After traveling to Italy for almost 20 years, we sometimes feel like we’ve seen it all. But, we have so much more left to explore. Of course, some of the must-visit places in Italy are firmly placed on the itineraries of most travelers to Italy. But, Italy’s best destinations are often some of the smaller, or lesser-known cities and towns. In this Italy Travel Blog, we share our tips on how to experience the best of Italy, with recommended Italy holiday destinations from north to south and back again.
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The Best Places To Visit In Italy
Here, we round up 14 Italy tourist spots, which together offer a little bit of everything. Between big cities and small cities, fashion capitals, historic capitals, and seaside communities, Italy has it all. Because when it comes to what to do in Italy, the sky is the limit.
There are loads of options for planning your Italy travel, including city tours, hop-on-hop-off buses, or multi-day tours and itineraries. There are plenty of unique ways to explore some of the top destinations in the country. It’s best to arrange your day tours and experiences ahead of time, before leaving home. Many of the destinations below host some of the most popular sights in Italy and tickets sell out early. This is particularly true in Milan and Florence. By booking a day tour, city pass, or hop-on-hop-off bus ticket before leaving home, Italy sightseeing becomes so much less of a hassle!
Milan is most known as being the fashion capital of Italy, and some would argue the world. Milan is also the hub for Northern Italy travel, where it is easy to explore Piedmont or even head east towards Emilia Romagna. Within this city, one of our favorite things to do is to wander before dinner looking for classic Italian aperitivo, where ordering a glass of Italian wine comes with a buffet of snacks.
Our first trip to Milan was around Christmas time and the city was lit up for the holidays like an open-air art museum. Some of the top attractions in Milan include the Scala Theater, one of the most famous opera houses in the world. The Milan Cathedral, or Duomo, is also a must-visit destination. One important note, before leaving home, book your tickets to see the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci through a reputable Italy sightseeing company. Visits are limited and generally sell out.
Turin is one of the best places to visit in Northern Italy. In fact, I would venture it is one of the best cities in Italy to visit as a traveler because there is so much to do. And the food is some of the best in the country.
We’ve visited Turin twice, once in the winter when the snow-capped mountains are visible in the distance, and once during the start of summer, when we sat at outdoor cafes and enjoyed an aperitivo before dinner. The city is most known for its covered promenades and walkways, which make exploring the city almost romantic.
Turin is also one of the best places to visit in Italy in the summer as it is slightly cooler than in the south, being surrounded by mountains. That’s not to say it is cool, just not as hot. Or, visit in the fall or winter and take advantage of the famous Turino hot chocolate.
Some of the top things to do in Turin include visiting the world-famous Egyptian Museum and the National Automobile Museum. There are some red bus tours that allow you to visit all of these attractions in one day on a hop-on-hop-off bus. Tour companies can also arrange skip the line tickets for the Egyptian Museum and the Mole Antonelliana, the tower that sits at the center of Turin. It is the most famous symbol of the city.
Genoa is probably not one of the more popular cities in Italy for tourists, but it has a lot of charm and a lot of great food. It’s a port city and the capital of the Liguria region in Northwest Italy. The city is filled with museums and art from some of the top artists including Old World artists like Caravaggio. Being one of the most powerful cities of Italy in the 16th and 17th centuries, Genoa is still home to over 100 grand palaces. Genoa is also home to pesto and the famous focaccia bread! Liguria is also home to some of the best olives and produces a DOP certified olive oil. The city also hosts the largest aquarium in Europe.
Livorno is a unique city to research when coming up with Italy vacation ideas. It’s a coastal city at the westernmost point of Tuscany. While many travelers to Tuscany imagine a landscape with hilltop villages, Livorno offers a different perspective on the coast. Livorno is also a great base for travelers looking to explore Tuscany or to take day trips to Pisa, Florence, or the walled city of Lucca. There are tour companies that offer shuttle bus services to explore Tuscany, without having to rent a car.
When people think of the top Italy attractions, Rome always comes to the top of their minds. We visited Rome for the first time in 2000, and it was the first Italian destination we ever explored. The city is home to some of the top things to see in Italy, including the Coliseum, the Pantheon, and The Vatican.
We’ve visited Rome several times. During our first visit, we took one of the red hop-on-hop-off buses, which was a great way to explore all the top sights in Rome. During one trip, we took Eric’s mother on a guided tour of the Vatican, which she loved.
