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36 Famous Landmarks in Italy: Epic Spots for the Perfect Road Trip

October 5, 2020
The Coastal Scenery of Positano in Amalfi Coast, Italy

Are you thinking of visiting Italy, but aren’t sure where exactly to start? There is simply so much to see in this beautiful peninsula that planning a trip here can definitely get overwhelming. This article will provide you with the most spectacular famous landmarks in Italy that you can plan the perfect trip (or road trip) around. While there are plenty of wonderful hidden gems in this country, it is equally important to check out the absolute must-see places as well. This article is divided into three sections: Northern Italy, Central Italy, and Southern Italy. The landmarks featured in each section are ordered from north to south, with the exception of the Northern Italy section, where they’re ordered in a circular shape (due to the region being wider in size).

Disclaimer: This awesome, free article contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of these links, I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. No pressure to use these links, but I really appreciate it when you do!

Famous Landmarks in Italy: Northern Italy

1. Lago di Braies, Dolomites

Lago di Braies in the Dolomites, Italy

Explored by Kat of Wandering Bird

Lago di Braies, an incredible lake that’s all over Instagram, is one of the highlights of any Dolomites itinerary. This lake is surprisingly easy to find and there’s plenty of parking provided nearby. You don’t need to book parking in advance but don’t forget to pay for your ticket. You can visit Lago di Braies in 10 minutes, or you can stay there for an entire day, hiking the area and enjoying the incredible scenery. It’s entirely up to you!

However, as with all famous landmarks, you need to be clever about when you visit. Let’s face it — people go to Lago di Braies to take photos. This lake is one of the most photographed places in Italy. Thousands of people visit every day during the summer, and that’s not an exaggeration. Tour buses arrive constantly, flooding the entire area with new and excited visitors.

You’ll see girls in exotic dresses (or fancy wedding dresses), couples and influencers looking for that perfect shot, and hundreds of tourists trying to find the exact right angle. If you arrive after 9 am, forget it. Consider sleeping in a camper by the lake so that you can be there for sunrise or sunset, when the area is a lot quieter and you can take your time to find the best shot.

Where to stay: Hotel Lago di Braies, the only hotel located right at the lake. There are absolutely breathtaking views of the lake and mountains from the balconies of the rooms there, and you'll also get a free ski bus to the Plan de Corones and Monte Elmo ski slopes. Click here to check rates and availability

2. Scaligero Castle, Sirmione

Scaligero Castle in Sirmione, Italy

Explored by Paulina of Paulina On The Road

The Sirmione Castle, named Rocca Scaligera or Scaliger Castle, is one of Italy’s most famous artifacts. It’s located in the Italian lakeside town of Sirmione in the region of Lombardy, on top of a small peninsula. Mastino della Scala founded the castle in the first half of the 13th century. It is indeed a unique example of ancient port fortification adopted by the Scaliger armada, built primarily as a shield against invaders and local attackers.

The Scaligero Castle is specially reserved for its finest medieval fortifications and ports. In the main area of the castle, you’ll also find a tiny museum with local discoveries from the Roman era and a few old artifacts. This castle is worth visiting also thanks to its surroundings, which is filled with stunning landscapes and a large moat, where ducks and swans can be seen playing. Additionally, the castle has steps that lead up to its ramparts and towers, from where you can get a magnificent view of the lovely Lake Garda.

If you’re considering visiting Sirmione, make sure to go between April and June to experience a peaceful trip. Be sure to also stop by the other main attractions in town, such as the Grotte di Catullo and the Santa Maria Maggiore church. Additionally, don’t forget to taste the delicious local cuisine. If you have more time in Sirmione, go shopping around town and explore the top organic cotton brands there, like Nitara and Swedish Eco.

Where to stay: Hotel Marconi, a lakeside hotel in the Old City with breathtaking views of Lake Garda. It also has a garden, a sun terrace, and provides free bikes to guests! Click here to check rates and availability

3. Juliet’s Balcony (Casa di Giulietta), Verona

Juliet's Balcony in Verona, Italy

Explored by Wendy of Wendy In The Wind

“In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…” Yes, it’s the beginning of one of the most epic Shakespearean plays ever written, but it also is a springboard for great sightseeing in beautiful Verona, Italy. One of the most sought out places of interest in Verona was born from the pages of Romeo and Juliet — Juliet’s Balcony (Casa di Giulietta). This is where visitors can find the infamous balcony that Juliet supposedly stood upon while Romeo declared his love for her. While the jury is still out on whether the love story is true or not, the balcony is still available for public view.

Nestled in the side of a medieval building, the balcony overlooks a small courtyard where a bronze statue of Juliet stands. It is said that anyone who rubs the right breast of the statue will have luck in love. Lining the walls in the courtyard are thousands of letters addressed to Juliet asking for guidance and love advice. But be careful; there is now a €500 fine for anyone who’s found sticking things on the walls because so many people use gum to make their letters stick, which is making the building deteriorate.

The balcony is accessible through a museum that displays artifacts and props from film adaptations of Romeo and Juliet. The cost to enter the museum and stand on the balcony is €6, and tickets can be purchased at the door or online in advance. The museum and balcony are open Tuesdays through Sundays from 9 am to 6 pm and are closed on Mondays. When visiting, it is best to go early in the morning when they first open; during this time, there are very few visitors, which means a better chance for that photo op of you reenacting Romeo and Juliet.

Where to stay: The stunning Hotel Milano & SPA***S located in the historic center. Unlike other hotels nearby, this one offers an incredible spa and wellness center. There's also a hot tub with a beautiful view of the Verona Arena on the panoramic sun terrace! Click here to check rates and availability

4. Rialto Bridge, Venice

Gondolas in the Canal Under Rialto Bridge in Venice, Italy

Explored by Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan

The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges across the Grand Canal, and also the most famous one. Connecting the districts of San Polo and San Marco, it’s named after the nearby Rialto Market, which has served as the main food market in Venice for the past 900 years. Building a bridge at this spot was a top priority, as it would make it easier for merchants to bring their wares to the market.

When it was first built in 1173, this bridge was the only place where you could cross the large canal that snakes for 3.8 km (2.3 mi) through the center of Venice. That 12th-century version was a pontoon bridge, but it has been rebuilt several times over the centuries. The covered bridge you see today was finished in 1591. Its unusual design was highly criticized, and architects of the time predicted that it would collapse. So far, though, it has stood the test of time.

The bridge’s central walkway is lined with shops on either side. This is some of the most expensive real estate in the city, so prices tend to be high here. If you’re more interested in the views than the shopping, avoid the central staircase and stick to the two outer pathways along the railings. Ristorante Da Mario Alla Fava is a great place to eat nearby. Though a bit pricey, it offers a spectacular setting and traditional Venetian fare, including some great options for vegetarians and vegans in Venice.

Where to stay: The beautiful H10 Palazzo Canova, an affordable 4-star hotel located right by the Rialto Bridge (with views of it from some rooms too). They also have a terrace bar that offers a stunning panorama of the surrounding canals! Click here to check rates and availability

5. Colored Houses of Burano, Venice

Colorful Houses by the Water in Burano, Venice, Italy

Explored by Claire of Tales Of A Backpacker

Burano is an island in the Venice Lagoon and makes a wonderful day trip from Venice. Although it’s no longer the hidden gem it once was, if the crowds in Venice get too much, then this is the perfect escape. Traditionally a fishermen’s island, Burano’s houses are all painted bright colors so that the fishermen could spot their own houses as soon as the island came into view after their voyage.

