Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy
| by Assia A. |
| Last Updated March 24, 2023 |
Italy is one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world, it has a rich history of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance that have left masterpieces of art and architecture behind. From buildings to sculptures, Italy is home to an impressive amount of cultural heritage sites.
Italy’s top attractions are not only art museums and old architecture, the country is also home to dramatic natural landscapes including beautiful lakes, gorgeous mountains, and impressive coastline.
To find the best places to visit and things to do in Italy, create an itinerary that combines the beauty of art, architecture, history, and stunning landscapes.
To ensure you hit all the right spots on your trip, plan it using this list of the top tourist attractions in Italy.
Milan Cathedral Duomo
Milan’s extravagant Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente is the biggest cathedral in Italy. It was constructed in 1386 and took nearly 500 years to be finished.
The exterior of the cathedral with a pearly white façade has a grand total of 3400 marble statues and 135 spires that crown the roof, wowing the crowds with its extravagant detail.
The interior is no less impressive, with one of the most distinctive features of the cathedral, the 40 immense pillars that have been carefully positioned to support the soaring ceiling of the nave (the height of the nave is about 45 meters (148 ft). And its walls are decorated by the world’s largest stained-glassed apse windows.
You can also admire sarcophagi and tombs of several archbishops, as well as a crucifix made by the master Leonardo Da Vinci himself!
An elevator will take you to the roof where you can walk and enjoy the most spectacular view among the carved stone pinnacles, and capture the panoramic sights of the entire city!
Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Milan
Venice Grand Canal
A gondola ride in Venice is a tradition that has been popular for centuries. The canals are the main streets of the city and come in all manner of depth, crossing through a labyrinth of narrow passageways.
The most well-known of these waterways is the Grand Canal, which cuts a wide S shape through Venice. The canal features grand estates and palaces, once owned by the wealthiest and most powerful families of the Venetian Republic.
Venice is divided into six neighborhoods, each of which has its own character. San Marco is the tourist heart of the city and home to iconic sights like St. Mark’s Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace.
Make sure you take your gondola ride and explore the smallest canals during your time in Venice, where buildings have been around for hundreds of years.
Florence Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore
Florence cathedral, formally the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is the symbol of Firenze (Florence), and dominates the city skyline. The construction of the Duomo started at the end of the 13th century and was not completed until the 15th century. It stands tall over the city with its magnificent Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1434.
The exterior’s design is made up of a mix of different marble colors, pink, white, and green. The interior is pretty stark and plain, but it has a relaxing & refreshing vibe on warm summer days since the temperature inside tends to be cooler. While the mosaic pavements are certainly its main attraction.
The iconic bell tower at Piazza del Duomo is surrounded by the typical patterned marble that can be found in Tuscan Romanesque architecture.
For the design, Giotto decided to build a campanile, this spire stands for 82 meters tall and you can climb it up 414 steps to a viewing platform with magnificent view of the city and the dome.
Entry to the Cathedral is free, but if you want to visit the other monuments in Piazza del Duomo (climb up the Dome and the bell tower, the Baptistery and the museum), you’ll have to pay for a ticket.
Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano in Europe, it is best known because of the eruption in A.D. 79 that destroyed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, its eruption preserved the treasures from the buried city of Pompeii, including frescoes and mosaics encased in lava as it cooled.
Centuries of massive excavations have taken place across the site and revealed a range of the city’s structures including houses, markets, baths, temples, theaters & streets. In some areas human remains were also found which helped to better understand how this city was built. Visitors now are able to tour the site, walk along the streets that were once scarred by the tracks of chariots, and learn about the engineering used by Romans more than 2,000 years ago.
Not far from Pompeii, it’s possible to visit the town of Herculaneum in just a few hours. The city was buried beneath 16 meters of ash and mud during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. We suggest spending a day exploring the two sites.
