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most popular places to visit in italy 2023
Are you planning a trip to Italy? If so, be prepared to fall in love with an extraordinary country. The food, the wine, the history, the art and architecture, the quaint, hillside towns in Tuscany, and the underrated Dolomites…there is something here for everyone. The list of best places to visit in Italy is long. So long, in fact, that it would take months to see all of them. Most people have just a week or two to explore this amazing country. Here is a list of Italy’s best destinations, a good starting point for having the best holiday here. At the end of this guide, we list multiple itineraries in Italy, so you can link several of these places together into one very memorable trip. Tourists and travel experts have long agreed that Italy is a special place, so much so that the country has become a de facto bucket list destination for just about everyone. Famous for its incredible food, rich historical sites, highly regarded art, charming small towns and picturesque cities, countrysides and coastlines, it's safe to say Italy's offerings are unmatched. U.S. News rounded up the best places to visit in Italy considering a number of factors, from affordability and seasonality to sights and crowds, to help you decide exactly where to go. Have a favorite destination in Italy? Cast your vote below to influence next year's ranking.
As one of the largest cities in Italy and one of the largest medieval city centers in Europe, Genoa is rich in art and history. Along with its many museums, forts, churches and palaces, this port city boasts a Genoese cathedral (the Cathedral of San Lorenzo), a majestic piazza featuring a large bronze fountain (Piazza De Ferrari) and an expansive aquarium with roughly 12,000 aquatic animals (Acquario di Genova). Genoa also beckons to foodies, as it is world-famous for its pesto, focaccia, fresh seafood and filled pastas.
The small, crescent-shaped village of Portofino is known as a vacation hot spot for the rich and famous. The water surrounding Portofino is often filled with yachts and is great for swimming and diving. Plus, the area's beauty and tranquil atmosphere make it an excellent place to unwind. When travelers need a break from relaxing, they can venture just outside of Portofino to check out historical sites like Castello Brown, an ancient military fortress with incredible views of the Marina di Portofino, and Abbazia di San Fruttuoso, a 10th century monastery that can only be reached by foot or ferry.
Considered the land of the sirens in Greek mythology, Sorrento continues to lure people with its charm and stunning views. Here, vacationers can explore enchanting piazzas or relax near the water before watching the sun set behind the cliffs. Plus, lemons are big in Sorrento – both in size and in popularity – and the area is known as one of the best places in the world to taste authentic limoncello, a lemon-flavored liquor. It's also the perfect base for daytrips to nearby Capri, the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and other popular Italian locales.
This former Roman city in southern Italy is equal parts chilling and impressive. Pompeii was left almost completely intact after it was buried in ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Its astonishingly well-preserved ruins now provide present-day visitors a glimpse into what life was like during ancient times. True history buffs might also enjoy a trip to nearby Herculaneum, another city that was preserved by the same eruption, while more adventurous explorers should consider hiking to the top of Mount Vesuvius for jaw-dropping panoramas of the Bay of Naples and the Sorrento Peninsula.
Rimini is one of Europe's most popular beach resorts, which comes as no surprise considering its 10miles of white sand beaches, thriving nightlife and plethora of hotels, bars and restaurants. Here, you can see all of Italy's major monuments in one place – though on a much smaller scale – in the Italy in Miniature theme park. Additionally, Rimini is home to the Arch of Augustus, one of the world’s oldest-surviving Roman arches, and Borgo San Giuliano, a charming fishing village famous for the many colorful murals that adorn its walls.
Sardinia provides the best of both worlds. Costa Smeralda is all about luxury, with its lush beaches and coves overlooking yacht-filled waters. And away from all of the glitz and glamour of Costa Smeralda, you'll find a more laid-back side of the island, including small medieval towns where Sardinians still practice sheepherding and wear traditional clothing. What's more, Sardinia features several ancient ruins, such as UNESCO World Heritage-listed Su Nuraxi di Barumini.
Best known for its Shakespeare ties, Verona appeals to fans of "Romeo and Juliet" with themed tours of the sights that allegedly inspired the play. But there is more to this city than its literary link. Verona, located about 15 miles east of Lake Garda, is also home to several impressive attractions and historic buildings (the whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, after all). Travelers won't want to miss the Arena di Verona, a first-century Roman amphitheater that is still in use, and Giardino Giusti, a beautifully sculpted Renaissance garden.
There are several reasons why Bologna, the capital of northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, is often called "la dotta, la grassa e la rossa" ("the learned, the fat and the red"). For one, it's home to the oldest university in Europe, the University of Bologna. The city is also a food lover's dream thanks to its world-renowned cuisine, which includes Italian staples like tortellini and lasagna Bolognese. Bologna even features a gelato university and the food-themed amusement park, FICO Eataly World. Plus, the city boasts an array of terra cotta-roofed medieval buildings, including a pair of leaning towers.
This rustic region in the heel of Italy's boot is well known among locals as a go-to vacation spot, but tourists are starting to catch on. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the area's more crowded cities, Puglia has it all – some of the country's best beaches for swimming, an array of restaurants serving fresh Italian fare, plus castles, caves and forests for exploring. The region is also famous for its unique whitewashed trulli houses with conical roofs.
