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11 best places to visit in Italy

Experience the culinary delights, postcard-perfect scenery and centuries of history in Italy’s must-visit spots.

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There is certainly no shortage of attractions, wine or places to visit in Italy for every type of traveller. From the top food regions in the world to towering volcanoes and designer boutiques, this list of the best places to visit in Italy not only covers the food and history of this diverse country but also art, scenic sites and hiking for active travellers.

11 unforgettable places to visit in Italy

1. Venice: Best for architecture and seafood

Venice is a city most famous for being built on a lagoon. There are no roads, just canals that run through the 118 small islands that make up this city. The largest is the Grand Canal which is deserving of its name as palaces from the Renaissance and Gothic periods line the waterway. At the end sits Piazza San Marco where visitors flock in awe to see yet more stunning architecture. The best thing to do in Venice is to get lost walking through the cobblestone streets, admiring the art and finding cafes to enjoy a spritz.

  • Where is it? In northeastern Italy Iies Venice, which can be accessed by flying to Marco Polo Airport and taking a ferry into the city centre. Trains also serve the city centre, or you can drive and park your car outside the city and then visit by ferry.
  • Top 5 things to see/do: Ride a gondola, wander around Piazza San Marco, witness Venetian glass blowing, walk along the Grand Canal and eat like a local.
  • How long do I need? 2-4 days.
  • Recommended tour: A Venice Walking Tour and Gondola Ride hits all of the highlights as you’re guided through the narrow alleyways to spots not on the tourist map, and float down the Grand Canal.

2. Florence: Best for food, wine and art

Florence is perhaps the most “Italian” city there is. Packed with works of art around every corner, romantic Renaissance architecture, quality local food and wine and boutique shopping where designers first opened their stores, Florence encompasses the best parts of Italy in one small city. Days can be spent marvelling at the famous works of art such as Michelangelo's statue of David, walking through the world-known Duomo and sipping on fine Tuscan wines.

  • Where is it? Located in northern Italy, you can get to Florence by flying from Rome (55 minutes) or by train from Milan (1 hour 4 minutes) and Venice (2 hours and 15 minutes).
  • Top 5 things to see/do: Climb the Duomo and Bell Tower, take in the view from Piazzale Michelangelo, see Michelangelo's David, admire the art in Uffizi Gallery and learn about the art of making leather.
  • How long do I need? 1-3 days.
  • Recommended tour: Experience The Best of Florence on a walking tour and more with a super saver pass that includes a walking tour and entrance to two of the most famous galleries in the city.

3. Rome: Best for history and architecture

A trip to Italy is not complete without visiting the country’s capital, Rome. This city is packed with over 3,000 years of history in the form of ruins, art and architecture. A sprawling romantic city, Rome will teach you the pleasures of dining out like the locals, will bring you back in time to the Roman Empire, show you some of the finest art in the world and take you to some of the world’s most known places such as Vatican City.

  • Where is it? Rome is in the central west of the country and can be reached by flying from Milan (1 hour and 15 minutes), Florence (50 minutes) and Naples (50 minutes). Or by train from Milan (3 hours and 20 minutes), Florence (1 hour and 20 minutes), Venice (3 hours and 40 minutes) and Naples (1 hour and 10 minutes).
  • Top 5 things to see/do: Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain, visit the ruins of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, gawk at the Pantheon, visit Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel and eat your weight in gelato (and other foods).
  • How long do I need? 3-4 days.
  • Recommended tour: A Best of Rome Afternoon Walking Tour will have an expert lead you around the city to historic sites such as the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain. Plus the tour will finish with some gelato.

4. Milan: Best for urban breaks and shopping

Milan is one city that you’re going to want to look good in while you walk the streets that the Caesars and Napoleon once ruled. Though a financial hub, it is known for its high-end fashion, shopping and restaurants. Milan is one big city with an elegant lifestyle that you can embrace through the cuisine, art and culture.

  • Where is it? Located in northern Italy, Milan can be reached by train from Rome (3.5 hours), Florence (1 hour and 45 minutes) and Venice (2.5 hours). Flights from Rome (1 hour and 15 minutes) and Naples (1 hour and 25 minutes) are non-stop.
  • Top 5 things to see/do: Visit the Milan Cathedral (Duomo), see The Last Supper up close, stop by Castello Sforzesco, take in the architecture of the Monumental Cemetery and window shop at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
  • How long do I need? 1-3 days.
  • Recommended tour: A Milan Highlights Tour takes you to important sites such as The Last Supper, La Scala and more.