Burano is also famous for its lace-making traditions and you can visit the Lace Museum on the island or catch a lace-making demonstration in one of the shops. The joy of Burano is in exploring the streets and admiring the colorful houses. As with Venice, Burano is crisscrossed with canals and the bridges from one side to the other make perfect spots to take photographs and see the houses in their full glory.

You could stay on Burano Island and spend a couple of days here, but most people prefer to stay in Venice and take a day trip to Burano, also dropping by Murano Island for glass-making demonstrations. From Venice, you could arrange a tour to Burano, or catch a Vaporetto water bus to the island, which takes about an hour. Aim to leave Venice early in the morning to give you time to explore Burano, have a delicious lunch on the island, then stop off at Murano on the way back to Venice.

Recommended Guides Tours of Burano: Venice: Murano and Burano Half-Day Glass and Lace Tour | Guided Tour of Burano Island | Murano, Burano and Torcello Islands Full-Day Tour

6. The Byzantine Mosaics, Ravenna

Byzantine Mosaics on a Ceiling in Ravenna, Italy

Explored by Dhara of It’s Not About the Miles

If you’re a fan of history, art, or culture, then you’ll definitely want to put Ravenna on your itinerary for Northern Italy. The Ravenna mosaics are renowned all over the world for being the best in the Western Hemisphere. Located in the Emilia-Romagna region in northeast Italy, the city of Ravenna is home to no less than eight monuments listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The monuments were all built during the 5th and 6th centuries, when Ravenna was an important seat of the Roman Empire and the Byzantine presence in Italy.

Six of the eight Ravenna UNESCO sites are located in the historic core of Ravenna, and can be toured on foot and in a day. The remaining two are short taxi or car rides away. The two most beautiful monuments are the Basilica di San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, located just steps from each other.

You will be awestruck by the beauty and scale of the mosaics in the Basilica di San Vitale. Covering huge swathes of space, the mosaics show various scenes, including the most famous ones of Emperor Justinian and his courtiers and Empress Theodora and her ladies-in-waiting. A single combined ticket is the most cost-effective way to see all the sites. You can buy them at any of the sites (except the Arian Baptistery, which is free), or at the Ravenna Tourist Information Center.

Where to stay: The affordable and excellent Palazzo Bezzi Hotel is located very close to the mosaics. It has a charming rooftop pool, a wellness center, a free gym and all the mod cons. Click here to check rates and availability

7. Two Towers, Bologna

The Two Towers of Bologna in Italy

Explored by Kate of Our Escape Clause

In the early Middle Ages, the Italian city of Bologna was home to over 100 skyscraper-esque towers, thin and tall, that reached skyward to create an impressive skyline. Today, only 22 of those towers remain, and by far the most famous of them are Bologna’s Two Towers that stand near the center of the city, a short walk from Piazza Maggiore.

Built in the 12th century, visiting Asinelli Tower (the taller of the two) and Garisenda Tower is one of the best things to do in Bologna, and the Two Towers are famous not only for their height, but for the fact that they lean — in fact, Asinelli Tower is a much taller (though not more ornate) leaning tower than the more famous one in Pisa.

You can climb Asinelli Tower as well, which will reward you (498 long steps) later with absolutely magnificent views of Bologna and of the shorter Garisenda Tower that stands next to it. As only a limited number of people are allowed to climb Asinelli Tower at a time, be sure to book a time slot in advance before arriving and be aware that the climb will also test the endurance of people who are scared of heights. With that said, the views are worth the effort it takes to experience this remarkable Italian landmark from its best angle!

Where to stay: Hotel Corona d'Oro is just down the street from the Two Towers and its interiors are absolutely stunning. Aside from the excellent rooms, guests also get a free breakfast buffet and free bikes. Click here to check rates and availability

8. Manarola, Cinque Terre

Flowers, Houses, and the Coastal View of Manarola, a Village in Cinque Terre, Italy

Explored by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad

Manarola, one of the oldest towns in Cinque Terre, a beautiful coastal area in Liguria, is hands down one of the most breathtaking famous landmarks in Italy. This ancient town is one of the five villages that make up the unique Cinque Terre, with the other four being Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Corniglia, and Monterosso al Mare. While you can easily travel by train between these five towns, there’s also a stunning hiking trail that connects them. The latter option definitely allows you to soak in the incredible views of the region a lot more!

While each of the five villages has its unique charm and is worth exploring in detail, Manarola stands out for its iconic postcard-worthy viewpoint — the views you’ll get there are truly the most spectacular ones in all of Cinque Terre. For the best photos, head over to the walkway below the Nessun Dorma Restaurant. From there, you can see a beautiful facade of Manarola as a whole; its bright and colorful houses built on the cliffside right next to the sea. It’s a view you won’t forget, and a magical place to watch the sunset too!

While in town, make sure to taste the local sweet wine, Sciacchetrà, which is a famous specialty of the region; Manarola has more grapevines than any other Cinque Terre village. There are also tons of hiking trails in the vineyards and hills above town, but the most popular one is Via dell’Amore, “Love’s Trail”), which connects Manarola to its neighboring village of Riomaggiore. Manarola (and Cinque Terre as a whole) is truly one of the dreamiest places on earth. If you enjoy seaside views, colorful buildings, and hiking, then visiting this region of Italy is a must.

Where to stay: Apt Belvedere with Seaview is a beautiful 2-room Airbnb apartment in Manarola's city center. The view of the sea and hills from the balcony is truly magical; the perfect place to watch the sunset with a glass of wine! Click here to check rates and availability

9. Strada Nuova, Genoa

A Building in Strada Nuova, Genoa, Italy

Explored by Noel of Travel Photo Discovery

Genoa is one of the most famous Italian cities located on the western side of the country, facing the Ligurian coastline. Though it’s not well-visited for its historical sites, it was actually one of the most strategic and powerful trading cities of Italy in ancient times. In fact, Genoa became very wealthy when nobles built gorgeous palaces around the city, particularly in the historical UNESCO areas around the famous Strada Nuova (or “New Street”).

Walking along this beautiful boulevard, you’ll see some elaborate palaces lined on both sides, with stunning architectural details and flourishes that are still intact and worthy of their UNESCO World Heritage certification. It is easy enough to explore the entire Strada Nuova on its own and even stop by many of the villas there, some of which are now living museums. Other palaces on Strada Nuova have been converted into hotels and tourist-oriented venues, and you can easily pop in and get a glimpse of their gorgeous interiors.

If you’re interested in exploring Genoa’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, then definitely don’t miss out on the historical Strada Nuova and the gorgeous villas, piazzas, churches, and the other impressive architecture there.

Where to stay: Hotel Le Nuvole Residenza d'Epoca is only a 3-minute walk from Strada Nuova and its rooms have stunning modern décor and painted ceilings. Click here to check rates and availability

10. Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano), Milan

The Milan Cathedral in Milan, Italy

Explored by Sophie & Adam of We Dream Of Travel

In the heart of Milan, towering over Piazza di Milano is the impressive Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathderal). This grand Gothic cathedral dates back to 1386 and took nearly 6 years to complete. With a capacity of 40,000 people, it is the largest church in Italy and the second largest in Europe. No Milan itinerary would be complete without admiring this impressive architecture. Considering its size and location, it’s pretty difficult to miss! A stroll around the city will likely bring you to Piazza del Duomo, where you can marvel at its spectacular exterior and sheer size. However, one of the best experiences in Milan is a visit to the rooftop of the cathedral.

