Italy is one of the most popular tourist destinations on the planet. Not only is it home to historic sites that date back to the beginning of Western civilization, it is also world famous for its cuisine, art and fashion. Every Italy aficionado has their own list of the best places to visit in the country. With each region holding its own unique attractions and charms, it can be difficult to label any attraction a must-see. There is simply so much to see and do that it is impossible to see and do it all in one trip. That is part of the allure of Italy: you can come back again and again and never have the same experience twice.

This is our take on 100 best places to visit in Italy.

Jump to: Sardinia | Sicily | Greater Rome | Tuscany | Southern Italy | Venice and Verona | Milan | Northeast Italy | Northwest Italy | Central Italy

Sardinia

The second largest island in Italy sits in the Mediterranean, west of mainland Italy, near the French island of Corsica and Spain’s Balearic Islands. Sardinia boasts beaches, rugged natural landscapes, Roman ruins, and plenty of water-sports opportunities.

1. Su Nuraxi near Barumini

Su Nuraxi near Barumini

Photo: Pelódia / Flickr

Su Nuraxi is an important archeological site near the town of Barumini in Sardinia. Don’t expect to see impressive Roman and Greek ruins, however. The structures here date back even further: more than 1,000 years before the Roman Empire. The collection of well-preserved huts give a glimpse into ancient Sardinian life. Su Nuraxi is recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

2. Bastione San Remy in Castello

Bastione San Remy in Castello

Photo: cristianocani / Flickr

This fortification was once one of the most important strategic spaces in Sardinia. Now it has little military significance, but still holds a strong sense of history. Many people simply come to San Remy so that they can enjoy the views. The remains of the fort are the perfect vantage point for taking in the picturesque town of Castello and the blue waters of the Mediterranean.

3. Costa Smeralda

Costa Smeralda

Photo: ntn6 / Flickr

This section of sandy seaside in northern Sardinia draws sun-lovers and resort-goers. However, the real action takes place off shore. Conditions are ideal for sailing. Large racing yachts regularly dock at ports along the coast, so even if you don’t take to the waters yourself, you can appreciate these impressive vessels up close.

4. Dunes at Piscinas

Dunes at Piscinas

Photo: ezioman / Flickr

The dunes in this section of seaside Sardinia are some of the biggest in Europe, reaching more than 100 meters (300 feet) in height. This is a wild area and one of the most unique landscapes in all of Italy. The fact that visitors can explore the dunes and then cool off by taking a dip in the Mediterranean adds to the attraction.

5. Roman Ruins at Nora

Roman Ruins at Nora

Photo: Effervescing Elephant / Flickr

Nora holds one of Sardinia’s best Roman archeological sites. The city was originally founded by the ancient Phoenicians, though most of the ruins date back to Roman times. The remnants of the great empire’s buildings include thermal baths, a theater, a temple and a forum. The site also has smaller houses that contain intricate mosaics.

6. Bidderosa Beach

Bidderosa Beach

Photo: Tezio / Flickr

While many of Sardinia’s beaches draw sunbathers, Bidderosa is a bit different, but arguably more attractive, than its peers. It is part of a nature preserve and access is limited. However, the beach offers a very secluded feel and has gorgeous, fine-grained sands and calm, warm waters. The local tourism board limits the number of visitors by only allowing a certain number of vehicles to enter every day.

7. Alghero

Alghero

Photo: scarabeo150 / Flickr

Alghero is a spot for people looking for a little bit of everything. The town boasts nice beaches, plenty of water sports, trekking opportunities, and a strong sense of history. The atmospheric old town draws lots of tourists, but trails along the rugged sections of coastline are ideal for people seeking to see Sardinia’s natural side.

8. Porto Pino

Porto Pino

Photo: 1la / Flickr

This Sardinian town is another spot for great beaches. The area also boasts an impressive collection of dunes for those who want to do some inland adventuring. Porto Pino gets its name from the pine forests that make up part of the inland landscape. The town itself is thought to be one of the most pleasant places on the Mediterranean. It boasts a good deal of culture and a laid back vibe.

9. Ogliastra and the Little Green Train

Ogliastra and the Little Green Train

Photo: naturally_exposed / Flickr

This region in Eastern Sardinia has some of the best views of island’s trademark rugged landscapes. From mountains and valleys to rocky coastal areas, every trek in Ogliastra will bring picture-worthy views. One of the best ways to see the countryside is on the Little Green Train (Trenino Verde), which takes riders on a journey past the region’s best untouched landscapes.

10. Parco Nazionale Arcipelago Di La Maddalena

Parco Nazionale Arcipelago Di La Maddalena

Photo: cristianocani / Flickr

This park, which encompasses both land and sea, is one of the most important in Sardinia. It protects several islands as well as the waters surrounding them. While other parts of the Costa Smerelda (see above) draw beach-goers and yachting aficionados, this area is mostly untouched and a great place to explore the natural side of coastal Sardinia.

Sicily

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean. It sits to the east of the “toe” of boot-shaped mainland Italy. Sicily is known for its unique culture and cuisine and offers experiences that are quite different from those found in the country’s other regions.

1. Mount Etna

Mount Etna

Photo: tobyct / Flickr

One of Italy’s most famous mountains, this volcanic Sicilian peak can be appreciated from afar, though it is the ideal place for adventurers who have mountain climbing ambitions (a guide is required). There are various types of tours of Etna, ranging from bus rides to off-road 4×4 adventures. Despite Sicily’s reputation for warm weather, things can get cold on Etna, and part of the mountain is actually used for skiing during the wintertime.

