Explore the top cities and best places to visit in Italy, including Florence, Venice, and the stunning Amalfi Coast. Plan your trip to Italy! ✈️👨🏻🍳⛲️🛵
With its world-famous art and architecture, spectacularly preserved ancient ruins, charming medieval town centers, incredible food and wine, dramatic coastlines, and breathtaking rural landscapes, Italy contains many of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in Europe and the world. From bustling metropolises to picturesque hill towns, the variety of cities to visit in Italy is incredibly diverse.
Narrowing down the many iconic and underrated destinations that deserve a place on your Italian itinerary can be overwhelming. To help craft your ideal vacation, here is our guide to the most captivating cities and towns you simply must experience across Italy’s scenic regions.
Florence: Birthplace of the Renaissance
As the epicenter of the resurgence of art, culture and science known as the Renaissance, few cities represent Italy’s passion for beauty and history as perfectly as Florence. Located in the heart of Tuscany and filled with a treasure trove of architectural and artistic marvels around every winding street corner and across its charming bridges spanning the Arno River, Florence beckons visitors with its iconic views and priceless history.
Places to Visit in Florence
Florence’s city center is ideally suited for leisurely strolling as you encounter world-famous iconic landmarks. Marvel at the magnificent multi-colored marble facade and soaring red dome of the Florence Cathedral, also known as Il Duomo, the crowning architectural achievement of the Renaissance. The views from the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome are equally spectacular as the engineering feat itself.
The Uffizi Gallery contains one of the finest collections of Renaissance painting and sculpture on earth, including famous works like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Or make a pilgrimage to see Michelangelo’s remarkable David statue, as well as masterpieces from Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, at the Accademia Gallery.
The famed Ponte Vecchio bridge has lined with jewelry shops for centuries, while the neighboring and lesser-known Ponte Santa Trinita offers equally Instagrammable spanning views over the river. At sunset, join locals for an aperitivo drink in the vibrant Piazza Santo Spirito neighborhood or climb to Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking the city for unparalleled panoramas as a fitting finale to an unforgettable day.
Venice: Floating City of Romance and Grandeur
From its labyrinth of meandering canals lined with a patchwork display of ornate palazzos, to its magnificent Byzantine cathedrals and lively alleyways, Venice presents an entirely unique urban landscape floating across a hundred islands. There is truly nowhere else quite like it, making Venice one of Italy’s most iconic cities and celebrated destinations for honeymooners, architecture aficionados, and romantics of every kind.
Places to Visit in Venice
Must-see landmarks in Venice include the jewel box-like Doge’s Palace and adjoining Gothic St. Mark’s Basilica, lavishly decorated with golden Byzantine mosaics overlooking St Mark’s Square. Take in panoramic views over Venice’s rooftops while crossing the iconic Rialto Bridge or from the Campanile bell tower in Piazza San Marco.
The best way to embrace Venice is simply to get lost wandering its labyrinth of picturesque canals, arched footbridges, Gothic palaces and lively market squares. But there are also several showstopping Venetian icons you won’t want to miss.
Marvel at the elaborate Byzantine domes and glittering golden mosaics covering every inch of the Basilica di San Marco (St Mark’s), begun in 1063. Right next door is the lavish, pink-and-white marble Doge’s Palace, a majestic symbol of Venice’s one-time prosperity as the epicenter of trade between Europe and Asia. Art lovers will delight in Venice’s splendid art collections, especially at the Gallerie dell’Accademia and the ornate Scuola Grande di San Rocco.
Don’t leave Venice without crossing its graceful arched bridges spanning the Grand Canal, especially the iconic Rialto Bridge, lined with shops and offering iconic postcard views. Glide through Venice’s picturesque smaller canals on a quintessential gondola ride or explore the lagoon islands of Murano and Burano, renowned today for their exceptional glass blowing and brightly colored homes respectively.
No trip to Venice would be complete without venturing down its picture-perfect canals aboard a classic gondola or gliding silently past centuries-old palazzos aboard a sleek water taxi. Leave time to venture out to colorful Murano and Burano islands, home to Venice’s famed glass-blowing artisans and postcard-perfect homes respectively. With over 150 canals and 400 footbridges criss-crossing 100 tiny islands, enchanting corners and photo opportunities in Venice await around every turn if you’re willing to lose yourself in its narrow alleys and hidden quarters.
Rome: The Eternal City of Antiquities and Religion
As the ancient center of the vast Roman Empire and modern home of the Catholic faith, Italy’s main city in Italy contains millennia worth of architectural and artistic treasures condensed into Rome’s compact and navigable city center. From the mighty Colosseum amphitheater to the grandeur of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican, Rome’s ancient ruins and religious monuments permit unparalleled insight into its transcendent past as a pillar of Western civilization.
