Italy is a popular travel destination, but much of the tourism goes to a few places like Rome, Venice, and Florence or to cities within the reach of a cruise ship port. But there are many places in Italy that deserve a visit, both famous and lesser-known.
Italy is known for its history. It has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country. It has been the home to Roman Emperors certainly but also to Greek colonists, Saracen pirates, Venetian traders, as well as Renaissance princes, scientists, and artists. It has been ruled in part by Caesar, Napoleon, Austrian kings, Norman knights, Mussolini, and popes.
It has also given the world such culinary gifts as pizza, spaghetti, and gelato but is still the home to vast array of lesser-known regional dishes.
It packs all this history in a country the size of the state of California (although with twice the population) so seeing a few different regions on one trip is manageable.
With the great help from my friends and 60+ fellow travel bloggers, here are some cities, towns, and places you should consider adding to your Italy itinerary. The cities are organized by region.
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- Porto Ercole on Monte Argentario
- San Gimignano
If Italy is shaped like a boot then Apulia (or Puglia) is the heel of the boot which ends in the Salento peninsula. This area, along with much of the south coast of Italy was once part of Magna Grecia, populated by Greek colonists in the days before the rise of Rome. It has more coastline than any other region and a variety of ancient sites.
You can learn more about Apulia in this episode of the Amateur Traveler podcast:
Ashwini from hoppingmiles.com writes:
When I planned my self guided road trip in Italy, I made sure that I added Alberobello in my itinerary for many reasons.
My fascination for Alberobello grew when I saw a scene from a movie where the entire song was shot in a town with white washed houses topped with conical roofs stacked with stones. Upon little research, I found out that the place was a small town in south Italy called Alberobello.
These houses are made of a special limestone available in the Apulia region, where Alberobello is located. The roof is made from small stones stacked one upon the other in a conical shape. This construction pattern ensures that the house is cool in summers and warm in winters. These houses are called ‘Trullo’ (plural) or Trulli (singular).
While the town of Alberobello has grown beyond the Trullo and has been modernised, you need to look for the old town in the city center to find hundreds of Trullo. Anywhere you turn, you will be greeted with similar looking houses – in every lane, on every turn. What makes those even more special are the lovely vibrant flowers that decorate the Trullo. One can wander and get lost in those lanes for hours together.
Also visit the chapel in the town and don’t miss the delicious homemade gelato in the café at the entrance of old town, beyond the chapel.
Stuart from go-eat-do.com writes:
The city of Bari has an attractive, historic core and warrants exploration over a day or two. Nearby Bari Karol Wojty?a Airport is named after the man who became Pope John Paul II. It is the chief point of arrival by international travelers and acts as a gateway for exploring the Puglia region; the heel of Italy.
For a taste of local flavor take a seat on the Piazza Mercantile public square, in Bari’s Old Town, and order a glass of the region’s robust Primitivo red wine from any of the many cafes. As you sip the wine you’ll be able to view a stone pillory, topped by a sculpted lion, where people were once published on market days. Fresh fish used to be landed from boats sailing into the port, which opens out onto the Adriatic Sea.
Eating well and inexpensively will not be a problem in Bari. At the Panificio Fiore thick focaccia bread, topped with regional olive oil is served while still warm. It’s a local tip for a simple but tasty and filling bite to eat. Inside of the popular bakery you can see pillars that originally formed part of an 8th-century church.
Don’t miss the opportunity to step inside the Basilica of St Nicholas (the Basilica San Nicola in Italian), dedicated to the holy man whose mortal remains were brought to the city from Myra, Turkey, in 1087. Visiting provides an opportunity to learn about the legend of St Nicholas, whose gifts of gold lay the basis of the tradition of Christmas giving.
Rickshaw tours are one way of exploring the Bari’s streets. The compact city is easy to get around and highlights include a 13th-century fortress with imposing but photogenic walls.
Andrew & Emily from alongdustyroads.com write:
It was in Gallipoli where we first felt transported into the Italy of our dreams – an Italy that we didn’t think existed outside of films and novels. The old town of Gallipoli, based on an island, is one of charming and narrow alleys, religious relics on the corners and the sing-song lilt of local gossip filling the air.
With a small beach in town, and some of the country’s best only a short drive away, Gallipoli is a perfect place to base yourself for a few days and live you own Italian coastal dream.
The sunset from any rooftop is a must-see, but we would recommend walking the perimeter of the old town first to visit the Castello Angioino di Gallipoli and gaze upon the fisherman fixing nets in colourful boats by the port.
Tip: As the best way to see the Puglia region is a road trip, it’s likely that most travellers will make it to Gallipoli in their own rental car. Although we recommend staying in the the old town, make sure you park your car in one of the large public car parks by the port otherwise you’re going to be faced with tiny streets and a heavy fine.
Elena from passionforhospitality.net writes:
The charming town of Ginosa is one of those hidden gems. Located just a little over an hour’s drive from Bari, it has managed to preserve its special traditions, stunning landscape and renowned hospitality of southern Italy.
