Delicious fresh ingredients and carb-focused cuisine, deep blue and bright turquoise beaches, colorful old architecture with rod iron balconies, quick vespas as a driver beeps and yells “ciao bella!” You guessed it – Siamo in Italia! – We are in Italy! The boot-shaped beauty of this country can be seen in all aspects of the culture. Even more lovely is how different the experience can be in each place! Bask in the incredible fashion on the streets of Milan or sip a variety of flavors on a countryside vineyard in Tuscany or salivate over the famous Neapolitan pizza while you wander around the crazy city streets. Whatever you are expecting of your vacation, I bet there’s a place in Italy that will deliver just what you ordered and more! The following are our destination favorites from North to South. We limited ourselves to 10 but, as I said, Italy has so much to offer. So, it never hurts to stop by a small town and get a little lost. You’ll be sure to discover something beautiful no matter where you are.
The ITALIAN Lakes DISTRICT
Lake Como is maybe the most popular or well known of Northern Italy’s lake destination but it’s hardly the only lake destination worth a visit. There are three major lakes: Como, Garda, and Maggiore. Each of them offer picturesque small lake towns and some larger cities. For instance, the city of Como is very popular and even hosts a big Christmas market and light up heart on the coast during the holidays for tourists. Sirmione, a town on Lake Garda, is on the tip of a small peninsula on the lake. The town is surrounded by old castle walls and is, hands-down, one of the most beautiful villages you will find in this area. Each of the lakes has their charm in one way or another and many towns offer ferry rides to other places on the other sides of the lakes. Many also feature hidden waterfalls nearby. Just do your research or ask someone in town about one close by and they may be able to help you. Here you can find a map. Each of the lakes are an easy ride to Milan so consider getting the best of a waterside view and experience Italy’s largest Northern city in one trip!
Ah Milan: the omega of fashion. For beauty in every aspect of your trip, head to Milan. This city is one of Europe’s wealthiest! One of the world’s oldest Gothic style cathedrals, Duomo di Milano, is a massive monument. When exiting the metro from the Duomo stop can be mildly overwhelming with the duomo and Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II. The Galleria holds some of the major designer shops like Versace, Prada, etc. Although you can find high fashion all over the city, Via Montenapoleone is a must go for all your extravagant shopping. But you don’t need to have an interest in fashion or shopping designer brands to enjoy this booming city. Milan is also well-equipped with art, architecture, design, etc. It holds the original of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, a gorgeous opera house, La Scala, a castle down the street from the duomo, Castello Sforzesco, and a system of canals that now are lined with bars, restaurants, and shops in southwest Milan. Fun fact: the canals were originally built to make transportation of the materials easier when building the duomo! Milan is Italy’s working city, people from all over the country and from other parts of the world immigrate here for work or schooling opportunities, so you’ll find all types of Italian dialects, Neapolitan pizzerias, Sicilian gelaterias, and more. Trains from Milan go everywhere, so wherever you would like to head next, you can most likely get a train from one of the major metro stations.
Venice: the floating city. If you know anything about Italy, you’ve heard about this magical city of gondolas, canals that replace streets, Carnevale festival masks, beautiful glass pieces, and winding alley ways you’re bound to get lost on. Unfortunately, Venice has become so packed with tourists in recent years but once you get there, you’ll understand why people just cannot stay away. It’s a truly enchanting place and one of the most romantic in the world. Picture yourself on a gondola ride, basking in the view of old Italian architecture, sipping wine. During the colder months, cuddle up with a blanket as well! You can’t miss the Rialto Bridge, Saint Mark’s Square, the Basilica, or a hidden jewel – Acqua Alta, meaning “high water,” one of the world’s most incredible bookshops. Be sure to read our article about it before you go! You can easily walk throughout the streets all day of this small city but be careful in the late hours of the night. There are many pickpocketers here, waiting to take advantage of all of the tourists so just remain aware of your surroundings.
