Italy is home to some incredible beauty and also – unsurprisingly – a great number of UNESCO World Heritage sites. From north to south, the Italian peninsula is just one gem after the next. From the heights of the Dolomites to the beaches of Puglia, from Cinque Terre National Park to the Amalfi Coast, every inch of this country bewitches tourists thanks to its natural heritage, art and historical treasures. The most beautiful islands in Italy also enchant visitors with their bright blue landscapes, traditional Mediterranean scenery and crystal clear waters.  What’s more, Italy’s art cities are bound to win you over with their incredible architecture and ancient ruins. Be it Florence, Rome or Venice, Italy is home to so many great museum cities, and every step you take is guaranteed to be filled with wonder.

Of course, what would Italy be without its rural medieval villages offering amazing food and so much more. Italy's beaches come out to play. From Conero to Sardinia, Italy’s enchanting sea views are often framed by lush vegetation, sandy dunes and jagged rocks. Indeed, there’s always a treasure waiting to be unearthed in this beautiful country. And if want to see everything but don’t have much time, take a look at our list of the 25 best places to visit in Italy.

Rome

Going for a dip in the Trevi Fountain might be forbidden, but even if it were allowed, you probably wouldn’t have time, seeing as this Eternal City is home to thousands of attractions. Visiting Rome is a real cultural marathon, but the secret to enjoying your time here is take each day as it comes instead of trying to see everything.

From the Colosseum to the Pantheon, and from St. Peter’s Square to the Roman Forum, this entire city exudes a feeling of grandeur and eternal glory. If you have any time to spare, we recommend visiting the Vatican Museums and touring the Sistine Chapel. Alternatively, why not stroll around Castel Sant’Angelo or the picturesque district of Trastevere, which is full of great shops and bars. 

Naples

The first thing you’ll want to do when you get to Naples is stare out into the bay and admire Vesuvius. Together with Posillipo Hill, Castel dell’Ovo is one of the best places to enjoy the view. And there’s always time to head into the old town – which is one of the largest in the world – and get lost among the humdrum of Spaccanapoli. Naples is jam-packed with great places to visit, and the Duomo, Piazza del Plebiscito and the Capodimonte Museum should definitely be on your list. A tour of Naples’ metro network is also a great way to explore this city in all its millennial glory. 

La Spezia

Bordering Tuscany in eastern Liguria, La Spezia overlooks the legendary ‘Gulf of Poets.’ As its name suggests, a great number of artists and writers have praised the gulf’s beauty over the centuries. And contributing a great deal to its charm is La Spezia archipelago, which comprises the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto and provides a sensational setting for sailing cruises. Along with the Cinque Terre, Portovenere is surrounded by some beautiful islands, making it one of Italy’s most enchanting UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Last but not least, San Pietro Church is a real sight to behold, as Eugenio Montale himself even proclaimed.  

Livorno

A departure point for ferries on their way to Elba, Corsica and Sardinia, Livorno is not just a major port, it’s also a lively seaside city full of things to see. One of the best ways to explore Livorno is on a boat tour along its canals. Make sure to take a trip to its picturesque Venice district, which is home to a number of bridges and small piazzas that aren’t all that dissimilar from the ones you’ll find in Venice. And if you’re exploring the city on foot, we recommend visiting the galleries and local markets, where you can to taste some excellent street food. Two great places worth mentioning are the Terrazza Mascagni and the Romito, with its sheer cliff face and famous Cala del Leone bay. 

Venice

Joining a traditional tour is just one of the many ways to explore Venice. This city of canals invites you to get lost among its many calli, rii and campielli, while you marvel at the unbelievable scenery. Obviously, a trip to Saint Mark’s Square and the Bridge of Sighs is a must, both of which feature on our list of places to visit in Venice. In addition to a stroll over the Rialto on your way to the Academy or a famous gallery, we also recommend taking the time to visit the Biennale, old Arsenale and Lido. A trip on a gondola, however, is not necessarily the best way to explore Venice. A much better idea might be to pop into a local osteria, where you can stock up on cicheti and spritz. We also recommend hopping on a boat tour of the surrounding islands, such as Torcello, Murano, Burano and beyond. Even the lesser known ones are bound to capture your heart! 

