Italy is a truly special, incredibly diverse and magically unique country where you are just as likely to find beauty in a quiet cobbled backstreet or a traditional trattoria than in its stunning beaches or extraordinary countryside. Using my experience of living in Italy for many years I have compiled a list of the best destinations to explore and add to your Italy itinerary. Some will be obvious, others maybe not so. Here is my personal list of the best and most beautiful places to visit in Italy (in no particular order)…
1. Cinque Terre – a string of beautiful centuries-old colourful villages set on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline
The rugged, rustic but breathtaking beauty of Cinque Terre seems to perfectly sum up why Italy is so revered as a travel destination. Located on the stunning Italian Riviera coastline and easily one of the most attractive places to visit in Italy, the series of five brightly coloured medieval villages cling jaggedly – and almost impossibly – to the inhospitable coastal rocks.
It’s such an important place it was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1997. Meander around the narrow streets, wander the ancient vineyards which cling to steep terraces and then head for a pesto pasta lunch (a regional specialty) at one of the local trattorias.
Our accommodation choice for Cinque Terre – Cinqueterre Residence
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2. Lake Como – a stunning upscale Italian resort known for its dramatic scenery
Famously home to George Clooney’s Italian villa, Lake Como is the third largest lake in Italy and a hot spot for tourists and locals alike. Traditionally, Lake Como has been known for being the place for wealthy people and political entities to retreat to from time to time.
Lake Como is home to a number of castles and luxurious accommodations and in case you need to get around the lake, its water transport ferry system is state of the art. It has been an important part of the lake since its induction in 1826. Check out our post on Discovering Bellagio in Lake Como.
- See other beautiful lakes in Europe.
Our accommodation choice for Lake Como – Hilton Lake Como
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3. Tuscany Countryside – a blend of medieval heritage, magical views glorious countryside which is one of the best places to go in Italy
There’s no other place on earth like the Tuscan countryside and easily one of the best things to do in Italy is taking a drive away from the cities and head into some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
This is a truly magical place where you’ll find impossibly picturesque rolling hills, and scenic drives where the odd roaming wild hog or two will suddenly come into view.
Also expect breath-taking sunflower fields, olive groves that have been here for hundreds of years, medieval ruins and some of the most incredible vineyards in the world. An unmissable place to explore in Italy.
Our accommodation choice for Tuscan Countryside – Il Castro Luxury Apartments San Gimignano
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4. Camogli, Liguria – this beautiful underrated resort on the Italian Riviera is one of the best destinations to explore in Italy
In the northern portion of Italy, the peninsula of Portofino houses small fishing villages. Among the most notable and famous villages is Camogli in Liguria.
This small port maintains a modest population of around 5,500 people and remains a protected location within the Portofino Marine Protected Area.
Strolling through the marketplace or basking in the un on Comogli’s coast is a welcomed activity for tourists and locals alike. Bring your camera and enjoy taking many pictures of every nook and cranny of this endearing and picturesque part of Italy’s coast.
Our accommodation choice for Camogli – Hotel Cenobio Dei Dogi
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5. Calabria – the sun-soaked “toe” of Italy is one of the prettiest parts of Italy
In southern Italy, Calabria is part of the land separating the Tyrrhenian Sea from the Ionian Sea and the sun-baked toe of Italy’s boot! Some attractions in Italy can seem like a dressed-up show simply put in place for tourist’s enjoyment, but that is not something you will find in Calabria.
Apart from being among the most epically beautiful places in Italy, this portion of the country is quintessentially Italian. Calabria has lovingly escaped the tourist game to provide an unspoiled and seemingly untouched view of classic Italy. If you want to see Italians as they are, as opposed to a scripted rendition, Calabria is the place to go.
Our accommodation choice for Calabria – Hotel Villaggio Stromboli
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6. Lake Garda – one of the most loved and most beautiful tourist attractions in Italy
Considered to be one of the most beautiful places in the world, this is a large and impossibly picturesque lake nestled in Northern Italy surrounded by the pretty fortress town of Sirmione, the resort town of Riva del Garda, and many charming and laid-back villages in between. Head further North and you’ll get to the famous Dolomites Mountain range.
