Ah, Italy. A bucket list destination for countless people worldwide. According to Statista, 40.9 million visitors went to Italy in 2021, but pre-pandemic in 2019, the country saw 96.2 million visitors! As travel picks back up, you may want to beat the rush and get to the beautiful country known as Bel Paese while there are still fewer crowds. So where are the consensus best places to visit in Italy, according to travel experts?
There are so many reasons travelers head to the country — the vibrant culture, ancient architecture, stunning landscapes, rich history and of course, mouth watering food. Pizza. Pasta. Parmasan. Enough said, right?
Speaking of food, just know that the trip over the pond may stink, but not because of a delayed takeoff or lost luggage. In a poll of more than 1,000 Americans, a staggering 94 percent think it’s acceptable to bring smelly food onto an airplane. Ew! But despite the odor coming from the next row, another study shows that travel does noticeably increase happiness.
Now, that’s amore. There’s not much more to love than being happy, however, don’t let the smile fade on the return trip. Set the expectation before you even go that nowhere is like Italy. English novelist and playwright Frances Burney famously said, “Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building after seeing Italy.”
While we wouldn’t go that far, especially because the science shows traveling actually encourages more smiles, we look to the experts for advice on the best places to visit in Italy. According to travel guides and travel websites, there are five cities where you absolutely must stop. So, fasten your figurative seatbelts, and let’s explore the best of Italy.
The List: Top 5 Best Places To See In Italy
When it comes to a trip to Italy, Rome is always a must-see. That’s why it tops the list of most travel websites.
“Think of Rome and the first image that comes to mind may be the Trevi Fountain or the Sistine Chapel. And while a visit to Rome without seeing the ancient city’s archaeological sites would be remiss, it’s worth checking out the lesser-known spots as well to get a full-picture view of one of the best places to visit in Italy. Insider tip: Escape the city with a day trip to Ostia Antica where you can see near-perfectly preserved Roman ruins and chat to the friendly archaeologists who are always puttering around,” Condé Nast Traveler writes.
U.S. News doesn’t hesitate to recommend Rome, saying, “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).”
No big deal. Just the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance.
“Internationally renowned as the birthplace of Italian Renaissance, Florence is also credited with propagating many artists, inventors, writers, scientists and explorers, as well as inventing opera and the florin currency, which lifted Europe from the Dark Ages,” according to Touropia.com.
Earth Trekkers says, “Without a doubt, Florence is one of the best places to visit in Italy. Michelangelo’s David, the amazing Uffizi Gallery, the murals inside the dome of the Duomo, and the statues that are on display in the historic city center are spectacular sights to see. But there are enough towers to climb, gelato to eat, and shops to visit that you don’t have to feel like you are on museum overload on a visit to Florence.”
Known as The Floating City, this is a wonderful place to visit.
Full Suitcase highly recommends adding it to your trip, writing, “Even if you’re not a big fan of city trips, there is [a] city that you absolutely should see in Italy, and that’s Florence. It’s here that you’ll find the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and many others.”
Artists and those who appreciate works of art will rejoice. PlanetWare says, “The showcase of the Italian Renaissance, Florence can at times seem like one giant art museum. The Duomo, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, is a landmark of world architecture, topped by its gravity-defying massive dome. Together with its marble-inlaid bell tower by Giotto and the octagonal Baptistery with its incomparable bronze doors by Ghiberti, this is one of the world’s finest ensembles of Renaissance art.”
Take a step back in time in Pompeii.
“The time-warped ruins of Pompeii hurtle you 2,000 years into the past. Wander through chariot-grooved Roman streets, lavishly frescoed villas and bathhouses, food stores and markets, theatres, even an ancient brothel. Then, in the eerie stillness, your eye on ominous Mt. Vesuvius, ponder Pliny the Younger’s terrifying account of the town’s final hours: ‘Darkness came on again, again ashes, thick and heavy. We got up repeatedly to shake these off; otherwise we would have been buried and crushed by the weight,’” writes Lonely Planet.
Hand Luggage Only also describes the history as a top reason to visit: “A once thriving Roman city, Pompeii was completely destroyed by a catastrophic eruption of its temperamental neighbour, Mt. Vesuvius – which completely obliterated the city.”
Commonly known as The Fashion Capital of the World, this city offers a fashionably good time, which is always in style.
“Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world. But you don’t have to be into fashion to enjoy what the city offers. You can check out a soccer match or take in the gorgeous architecture. There are also plenty of restaurants where you can enjoy coffee, wine, and everything in between. Of course, you can visit Milan Fashion Week or go any other time you want,” according to Travellers Worldwide.
Our Escape Clause ranks it for not only fashion, but architecture and art, too: “The fashion and business capital of Italy is known for its luxury brands, beautiful architecture, and more modern vibe as compared to many Italian cities — but it still has plenty of history behind it, too, and belongs on any list detailing where to go in Italy.”
Been to Italy? Planning to go? Drop us a comment with your travel tips.
- Condé Nast Traveler
- U.S. News
- Earth Trekkers
- Full Suitcase
- Lonely Planet
- Hand Luggage Only
- Travellers Worldwide
- Our Escape Clause
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.
Go in the off season. No lines and much cheaper.
If you go to Pompeii then you would be well-advised to also visit Herculaneum. They are very close to each other and conveniently located near the train.
The town of Lucca (near Pisa) has a charming old town with an intact medieval wall with a path/road around the top. Rent a bike, explore the old town and take a loop around the top of the wall. May be the best way to spend an afternoon in Italy.