Here you can take an afternoon walk to the ravine and explore the ancient cave-dwellings and ruins of Rione di Rivolta. Admire the Norman castle which is one of Ginosa’s most imposing landmarks and the impressive Chiesa Matrice, a grand 16th century church, which plays a crucial role in the town’s history.
Despite its small size, there is plenty to do in Ginosa and great cuisine. Take a cooking class with grandma Orsola at a XIX century bakery Forno Ottocento where you can master the art of making traditional pasta orecchiette (the name comes from their shape which resembles little ears). Go wine tasting at the winery of Domenico Russo where you can savour exceptional first-class wines with notable native varieties such as Primitivo and Malvasia.
Start your morning with a visit to Ginosa’s traditional bakery Panificio Piccolo which translates as the small bakery. Here you will be treated to the best focaccia and other sweet Italian delights. If you are a lover of artisan clothing, then don’t miss the famous Sartoria G. Inglese, here you can buy hand sewn shirts made by Angelo Inglese. Inglese created the shirt which Prince William wore for his wedding and the shirt Donald Trump wore on the day he took the oath of office. Ginosa is a small town yet with many bright talents.
Cristina from thelazytrotter.com writes:
Every time somebody asks me which Italian city I am from, I always give the same answer: “I come from the bottom of the boot”. If you don’t know where Lecce is, take the map of Italy and point south-east, where the land meets the Ionian and Adriatic seas.
That’s what we call finis terrae – the end of the land – to remark that the borders of our country end here and everything else is a mix of influences and traditions coming from the Mediterranean and the Balkans.
And this is exactly why you should add Lecce to your next trip to Italy; experience the unique flavours of the south and enjoy the beauties of a city capable of melting history and modernity in such a unique way.
If you love architecture, your will literally fall in love in front of the beauty of the Duomo and Basilica di Santa Croce. The whole old city is a labyrinth of baroque palaces, inner gardens, churches, and alleys that will make you feel like being the protagonist of an Italian movie from the Fifties.
Make sure to be on a rigid diet before arriving to Lecce: flows of red wine and some of the yummiest food on earth are waiting for you.
Tip: If you are planning to go to the beach while being in Lecce, check the wind first. If it blows from the north, you should hit the Ionian coast, if it blows from the South, head towards the Adriatic. If in doubt, ask a local; it’s our favorite topic!
Kathryn from TravelWithKat.com writes:
Locorotondo, a beautiful white-washed town in Apulia, southern Italy, is named after its circular old town perched on a hill-top. Here you’ll find a fabulous maze of alleyways, lined with historic buildings including some rather grand baroque archways and architectural details. It is officially one of the Borghi più belli d’Italia, the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Look out for the fine Romanesque Church of the Madonna della Greca and the Church of St George, a beautiful neoclassical, nineteenth-century building dominating the main square. Here, St George, one of the town’s two patron saints, sits on horseback looking down over the town.
It is also worth exploring the street that follows the line of the old protective walls that encircles part of the old town. You’ll find glorious views out across the Valle d’Itria’s vineyards and olive groves dotted with the unusual cone-shaped roofs of the trulli houses that the area is famous for.
Tip: Locorotondo is also famous for its wine, in particular, a lightly sparkling white. Be sure to try some while you are in the area with the local speciality u tridde, a freshly made pasta with pecorino cheese and parsley in a turkey broth.
Kylie from ouroverseasadventures.com writes:
Monopoli sits beside the Adriatic Sea and is a quaint town that’s very characteristic of the Apulia region of Italy. It’s got all the great ingredients for a perfect day trip – a wander through the old town’s narrow alleyways and cobbled streets, a leisurely lunch followed by a dip in turquoise blue waters at Cala Porta Vecchia.
A must see is the stunning baroque style Monopoli Cathedral – Basilica of the Madonna della Madia, with its tall bell tower, stunning decorated altar and beautiful paintings throughout. There’s also an archaeological museum located in the crypt. On the promenade across the other side of town is the 16th-century castle of Carlo V which is a major landmark in the town and provides great views out over the town and ocean.
The public beach Cala Porta Vecchia is great for swimming with very clear waters and it is clean. On a hot day it’s perfect for swimming out and looking back at the town, or simply sitting on the 500-year-old walls looking out over the bay and castle.
Our tip is to make sure you eat when in Monopoli. The town is known for its rustic home-style cooking and boasts some of Apulia’s best restaurants which are surprisingly affordable. If you’re a seafood lover then a must try is the Cavatelli ai Frutti di Mare (short pasta with seafood) or Riso, Patate e Cozze – (rice, potatoes and mussels), found in any of the traditional trattoria in the town. Our pick is La Vecchia Taverna, a lovely family run restaurant set into the city walls – perfect for a long leisurely lunch.
Polignano a Mare
TurNadine from lelongweekend.com writes:
Polignano a Mare literally translates to Polignano at Sea, and when you visit you’ll immediately know why it was given such a name. Teetering on cave-ridden cliffs on the Adriatic Coast, Polignano a Mare is one of the most captivating towns in Italy. It’sthe kind of place that you’ll feel compelled to come back to time and time again.