2. Teatro Massimo Palermo

Teatro Massimo Palermo

Photo: gnuckx / Flickr

Located in Palermo, Sicily’s main hub, the Teatro Massimo is a great attraction both inside and out. Its stately exterior is definitely picture-worthy, and it regularly hosts some of Italy’s most notable performers. The schedule is focused on opera, but classical music and a ballet are also on the menu. Tours of the historic theater are available for those who don’t want to spring for event tickets.

3. Erice

Erice

Photo: Leandro’s World Tour / Flickr

This town is located in a highland area above Sicily’s coast. It has many attributes, not the least of which are the views of the coast and lowlands that people can enjoy from many places in town. Erice is also a place of great history. There are two Medieval castles in the area. Plenty of historic buildings are also scattered around Erice. Many of these are still in use today.

4. Palermo

Palermo

Photo: Archway Andres / Flickr

Sicily’s main city is more than a hub for people traveling to other parts of the island, it is an attraction in and of itself. Unlike its peers to the north (Rome, Milan, Florence, etc), it is not necessarily seen as a major tourist destination. However, the unique French and Arab styles of architecture, which are mixed with Italian influences, make the buildings unlike those seen in other parts of Italy.

5. Agrigento

Agrigento

Photo: dickdotcom / Flickr

This town is known for its Greek temples. Five temples sit next to one another in an area called The Valley of the Temples. These structures are still in relatively good shape and quite large in size, leading some visitors to compare Agrigento to the more well known Greek ruins in Greece itself. The town also boasts a set of Roman ruins and an archeology museum that helps put these ancient structures into a historical context.

6. Marsala (Wine Country)

Marsala (Wine Country)

Photo: Michal Osmenda / Flickr

This coastal town is the hub of Sicily’s wine industry. Most of the wine exported from this region is fortified with additional alcohol. This creates a port-like wine. It is possible to visit vineyards in the Marsala area and also to find places in town that serve unfortified vintages that are usually only ever tasted by locals.

7. Syracuse Old Town on Ortygia Island

Syracuse Old Town on Ortygia Island

Photo: davehighbury / Flickr

This historic section of Syracuse has some of Sicily’s most unique structures. The history of the area dates back to Greek times, and there are also Roman, Italian and Arab influences in the design and architecture. Local people have a grassroots conservation project that seeks to keep these ancient structures intact.

8. Necropolis of Pantalica (Syracuse)

Necropolis of Pantalica (Syracuse)

Photo: girolame / Flickr

This site holds nearly 5,000 tombs. Some of these burial chambers date back more than 3,000 years. The Necropolis has been listed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, along with the historic structures in the nearby city of Syracuse. The area also has other buildings from different points in history, with some of the oldest examples dating back to Byzantine times.

9. Aeolian Islands

Aeolian Islands

Photo: Emanuele Longo / Flickr

These picturesque islands off of the coast of Sicily offer a handful of unique attractions. The collection of volcanic land masses draw trekkers and nature-lovers seeking to explore the unique topography. The aptly-named island of Vulcano has a different sort of attraction: a popular mud-bath that is heated by geo-thermal energy.

10. Madonie National Park

Madonie National Park

Photo: gerlos / Flickr

This little-known park covers almost 40,000 acres of Sicilian countryside. It features a mountain range with slopes inhabited by various forms of wildlife including wolves and eagles. The park is also dotted with towns and remnants of Medieval castles. Some of the towns have buildings that were built centuries ago. The park offers visitors a chance to experience both the nature and history of Sicily at the same time.

Greater Rome

Rome was the center of the world during the Roman Empire. Today, the ruins of that great empire are still in evidence, but modern Rome is equally attractive, as are the lands surrounding this great city.

1. Colosseum

Colosseum

Photo: Sebastian Bergmann / Flickr

The Colosseum is easily the most recognizable structure left over from the Roman Empire. It was capable of holding 50,000 spectators. The building can be appreciated from the outside, but visiting the interior is even more memorable. Visitors can bypass the long lines by pre-booking their visit as part of a tour. If Italy has one must-see attraction (the thing people will ask you about when you get back home), it is the Colosseum.

2. Roman Forum

Roman Forum

Photo: HarshLight / Flickr

True history buffs and curiosity seekers might actually find this set of Roman ruins more interesting than the Colosseum. The Forum was once the heart of the world’s most powerful empire. Some of the buildings are still in good shape. The multiple structures (temples, arches, columns) make this a good addition to any Rome visitor’s itinerary. Another attractive attribute: the Forum is not as crowded as the Colosseum.

3. The Pantheon

The Pantheon

Photo: dichohecho / Flickr

The Pantheon, easily recognizable because of its line of towering columns, is one of the best kept buildings from Roman times. The impressive, picture-worthy domed ceiling is definitely a reason to go inside. Originally built as a temple nearly two thousand years ago, the Pantheon is actually now a burial place. It holds the tombs of leaders and artists from Rome’s past.

4. The Vatican and Saint Peter’s Square

The Vatican and Saint Peter’s Square

Photo: Argenberg / Flickr

Roman Catholics and curious tourists of any religious persuasion will find Saint Peter’s Square to be an impressive place. The square is the center of the Catholic world and crowds regularly gather to hear from the Pope. The Vatican, completely surrounded by Rome, is actually its own country (the world’s smallest). It carries a strong sense of history and has been one of the world’s most important religious sites for more than 1,000 years.