Beyond its most iconic attractions, much of Rome’s charm comes from slowing down to embrace its lively ambiance of carrying on traditions amidst the architectural remnants of its celebrated history. Sipping espresso at an authentic café tucked away in the city’s romantic corners or simply people watching from an elegant piazza fountain makes you feel connected to the everyday energy that earned Rome its nickname as the Eternal City.
Places to Visit in Rome
Must-see Roman landmarks also include the picturesque Trevi Fountain, the remarkably preserved Pantheon temple and faithfully reconstructed Imperial Forums. But leave ample time to venture outside the city center to explore remarkable yet overlooked sites like Ostia Antica, an entire excavated port town near the coast, or descend into Rome’s vast underground catacombs for a chilling glimpse into the early Christian experience.
Milan: Italy’s Fashion and Design Capital
As Italy’s cosmopolitan second city and the capital of fashion, finance and industry, dynamic Milan offers visitors a contrast from the traditional perception of provincial Italy. Its pedestrianized city center combines elegant galleries, shopping arcades, historic churches and lively nightlife with Italy’s most modern skyscrapers. Known for its world-leading fashion houses and stock exchange, the industrious city is also filled with artistic and architectural gems.
Places to Visit in Milan
Among the standout sites of Milan, the iconic late-Gothic Duomo (cathedral) features 135 spires and 3,400 statues amidst its ethereal facade. Its roof boasts remarkable views across the cityscape. Nearby, see da Vinci’s transcendent “Last Supper” fresco (a reservation is essential). The museums at the Castello Sforzesco showcase Michelangelo and Raphael masterpieces, while the Brera Gallery displays works by Titian and Tintoretto within a 17th-century palace.
In addition to its legacy of art and high fashion, Milan also beckons visitors with its enticing cafe culture, trendy aperitivo bars, and vibrant energy that make it a dynamic yet refined European destination. Taking an evening stroll among its elegant pedestrianized streets and people watching from an outdoor patio is an ideal way to embrace its sophisticated side.
Naples: Italy’s Exuberant Southern Soul
As the energetic counterpart to Italy’s celebrated history further north, spirited Naples offers visitors an authentic glimpse into southern Italian culture. As the birthplace of pizza and home to dramatic cliffside castles, fascinating underground catacombs and world-class archaeological sites, Naples presents travelers with plenty to explore across its seven famed hills.
While its chaotic traffic and decaying facades exude a grittier edge, Naples rewards visitors with an irresistible vivacity from its lively street life to passionate residents celebrating traditions that span millennia. Nowhere pulses with that captivating exuberance more than Naples’ hectic historic center, overflowing with boisterous open-air markets, specialty shops and tempting trattorias and pizzerias lining atmospheric alleys.
Places to Visit in Naples
Must-see landmarks include the formidable seaside Castel Nuovo, the lavish Royal Palace and adjacent San Carlo opera house, the oldest in Europe. The fascinating Catacombs of San Gennaro offer an illuminating look at early Christianity. Looming above the city is the brooding Mt. Vesuvius volcano which infamously buried Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD, sites that make compelling and convenient day trips.
After the bustle and chaos of its jam-packed Quartieri Spagnoli quarter, unwind by strolling the picturesque seaside promenade of Via Caracciolo with postcard views across the Bay of Naples or exploring lesser-known hilltop neighborhoods like peaceful, arty Vomero. Visitors who look beyond its gritty surface will discover that compelling, colorful Naples has much to offer the inquisitive traveler in search of an authentic Italian immersion.
Siena: Medieval Hill Town Gem
Encircled by protective medieval walls and built across three steep hills in central Tuscany, enthralling Siena transports visitors back to the 13th century when it competed with Florence for regional influence. At the pinnacle of Sienese life is the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, site of the thrilling biannual Palio horse race. Frequented by locals and visitors alike, Il Campo is the ideal place to join the passeggiata tradition of strolling as an evening ritual before choosing from Siena’s outstanding restaurants.
Places to Visit in Siaena
Notable landmarks encircling the central piazza include the striated black-and-white marble façade of Siena Cathedral and the soaring, slim red-brick Torre del Mangia bell tower which rewards climbers with panoramic views. Wander narrow alleyways to emerge at intimate neighborhood piazzas before descending into San Domenico Basilica to see relics of St. Catherine, Siena’s revered patron saint. From anywhere in the compact city center, enchanting Tuscan countryside vistas peek through, beckoning further exploration of the idyllic region that surrounds this Italian gem.
