of Positano, which is famous for its luxe cliffside resorts and fine dining. But make sure to explore the ancient villas and glorious vistas of alpine Ravello, the beaches of Praiano, and bustling Amalfi. Foodies will no doubt want to stop by Minori, which produces some of the world’s oldest pasta. And, if you want that perfect Instagram shot, be sure to work your way along the cliff-top hiking trails that offer incredible Tyrrhenian landscapes.

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Puglia – or Apulia – is undergoing something of a tourism renaissance. Thanks to its many attractions, it is quickly becoming one of Italy’s top destinations. The capital, Lecce, is bursting with intricate Baroque architecture. Meanwhile, in the very south, Salento offers rugged cliffs, hidden coves, and pristine beaches. Outdoorsy visitors will want to bask in the natural delights of Parco Naturale Regionale Costa Otranto.

A landscape view of the 'white city' Ostuni, in Italy
Photo: Daniel Corneschi/Unsplash

History buffs may also want to check out the 12th-century church and 15th-century castle in Otranto. However, everyone should make a stop at Alberobello to see the unique trulli (cone-roofed houses) that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the ‘white city’ of Ostuni.

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The incredible cuisine is what makes Emilia-Romagna one of the most popular places to visit in Italy; especially among foodies. This northern Italian region produces the most iconic Italian ingredients and dishes. While there, make sure to sample Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Proscuitto di Parma in Parma, aged balsamic vinegar from Modena, tortellini and tagliatelle al ragù, and plenty of Lambrusco wine. The capital, Bologna, is a jewel box of ancient arcades, refined old noble homes, stunning churches, and the oldest university in the world.

Having said that, you will find plenty of other compelling towns to check out, too. For instance, you can marvel at the eight UNESCO Heritage Sites of Ravenna, explore the beach clubs and historic architecture in Rimini, and discover Leonardo da Vinci’s Canal Port in Cesenatico. And when you need a break, you can always take in the local nature at the Po Delta Nature Park, Brisighella, and the Casentinesi Forest National Park.

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Live out your Under-the-Tuscan-Sun fantasies in this gorgeous corner of central Italy, and you may even discover why Tuscany is consistently rated one of the top places to visit in Italy. Whether you wish to spend your time admiring the innovations and art of the Renaissance era in Florence, or pondering the mechanics of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, there’s plenty to satisfy your wanderlust.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa and Pisa Cathedral in Tuscany, Italy
Photo: Marco Savastano/Unsplash

While there, you may also want to explore the ancient Etruscan city of Volterra and the medieval towns of San Gimignano and Siena. Alternatively, you can admire the incredible works of artists and sculptures such as Botticelli, Da Vinci, Donatello, Bernini, and Bruneschelli at famous museums like the Uffizi and Accademia. And, if you are something of a connoisseur, you will want to sample all the best local wines, from Chiantis and Montepulcianos to Super Tuscans and Brunello di Montalcinos.

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Located just off Italy’s central coast, the sunkissed island of Sardinia is becoming a hot tourist destination – and for good reason. There are miles of white-sand beaches and emerald waters at places like Oasi di Biderosa and Cala Brandinchi. Meanwhile, quaint mountain villages like Bosa and Castelsardo specialize in ancient traditions, and the glamorous Costa Smeralda attracts international jet setters.

There are smatterings of prehistoric sights to explore, too: for instance, the ancient neuraxis (defensive fortresses), the Roman spa at Fordongianus, and the famous Domus de Janas (giant’s tombs). Then there’s the local cuisine, which features local pasta like curlugiones and malloreddus, the suckling pig Porceddu dish, and a slew of regional cheese. The main town of Cagliari is a great place to start, then you can see where the wind takes you.

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Il Vaticano

Whether you are religious or not, the Vatican is easily one of the most compelling places to visit in Italy. Vatican City is an independent country in its own right, with its own particular temporal jurisdiction with the Pope as its sovereign – and plenty of attractions to ponder. You could spend more than a few days exploring the incredible art collection of the Vatican Museums, marveling at da Vinci’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel, wandering through the sweeping gardens, and visiting St. Peter’s Basilica.

Vatican City at sunset
Photo: Christopher Czermak/Unsplash

You can also check out the colorful uniforms of the Swiss Guards, see Bernini’s masterful Colonnade at St. Peter’s Square, and the Papal apartments at the Castel Sant’Angelo. If you want a truly unique experience, though, try and book a tour that will let you have breakfast in the Pinecone Courtyard and give you access to the museums before they open to the public.

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