The Great Colosseum
This extravagant amphitheater in the center of the city of Rome is the largest ancient amphitheater ever built by the Romans, and a model for sports facilities right up to modern times. The construction of the Colosseum began in AD 72 under the emperor Vespasian, and was completed in 80 AD by his son, Titus.
The Colosseum had a capacity of 65,000 spectators, and was used for gladiatorial contests, public spectacles, and even mock sea battles. The underground level of this ancient Roman arena provided rooms, tunnels, and cells for gladiators, workers, wild animals, and storage.
Today this historical monument stands in stark contrast to the modern development around, providing a glimpse into the great history of the ancient Roman Empire.
Leaning Pisa Tower
Pisa is a UNESCO world heritage site that is well known for its impressive tourist attractions. One of them, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, known worldwide for its nearly four-degree lean.
The construction of the Leaning Tower of Pisa began in 1100, and started leaning in the late 1170s, after completion of the first three stories. The leaning was the result of its unstable foundation in the soft ground.
The construction of the tower did not go smoothly and it took decades to complete. After restoration work completed in the 1990s, today the visitors can climb up the stairs for a stunning view. The city looks great from up there!
The Leaning Tower is in Piazza dei Miracoli, and share its location with the outstanding Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the baptistery. They all feature carvings of Gothic and Romanesque art.
St. Mark’s Basilica
St. Mark’s Basilica is one of the most important tourist sites in Venice, whose ornate Byzantine-inspired façade and domes overlook Piazza San Marco, a lovely spot for tourists to visit when touring Venice.
The building itself is a masterpiece, a mix of different architectural styles, especially the Byzantine Empire’s architecture, which shows the city’s history of trade with the East,
The upper levels of the basilica’s interiors are covered in brilliant mosaics that line its domes and vaults, and gorgeous altar covered in precious jewels and gold.
St. Mark’s Square, the campanile, and the clock tower are iconic landmarks in Venice. For an unforgettable view, there’s nothing better than climbing to the porch and standing among the historic horses also known as the “Triumphal Quadriga”.
Located near the basilica is the Doge’s Palace, also filled with priceless masterpieces of Italian art.
Lake Como is one of Italy’s most beautiful destinations, with a pure beauty and breath-taking views. Its depth is about 410 meters (1,345 feet), and it’s the most profound lake in Italy and one of the deepest in Europe.
The lake provides one of the most picturesque sceneries in the world, surrounded by mountains and lined with small picturesque towns, and green valley. The lake has many luxurious villas and historic palaces along its shores. Villa Balbianello & Villa Carlotta are two of the most popular villas on Lake Como, surrounded by beautiful gardens that are now open to the public.
The mild climate of Lake como is indeed quite pleasant, and makes the lake shore ideal for gardens throughout the year. It is also a draw for tourists, people who love the Mediterranean climate often love it in Lake Como. With attractions like an 11th-century abbey and resort towns, there’s plenty of reason to visit Como Lake.
Como, is just a short train ride away from bustling Milan. From its waterfront you can take regular boat cruises and tours on the lake. They offer stunning sights of the lakeside and much more!
The Amalfi Coast is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997, and an attraction to thousands of international tourists annually. It’s a popular jet set destination, and European aristocracy have been visiting it since the 18th century.
This gorgeous stretch of mountainous coastline sits between the Sorrentine Peninsula, south of Naples and Sorrento, composed of beautiful and stunning landscapes of rugged cliffs with sun drenched pine forests and various hues of green, dotted with absolutely gorgeous towns that are built precariously along the steep mountainsides that cascade down to the sea.
The main attractions here are the perfect towns that are full of multi-colored houses and buildings, such as Positano and Praiano, and Amalfi itself, as well as beaches, coastal walks, and mountainside villas.
Transport in Amalfi Coast is quite developed with regular bus and train services which makes it an easy destination to reach. If you need a place to stay or dine in this Coastal town, there are plenty of options, all high-quality hotels, and world-class restaurants are there for you.