Head here for boating, wind-surfing, eating at the many charming and cosmopolitan restaurants and just generally taking in the wonderful vibe and jaw-dropping scenery. This is a truly captivating place in Italy you simply cannot miss!
Our accommodation choice for Lake Garda – Hotel Ristorante Sogno
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7. The Dolomites – this spectacular mountain range is one of the best places to travel to in Italy
If you head further North from Lake Garda you’ll find yourself in some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in Europe. Located in northeastern Italy, gorgeous scenery and beautiful resorts aside there are also plenty to do.
Head there in winter and find well-coordinated ski networks, the legendary circuit Sella Ronda and plenty of people cross-country skiing and snowboarding. Visit in summer and go hiking amongst stunning view and fresh mountain air.
Our accommodation choice for the Dolomites – Solea Boutique & Spa Hotel
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8. Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast – the coastline awarded UNESCO status for its undisputed beauty and unique natural landscapes
This coastline should be on everyone’s list of stunning places to visit in Italy. The most famous area is the resort town of Sorrento where you’ll find the addictive liqueur limoncello and of course plenty of great wine.
The city can also be used as a base to visit Pompeii – the town which was buried by Mount Vesuvius’ volcanic eruption back in 79AD.
Further along the ruggedly beautiful coast, you will find the impossibly picturesque and affluent town of Positano and the small pretty town of Amalfi. The area offers one of the world’s greatest coastal drives so be sure to hire a car if you can, Fiat 500s are always an apt choice!
I would also recommend taking a boat from Sorrento to the romantic island of Capri where you can see the gorgeous Blue Grotto – a sea cave that is flooded with a brilliant blue or emerald light.
Our accommodation choice for Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast – La Casa di Peppe Guest House & Villa
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9. Puglia – the gorgeous southern region in Italy is an up-and-coming vacation destination in Italy
Located in the ‘heel’ of Italy’s ‘boot’ in the Southern region of the country, Puglia is one of those places that was ignored by tourists for decades and then in recent years became quite the place to take a vacation in Italy.
Here you can expect to see hill towns filled with pretty white ‘Trulli’ houses, centuries-old farmland and a spectacular Mediterranean coastline. This part of Italy is perfect for those wishing to sample a genuine taste of the real Italy as well as the fabulous blue sea and glorious sandy beaches.
Aside from the varied Italian experience, you’ll get here other reasons to visit this region include the excellent regional cuisine, picturesque olive groves and lush green orchards.
Our accommodation choice for Puglia – Borgo SantaMarta
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10. Verona City – Italy’s other famous romantic city known for being the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”
Verona is a lovely, relaxed city that was made famous by Shakespeare’s famous story of Romeo and Juliet. It has the third-largest Roman Arena in Italy and I highly recommend catching an opera during your visit. UNESCO has awarded the city a world heritage site status because of its urban structure and architecture, which include Roman remains and ancient castles.
As you can imagine Verona is a very romantic city, so if you take a partner you never know they might just end up proposing! The Italian lakes are very accessible from Verona and Lake Garda, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore are some of the most well-known.
The mountain lakes offer classically beautiful images of Italy and are flanked by sleepy cobblestone villages and secluded gardens.
Our accommodation choice for Verona – Hotel Firenze
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11. Venice – the famously beautiful and romantic canal-dotted destination is one of the best cities in Italy to visit
Venice is one of the most famous cities in Italy and one that’s built on water. It’s also often cited as one of the world’s most romantic travel destinations. In the middle of the city, you’ll find the grand square ‘Piazza San Marco’ where the even more impressive basilica resides.
