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Welcome to breathtaking Italy! The land of pizza, pasta, and good wine offers you endless opportunities to explore the rich cultural and historical heritage.
There are so many attractions here worth visiting: from the famous Baroque Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon Temple in Rome, through the natural beauties of Lake Como, the Dolomites, and the Alps to the sandy beaches in the south of the country that are lapped by the Mediterranean Sea.
Visit Italy to see ruins from the time of the Roman Empire, as well as churches, museums, and galleries where you can admire breathtaking paintings and sculptures. Here are 15 top-rated tourist attractions in this magnificent country.
1. Sense the Artistic and Religious Center of Italy
The Vatican, the smallest country in the world located in Rome, has one of the most visited European museums. The Vatican Museum was founded in the 16th century, and today it records about 6 million visitors a year as one of the biggest tourist attractions in Italy.
A whole complex consists of dozens of galleries also featuring unique Roman sculptures and an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian objects.
The Vatican Museum is best known for its painting galleries where you can see Renaissance and Baroque works by top artists such as Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci. In the Museum of Contemporary Art, you will be delighted by the works of Salvador Dali, Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso, and other famous painters.
A true spectacle is a tour of the Sistine Chapel, with beautiful Michelangelo frescoes and a stunningly painted ceiling that will leave you speechless.
If you have time, in addition to visiting the Vatican Museum, visit the marvelous St. Peter’s Basilica and climb to the top for a breathtaking view of Rome.
2. Visit a Top Attraction at the Wonderful Water World in Genoa, Italy
Did you know that the Genoa Aquarium is home to more than 500 species of animals? With about a million visitors a year, the Aquarium of Genoa has become one of the most visited Italian tourist attractions.
It takes you about 3-4 hours to tour the Aquarium. You can see a show with dolphins, various species of penguins in the Ice Kingdom that mimics the conditions in Antarctica and enjoy a 3D movie about sharks.
The glory of Genoa was brought to the world by famous sailors, among whom the most famous is Christopher Columbus. For a complete Genoa experience, visit the Galata Maritime Museum, where you can learn more about sailing, see galleys and a real submarine.
3. Feel the Authentic Spirit of the City of Canals
Magical Venice is a pearl of the Mediterranean. Channels, gondoliers, and a romantic atmosphere are trademarks of the city. But in Venice, apart from the gondola ride along the Grand canal, there are also two hotspots that attract many visitors.
Doge’s Palace or Palazzo Ducale is a 14th-century Gothic palace. It was the seat of the leaders of the Venetian republic, and today it has been turned into a museum.
It is located on St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), known for its beautiful decorations. You can see numerous sculptures on the facade, as well as works of Titian, Tintoretto, and other notable artists in the interior of the palace.
St. Mark’s basilica is another popular place in Venice. It was built in the 11th century as the chapel of the Doge of Venice. After the Crusades in 1204, relics from Constantinople were brought to it.
In the Museum of St. Mark and the treasury of the basilica, you can see mosaics, Persian carpets, objects made of gold and silver, as well as glass products of Venetian and Byzantine craftsmen.
Book your dates for a tour of the basilica with an expert guide here.
4. Explore Ancient Ruins in Rome
The Colosseum is a symbol of the “eternal city,” one of the seven wonders of the world, best attractions in Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in the 1st century and represented the largest amphitheater in the world, which attracts close to 7 million visitors every year. Gladiator fights and animal shows have been held there for centuries.
In addition to the standard visit to the stands of the Colosseum, make sure to book an exciting tour of Hypogeum, an underground area. In those underground rooms, gladiators were preparing before taking the wooden elevator to the stage in search of glory in front of 70,000 enthusiastic spectators.
The Roman Forum is positioned near the Colosseum. Palaces, the senate, courts, and markets were located on this former square. There was a business and shopping center in Rome.
Those who would come to Rome for the first time enthusiastically watched the grandiose statues of Roman emperors and imposing marble buildings. Today, the Roman Forum is one of the most important archaeological sites in Italy.
Interestingly, it is followed by another important site that you can visit as part of the same tour next to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. It is Palatine Hill, one of the seven Roman hills.
Roman emperors built palaces and temples there, so this place is considered the oldest part of Rome. Visit the House of Augustus, the remains of the palace of the first Roman emperor, on the walls of which you can still see painted frescoes.
In the Palatine Museum, you will see numerous objects found during the archaeological excavations of ancient Rome.
5. Take a Boat Tour to the Impressive Capri Island
A little south of Naples lays the beautiful Sorrento peninsula, with a charming town of the same name. Stroll through the narrow streets of Sorrento, stop by one of the many small workshops, or simply indulge in the view of the imposing cliffs emerging from the turquoise Tyrrhenian Sea.
A day trip to the island of Capri is a great idea! Rent a small boat to sail around this beautiful island. It is also an excellent place for snorkeling, and you can also see amazing sea caves in the vicinity. You will surely remember the visit to the Blue Grotto cave for a long time!
