Are you planning a visit to Italy? No doubt you’re wondering where to go.
There are so many beautiful places in Italy that it can be hard to choose!
Not to worry. We believe we can help. We’ve traveled to Italy several times – Venice, Rome, Florence, the Amalfi Coast, Naples and more. Most recently, we explored the Puglia area.
Below, you’ll find our list of the most beautiful and best places to visit in Italy.
You’re in for a treat. From the magnificent lakes in Lombardy to the idyllic Tuscan countryside – not to mention all the glorious Italian cities and picturesque little towns in between – the beauty of Italy dazzles all the senses.
This country knows how to define la dolce vita!
33 most beautiful places in Italy
Beautiful Italy: Best cities + areas to visit
10 Best cities to visit in Italy
6 Most beautiful places in Italy by the sea
Best cities to visit in Italy
The grand cities of Italy are some of the most beautiful cities in Europe (and the most visited). And for good reason!
They’re a cornucopia of marvelous museums, historic and ancient sites, beautiful architecture and delicious food.
Ahhh! Venice! The “City of Canals” and one of the most beautiful cities in Italy!
Did you know there are more than 400 bridges in Venice? We think we’ve crossed most of them strolling about the spider’s web of streets – and have gotten lost countless times too!
And those gondolas. Taking a gondola ride with your honey is one of the most romantic things to do in Venice.
(Then of course, there are also some wonderfully romantic hotels in Venice.)
You must visit the Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Basilica at Piazza San Marco. Skip the long lines with this top-rated guided tour of both of these stunning Italian attractions.
Perhaps window shop while enjoying a gelato.
And then just spend the rest of the time soaking up the sights of the old palazzos along the Grand Canal and the boats gliding through the Venice waterways.
Venice goes together perfectly with Rome and Florence in this Rome, Florence and Venice tinerary.
If you’re arriving in Venice via a cruise ship, be sure to read our post on how to find your way on foot from the main Venice cruise terminal to the train station or into Venice itself.
“Oh Rome! My country! City of the soul!” extolled Lord Byron.
City of the soul. Eternal City. The City of Seven Hills. Call it what you will. As Robert DeNiro said, Rome is Rome. We say it’s the best city in Italy to visit.
There’s a lot to see and do in Italy’s capital city. You have to spend at least 2 days in Rome.
Among the plethora of historical sites, here are some Rome highlights:
Take it from us – you’ll want to return to Rome. To ensure that happens, throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain.
Built in the 18th century, this gorgeous fountain is a Baroque masterpiece.
Don’t just toss your coin in. The right way to do it is with your right hand over your left shoulder.
The coins are gathered, washed and cleaned, then donated to a local charity headquartered in Rome, called Caritas. The fountain generates almost $1.7 million a year this way.
Note: The water from Trevi Fountain is recycled and not potable. Also, when you visit, beware of pickpockets.
The number of visitors to this smallest sovereign country can be as high as 20,000 in a day.
So your best bet is to go early.
There’s no dearth of things to do in Vatican City.
One highlight? Vist the remains of an original 4th century church under The Basilica.
Also walk the Ponte Sant’Angelo (Aelian Bridge) across the Tiber River, which leads to Vatican City.
The bridge is flanked by five stone arches on each side, containing 10 different angel statues (five on each side), depicting an emblem of Jesus’s crucifixion.
If you visit on a Wednesday, you can see the Pope as he makes his appearance in St. Peter’s Square.
A trip to Vatican City is incomplete without visiting the Vatican Museums.
The Vatican Museums comprise more than two dozen attractions – one is the renowned Sistine Chapel (covered below).
It’s also home to over four miles of art galleries.
Don’t miss Raphael’s Transfiguration (a painting hanging in the Pinacoteca) and the Apollo Belvedere (one of the most magnificent ancient marble sculptures).
There are two amazing archaeological areas as well, including the Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis (an ancient Roman burial ground) and the Excavations of St John Lateran.
Try to avoid visiting during peak seasons (summer and the holiday season). The Vatican is one of the best places to visit in Italy in October, when crowds have quieted down a little.
Who hasn’t heard of Michelangelo Buonarroti or the Sistine Chapel?
Michaelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which is enormous. This treasure of frescoes (which includes some 343 figures) is about 131 feet long and 43 feet wide.
It took Michelangelo four years to complete, and left him in agony.