5. World War II site at Anzio

World War II site at Anzio

Photo: UK in Italy / Flickr

Anzio, a seaside area near Rome, was the site of one of the most important landings in the Mediterranean Theater during World War II. Now known for its beaches and seaside attractions, frequented by Romans on weekends, the area still contains a couple of cemeteries and other sites from World War II. Both British and American armies maintain burial grounds for those who died during the operations, which took place in 1944.

6. Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

Photo: ScubaBeer / Flickr

The Trevi Fountain, a baroque-era masterpiece that is arguably one of the world’s most famous fountains, features multiple figures. The fountain offers a very different experiences depending on the time of day that you visit. During daylight, its details and size are impressive, but a nighttime visit can be even more memorable because the fountain and surrounding plaza are lit up after dark.

7. National Archeological Museum in Civitavecchia

National Archeological Museum in Civitavecchia

Photo: The Consortium / Flickr

This museum is a good place to visit if you want to put the ruins around Rome and Italy into historical context. The museum features exhibits on archeological finds from Etruscan (early settlers in the area) to Roman times. There is also an impressive collection of anchors from Roman ships.

8. Aventino and Testaccio Restaruants

Aventino and Testaccio Restaruants

Photo: i_abel / Flickr

Many Rome visitors cite meals at local restaurants as the most memorable part of their visit. These small neighborhood eateries, known as trattorias, serve food made with fresh ingredients in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Many times the eatery’s chef is also the owner (and perhaps even the waiter). Aventino and Testaccio, two mainly residential neighborhoods, are the best places to find these only-in-Rome dining experiences.

9. Appian Way Zone

Appian Way Zone

Photo: Shaun Merritt / Flickr

Another Roman Empire-era attraction near Rome is the Apian Way. Once a major artery for commerce and the military, it remains is surprisingly good shape, though the cement that was originally used has eroded away leaving a rough, cobblestone-like surface. Sitting just outside of Rome, it is one of the best day-trips available to Rome visitors. There are numerous structures, from different eras in the region’s history, found all along the road.

10. Ostia Beaches

Ostia Beaches

Photo: Cha già José / Flickr

The Greater Rome area has lots of attractions, but it is not necessarily known for its beaches. Nonetheless, Ostia has some pretty stretches of sand. The water-side can get crowded during the summertime, when many Roman’s descend an the area for a few days of vacation. However, things remain pleasant and laid back here throughout the year.

Tuscany

Thanks to travel guide books, movies and novels, Tuscany has become one of the most famous regions of Italy. Its wine, cuisine, and culture draw more tourists that most of the other parts of Italy. This is certainly not the only place worth visiting in the country, but it does have more than its share of great attractions.

1. Pisa

Pisa

Photo: SowersPics / Flickr

Known for its leaning tower, Pisa is on many tourists’ itineraries. The non-vertical building is actually only one of the many historic attractions in the city. A wealth of Medieval and Renaissance era architecture and art awaits people willing to explore beyond the obvious. The sightseeing menu includes churches, palaces, piazzas and museums.

2. Perugia’s Corso Vannucci

Perugia’s Corso Vannucci

Photo: ChrisYunker / Flickr

Perugia’s planners have made sure this pedestrian-only core remained intact. The result is a unique place with a historic atmosphere that is always buzzing with activity. Aside from restaurants, cafes and retail venues, festivities are often held along the Corso. However, it is the energetic, social atmosphere that is the most memorable part of a stroll through the area.

3. Lucca

Lucca

Photo: Cebete / Flickr

This historic, colorful town features a Renaissance-era walled section and architecture from different times in Italian history. Gothic-style churches, huge clock towers and plenty of piazzas make for a quintessential Italian old-town experience. Lucca is also a pleasant place to spend time doing things besides sightseeing. There are plenty of trattorias and some pleasant green-spaces in addition to the historic sites.

4. San Lorenzo Library in Florence

San Lorenzo Library in Florence

Photo: PAVDW / Flickr

This library, which contains more than 10,000 manuscripts, was originally designed as part of the San Lorenzo Basilica complex. Famed Renaissance figure Michelangelo designed the building, though it was completed by others. Though you have to be researcher to actually see the documents, exhibits are regularly held, offering the public a glance at these aged tomes.

5. Florence Old City

Florence Old City

Photo: shaggyshoo / Flickr

Florence is considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. The city’s historic center is literally packed with examples of the art and architecture of this much-romanticized period in Italian history. Churches, plazas, towers, fountains, and intricate frescos make Florence a must-visit for people who are interested in Italy’s history, art, and design.

6. Basilica de San Francesco, Arezzo

Basilica de San Francesco, Arezzo

Photo: Jakob Montrasio / Flickr

This rather modest (compared to the more opulent churches found in Tuscany) church in Arezzo is dedicated to Francis of Assisi, one of the most well known Catholic saints (remembered for his love of nature and animals). The décor includes well-preserved frescos from Medieval times and the early Renaissance.

7. David status at Galleria dell’Accademia

David status at Galleria dell’Accademia

Photo: skpy / Flickr

Michelangelo’s David is unarguably the most famous sculpture in the world and one of the most easily recognizable pieces of art from any historic era. Predictably, David is the main attraction at the museum, but the Galleria also displays work from many notable Renaissance-era artists.