In the many bays on the Sorrento Peninsula, you can also explore lovely small beaches, where you can relax and enjoy without dealing with the big crowds.
Explore Capri and find more fun activities on the Sorrento Peninsula here.
6. Savor a Stunning Archipelago With Exotic Beaches and Other Attractions of Italy
Sardinia is a beautiful Italian island in the Mediterranean. It is an excellent destination for summer vacation, thanks to the clear water and numerous sandy beaches, like those on the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast).
The towns of Alghero, Cagliari, and Sassari are lovely and worth a visit. But what makes Sardinia so unique is the incredible La Maddalena archipelago National park, located between Sardinia and Corsica.
La Maddalena, Spargi, Santo Stefano, and 60 other islands make this archipelago look more like the Caribbean than the Mediterranean. Take a custom boat tour and explore the islands you want with local guides.
Indulge in snorkeling or sunbathing on one of the many fine sand beaches, such as Bassa Trinita beach and Spiaggia Rosa, the pink beach. If you are in good shape after the cruise, you can explore the hiking trails on the island of Caprera.
7. Take a Walk Through a City That Has Long Been Hidden Under Volcanic Ash
Start your day in Naples by drinking your morning coffee in one of the many bars in the city. After that, you can go on a day trip to the wondrous Pompeii as part of a guided tour.
This ancient Roman town was founded in the 8th century BC and was so superior for that time. It had an urban plan, an aqueduct, and the city was a trading center with luxury villas, olive groves, and vineyards. Until October 24, 79 AD.
On that day, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius destroyed the city. In just three days, Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum were covered with as much as 6 meters of volcanic ash. Layers of ashes preserved everything as it was on that fateful day.
Pompeii was of great importance to scientists in gaining new knowledge about how the people lived 20 centuries ago. A visit to Pompeii ruins will definitely leave a strong impression on you. Guides can also take you to the edge of the crater of Mount Vesuvius, from where you can have an incredible view of the entire Bay of Naples.
End an exciting journey with dinner at one of the Neapolitan pizzerias. Visit the Royal Palace of Naples, the San Carlo Theatre, and the National Archaeological Museum if you have more days available.
8. Experience the Top Attraction of the Magnificent Duomo in Italy
After St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Duomo Cathedral is the second-largest Catholic church in Italy. It is located in the city square Piazza del Duomo in Milan, the world capital of fashion.
The construction of Duomo began in the 14th century. It is recognizable by its specific gothic style, numerous towers, and more than 3,000 sculptures. Interestingly, the famous army leader Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned in the Duomo.
If you buy a special ticket, you can go to the terrace on the rooftop of the Duomo cathedral and enjoy a beautiful view, which will surely stay carved in your memory for a long time.
In Milan, you can also visit the impressive “La Scala” opera house, as well as Sforza Castle with several fantastic museums. Milan is a city of fashion and football, so here you can find stores of world-famous fashion brands, or you can visit the fantastic San Siro football stadium.
9. Tour One of the 7 Wonders of the Medieval World
Did you know that the Leaning Tower of Pisa is almost 900 years old? The construction of the tower began in the 12th century, with the intention of building a high bell tower next to the existing cathedral.
However, due to a poorly done foundation, construction was suspended. The work continued two centuries later.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 12 floors and is about 56 meters high. It has been under UNESCO protection for more than 30 years. If you were wondering how crooked the Leaning Tower of Pisa is, the answer is 5.5 percent. Quite enough to be one of the biggest tourist attractions in Italy and one of the most photographed locations in this beautiful country.
Don’t forget to visit the National Museum of Pisa, where you can see sculptures and paintings from the Middle Ages. The Pisa Baptistery of St. John will delight you with its beautiful facade and decorations.
At the end of your visit to Pisa, stop by Gelateria De Coltelli for top-quality ice cream enriched with various flavors.
10. Go to the Edge of the Etna’s Crater
Did you know that Mt. Etna is the largest and most active volcano in Europe? And best of all, you can climb to the very top at 3,340 meters above sea level and enjoy an amazing experience and a fantastic view!
For your own safety, do not climb alone. Local guides can organize an unforgettable tour for you, by crossing part of the way by cable car and part of the way by jeep.
When you reach 2,900 meters above sea level, you still have an hour and a half to walk to the very edge of the crater. Wow! How great it is to stand one step away from such a powerful force!
Sicily is a wonderful destination for vacation and exploration. Below Etna is the city of Catania, with beautiful Baroque buildings and a lively Via Etnea street with many cafés and shops. Catania is a university center, and where there are young people, there is also good nightlife.
If you like history, visit the Palermo Archaeological Museum and The Valley of Temples in Agrigento, where you will see the remains of Greek temples.
Find more historical activities, nature hikes and interesting tours near Mt. Etna here.
11. Take a Tour Into the Top Museums, Attractions and Palaces of Tuscany, Italy
Incredible Tuscany. Green hills, endless vineyards, and cities-museums like Siena and San Gimignano. One such of Tuscan beautiful cities and top attractions in Italy is Florence. The old town, which houses museums, is a true heaven for lovers of art and history.