The rooftop is decorated with ornate spires and sculptures and the terrace covers nearly the entire roof. As well as getting a better look at the intricacies of the roof, you will also be rewarded with stunning panoramic views over Milan. Ensure you purchase a ticket that gives you access to both the rooftop and the cathedral. While the rooftop is arguably the most impressive part of the cathedral, the decorative interior is still absolutely worth a visit.

Additionally, there is a crypt and archaeological site at the Duomo. However, unless you have a particular interest in these features, you can skip these and spend more time on the rooftops or around the city. The Duomo di Milano is perhaps the most popular attraction in Milan and as such gets very busy. It is worth booking your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.

Where to stay: The elegant Montenapoleone Suites is only a 10-minute walk from the Milan Cathedral and has units with hot tubs for a relaxing treat after a long day. The suites are also extremely clean and cozy. Click here to check rates and availability

11. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, Italy

Explored by Vaibhav of The Wandering Vegetable

Named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the Italian kingdom, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the most popular landmarks in Milan that has to be included in your Europe trip itinerary. Designed in 1861, it proudly wears the badge of being Italy’s oldest shopping mall. This royal-looking shopping arcade has all the top luxury brands and couture stores under a single roof. The arcade, besides being filled with expensive clothing and jewelry stores, is also home to bars, cafes, restaurants, and the elegant Galleria Vik Hotel.

It took 12 years for architect Giuseppe Mengoni to build this structure, with the construction happening between 1865-1877. The Galleria acts as a connecting link between the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza della Scala, two other famous attractions in Milan. It used to be and still is an important meeting and dining place for the people of Milan who throng here during weekends to chill and socialize.

What makes the Galleria worthy of a visit is it’s architecture and design, with two glass vaulted arcades intersecting to form an octagon. You can spot several beautiful frescoes and arches on the walls that transport you back to the glorious old days. It’s also worth mentioning that the roof is a huge dome made of wrought-iron arches and glazed glass. The Galleria comes alive at night and is busy most days of the week. It’s a paradise for those who love shopping and a must-visit if you’re in Milan.

Where to stay: You can stay right inside the Galleria, at the Galleria Vik Milano. The unique rooms there are very stylish and high-end, and the best part is that they offer gorgeous panoramic views of the Galleria. Click here to check rates and availability

12. Lake Como

A Colorful Town Surrounded by Water in Lake Como, Italy

Explored by Paula of Paula Pins The Planet

Lake Como is a stunning lake town in Italy, and it has been a playground for the rich and famous for centuries, dating back to Roman times. Located at the foothills of the Alps in Northern Italy, not far from the Swiss border, Lake Como is one of Italy’s most scenic landmarks. It is easily accessible from Milan and Lugano by train, which runs hourly and tickets are as low as €5. 

Known as the “golden triangle” and clustered in the middle of Lake Como are the towns of Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio. There are also many stunning smaller villages around. The majority of visitors stay in one of those three towns, and if you opt to be in any of the smaller villages along the lake, you’ll need to rent a car as the ferries only run to the main towns.

Lake Como makes an amazing and worthy place to visit because of the combination of beautiful villas, picturesque towns, the Swiss Alps scenery, food, and hospitality that is so iconic to Italy. Como is known for its spectacular Baroque mansions located just a short walking distance from the city center, such as the Villa Olmo, a gorgeous neoclassical 1797 mansion with jaw-dropping panoramic views of Lake Como. You can also catch the ferry and cruise past the villas along the lakeside. This gives you a chance to admire the stunning views along Lake Como and its charming exclusivity as a bucket list destination in Italy.

Where to stay: The incredible Villa Vinicia has a hot tub and outdoor pool with mountain views. The rooms are decorated with stunning frescoes and vaulted ceilings, and the complex also features a lovely garden, terracotta stairs, and elegant archways. Click here to check rates and availability

Famous Landmarks in Italy: Central Italy

13. Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy

Explored by Krystianna of Volumes & Voyages

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most iconic structures worldwide. This tower is located in Piazza del Duomo in the town of Pisa, one of Italy’s greatest places to explore. This city is only a short train ride away from the popular Florence and Cinque Terre.

The tower stands at 186 ft (56 m) tall and its construction first began in the late 12th century. Soon after that, workers realized that they’ve built it upon marshy land, and the building started to lean. To make up for it, they made the side that wasn’t leaning slightly higher so that it evened out. This went on for ages, which is why the tower is still leaning today.

Besides taking the classic Leaning Tower of Pisa photo, visitors are welcome to go inside the tower and climb all the way to the top for a short fee. There are breathtaking views of the surrounding area from up there. In Piazza del Duomo, you should also check out the Pisa Cathedral. This gorgeous medieval church was built before the tower and it’s absolutely free to go inside, but you need to pick up a ticket with timed entry from the nearby ticket booth.

Where to stay: The amazing Rinascimento Bed & Breakfast is located just 750 yards from the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the rooms come with beautifully painted ceilings which take you right back to the Renaissance times! Click here to check rates and availability

14. Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

The Duomo of Florence in Italy

Explored by Pam of The Directionally Challenged Traveler

Florence is a city filled with breathtaking architecture, stunning plazas, and wonderful art. However, one of the best things to see in Florence is the Duomo of Florence (AKA the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore). Duomo is an Italian word for a cathedral or Catholic church where the bishop is located. Construction of the Duomo started in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio with the goal of holding 30,000 worshippers.

While the entire complex is stunning, the highlight is the dome. The dome was built around 1417 by Filippo Brunelleschi. Since the dome is 140-feet wide, Brunelleschi had to create new tools and techniques so it wouldn’t collapse. In 1334, Giotto di Bondone designed the bell tower (or campanile). It has seven bells and is made of geometric shapes that could exist either as a group or individually.

You can climb 463 steps to the top of the Duomo for wonderful views, or you can climb Giotto’s Bell Tower instead to get a close-up aerial view of the Duomo. No matter which one you climb, you’ll be rewarded with amazing details both inside and out! For an amazing view of the Duomo and Florence as a whole, visit the Piazza del Michelangelo. You’ll see the entire city and will be in awe of the stunning architecture of Florence.

Where to stay: Located in the historic center, Solo Experience Hotel is only 400 yards from the Duomo and offers modern and cozy rooms that come with stunning views of Piazza San Lorenzo. Click here to check rates and availability

15. Piazzale Michelangelo, Florence

The View From Piazzale Michelangelo During Sunset in Florence, Italy

Explored by Carla of Travel By Carla Vianna

No Italy travel itinerary is complete without a stop in Florence — and no trip to Florence can go without a sunset at the Piazzale Michelangelo. The Piazzale Michelangelo is a famous plaza that sits atop a hill overlooking all of Florence. Visitors flock there at all hours of the day for a postcard-worthy view of the Tuscan capital and its iconic sites like the Duomo, Santa Croce, and Bargello & Badia.