Even though special scaffolding was designed for him to paint while standing up, working with his neck craned upwards took a toll on his health.
The best time to visit by yourself is around 1:00 pm. To avoid the worst crowds, don’t go on the last Sunday of the month, when entry is free.
To skip the ticket lines, you might like this 5-star-rated, small group guided tour. It combines the Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel (and a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica).
To say that the Sistine Chapel is one of the most beautiful places to see in Italy is an understatement.
Need some exercise after all the gourmet Italian food you’re sure to devour?
Head to the Spanish Steps.
Connecting the Spanish Embassy at the top with the Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Square) below, this is a monumental stairway with 138 steps.
There’s a lift for those who cannot walk the stairs.
The stairs are accessible any time of the day and offer beautiful views, but they get crowded. Visit in the morning between 7:00 and 9:00 am, before visitors flock there.
Just remember not to sit or eat on the steps, as that has been banned as of 2019. (You might have to pay a fine if you get caught in violation of this ban.)
Another of the city’s must-see historical sites is the Roman Forum.
It was once the key political and religious center in Rome (and indeed the Roman Empire) – where public meetings, law courts and religious ceremonies took place.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, buried under debris, it became a livestock pasture, earning the name “Cow Field” during the Middle Ages. It was eventually excavated, and a feel of the former sense of grandeur still lingers.
A good starting point is the Basilica, the largest building in the Forum.
A testament to good Roman architecture, it’s believed to have survived an earthquake in 847 AD. Even though only three vaulted arches remain, this place is a must-visit.
Also admire the Temple of Vesta. It housed The Sacred Fire, whose flame was guarded by six priestesses. These Virgins of Vesta were selected as children from the most respected families of Rome.
A trip to The Roman Forum is incomplete without a visit to the Temple of Saturn, worshipped as the supreme god by Romans. Eight towering columns of this iconic landmark still remain.
Love food? Head to the culinary paradise of Bologna!
The capital of Emilia Romagna in the northern part of the country – and easily accessible by train and bus in Italy – Bologna is one of the best cities in Italy to visit for foodies.
A food tour of Bologna is a great way to get a taste of the city. And there are many tours on offer.
Perhaps a guided walking food tour of the historic center and medieval Quadrilatero Market – sipping wine and tasting authentic Mortadella Bologna and other local specialties?
Or maybe you’d prefer a self-guided food tasting tour with a map and vouchers to try hand-made chocolates, Tigellone with ragu and other goodies?
You can even learn to cook like a local with a hands-on cooking class at a typical Bologna home.
When you’ve had your fill of the delectable dishes, head out to explore the historic parts of Bologna. Bologna is a medieval maze, rough-at-the-edges yet beautiful in equal parts.
Climb up the 11th century Asinelli Tower (498 steps) for a view of the rolling green hills surrounding the red-roofed city.
Located in northern Italy, Turin was the former capital of Italy.
It’s often hailed as “the Paris of Italy” because of its royal palaces, grand boulevards and stately piazzas.
Take the 16th century Palazzo Reale, the Royal Palace of Turin. It’s one of the most sumptuous European palaces.
Tour the royal apartments, throne hall, ballroom and library, and you’ll see glorious tapestries, art works and furniture.
A landmark of the city is the Mole Antonelliana, a most distinctive building with its tall basilica. (A mole in Italian is a building of monumental size.)
It was originally designed to be a Jewish Synagogue. The city bought it, and today you can climb the 650+ stairs all the way to the panoramic viewing terrace up top (or you can be whisked up by elevator).
In the heart of the Tuscany region, Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance.
It’s almost impossible not to want to visit Florence! Ask Italians where to visit in Italy for the first time, and they’ll tell you to put Florence on your list.
(Florence’s Il Salviatino, a renaissance villa-turned-luxury-hotel, also has some of the most delightful hotel bathrooms in the world.)
Whether strolling the banks of the Arno River at the “golden hour” when the setting sun paints the apricot-hued architecture a rich honey color, or taking in Michaelangelo’s marble statue of David, you’ll agree that Florence is one of Italy’s most ravishing and romantic cities.
Laced with narrow cobbled streets and overflowing with superb museums, opulent churches and 15th and 16th century palaces, Florence has a whole treasure chest of wonderful sights.
We especially recommend the following three attractions.
Built between 1560 and 1581, the Uffizi Gallery boasts one of the most beautiful art collections in the world.
