As one of the most enticing destinations throughout Europe, Italy is renowned for its delicious cuisine, inspiring architecture, jaw-dropping scenery and vivid art legacy. In fact, this beautiful country is so jam-packed with travel opportunities that it can be overwhelming to identify the highlights if you only have a short amount of time to spend. We’ve chosen our top ten Italian destinations to make it a little easier – here they are:
If your time is really limited, try to squeeze in Italy’s greatest hits – glorious Rome, fabulous Florence and beguiling Venice.
Along with astounding archaeological treasures, Rome is a cosmopolitan city with inimitable style and flair. The saying goes that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this much is evident – the city offers an unparalleled archaeological view into the inner workings of the empire that once called Rome its capital. Pressed for time? Try to at least fit in the Colosseum, the 2000-year-old Pantheon, the Palatino palace ruins, St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican museums and the Trevi Fountain.
RELATED: What to do with 24 hours in Rome.
If art is one of the reasons that you’re drawn to Italy, Florence is the place to be – this beautiful city lies at the very epicentre of Europe’s Renaissance and is home to some of the world’s most famous masterpieces. Drink in the incredible collections at the Uffizi gallery, which includes the Duomo frescoes and Michelangelo’s David; and then head towards the Via de’ Tornabuoni for shopping at some of Italy’s major fashion houses. After all, isn’t fashion just another expression of modern art?
Once you’ve had your fill of the city, make your way to the Tuscan countryside where the rural farmhouses of the Chianti region give way to vast stretches of verdant vineyards that shelter idyllic chapels and churches in its folds. Taste and explore the region’s sought-after vintages and remember to sample the olives as well!
Surely Venice is one of the world’s most inspiring cities, Venice is known for its palaces, picturesque canals populated by singing gondoliers, world-renowned artists, the iconic Rialto Bridge, and for having more artistic masterpieces per square kilometre than any other city on earth! Venice has admirers all year round, and once you’ve seen it you’ll understand why it’s a firm favourite for travellers from all corners of the world.
Travel tip: If you can arrange your trip to coincide with the annual Carnival of Venice, you’ll truly get a taste of what the city has to offer.
Destroyed in 79AD by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption that buried it under 6 metres of pumice and ash, the ancient Roman town of Pompeii was rediscovered in 1599 as the result of an extensive excavation that revealed exceptionally well-preserved relics. This amazing find gave modern historians and archaeologists a deeper insight into the everyday lives of the ancient Romans, and today visitors are able to step back in time to walk among Roman homes, forums, amphitheatres and brothels that were literally frozen in time. Pompeii has been a major tourist attraction for over 250 years and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…” William Shakespeare
Immortalised as the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, this beautiful city is no stranger to feuds, drama and romance. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Verona boasts ruins and monuments from every age – ensuring that you’ll be gazing at far more than just Juliet’s fabled balcony.
It may not be the most scenic of Italy’s cities, but Naples is definitely a must for history buffs. Visitors flock here to explore the city’s UNESCO-recognised historic core and delight in archaeological artefacts such as Museo Archeologico Nazionale and Neapolitan artistry at the charterhouse-turned-museum known as the Certosa e Museo di San Martino.
Sorrento is a resort town with some serious style and the perfect base from which to explore the surrounding area, Stretching for 30 miles along the southern side of the Sorrento Peninsula, the Amalfi Coast is prized for its picturesque coastline that features glistening bays, craggy cliffs, fragrant lemon tree gardens and gorgeous villas. Enjoy the food, soak up the sun and plan your next move!
Located in Italy’s northwestern coastal region of Liguria, Cinque Terre (‘five lands’) comprises the five beautiful cliffside villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, Monterosso and Corniglia. If you’re looking for unspoiled views over the sparkling Mediterranean, lunches among quaint vineyards and strolls along cobbled streets that are free from vehicular traffic, Cinque Terre is the place for you! The coastline, villages and surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and cars are forbidden from entering the region. Instead, the villages are linked by an intricate network of hiking trails and a rural train track.
Stretching across Northern Italy, the fabled Italian Lake District includes flat, balmy lakes towards the south, as well as deep, mountainous lakes stretching into the Italian Alps. There are more than 1,000 lakes in Italy and the most can be found here in the Alps region. The largest of the lakes are lake Garda, Lake Maggiore and Lake Como. The region has been popular with visitors for more than 100 years due to its inviting combination of good weather and gorgeous scenery. In fact, it is known as the haunt of many modern celebrities (including George Clooney and Richard Branson) and was even immortalised as the summer escape of choice of the ancient Roman writer Pliny the Younger.
Nothing says ‘I’m travelling!’ quite like a selfie in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Instantly recognisable, this famous tower has been standing for centuries, and with that distinctive lean corrected somewhat for safety’s sake, it’s destined to stand for a few more! A visit to this incredible landmark is a must on any coach tour of Italy.
If you haven’t been to these Italian highlights, now is the time to start planning your next trip! We’d also love to know if you have any of these stopovers planned on your next tour of Italy or, if you have been before, which did you enjoy most on your last visit? Let us know in the comments below!