As a passionate traveler, I have always been drawn to Italy. And as a world traveler whose mother’s family still lives in Italy, this country holds a special place in my heart. I have a deep love for this country, its delicious food and culture, and its warm and friendly people. Yes, there are a lot of tourist traps around the country, but many of my favorite places in Italy are lesser-known ones you’ll find off the beaten path.
I wouldn’t be a travel content creator if it weren’t for a trip I took to Italy as a teenager. I spent weeks living with my mother’s family there. At the time, I was completely lost in translation. They only spoke Italian, and I only knew English and Spanish. But despite the language barrier, we connected over food. That experience sparked my curiosity and made me realize the power of travel and food. Ultimately, that trip made me want to travel for a living.
In this article, we’re exploring the rich history, stunning architecture, and picturesque scenery of the country lovingly known as “The Boot.” From the bustling streets of Rome to the romantic canals of Venice, Italy has something to offer every type of traveler. I’m taking you on a journey through some of the top places in Italy that you should add to your travel itinerary. So pack your bags, and let’s explore “The Boot” together!
There’s an almost infinite number of places in Italy that are worth your time. Some of the top places to visit in Italy include hotspots like Rome, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, and Lake Como. In particular, Florence is renowned for its Renaissance art, architecture, and other attractions, while Tuscany is famous for its scenic hillside towns and vineyards.
Siena is a quieter and smaller version of Florence, and Cinque Terre is a cluster of five beautiful towns on the Mediterranean coast. While these famous Italian destinations are popular and certainly make for stunning social media posts, it’s also great to explore the less visited destinations and get off the beaten path. We’re about to explore a mix of both!
Venice is one of the most unique and beautiful cities in the world. Built on a group of islands connected by canals and bridges, it offers fascinating Renaissance history and stunning architecture. On a sad note, the city is sinking, so it’s unclear how much longer people will be able to visit and enjoy it.
The famous St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, and the Rialto Bridge make Venice one of the top places in Italy to visit. But the best way to experience Venice is by simply wandering through its narrow streets and alleyways and getting lost in its charm.
Another must-do experience in Venice is taking a gondola ride through the city’s canals. It can be very touristy and expensive, but it is truly a magical experience that you will never forget. It’s a must-visit for any first-timer visiting Europe! And if you have the chance, be sure to visit Venice during the Carnival season, where the city comes alive with colorful costumes and masks.
Florence has a special place in my heart, as I’ve been there probably a dozen times in my life. I studied art history and wine there for six weeks during my freshman and sophomore years of college. I also spent three weeks there with my family, as it’s very close to my mother’s family—more on that later.
Florence is a city that is known for its art and architecture. It is home to some of the world’s most famous museums and galleries, including the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery. But Florence is more than just its art. The city is also home to beautiful churches, such as the Duomo and the Basilica of Santa Croce.
One of the best ways to experience Florence is by wandering its streets. The medieval Ponte Vecchio spans the Arno River and links both sides of the city. I also recommend climbing to the top of the Duomo to enjoy the view over the entire city. And if you’re a food lover like me, be sure to try some of Florence’s famous dishes, such as my personal favorite, bistecca alla fiorentina (Florentine steak). Don’t miss the nearby wineries
Rome is a city that needs no introduction. The Eternal City and the capital of the Roman Empire, Rome is the ultimate city for travelers looking to explore history, culture, and food. It’s home to some of the world’s most iconic historical landmarks, including the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon.
But Rome is also a city that is full of surprises. One of my favorite things to do in Rome is simply wandering its neighborhoods and discovering hidden gems, such as beautiful fountains and charming piazzas.
My favorite dish on the planet is cacio e pepe, a Roman dish that consists of creamy pasta with pepper. It’s a must try! Also, head to Forno Restaurant in Campo de’ Fiori Market for the best pizza in town. It’s a truly magical city and easily one of the top places in Italy that everyone should experience.
Gubbio is a small medieval town that dates back to the 13th century. Located in the Umbria region, it’s one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Italy. It’s also extremely special to me, as it’s my grandfather’s birthplace, and my family’s history there dates back roughly 700 years. The annual Festa dei Ceri, or Festival of the Ceri, is city’s top event, and honors Saint Ubaldo every May 15.
Food-wise, Gubbio offers some of the best truffles in the world. Nearly every dish made there contains local truffles, which you can find in the forest with the help of dogs! The soil here is rich, which helps them cultivate some of the boldest and tastiest wines in Italy.
