Italian Wanderlust: Uncovering 16 Must-Visit Destinations

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By: Elise Armitage

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Italy is often the number one destination on European travel bucket lists, and I’m highlighting 16 unforgettable locations throughout the country in this Italy guide.

With 20 enchanting regions to explore, planning a trip to Italy can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time visiting.

While cities like Rome and Florence are often top of mind when planning an Italian getaway, there are many hidden gems and underrated destinations throughout the country.

Once you’ve packed your bags (I’m a fan of Beis luggage) and set your work calendar to OOO, it’s time to embark on the trip of a lifetime, and this guide to the best places to visit in Italy will help you create the perfect Italy itinerary.

16 Best Places to Visit in Italy

1. Rome

One of the most popular Italy tourist destinations is the capital city of Rome. Roman mythology says that twins Romulus and Remus founded the city after Romulus murdered his brother. This mythology and other Roman legends play a massive role in Rome’s culture to this day, seen in the city’s countless historical sites and architectural marvels.

Situated along the River Tiber, the city was built atop seven hills. It’s easily one of the best places to visit in Italy for world-famous landmarks and Roman ruins like the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Trevi Fountain. Millions of tourists flock to Rome annually from countries worldwide, and the city is easily accessible thanks to Rome Fiumicino Leonardo da Vinci Airport.

Not only does this city have an incredible history, but you’ll also find some of the absolute best pasta in Rome. It’s truly a cultural gem.

If it’s your first time visiting Italy, Rome is the perfect place to kick off your adventures.

2. Puglia

Puglia is a southern region of Italy that forms the “heel” of the country’s signature boot shape. This coastal region is a stunning paradise along the Mediterranean coast known for its white-washed villages and turquoise waters. Puglia offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of Italy’s major cities and boasts some of the country’s most unique experiences, from acres of olive trees to dazzling oceanfront views.

This picture-perfect oasis is ideal for tourists who want to sample authentic Italian cuisine, explore miles of white-sand beaches, and stroll through charming seaside towns. You can easily reach the region of Puglia from the city of Rome via bus or car or fly directly to Bari International Airport or Brindisi Salento Airport.

3. Amalfi Coast

For a relaxing vacation with breathtaking views of the ocean, plan a trip to the Amalfi Coast. This stretch of iconic coastline is located on the Sorrentine Peninsula in Italy’s Campania region. The Amalfi Coast features towering cliffs, picturesque towns, and vibrant blue waters, making it one of the best places to visit in Italy to experience the country’s incredible beauty.

All 34 miles of the Amalfi Coast are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it’s no surprise the area receives five million annual visitors. The marinas along the Amalfi Coast are always buzzing with activity, so visitors can easily immerse themselves in the seaside culture. The best way to tour the Amalfi Coast is by car, so arrange a reservation in advance.

4. Sorrento

Another can’t-miss destination in southern Italy is Sorrento, situated just south of Naples on the Sorrentine Peninsula. Sorrento often slips under the radar for tourists in Italy, yet it’s one of the country’s top hidden gems. With endless views of the Bay of Naples, tranquil city squares, and jagged sea cliffs, Sorrento is full of traditional Italian culture.

This area of Italy is known for its lemon-growing trade, and you can spot groves of lemon trees throughout town. Of course, you can’t visit Sorrento without sampling limoncello, a sweet Italian liqueur made from the region’s lemons. The most popular way to travel to Sorrento is via train or ferry from Naples.

5. Capri

Off the coast of the Sorrentine Peninsula lies the small island of Capri, home to the areas of Anacapri and Capri. The island is a luxurious destination with rugged cliffs and striking turquoise waters. Considering the region has attracted celebrities and royalty for centuries, it’s no surprise Capri is full of five-star villas and high-end shops.

Boat tours are a popular option to explore the island’s most famous attraction, Blue Grotto, a large sea cave known for its distinct luminescent quality. Small openings in the cavern allow sunlight to filter in and reflect off the water’s surface, giving the cave walls a glowing appearance—it’s a sight you must see for yourself to believe! You can reach the island of Capri by boarding a ferry from Naples or Sorrento.

