Typically, tourists in Italy consider spending their time in the historical city of Rome, the fashionable city of Milan, or the quaint city of Florence. However, there are dozens of other places worth visiting throughout this wonderful country. From the rolling green hills of Tuscany to the epic beaches along the Amalfi coast, Italy has something for everyone to enjoy.
Turin is a large city of prosperous business in northwest Italy. It was the former capital of Italy, made evident by the architectural grandeur found along the stately boulevards and large squares throughout the city. Though not as popular for tourists as cities such as Rome or Milan, Turin is a wonderful place to drink local Piedmont wines, walk along the River Po, or explore the world-renowned Egyptian museum.
2. Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore straddles the Piedmont and Lombardy regions of Italy and peeks into Switzerland. Lake Maggiore is the largest lake at the base of the Italian Alps and is a popular holiday destination for wealthy families in the cities of Turin and Milan. The lakeside villages have a vintage charm with spectacular views of the Alps dramatically looming over the lake. Spend the weekend going boating to the tiny nearby islands, trekking in the mountains, or exploring nearby botanical gardens.
3. Lake Como
Shaped like an upside-down ‘Y’, Lake Como lies just east of Lake Maggiore. The thriving city of Como lies at the base of the lake and has great shopping with wonderful views. However, it’s best to explore beyond the city. Picturesque small towns such as Bellagio, Menagio, and Varenna are all worth visits for their narrow, windy streets and spectacular views of the Alps.
Milan is the second largest city in Italy behind Rome, with well over one million inhabitants. As one of the fashion capitals of the world alongside New York and Paris, the bi-annual fashion week is one of the most popular times to be in the city. Other popular sites in Milan include Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, La Scala opera house, and the Duomo – one of the grandest cathedrals in the world.
Just a short train ride outside of Milan, Bergamo is a scenic town nestled in the Alps. Bergamo is made up of two towns – Citta Alta, meaning the upper city, and Citta Bassa, meaning the low city. Citta Alta has cobblestone streets surrounded by Venetian walls, whilst Citta Bassa is more modern with elegant architecture. The funicular connects the two steep towns with spectacular views along the ride.
Settled on the Adige River in the province of Veneto, Verona is famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Stand on the 14th century balcony overlooking a courtyard dubbed as ‘Juliet’s balcony’ to re-live a classic scene. Though less popular than the neighbouring city of Venice, Verona boasts similar colourful buildings and small winding streets without the crowds of tourists.
Venice is an especially romantic Italian city built among 118 small islands. The city has no roads, just narrow canals that wind between the islands. The large central square, Piazza San Marco even floods each year with water from canals. Locals put up tables for tourists to walk on as temporary bridges. Whether visiting with a loved one or a friend, get lost along the winding streets, take a traditional gondola ride, or shop for Venetian glasswork in this dreamy, one-of-a-kind city.
Trieste is a seaside town located on the easternmost edge of Italy. Due to its unique location between the Adriatic Sea and the Slovenian border, Trieste has Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, and Slovenian influences that give it an Eastern European vibe. This often-overlooked city boasts a unique history, several charming cafes, and hauntingly beautiful charm.
The thing to do in Parma is eat. Both Parma ham and Parmigianino Reggiano cheese are from and named after this delicious city outside Bologna. In between meals, Parma offers many other attractions including Piazza Duomo, Museo Glauco Lombardi, and the world-famous Teatro Regio opera house.
Genoa is a port city to the west of Parma that once housed Christopher Columbus. Though typically overlooked by tourists, Genoa has played an important role in maritime trade over the centuries. Through the success of the port, Genoa has blossomed into a lovely city that deserves a visit. The marina has several ocean-view restaurants and bars, a lift to get a sky-high view, and Europe’s second-largest aquarium.
11. Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is technically not just one place in Italy, but five! Cinque Terre translates to ‘five towns’ describing the colourful villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso all nestled into seaside cliffs. A network of trails connects the villages and provides breathtaking views of the Ligurian Sea. Along the trail, stop often to swim in the ocean or taste wine at the vineyards. Alternatively, a train line connects the five villages, making it easy to visit all five in a day with less walking.
Bologna is known for pasta made fresh from eggs and flour with types including Tortellini, Tagliatelle, and Lasagne. Bologna is also famous for cured meat pork, which can be added in pasta sauce or served on its own. The University of Bologna is the oldest university in the world and is still a prestigious school in Italy. In addition to the cuisine and university, Bologna has many piazzas, churches, museums, and the Due Torri – two leaning towers.
Speaking of leaning towers, Pisa is another top place to visit because of the infamous Leaning Tower of Pisa. Visit this tower early in the morning to avoid crowds and snap an iconic picture playing with perspective alongside the tower. Besides the tower, Pisa is a small, young town filled with hip cafes, trendy restaurants, and a thriving nightlife.
This Tuscan city is surrounded by defence walls that were designed by the great Leonardo Da Vinci. The architecture inside the walls is gothic and dense with Etruscan and Roman history. The best way to explore the city of Lucca is to rent bikes or go for a stroll along the interior of the defence walls to get a 360-degree view of the city and surrounding countryside. You can find out the best time to visit here.