The number of gorgeous artworks is staggering.
Some of the main attractions include The Holy Family (the only surviving free-standing painting by Michelangelo), Annunciation by Leonardo Da Vinci, Rembrandt’s self-portraits and The Birth of Venus by Botticelli.
Not surprisingly, the Uffizi Gallery is extremely popular and usually crowded, with long waits to get in.
Spread over almost 49,000 square feet, the Boboli Gardens are the most important gardens in Italy.
Commissioned in 1594 by the Medici family, it took four centuries to create the structure of the garden.
Visit the grottos and admire their architecture and the beauty of the paintings and frescoes. Also take a look at the amphitheater – several statues adorn the steps that encircle it.
The Limonaia or “lemon house,” with its collection of rare and exotic citrus plants, is also interesting to see.
Citrus fruits are hard to cultivate in Florence, thanks to the cool winters. Their rarity makes them an exotic variety – hence the creation of this citrus greenhouse in the mid-1700s.
One of the city’s most famous landmarks, the Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”) is a stone-enclosed bridge that was built in 1345.
It’s notable for the shops built along the sides.
They were once occupied by butchers, tanners and farmers. But Duke Ferdinando I de Medici ordered them to leave because of the foul stench wafting from their shops.
Goldsmiths and jewelers moved in – and today some of Florence’s best jewelers sell their gems and jewelry from this medieval bridge.
Of course, there’s the Leaning Tower of Pisa. But that’s not all!
Walk along the shores of Arno River as it flows out into the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The food scene in Pisa is pazzo too. You can sample cheeses, meats, focaccias – and pasta. You might want to book a food tour in Pisa too.
Enjoy getting creeped out? Head to The Museum of Human Anatomy. Check out the bones, skulls and mummies.
If you like opera, food and romance, then Verona is another city you must see in Italy. This beautiful city has lots to offer.
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was set in Verona.
Head to Juliet’s house (supposedly) and see the balcony where Romeo is said to have declared his love for Juliet. Expect it to be crowded though.
Also visit the fabulous Arena di Verona, which dates back to 30 AD. One of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters, it’s still used today for internationally famous operas.
Another one of the main sights in Verona is the 14th century Castelvecchio or “Old Castle” (now a museum) and attached medieval Scaliger Bridge that spans the Adige River.
The lovely stone bridge, Ponte Pietra, is also worth walking across.
Last but not least, the Basilica of St. Anastasia has some fine frescoes and paintings inside.
If you’re going to be doing a lot of sightseeing, check out the Verona Card, offered by the city. It includes admission to most of Verona’s main sights.
A cultural melting pot since ancient times, Palermo is the capital of Sicily (the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea).
When wondering where to go in Italy, Palermo may not jump to mind.
It’s grittier than many of the other beautiful places in Italy covered here, with a rough-and-worn kind of charm.
But it has cleaned itself up in recent years, loosened itself from the Mafia’s grip and, in 2019, snagged the honor of Italian Capital of Culture.
It’s also the gateway to the island of Sicily – so if you plan to visit Sicily, you’d naturally want to base yourself in Palermo for at least two nights.
There’s no denying the beauty of Palermo’s grand palaces, chapels and perfect piazzas.
The Fontana Pretoria (a monumental fountain encircled by marble statues of naked Olympian gods and goddesses) and the 12th century Palermo Cathedral are a treat for architecture buffs.
Even if you’re a complete novice in history and architecture, you’ll adore the richly decorated Capella Palatina (an 1140 chapel completely draped with gold and brightly colored Byzantine mosaics) and La Martorana (the Church of St. Mary, half of which is lined with original gold mosaics).
For more macabre sights, head down to the Capuchin Monastery and Catacombs.
The extensive network of catacombs beneath the Capuchin Monastery contain over 1,000 mummified bodies, some hung in a standing position against the walls.
Calling all artists, fashion lovers, shopaholics and architecture buffs! Milan is the best city to visit in Italy for you.
Located in northern Italy, modern Milan is the wealthiest, most chic Italian city.
Exercise your credit card at the 19th century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. You’ll find some of Milan’s most luxurious boutiques here in Italy’s oldest active shopping mall.
Milan also lays claim to some Leonardo da Vinci masterpieces. While the Renaissance genius was born in Florence, he spent 17 years in Milan.