Two of the top attractions in Gubbio are the Roman Theatre of Gubbio and Palazzo dei Consoli, a medieval palace that now houses a museum. It’s also just an hour away from other top destinations in the region, like Perugia and Assisi. Gubbio is the perfect city to base yourself out of and one of the most underrated places in Italy in general!
Bologna is a city that is known for its food and architecture. It is home to the oldest university in the world, which gives it a vibrant and youthful feel. Some of the top attractions in Bologna include the Piazza Maggiore, the Two Towers, and the Basilica di San Petronio. But the real highlight of Bologna is its food.
Bologna is known for its delicious cuisine, such as lasagna Bolognese, tagliatelle al ragù (pasta with meat sauce) and tortellini in brodo (stuffed pasta in broth). The city is also home to some of the best gelato in Italy. And if you are a wine lover, be sure to try some of the famous wines from the Emilia-Romagna region, such as Lambrusco and Sangiovese.
Matera is a city that is located in the Basilicata region of Italy. It is a city that is full of history and charm. Matera is known for its Sassi, which are ancient cave dwellings that have been carved into the rocks. The Sassi are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are one of the top places in Italy to visit.
Another top attraction in Matera is the Cathedral of Matera, which is a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture. The city is also home to some great restaurants and cafes, where you can try some of the unique local cuisine. Try the orecchiette with turnip greens and peperoni cruschi (dried sweet peppers), cavatelli (small pasta shells), and cialledda (bread and tomato salad).
Palermo is the capital of Sicily, the island and region off the coast of southern Italy. It is a city steeped in history, culture, and beautiful architecture. It’s also unique, as Sicily serves as a crossroads between Italy and Africa, so you’ll find influences from both cultures there. Some of the top attractions in Palermo include the Palermo Cathedral, the Quattro Canti, and the Teatro Massimo. But what makes Palermo truly special is its food.
Palermo is known for its delicious street food, such as arancini (stuffed rice balls) and panelle (chickpea fritters). The city is also home to some great markets, such as the Ballarò Market and the Vucciria Market, where you can try some of the local specialties. And if you are a history buff, be sure to visit the 9th-century Palazzo dei Normanni and take a road trip to other ruins across the island like Valley of the Temples and the Temple of Segesta.
Aosta is a small, ancient Roman town located in the Aosta Valley region of northern Italy. The town has the second-highest number of Roman ruins in Italy, with Rome being number one. It’s a must for any history lover exploring the top places in Italy. Some of the top attractions in Aosta include the Arch of Augustus, the Roman Theater, and the Sant’Orso Church. But what makes Aosta truly special is its beautiful mountain scenery.
Aosta is surrounded by the Alps, and is roughly a two-hour drive from Milan. It’s a great destination for outdoor activities, such as skiing and hiking. The local cuisine is a hearty mix of Italian, Swiss, and German influences, including veal chops, thick risottos, polenta, and heavy tavas. The town is also the perfect gateway to cross into Switzerland!
Cagliari is the capital of the Sardinia region of Italy. It sits atop a hill overlooking the Mediterranean and is full of history and beauty. Some of the top attractions in Cagliari include the Castello District, the 13th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria, and the National Archaeological Museum. But what makes Cagliari truly spectacular is its beaches.
Cagliari is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy, including Poetto Beach and Calamosca Beach. Cuisine-wise, rabbit is a major source of protein. The city is also known for its seafood, so be sure to try some of the local dishes, such as spaghetti alla bottarga (spaghetti with fish roe) and fregola con le arselle (pasta with clams). Also, Cagliari is a great home base for anyone trying to explore southern Sardinia!
Lecce is a city in the Puglia region of southern Italy. Located in the heel of the boot, Lecce is famous for its beautiful architecture and delicious cuisine. History lovers can explore Lecce’s past at Basilica di Santa Croce, Piazza del Duomo, and the Roman Amphitheater. But what makes Lecce truly special is its food.
Orecchiette with tomato sauce and ricotta cheese and pasticciotto (a cream-filled pastry) are two of the city’s top dishes. Lecce is home to great wineries where you can try famous wines from the region, like Primitivo and Negroamaro. It’s also within thirty minutes of several gorgeous beaches on the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. Visitors can even take a short ferry ride from Lecce to Vlore, Albania! No list of the top places in Italy is complete without this Mediterranean paradise!
Italy is a country that is full of beauty, history, and charm. From the bustling streets of Rome to the romantic canals of Venice, there is something in Italy that will capture your heart. Whether you are interested in art, history, food, or outdoor activities, Italy has something to offer every type of traveler.
So, take a trip to “The Boot” to experience the best places in Italy for yourself! And don’t forget to add some of these top places to your travel itinerary. You won’t be disappointed!