This Tuscan capital is home to many famous Renaissance art and buildings. The most iconic sight in the city is the Duomo – a red brick dome towering above the landscape. Tour the famous cathedral in Piazza Del Duomo or hike up many stairs to Piazza Michelangelo to view the city and the Duomo from above. With famous residents including Dante and Leon Batist D’Alberti, there are dozens of museums, cathedrals, and famous bridges to explore.
Located south of Florence, the historic city of Siena is the epitome of a medieval city and is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the Middle Ages, Siena was a proud independent city-state until Florence defeated it. Afterward, Siena was a very poor area – too poor to rebuild and modernise the city, leaving it a perfect medieval town model. Today, Siena prospers from tourists who enjoy wandering the distinctive architecture and observing the unique layout.
The small coastal town of Ancona is located on the east Italy along the Adriatic Sea. This port city doesn’t look like much from the marina, but climb the hills and this little city will entice you with its charm and history. The town was damaged badly in the World Wars, so the many piazzas are now protected from traffic and instead host local markets. Climb to the top of Ancona to visit the Cathedral for a dose of history and sweeping views of the Adriatic coastline below.
The town of Perugia is located in the centre of Italy in the Umbria region. Perugia is rarely on the tourist radar, but is known locally for holding a prestigious university, major works of medieval art, a gorgeous central piazza, and an annual summer jazz festival. For a special architectural treat, take a tour underneath the town to see the remains of original fortress walls.
Orvieto is a small fortress city located atop the hills of the Umbria region, overlooking lush green hills of the countryside. The Gothic Duomo di Orvieto in the city centre is filled with stunning mosaics and frescoes, which are said to have influenced Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. It’s also worthwhile to tour the 3,000-year-old tunnels underneath the city. Etruscans carved this vast network of underground tunnels out of volcanic rock to create escape routes for nobles.
Rome, Italy’s capital, is a sprawling city with no shortage of historical artefacts, religious relics, and famous art. Inside Rome lies Vatican City, which is the head of the Roman Catholic Church and includes St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican museums, and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. For any Roman history buff, the Colosseum is located among dozens of famous ruins at the Forum. However, this city has something for everyone, from pilgrims seeking Catholic relics to young families looking for trendy neighbourhood cafes.
Naples, the third largest city in Italy, has an atmosphere all its own. This old city is edgy and artistic underneath a layer of grime. On the coastal edge of the city, explore Castel Nuovo and Castel del’Ovo before enjoying some of the best margherita pizzas in all of Italy. Near Naples are several great day trips, including a ferry to the island of Capri to sip limoncello in a fancy spa, or a train ride down to Pompeii to witness the destruction from Mount Vesuvius’ eruption in 79 AD.
22. Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is located just south of Naples, but this gorgeous coastline deserves more than a day trip. The 50-kilometre stretch of coastal highway connects 13 seaside towns, the most famous of which is Positano. If short on time, Positano is quintessential Amalfi with secluded beaches, expensive shopping, pastel buildings, and luxurious hotels that all boast ocean views.
The small, hilly village of Maratea is located south of Naples on Italy’s southern Tyrrhenian coast in the Basilicata region. Maratea is often referred to as ‘the town with 44 churches’. However, Maratea also has over 20 beaches and many hillside hikes with mountain views. The city is known for its varied terrain, making it attractive to outdoorsy tourists.
Ostuni is located on the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’ in the Puglia region. Just a few kilometres from the Adriatic Sea, Ostuni is a wonderful place for a relaxing getaway. The best way to explore this whitewashed city is to get lost in the haphazardly designed streets, while enjoying the Italian, Greek, Gothic, and Byzantine-influenced architecture. The architecture is so unique, it may not even feel like you’re in Italy.
Located on the southern tip of Italy, Lecce is often referred to as the ‘Florence of the South’, due to its cohesive and beautiful architecture. The buildings are made of Baroque stone – a caramel-coloured stone that is highly pliable, making intricate carvings popular. As with most Italian towns, the best way to explore is by foot, to meander the narrow streets and gaze at the elaborate details in the Baroque buildings.
Taormina sits on a hilltop overlooking the Sicilian coast along the eastern edge of Italy. Taormina’s main attraction is an 1,800-year-old amphitheatre, Teatro Antico di Taormina, which is still used today. If there’s no time for a show, stroll toward Piazza Aprile for spectacular views of the sea and the nearby volcano, Mount Edna.
Palermo is the capital of the island of Sicily and has a vast history with Greek, Roman, and Arab occupants over the course of history. This distinct history led to unique architecture reflecting many different rulers, though the Normans destroyed most of the mosques. Due to its location near Africa and neighbouring European countries, Palermo remains a diverse and important port city today.
If you’d like to explore any of these fascinating Italian destinations, get in touch & we’ll help you organise your perfect trip to this wonderful Mediterranean country.