For its size, Italy is a wonderfully diverse country. With Alpine villages, sandy beaches, ancient cities, and cliff-side vineyards, there’s something for everyone. And the people are warm and friendly too.
There are so many wonderful places to visit in Italy, that trying to settle on just a few will be your biggest challenge. If you only have two or three weeks, don’t try to see the whole country. If you’re lucky and like most people, you’ll return as often as you can, so don’t try to do it all in one trip.
If you’ve never been before, it makes sense to begin your trip in Rome. There are nonstop flights to Rome from several US cities, making it the most convenient destination too.
Those who love ancient history and want to see Italian life at its most sophisticated, should plan to spend a few days here. The Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican Museums are the must-see sights here. No visit to Rome is complete without a visit to the Spanish Steps, where it seems like everyone in Rome gathers to enjoy a delicious ice cream and watch the sun set.
South of Rome, Naples is the home of pizza and the National Archeological Museum. More Mediterranean than Rome, it’s the gateway to Pompeii and the beautiful Amalfi coast. If you want to visit the islands of Capri or Ischia — and you should — you’ll likely take a ferry from Naples.
The Amalfi Coast towns of Positano, Ravello and Sorrento offer spectacular coastal views, lovely accommodations, and great shopping.
North of Rome, the region of Umbria is also great for art lovers. Spoleto, Assisi, Perugia, and Orvieto have magnificent churches and cathedrals, filled with priceless works of art.
In Tuscany, you’ll find countless wineries, rolling hills, and some of the most noted Italian foods and wines, including Chianti, come from here. The finest Italian Renaissance art and architecture is here, and it’s easy to explore by car. You can make Siena, Lucca, Florence, or Pisa your base, and then explore smaller towns like the charming San Gimignano.
On the Ligurian Sea, the Cinque Terre or five lands is a gorgeous stretch of coastline where terra cotta colored villages and vineyards tumble down to the sea. The biggest attraction here is hiking the National Park trails that go from town to town — and drinking the excellent local wine.
Inland, the city of Milan is Italy’s fashion capital. If you want to shop for designer clothes and shoes, this is the place. Milan is also the jumping off point for the Italian Lakes — Como, Maggiore, and Garda. Come here for grand hotels, splendid gardens, and romantic ambience.
In all the world, Venice is one of a kind. During the peak summer months of July and August, it can be packed with tourists, and during the fall, it can be knee-deep in water. But in the off season, Venice is the most beguiling city in the world, with incredible architecture, stunning scenery, and truly unique shopping.
For more places to visit in Italy, visit our Italy section.