Oftentimes overlooked for the more well-known island of Capri, Ischia may be one of Italy's best kept secrets. A volcanic island with dozens of thermal springs and spas, Ischia's waters are known for their healing and rejuvenating properties, making it the perfect destination for some rest and relaxation. When you're ready to explore, check out Giardini La Mortella, a botanical garden full of rare and colorful plants, and Castello Aragonese d'Ischia, a striking medieval castle that is open to visitors 365 days a year.
Italy is renowned for its delicious cuisine. So why not visit the Italian city credited with being the birthplace of pizza, one of the world’s most popular culinary creations? Along with its famous food, Naples is home to incredible art, most of which you can see at the Sansevero Chapel Museum and the Naples National Archeological Museum. For a look into the region’s fascinating past, journey beneath the city to Napoli Sotterranea, a network of underground tunnels and chambers built by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
As the location of several ancient Greek legends, Sicily has an almost mythical quality. Once you visit for yourself, you'll see why so many writers were inspired by this island, which happens to be the largest in the Mediterranean. Be enchanted by Sicily's crystal-clear waters and golden beaches. Marvel at Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe, or try hiking up it in summer or skiing down it in winter. Also save time for taking in the many cultures that have called this island home at its various cathedrals and archaeological sites.
#13- Lake Como
If you really want to treat yourself on your next vacation, Lake Como is where you want to be. Here, opulent villas and hotels line the shores and sandy beaches beckon to sun seekers. You'll see sleek sailboats and speedboats coasting in the middle of the lake, which is the perfect place to admire the region's surrounding hills. Meanwhile, for a lesson in luxury, tour one of the region’s grand villas; top picks among travelers include Villa Melzi d’Eril, Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello. Later, check out the Como Cathedral, a magnificent structure boasting Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectural styles.
For centuries, this small island off the coast of southern Italy has attracted plenty of famous faces, from emperors to movie stars, due to its gorgeous scenery. Some of Capri's most amazing sights are best seen by boat, including the Faraglioni rock formations and the Blue Grotto, where sunlight turns the water into an unbelievably vivid shade of blue. On land, the Gardens of Augustus and Villa Jovis, an imperial palace, also provide spectacular views. Meanwhile, in the town center, visitors will find high-end shops and restaurants where they can relax after a long day of sightseeing.
If you're looking for Italy without the crowds, Tuscany is really all it's cracked up to be. Italy's famous countryside offers travelers spectacular landscapes dotted with romantic villas and castles equipped with wineries and superb restaurants. Don’t miss out on a visit to the walled city of San Gimignano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its medieval towers. What's more, Tuscan locales like Pisa (which offers much more than its leaning tower) and Siena are an easy drive from top destinations such as Bologna and Cinque Terre, perfect for daytrippers who don't want to stay in one place for too long.
#16- Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre, located on Italy's northern Ligurian coast, is made up of five colorful, seaside towns – Manarola, Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia and Riomaggiore. Manarola, the region’s oldest town, boasts scenic vineyards, olive groves and a centuries-old bell tower. Meanwhile, Vernazza, often considered one of Italy’s most beautiful villages, is well-known for its picture-perfect houses and grand medieval castle. The Cinque Terre offers an abundance of exciting activities, from boat tours and hiking to cooking classes and wine tastings. While here, don’t forget to save time for exploring the cliff-side Footpath Monterosso trail, a beautiful hiking path connecting Vernazza and Monterosso.
Situated in the scenic Tuscan valley, Florence woos travelers with old-world avenues leading to picturesque piazzas big and small. While you're soaking up the city's splendor, make sure to stop by the Piazza del Duomo, where the breathtaking Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral is located, and the romantic Ponte Vecchio, a 14th century bridge overlooking the Arno River. Once central to the Renaissance movement, Florence also offers art aficionados the opportunity to see famous pieces by Michelangelo and other iconic artists of that period. As an added bonus, Florence is ideal for a day trip to the Chianti wine region.
#18- Amalfi Coast
The journey to the cliff-side Amalfi Coast involves heart-stopping, hairpin turns on narrow roads, but travelers agree this is part of the fun. The region covers more than 30 miles of coastline and is home to 13 colorful seaside towns, each with its own story. Positano and Amalfi are the most popular, housing numerous hotels and sights. While here, hike, relax on the beach and eat to your heart's content (there are multiple Michelin-starred restaurants along the Amalfi Coast). For something more off-the-beaten-path, set your sights on Atrani. This humble fishing village boasts medieval whitewashed architecture, winding alleys and authentic Italian charm.
There are few destinations in the world that are quite like Venice. Its uniqueness can largely be attributed to the canals that run through this northern Italian city like roads, carrying water taxis and buses in addition to its fleet of famous gondolas. As such, there is a palpable bustle here that may surprise some first-timers. For a relaxing Venice vacation, seek out the smaller streets and canals away from the busy Grand Canal and St. Mark's Square. Just be sure to stroll across Rialto Bridge and tour the grand St. Mark’s Basilica at least once.
A standard stop on many European vacation itineraries, Rome is not to be missed. Italy’s capital city is a globally renowned cultural and historical powerhouse, boasting everything from ancient ruins and tranquil parks to Michelin-starred restaurants. Here, you'll find the most important relic from the Roman Empire (the Colosseum), some of Michelangelo's greatest works (in the Sistine Chapel), an 18th century Baroque-style fountain (the Trevi Fountain) and, of course, the center of Catholicism (Vatican City). Other can’t-miss tourist attractions in the Eternal City include the Pantheon, the Roman Forum and St. Peter’s Basilica, the world’s largest church.
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