Genoa

One of the best places to visit in Genoa is the Rolli, a set of noble palaces built during the ancient Maritime Republic. While strolling down the Strade Nuove, you can pop inside and admire the palaces’ arcades, baroque gardens and ornate ancient Genovese decor. The city aquarium is also another must-visit during a holiday to Genoa, as is Genoa Cathedral – with its thirteenth-century facade – and the Chapel of St. John the Baptist. Between a stroll to Soprana Port and the seaside village of Boccadasse, there’s no doubt you’ll give into the temptation to munch on a slice of warm focaccia.

Cinque Terre

Despite being one of the smallest in Italy, Cinque Terre National Park is visited by a record number of tourists. People love it for its beautiful, sculpted landscapes and breath-taking natural scenery. Steep cliffs furrowed by dry stone walls – or ‘ciàn’ – plunge into the cobalt blue sea, which laps at a coastline home to numerous small fishing villages. Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso are all connected to each other by famous walking trails, and the view you can enjoy on a hike is simply amazing. Finally, the protected marine area – which boasts some extraordinary biodiversity – has earned Cinque Terre its reputation as a great spot for sustainable tourism.   

Palermo and Sicily

The Arab-Norman city of Palermo is choc-a-block with historic architectural monuments. The Royal Palace, Court of Frederick II, Palermo Cathedral, Zisa Castle and Church of San Cataldo– with its unmistakable red cupolas – are all top attractions. One of the best places to visit in Palermo is definitely the Palatine Chapel, which is arguably the city’s greatest artistic treasure. Sicily abounds with masterpieces: from Sicilian Baroque artefacts to archaeological treasures in the Valley of the Temples. And the surrounding landscape also requires no introduction. The Aeolian and Aegadian islands are some of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean.  

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Florence

Cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is jam-packed with museums, monuments and priceless works of art. Florence Cathedral – topped with Brunelleschi’s Dome – the Baptistery of St. John, Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce are just a few examples of amazing open-air architecture. And that’s not forgetting the Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria (in the heart of Florence’s old town), where Cosimo de Medici once lived. The Uffizi Gallery is home to an unforgettable art collection, including masterpieces by the likes of Giotto, Botticelli and Raphael. After a trip to the museum, we recommend a relaxing walk in the Boboli Gardens. Florence is also surrounded by enchanting hills, such as Fiesole hill, which offers a truly breath-taking vista.   

Capri

The mythical Faraglioni stacks are one of the most iconic symbols of the Gulf of Naples, together with the Grotta Azzurra, which you can explore aboard a rowing boat. Capri is one of the most bewitching islands in the Mediterranean and is famous for its fantastic views, such as the one you can enjoy from Monte Solaro. A tipple in the famous Piazzetta and a trip to its many luxury boutiques is a must. Wild and trendy at the same time, Capri is sheltered by imposing, jagged cliffs, which conceal some truly incredible beaches, dreamy coves and wonderful caves.

Trapani

A city of churches and historic buildings, Trapani is home to many cultural attractions, as well as some of Sicily’s best beaches. The city is also known for its Sicilian street food, and you can much on arancini, chickpea fritters, fried fish and couscous for just a few pennies. The nearby salt pans and Aegadian Islands (a scuba diving paradise) also offer some unforgettable views. One the best beaches in the area is San Vito Lo Capo, with its fantastic coves nestled in Zingaro Nature Reserve. 

Pisa

A trip to Pisa isn’t just be about pretending to ‘hold up’ the famous leaning tower, or admiring the medieval cathedral, which is a masterpiece of Pisan Romanesque architecture. The Piazza dei Miracoli (or Piazza del Duomo) also offers one of the most scenic views in Italy, with the largest Baptistery in the world and Campo Santo to boot. This ancient maritime republic is bound to seduce you after a stroll along the river – and the Mediceo Lungarno, in particular, which is a meeting place for young folk and is surrounded by some splendid buildings, including the elegant Palazzo Medici.