In English, Cinque Terre translates to “five lands” – quite literal, I know. But nonetheless, this major tourist attraction is a must-visit in Italy. Vernazza, Corniglia, Riomaggiore, Manarola (this is the most commonly photographed), and Monterosso make up these 5 village lands, all simple to move between by train. If you are feeling more adventurous, hike the ‘cinque terre!’ Trails throughout the surrounding mountainous terrain link the five together, creating a perfect, sporty day for your vacation. The Blue Trail is suitable for families and all ages but be sure to pack water and be prepared to break a sweat!
If you’re coming to Italy for the wine, this is where you want to be! The Tuscany region is full of lush vegetation including vineyards, olive groves, and an abundance of Cyprus trees. This is also home to one of Italy’s most major cities, Florence, an important capital of art and culture. While there is not much else around it, Pisa is another Italian destination you may be familiar with, housing the Leaning Tower of Pisa which has been mentioned and pictured in a variety of movies, shows, and other media outlets. Many small cities and towns are nestled in the rolling hills of Tuscany so the scenery is out of this world from any viewpoint. Aside from the countryside wineries and old Roman cities, Tuscany also offers some beautiful coastline and even islands. This region offers a bit of everything so I would definitely recommend renting a car and exploring all the corners of this land!
Bella Roma is a phrase nearly everyone in the world has heard at some point and it holds its meaning, “beautiful Rome.” It is Italy’s largest city and still houses the Italian seat of government. The magic of Rome comes from the stark contrasts of old ruins of the Roman empire and new technological developments. It is a city that will continuously amaze you throughout your time there. Whether it’s the food, the scenery, the music, the wine, the people, anything – Bella Roma is the only phrase that encompasses all of this capital city. Catholic or not, St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican museum are must sees. Vatican City, within Rome, is recognized as a separate city within Rome, and is home to the Pope. It’s also true what they say, the driving in Rome is a bit hectic, as is the city in general, so be careful crossing streets and don’t take a taxi if you’re prone to getting carsick.
If you like pizza (and really, who doesn’t like pizza?), Naples is the perfect place for you. Aside from the pizza, many main dishes in the Italian food culture originated here. So, naturally, they take food very seriously! This large city has all you could ask for from the food to shopping to fun bars/clubs, the list goes on. Many say it’s dirty and dangerous but which city doesn’t have it’s areas? Naples is a beauty amongst Italy’s list of metropolitan cities and is absolutely worth the trip. Besides, I know I already had you booking your tickets when I started with pizza!
A bit south of Naples, will bring you to Pompei. Doing both in the same trip is probably a good use of time since they’re very close together. This famous city was buried under around 6 meters of volcanic ash; that’s around 20 feet! It buried not only the city but many of its inhabitants at the time about 79 AD. They are still excavating parts of the Roman city today. Be an ancient Roman for a day and visit Pompeii, wandering around old Roman streets of businesses, bakeries, and more. It will be well worth at least a day trip from Naples during you stay!
That beautiful Italian cliffside on your desktop background suggestions is most likely, the Amalfi coast. The many photographs taken on the seaside of country are typically here. Small properties piled on top of one another, of different colors, and very large cliff coastline make for a picture perfect view during all times of day, all seasons. While it’s obviously better to go to the sea during the summer, the Amalfi coast is just so beautiful, it’s worth it no matter what season your trip is in. Starting from Sorrento and ending in the town of Vietri sul Mare, this 30 mile section land will blow you away at every turn. The plazas and glamorous villas are among small villages and pebbled beaches; there’s plenty of variety and an abundance of beauty throughout each stop of the Amalfi coast.
Many think of Sicily as a separate entity from Italy. There’s Italy and then there is Sicily, the largest island of the country. It’s home to Mt. Etna, the tallest active volcano in Europe, and a variety of landscapes from mountainous cliffs to breathtaking beaches. One of the most incredible attractions in this island are the many ancient temples and ruins. From the Greek temple of Segesta to archeological museum in Palermo, there is no shortage of history and beautiful rumble to admire. Taormina, another Sicilian town, is home to the second largest Greek theater and has the best view point for seeing everything. From this town, you have a view of Mt. Etna, the sea, and a large area of ancient ruins. It’s a magnificent site. If you are taking the opportunity to go to Sicily, soak in each city you can. A tour by car may even be a good idea here as the island is small and drivable. Definitely worth the visit!