Piazzale Michelangelo was founded in 1869 by Florentine architect Giuseppe Poggi. It was originally intended to showcase copies of Michelangelo’s artworks, which is why a bronze replica of his iconic piece David is found nearby. Today, the square is teeming with tourists and photographers looking for the best view of the city. At sunset, couples and groups of friends can be seen sharing bottles of wine while waiting for one of the greatest spectacles in all of Italy to begin. Watching the sun color the city and the surrounding Tuscan countryside in shades of orange and gold is truly a sight to behold. Florence is a city that’s already magnificent at face value. Seeing it from above at Piazzale Michelangelo simply multiplies the charm factor.

Getting to the Piazzale Michelangelo is easy. Visitors can either walk up, take a bus, or grab a taxi. It’s best to arrive early to snag a seat on the steps leading up to the view. Don’t forget to stop by a local shop to grab a bottle of Tuscan wine!

Where to stay: Plaza Hotel Lucchesi is only a 15-minute walk from the Piazzale Michelangelo and offers a breathtaking rooftop pool and bar with a panoramic view of the historical monuments nearby. Click here to check rates and availability

16. Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Ponte Vecchio During Sunset in Florence, Italy

Explored by Nicky of That Anxious Traveller

Florence is filled with some of Italy’s most iconic sights — and just as important as all those nude statues and enormous cathedrals is the Ponte Vecchio, the famous bridge that has straddled the Arno River since 1345. If you visit without putting a walk across this bridge on your Florence itinerary, then you simply haven’t done Florence properly.

Ponte Vecchio is quite literally in the heart of the city, connecting the gorgeous city center with the headquarters of the historical ruling family, the Medici’s Palazzo Pitti. In fact, if you squint hard, you’ll be able to see the enclosed passageway of Vasari’s Corridor stretching across the tops of the bridge’s buildings, which allowed the Medicis to cross the river without being seen!

The shops on the bridge originally belonged to various butchers, but after the Medicis got tired of animal corpses being dumped into the river, it was decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers could set up shop there. It’s remained the same to this day, with so many gold items in the windows that the bridge itself actually begins to shine gold in the reflection! Being one of Florence’s most popular sights, the bridge does tend to get pretty busy. If you’re looking for that perfect photo, however, get there early in the morning — alternatively, head to the neighboring bridge of Ponte Santa Trinita for a great view.

Where to stay: The cozy Locanda De' Ciompi is a 15-minute walk from Ponte Vecchio and is set in a beautiful 17th-century Florentine building. It's also just 5 minutes by foot from the Duomo! Click here to check rates and availability

17. Piazza del Duomo, San Gimignano

Piazza del Duomo in San Gimignano, Italy

Explored by Lori of Travlinmad

The idyllic Tuscan town of San Gimignano is one of the most famous Renaissance sites in Italy, and a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site — a definite Italy bucket list item. Dating back to the 12th century and probably long before, this town is known for its tall towers in Piazza del Duomo, the historic center of politics and religion. These towers were originally built between the 12th and 14th centuries by the ruling families of Florence as signs of their wealth and power.

Inside the Piazza del Duomo, you’ll also find the Basilica Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, which is worth a look inside, and the Torre Grossa, a 177 ft (54 m) tall tower which you can climb to the top. Your efforts will be well-rewarded with the most magnificent view of the city and the surrounding countryside!

One of the best ways to explore San Gimignano is on foot, and the narrow cobblestone streets will not only lead you to Piazza del Duomo but also to the adjacent Piazza della Cisterna, a triangular-shaped plaza with a central octagonal-shaped well. This piazza was formed at the junction of two very important roads at the time — the Via Francigena, a pilgrimage route that connected Canterbury to Rome, and the road from Pisa to Siena. It would have been a bustling place back in the days, but today, the piazzas are equally busy with tourists jostling for photo ops.

Where to stay: The super charming B&B I Coppi is only a 5-minute walk from Piazza del Duomo and the historic center. It also features a lovely garden and a rooftop terrace. Click here to check rates and availability

18. Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral), Siena

Siena Cathedral in Siena, Italy

Explored by Aswani of A Charming Escape

The Siena Cathedral (Duomo di Siena) is a 13th-century medieval church located in the beautiful city of Siena. It is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Tuscany and one of the must-visit famous landmarks in Italy. This cathedral was built between 1215 and 1263 and is a classic example of Gothic and Romanesque architecture.

While the exterior details, the facade, and the accompanying bell tower are all beautiful, the inside of the cathedral is even more impressive. Unlike the Duomo of Florence, the Siena Cathedral is filled with intricate details and artworks by Donatello, Michelangelo, and Bernini. The striped black and white marble pillars also make this cathedral impressive to look at.

While you’re inside the cathedral, be sure to look in all directions, including the gorgeously frescoed ceilings and the floor filled with great mosaics. Some of the must-visit attractions inside the cathedral are The Feast of Herod by Donatello, Saint Paul by Michelangelo, the impressive Piccolomini library, and the chapel of St John the Baptist. There are also plenty of other incredible things to do in Siena, including visiting Piazza del Campo.

Where to stay: B&B La Terrazza Sul Campo for an incredibly stunning balcony view of Piazza del Campo. Click here to check rates and availability or Residenza d'Epoca - Palazzo Borghesi if you want to stay in one of Siena's most historic buildings that was once home to nobles. The interior décors and original fresceos in the rooms are truly something else! Click here to check rates and availability

19. Torre del Moro, Orvieto

The View From Torre del Moro in Orvieto, Italy

Explored by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad

Torre del Moro is a 47 m (154ft) high tower in the city center of Orvieto, one of the most ancient cities in Italy dating all the way back to the 9th century BC. Built in the 13th century, this tower is a special landmark of the region because if you climb the 250 steps to the terrace, you’ll be rewarded with the most stunning 360° panoramic views of the entire city of Orvieto and the surrounding hills. It costs €5 to climb up and it’s absolutely worth it.

The tower stands in the heart of Orvieto on Via del Duomo, a street that will also lead you to the majestic Duomo di Orvieto (Orvieto Cathedral), which is just 4 minutes away by foot. Both the intricate exterior facade and the beautiful art inside this cathedral are worth checking out; they’re truly brilliant from every angle! A 10-minute walk from the tower is the Pozzo di San Patrizio (Well of St. Patrick), and you can go all the way down to the bottom of this historic well. There are also tons of cafes and restaurants around the Torre del Moro — you won’t be out of things to do when you’re in the area!

Orvieto is also famous for its abundance of vineyards and local wine. Walking around the historic center, you’ll come across a lot of shops offering you to taste their wine. There’s no better Italian experience than wandering the ancient cobblestone streets of Orvieto with a glass of wine in hand! You can also buy some locally produced truffles and olive oil to bring back as souvenirs.

Where to stay: It is very common and easy to visit Orvieto as a day trip from Rome. However, if you want to take it slowly and stay the night, La Casa Bianca is a cozy apartment located only 500 yards (457 m) from Torre del Moro. The interior is incredibly stylish, spacious, and clean, and it offers an absolutely breathtaking mountain view. Click here to check rates and availability

20. Civita di Bagnoregio

Civita di Bagnoregio, a Hilltop Village in Italy

Explored by Jade of The Migrant Yogi

Civita di Bagnoregio is one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Tuscia, a region of Italy just north of Rome. What makes Civita di Bagnoregio so special is its location — it is situated atop a tall plateau of volcanic tuff, and, due to the effects of erosion, is something of an island completely surrounded by land. If you find yourself in Rome, visiting is an easy day trip.

