Apart from being one of the most beautiful countries in the world, Italy is loved globally for offering an eclectic blend of tourist attractions. On one hand, tourists can’t resist visiting Tuscany and Venice for their romantic appeal, and on the other, tourists enjoy exploring the Roman ruins of Herculaneum, Rome, and Pompeii. Italy offers so much to do and see that it would take a lifetime to explore.
Best Time to Visit Italy
While Italy has a varied geography, the best time to visit the country is during spring (April-May) and fall (September-October). To find the best season to visit Italy, tourists should consider factors such as seasonal atmosphere, budget, weather, and cultural events. If you’re planning on visiting the sun-soaked Mediterranean coast, summer could be the best time for you. Although the temperatures and hotel prices also peak in the summer, specifically July and August, there is an upside to planning a summer vacation as the days are longer resulting in most of the attractions like cathedrals, and museums remaining open for longer hours than in winter.
While on the other hand, if Rome is on your list of places to visit, you should probably look for a winter vacation as hotel rates are lower with not many tourists around. Those looking to travel to Italy to celebrate New Years’ Eve and Christmas should make hotel and flight reservations as early as possible to avail discounts. This is also the perfect time if you’re planning for your honeymoon as it is considered off-season in Italy.
Best Places to Visit in Italy
#1 in Best Places to Visit in Italy
The Colosseum is the most famous and largest amphitheater in the Roman world. The construction of this spectacular monument was started in 72 AD by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty and was completed in 80 AD by his son Titus. The Colosseum has no less than 80 entrances with the capacity of holding some 50,000 spectators, who were protected from the heat of the sun and rain by sails called the “velarium”, attached around the top of the attic. Once popular as the site of gladiator clashes, Colosseum even to this day tingles with the energy of battles past. Although it’s much quieter today – tourists can see more camera flashes instead of sparks from chariot races! With more than 2000 years of history, this spectacular monument was included in the list of seven wonders of the modern world on 7th July 2007.
Colosseum is among the popular places to visit in Italy because of its remarkable history, tourists are transported from century to century listening with awe to the stories of this apparently timeless monument. The monument has faced devastation several times over the years by vandalism, earthquakes, and fire, but has still managed to stand in all its glory. Apart from being a popular tourist attraction, Colosseum also has a link with the Roman Catholic Church. Every year on the day of Good Friday, thousands of followers join the “Way of Cross” procession which is lead by the pope with torch-lit, starting from the area around the Colosseum. Besides this, the place also symbolizes the international campaign against capital punishment, where the local authorities change the color of the night illumination of the Colosseum from white to golden whenever a person gets a death sentence waived off or gets a release.
Santa Maria del Fiore
#2 in Best Places to Visit in Italy
Begun in 1296 in the Gothic style and completed in 1436, Santa Maria del Fiore is probably the best known of Italy’s cathedrals and also a symbol of the city. The church is best known for its dome, called Brunelleschi’s Dome which was completed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1434. The skyline of Florence is occupied by the ornate dome of the cathedral, with murals painted by famous Italian masters and stained glass windows. Visitors can enjoy the stunning fresco and also climb the 436 stairs to the top of the dome for extraordinary views of Florence. Polychrome marble panels in various shades of pink and green bordered by white overlook the exterior of the basilica.
The Basilica is one of the must-see places to visit in Italy as it is one of Italy’s largest churches, also the largest brick dome ever constructed. Although the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore is famous for its appearance, it was more importantly the representative building at beginning of the entire Renaissance. Close beside the cathedral in Piazza del Duomo stands the cathedral’s bell tower, covered in the patterned marble which was typical of Tuscan Romanesque architecture.
The Grand Canal, Venice
#3 in Best Places to Visit in Italy
Located in northeastern Italy and popularly known as “The City of Water”, Venice is the crown jewel of water cities. With its romantic charm, it remains one of the top places to visit in Italy. The city is unique as it is built upon a lagoon surrounded by the Adriatic Sea. Venice is a collection of 118 islands all connected by hundreds of scenic canals and beautiful bridges. Historic architecture and picturesque waterways make Venice one of the most romantic cities in the world. Venice hosts one of Italy’s energetic and high-spirited carnival festivals every year where the streets are filled with people dressed in colorful masks (also a popular souvenir to purchase in Venice) and costumes, while fleets of decorated gondolas and boats pack the Grand Canal.