You can see his Last Supper in the former Dominican convent Santa Maria delle Grazie.
Maybe also channel some artistic inspiration at one of Leonardo’s favorite haunts, the villa and vineyards at Casa Degli Atellani?
Visit the Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci (Italy’s largest science and technology museum) to see reconstructions of machinery designed by the man himself.
Of course, you can’t miss the elaborate Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano). The Gothic showstopper is covered with over 4,000 statues and has 135 spires.
Take in an opera too at the elegant Teatro alla Scala, one of the finest opera houses in the world.
10) Naples (and Pompeii)
It’s one of the most underrated cities in Italy. But Naples has its own brash beauty.
The historic city center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 – and for good reason. It has a wealth of aristocratic residences, catacombs, Baroque churches and convent gardens.
And have we mentioned the pizza? The Neopolitan-style pizza in Naples is famous for its tomatoey thin-crust deliciousness.
Be sure your Naples itinerary includes a fascinating day trip to the ancient city of Pompeii (a 35-minute train ride away).
Pompeii was all but wiped out by Mount Vesuvius and wasn’t rediscovered until 1748. (Mount Vesuvius is still an active volcano, but it’s been “sleeping” since 79 AD.)
Today at the archaeological site, you can see the preserved remains of temples, homes, frescoed villas, a brothel, ampitheater and bathhouses, along with plaster-covered victims who couldn’t escape the deadly ash.
Beautiful places in Italy by the sea
Italy has miles of coastline sprinkled with postcard-perfect coastal villages and towns. The following are some of the most enchanting and best coastal towns in Italy.
Yes, it’s crowded in the high summer months. And yes, hotels are stratospherically expensive.
But the village of Positano is so enchanting that it’s still worth visiting at least once – it’s simply one of the most beautiful spots in Italy.
Brimming with colorful buildings, cute boutiques and excellent restaurants, Positano clings to the side of a cliff overlooking a pebble beach and the brilliant blue Mediterranean Sea.
If you’re an art buff, you’ll love all the galleries around Positano.
A fun way to explore Positano is via scooter. But that’s definitely not for the faint of heart.
We preferred walking up and down the narrow streets – which involved a lot of stairs. Good for toning those legs!
If you feel like a different walk, you can follow the Path of the Gods, literally. “Sentiero Degli Dei” is an easyish five-mile walking trail that offers breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri in the distance.
12) Cinque Terre
Strung along a six-mile stretch of the Italian Riviera, the Cinque Terre consists of five old fishing villages (the “Five Lands” in Italian), protected by the Cinque Terre National Park.
Among the most beautiful towns in Italy, they’re known for their rainbow-hued houses clinging to steep limestone cliffs, glittering sea views and fresh succulent seafood.
The best way to take them all in is to hike along the sinuous paths connecting the five Cinque Terre towns.
If you’re coming by train from the port town of La Spezia to the southeast, the first village you arrive at is Riomaggiore.
Take in the view from Castello di Riomaggiore. The castle was constructed in the 13th century to protect the town from pirates.
Also stroll down the main street of Via Colombo, lined with shops, restaurants and bars.
Perched on rocky cliffs washed by the waves, Manarola is the oldest village of the Cinque Terre. And it’s one of the most romantic places in Italy!
An especially lovely stretch of coastline is the Via dell’Amore (“Love’s Trail”) between Manarola and Riomaggiore. The paved, relatively flat footpath (just over ½ a mile long) offers spectacular views of the Ligurian Sea.
Also explore the vineyards. The Manarola Vineyard Walk is a 20-minute stroll that takes you along the terraced grape vineyards surrounding Manarola.
You’ll want to taste the local sweet Sciacchetra wine too.
Corniglia is an ideal base for exploring the Cinque Terre, as it’s located in the center. It’s the “quiet” heart, more laid-back than the other towns.
You’ll never be short of things to do in Vernazza – possibly the pearl of the Cinque Terre.
Visit the 15th century Castle Doria for jaw-dropping views of the village’s beautiful harbor. If the weather is good, you can jump on a boat and ride along the coast.
And don’t forget to dine on some fresh seafood at Belforte, named Cinque Terre’s best restaurant.
Monterosso is the largest of the Cinque Terre villages.
Stroll through the colorful narrow lanes of the Old Town, admire the Aurora Tower and relax on Monterosso Beach. Also gorge on Italy’s best pesto dishes at Gastronomia San Martino or the sea-facing Ristorante Belvedeer.