Since that time, we’ve visited and just wandered through alleyways and art-filled squares trying to find the best food we can in Rome. For first time visitors, definitely plan your visit ahead of time. Book one or more day tours before leaving home to make sure you can visit all the top sights during your stay. This includes reserving admission to The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.
Italy is at its best when it comes to the food, and Naples is the perfect city to explore for pizza aficionados. When it comes to some of the most classic Italian foods, Naples is the city to explore. It’s also close to the famous Mount Vesuvius and the Lost City of Pompeii, which can be visited on day trips from Naples. There are tour companies that offer open-top bus tours from Naples along the coastline with stunning views.
I am not going to lie and say that Naples is one of the most beautiful places in Italy. In fact, it’s one of the more difficult cities to travel through. But, it is worth it. And, it is worth it to visit Naples not just as a day trip from Amalfi or Sorrento. Give it a little more time as it is definitely one of the top cities in Italy when it comes to food.
Sorrento is also another one of the best tourist cities in Italy for travelers exploring Southern Italy. Sorrento is located just a little farther south from Naples and is a stopping point for many travelers on their way to explore the Amalfi Coast. It’s one of the best Italian towns to visit because it’s on the sea, but you can also take a day trip by boat to explore the Gulf of Sorrento and the Tyrrhenian Sea.
When it comes to Italy beach holidays, many people focus on the stunning beauty of the Amalfi Coast. It is easily one of the most beautiful places to visit in Italy and one of the most famous coastal regions, being recognized as a UNESCO heritage site. It also means that it can be very crowded in the summer months. It’s best to visit the Amalfi Coast in the shoulder seasons, during the spring and fall to avoid the crowds.
Many first-time travelers to Italy often skip the entire island of Sicily because there is so much to do on the mainland. But, many Europeans often explore the island during their Italy vacations because the island is the perfect destination for beach-goers and history buffs. Within Palermo, definitely check out the Monreale and its cathedral. Or take a day trip to the beaches of Mondello. Just wander through the bustling squares of Palermo or visit one of the outdoor markets.
Messina is one of the best Italian towns to visit because not only is it the third largest city in Sicily, but it’s the perfect base to explore the island. It is located in the Northeast corner of Sicily where you can practically see the tip of the Italian boot across the harbor. Book a day trip to Taormina a hilltop town at the edge of Mount Etna, an active volcano.
When it comes to must see places in Italy, many travelers place Florence on the top of their list of what cities to visit in Italy. Florence historically was an artistic city and the home of the famous Medici family. It’s also home to some to the top sights in Italy including the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo, one of the most famous cathedrals in Italy.
Florence is another city where it is important to plan ahead. Be sure to get your tickets to the Uffizi Gallery before leaving home. Perhaps while visiting Florence consider a day trip to Bologna, which is one of the best cities to travel in Italy for food lovers. Or, book a day trip to the Chianti wine region. While in Florence, be sure to eat panzanella, an Italian chopped bread salad, which is one of my favorite things to eat in Tuscany.
For our first trip to Italy in 2000, we put together a very short list of the must-go places in Italy. We only had a little over a week, so we hit the top spots, Rome and Venice. We took a romantic gondola ride through the canals and visited all of the main museums and churches. Mostly, we just wandered and got lost through the maze of narrow alleyways that make Venice famous.
Our expert recommendation for Venice is to plan a trip in the offseason, and definitely to avoid July and August when the city swarms with tourists. Another way to beat the crowds is by taking a day trip to nearby Burano or Torcello to experience a different side of Venice. For example, you can discover the lagoons of Venice and the islands with one ticket. This is like a hop-on-hop-off boat tour unlike anything else in Italy. This can be booked with an Italy sightseeing company before leaving home.
Verona is also one of the best places to visit in Italy in June, July, and August because it is in Northern Italy, so temperatures are cooler in the summer. Also because it is not a city that many travelers place on the top of their list of Italy tourist spots. This means it has a more authentic feel than some of the more popular destinations. It’s a medieval town that is most known to be the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. Also check out the Verona Arena, a famous first-century Roman amphitheater. It is one of the most famous theaters for opera performances.
Finally, we end with one of the most interesting places in Italy to visit. Similar to Verona, Padua is often overlooked in favor of one of the larger cities. Both Verona and Padua can be added to any itinerary that involves visiting Venice. It’s one of the best Italian towns to visit because it is a city of water, with lovely bridges crisscrossing the waterways of the city. One way to explore the city is by sailing the canals. Be sure to visit to Scrovegni Chapel, which houses some of the most famous frescoes by the artist Giotto.
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.