Get to know Florence in Piazza Della Signoria. This square is practically an open-air museum with numerous sculptures. It also houses the famous Uffizi Gallery, with a rich collection of Renaissance art. The works of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, and other masters of painting are viewed by more than a million and a half tourists every year.
Walk across the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, which has withstood floods and other adversity for centuries. It was even the only bridge in the city that survived the devastation during World War II.
Near the bridge is the Renaissance Pitti Palace, with a beautiful garden. It used to be the residence of Napoleon and the King of Italy, and today it is an art gallery with several museums.
Enjoy discovering all the best sights and flavors of Tuscany on a top-rated vineyard and more tour here.
12. Let the Beauty of the Rocky Riviera Fascinate You
The Amalfi Coast is located south of the Gulf of Naples, near the island of Capri. There are 13 small towns and villages along the 50 kilometers of steep coast. Due to its specific architectures and natural beauties, the Amalfi Coast has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thus a top attraction in Italy.
Colorful houses arranged one above the other is a detail that is common to all places along the Amalfi Coast. Some places are so close to one another that you can walk between them.
The most visited spot on the Amalfi Coast is Positano. There is also the fishing village of Praiano, then Maiori with a wide beach, and Amalfi, the town after which the entire Riviera got its name.
Make sure to visit Ravello, because this place offers the most beautiful views of the coastline and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Also, there you can see the beautiful gardens of Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone.
13. Roam Within Picturesque Coastal Villages and Attractions in Italy
Cinque Terre National Park is located in the northwestern part of Italy, on the shores of the Ligurian Sea.
The first impression is that it looks similar to the Amalfi Coast. You can see steep cliffs rising from the sea and a multitude of colorful houses on them. The Cinque Terre consists of five charming villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare.
Due to the lack of parking spaces, you can only get to these villages by train from La Spezia. There aren’t any museums, palaces, and churches, which are usually the main attractions in Italian cities. You will admire the ambiance, natural beauty, and fishing lifestyle.
Manarola and Vernazza are traditional fishing villages with a small harbor and a boat dock. Unlike them, Corniglia is not on the sea coast. This village is located on a hill, which can be reached by stairs or minibus. Choose the appropriate way considering your condition.
Monterosso al Mare, as the largest village, has the longest sandy beach. Parallel to the beach is a long promenade, with cafes and restaurants. Riomaggiore is the most populated village, and visitors are most attracted by the street Via Colombo, with its many restaurants and souvenir shops.
14. Discover the Beauties of Bologna’s Medieval Old Town
Bologna is one of the best attractions a charming city in northern Italy, located between Florence and Venice. The oldest European university with as many as 100,000 students a year makes Bologna an important educational center.
Bologna has an old town, which is under UNESCO protection. The Bologna old town is dominated by Piazza Maggiore, where you can see several Renaissance palaces. There is also a grand Gothic cathedral, the Basilica di San Petronio.
Did you know that the local rich people showed their status by building towers? There used to be about a hundred towers in the city, while about twenty of them survived the ravages of time. The tallest is the Asinelli Tower, as high as 97 meters. The view from the top of the tower is remarkable!
Nearby, in the Quadrilatero medieval area, is the famous Mercato di Mezzo food market, where you can buy local delicacies such as pasta or parmesan. The Bologna Archaeological Museum and the Bologna National Gallery also attract many visitors with their valuable art collections.
15. Enjoy the Romantic Town of Romeo and Juliet
Did you know that there is an Arena in Verona, a Roman amphitheater from the 1st century? It is well preserved, so thanks to good acoustics, concerts and music festivals are held there today.
However, the first associations to mention Verona are Romeo and Juliet. The story of Shakespeare’s drama is located in this city, and one building attracts the most visitors. It is Juliet’s House, with her bronze statue in the courtyard. According to the legend, whoever touches the statue will be lucky in love.
A popular place in Verona is the Erbe square, with a medieval fountain, the Lamberti tower 84 meters high, and an impressive palace with beautiful statues.
Don’t forget to visit Castelvecchio Castle. It was built of red brick in the 14th century, in the Gothic style. Today, it houses a museum with significant works of Renaissance painting.
Book A Trip to These Attractions in Italy
Ready to visit some of the most exciting destinations in Italy? Start planning with hotel or VRBO accommodations, restaurant favorites in each region, tips on how to get around and more through TripAdvisor and Travelocity. Then, check out the best flight deals and train tickets through OMIO Travel Partner.
Find expert-led tours, unique regional tours, skip-the-line tickets and more fun in Italy through GetYourGuide. Book your adventures in Italy ahead of time here.
Author Bio: Based in Serbia in Europe, Marija Stojanovic Petkovski worked as a journalist but realized writing about the most beautiful places in the world is something that inspires her. She is sure that a pint of good craft beer perfectly accompanies a tasty home-made lasagne. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her children and spending time outdoors with her family.
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