If wine is your thing, take some time for wine tasting in Cinque Terre.
Learn all about winemaking as you sip Monterosso’s specialty, Cinque Terre DOC. The Cinque Terre Wine School in Monterosso is a popular option.
Along with Positano (#11), the small city of Sorrento is one of the loveliest and best places to visit on the Amalfi Coast.
Dripping with citrus trees, this vacation spot is famous for its colorful buildings lining the harbor, streets flanked by noble houses and laid-back holiday atmosphere.
Visit the charming Piazza Tasso to have a scoop (or three!) of authentic Italian gelato and take in the surrounding Baroque architecture.
Also visit Villa Communale Park for sweeping views of the Bay of Naples and boats gently bobbing in the marina below.
14) Polignano a Mare
One of the prettiest towns in Italy, Polignano a Mare is on its way to becoming a tourist hot spot.
This little coastal town is tucked away in Puglia, the southern region that forms the heel of Italy’s “boot.” And after kicking around Polignano a Mare for several days, we can vouch for its awesomeness!
Explore one of its beautiful beaches. And look around for poetry inscribed on staircases, walls and doorways around the town.
For an adrenaline pump, go cliff diving into the Adriatic Sea.
A half-moon-shaped harbor, pastel houses and cypress-clad slopes combine to make Portofino one of the most scenic places in Italy.
Luxury shopping is a Portofino thing. That’s no surprise, given that Portofino is a magnet for celebrities. (Celebrity spotting, anyone?)
If you enjoy hiking, check out the 10½ mile route along the rugged coastline from Portofino to Camogli.
You can also splurge on one of the top hotels in the world here – the Belmond Splendido Portofino.
16) Ortigia (Siracusa)
When it comes to beautiful Italian coastal towns on the island of Sicily, Siracusa (Syracuse in English) may take the crown – although there’s a lot of competition!
More than 2,000 years ago, the Roman statesman Cicero called Siracusa (which was founded by the Greeks) “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all.”
The small island of Ortigia is the oldest part of Siracusa, connected by a couple of small bridges. It’s a charming labyrinth of ancient temples, medieval streets, piazzas, churches and fountains.
See the Temple of Apollo, tour the imposing Castello Maniace (a 13th century fortress), watch a puppet show at the Pupi Theater, pop inside the cathedral and check out the cafés and shops hidden around every corner.
Best Italian lakes to visit
On the south side of the Alps, the Italian Lakes region is one of the places you must visit in Italy.
Flanked by craggy mountainous peaks, pine forests, a Mediterranean vibe (in summer) and pretty towns packed with historic architecture, Italy’s lakes are incredibly photogenic.
Castles and villas are sprinkled all along the shoreline of these achingly beautiful lakes.
17) Lake Como
Lake Como is the third largest of the Italian Lakes – and the glamorous one.
Many people think it’s the most beautiful place in Italy. Hollywood actor George Clooney, for one, was so enchanted that he bought a villa in Laglio on Lake Como.
In Como, the principal town, stroll the lakeside promenade and take the funicular up to the village of Brunate for spectacular views of the lake.
When you tire of exploring, seat yourself at a lakeside café or resto and make like an Italian.
Sip some wine. Eat. And relish the views.
18) Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is an 82-square mile body of water, snaking through the Alps and across the Italian-Swiss border.
Uninterrupted views of the blue water with snow-capped mountains looming in the background – together with historic villas in charming towns like Verbania and Stresa – make this lake a favorite Italian vacation destination, both in the summer and winter.
Particularly special: You can take a taxi boat to the island of Isola Bella (meaning “beautiful island) on Lake Maggiore to visit the lavish Baroque palace and gardens owned by the aristocratic Borromeo family.
19) Lake Garda
Another one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy is Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake.
With charming villages, great beaches and lots of water sports opportunities, it’s a popular holiday destination in Italy.
You can enjoy the lake view from above by riding up with the Malcesine Monte Baldo Cable Car. This 30-minute ride takes you through part of the Italian Alps.
Wine tasting is popular around Lake Garda. Try some of its Valpolicella, Soave and Bardolino wines.
On the southern shore of Lake Garda, the beautiful old town of Sirmione is found at the tip of a peninsula jutting out into the lake.
