If you are traveling to Italy, you are in for a wonderful trip. There are so many fascinating places to go all over the country. Italy is steeped in historical and architectural grandeur, is the birthplace and home of some of the most extraordinary pieces of art ever created, and the landscape is utterly stunning. A tour of Italy will open a door into a whole new world for every person fortunate enough to visit.
If you are going to Italy, the following places are well worth a visit: the city of Rome, the city of Florence, the town of Fiesole, the city of Pisa, the city of Venice, the city of Verona, the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, Lake Como, Pompeii and Herculaneum, and Duomo di Milano in Milan.
This article is a great tool for every person about to tour Italy. And even if you are still in the dreaming phase of your Italian tour, this article will whet your appetite for the country and encourage you to keep on reaching for your dream.
The City of Rome
If you are visiting Italy, put Rome on your list. There is so much to see, so if you aren’t planning to stay in Rome for the whole trip, then allocate at least two whole days to touring this marvelous city.
Rome is packed with historical sites, landmarks, and buildings older than any human currently living on the Earth. You go to Rome for the architecture and the art.
Below, we list just some of the sites you simply have to see if you are there.
1. The Colosseum – an ancient amphitheater built as a peace offering to the Roman people after Nero’s self-serving reign.
It has been the site of the famed and gruesome gladiator fights, subjected to fires and earthquakes, used as a source of stone, and still stands as one of the most stunning tourist attractions in the world.
2. The Roman Forum – a collection of fascinating ruins that were once the very heart of day-to-day life in Ancient Rome.
Go stand where the citizens of one of the most successful Empires in all of civilization used to gather for public forums, trials, marketplaces, elections, and more.
3. The Pantheon – known for being one of the best-preserved buildings from Ancient Rome, the Pantheon is an architectural art piece, from its grand portico and massive granite columns to the 142 feet diameter dome.
Both the scale and the level of detail are inconceivable when you think that every inch was handcrafted. It will leave you breathless.
4. Vatican City – the home of the Pope and many world-famous pieces of art by the likes of Michelangelo, Bernini, and Maderno. You can tour St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums, and more. Before you head there, you can even take a virtual tour of all the attractions HERE.
You can go for an open-top bus tour around Rome, view all the famous sites from the outside, and step down for those you particularly want to see close up. You can also purchase guided tours of specific locations.
Alternatively, you can just start walking. Almost every street will take you past something that existed in ancient Rome. And if you are not sure where to go, then just follow the crowds, they’re going somewhere beautiful!
If you are going to Rome in summertime, pack extra sunscreen and load up on water because it gets hot!
The City of Florence
Florence is a lovely city, not to be missed on your tour of Italy. As with almost all of Italy, the city buildings in Florence date back centuries, even if they are now used for modern conveniences like pizza places and ice cream shops (no complaints here!).
However, there are still historical buildings that you do not want to miss out on:
- The Duomo of Florence, or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore – a stunning, white-walled cathedral built over two centuries (13th to the 15th). The architecture is impressive, and the façade is so detailed that you could study it for days and still not see all the hidden gems.
Inside, the cathedral is no less grand, with its geometrical mosaic tiled floors, monumental pillars, stained-glass windows, and elaborately painted domed ceiling.
- The Santa Maria Novella Church – another wonder in 13th century design. Indeed, the geometric patterns and near-optical illusion effects on the marble façade make you wish you were alive to see the great unveiling of this masterpiece.
The interior chambers of the Santa Maria Novella are marked by boldly striped arches and museum-worthy art.
If beautiful buildings aren’t your cup of tea (although we still think you would appreciate the ones in Florence), then why not head over to the famous bridge of gold, the Ponte Vecchio, which is built over the river Arno.
For centuries the Ponte Vecchio has been the site of jewelry stores and the like. It all started because the wealthy banking family, the Medicis, who owned the buildings near the Ponte Vecchio, did not want to smell any waste from other vendors, like butchers.
While you are at the Ponte Vecchio, look up, and you will see the Vasari corridor, an aerial walkway connecting the Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo Pitti. The corridor was built to allow the dukes of these houses to visit each other without having to walk on the streets.
But the biggest attraction in Florence has to be the art. Florence has even been called one big art gallery. You don’t even have to pay for a ticket into a museum to see some of the sculptures, which stand in squares and courtyards.
Art galleries and museums to visit in Florence:
- Uffizi Gallery
- Palazzo Pitti
- Palazzo Vecchio
- Bargello Museum
- Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (home to the famous Michelangelo statue David)
- Museo Salvatore Ferragamo
Another great thing about Florence is that a short bus ride will take you out of the city and into the breathtaking Tuscan countryside.
Before you set your dates for Florence, make sure you check when all the museums and galleries are open. They are closed on specific days of the month and or week, and you don’t want to be there on the one Monday when you can’t see any art!
The Town of Fiesole
Just outside of the city of Florence is a small town called Fiesole. It is an old historic town, with several churches, ruins, house museums, etc., that you can enjoy at your leisure while walking the quaint streets.
If you are up for it, then you can tackle the steep hill up to the Monastery of San Francesco, which boasts panoramic views of Florence and the greater Tuscany area that make the climb absolutely worth it.