Similar to many islands, it is not possible to reach Civita di Bagnoregio by car — one must traverse the long pedestrian bridge on foot, so as to preserve the fragile nature of the hilltop village. Don’t expect any tour buses, either. Once you reach the end of the bridge, you must pay a nominal fee of €5, which goes toward the preservation of this magnificent place (and also helps out the few permanent residents with communal taxes).  

Unfortunately, Civita di Bagnoregio is in a perpetual state of danger due to wind and stream erosion. As such, it is affectionately known as La Città Che Muore (‘the Dying Town’) by its 12 permanent residents. In fact, there are more feline residents on this island than humans! While Civita di Bagnoregio was once a town, due to the buildings around the perimeter crumbling down the edges of the cliff, it is now a mere village. Be sure to respect the fragile nature of this place so that it can continue to be enjoyed for years to come!

Recommended Guide Tour of Civita di Bagnoregio: Civita di Bagnoregio: The Dying City Walking Tour which includes pick-up, drop off, round trip transfer, lunch, and entrance tickets

21. Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi), Rome

The Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

Explored by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad

Any trip to Italy would be incomplete without a stop in Rome, and any trip to Rome would be incomplete without a visit to the magnificent Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi). At 26 m (85 ft) tall and 49 m (160 ft) wide, this Baroque-style fountain is undoubtedly one of the most iconic places in Italy. It is located at the junction of three roads and was built on top of the aqueduct Acqua Vergine, one of Rome’s most important ancient water sources.

Before the Trevi Fountain was built, a much smaller and simpler fountain stood in its place. Then, in 1629, to demonstrate the capital’s cultural finesse, Pope Urban VIII commissioned Gian Lorenzo Bernini to start redesigning the fountain into the masterpiece that it is today. The Trevi Fountain was completed in 1762 and its design beautifully depicts Roman gods. It’s hard to look at this majestic structure without being in complete awe of its beauty; it’s one of those places you can see again and again and still feel as though you’re seeing it for the very first time.

It is only customary to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Legend has it that tossing one coin means you’ll come back to Rome, tossing two coins means you’ll come back and fall in love, and tossing three coins means you’ll return, fall in love, and marry. Whether or not you believe this legend, the coins go towards a great cause. Roughly €3,000 get thrown into the fountain every day, and all of them are collected every night to be given to an Italian charity that gives food to those in need.

Top Tip: Visit this fountain early in the morning, right after sunrise, to enjoy it in peace and take photos. It gets overwhelmingly crowded there during the day, to the point where it’s actually difficult to even walk around it. Visiting in the early hours is a lot more pleasant.

Where to stay: Otivm Hotel is a 10-minute walk from the fountain and other attractions in Rome. It features a rooftop bar with a breathtaking view of Piazza Venezia and other monuments nearby. Not to mention their friendly staff, clean and spacious rooms, and superb breakfast! Click here to check rates and availability

22. Colosseum, Rome

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

Explored by Jiayi of The Diary of a Nomad

The Colosseum is not only the main symbol of Rome and arguably of Italy as a whole; it’s also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. This is not surprising given that this majestic monument has almost 2,000 years of history and gives visitors an extraordinary glimpse into life during the Roman Empire. Construction of the Colosseum took place between 72 AD and 80 AD, and after it was built, it effortlessly took the title of the greatest amphitheater in the Roman world.

Standing 57 m (187 ft) tall and 156 m (511 ft) wide, the Colosseum served as the main entertainment venue of the Roman Empire, allowing more than 50,000 people to watch the infamous gladiators fight each other (or exotic animals). The games went on for over 500 years, all the way until the 6th century. Since then, the structure was hit with earthquakes, lootings, and bombings during WWII. Though this amphitheater provided great entertainment for the Roman people, it also has an often overlooked dark side. In fact, over 500,000 people and 1 million wild animals have lost their lives during the gladiator battles, and the gladiators themselves were treated like slaves — marginalized people without rights to citizenship.

The Colosseum, along with the Vatican, is one of Rome’s biggest tourist attractions, so unless you book tickets in advance, you will be standing in line for hours. I highly recommend going with a guided tour that allows you to skip the ticket line. You can choose between a regular 3-hour Colosseum Walking Tour, a Colosseum VIP Tour that gives you access to restricted areas such as the Arena, or a combined Colosseum + Roman Forum + Palatine Hill Tour.

Where to stay: The Colosseum Corner is just a 4-minute walk from the Colosseum and offers spectacular views of this monument (along with Piazza Venezia) right from your window! The rooms are also very clean and spacious, and the staff is super lovely. Click here to check rates and availability

23. St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, Italy

Explored by Elisa of France Bucket List

The St. Peter’s Basilica is the heart of the Catholic Church, where the pope celebrates mass and many other Catholic holidays and occasions. It is located in Vatican City — so not on Italian soil — but any trip to Italy would be incomplete without visiting the Vatican’s main sights.

Built in the 16th century, the St. Peter’s Basilica was constructed on the spot believed to mark the burial place of St. Peter. Before the construction of the current Basilica, other buildings stood in its place and have been home to all popes except during the Avignon Papacy, when the Catholic Church was ruled from Avignon. Built in the Renaissance style, the St. Peter’s Basilica that visitors see today is the result of many contributions by different architects sponsored by different popes. Perhaps the most outstanding element of the Basilica is Michelangelo’s dome, which was inspired by the Florence Cathedral’s dome, designed a century earlier by Brunelleschi.

Another outstanding element of the basilica is the main plaza in front of it, the majestic St. Peter’s Square. This plaza is delimited by a covered gallery, and both of them were designed by Lorenzo Bernini in Baroque style as the “entrance hall” of the Basilica. Make sure to climb to the dome (cupola) of the Basilica to get an unbelievable view of the entire St. Peter’s Square. It takes around 550 steps to reach the top, but you can take an elevator for half of the journey. Do this climb in the morning (before exploring the Basilica itself) to avoid the long lines and crowds!

Where to stay: The Relais Vatican View has a cozy rooftop terrace that offers stunning panoramic views of the St. Peter’s Basilica. Click here to check rates and availability or Vatican Style Guesthouse for large, comfy suites that come with jacuzzis! Click here to check rates and availability

Famous Landmarks in Italy: Southern Italy

24. Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius and the City of Naples in Italy

Explored by Anda of Travel For A While

Mount Vesuvius is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Italy. Those images of Naples Bay, dominated by the dormant volcano appear in almost every yearly calendar, postcard, and magnet in Southern Italy. And who could deny its attraction?

The volcano is a symbol of the destructive power that crushed the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum 2,000 years ago. At the same time, the volcanic soil provided the perfect conditions for growing fruits and vegetables. Not to mention the wine that came out of the region’s grapes. People have ignored the dangers of the volcano for hundreds of years to benefit from its rich soil.

A hike on the Vesuvius is the best way to see Naples Bay from the highest point. To get to the parking lot at the start of the trail, there are shuttle buses from both Herculaneum and Pompeii. The walk up to the crater takes about 30 minutes and you can do it regardless of your fitness level. Just walk slowly and bring some water with you as there are some steep slopes along the way!