Visit the 13th century Scaliger Castle there, surrounded by a turquoise moat. And check out the Roman ruins of a large villa known as Grotte di Catullo, believed to have been the country house of the poet Catullus.
For a unique perspective, take a short boat ride around the Sirmione Peninsular.
One of Italy’s best rock climbing destinations is also found on the lake’s north shore – at the town of Arco.
Aside from rock climbing, you can hike up from the town to explore the rooms of the 1,000-year-old Arco Castle.
20) Lake Orta
Lake Orta is Lake Maggiore’s little sister.
At just seven square miles, it’s much more petite, and it’s separated from its larger counterpart by the Mottarone mountain range.
But it’s also one of the most beautiful places in Italy to visit.
Its crystal-clear waters are some of the best for swimming in Europe.
You’ll also want to want to take a 5-minute boat ride to San Giulio Island to stroll around the peaceful island.
And above the town of Orta San Giulio is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Sacro Monte di San Francesco.
You can walk uphill to this beautiful Roman Catholic complex of chapels set in the woods, one of the nine UNESCO-listed sacred mountains of northern Italy.
Lovely small towns in Italy
Italy’s small towns are where you can enjoy everything good about Italy, but on a smaller scale.
Here’s where pastel palazzi and cathedrals crown hilltops like icing on a cake – and where you can (usually) roam cobbled streets without the crowds.
Surrounded by a 1,000-year-old wall, Siena (population about 55,000) is stuffed with stunning Gothic churches, pretty piazzas and terracotta-colored buildings.
Cradled in the heart of Tuscany, it’s easily one of the most picturesque medieval towns in Italy.
You’ll want to see the gorgeous Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (Duomo di Siena).
Adorned with beautifully detailed sculptures, Venetian mosaics, artistic marble floors and a rose window, this grand 13th century construction is bound to take your breath away, be it the exterior or interior.
Part of the cathedral complex is the wonder that is Piccolomini Library.
Along with housing a priceless collection of hand-made books and music manuscripts, it’s famous for some of the most impressive frescoes in Italy.
Painted by the Renaissance artist Pinturicchio, they’re probably based on designs by Raphael.
Feeling energetic? Climb the almost 335-foot-high Torre Del Mangia for unrivalled views of Siena and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.
It’s a climb of over 200 steps, but the view is worth the effort.
Siena is an easy day trip from Florence. But if you can swing it, you won’t regret staying for a night or two in this beautiful town, especially if you book into a former palazzo like the Grand Hotel Continental Siena.
And when the day is done, enjoy an excellent dinner at Ristorante Tar Tufo.
Gorge on antipasti, lamb, pasta and seafood while sipping house wines. (Or maybe go for the 5-course truffle dinner.)
22) San Gimignano
Known as the “Town of Fine Towers,” San Gimignano is famous for its unforgettable skyline of medieval towers.
At one time, this small hilltop town in Tuscany was home to 72 tower-houses – symbols of the wealth of its patrician family owners.
Today, only 14 towers remain. But the town still oozes a romantic medieval ambience.
Indeed, just strolling through San Gimignano, soaking up its historic atmosphere and admiring the beautiful architecture, is a delight.
Matera is located in the southern Basilicata region of Italy. And of all the pretty places in Italy, it’s one of the most fascinating.
Until we visited, we didn’t know that Matera is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.
People have lived here in caves for millennia. In fact, we recommend staying in a cave hotel in Matera. Sextantio Le Grotte Della Civita is highly rated.
With a poignant and rich history, this troglodyte settlement became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993. In 2019, it basked under the banner of European Cultural Capital.
You can take a guided walking tour or tuk-tuk tour of Matera’s cave houses, historical grottos, hermitages and rock-hewn churches.
MUSMA, the Matera Museum of Contemporary Sculpture, is not to be missed.
Without a doubt, Matera is one of the most unique places to visit in Italy.
A popular day trip from Rome, Orvieto is perched on top of a 1,000-foot-high tufa hill.
With medieval cobblestone streets lined by beautiful buildings, it’s a great place for photography and simply delighting in its gold-hued charms.
No doubt you’ll visit its celebrated Gothic duomo. The 14th-century cathedral is the town’s masterpiece landmark. Few buildings in the world are as ornate as its intricately carved exterior.
Also don’t miss climbing down Pozzo di San Patrizio (St Patrick’s Well). It leads to an ancient underground city of caves and tunnels dug by the Etruscans!
