Thanks to its temperate climate, rich history and location right in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, there are few places on earth quite like Italy. It is also home to the most World Heritage Sites on the planet and one of the most visited countries in the world. To experience the sights, sounds and culture of this fascinating country, there are 20 places that cannot be missed during a visit.
1. Teatro di San Carlo
This breathtaking opera house is located in Naples, next to the Piazza del Plebiscito, and was opened in 1737. Operas are still performed at the theater from January to May, which makes it one of the oldest continuously active venues for public opera in the world. Guided tours of the main hall, boxes, Royal box and foyers are also available.
2. Villa Romana del Casale
For a glimpse of a real Roman villa, The Villa Romana del Casale in southern Italy is a must. It was built early in the 4th century and is home to the largest and most complex assortment of Roman mosaics in the country. It is also one of the Italian UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
3. Pinacoteca di Brera
The Brera Art Gallery, Pinacoteca di Brera, is home to one of the most prestigious assortment of Italian paintings and well worth a visit for art connoisseur. It contains works by some of the best Italian artists from the 13th to the 20th centuries and the surrounding neighborhood is great for sightseeing as well.
4. Milan Cathedral
Another sight not to be missed while exploring Italy is Milan Cathedral. This Gothic cathedral is the second largest of its kind in Italy and required nearly six centuries of construction to complete. Apart from its striking exterior, the cathedral interior also includes numerous artworks and monuments.
5. Piazza San Marco
One of the main attractions in Venice is the Piazza San Marco, also known as St Mark’s Square. The square is bordered by historic buildings, including the magnificent St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. It is known as the heart of Venice and a great place from which to start exploring the city.
6. Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the symbols of Italy that is known worldwide and is one of the oldest structures located in the Cathedral Square of the city. This freestanding bell tower was completed over a period of 199 years and started tilting during its construction phase already.
7. Trevi Fountain
Located in the Trevi district of Rome, this Barogue fountain is one of the most famous in the world and regularly features in films. The fountain is constructed mostly out of travertine stone, the same material used for the Colosseum in Rome. Contrary to popular believe, the main statue of the fountain is not based on Neptune, but Ocean the son of Sky and Vesta, who is the personification of an immense river flowing around the earth.
8. The Pantheon
The Pantheon is not only one of the best-preserved Ancient Roman buildings, but its dome is also one of the largest unreinforced concrete domes in the world. The building features some amazing architectural designs and is also the burial place of two Italian kings, Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I, as well as Raphael, the world famous Renaissance painter.
Considered by many to be one of the greatest architectural and engineering feats in the world, the Colosseum in Rome
The Colosseum in Rome is considered by many to be one of the greatest architectural and engineering feats in the world. It is one of the largest amphitheaters ever built and could hold up to 80, 000 spectators who came to watch gladiatorial battles, re-enactments of famous battles and other spectacles. Earthquakes and stone-robbers partially ruined the structure, but it is still an iconic symbol of Italy.
10. Pompeii Ruins
Pompeii, the Roman city buried under ash and pumice during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and very popular Italian tourist attraction. Due to the lack of air and moisture the objects buried beneath Pompeii were well-preserved, providing a fascinating glimpse into Roman life.
11. The Grand Canal
Exploring the The Grand Canal in Venice by gondola is a magical experience and also a great way to view the city. In many ways it is the main street of Venice and it is lined with the beautiful palazzo, many with ornate facades. Churches and other public buildings of various styles can also be seen along the canal.
Although Positano is amongst the most famous, any of the villages on the Amalfi Coast are worth a visit. Due to the steep mountains the town has a dramatic vertical layout and also has a couple of beaches to relax while soaking up the atmosphere.
13. Cinque Terre
For more rugged coastal beauty visit Cinque Terre in the Liguria region of Italy. The area is home to five villages, all connected via trains and boats. It is another area where the inhabitants built their homes on the steep cliffs overlooking the sea, which makes for breathtaking views.
14. San Gimignano
To view some interesting medieval architecture a trip to the walled town of San Gimigano in Tuscany is worthwhile. It has a picturesque hilltop setting and within its walls there are numerous buildings that are Romanesque and Gothic in style. Wine connoisseurs will also love the white wine, made from the ancient variety of grape grown in the area.
15. Roman Forum
Visit the Roman Forum in the center of Rome to view the ruins of what was once the most grandiose districts of the city. Serving as a commercial, political and social hub for the empire, the Forum was one of the most important places in Italy during ancient Roman times. The remains of numerous temples and other Roman architecture can still be viewed at the Forum.
16. Arch of Constantine
The impressive Arch of Constantine was constructed early in the fourth century to commemorate the victory of Constantine over Emperor Maxentius. This large arch features three archways and features statues as well as relief panels along with other decorations.
17. Palazzo Pitti
Originally the residence of a Florentine banker, the Palazzo Pitti is a Renaissance palace in Italy that is steeped in history. The Medici family as well as Napoleon used the building as their power base stored great treasures in it. Today the palazzo is one of the largest museum complexes in Florence.
18. Castel del Monte
Castel del Monte, which means Castle of the Mountain, is located in southeast Italy and is another World Heritage Site. It can be found near the monastery of Santa Maria del Monte and features an unusual octagonal design. Although the marble and ornamentation of the castle were looted during the 18th century, it is still a fascinating example of medieval military architecture.
19. Uffizi Gallery
To view one of the oldest and most famous art museums in the world, take a trip to Florence where the Uffizi Gallery is located. The works of great Italian artists, such as Micelangelo, Raffaello, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto and many others are housed in this museum.
20. Valle dei Templi
A trip to Sicily in southern Italy is a must for anyone interested in Greater Greece art and architecture as it is the location of the Valle dei Templi, or Valley of the Temples. This archeological site is one of the largest of its kind in the world and is home to the remains of several temples as well as other structures.