If you’re a culture seeker you’ll be spoilt for choice here; Venice has the world’s most artistic masterpieces per square kilometre and there are numerous churches, museums, and palaces worth visiting. Another highlight is the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri) which is an enclosed bridge that passes over the Rio di Palazzo.
If you’re a romantic type and want to try a gondola just remember to take plenty of money – you will be charged a small fortune for the privilege.
Our accommodation choice for Venice – Hotel L’Orologio – WTB Hotels
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12. Bologna – the lively, historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region famous for its cuisine is one of the top cities in Italy
A stunning city known for its beauty, left-wing politics, wealth and most importantly its cuisine. Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy. If you arrive by train, move swiftly away from the station so you can take in the most beautiful sites of the city.
There are many arcades that allow you to explore the city even if it’s raining. I recommend wandering around the backstreets until you stumble upon one of the many beautiful squares where you can stop for a cafe or gelato. Bologna also boasts the oldest university in the world, which was founded in 1088.
Although most people visit the city to discover its renowned culinary delights, these include tagliatelle al ragù, lasagne, tortellini served in broth and fried gnocchi.
Our accommodation choice for Bologna – Metropolitan Hotel
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13. Florence – the cradle of the Renaissance and the enchanting capital of Tuscany is up there as the
Florence is both a magnificent and fascinating place and an art lover’s dream. A popular city nestled in the rolling hills of the Tuscany region, Florence has plenty to offer its many visitors. For starters, there are numerous museums filled with famous paintings and sculptures and two places I recommend are the Pitti Palace and the Uffizi.
The latter hosts work by Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo and receive approximately 1.6 million tourists a year (you should book before you go or unfortunately face a long wait). Also, take your time to explore the rest of the Tuscany. Known as the Renaissance country, the region offers some of the most beautiful and romantic natural scenery in the world.
The extraordinary countryside and coastline keep the relaxed vacationers happy and the ever-flowing supply of fine wine and cuisine will certainly please the food connoisseurs.
Our accommodation choice for Florence – 25hours Hotel Florence Piazza San Paolino
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14. Rome – The Italian capital is a blend of culture, romance and wow-inducing ancient architecture and is the best city to visit in Italy
It’s impossible to do a tour of Italy without visiting their famous capital. Rome is a truly incredible city which is full of history spanning over a whopping twenty centuries – you could say Rome is the world’s best open-air museum. As you wander around the streets the architecture will definitely leave you in awe, so make sure you pack your camera.
There are many sites to visit, the most famous being the Coliseum, the Vatican, St. Peter’s, the Trevi Fountain and my personal favourite the Pantheon.
You probably won’t get to see them all in a weekend but it will give you a reason to go back! Rome’s cafe culture is also world-famous and for a real Rome, experience chose from one of many piazzas and watch the world go by with (an expensive) expresso. We have a popular post on 12 unusual things to do in Rome.
Our accommodation choice for Rome – Hotel Artemide
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15. Sardinia – the large Italian island known for its gorgeous sandy beaches and turquoise waters and is a popular place in Italy to take a vacation
This large island just off the coast of Italy is a favourite holiday spot for Italians and rich footballers.
Most of the time it’s a very quiet and relaxing island but popular areas can get very busy in the summer so you will need to book early to stay at the best places. To reach Sardinia you can sail or fly into Alghero, Cagliari or the port town Olbia.
The whole island is beautiful and compared to many holiday island resorts in Europe it remains relatively unspoiled. There are certainly no high-rise concrete hotels here, even the resort areas are surprisingly tasteful. I would personally recommend Sant’antioco and San Pietro as these are the most remote and traditional areas.
Sardinia’s coastline is world-renowned so you won’t have to search far for amazing beaches and clear water where ever you choose to stay.
Our accommodation choice for Sardinia – Hotel La Bitta – Bovis Hotels
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16. Sicily – the largest of the Italian islands is home to the must-see attraction of Mount Etna and an authentic Southern Italian way of life
The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea makes an excellent holiday destination. Like Sardinia, it has excellent beaches and wonderful cuisine only far cheaper.