8. Wine tasting in Chianti

Wine tasting in Chianti

Photo: JasonAndMelissa / Flickr

Tuscany’s most famous wine export comes from the Chianti region. Known and loved by wine-drinkers around the world, the region’s wines are best when tasted at their source. The Chianti Classico region is the heart of Chianti and the home of the best of the best of its wineries. Wine-makers offer tours or tastings to people who arrive as part of tour groups, though it is possible to contact wineries directly for a tour or tasting.

9. Uffizi Gallery

Uffizi Gallery

Photo: cfwee / Flickr

Uffizi was one of the first art galleries and remains one of the most famous in the world among art aficionados. Its history dates back 450 years. Originally built by members of the Medici family, leaders of Florence and patrons of the arts, it has amassed a staggering collection of art over the years. Renaissance luminaries like Michelangelo, Raphael, da Vinci, Botticelli, and Titian all have works displayed at the gallery.

10. The Pinocchio’s Park

The Pinocchio’s Park

Photo: mstefano80 / Flickr

This rather whimsical park offers a different type of artistic experience compared to the classical works featured in Florence. Best described as a literary theme park, it boasts sculptures, frescos, and statues that tell the fairy tale of Pinocchio, the puppet who became human. There are even marionette shows and puppet-making workshops.

Southern Italy

Many people find Southern Italy to be vastly different from the cities and hilly landscapes of the north. There is plenty to see here though, with rugged natural areas, idyllic beaches, volcanos, and some of the world’s most famous ancient ruins.

1. National Park in Abruzzo

National Park in Abruzzo

Photo: ikepì / Flickr

The lush mountainous landscapes of Southern Italy are best experienced in the Abruzzo region. The area is teeming with wildlife from wolves and beers to deer and foxes. The main national park covers a large swath of land and offers a variety of activities from trekking and bird-watching to cycling and alpine skiing.

2. Matera in the Basilicata region

Matera in the Basilicata region

Photo: GiuseppePortale_CartOrange / Flickr

The Sassi (Old Town) of Matera features buildings from as early as the 1200s. The old streets and houses are still largely intact, creating a unique atmosphere. There are even old stone stairways in the hillsides that are largely untouched. Matera is an ideal location for people looking to immerse themselves in Italy’s past.

3. Beaches of Calabria

Beaches of Calabria

Photo: piervix / Flickr

Italy has more than its share of beaches. The best, arguably, are found in the Calabria region (that’s the toe of this boot-shaped country). The mild, dry weather, warm waters, and exotic seaside landscapes draw visitors from around the world. This is also a favorite spot for vacationing Italians. The spicy cuisine, high-quality local wines, and laid back population make this coastal area attractive for more than its beaches.

4. Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast

Photo: jimmyharris / Flickr

This scenic seaside area stretches south from Naples. It features hilly terrain that is ideal for hiking, mountain biking and finding scenic views of the coast and blue waters of the Mediterranean. Picturesque towns are nestled between the hillsides and the coast. This beautiful and rugged area has always been popular amongst in-the-know travelers, though it is gaining more mainstream attention because of its unparalleled scenery.

5. Pompeii

Pompeii

Photo: S J Pinkney / Flickr

This famous town was the site of one of the worst known natural disasters of the ancient world. The ruins of the city that was destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius (see below), were frozen in time (along with many of its inhabitants) after they were covered by ash from the eruption. This creates a spooky-but-fascinating attraction that is a must-visit for people traveling to Southern Italy.

6. Roman and Greek ruins in Puglia

Roman and Greek ruins in Puglia

Photo: XcBiker / Flickr

Puglia, a region in Southeastern Italy (the heel of the boot), has many attractions, from beaches to atmospheric old towns to large castles. This area was invaded frequently, and, as a result, has a strong Greek influence. Both Greek and Roman ruins are found throughout Puglia. These ruins are not as popular as the archeological sites found in Italy’s northern regions. This makes them more attractive to true history aficionados who won’t have to fight with crowds or deal with high entry fees.

7. Naples Underground

Naples Underground

Photo: feline_dacat / Flickr

Naples is known for being a bit rough around the edges. However, it is not without its charms. One of the most unique attractions in the city is the Naples Underground. These are tunnels and passages below the city have been used for a variety of purposes (perhaps most recently as bomb shelters during World War II). Different tours are led through different sections of the underground on a regular basis. This is definitely one of the most interesting, unique attractions in Southern Italy’s largest city.

8. MADRE, Museum of Contemporary Art in Naples

MADRE, Museum of Contemporary Art in Naples'

Photo: MADRE

This is arguably one of the world’s most classy contemporary art museums in Italy. Housed in a well designed building that offers some great views of the Naples skyline, it features modern art. However, the galleries are airy and pleasant, much like those of a more classical art museum. MADRE is definitely worth a visit for art aficionados and is also accessible enough for those who only have a passing interest in modern art and culture.

9. Pizza Restaurants in Naples

Pizza Restaurants in Naples

Photo: Zena C / Flickr

Naples is the birthplace of pizza. The famous dish was originally eaten by poor Neapolitans during the wintertime. Today, many of the early pizzerias in the city are still in operation and still create unique classic recipes that can only be tasted in Naples. These authentic pizzerias are a must for any serious pizza fans.

10. Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius

Photo: TheGirlsNY / Flickr

The famous volcano that destroyed Pompeii, is the only volcano on the European mainland that has erupted in the past century. It is not currently erupting and has now been designated as a national park. There is a road that can be used to get within walking distance of the summit, and a network of pathways that allow visitors to visit the crater at the top of the mountain.

