Deciding to go to Italy is easy, but picking which city and attractions to add to your itinerary can be challenging. Fortunately, after exploring the country from top to bottom, we've found the destinations that are truly worth a spot on your bucket list. Whether you're looking to see Renaissance sculptures, get your fill of homemade pasta, or lounge at a posh beach club, there's a place for you on this list. Here are 14 places in Italy you need to see before you die, in no particular order.
As the capital of Italy and one of the most attraction-packed cities in the country, Rome is a must-visit for any tourist. Some of the most popular sights include the Colosseum, which dates back to 70 A.D., the 1732-built Trevi Fountain, where travelers can throw in a coin and make a wish, and the well-preserved Pantheon. Also worth braving the crowds is Vatican City, which has the magnificent Michelangelo-painted Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica, home to Michelangelo’s Pietà marble sculpture. As with all Italy destinations, food is a highlight, from creamy cacio e pepe to gelato to fried suppli. Hot summer months filled with tourists make Rome a better spring or fall destination.
Where to Stay in Rome: Boutique Hotel Campo de Fiori
The upscale Boutique Hotel Campo de Fiori is a historic property with a scandalous past as a bordello for priests. Charming rooms have sumptuous furnishings, a rooftop terrace provides sensational vistas, and the hotel is within walking distance of a few top sights.
2. Amalfi Coast
A striking region south of Rome, the 34-mile-long Amalfi Coast is known for its picture-perfect views and charming towns. It starts in Positano — popular for its colorful cliffside buildings, hopping beachfront, and luxurious hotels — and winds through to Vietri sul Mare, a smaller town with a lovely beach, ceramic shops, and a small cathedral. Additionally, the famous Path of the Gods hiking trail, which connects Positano with Agerola, is a wonderful way to spend a day. Other worthwhile stops along the coast include the well-loved seaside town of Amalfi and the enchanting hilltop town of Ravello, which is best known for its sculpture- and flower-filled Villa Cimbrone Gardens.
Where to Stay on the Amalfi Coast: Il San Pietro di Positano
One of the most luxurious hotels in the region, Il San Pietro di Positano is a beautifully decorated property with stunning views from multiple vantage points. A large outdoor terrace, Michelin-starred restaurant, romantic rooms with sea views, and an elevator shuttling guests to a private beachfront are just a few highlights.
A frequent stop for cruise ships, Venice is a unique city that’s famous for its system of canals and bridges that connect over 100 islands. Tourists can take romantic gondolas or cheaper vaporetti (water taxis) to reach sights such as Doge’s Palace, a Gothic-style palace with extravagant interiors, Basilica di San Marco, an ornate church dating back to the 11th century, and Piazza San Marco, the main square in Venice, which sees tons of food-seeking pigeons. Don’t forget to snag a photo of the historic Rialto Bridge. Excellent museums, pastry shops, and Carnival celebrations (in February) add to the city’s allure.
Where to Stay in Venice: Ca’ Sagredo Hotel
Romantic, luxurious, and historic, the 42-room Ca’ Sagredo Hotel is a 15th-century restored pink palazzo located on the Grand Canal. Features include elegant rooms with marble bathrooms, a ground-floor restaurant serving Venetian cuisine, and free breakfasts.
4. Lake Como
Although it has become famous as George Clooney’s summer home, Lake Como is much more than a celebrity hot spot. Located in northern Italy’s Lombardy region, Lake Como offers a pretty setting at the foothills of the Alps. The lake is shaped like an upside down “Y,” and several charming towns line the water, including Bellagio, Como, and Varenna. Summer visitors may want to go on a walking tour or rent a boat for the day, while year-round activities include food tours, exploring historic churches, and taking a cooking class.
Where to Stay in Lake Como: Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni
Situated right on the water’s edge in Lake Como, the luxury Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is a 95-room property with panoramic views of the lake and mountains. Ornately decorated rooms, both an outdoor and indoor pool, a fine-dining restaurant, and an expansive free breakfast are offered here.
The capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, Florence is an art lover’s dream. Considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence offers countless works of art, with pieces by Botticelli (“The Birth of Venus”), Da Vinci (“Annunciation”), Michelangelo, Titian, and Caravaggio all housed in the Uffizi Gallery. Meanwhile, Michelangelo’s famous “David” sculpture is located within the Accademia Gallery. Another must-see is the Duomo, or Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, an impressive 13th-century structure where visitors can climb 463 steps for pretty vistas and to see the frescoes up close. The main center is easily walkable, so tourists can hop between museums, cafes, and shops with ease. Be sure to stroll across Ponte Vecchio, a medieval arch bridge lined with shops.
Where to Stay in Florence: Golden Tower Hotel & Spa
Under a 10-minute walk from numerous attractions, the Golden Tower Hotel & Spa is a luxury boutique with posh, well-equipped rooms. The high-end spa offers various treatments, a whirlpool, Turkish bath, and sauna, while the restaurant serves free breakfast.
There’s a lot more to see within Tuscany than Florence. Rolling hillsides, charming agriturismo stays (working farms offering rooms), and vineyards producing delicious wine (especially of the Chianti variety) are found throughout the region. Natural hot springs can also be found in free public areas or more luxurious resorts for a relaxing spa getaway. Travelers looking for some historic sights can visit cities such as Siena and the riverside Lucca.
Where to Stay in Tuscany: Castello delle Quattro Torra
Tourists wanting a castle experience should stay at the romantic Castello delle Quattro Torra, located on a quiet hilltop near Siena. This authentic medieval castle is family-run, and there are just three individually styled rooms to choose from, including an apartment and a two-story tower room. Free Wi-Fi and breakfast are provided.
Situated a 35-minute drive south of Naples is the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was buried by the 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The ash and pumice were so thick that the entire city was largely preserved underneath it, allowing visitors today to get a good glimpse of daily life then. This UNESCO World Heritage site is visited by approximately two-and-a-half million people each year, as it’s an easy day trip from Sorrento, Positano, and even Rome. Pro tip: Wear a hat and sunscreen, and bring a lot of water.
Where to Stay in Pompeii: Hotel Forum Pompei
When it comes to hotels near the ruins, it’s hard to get any closer than the upper-middle-range Hotel Forum Pompei. Just a one-minute walk to the site’s entrance, the property also has sleek, contemporary rooms, a rooftop sundeck, garden seating, and free breakfast spreads.
8. Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre consists of five former fishing villages built into the cliffs of the Ligurian coast in northwestern Italy. This popular tourist destination offers charming pastel-painted architecture, exquisite sea views, tasty seafood, and a national park that’s nearly 10,000 acres. Certainly the best way to see the region is on foot, by hiking the coastal path of Sentiero Azzurro, which links all five villages and provides beautiful vistas along the way. Boat tours, local wineries, and pretty beaches also keep travelers occupied.
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre: Hotel Porto Roca
The upscale Hotel Porto Roca is a romantic property with a stellar cliffside setting in Monterosso. A saltwater infinity pool and private beach area are noteworthy features, but guests can also expect to find a restaurant serving Ligurian cuisine and free breakfasts, as well as a small spa for massages.
A posh island off the Sorrento Peninsula, Capri is a suitable destination for a fast-paced day trip or week-long honeymoon. Striking rocky cliffs, charming streets lined with perfume, gelato, and designer shops, and restaurants with lively alfresco seating can all be found here. Don’t miss the Gardens of Augustus, where you’ll find lovely greenery and sweeping views of the sea and Faraglioni (three towering rock formations that jut out from the Mediterranean Sea). Other top activities include boat tours to the Blue Grotto, taking a chairlift to the top of Monte Solaro, and visiting the 19th-century Villa San Michele.
Where to Stay in Capri: Punta Tragara
A quiet luxury hotel that’s only reachable by foot, Punta Tragara provides a sophisticated getaway on the outskirts of Capri’s center. All rooms have balconies or terraces — most with sea views — and two swimming pools alongside a spa ensure guests have ample areas to relax.