Out of the canals, one that stands out and is well known is the Grand Canal which is an S-shaped canal flowing through the center of the city dividing the city into two sections. The canal is considered the most important waterway of the city, with several artistically decorated buildings dating back from the 13th to the 18th century running through each side of it. These buildings are aesthetically erected with classic Venetian architecture and design that cannot be found anywhere else! These buildings along with ancient churches, century-old palaces, and of course the glorious “Gondola Ride” are some of the known aspects of the Grand Canal which may fill any sort of traveler with excitement. While strolling through Venice gives tourists plenty of opportunities to see the Grand Canal, many still prefer the experience on the water to be better. Water buses called vaporetti are used by locals to get around, while travelers prefer the romantic gondola or private water taxis.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
#4 in Best Places to Visit in Italy
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, also known as La Torre Pendente is a free-standing clock tower whose fame, gained from its flaw, is world-renowned. The construction began on the tower in the 1100s, while the sinking that resulted in the lean, began by the time the tower reached the third story. It was predicted to topple over by the year 2000 before the restoration work began in the 1990s. The tower stands on the Piazza dei Miracoli, a setting it shares with the stunning Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta along with a round freestanding baptistery, each of which is an outstanding work of medieval stone carving.
The tower stands at a height of 56 meters and a weight of 14,453 tons and is one of the most popular places to visit in Italy with around 5 million visitors each year! Visitors are allowed to climb up the stairs of the tower for a fabulous view over the city. As the tower is currently tilted more than three degrees south, climbing the tower becomes very interesting as you will feel both the centripetal force and centrifugal force! What made the tower famous in 1590 was Galileo testing free fall from the Leaning Tower of Pisa to prove that “objects of different weights fall at the same speed.” What got the tower more fame was being recognized along with its adjacent cathedral, cemetery, and baptistery as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for the huge influence it had on Italian architecture between the 11th and 14th centuries.
#5 in Best Places to Visit in Italy
The Amalfi Coast is situated in Italy’s southwestern region of Campania, stretching 30 miles along the southern side of the Sorrento Peninsula, the coastline is picturesque featuring lemon tree gardens, shimmering bays, multicolored villas, craggy cliffs, and ritzy resorts. Towns are built on the hillside precariously along the steep mountainsides that cascade down to the sea! The main towns along here are Amalfi and Positano. You can hop between towns by boat or can tour the coast by road for different perspectives of the almost vertical and dramatic shore. The coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also regarded as one of the top places to visit in Italy.
The drive along the Amalfi Coast is popular for being one of the most scenic drives in the world. Vibrant and filled with energy, the Amalfi coast is also one the best places to get your holiday groove on for anyone looking for sheer natural beauty, beaches, and mountains. The coast can be reached from Rome in about 3.5 hours by train and approximately 3 hours from Naples. Just a heads-up if you’re planning a trip here during the summer, these roads get clogged with tourists and drivers.
#6 in Best Places to Visit in Italy
Located near the modern city of Naples, Pompeii is among Italy’s most visited tourist destinations with approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year. For nearly 1,700 years after the cataclysmic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius the city was buried under several feet of volcanic ash, and the site is yet to be fully unearthed! In 79 AD when the volcano erupted, the nearby town of Pompeii was covered with ash and soil, eventually covering and preserving the city in its state from that fateful day. Everything from tables, paintings, and jars to even people was frozen in time.
Having been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is also the second most visited place of interest in Italy. The site hosts the ruins of an ancient Roman city that was almost completely destroyed due to the eruption of the volcano. A tour through the site gives an insight into the ancient Roman culture and way of life. There are also many other attractions here like the forum where gatherings of the priests and top officials of the ancient city would take place, thermal baths that represent ancient health clubs, and theatre where plays were staged out in the ancient times, and many more. Pompeii mainly has a Mediterranean climate with pleasantly cool winters and sweltering summers with a few drizzles in the autumn months of October & November.