Verona: Scenic Stop with Shakespearean Allure
Verona elegantly straddles the Adige River in northern Italy, exuding history from its impressively preserved Roman Arena amphitheater to winding medieval lanes revealing alluring piazzas around every turn. As the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona holds an added air of romance within its pale pink-hued marble buildings and richly embellished Gothic architecture.
Places to Visit in Verona
Beyond its tragic fictional residents, Verona rewards visitors with authentic local character and culture, devoid of touristy artifice. Join locals in the evening passeggiata ritual along bustling Via Mazzini lined with stylish boutiques and tempting apperitivo bars. Discover intimate wine bars and cozy osterias in the former Jewish quarter. Or simply savor the dolce vita lifestyle from a sunny outdoor cafe in Piazza Erbe or Piazza dei Signori, two of Verona’s most picturesque public spaces.
Verona effortlessly straddles the line between superficial tourist hotspot and authentic lived-in city. Its impressive artistic and architectural heritage blends seamlessly with everyday existence in its pretty piazzas and lively pedestrian streets. For travelers seeking both history and vibrant local culture, Verona makes for an irresistible Italian city break.
Amalfi Coast: Rugged Mediterranean Splendor
Stretching along 31 miles of Italy’s most scenic shoreline, the stunning Amalfi Coast presents visitors with a dreamy vision of coastal living, with charming cliffside villages gazing down upon turquoise waters and beaches tucked into coves beneath steep terrain. Whitewashed and pastel-hued homes cling impressively to sheer rock faces next to citrus groves and vineyards cascading down to the sea. The villages seem frozen in time, with labyrinthine cobblestone alleys and enticing piazzas filled with the scents of lemon trees and bougainvillea.
The most idyllic towns gracing the Amalfi Coast include enchanting Positano, the pastel-colored queen of the coastline, and more subdued Amalfi town itself. The cathedral-topped village of sky-high Ravello offers visitors a quieter and more cultured experience, less dependent on the summer crowds.
Linking together this string of villages carved out of rocky cliffs are winding roads every bit as scenic as the adorable towns themselves. The brave can hike stretches between towns along cliffside olive grove footpaths for mesmerizing coastal vistas. Or for undiluted indulgence, charter a private boat to access small coves and seemingly inaccessible villages by sea. However you choose to navigate its rocky edge, Italy’s Amalfi Coast calls to mind a romanticized Mediterranean ideal that manages to satisfy even the highest expectations.
Day Trips from Major Cities
In addition to their own allure, Italy’s most captivating cities also provide convenient jumping-off points for fascinating day trips or bases for multi-day excursions into the countryside. The opportunities for rewarding regional exploration are endless across Italy’s variety of dazzling landscapes.
From the art capitals of Florence and Rome, delve deeper into the heart of scenic Tuscany and its postcard hill towns like San Gimignano and Siena. Or witness the disaster preserved for posterity at ancient Pompeii with views of Mt. Vesuvius looming above. Cool off enjoying scenic Amalfi Coast villages and lemon groves or the jet-set island of Capri from always vibrant Naples.
In northern Italy, the fashionable city of Milan sits a short distance from the picturesque Italian Lakes district, including serene Lake Como and its elegant villages worthy of their own extended visit. And few city trios complement each other as ideally as Venice, Verona and Padua, with the latter’s historic university and Giotto frescoes making it more than just a path between Italy’s most romantic cities.
Even destinations like Siena or the Cinque Terre’s pastel fishing villages make convenient bases for delving into the Tuscan or Ligurian hinterlands on twisting mountain roads revealing captivating vistas at every turn. Whether you seek charming rural towns, prestigious wineries, Mediterranean seascapes or Alpine trekking trails, traveling beyond Italy’s most famous cities exposes hidden gems begging to be uncovered as you veer off the beaten tourist track.
Planning Your Italian Dream Trip
With so many irresistible Italian locales competing for space on your itinerary, advance planning pays dividends towards crafting an unforgettable trip. Carefully plot your route by geography, mode of transport, regions of interest and must-see destinations. Allow ample free time for spur of the moment side trips or indulgent hours spent soaking up Dolce Vita pleasures.
Decide whether you prefer ticking off a thorough Italian bucket list on a whirlwind introductory visit or lingering lazily on backroads adventure discovering quiet coastal enclaves and tucked away hill towns. There are persuasive arguments favoring both approaches. Just be sure to balance iconic Italian cities showcasing history, culture, cuisine and la dolce vita lifestyle with detours bringing you closer to nature, local traditions, wine and slower paced pleasures.
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With a judicious amount of planning blended with spontaneous flexibility, your Italian dream trip is sure to create memories lasting a lifetime no matter which irresistible destinations you choose for your own Italian itinerary full of beauty, pleasure and delicious discoveries.