The cute white conical-shaped trulli of Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a sight to see. They make this fairytale town one of the prettiest places in Italy!
Visit the Sant’Antonio Church, with its cone-shaped roof. It’s the only trullo church in the world!
Also head to Caseificio Salatino, and learn about making artisanal cheeses while sipping vino.
You’ll want to try a Pasqualino sandwich. Traditionally layered with tuna fish, capers, salami and cheese, this sandwich is unique to Alberobello.
Finish off with an ice-cream cone from Arte Fredda Gelateria, the best ice-cream place in town.
For something different, you can even explore the village by Segway.
The medieval village of Montepulciano sits on top of a hill overlooking Tuscany, with incredible views over vineyards in the Val d’Orcia.
The terracotta-hued town is brimming with historic churches and Renaissance palaces.
Are you a Twilight fan?
If so, you may have already heard of Montepulciano. One of the top places to visit in Italy for movie fans, parts of the saga’s New Moon were filmed here.
Sometimes referred to as the “Florence of the South,” Lecce is located in the Puglia region of southern Italy.
This small beautiful Italian city of about 100,000 is jam-packed with gorgeous Baroque architecture and works of archaeological significance.
See the famous Roman amphitheater in the middle of the city, which could seat 15,000 to 25,000 people. Live performances still take place here.
And the Basilica di Santa Croce is one of the most heavenly cathedrals! Boasting 17 ornately decorated altars and ceilings with painted centers, it took two centuries to build.
You won’t want to miss the Museo Faggiano either.
When the owner bought the place, he intended to turn it into a restaurant.
But when he started digging under the building in 2001 to repair a toilet, he discovered underground tombs, a Roman granary, medieval rooms and artifacts, a Franciscan chapel, etchings from the Knights Templar and escape routes.
More than 5,000 archaeological exhibits are now on display in this incredible private archaeological museum.
With a whopping eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the prestige of being the capital of the Western Roman Empire and an important Byzantine city, Ravenna is undoubtedly one of the best Italian places to visit for history.
But its 5th and 6th century mosaics of religious scenes and its 1,500-year-old churches make it one of the most gorgeous places in the country as well!
Beautiful Italian regions + islands
Did you know Italy has more than 80 picturesque islands? Also, some of the nicest parts of Italy are whole regions.
So don’t just think Italy’s cities and towns when considering vacation destinations in Italy.
Here’s where you can find beautiful Italian islands and countryside views.
The cities and towns of Florence (#5), Siena (#21), San Gimignano (#22) and Montepulciano (#26) in Tuscany are already on our list of the best places to go in Italy.
The Tuscan countryside as a whole is one of the most beautiful parts of Italy – and deserves its own recognition.
For a rural retreat where you can soak up the Italian lifestyle, why not rent a private villa and hire a car to help you make the most of your escape?
Tuck yourself away in a remote corner of Tuscany and enjoy the luxury of a farmhouse cottage or a modern villa, with your own private pool.
Spend your days touring the countryside, covered with cypress trees, olive groves and vineyards.
Explore lovely small villages and towns in Tuscany like Montefioralle (originally a walled castle, now ringed by cobblestone streets) and Poppi (dominated by the 13th century Castle of the Guidi Counts).
And don’t miss Montalcino, a medieval hilltop town, where the food and wine is some of the best in Italy!
Of course, you’ll want to stop for lunch on your outings.
Maybe nosh on cured meats, cheeses, olives, handmade pasta and sausages with white beans, washed down with local wine – before heading back to soak up the last few rays of sunshine on your poolside terrace.
Put Sardinia on your Italy bucket list!
Nestled in the midst of the Mediterranean Sea, 116 miles away from the Italian mainland, Sardinia boasts around 1,200 miles of golden coastline, craggy cliffs and, in the interior, soaring mountains.
The Costa Smeralda, otherwise known as the Emerald Coast, is one of the best places to vacation in Italy, with turquoise waters and ravishing white sand beaches.
Inland, hiking is popular in Sardinia, with long-distance hiking trails like Sentiero Sardegna traversing the rugged mountains and serving up incredible panoramic views.
Also visit its dynamic capital, Cagliari. Populated since Neolithic times, it remains one of the prettiest cities in Italy.
31) Le Marche
Have you heard of “Le Marche” (The Marches)?
