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.
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 one interest, from Renaissance art to hiking, but most first-time visitors want to sample some of the best Italian performances in several different types of experiences.
The following attractions showcase Italian scenic landscapes, architecture, art and history, and offer opportunities for active assignments 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.
Top Tourist Attractions in Italy
1- Florence Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore
One of the finest cathedrals in the world, the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore dominates the skyline of Florence. The cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries, and the most famous piece of it is the unusual 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.
The camp is 82 meters high, designed by Giotto, 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 To see the exquisitely designed original paintings, which have been replaced by minute replicas to protect the originals from the elements, visit the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, the cathedral museum.
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 expanding it by adding a fourth story by his son Titus, it was the setting for public spectacles and performances - even mock naval battles.
The 83 by 48 meter wooden floor covered two additional underground floors with tunnels, rooms, cells and corridors providing space for gladiators, workers, wild animals, and storage.
3- Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius
The still-smoking volcano Mount Vesuvius looks down on 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.
Excavations that lasted for several centuries 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.
4- The Grand Canal in Venice
Riding a gondola through the canals of Venice has been a tradition that travelers have enjoyed for centuries. Venice is a 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 the many grand palaces, whose facades face the water, is from a Vaporetto cruise along the Grand Canal.
5- Lake Como
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 contains many lavish 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 temperate climate that makes the lake shore 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.
6- Leaning Tower of Pisa
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 tilt 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 spot 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.
Official site: www.opapisa.it/en/
7- Cinque Terre
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 railhead that runs through the headlands to show up in each town, or a scenic narrow road high up the slope of the hill above.
Hiking between the 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 Milan or Florence, there are several transportation options available.
8- Milan Duomo
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, one that is 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.
Under the high altar is the crypt and the octagonal chapel with the gold reliquarys of San Carlo Borromeo. Under the Piazza del Duomo, which is reached 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.
9- The Uffizi Gallery in Florence
In addition to being one of the premier art museums in the world, 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 took place 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.
10- Vatican City
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.
Outside is 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.