Although a bit grittier than some other cities in Italy, Naples is a stellar foodie destination with some excellent museums and historic sights to boot. The third-largest Italian city, Naples is perhaps best known as the birthplace of pizza. Here, restaurants serve up world-renowned wood-fired pies topped with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. While Neapolitan pizza is arguably the city’s best offering, fantastic pasta and seafood are also available. While here, check out the medieval Castel Nuovo fortress and catacombs dating to the second and fourth centuries.
Where to Stay in Naples: Eurostars Hotel Excelsior
Built in 1908, the Eurostars Hotel Excelsior is a classically decorated property with a prime position at the southern tip of Naples, overlooking the Castel dell’Ovo castle, Gulf of Naples, and Mount Vesuvius. The hotel is frequented by well-heeled guests, with past clientele including Alfred Hitchcock and Sophia Loren.
Considered the country’s fashion capital, Milan is a hip, design-centric city with a strong business hub. But aside from Fashion Week shows, Milan also draws domestic and international travelers with its array of attractions. Housed within the Santa Maria delle Grazie church is Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, “The Last Supper.” Meanwhile, the imposing Duomo di Milano showcases Gothic architecture and colorful stained glass. Visiting the 15th-century Sforzesco Castle, La Scala opera house, and several museums are other fine ways to spend a few days in Milan.
Where to Stay in Milan: Armani Hotel Milano
The luxurious Armani Hotel Milano offers great city views from multiple areas and easy access to high-end shopping. This 95-room boutique hotel feels elegant and refined, and high-end features include an indoor pool, quality restaurant, bar, spa, and fitness center.
The largest of the Mediterranean islands and just west of the tip of Italy’s “boot,” Sicily has a charming mix of historic sights and beautiful landscapes. Natural attractions include gorgeous beaches and Mount Etna — Europe’s most active volcano — while the capital of Palermo offers a rich culture and impressive structures like the 12th-century Norman Palace and Palermo Cathedral. The most popular attraction, however, is Valley of the Temples, an ancient archaeological site that dates back to fifth century B.C.
Where to Stay in Sicily: UNAHOTELS Capotaormina
Overlooking the sea and Mount Etna in Taormina, the upscale UNAHOTELS Capotaormina has a private beach accessible via a cave plus a hillside pool and hot tub. Rooms are classically decorated, and suites have living rooms, saunas, and whirlpool tubs. Three bars, three restaurants, and a wellness center are also on-site.
Located in northeastern Italy, the Dolomites are a beautiful mountain range that are part of the Alps. Snow-capped mountain peaks, lush forests, and rolling hills make for a stunning setting while travelers hike and bike in the warmer months or ski and snowboard in the colder months. Top towns to visit include Bolzano, which has a medieval city center, and Merano, a spa town with beautiful terraced gardens at Trauttmansdorff Castle.
Where to Stay in the Dolomites: San Luis Retreat Hotel & Lodges
A 20-minute drive outside of Merano, the luxurious San Luis Retreat Hotel & Lodges has sprawling grounds and a pristine lake dotted by 42 private wooden chalets and lofted tree houses. All units feature rustic-chic decor, kitchenettes, living spaces with fireplaces, and private terraces — most with hot tubs.
Known around the world, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is the Tuscan city’s most popular attraction. It’s a freestanding bell tower within the Pisa Cathedral complex, which began construction in 1173 and was completed nearly 200 years later. Today, the tower stands 185 feet high, and it has a 297-step spiral staircase inside that visitors can climb to the top. Due to soft ground at the foundation, the tower has a famous four-degree lean. Of course, no visit is complete without snapping a photo of yourself holding the tower up.
Where to Stay in Pisa: Bologna Hotel Pisa
A 17-minute walk from the Leaning Tower, the upper-middle-range Bologna Hotel Pisa has 64 well-maintained rooms, a peaceful garden terrace, and breakfast buffet spreads for a fee.
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