Sardinia

Deciding which Sicilian beach to visit first is almost impossible, but Cala Mariolu in the Gulf of Orosei is definitely worth a mention. This east coast wonder is a great base for a boat or dinghy trip to some fascinating caves. We also recommend visiting Pelosa in Stintino, which sits right in front of Asinara island. In any case, the choice is yours, because the entire coastline is dotted with gems bathed in crystal clear waters. Once here, you’ll hope the summer never ends. But in reality, there are a thousand things to explore, whatever the season, from mysterious Nuragic civilisation ruins to some great nature trails for keen hikers. 

The Amalfi Coast

This stretch of coastline is really one-of-a-kind thanks to its sheer cliffs and legendary views. And there’s no setting that tops the one offered at Villa Cimbrone in Ravello (although a lot of places come close!) The first things to strike you when you get to the Amalfi Coast are the amazing colours and scents. The sky almost looks as if it belongs in a watercolour painting, while the cobalt blue Tyrrhenian Sea, coastal villages – Amalfi and Positano, in particular – local lemons and ornate ceramics all help to make this one of Italy’s most sought-after destinations. 

Assisi

A spiritual city par excellence, Assisi is the birthplace of Italy’s patron, St. Francis. In fact, his remains are kept right here in the Basilica, which is a great place to admire some amazing frescoes of the man himself. A central city point, the Piazza del Comune is a great example of medieval urban planning and is also home to the Torre del Popolo, Palazzo dei Priori, and ancient Temple of Minerva, which has been beautifully preserved. The Rocca Maggiore castle watches over the city, and is home to centuries-old walls that loom over lovely Umbrian landscapes. 

Matera

European Capital of Culture 2019, Matera is also known as the ‘City of Stones.’ In fact, this incredible city is home to ancient stone buildings carved into the rockface. No less grandiose is the surrounding area and Gravina di Matera river – with its deep canyon – which runs alongside Matera. On the other side of the city, you’ll find Murgia Plateau, which is dotted with natural caves, churches perched on cliffs, farms and tufa buildings. Matera’s historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a truly unique place. It’s been inhabited since the Palaeolithic era and exudes incomparable charm.   

Lecce

A city of art famous for its Baroque masterpieces, Lecce is surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in Puglia. Of ancient Messapian origins, its old town is populated with splendid buildings made from local Lecce stone, including the Duomo and Church of the Holy Cross. Lecce is also called the City of Churches and is famed for its artisan shops. What’s more, the region of Salento is home to a particularly important Roman monument: a majestic amphitheatre that hosts concerts and theatrical performances. 

Verona

Verona is perhaps best known for being Romeo and Juliet’s city. And it was right here, in fact, that William Shakespeare chose to set his tragedy, making it one of Italy’s most romantic destinations. In addition to swearing eternal loyalty under Juliet’s Balcony, you can also admire a large number of monuments from the Middle Ages, as well as some great Roman ruins, such as the arena, which hosts a famous opera festival and a number of internationally renowned concerts.

Turin

Turin is a city full of art and museums, including one of the most important Egyptian museums in the world. Just as famous is the Cinema Museum, dedicated to the film industry and home to the Mole Antonelliana – an iconic city symbol. We also recommend a visit to the Chapel of the Holy Shroud – included in the Royal Museums circuit – and the heart of the Renaissance court: the Royal Palace, which is one of the largest Savoy residences in Piedmont. The site is also home to the Savoy Gallery, one of Italy’s leading art galleries. Also worth a visit is the GAM (modern and contemporary art gallery). And if you’re a fan of tradition, head over to Piazza San Carlo, known as the ‘living room of Turin,’ for a rest at a historical café, where you can enjoy a much-needed bicerin among the boiserie and refined furnishings. 

