20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy


Being the birthplace of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, it is no surprise that Italy is so rich in masterpieces of art and architecture, or that it has more UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites than any other country in the world.

But Italy's top tourist attractions aren't all art and architecture; The country is blessed with lakes, mountains, and a dramatic coastline which gives it great natural attractions as well. 

You can plan an entire itinerary inspired by a single interest, from Renaissance art to hiking, but most first-time visitors want to sample Italy's best performances in several different types of experiences.

The following attractions showcase Italian art, architecture, landscapes, and history, and offer opportunities for active adventures as well. To make sure that you will find the best places to visit and things to do, plan your itinerary using our list of top attractions in Italy.

1. Colosseum

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

This gigantic amphitheater, the largest ever built by the Roman Empire and its largest surviving facility, remained a model for sports facilities until modern times. Built by Vespasian in AD 72 and expanded by the addition of a fourth story by his son Titus, it was a venue for public performances and performances - even mock sea battles.

The 83 by 48 meter wooden floor covered two additional underground floors with tunnels, rooms, cells and corridors that provided space for gladiators, workers, wild animals, and storage.

Today, the structure stands in stark contrast to the modern sophistication that surrounds it and is an outstanding reminder of antiquity and the extensive history of Rome.

2. Florence Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

The Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore, or Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore, is seen as one of the finest cathedrals in the world, on the skyline of Florence. The cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries, and the most famous piece is the extraordinary dome, which was completed by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1434.

The cathedral's bell tower stands near the cathedral in Piazza del Duomo, covered in the same ornate marble typical of Tuscan Romanesque architecture.

Designed by Giotto, the camp is 82 meters high, and you can climb 414 steps up to the viewing platform with great views of the city and dome.

Opposite the Duomo is a magnificent baptistery, famous for its bronze-panelled doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. To see the exquisitely crafted originals, which have been replaced by minute replicas to protect the originals from the elements, visit the Museo del Opera del Duomo, the cathedral museum.

3. The Grand Canal in Venice

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

Riding a gondola through the canals of Venice has been a tradition that travelers have enjoyed for centuries. Venice is the city of islands, and canals have long been the city's main street, connected to each other by a maze of narrow lanes.

The Grand Canal is the largest and most famous of these waterways, cutting a broad S-shaped path through the city. Along its sides are the most magnificent palaces that were once owned by the richest and most powerful families of the Republic of Venice. 

The best way to see many of the grand palaces, whose facades face the water, is from a Vaporetto cruise along the Grand Canal.

Make sure your gondola rides - and your sightseeing explorations on foot - include some of the smaller atmospheric canals, lined with old buildings that have remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years.

4. Leaning Tower of Pisa

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

The Leaning Tower of Pisa (La Torre Pendente) is just one of the many Pisa attractions, whose world fame comes not from the grandiose elegance of its design, but from a flaw. Work on the tower began in the eleventh century, and the sinking, which led to the tilt, began when the tower reached the third floor.

The slope is more and more over the centuries, before restoration work in the 1990s, it was expected to collapse by the year 2000. Today, visitors can climb the stairs of the tower to get a great view of the city.

The leaning tower stands on Piazza dei Miracoli, a place it shares with the beautiful Romanesque Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta and a free-standing rotunda baptistery. Each of these notable works is characterized by medieval stone carving.

5. Vatican City: Basilica of St. Peter, Sistine Chapel & Vatican Museums

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

The Vatican is home to some of the most valuable art and art collections in the world. Its centerpiece is the great St. Peter's Basilica, with the tomb of St. Peter and one of Michelangelo's most influential works, the Pieta.

It is located just outside St. Peter's Square, where the Pope addresses his followers. The walls and ceilings of the Sistine Chapel are covered with frescoes by Michelangelo, and in the Vatican Palace are works by Raphael and other great artists.

More art fills the Vatican Museums, a collection of individual collections, including sacred art, Etruscan antiquities, sculptures, maps, papal carriages, and even vintage cars.

6. The Uffizi Gallery in Florence

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

In addition to being one of the world's most important art museums, the Uffizi is a comprehensive history of Italian Renaissance art. 

Although it contains works by some of the great masters of Western art, its greatest treasure is its collection of paintings showing the gradual development in painting that occurred here from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries.

Here, you'll see the first experiments with perspective, as well as some early images where painters transcended religious art, and some of the first uses of natural backgrounds and landscapes in religious art.

Be sure to see the Uffizi's most famous work: Botticelli's Birth of Venus.

7. Cinque Terre

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

Cinque Terre is a beautiful coastal area with steep hills and clear cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. 

The five picturesque villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore can be reached by several ways, linked together by hiking trails, a railway that runs through the headlands to show up in each town, or a scenic narrow road. High on the slope of the hill above.