Venice and Verona

The province of Veneto is home to two of Italy’s most popular cities. Verona, the setting for Shakespeare’s most famous works, is filled with Renaissance atmosphere, while Venice is known for its canals, gondolas, glass-work, and classic buildings.

1. Vineyards of Valpolicella

Vineyards of Valpolicella

Photo: aaepstein / Flickr

Valpolicella ranks just below Chianti when it comes to the production of high quality Italian wines. The hilly region near Verona is ideal for grape-growing, and there are several varieties of wine made here. As in Chianti, most wineries offer tastings to people who are on guided tours or who call ahead to set up a private tasting.

2. Arena Verona

Arena Verona

Photo: kevinpoh / Flickr

The gigantic Roman amphitheater looks ancient from the outside, but it is still standing and actually still used today. The architecture and interior are worth a visit themselves. If you are lucky enough to be in Verona when there is an opera performance, you can actually see the amphitheater in use.

3. Juliet’s House Verona

Juliet’s House Verona

Photo: carmiento / Flickr

Shakespeare’s most famous play, Romeo and Juliet, was set in Verona. A small balcony in a small courtyard is supposedly the inspiration for the most famous scene of the play. No one knows, for sure, if this was the case. However, that has not stopped tourists from making it one of Verona’s most popular sites. The house itself is actually rather small and contains some Renaissance-era art. There is a €4 entrance fee.

4. Canals of Venice

Canals of Venice

Photo: gnuckx / Flickr

Venice is best known for its many canals. These are the main event on many romantic itineraries. Gondola rides are rather expensive, though many people cite them as the most memorable part of a Venice vacation. Water taxis offer a cheaper, less romantic alternative. Or you could simply wander the walkways adjacent to some of the canals and soak in the atmosphere of this great city.

5. Glass Factories of Murano

Glass Factories of Murano

Photo: wiredtourist.com / Flickr

The glass factories in Murano, near Venice, produce some of the most sought after glasswork in Europe. Some of these glass factories were founded in the 19th Century and still produce glass under the same brand name today. Individual glass artists also have workshops in the area. For people who are in the market for some high-quality glassware, Murano is the ideal place to search.

6. Castelvecchio Verona

Castelvecchio Verona

Photo: BestKevin / Flickr

This castle, in Verona, is actually rather plain and devoid of the stylistic architecture that is found in so many other buildings in Italy. It does, however, have a very colorful history, which is showcased in an on-site museum. The castle played an important part in the strategic protection of Verona during Renaissance times when Verona and Venice were controlled by rival families.

7. Rialto Market and Rialto Bridge

Rialto Market and Rialto Bridge

Photo: tillwe / Flickr

Venice is a historic city, and nowhere do the past and present meet in a more dynamic way than in Rialto. A market takes place in the same space that it has for hundreds of years. There is a fish market and produce market in the area as well. Visitors can see the Grand Canal from the ornate Rialto Bridge, which spans the waterway.

8. Saint Mark’s Square Venice

Saint Mark’s Square Venice

Photo: cking / Flickr

Known for its many pigeons and wide expanses, Venice’s Saint Mark’s Square is one of the most recognizable public spaces in all of Italy. It is lined with historic buildings including a clock tower and large basilica. This is definitely a place for some serious snapshot taking. However the most scenic section might be the adjoining piazzetta (small plaza), which offers views of a lagoon and parts of the Venice skyline.

9. Padova

Padova

Photo: luca.fasolo / Flickr

This town, near Verona, is a quiet and authentic alternative to the tourist scenes in Veneto’s larger cities (which can sometimes seem overwhelming). Padova has a few scenic canals, but its real charm lies in its old center, which features museums and churches. Things are generally on a smaller scale here. There are well maintained Roman ruins and a botanical garden. Padova is definitely a welcome interlude to any Venice or Verona vacation.

10. Galleria dell’Accademia di Venezia

Galleria dell’Accademia di Venezia

Photo: theMaykazine / Flickr

This museum is one of Venice’s best. It houses artwork from the city’s most famous artists. There is nothing modern about this museum (no art from any period later than the 1700s is displayed), but it is definitely unique and gives insight into the Venetian style of art.

Milan

The center of the fashion world and the most cosmopolitan city in Italy, this Northern Italian metropolis has it all: great food, high fashion, world class architecture (both modern and ancient), and one of the world’s most popular football teams.

1. Quadrilatero d’Oro

Quadrilatero d’Oro

Photo: Jakob Montrasio / Flickr

Milan is the center of the high-fashion industry. Boutiques featuring designer clothing are scattered around the city. One of the best places to get a glimpse of this year’s fashions is the Quadrilatero d’Oro. Even if you don’t have the money for a shopping spree, this area is still a great place to visit for some serious window shopping and great atmosphere. After a stroll in the Quadrilatero, you might start to understand what all that fashion industry buzz is about.

2. Giuseppe Meazza Stadium (San Siro)

Giuseppe Meazza Stadium (San Siro)

Photo: nobbiwan / Flickr

AC Milan is one of the most popular football teams in the world. It sits alongside clubs like Real Madrid and Manchester United in terms of both success and media coverage. The team plays its home games at a large stadium called Giuseppe Meazza Stadium (commonly referred to as San Siro) in Milan. Even if you can’t get to a match, the stadium has a museum and regular tours of the facility.