Cinque Terre is an amazing and historic seaside town that sits in the famed Italian Riviera. The 5 towns are all famous for their colorful houses clinging onto stunning sea cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, vineyards, and charming fishing villages.
There are 5 towns in Cinque Terre, from East to West they are : Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare, and they are connected to each other by the local train or by walking paths
Hiking between the towns is one of the most popular things to do as it gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy the most picturesque landscape. The small towns have maintained a sentimental and nostalgic feel of old-world fishing villages even in the face of nowadays modern tourism.
The Vatican, a city-state surrounded by Rome is home to the pope and some of the world’s most iconic art collections and architecture. The centerpiece is the great Basilica of St. Peter with Michelangelo’s Pieta.
The city is a popular destination for tourists, especially Catholics wishing to see the Pope or to celebrate their faith. The main tourist attractions in Vatican City include religious tourism, and city landmarks, such as the great Basilica of St. Peter, and one of Michel Angelo’s most passionate works, the Pieta.
St. Peter’s Square and the walls of the Sistine Chapel where the Pope addresses followers. The Vatican Palace is home to masterpieces such as those by Raphael and Michelangelo.
If your destination is the Vatican, then it may be worthwhile visiting the Vatican Museums, filled with art collections including several of the most renowned Roman sculptures, sacred art, maps, papal carriages, there is even vintage cars on display.
The Uffizi Gallery in Florence
The Uffizi Gallery (Galleria Degli Uffizi in Italian), is Italy’s top visited museum and is thought to be one of the best in the world. With a collection that includes many priceless works, particularly those from the golden age of the Italian Renaissance.
Touring the Uffizi is surely one of the highlights of visiting Florence. The collection at the museum houses works by some of the greatest masters of western art, but the most important treasure is the collection that shows how the painting evolved from the 14th to 16th centuries.
The Museum is a must-see destination for anyone visiting Italy, especially the most famous work of Botticelli – Birth of Venus.
The Pantheon is a former Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome, and one of the best-preserved architectural achievements of the Roman Empire in history.
The building perfect geometries and the harmony of the lines are a source of inspiration for the greatest architects of all ages. The Pantheon’s greatness comes from its huge dome, the biggest brick dome ever built, its diameter is equal to the height of the building.
The Pantheon has been used as an inspiration for artists and writers during the Renaissance. And also the tomb for important figures in Italian history. The Italian kings Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, also the well-known Renaissance painter Raphael and his fiancée are buried in the Pantheon.
One of the most important sites in Roman history is the Forum, was originally created as the intersection of two routes across Rome (the original section is now gone). It served as a market & government center for about 500 years and became synonymous with an Italianate concept – public square – that would later inspire some of America’s most famous squares.
Temples were built first, followed by public buildings, then the area became Rome’s hub of government. Commerce soon followed and encouraged the building of market halls to make the Forum one of the most densely populated areas in Rome.
Not much of Ancient Rome remains today. What is left are a few remnants of etchings on pillars, partial structures, and foundations of former temples, courts, market halls, and public buildings that pay homage to the city.
One of the most visited spots in all Italy is the Blue Grotto on the island of Capri. This place is just a short boat ride away from Naples, Sorrento, or Amalfi Coast. The blue Grotto is a dark cavern where the sea glows electric blue, it has a delightful ensemble of golden sand, brilliant blues & greens, and picturesque cliffs with the three signature rocks of the Faraglioni coast.
The Island is a popular tourist spot for people from across the world who come to admire its unique landscape, delicious cuisine, and upscale hotels and shopping. From designer fashions to handmade leather goods. And has two picturesque beaches that sit on both sides of the Island Marina grande and Marina piccola.
You can go on breathtaking hikes and enjoy the outstanding views From almost anywhere on the island. The gardens of the beautiful Villa San Michele which overlook the Marina Grande has probably the finest views on the island.
Tours & Excursions in Italy
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