5. Amalfi Coast: Best for beach lovers and cuisine

This popular holiday destination is dotted with colourful fishing villages that make for perfect pictures. The Amalfi Coast stretches 50km long in the Sorrentine Peninsula and it’s a Mediterranean paradise with steep cliffs that drop into the ocean and beaches where sunbathers gather. But if you prefer to be more active, this holiday hotspot also has some of the country’s best hiking trails along with the finest hotels and restaurants to spoil yourself.

  • Where is it? The Amalfi Coast in southern Italy can be reached by train from Rome (3.5 hours), Florence (5 hours and 15 minutes) and Naples (2 hours and 50 minutes). Flights can be caught from Rome (50 minutes), Florence (50 minutes) and Venice (1 hour and 10 minutes) to Naples Airport.
  • Top 5 things to see/do: Take a cruise through the turquoise waters, visit Capri Island, hike and drink in the coastal views, relax on the beaches and spend some time in Positano.
  • How long do I need? 2-3 days.
    • Recommended tour: Try the Amalfi Coast Experience from Sorrento where you’ll be taken to the best villages along the coast to soak in the architecture and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.

6. Pompeii: Best for history

Pompeii will take you back in time to 79AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted and wiped out the once thriving Roman city of Pompeii. This expertly preserved site is now open for visitors to wander through and witness the city that was covered by a thick blanket of ash from the eruption. Pompeii is an archaeological site of an entire city where streets, buildings and even ancient bodies can be seen.

  • Where is it? Pompeii is in southern Italy and is most commonly visited from Naples which is a 45-minute train ride away. Day tours from Naples, Rome and Sorrento are also common.
  • Top 5 things to see/do: Visit a brothel, see the forum baths, take in the frescoes at the Villa of the Mysteries, walk through the Forum and see the garden of the fugitives.
  • How long do I need? 1 day.
  • Recommended tour: Experience Pompeii on a full-day tour where you can explore the ruins and learn about the eruption and history of Pompeii.

7. Cinque Terre: Best for hiking and scenery

Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site made up of a string of five villages along the Italian Riviera coastline. The coast plunges into the ocean with colourful towns serving fresh seafood dishes on terraces overlooking the waters that are filled with fishing boats. A train connects the towns through tunnels or you can choose to hike between each.

  • Where is it? Cinque Terre is in northern Italy and is best reached from Florence by train, which is 2.5 hours away. The closest airport is Pisa International Airport and trains from the airport to Cinque Terre take 1.5 hours.
  • Top 5 things to see/do: Walk the nature hike from Manarola, visit the Cinque Terre National Park, enjoy a boat tour, see the Church of San Francesco and take a cooking class.
  • How long do I need? 3-5 days.
  • Recommended tour: Take a Cinque Terre Train Tour that is led by a local guide so you can learn about each of the towns’ history, take in the scenery and more.

8. Sicily: Best for scenery, beaches and food

Sicily is home to dramatic landscapes, with stunning seas surrounding the largest island in the Mediterranean. Mount Etna, one of Europe’s tallest active volcanoes, lends itself to active travellers who wish to hike. From flowery meadows to coastal sights, this island doesn’t disappoint. Not to mention the Mediterranean cuisine and the historical, royal and Greek sites.

  • Where is it? Sicily is the island off the tip of Italy’s boot in the south. Flights are the easiest way to get to Sicily from Rome (1 hour), Florence (1 hour and 20 minutes), Milan (1.5 hours) and Naples (1 hour).
  • Top 5 things to see/do: Ski down or hike up Mount Etna, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Valley of the Temples, see the mosaics in Villa Romana del Casale, try the local street food and visit some of Italy’s best beaches such as Mondello Lido.
  • How long do I need? 10 days - 2 weeks.
  • Recommended tour: Sicily is large and cannot be seen in a day trip, so the nine-day Treasures of Sicily tour will show you Mount Etna, take you wine tasting and to the must-see cities and sites of Sicily.

9. Naples: Best for art and food

No trip to Italy is complete without visiting the birthplace of pizza. Naples doesn’t only delight taste buds though – it’s one of Italy’s largest cities and is home to a historic centre that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Castles, palaces and centuries worth of architecture and art fill this important Italian city.

10. Tuscany: Best for food and wine

Tuscany is a region in Italy that cannot go unmissed. Its capital, Florence, is a highlight on its own but time should also be spent enjoying the countryside and driving through the fertile lands that make this region a culinary capital. The green, rolling hills filled with vineyards are picturesque and medieval hilltop towns make this region postcard perfect.

11. Lake Como: Best for scenery

Home to dramatic landscapes and upscale resorts, Lake Como is a holiday lover’s ideal destination. Como is the region's largest lake and is shaped like the letter Y. The alps create a picturesque background and the surrounding cities are filled with Renaissance architecture.

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