Where to stay: The nearby gorgeous town of Sorrento is a great base to explore Mt. Vesuvius as well as the beautiful Amalfi Coast. But if you want to stay closer to the volcano, Dream House Pompei has a very dreamy terrace complete with a jacuzzi and a stunning view of the Vesuvius. Click here to check rates and availability

25. Pompeii

The Ancient City of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius in Italy

Explored by Mal of Raw Mal Roams 

Pompeii is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world, which consists of a whole city dating back to 79 AD. This city has been literally buried alive when the nearby volcano Mount Vesuvius suddenly erupted, causing large-scale devastation in the surrounding areas.

Pompeii had been buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash for years until a surveying engineering discovered it in the 18th century. Today, we can learn a lot about the extraordinary lives of the people of Pompeii because a lot of artifacts have been preserved and survived all these years. It’s really fascinating to learn that the people of Pompeii spoke many languages, traded with remote parts of the world, and even had fast-food restaurants!

Tickets to the Pompeii Archaeological Site cost €11, and it’s best visited with a qualified tour guide that can bring all of Pompeii’s juicy secrets back to life. The closest international airport for visiting Pompeii is situated in Naples, where you can also find a good range of accommodations and restaurants. Another excellent base for exploring Pompeii is the coastal resort of Sorrento, located south on the Bay of Naples. Both locations are well connected, with a direct train that takes under an hour.

Recommended Guide Tours of Pompeii: Pompeii: Small-Group Tour with an Archeologist | From Naples: Pompeii Ruins & Mount Vesuvius Day Tour | From Naples: Skip-the-Line Pompeii and Vesuvius Tour | Naples or Sorrento: Full-Day Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius Tour

26. Positano, Amalfi Coast

The Coastal Scenery of Positano in Amalfi Coast, Italy

Explored by Chrysoula of Travel Passionate

The colorful town of Positano lies perched on a cliffside of the Amalfi Coast, terracotta-roofed houses tumbling down the hillside towards the water. This really is one of the most picture-perfect places in the country, allowing travelers to wander through the Ancient Roman villas and fresh boho boutiques of the town before stopping to dine al fresco on the coast.

Sights within the region include the tiled-domed Church of Santa Maria Assunta, the Roman Archaeological Museum, the God’s Path walk (with breathtaking vistas!), and a choice of beaches including Laurito, Arienzo, and Spiaggia Grande. When visiting Positano you’ll also want to make sure you get out on the water as this is the very best way to take in the photogenic landscape of the town and the surrounding cliffs. A short day-cruise will allow you to feel the breeze in your hair while you admire the azure Amalfi Coast waters and the colorful architecture beyond.

Positano is an ideal place for travelers seeking a chic Italian getaway, with fine dining, stylish boutique shops, luxury hotels, and a number of great bars and beaches. It’s also an excellent stopping point on an Amalfi Coast road trip, taking in the towns of Amalfi, Ravello, and Vietri sul Mare en route.

Where to stay: Casa Guadagno is a stunning Airbnb with a superb view of the coastline from the balcony. It's also just a few minutes walk to Fornillo Beach! Click here to check rates and availability or Casa Nilde which is just 15 minutes to the sea and the city center. Lots of restaurants, shops and bars surround it, and they also have rooms with balcony seaviews! Click here to check rates and availability

27. Blue Grotto, Capri

Blue Waters in the Blue Grotto of Capri, Italy

Explored by Lori of Travlinmad

The breathtaking isle of Capri off the Sorrentine peninsula in Southern Italy is known for its celebrity sightings, high-end designer shops, and casually elegant eateries. But so many of the fun things to do in Capri revolve around the water — in, on, or around the island’s crystal blue waters are opportunities to experience the luxe Italian life of la dolce vita.

Tucked into the nooks and crannies of the island’s volcanic rocky coastline is a series of caves and grottos, perfect for exploring and swimming. The most famous of them all is the Grotta Azzurra, or the Blue Grotto. The Blue Grotto is one of the most popular attractions of the region, and taking a boat tour to see the unusual glowing blue water in the cave is an experience not to be missed. You can join a small boat tour for a nominal fee of around €20/$25 USD or charter your own private boat, but no matter how you get there, you will eventually have to transfer to a much smaller rowboat, while your bigger ride waits outside.

Carrying just a few passengers at a time, you’ll need to lie down flat in the boat so it can fit inside the narrowest entrance. If seas are rough, boats may opt not to enter for the safety of passengers, but if you’re blessed with good weather, an amazing treat awaits you inside. As you glide through the entrance, the sunlight rays from the rocky bottom illuminate the water and the water glows the most beautiful blue. It’s truly an amazing sight and an experience you’ll never forget.

Where to stay: This Airbnb is the best one in Capri as it comes with a terrace that offers incredible views of the sea and mountains. It also has a pool, sunbeds, and is surrounded by lots of bars and restaurants! Click here to check rates and availability or If you prefer a hotel, Casa Di Capri has an amazing ambience, is close to tons of shops, and is a 10-min walk to a local beach. Click here to check rates and availability

28. Sassi di Matera

Sassi di Matera in Puglia, Italy

Explored by Stacy of What Stacy Did

Located on the border of Basilicata and Puglia, the ancient city of Matera is a true gem and one of the most interesting places in Italy. Its history dates back tens of thousands of years and on the surface, very little has changed. In fact, besides Petra in Jordan, Matera is the second-longest continuously inhabited settlement in history. The city looks so unchanged that it was used as the main film set in Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ.

Matera is famous for its sassi, the historic heart of the city made up of cave dwellings built into the mountains. These caves dwellings remained untouched until 1952 when the government ordered them to be evacuated due to poverty and disease that spread there. Sadly, the peasant population lived in these caves with their large families and animals in pretty poor conditions. After the evacuations, Matera went from ‘the shame of Italy’ to a UNESCO World Heritage Site and even the European Capital Of Culture in 2019. There truly is nowhere else on earth quite like the Sassi di Matera and it is an absolute must-visit landmark in Italy. 

Many of the caves in Matera have now been restored and made habitable once again, with plenty of them serving as hotels and Airbnbs nowadays. If you want to really experience Matera and all its history, make sure to book a night or two in one of its cave hotels. If the budget allows, then Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita will allow you to experience the caves in true style!

Where to stay: Locanda Di San Martino Hotel & Thermae Romanae is another fantastic cave hotel that's more affordable than the one mentioned above and also offers a unique and superb hydromassage indoor swimming pool, sauna and Turkish bath. Click here to check rates and availability

29. The Cliffs of Polignano a Mare

The Cliffs of Polignano a Mare in Puglia, Italy

Explored by Anda of Travel For A While

Italy doesn’t lack spectacular sights, but the cliffs of Polignano a Mare are up there at the top of the list. Polignano is a small town close to Bari in the Italian region of Puglia. You can easily reach it via a 30-minute train ride from Bari’s Central Station or by car if you’re planning a road trip in Puglia. Once you get to Polignano a Mare, you’ll be amazed by the white-washed houses hanging on top of the limestone cliffs.

First, head to the Roman Bridge, part of the ancient Via Traiana leading to Rome. From the bridge, you’ll get the first glimpse of the most famous spot in Polignano a Mare: Cala Monachile. The iconic Cala Monachile Beach, nestled between high cliffs, is stunning from any point of view. It’s also a good place to go for a swim and explore the caves beneath the cliffs on Polignano. Just take care as you walk, as the pebbles on the beach aren’t too friendly with your feet.