#7 in Best Places to Visit in Italy
If you’re planning to travel to Italy and dream of exploring nearby mountain villages and sunning yourself in lakeside towns, then locals suggest Lake Como is one of the most enchanting places to visit in Italy. Lined by small picturesque towns and surrounded by mountains, Lake Como is a refreshing change from the high energy of Italy’s cities. The lake is known to be one of the deepest lakes in the European region and is also regarded as the third-largest lake in Italy. A hang-out for the wealthy since Roman times, the lake has many palaces and opulent villas along its wooded shores with most of them surrounded by gardens. With characteristics similar to that of the Mediterranean and mild climate, the lakeshore is ideal for gardens and also draws a lot of tourists who come here to hike up Brunate, go for a relaxing kayak, and enjoy all the charms of Lake Como’s lakeside towns!
Lake Como is shaped similar to an inverted ‘Y’, with one of the two branches starting at Como in the south-west and the other at Lecco in the south-east, joining together halfway up after which the lake continues up to Colico in the north. This Y shape is due to the melting of gigantic glaciers which also combine with the erosive action of the Adda River. The lake is one of the most photographed spots in the entire world and is known for offering a stunning mirror-like view of the mountains surrounding it. Tourists can also take a boat trip or hire cruises to experience the beauty of this lake in the best way.
#8 in Best Places to Visit in Italy
Nestled between Pisa and Genoa, Cinque Terre is a rugged coastline consisting of five beautiful hillside villages – Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, and Corniglia. These towns are situated on a mountainous stretch overlooking the Italian Riviera coastline making them one of the best places to visit in Italy for the dreamiest of summer expeditions. The vineyards with breath-taking scenery clinging to the steep terraces, vibrant and colorful houses, seafood eating joints and harbors housed with fishing boats, and the Cliffside hike trails that link the villages should be reasons enough to visit Cinque Terre.
The best way to explore this quaint Italian destination is on foot, or going for hikes in the cliffs with majestic vistas on the Italian coastline. Or you can also try the next best option by taking a train ride to travel between the five centuries-old villages. All these towns offer the best of sights, additionally, Manarola’s Nessun Dorma’s food scene is known to be the very best! Apart from indulging in Italian delicacies, tourists can also take up a Pesto-making class here or try out some of the most flavorsome ranges of grappa, bubbles, and Passito wine within Cinque Terre. Included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the “Five Lands”, are appreciated for their beauty and especially for the stubbornness “in fighting with modern times”.
#9 in Best Places to Visit in Italy
The Vatican is home to some of the world’s most priceless art collections. However, the star attraction here is St. Peter’s Basilica. Built in the early 16th century, it is the biggest and most famous cathedral in the world, with one of Michelangelo’s most poignant works, the Pieta and the tomb of St. Peter it is among the top places to visit in Italy. There are 284 columns with statues of saints surrounding the cathedral, with the major attraction being the dome which measures 42 meters, which is more than the width of a soccer field! Next to the Basilica, is the Sistine Chapel, famous for its wall and ceiling paintings and especially ‘Creation of Adam’ by Michelangelo. With so much attention to detail that went into the making of the cathedral, it took around ‘only’ 150 years to be completed!
#10 in Best Places to Visit in Italy
Established upon three hills and located in the heart of central Tuscany, Sienna offers tourists a chance to step back into the Middle Ages with its medieval horse racing tradition (popularly known as Il Palio) and well-preserved historic center. The historic center of Siena is one of the most popular places to visit in Italy as it still preserves many of its astonishing works of art and architecture from that time period. One of Europe’s finest medieval squares, Siena’s Piazza del Campo is the principal public space of the historic center. It is renowned worldwide for its architectural integrity and beauty. The main highlight here is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, whose striped bell tower and inlaid marble façade stand among Siena’s mostly red brick buildings. The interior of the cathedral is a museum displaying works by great sculptors and artists, including Donatello, Bernini, Giovanni Pisano, and Lorenzo Ghiberti.
The Palazzo Pubblico with its famous tower along with various palazzi signorili which belong to some of the wealthiest Siena families surrounds the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo. Palio di Siena is a twice-per-year horse race that involves circling the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid. Some interesting architectural treasures to check out at this fan-shaped plaza are the Fountain of Joy, the Mangia Tower, and Palazzio Pubblico. Another architectural gem you can check out while here is Duomo, a beautiful black and white cathedral of Italian Romanesque design with exquisite features like stained glass, paintings, marble floors, sculptures, and carvings.