There is a camping village and a couple of other small places where you can stay in Fiesole, but really, it is close enough to Florence to be an enjoyable day trip.
The City of Pisa
Pisa is a little different from Rome and Florence in that it is more of a “regular” city. However, your trip to Italy would not be complete without a tour of the Pisa cathedral complex known as Piazza dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles).
The complex consists of four main religious edifices structures:
- The Pisa Cathedral, also known as Duomo di Pisa
- The Pisa Baptistry
- The Campanile, but you know it as the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- The Camposanto Monumentale, which is a cemetery
All of these edifices are made from gorgeous and pristine white marble. Pictures don’t quite prepare you for the splendor of this complex. When you go there in person, you will be able to see many intricate details and faces carved into the façades.
Another point worth viewing are the huge, main, westside doors of the cathedral, which are made from bronze metal and carved with religious depictions. Inside the are vaulted and painted ceilings, carved walls, and one of the most elaborate pulpits you will ever see.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is actually a 60-meter-tall bell tower. When construction first began, the ground beneath the foundations was not stable, and this caused the tower to start leaning to the side. Construction halted for a whole century, allowing the ground to settle.
Once it had done so, the rest of the tower was built. However, to compensate for the lean, the levels were built unevenly, with one side higher than the other. Upon completion of the bell tower, seven bells were installed.
The City of Venice
The whole city of Venice is intriguing. It is a city built on islands in a lagoon. The main streets are waterways, they have boat taxis, flooding is practically guaranteed, and the city is slowly being reclaimed by the ocean.
If you are in Venice, make a plan to get to the Piazza San Marco. All year around, this square is an epicenter of Venetian life, but for Fall and Winter, you will not be able to walk over the ancient street as it floods.
Four main attractions of Venice are found at the Piazza San Marco:
- Basilica di San Marco – a beautiful cathedral, the exterior of which is a surprisingly tasteful mix of statues, towers, domes, paintings, carvings, columns, glass, and gold. Inside the Basilica, the walls and the ceiling are covered in religious-themed paintings.
- Campanile di San Marco is a red brick, white, and turquoise bell tower, standing proudly in the Piazza San Marco. You can take the elevator to the tower’s apex and enjoy incredible views of the city and surroundings.
- Torre dell’Orologio – a stunning clock tower with moving parts that activate on the hour.
- Doge’s Palace, or Palazzo Ducale – a Venetian gothic-style palace that used to be the home of the reigning Venetian duke. The red and white bricks of the palace form a diamond-geometrical pattern that must have taken countless hours and infinite patience to complete in the 1340s when it was built.
And, of course, you have to take a gondola ride along the Grand Canal.
The City of Verona
The city of Verona is most famous for its part in Shakespeare’s epic romance Romeo and Juliet. Indeed, you can go and visit Juliet’s house or Casa di Giulietta, which is a museum of Romeo and Juliet-themed exhibits. There is also Juliet’s balcony on which you can pose.
But there are other historical as opposed to fictional places that are worth viewing in fair Verona.
There is the massive Verona Arena, even older than the Colosseum. The Arena is an excellent place to visit all year round, with its towering gray stone walls and arches. Then, from June to September, it is the sight of the Arena Opera Festival.
The Castelvecchio is not ornate (although the bridge is quite pretty), but it certainly served its purpose as a military stronghold in the Middle Ages. The fort is now a museum and gallery. It will not take too long to go through the exhibits in the fort, but it is a fun stop.
Ferrari Museum in Maranello
If you are very much a fan of fast cars, then don’t forget to stop by Maranello and visit the Ferrari museum. Make sure you go prepared with your international driver’s license because you can also take one of the cars for a spin!
There is nothing else really famous in Maranello, but you can easily make it a day trip if you are staying in Florence. As a bonus, the train ride takes you through the amazing Tuscan countryside.
North of Milan, in Lombardy, is Lake Como. While not man-made nor considered a landmark, this beautiful lake is still a famous tourist attraction in Italy. It has also been attracting the wealthy for centuries, as you will see by the number of sprawling villas that are on the shores of Lake Como.
Pompeii and Herculaneum
You can visit the famed ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, the two cities destroyed by the 79 AD eruptions of Mount Vesuvius.
Go and see what remains of the forums, baths, temples, and amphitheaters. You will be surprised at just how much there is to still look at, considering the devastation that the eruption wrought.
Duomo di Milano
Duomo di Milano or the Cathedral of Milan is not to be missed, even if you go for a quick tour while waiting to catch your local flight to your final destination.
There are no words to describe the opulent grandeur of this cathedral. It is an absolute masterpiece of architectural design, which took about 600 years to complete. With its many spires, it looks very much like an ice castle, defying the sweltering Italian sunshine.
Inside this megalithic cathedral are cavernous chambers, thick marble columns, stained glass windows, painting, mosaic tiles, and all the extravagance you would expect from a church building of the era.
As you can see, there are so many amazing and famous spots to visit in Italy; there are even more than we were able to fit into this article. Make sure you plan your trip well so that you can see as much as possible. But even if you only go to one city, you will not be sorry, and you will also not run out of things to see!