6. Florence

Less than 200 miles north of Rome, you’ll find the equally gorgeous city of Florence, considered the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region. Florence is a dream travel destination for lovers of Renaissance-style art and architecture. From intricate cathedrals and bell towers to galleries featuring famous works from Michelangelo and Botticelli, there’s no shortage of beauty throughout Florence.

In 2023, TripAdvisor included Florence in their Best of the Best travel destinations worldwide, which comes as no surprise—it’s one of my favorite cities I’ve ever visited. Its charm, incredible art, and delicious food all captivated me.

The ideal way to plan a visit to Florence is by flying into Rome and hopping on a short train ride or renting a car. After just a few hours of travel, you’ll find yourself in the beautiful city of Florence!

7. Tuscany

Tuscany is one of the best places to visit in Italy to immerse yourself in local Italian culture and tour world-renowned vineyards. The landscape of this region ranges from sandy beaches to charming countryside and rugged mountains. Countless olive groves and wineries are scattered throughout Tuscany, making it an ideal starting point to embark on food and wine tours.

One of my favorite travel experiences was visiting Tenuta Torciano Winery, where we had a wonderful lunch and wine pairing. The winery is family owned and operated, and that includes the cooking. Our third course included Nonna’s lasagna (absolutely mouthwatering) paired with an out-of-this-world Super Tuscan. When the bill came, we were shocked that it was only 30 € per person!

From natural hot springs to romantic villages, Tuscany has a lot of variety to offer tourists. You can easily reach the Tuscan countryside from Florence, and I recommend renting a car to see as much of the region as possible.

8. Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, which translates to “Five Lands,” consists of five centuries-old seaside towns lining the Italian Riviera coastline. Each village has its unique charm, though all feature terraced homes, bustling harbors, and fresh seafood restaurants (don’t miss terrace dining at my favorite, Trattoria dal Billy). Cinque Terre is an enchanting destination where tourists can enjoy unobstructed Mediterranean Sea views while touring the steep towns and vineyards.

The jagged coastline of Cinque Terre provides plenty of photo opportunities and creates a quaint scene like something out of a fairytale. Couples will love exploring this romantic and picturesque region of Italy. Cinque Terre is easy to get to from other major cities like Florence, Milan, or Bologna by train, and there is a smaller train that conveniently runs all day through the five towns.

9. Sardinia

If you enjoyed your trip to the Puglia region, you’ll love the island of Sardinia. This large island is located off the coast of mainland Italy in the Mediterranean Sea and boasts a varied landscape of rugged mountains and miles of sandy coastline. Hiking is a popular activity throughout Sardinia, making this one of the best places to visit in Italy if you enjoy exploring the outdoors.

Sardinia is a quiet Italian escape where tourists can dine on fresh-caught seafood, swim in crystal-clear waters, and tour historic towns and ancient Roman ruins. You can reach this unforgettable destination by plane or ferry from a major city like Rome.

10. Sicily

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, found just off the coast of the “toe” of Italy’s boot, not far from North Africa. Well-preserved ruins of temples and churches are scattered throughout the island’s hills. Meanwhile, the island’s eastern side is home to Mount Etna, a towering volcano that’s one of the most active in Europe.

Food lovers will enjoy the rustic, locally-sourced cuisine that Sicily is famous for, while history buffs can dive into Italy’s rich past by visiting the Valley of Temples and the capital of Palermo (which you might recognize for being one of the filming locations of “The White Lotus” Season 2!). There are plenty of options for traveling to Sicily, as visitors can reach it via plane or ferry.

11. Bologna

Bologna is an ideal destination for foodies who want to get a hands-on culinary experience. The historic town is the perfect jumping-off point for a day-long food tour where you’ll get to try a variety of delicious local specialties and learn about how they’re made.