3. The Mercato di Vivale Papiniano

The Mercato di Vivale Papiniano

Photo: allie bishop pasquier / Flickr

This is the most famous market in Milan. It is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays and gets so crowded that sometimes traffic jams occur on the streets near the market. Vivale Papiniano features clothes, shoes, souvenirs, and collectables. Things can get a bit colorful at the market, and police are occasionally on hand to investigate reports of counterfeit or smuggled goods.

4. Castello Sforzesco

Castello Sforzesco

Photo: Phillie Casablanca / Flickr

This huge castle is an architectural marvel in and of itself. It sits at the center of the city and is a prominent part of the skyline that can be seen from the surrounding parks and shopping streets. Sforzesco also houses several museums, which can be visited for a low admission fee of €3.

5. Giardini Pubblici/The Public Gardens

Giardini Pubblici/The Public Gardens

Photo: Ulf Liljankoski / Flickr

The Public Gardens of Milan are a welcome green-space amidst the urban landscapes that cover most of the city. The flowers gardens and native trees certainly create a pleasant atmosphere, but they are only part of this garden’s attractiveness. Sculptures can be found scattered around the grounds, as can a historic villa and a museum.

6. La Scala

La Scala

Photo: edans / Flickr

This world renowned opera house has been hosting performances since the late 18th Century. Its impressive exterior is overshadowed by the décor and acoustics that are found inside. The ideal way to visit this theater would be during a performance. If that is not possible, you can take one of the regular tours around the facility.

7. Duomo

Duomo

Photo: curtis_ovid_poe / Flickr

This is the main basilica in Milan. It has a very unique design that features hundreds of small spires. Statues also decorate the exterior. The design is best appreciated from outside, but it is possible to head to the top of the Duomo to get an outstanding view of Milan’s skyline.

8. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele

Photo: Matthias Rhomberg / Flickr

The Galleria is as much of a sightseeing venue as it is a shopping mall. Over 150 years old, the glass-roofed retail space features ornate mosaics. It is especially beautiful when decorated for the holiday season each winter. Stores range from high-end boutiques selling Prada and Vuitton to fast food eateries like McDonald’s.

9. Nightlife of Corso Como

Nightlife of Corso Como

Photo: br1dotcom / Flickr

Nightlife aficionados may have already heard of Corso Como even if they have never been to Milan. The area is filled with bars, nightclubs and restaurants. This is where Italy’s beautiful people spend their evenings. Of course, the venues are not cheap, but you get to rub shoulders with the models, fashion designers, and other celebrities who make Milan such a buzzed-about city.

10. Last Supper Painting in Santa Maria della Grazie

Last Supper Painting in Santa Maria della Grazie

Photo: jay8085 / Flickr

The most famous painting in the world is, arguably, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Unlike many other works by da Vinci and other Renaissance luminaries, the Last Supper is not housed in a museum, but in a church. The painting is actually hung in the convent that is adjoined the the church. It costs to visit and only a limited number of people are allowed in each day, but the atmosphere is very unlike a museum, which makes it a worthwhile experience.

Northeast Italy

Northern Italy is often overlooked because there are simply so many choices facing visitors to Italy. However, this region boasts museums, sports car manufactures, and landscapes that range from sunny beaches to snow capped mountains.

1. Museums of Bologna

Museums of Bologna

Photo: marco_ask / Flickr

Bologna is a university town with a large collection of museums. An archeology museum and several art galleries dedicated to diverse mediums like painting and photography are the highlights. There is also the University Museum complex that is actually a collection of several small niche museums. Surprisingly, Bologna is often overlooked by visitors with an interest in visiting Italy’s exhibit halls. However, it has one of the most complete menu of museums in the country.

2. Torre degli Asinelli (Asinelli Tower), Bologna

Torre degli Asinelli (Asinelli Tower), Bologna

Photo: on1stsite. / Flickr

Anyone who has a chance to gaze at Bologna’s skyline will immediately notice it impressive collection of medieval towers. One of the most famous and tallest is Asinelli Tower. A smaller, shorter tower, known as Garisenda, sits directly adjacent to Asinelli. A stairway winds up the inside of the tower, making it possible to get some amazing views from the top.

3. Lamborghini Museum

Lamborghini Museum

Photo: motoyen / Flickr

The region around Bologna is known as the Land of Motors because it is home to boutique car manufacturers (Ferrari also has a museum in the area). The museum boasts a unique collection of rare Lamborghini models. Perhaps even more interesting to car lovers is the Lamborghini factory visit that can be booked through the museum.

4. Mosaic Basilica in Ravenna

Mosaic Basilica in Ravenna

Photo: *clairity* / Flickr

The church of San Vitale is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the town of Ravenna. It is sometimes referred to as the Mosaic Basilica because of its large collection of intricate mosaics. This is not merely another impressive collection of religious art, it is some of the oldest surviving art in Italy. The mosaics were commissioned nearly 1500 years ago, making them some of the best remaining examples of art from their time period.

5. Skiing and Trekking in South Tyrol

Skiing and Trekking in South Tyrol

Photo: spencer77 / Flickr

Some areas of South Tyrol, one of the northernmost regions of Italy, have more in common with Germany than Italy. German is the language of choice amongst many locals. This is alps country, with peaks reaching over 10,000 feet high. Ideal skiing conditions can be enjoyed during the long winters in Tyrol.