Hiking between villages is one of the most popular things to do as it gives travelers a chance to enjoy the scenery. Small towns have preserved the feel of old-world fishing villages and offer a sense of remoteness even in the face of modern tourism.

If you are coming from Florence or Milan, there are several transportation options available.

8. Lake Como

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

Lake Como is one of the most picturesque regions in Italy, surrounded by mountains and lined with picturesque small towns. Chasing the wealthy since Roman times, the lake has many luxury villas and mansions along its wooded shores. 

The most famous are Villa Balbianello and Villa Carlotta, both surrounded by gardens open to the public.

The mild climate that makes the shore of the lake ideal for gardens is also an attraction for tourists, with characteristics similar to those of the Mediterranean. Besides the resort towns around the lake, there is an 11th-century monastery.

At the foot of the lake, the small town of Como, important since Roman times, is a short train ride from Milan. From the waterfront, you can embark on excursions around the lake on regularly scheduled steamers that make visiting lakeside attractions easy.

9. Pantheon

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

The Pantheon, an exceptionally well-preserved remnant from the Roman era, reveals the astonishing architectural achievements of the Roman Empire.

The exact proportions of the building, assigned to the deities of the planets, were of a height equal to the diameter, and a single beam of light entering the room from the top of the dome, intended to represent the sky and the sun.

It was neglected after early Christian kings forbade the use of a pagan temple as a church, and it was later consecrated by the Pope in 609 CE. Italian kings, Renaissance painter Raphael and other great Italians are buried in the Pantheon.

10. Verona's Roman Arena and Historic Center

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

One of the largest and best preserved Roman amphitheaters still in existence, the Arena di Verona is the centerpiece of Centro Storico - the historic center of the city. It is one of several landmarks from antiquity, when Verona was an important Roman city. 

When designating it as a World Heritage Site, UNESCO noted that "Verona has preserved a large number of monuments from antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance."

Verona continued to thrive under the Scaliger family in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and as part of the Republic of Venice from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. The majestic Castelvecchio was a palace and defensive fortress (now a fine art museum), overlooking the beautiful Ponte Scaligero, a 14th-century bridge.

Throughout the old center are Romanesque churches and royal buildings with characteristic Venetian Gothic windows and stone portals that are more reminiscent of their Roman origins. 

And of course, in a courtyard close to the Piazza del Erbe daily market, you'll find Juliet's Terrace (actually built in the 1930s as a tourist attraction).

11. Trevi Fountain, Rome

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

Timeless in films from La Dolce Vita to Roman Holiday, The Lizzie McGuire Movie, and Three Coins in a Fountain, Trevi Fountain is a beloved icon that is a classic stop on any visit to Rome. A coin is tossed over the left shoulder (right hand) to ensure the return trip.

The origins of the tradition are unclear, but the fountain itself began as a public water source, connected to an aqueduct built in the first century BC. By 1629, Pope Urban VIII wanted a more attractive fountain and asked Bernini to design the revisions. 

When the Pope died, so did Bernini's plan, and Niccol Salvi completed the current design for Neptune, horses and shells in 1751.

12. Amalfi Coast

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

The Amalfi Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a stunning stretch of coastline along the Sorrentine Peninsula, south of Naples and Sorrento. Hill towns are built precariously along the slopes of steep mountains that flow into the sea.

The main cities here are Positano and Amalfi with its colorful domed cathedral. You can tour the coast by road, or travel between towns by boat to get different perspectives of the dramatic, almost vertical beach.

While hiking trails run along the coast, the most scenic for pedestrians is the Sentiero degli Dei, the Passage of the Gods, at the western end of Positano.

13. St. Mark's Basilica

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

One of Venice's most important tourist sites is St. Mark's Basilica, whose facade and ornate Byzantine-inspired domes overlook Piazza San Marco, Piazza San Marco. 

The building itself is a work of art, with a mixture of architectural styles heavily influenced by the Byzantine Empire, showing Venice's long trade links with the East.

Highlights of the vast interior are the splendid mosaics lining its domes and vaults, and the high altar covered in gold and jewels. The treasury holds more gold and sparkling jewels.

For an unforgettable view of St Mark's Square, the tall star and clock tower, climb onto the balcony to stand among the famous horses.

Next to the church is the Doge's Palace, which is also filled with priceless masterpieces of Italian art.

14. Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

The still-smoking volcano Mount Vesuvius looks down upon the remains of the city it destroyed in AD 79. But this same eruption also preserved many of the city's artistic treasures: frescoes, mosaics, and sculptures that were covered in lava as it cooled.

Several centuries of excavations have revealed the remains of homes, markets, baths, temples, theaters, streets and human remains. Visitors can tour the site, walk along ancient chariot-tainted streets, and see the architecture used by the Romans over 2,000 years ago.

Near Pompeii is the excavated city of Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the same eruption in AD 79, but was buried in lava and ash that froze the city and froze as it was. You can combine visits to the two sites in one day, but a longer stay allows time to climb to the edge of the still active Vesuvius.

