Planning an Italy Holiday? Get ready for food, wine, history, and gorgeous coastline! If you’re wondering where to go in Bel Paese, start with this list of the five best places to visit in Italy.
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This is a guest post by Federica Provolenti from A Stroll Around the World
In a world filled with beautiful places, Italy is an absolute powerhouse, with the highest concentration of UNESCO world heritage sites anywhere, and plenty to keep all types of travelers busy for years on end.
This small south European nation has impressive natural wonders and a seemingly endless abundance of artistic and cultural treasures. Discovering everything in one trip is impossible, and first timers may want to start with the best places to visit in Italy.
This list shares 5 of the most well-known Italian destinations worth a visit at least once in a lifetime. Be prepared to fall in love with the mesmerizing beauty of cities like Venice, Rome, and Naples, and with the perennial charm of the Amalfi coast and Sicily.
It’s not by chance that Italy’s nickname is Bel Paese, the Beautiful country. Consider yourself warned!
Here are 5 of the Best Places to Visit in Italy
Among the best places to visit in Italy, Venice is one of the most unique, due to its geography. This floating city is made up of 118 islands, and is divided into six different areas known as sestieri. Circa 400 bridges connect the small islands, with canals in between. Canal Grande divides Venice’s city center in two, and Ponte degli Scalzi connects the central sestieri of Santa Croce and Cannaregio.
The Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei sopsiri) is another of the most well known bridges in Venice. It links Doge’s Palace with the New Prison, and reflects the sense of hopelessness of prisoners incarcerated in the building.
If you visit Venice, allow several days to explore the city, rather than parachuting in on a day trip. Take your time visiting the highlights, such as the Basilica of San Marco, the perfect expression of Byzantine heritage in the western world, and the church of St Mary of the Friars (Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari), which is home to masterworks from Italian Renaissance artists like Titian, Giovanni Bellini, and Donatello. Spend some time admiring the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, considered the “Sistine Chapel of Venice,” and take note especially of the paintings by Tintoretto.
There is no place like Rome, and after just a day of strolling around the Eternal City, you’ll understand why.
If you can only visit one of the top Italian destinations, Rome is the place.
The city is vast, and you can spend an entire week exploring its hidden gems and famous landmarks (Geoff and Katie spent three weeks exploring Rome, and still feel like they barely scratched the surface!).
The Vatican Museum and the Basilica of Saint Peter, St. Angel castle, and Piazza Navona, are among the city’s most beautiful landmarks.
The Colosseum, and the archeological ruins set in the Roman Forum and on Palatine Hill, are favorite spots to get a sense of Rome’s history.
I also recommend visiting some sites like the Ara Pacis, which was built under Roman emperor Augustus, and the Domus area (golden house), a vast palace built by Nero.
Outside the city center, you can explore Roman catacombs and the archeological parks along the via Appia Antica, or take a trip to Ostia Antica.
Top tip: You can discover more about the Eternal city exploring the best photo spots in Rome.
Naples is the former capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, which was the largest Italian state before unification in 1861. It’s a lively town where you can experience Italy and the Italian lifestyle at its best. Naples has vibes like no other Italian city!
Naples faces the sea, with the iconic Mount Vesuvius defining the landscape. Landmarks like the impressive San Carlo Theater, the beautiful opera house built under the royal Bourbon dynasty, coexist with more intimate spaces like Castel dell’ Ovo and its fishing area. The Borgo Marinari area is the ideal spot to enjoy seafood while enjoying a view of the bay. Nearby Piazza del Plebiscito is a historical hub, which connects the seafront with via Toledo, one of the main shopping streets.
In the historic city center, visit the Chapel of Saint Severo with the breathtaking statue of the Veiled Christ. It’s a masterpiece of Baroque marble statuary.
Neapolitan churches are particularly rich in arts. The cathedral of Saint Gennaro, Gesù Nuovo church, and the Santa Chiara complex are not to be missed.
Not far from Naples lies one of the most secluded areas of the Italian Peninsula: the Amalfi Coast. Small colorful houses dot the landscape here, perched on the hillsides. This enchanting scenery makes the Amalfi Coast one of the best places to visit in Italy.
The Amalfi coast is a romantic destination full of places to see and unique experiences.
Admire the beautiful St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Amalfi, and then buy fragrant lemons used to prepare the local liquor, limoncello.
Ravello, up on the hill, is the most beautiful village, and it offers an amazing coastal view from Villa Cimbrone.
Furore is a famous fishermen village. It’s adorned with sculptures and murals, and houses a stunning fjord along the coastline.
The Amalfi Coast finishes with Positano, full of narrow streets and picturesque shops.
In addition to beautiful scenery, this region is known for its ceramics, with the main centre of production in Vietri. Villa Guariglia di Rialto houses a museum showcasing this local tradition, displaying objects dating back to the 17th century.
Another lovely (and less crowded place) to consider is the fishing village of Cetara. It’s an ideal stop if you’re looking for great seafood!
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean, and home to some of the best places to visit in Italy. To fully discover the entire island, you need to spend around two weeks in Sicily. That would allow you to visit both coastline and inland, hitting up stunning UNESCO sites along the way (Sicily has 6 UNESCO sites).
The main airports in Sicily are in Palermo and Catania. Both are great jumping off points for a Sicily itinerary, as each city has a stunning historical center with nice sights worth checking out. In Palermo, the Duomo di Monreale is a highlight, with impressive mosaics dating back to the 12th century. During the same time period, Palermo was the seat of the Norman kingdom, and Palermo’s Palace of the Normans has a magnificent Palatine Chapel.
If you start your trip in Palermo, head west from the city to the beautiful Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro, a seaside nature reserve. Another unique location in Sicily is the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, vast archeological parks with the ruins of the Greek-era city of Akragas.
A tour of Sicily isn’t complete without a visit to the Val di Noto region, in the southeastern part of the island. Following a terrible earthquake in 1693, eight cities were rebuilt here in baroque style. These are Scicli, Ragusa, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo, Caltagirone, Militello Val di Catania, and Catania. Together these towns make up one of Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.