6. Beaches and Roman Ruins in Rimini

Beaches and Roman Ruins in Rimini

Photo: Siri B.L. / Flickr

Rimini is a resort town on the Northeastern coast of Italy. Its seaside location and beaches have made it a summer hotspot for people from all over Italy and Europe. Yes, Rimini has some of the best beaches in the Northeast, but it also has one of the region’s finest collection of Roman ruins. These include an arch and a bridge built during Roman times.

7. Miramare Castle near Trieste

Miramare Castle near Trieste

Photo: rozsagab / Flickr

Miramare Castle is not the oldest structure in Italy. In fact, it is very new compared to other structures in Italy (it was built in the mid 19th Century). However, few of these historic castles provide the picture-worthy backdrop that Miramare does. It is built on a cliffside overlooking the sea. The 54 acre grounds are a stunning mix of nature and architecture. Guests can also view the opulent interior of the castle.

8. Festivals and Fairs in Bolzano

Festivals and Fairs in Bolzano

Photo: torremountain / Flickr

Bolzano is the colorful and quaint capital of South Tyrol. It is known for its many public events and festivals that take place throughout the year, especially around the holiday season. Even without these events Bolzano is a good place to visit. After a nationwide survey, it was ranked second in all of Italy for overall quality of life.

9. Valli Theater

Valli Theater

Photo: br1dotcom / Flickr

This theater in Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy is one of the more impressive performance spaces in the region. It hosts operas, ballets and classical music concerts. Unlike the performance spaces in Italy’s larger cities, Valli is a more intimate venue, holding just over 1,000 people. There are over 100 boxes places on four levels, giving the theater a very classical layout.

10. Castello Scaligero

Castello Scaligero

Photo: cjnzja / Flickr

This impressive castle was originally built in the 13th Century. Its location is as impressive as its structure and its history. It sits on the rocky shores of Lake Garda. The views from the nearby beach are impressive, but it is possible to visit the castle and take in the lake from the top of its tower. Events, such as concerts, are sometimes held on the castle grounds.

Northwest Italy

Wine, Roman ruins, lakes, beaches, and one the world’s most luxurious and classy stretches of coastline (the Riviera): Northwest Italy certainly isn’t short on attractions.

1. Lake Como

Lake Como

Photo: digitalurbanlandscape / Flickr

This long, thin lake (shaped like a Y) in the Lake District of Northern Italy has long been a popular destination for Italians and international visitors alike. The lake sits in the shadow of the Italian alps, and a cruise gives visitors unique views of the surrounding landscapes. The quaint towns on the shore and the fresh, mountain air make this a worthwhile stopping point, especially for people who have spent an extended amount of time in nearby Milan.

2. Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

Photo: eGuide Travel / Flickr

The Cinque Terra area covers five small towns in the coastal region of Liguria in Northwestern Italy. The towns have been designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. These picturesque villages are like the quaint, old world Italian towns of people’s imaginations. That trait alone makes them worth a visit. Traditional industries like olive growing and anchovy fishing are still a major part of life for the local people. This lends a flair of authenticity to Cinque Terre.

3. The National Cinema Museum in Turin

The National Cinema Museum in Turin

Photo: Andrea Nanni / Flickr

This unique exhibit space is housed in the Mole Antonelliana monument in Central Turin. Different halls have screen showing different clips for a specific genre of film. There are also exhibits on the process of making films and on film history. Best of all for true movie buffs: the museum’s unrivaled collection of vintage movie posters.

4. San Remo and the Italian Riviera

San Remo and the Italian Riviera

Photo: azrhey / Flickr

Nice, France and the principality of Monaco are usually the first places that come to mind when people mention the Riviera. However, the Italian Riviera is as attractive as the destinations on the French side of the border. San Remo is one of the best places to experience the charm and opulence of the region. It’s not all casinos and yachts in San Remo. The town hosts a famous music festival as well as sporting events such as a bicycle race and world championship car rally.

5. Historic Genoa

Historic Genoa

Photo: christine zenino / Flickr

Genoa is an important coastal city in Italy. Its history dates back at least 2,500 years. It is known as a charming and laid-back seaside city that is often considered the gateway to the Italian Riviera. It boasts historic architecture and plenty of old world neighborhoods. Though it is often overshadowed by Milan, Venice and Rome, Genoa offers arguably the most authentic Italian experience in northern Italy. It has modern attractions as well, including Europe’s largest aquarium.

6. Valle d’Aosta

Valle d’Aosta

Photo: Tor des Geants Endurance Trail / Flickr

The Aosta Valley is an autonomous region in the far northwestern corner of Italy. It is the least densely populated region in all of Italy and is dominated by alpine landscapes. Skiing conditions are good in the wintertime, and it is usually not overcrowded. This region of Italy is also home to Mount Blanc, the highest peak in Europe at more than 15,000 feet.

7. Wines of the Lombardy Region

Wines of the Lombardy Region

Photo: Veridiano3 / Flickr

The Lombardy Region has vineyards that produce high-quality wines. The small town of Erbusco, less than an hour outside of Milan, is home to some of the region’s best wineries. Other wineries are scattered around the Fraciacorta region, where the best of Lombardy’s wines are produced. As with other wine regions, it is possible to either sign up for a guided tour or arrange tastings and tours on your own by contacting the wineries directly.

8. Turin’s Streets

Turin’s Streets

Photo: umby85 / Flickr

Turin (Turino) came to the world’s attention when it hosted the Winter Olympic Games in 2006. It is a classy city with plenty of historic architecture from the Baroque period. Via Roma in Central Turin is one of the best streets to stroll if you want to appreciate the city’s style. Via Po is another good option for a sightseeing trek. It crosses its namesake, the Po River.