You will also have the luxury of being able to island-hop – the Aegadian Islands, Aeolian Islands and Pantelleria Lampedusa are all nearby and very accessible. Sicily is a traditional and rustic island with a rich culture and a potent mix of architecture, arts, cuisine, literature and music.
Here you can spend your time sitting on beaches, visiting archaeological sites or sampling the locally caught fish. Make sure you include a visit to the Selinunte which is an ancient building containing five temples centered on an acropolis. The east coast of Sicily is more developed and tourist-friendly and the west coast is more untouched.
As you travel down the latter you’ll be amazed how friendly the Sicilian people are and how pleased they are that you chose to visit Sicily. Also check out our post on Unspolit places to visit in Sicily for travel snobs.
Our accommodation choice for Sicily – Nautilus Hotel
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17. Capri – this picturesque island with upscale hotels and rugged landscapes is most of the most picturesque attractions in Italy
A favourite with honeymooners and well-heeled tourists, visitors have flocked to this resort island since Roman Times and it has maintained its stunning beauty.
It’s a small island in Italy’s Bay of Naples and is home to rugged landscapes, yacht-filled coves, upscale hotels and plenty of boutique shops stocking everything, from Italian wine to designer fashion.
You can’t leave without visiting the Blue Grotto which is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Italy. It’s a natural dark cavern where the sea colour is a stunning electric blue (actually sunlight passing through an underwater cave).
Our accommodation choice for Capri – Hotel Villa Brunella
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18. Portofino – one of the most amazing hidden gems places in Italy
It’s without a shadow of a doubt that Portofino is one of the most stunning places in Italy.
This picturesque fishing village is one of the most famous and popular holiday resorts on the Italian Riviera. This destination is ideal if you fancy a romantic escape with your loved one.
Portofino offers tranquillity, charming architecture and true nature. this beautiful village is a top spot for the rich and famous since the 1950s.
Our accommodation choice for Portofino – Portofino Above The Sea – Exclusive Seafront Apartment
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19. Milan – filled with fashion, shops and beautiful people this is one of the best cities to visit in Italy
This is the Italian city to head to for shopping, fashion and the beautiful (and very well-dressed people). It’s a cosmopolitan fast-paced city which attracts designers, artists, photographers and models from all over the world but there are also many other reasons to visit.
As well as great architecture including the Duomo di Milano, excellent art galleries (Milan is home to one of the most famous Renaissance paintings in history – Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper) and there are also incredible shops, operas and restaurants too.
In fact, Milan is quite the foodie city and is famous for its typical Italian dishes like Risotto, minestrone and polenta.
Our accommodation choice for Milan – Milano Verticale | UNS Esperienze
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20. Elba Island – a postcard-pretty island off the Tuscan coast and an increasingly popular Italian vacation resort
Just north of the Tuscan Archipelago sits Elba Island, it’s remained a fairly under-the-radar destination in Italy but its an increasingly trendy place to holiday.
The gorgeous Italian island is populated by around 30,000 people, but that number significantly increases during its tourist-filled summer months.
Elba Island is located in Italy’s Archipelago Toscano National Park and is also known as the country’s third largest island. Sardinia and Sicily are the only larger islands in Italy. Cavo Beach and Spiaggia Delle Tombe are among the most popular and picturesque beaches on Elba Island.
Like most islands, snorkelling and diving are some of the best activities for tourists to enjoy. For further suggestions in this region, check out our post on 20 of the most beautiful places to visit in Tuscany.
Our accommodation choice for Elba Island – Hotel Baia Imperiale
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21. Lake Orta – a wonderful Italian lake and an under-the-radar Italian gem
Lake Garda and Como are the most famous beautiful lakes in Italy, but if you are the type of person who wants more relaxation than simply a tourist-ridden destination, Lake Orta is the place to go.
This is the lake where locals tend to gravitate when they need to recharge. At the center of Lake Orta is a small island, Isola San Giulio which is home to a century-old monastery and basilica. Taking a ferry out to the island and soak up the wonderful and tranquil atmosphere!