After the beach, explore the rest of Polignano a Mare at your leisure. It is a charming place with decorated alleys and beautiful sea views everywhere. You’ll find many coffee shops and restaurants along the way too. For a unique experience, book a table at Grotta Palazzese, a beautiful restaurant hidden in a cave above the sea.

Where to stay: Masseria Le Torri has a super charming ambience with a stunning outdoor pool, greeneries, and views of the sea and garden from some of its cozy rooms. Guests can also enjoy horseback riding, diving, and fishing in its surrounding areas! Click here to check rates and availability

30. The Trulli of Alberobello

The Trulli Houses of Alberobello in Puglia, Italy

Explored by Stacy of What Stacy Did

Alberobello is a small village nestled in the Itria Valley of the Puglia region in Southern Italy, and it is most famous for its trulli houses. These unique little white structures with their conical roofs and local limestone walls are an icon of Puglia — you won’t find them anywhere else in the world. They dot the Puglian landscape, but nowhere more so than in Alberobello. This village is in fact awash with trulli; there are over 1,500 of them there and they attract tourists the world over. These conical houses are so distinctive and individual that UNESCO added them to their World Heritage List in 1996.

So, how did these unique buildings come to be in Puglia? Trulli date back to the 1500s, when the Acquaviva family ruled this region of Puglia. The family wanted to avoid paying property taxes to the king, so they ordered the local peasants to build their houses without mortar so that they could be dismantled quickly should the king decide he wanted to do an inspection. Thankfully, despite being designed to be easily pulled down, there are still a large number of trulli intact. Today, these iconic buildings are incredibly popular as places to stay as many of them have been turned into hotels.

Whether or not you choose to stay in one, they really are one of the must-see famous landmarks in Italy! Pro tip: arrive early to Alberobello (before 9 am) if you want to enjoy it in peace as it does get very busy during the day with coaches of tourists.

Where to stay: The unique Trulli Caroli is surrounded by the calming Puglia countryside and olive groves and is only a 10-minute drive from Alberobello. The food is also incredible and the hosts are extremely friendly! Click here to check rates and availability

31. Piazza del Duomo, Lecce

Piazza del Duomo in Lecce, Italy

Explored by Paul of The Two That Do

Amongst Italy’s countless number of famous landmarks, Lecce’s stunning Piazza del Duomo is often overlooked. However, boasting numerous fine examples of Baroque architecture, it fully deserves to be on any Italy bucket list. The gorgeous town of Lecce, often referred to as the ‘Florence of the South’ due to the splendid architecture of its Old Town, is located in Puglia, in the heel of Italy. With origins dating back to Emperor Hadrian, Lecce is a city with over 2,000 years of history.

The Piazza del Duomo in Lecce was built in the early 15th century and is located in the western part of the Old Town, less than a 5-minute walk from the central Piazza Sant’Oronzo, another fabulous landmark with Roman Amphitheater remains and the impressive Oronzo Column. Unusually, Piazza del Duomo is fully enclosed on three sides with access only possible from the northern side from Via Giuseppe Libertini. As you enter the piazza via this small gateway, it opens before you — enhancing its grandeur.

Standing in the center of the piazza, surrounded by architectural delights such as the Lecce Cathedral, the adjacent Campanile (Bell Tower), and the Bishops Palace, you will be inevitably struck by its sheer beauty. Visit in the early hours of the morning when few others are around; despite its stately nature, you will also feel an intimacy not experienced at many other such landmarks.

Where to stay: Sui Tetti Luxury Rooms is perfectly located right in the Old Town and offers a magical panoramic terrace with a hot tub. The rooms are very clean and stylish, and the staff is warm and friendly! Click here to check rates and availability

32. Ancient Greek Theater, Taormina

The Ancient Greek Theater in Taormina, Sicily, Italy

Explored by Veronika of Travel Geekery

The Ancient Greek Theater should be on top of anyone’s list of things to do in Taormina, a beautiful town in Northeastern Sicily. It’s also the second-largest amphitheater in all of Sicily. Originally built in the 3rd century BC, the purpose of the theater was to host dramatic and musical performances, as well as gladiator battles. The Greeks built it straight into the rock of Taormina’s hillside.

Later, the Romans expanded the theater by adding columns, statues, and decorative features. While there are still some musical performances hosted at the venue nowadays, it mostly serves as an ancient tourist destination — one that’s remarkably preserved. Thanks to the positioning of the Greek Theater, the views you get from there are absolutely stunning. In fact, you can see the Mediterranean coast spreading out into the distance and, on a clear day, even Mount Etna.

The entrance to the theater costs €10. If you’re visiting Taormina on a day trip by car, don’t forget to leave the car at a designated parking lot outside the city borders.

Where to stay: The splendid Hotel Sirius is just 0.6 mi (0.9 km) from the city center of Taormina and 15 mins away from the beautiful beaches of Mazzarò and Isola Bella. They also have a stunning outdoor pool and terraces with breathtaking views of the sea and Sicilian coastline. Click here to check rates and availability

33. Mount Etna, Sicily

A Crater in Mount Etna, Sicily, Italy

Explored by Réka of Pairound The World

At 3,350 m (10,990 ft) high, Mount Etna is an active volcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy. You can go up to around 2,920 m (almost reaching the top), sit down on the small lava stones, look around, and enjoy the amazing silence around you. It’s truly a life-changing experience!

If you’re getting there by car, the highest point you can drive to is the Rifugio Sapienza Hotel at 1,900 m high. You can also reach this hotel by bus from Catania, which would take around 2 hours (a return ticket costs €7). Usually, there’s one bus in the morning to take you to Etna and the same bus in the afternoon can bring you back to Catania.

From the Rifugio Sapienza Hotel, you can continue your journey up Etna to around 2,500 m with a cable car. A return ticket costs €30 per person, and once you get off the cable car, you’ll see a small restaurant where you can buy some sandwiches and hot drinks. From there, you can continue your journey up to 2,920 m high with 4×4 buses and a guide (you’re not allowed to go up without a guide). Be sure to always check the weather forecast on the day you want to do this trip because if it gets windy, the cable car won’t be running. The weather in Etna can be very different from Catania, so bring a warm jacket and some sunscreen.

Where to stay: The Rifugio Sapienza Hotel really is the most convenient option as it's right next to the cable car going up to Etna, has an amazing breakfast, and also offers free ski storage. Click here to check rates and availability

34. Valley of the Temples, Agrigento

The Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, Sicily, Italy

Explored by Alexandrina of EarthOSea

The Valley of the Temples is one of the most well-preserved archaeological complexes in the world and is located in the southernmost part of Sicily, in a small city named Agrigento. This complex dates back to the 6th century BC and houses the remains of seven Doric order temples. The most beautiful and well-kept one is the Temple of Concordia, which was built in the 4th century BC and turned into a church in the 6th century. This played a large role in preserving the structure.

In the Valley of the Temples, you can also find the temples of Juno (Hera in Greek) and Zeus, both of which are very famous in Greek mythology. The Temple of Zeus was the biggest temple of them all, but unfortunately, there isn’t much left of it today except for some columns, which were carved to look like giant atlases (sculptures in the form of a man). Right next to the Temple of Zeus are the remains of the Temple of Heracles, another one of the biggest temples in the Valley. Last but not least, there are the Temples of the Dioscuri — Castor and Pollux, which unfortunately haven’t been very well-preserved.