9. The Sirmione Spa

The Sirmione Spa

Photo: Terme di Sirmione

This spa, located near Lake Garda, uses thermal springs to offer a wide range of treatments. The sulfur-rich water is thought to have healing properties. The spa sits on a scenic piece of real estate on the shores of the lake. The ruins of a Roman villa are nearby.

10. Roman Ruins of Val Camonica

Roman Ruins of Val Camonica

Photo: erix! / Flickr

This valley sits in the eastern part of Lombardy in the middle of the Italian alps. It is a major archeological site and has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The headlining attraction is a collection of hundreds of thousands of petroglyphs, found in areas that are now designated as national or archeological parks. Camonica also has some Medieval villages, castles and several areas featuring Roman-era ruins.

Central Italy

Rome and Tuscany steal the spotlight in this region of Italy, but there is plenty to see for those willing to venture off the beaten path. They will be rewarded with beautiful natural scenery, some of the world’s finest wines, and the classic old towns of Italy.

1. Etruscan Necropolis in Cerveteri

Etruscan Necropolis in Cerveteri

Photo: Ned Dunn / Flickr

This Etruscan burial site in the province of Lazio has some of the best preserved ancient tombs in all of Europe. 1,000 tombs can be found throughout the site. These tombs include circular mound-like structures and square structures arranged along pathways that are more than 2,500 years old.

2. Sulmona

Sulmona

Photo: Franco Farina – progetti fotografici / Flickr

This charming and quaint town in central Italy has a long history that dates back to pre-Roman times. The town’s biggest claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of the famous poet Ovid, which was born there more than 2,000 years ago. Some buildings are inscribed with an abbreviated version of a verse that Ovid used to express his love for his hometown. The city’s other claim to fame is confetti, a sweet local speciality made from almonds.

3. Abruzzo

Abruzzo

Photo: snackfight / Flickr

This region, which sits in the imagined borderlands between Central and Southern Italy, is famous for its rugged nature. Attractions include the coastal area, which is famous for its resort towns and the inland areas, which include Abruzzo National Park (mentioned in the “Southern Italy” section above).

4. Festivals of Le Marche

Festivals of Le Marche

Photo: David Barrie / Flickr

This region in east-central Italy hosts a variety of festivals that take place during the three warmer seasons of the year. As villages throw events regularly, there is always something going on each weekend. The best part of these fests, from a visitor’s perspective, is that they usually are held so that the town can showcase its produce, special dishes and wines to the neighboring villages (and anyone else who might be in attendance).

5. Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia

Palazzo dei Priori in Perugia

Photo: Sonietta46 / Flickr

This is another historic attraction in the Umbrian region. This large building is historically significant and is fronted by a wide plaza. The building, with its unmistakably Medieval architecture, dates back to the late 13th Century. A griffin and lion, symbols of the town and the region, sit atop the palace.

6. Fiuggi’s Water

Fiuggi’s Water

Photo: tittimi / Flickr

Fiuggi is a municipality in the Lazio region of Central Italy. The town is famous for its mineral water, which was first noticed by a 15th Century pope who claimed that the water cured his kidney stones. Even today, the waters, which are bottled and exported worldwide, are still though to have healing properties.

7. Historic town of Gubbio

Historic town of Gubbio

Photo: RutaCultural.com / Flickr

This small town in Umbria has the usual array of Roman ruins and other historic structures that characterize the history-themed tourist attractions in the region. Gubbio also has a fair number of houses, still inhabited today, that date back to the 14th and 15th Centuries.

8. Wines of Montefalco

Wines of Montefalco

Photo: UmbriaLovers / Flickr

The Umbrian wine-growing area of Montefalco is one of the best places in central Italy, perhaps outside of Chianti, to get high quality wines. Red wines are the staple here, with small wineries pumping out a limited amount of the drink each year. Tastings are available through tours companies and by calling wineries for a private tour Montefalco is also known for its other produce: lentils, pork, and truffles.

9. Todi

Todi

Photo: Andrepax / Flickr

This Medieval town has a host of interesting attractions. It is known for its churches and plazas. Perhaps the most interesting part of this town is the Roman cisterns, which were used by local people until less than 100 years ago. Todi also has mysterious Roman constructions called Nicchioni. No one is quite sure what the purpose of these were.

10. Party in Pescara

Party in Pescara

Photo: paulox.net / Flickr

Pescara is a the gateway to the Abruzzo region, which is known for its nature and ruggedness. Pescara is a small city, but is known for its vibrant nightlife. Since it is a tourist town, there are plenty of bars and clubs, most located along the seafront. During summertime, vacationers swell the town’s population and the clubs spill out onto the beach itself for an all-out warm weather party.

If we have missed your favorite places to visit in Italy, let us know in comment section!

Josh Lew
Josh Lew
Josh Lew has traveled widely in Asia and the Americas. He has contributed to popular travel sites like Gadling and Brave New Traveler and currently writes a weekly travel column for MNN. His work has also appeared on the websites of CNN and Forbes Magazine.

If you enjoyed this article, get email updates (it's free).

2 Comments

  1. Great slew of choices. We have been stationed here off and on since 2006 and have hit a good number of these but really need to get south of Naples and see Matera, Reggio Calabria, and Sicilia. Thanks for the great jumping off point.

  2. Marlie says:

    Nice, this really helps to plan a vacation! Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>