Sometimes touted as “the next Tuscany,” this small eastern Italian region with lavender and sunflower fields runs along the Adriatic Coast, bordering Tuscany to the northwest.
Another one of the most beautiful Italian places to visit, it boasts hill towns rivaling Tuscany’s.
The steep hill town of Urbino is the birthplace of the Renaissance painter Raphael (you can visit the family house, now a museum).
One of Italy’s most spectacular palaces, the Palazzo Ducale, is found here too.
Check out the exquisite inlaid images in the wood-paneled study and Raphael’s Portrait of a Gentlewoman, which hangs in the palace.
Medieval Ascoli Piceno, population 60,000, is known as the “city of travertine.”
Most of the buildings in the old town, even door frames and floors, are made from solid blocks of travertine stone – don’t miss the intricately-carved entry portals to the gothic-style Church of St. Francis.
Do you love winter sports? Then you’ll love the Dolomite Mountain Range, located in the northeast corner of the Italian Alps.
The Dolomites are one of the best vacation spots in Italy for a winter getaway.
Think skiing and snowboarding down snow-packed pistes. And ski resorts that promise plenty of après-ski fun and stacks of local amenities.
Take the unspoilt alpine village of Campitello in the heart of the Dolomites.
It boasts a modern 125-person cable car to whisk you to the famous Sella Ronda circular ski route. You’ll find several lively bars too for warming up after schussing down Campitello’s wide intermediate ski runs.
Indeed, all the Italian ski resorts are quite stunning – with majestic mountains and pretty little towns offering traditional charm and the chance to become immersed in Italian culture.
In-between snowfalls, it’s quite common to enjoy crisp sunny days during the winter – perfect for excursions across the peaks or long lazy picnics several thousand feet up.
Just off the Amalfi Coast, the dreamy island of Capri is another of the most gorgeous places in Italy – if you visit outside of the high summer season.
Of course, it’s still beautiful in July and August. But we found it hard to enjoy Capri when we last visited at the end of August because of the hordes of crowds. Capri is unfortunately just too beautiful for its own good!
Nestled toward the top of the island are the colorful Gardens of Augustus, offering wonderful sea views.
Up 500 steps, or via road by bus, lies Anacapri. From Anacapri, take a 12-minute chairlift to Monte Solaro (or you can walk for an hour to Monte Solaro along a footpath). There you can see all of Capri, the Amalfi Coast and the Bay of Naples.
You can’t miss the statue of Emperor Augustus at the summit, watching over the island.
One of Italy’s most famous attractions is also found at Capri – the Blue Grotto. You can take a boat trip to the Blue Grotto to see the surreal blue glow of reflected sunlight within this wondrous sea cave.
If you seek quiet contemplation, make your way to Capri Philosophical Park. Even if you’re not philosophically inclined, just head there for the breathtaking views.
That’s a wrap for the prettiest and best places in Italy to visit!
Hopefully this tiny glimpse into this soulful country helps you figure out where to go in Italy.
Italy has something for everyone – one country, many worlds. Of course, unless you have a year or so to spare, don’t go to all the places on your first trip.
Remember the coin you tossed in Rome’s Trevi Fountain? It’ll bring you back!
Experience more of Europe!
Croatia | An ancient palace built for the Roman emperor Diocletian, Diocletian’s Palace forms about half the Old Town of Split. You can get some great Insta shots there!
Germany | From ogling the treasures in the Green Vault to bicycling past pretty palaces on the Elbe River, there are lots of amazing things to do in Dresden.
Portugal | Is Porto worth visiting? And how do you avoid the crowds?
Our top travel tips and resources
Here are our favorite travel resources:
Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)
Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).
Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out GetYourGuide and Viator.
Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.
Travel insurance: World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, with coverage for more than 150 activities, as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
Vaccines and meds: We follow CDC travel guidelines to see what medications and vaccines are needed for trips. You can get vaccines at your pharmacy, travel medical clinic or doctor’s office.
Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)
Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.
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About the authors
Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.
Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!
Wednesday 16th of October 2013
Good round up! You'll love the lakes. Maggiore is my favorite.
Janice and George
Wednesday 16th of October 2013
Yes, we'd love to see the Borromean Islands on Lake Maggiore, especially the beautiful baroque palace everyone talks about on Isola Bella.
Irene S. Levine
Sunday 6th of October 2013
One of these Italian places sound perfect for a holiday getaway!