The Valley of the Temples is a jaw-dropping archaeological complex full of artifacts and incredible ancient monuments. It costs €16 to enter the complex, which is open from 8:30 am to 8:00 pm. You can also stay right inside the Valley of the Temples, in Hotel Villa Athena, which is just 200 yards (182 m) from the Temple of Concordia. The location of this hotel can’t get any better as you can get really gorgeous closeup views of the temples right from the rooms and relax in their outdoor pool and wellness center as well!

Where to stay: Hotel Villa Athena as mentioned above to really immerse yourself in this historical place, but if you prefer somewhere a bit cheaper, then La Terrazza di Empedocle is just a 10-min drive away and has an absolutely breathtaking view of the whole city, the sea, and the temples from its stunning 12th floor terrace. Click here to check rates and availability

35. Cala Luna, Sardinia

Cala Luna Beach in Sardinia, Italy

Explored by Claudia of Strictly Sardinia

Cala Luna is a small cove located on the Gulf of Orosei, on the eastern coast of Sardinia. Considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and undoubtedly one of the best beaches in Sardinia, it’s the kind of place that requires a bit of an effort to get to — but it’s completely worth it.

There are no roads that can take you to Cala Luna. You can only get there by boat — either via a direct or a hop-on hop-off boat tour along the coast. Alternatively, you can reach it by hiking. There are various trails that will take you there. The most popular one starts in Cala Fuili, a small cove a few km outside of Cala Gonone. This is a moderate hike of around 16 km (9.9 mi) roundtrip. You would be walking through a thick forest of Mediterranean bushes for the most part, and will eventually reach a viewpoint which will reward you with stunning views of the beach.

Right behind Cala Luna, there’s a river estuary that is usually dry during the summer season. The beach is free to access, and there’s just one place where you can rent pedal boats or kayaks. On the left-hand side of the beach, there are a few beautiful caves that provide shelter from the sun and the heat. Children love Cala Luna for its beautiful clear waters, but keep in mind that the water is immediately deep so watch out if they can’t swim! The best starting point for visiting Cala Luna is Cala Gonone. You will have no shortage of good accommodations and dining options there. For excellent seafood, head straight to Il Pescatore — reservations recommended.

Where to stay: The beachfront Hotel Cala Luna overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and offers a beautiful terrace with sunbeds and incredible coastal views. They also have three amazing restaurants and a spa & wellness center. Click here to check rates and availability or If you prefer a hotel with a big outdoor pool and stunning mountain views, Hotel La Playa is also very close to the beaches and seaside and is a great alternative option. Click here to check rates and availability

36. Old Town of Alghero, Sardinia

Sunset Over the City of Alghero in Sardinia, Italy

Explored by Réka of Pairound The World

The charming city of Alghero is located in the northwestern part of Sardinia. It’s far from an ordinary city, and the secret lies in its history. The walls and bastions surrounding the Alghero’s Old Town were built by the Aragonese between the 14th and 16th centuries. Hundreds of years of Spanish influence can still be felt in the city to this day. In fact, a lot of buildings in the Old Town have Catalan flags waving in the wind. It is truly a unique experience to wander an Italian city where the Algherese Catalan is the mother tongue of a quarter of the population.

The Old Town of Alghero will enchant you. Walking around, you’ll come across winding cobblestone streets, houses with small windows, colorful clothes hanging outside to dry — some truly Italian sights. Then, you turn the corner and see the Catalan flag on the wall of a local pizzeria where you can order Crema Catalana (Catalan Cream). It may throw you off at first, but you’re definitely still in Italy! The local cuisine is an amazing mixture of the Sardinian and Catalan cuisines, and there are plenty of delicious dining options in the Old Town.

There are many affordable accommodations in Alghero — you can spend some nights in a small apartment in the Old Town overlooking the seaside and watch the sunset from your balcony. The next day, you can walk down to the harbor and get a ticket for a cruise. Whether it’s dolphin watching, snorkeling, or cruising to the nearby Neptune’s Caves, it’ll be an unforgettable experience!

Where to stay: Double B Maison De Charme is a scenic 10-minute walk to the Old Town and is also very close to the nearby beaches. What makes it special is that you can get a spacious suite with a jacuzzi in the room itself! They also have a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy some wine while watching the sunset. Click here to check rates and availability

I hope this guide on the most epic famous landmarks in Italy has given you some inspiration for your next trip! For other European destinations, check out my Seville, London, and Baku travel guides!

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10 Comments

  • thestrollingshutter October 5, 2020 at 1:47 pm

    All of them look so amazing! Awesome post!

    • Ramya Pandey October 16, 2020 at 11:35 am

      Italy is beautiful, especially with all these natural marvels. This road trip definitely sounds like a lot of fun. I would love to visit Cinque Terre and watch the sunset. The beach of Cala Luna also looks inviting.

  • Kelly October 7, 2020 at 6:33 pm

    I have been to a few places on this list, but this just shows me how much of Italy I have yet to visit still! I would love to spend some time by the lakes and also on the coast. I have spent a week in Tuscany, but still haven’t made it to Rome yet either!

  • Kristina October 14, 2020 at 11:50 pm

    I love Italy so much – so many picturesque places to choose from. Cannot wait until we can travel again!

  • Planet Hopper Girl October 15, 2020 at 11:19 am

    It’s a wonderfully written blog. And especially the pictures that you clicked are so beautiful and professional. Wouldn’t it be a delight to spend few days in Manorola, Cinque Terre and sit down there and see the sunset along with this beautiful colors with a glass of Italian wine 🙂

  • Jacqueline Le October 15, 2020 at 11:32 am

    Um, wow! I have been to Italy about 6 times and thought I had seen it all. Nope! Thanks for the tips, I am definitely adding some of these to my itinerary for the next trip to Italy. Especially Civita Di Bagnoregio, it looks unreal!

  • James Mellor October 15, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    This would be an epic road trip. We’ve just come back from a month long roadtrip in Italy so it’s nice to look back at some of the places we visited, but now I need to go back and fill in the gaps!

  • Taylor October 16, 2020 at 5:59 pm

    What beautiful photos and a great list. I didn’t know about the Castle in Sirmione. Great share!

  • Pamela October 16, 2020 at 7:11 pm

    All of these are absolutely incredible my favorite would have to be the Dolomites. The mountains are breathtaking

  • Agnes October 17, 2020 at 7:35 pm

    What a great list, so inspiring! The views and architecture are breathtaking. So epic. I dream of the Dolomites, Sirmione Castle, Ravenna, Pompeii, and more.

  • Leave a Reply

    Welcome to my travel blog!

    I'm Jiayi, a Chinese-Italian photographer and writer who has no idea where to call home. What I do know is I'm most in my element when I'm in a new country, immersed in a new culture. To me, it's one of the most humbling, educational, and valuable experiences one can have! I've lived in 5 continents, visited 60 countries, and plan to never stop. I hope my detailed guides and itineraries will be useful in helping you plan your next big trip! Make sure to subscribe if you don't want to miss my new articles. Happy travels! :)

    x Jiayi

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