Milan

The first thing you’ll want to do when you get to Milan is pop into one of its many boutiques. But in addition to a fab shopping street, this city is home to a great number of things to see, including the Piazza Duomo – which is even more amazing when admired from the top of the church spiers – the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Piazza della Scala. The Museo del Novecento, Triennale and Brera Picture Gallery are all must-visit attractions for art lovers, as well as Santa Maria delle Grazie Church, which is where you’ll find Leonardo’s Last Supper (although you will need to book to see it.) Of course, perhaps the most important decision to make when visiting Milan is where to enjoy an aperitivo. We recommend heading to the Navigli, Colonne di San Lorenzo or somewhere with a terrace, for that extra touch of glamour. 

Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands

With its romantic, picturesque atmosphere, Lake Maggiore is a delight for those who love nature and lakes. The second largest lake in Italy, it shares its banks with Switzerland and is home to a fascinating collection of castles, historic villas and botanical parks, including Villa Taranto Botanical Gardens, which are some of the most famous in the world. Just opposite Stresa – one of the prettiest towns on the lakefront – are the Borromean Islands, an archipelago comprised of three gems: Isola Madre, Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori. All three are home to some magnificent palaces and gardens, where you can admire exotic plants, spectacular flowers, peacocks and golden-tailed pheasants.

Lake Como

Memories of Manzoni linger over Lecco on Lake Como – the setting for The Betrothed. In fact, its shores, parks and beautiful natural reserves are dotted with fascinating castles, abbeys and historic villas. Lake Como is also famous for its microclimate and dolce vita. Many are the luxurious residences with sprawling gardens owned by A-listers. And we also recommend taking a trip to Villa Melzi in Bellagio to admire the azaleas in bloom. 

Lake Garda

The largest lake in Italy and a meeting point between Brescia, Verona and Trento, Lake Garda is surrounded by mountains and rolling hills dotted with olive trees, palm trees and oleanders. Its mild climate and historical ruins make it a great place for an intriguing holiday. One of the most interesting things to explore here is Sirmione’s Scaligero Castle, which is also famous for its spa.  In addition to numerous spa hotels, the banks of the lake are also home to medieval villages, castles and lavish historic residences. The food in this part of the world is also very indulgent, from olive oil to red wine, delicious fish specialties and Monte Baldo truffles. Lake Garda’s numerous eating spots will no doubt please the food lovers among you. Sports fans will also feel at home here, where you can try your hand at windsurfing, canoeing and sailing. 

The Dolomites

Whatever the season, the Dolomites are an incredible open-air gym and the perfect place to stretch your legs outdoors while admiring some extraordinary views. The Tre Cime di Lavaredo and Pale di San Martino offer some of the best vistas in the Pale Mountains, whose UNESCO heritage peaks extend from Triveneto to Austria. Dolomiti Superski is the largest ski area in Italy and is a true skiers’ paradise thanks to its hundreds of kilometres of ski runs. Make sure you visit Cortina d’Ampezzo, an exclusive town known as the ‘Queen of the Dolomites.’

Gargano National Park

Gargano Park overlooks one of Italy’s most beautiful coastlines and boasts some picture-perfect vistas. The Tremiti Islands, in particular, is one the most popular holiday destinations in the whole of Puglia. The headland, with its unmistakable spur shape, is covered in rich woodland and is home to dozens of species of wild orchids. Ancient, charming villages are surrounded by greenery, such as Vieste, with its characteristic white houses and olive trees dotted between farms and ancient oil mills. Gargano National Park is one the largest protected areas in Italy and is known for its diverse landscape, which ranges from coastal lakes to sandy beaches, sheer cliffs and a myriad of caves and coves. 

Journey to Italy with Costa Crociere

Art or nature? Culture or food? Traditions or worldliness? In Italy, you don’t have to choose, because there’s always something for everyone. If you’re looking to relax, Italy’s islands and beaches will no doubt steal your heart, a bit like the sirens in ancient myths. The difference here is that their song is sweet and speaks of foody delights, great shopping opportunities and scenic bays that will transport you to another dimension. Looking to travel from one spot to the next on a fantastic Costa Cruise in the middle of the Mediterranean? Well, what are you waiting for? Hop aboard!

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