We went on a fantastic food and wine tour with Italian Days, where we saw how Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is made in Parma, sampled balsamic vinegar in Modena, tried different styles of prosciutto, and ended the day with a massive Italian lunch. It was a food lover’s dream.

The town of Bologna itself is also very charming and a great place in Italy to explore medieval bell towers, plazas, fountains, and more. To visit this bustling town, take a train or car from the larger cities of Florence or Rome.

12. Venice

With its endless canals and winding streets, Venice is one of Italy’s most popular places to visit if you want a romantic getaway. Venice was built on small islands connected by lagoons and waterways packed with gondolas and small boats. This classic Italian town is small enough to explore over a long weekend, making this spot ideal for busy travelers who only have time for a short trip to Europe.

Often called the Floating City, Venice has many mouthwatering cafes, cozy shops, and historic landmarks. Several quaint neighborhoods are tucked among the streets of Venice for visitors to discover, and booking a boat tour is a must. You can easily access Venice via train through the city’s central Saint Lucia Station.

13. Milan

Milan, known as the world’s fashion capital, is about three hours west of Venice. Milan is the second most populated city in Italy, and the city’s streets are full of high-end shops, restaurants, and hotels. In Milan, you can visit the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, view Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” painting, and tour the headquarters of Prada, Versace, and other luxury fashion houses.

I almost skipped out on visiting Milan because I didn’t think there was much to do here, and I’m so glad I didn’t! The Duomo was mind-boggling, and climbing into the rafters to inspect the intricate detail and design was a fun experience. Some of the world’s highest-rated hotels and restaurants can be found in Milan, making it a must for tourists who like to travel in luxury. We indulged in the delicious local cuisine and had some of the best pasta in Milan.

If Milan is your first or last destination, you can find direct flights from major travel hubs in the United States, Australia, and Europe. Otherwise, Milan is easily accessible by train or car from other Italian cities.

14. Verona

About 80 miles east of Venice lies Verona, a medieval old town that famously served as the setting for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” This romantic city is the perfect size to appeal to international tourists who want a slower change of pace from Italy’s busiest cities. Settled along the Adige River, Verona features meandering streets, arched bridges, and first-century buildings such as an ancient Roman amphitheater.

Lovers of history and literature will enjoy admiring the intricate architecture and rich culture found throughout the streets of Verona. If you want to visit this classic Italian city, hop in a car or take a short train ride from Milan or Venice.

15. Como

Como is often considered one of the most beautiful places in Italy, with its stunning views of Lake Como and the Alps. Situated along the border of Italy and Switzerland, Como is a stately town with grand villas, waterfront plazas, and enchanting gardens. It’s surrounded by greenery, creating a peaceful escape with views of Italy’s finest natural beauty.

Whether you stroll the historic city squares or hop on a boat to explore Lake Como, prepare to be blown away. Como is also full of museums, gardens, and memorials where visitors can step back in time to learn about local history.

The easiest way to reach Como is by traveling to Milan and taking a train to the lakefront town.

16. Dolomites

The last destination on this list of the best places to visit in Italy is the Dolomites mountain range area. Located in northern Italy, these jaw-dropping peaks are some of the most recognizable in the world. Lush valleys and meadows give way to jagged spires of rock that tower into the sky, creating a beautiful scene fit for a postcard.

The Dolomites are perfect for adventurous travelers who want to explore the mountains of Italy by hiking, rock climbing, or embarking on a road trip to see the area’s best sights.

We recommend flying into Venice and traveling to the Dolomites region via car.

Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Italy

Next time you’re ready to plan a European vacation, consider taking a trip to Italy. From rugged mountains to beautiful beaches and endless history and culture to discover in between, you could easily spend two weeks to two months or longer exploring Italy. Save this guide to the best places to visit in Italy if you’re stuck deciding where to go, and happy travels!

This article originally appeared on Savoteur.

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Elise Armitage
What The Fab

Elise Armitage is the founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California, founded in 2012. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.

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