Our accommodation choice for Lake Orta – Agriturismo Il Cucchiaio di Legno
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22. Spiaggia della Due Sorelle – a beautiful beach far away from the tourist crowds
Italian beaches are legendary attracting visitors from every corner of the globe. Spiaggia della Due Sorelle, is ranked as one of Italy’s to 10 beaches and this is no accident.
The pristine blue waters along with its dramatic rocky coastline give it almost a fairytale appearance. However beautiful, Spiaggia della Due Sorelle is far away from the tourist crowds.
As it’s difficult to get to (it’s accessible only by ferry leaving from the port of Numana) and maintains no facilities for visitors, many tourists choose larger, and therefore more crowded beaches. If you want to enjoy the classic Italian coast in its unspoiled beauty, this is the beach to head to!
Our accommodation choice near Spiaggia della Due Sorelle – Villa Coralia Country House
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23. Ischia Island – this stunning volcanic island and resort known for its mineral-rich thermal waters is one of the best attractions in Italy
Located on the Tyrrhenian Sea, Ischia Island is one of the many volcanically formed islands.
Located about 30 km from Naples, tourists travel to this unbelievably beautiful island as it is the largest of the Phlegreen Islands in Italy. To get out to Ischia Island, visitors must take a ferry.
There are actually two ferries that bring people to the island. One takes 1.5 hours while the other is just one hour travel time, so choose the right one for your needs.
Once there, you can enjoy the illustrious beauty of this island and maybe even enjoy some cliff diving if you are adventurous enough.
Our accommodation choice for Ischia Island – Tenuta Del Poggio Antico
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24. Todi, Umbria – the beautiful medieval hilltop town offering soft-stone houses and gorgeous views
Located almost in the very centre of Italy, this postcard-pretty city is perched high on the Tiber River’s east bank and visitors enjoy amazing views of the surrounding area.
A hilltop town with a gorgeous mix of soft-stone houses, palazzi and belfries the city of Todi is quite the draw. The views are incredible, but so is the Medieval history and suspended-in-time ambience.
Since Medieval times, Todi has been among the most sustainable cities. This is largely due to the city adapting to the times and being able to reinvent itself as needed. The Piazza del Popolo is the main meeting area for the locals and an excellent place to hang out and people-watch.
Our accommodation choice for Todi, Umbria – Roccafiore Spa & Resort
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25. Castelmezzano, Basilicata – a small mountain town and one of the finest treasures of Basilicata
Castelmezzano in the Southern region of Basilicata is not just a picturesque, beautiful town with terracotta-covered roofs in Italy. It is so much more than that.
The city is known for being beautiful, but also a destination spot for adventure seekers looking to zipline through the mountains.
The Flight of the Angel is a unique opportunity to go from one mountain to the next with its final end in Castelmezzano. This high-flying attraction allows you to get a bird’s eye view of the city and the landscape surrounding it. A visit to Castelmezzano is something that should not be missed on your tour of Italy!
Our accommodation choice near Castelmezzano, Basilicata – Case delle Stelle
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We also have posts on…
- Places to visit in the Balearic islands
- Places to visit in Tuscany
- Places to visit in Rome
- Places to visit in Greece
- The most beautiful places to visit in Montenegro
- The most beautiful places to visit in Malta
Scott started his travelling life back in 1999, when he headed off on a solo jaunt to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia with just a backpack, a camera and a spirit for adventure. After that, the travel bug bit hard and now he is always seeking to head off somewhere new. Over the years he has lived in Italy, Qatar, Ireland, UK and the US but his spiritual home will always be Rome as this is the city which most satisfies his unrelenting craving for culture, good food and great football. Scott loves nothing better than to be behind the camera and also runs his own blog and Instagram page. He also counts Melbourne, Cape Town and Tel Aviv among his favourite places. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @scottbalaam