15. Roman Forum

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

The Roman Forum might require a little imagination - or a good tour guide - to understand exactly what this area looked like and how it was used. However, its historical importance as the heart of the Roman Empire cannot be overstated.

Temples were built first, then public buildings, and the area soon became the governmental center of Rome. Trade followed the construction of market halls which made the Forum the focus of the public life of the city, and eventually the Roman Empire.

Today, only columns, partial structures, foundations of former temples, market halls, courts, and public buildings pay homage to ancient Rome, which remained here for a thousand years.

16. Milan Duomo

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

Milan's magnificent Santa Maria Nascent cathedral, "Il Duomo" for locals, is one of the largest churches in the world and perhaps the best example of the glowing Gothic style. Its studded facade (the cathedral's exterior contains a grand total of 2,245 marble statues) and 135 carved stone pinnacles crowning its roof make a first impression, enhanced as you step inside.

52 massive columns support the high ceiling of the nave, its walls are decorated with the largest stained glass windows in the world. The highlights of the nave are the tomb of Gian Giacomo Medici and a bronze candlestick from the 12th century.

Below the high altar is the crypt and the octagonal chapel with the gold reliquarys of San Carlo Borromeo. Underneath the Piazza del Duomo, which is accessed by stairs near the entrance, there are baptistery foundations and a 4th-century cathedral.

An elevator will take you to the rooftop where you can walk at an amazing height among the carved stone peaks.

17. The Valley of Temples in Agrigento, Sicily

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

UNESCO lists this complex of ancient Greek temples as a World Heritage Site, not only for the number of these remaining temples, but for their remarkable state of preservation. 

Unlike most other ancient Greek settlements, the temples here were not covered by construction in later eras, so they preserve not only the structures themselves, but the landscapes of the original community.

The highlight of this place is the Tempio di Concordia, one of the most perfect surviving Doric temples anywhere. 

Tempio di Juno Lacinia is almost as large. An earthquake toppled the pillars of the largest temple of Olympian Zeus. UNESCO cites the Valley of the Temples as "among the most extraordinary representations of Doric architecture in the world".

18. Rialto Bridge, Venice

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

Standing on more than 10,000 wooden beams - the originals were erected at the time of its construction in 1588 - the Rialto stone bridge is a symbol of Venice and an essential link between the two sides of the city. Until the Accademia Bridge was built in 1854, it was the only way to cross the Grand Canal on foot. Still the busiest.

Its architect won the bridge design commission over stiff competition such as Michelangelo and Palladio, and proposed a three-lane bridge. 

The two outer ends are always crowded with tourists enjoying the views of the Grand Canal and constant boat traffic, while shops catering to visitors line the wider central promenade.

Venetians do their shopping across from the Rialto Bridge, in San Polo's bustling food market. Along this side of the bridge, restaurants line the canal, and you'll find smaller - and better - options by following the narrow streets of the neighborhood of convenience stores and artisans.

19. Capri

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

The Blue Grotto is one of the most visited sites in all of Italy, but there are other reasons to take a short boat trip from Naples, Sorrento, or the Amalfi Coast to the fabled island of Capri. Steep rocky island descends from an intense blue sea, its rocky cliffs dotted with green pine trees and tropical plants.

The Blue Grotto is only one of the sea caves that has cut its cliffs, and the best way to see these caves, along with the three distinct rocks off the southern coast known as Faraglioni, is on a boat tour around the island. Many of the villas and gardens are open to tourists, and walking trails invite exploration.

From almost anywhere on the island, you can be sure of a good view. Perhaps the beautiful Villa San Michele has the most amazing views of the island from its gardens, which overlook Marina Grande from the village of Anacapri high above. You can get there by bus or, for a lively, by climbing the ancient Phoenician stairs carved into the steep hillside.

20. San Vitale and Byzantine Mosaics, Ravenna

20 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Italy

From 402 AD, when Emperor Honorius moved his court from Milan, the Adriatic port of Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman Empire. 

Honorius and his sister Galla Placidia began the process of making Ravenna the center of Byzantine mosaic art, an effort that continued during the reign of the sixth century king Theodoric the Great.

The findings remain today roughly as seen by these emperors, lining churches and monuments with extravagant splendor. The dome of San Vitale is entirely decorated (aside from a few frescoes added in the Baroque era) in images formed by the tesserae so precise, that they combine to look like the painter's delicate brushstrokes. More walls and chapels, with the largest and best preserved display outside of Constantinople.

In the adjacent mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the smallest piece of mosaic creates an intimate and unworldly space under a low vaulted ceiling of intense blue. In a third building, the octagonal Nyonian baptistery, the entire dome is covered with intricate mosaic images.

Source: PlanetWare - Travel Guides by the Experts

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