In winter you’ll be content wandering the whitewashed streets of the old town. Polignano a Mare is one of the oldest towns in Puglia and it wears its age beautifully. Tiny, crooked lanes lead to vast open views, and shutters are flung open to reveal the contrasting interiors of chandeliers and chipped paint. In summer the town swells with visitors from nearby Bari as sun worshippers flock to the beach for a dip in the tempting turquoise water.
The caves etched into the earth beneath the town are a must-see, and the best way to explore them is by taking a boat tour around the coast. Multiple companies operate tours throughout the warmer months and will take you to hidden swimming holes and enchanting caverns. A tip – if you haven’t got your sea legs, or simply want to have a truly unique experience in Polignano a Mare, head to Grotta Palazzese to dine inside a limestone grotto while taking in the sounds and sights of the sea around you.
Alessandra from tips4italiantrips.com writes:
The Tremiti Islands are a mesmerising location in Southern Italy. They stand in front of the Gargano Promontory, in Apulia. Tourists from all over the world should go there because this spot is such a beautiful place off the beaten track. They are paradisiacal location in Italy that need not envy the islands in the Caribbean:. They have white and soft sand, rocky sea caves, bright and crystalline water and the scent of broom or maritime pine.
The Tremiti Islands are five rocky islands located very close together. There are two main villages: one on the island of San Nicola and the other one on the island of San Domino.
Visitors can reach the islands only by ferry, on a day trip excursion from the Italian coastline. It takes nearly one hour to get there. Cars are forbidden as the islands are tiny.
The best time of the year to visit the Tremiti is during the low season (in Spring or Autumn) when beaches are empty, and the small harbour gets quiet.
Once there, tourists can:
- Visit the ancient Fortress on San Nicola’s island and have a yummy meal in front of the sea.
- Go searching for sea urchins (eating them with hot bread and a pad of butter).
- Circumnavigate the islands exploring the caves.
- Dive or snorkel admiring the statue of St.Pio of Pietralcina, set at the sea bottom.
And last but not least, the Tremiti are a perfect spot to relax and taste the Italian “Dolce Vita”.
If Apulia is the heel of the Italian boot that would make Basilicata the instep… which I am pretty sure absolutely no one calls it. This rugged region of woods and hills borders on both the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas.
Erin from ExploreWithErin.com writes:
Ever wondered where those amazing old Bible films are created? Those ancient Jerusalem settings used in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ? Ben Hur? I’ll give you a hint. It’s not Israel. In fact, it’s the capital of the province Basilicata in Southern Italy – Matera.
Matera is the third-oldest continually inhabited settlement in the world with inhabitants residing there for at least 9,000 years. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site with 155 cave churches mostly built between the 11th and 12th century.
The churches of Matera, like many of the homes and hotels are carved into stone and date back to the Middle Ages. Many have their interiors covered in spectacular frescoes. Restoration is taking place of some of these frescoes, but they are so delicate that my number one tip is get there soon. They may not be around much longer.
While you are in Matera consider spending a night or two in Le Grotte della Civita, which has rooms spread through three tiers of caves. Then wake for breakfast in a 13-century cave or if you are an early riser watch the sunrise over this incredible city. It’s golden.
Matera is a must visit when making your way through Italy, however I should note that Matera is not handicap accessible or stroller friendly. The whole city is filled with stairs and cobbled streets so be prepared to work up a sweat and wear comfortable shoes.
The region of Campania lies south of Rome along Italy’s rugged and beautiful coastline. This is where you will find the city of Naples, Mount Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast.
You can learn more about Campania on this episode of the Amateur Traveler:
Aditi from travelogueconnect.com writes:
We visited Agerola in June 2017. It is a small picturesque village 35 kms from Naples. It is also known as Mini Switzerland due to the scenic landscapes, fresh air, clean roads and astounding views of the Mediterranean sea. Agerola was our base for 2 days when we visited Amalfi Coast. We are so glad we took this decision of staying in Agerola and discovered this hidden gem amidst all the touristy places.
Agerola is situated on a hilltop with crystal clear coastline on one side and towering cliffs on the other. Vibrant colorful flowers are everywhere. During evening it felt like heaven where the sky meets the sea.
We had our best dinners in Agerola. Ristorante Leonardo’s and Ristorante Pizzeria Da Gigino are 2 such restaurants which are not to be missed at any cost.
We have some really nice memories from our trip to Agerola: walking hand in hand late night after dinner, stargazing, sitting in silence staring at the deep blue sea, staying with our hospitable hosts in Holidays Costanza, having delicious meals at family-run restaurants, waking up to mouth-watering chocolate croissants for breakfast.
The main attraction in Agerola for adventure enthusiasts is hiking up the “Path of the Gods” which offers stunning mountain views and spectacular scenery enroute. It is a must for anyone who loves outdoor activities.
The mountain village is famous for the richness of fruits provided by the land, but also for farms which produce milk for the production of butter and delightful cheese. One such cheese not to be missed is Fiordilatte di Agerola. It is a PDO cheese, i.e. bearing the “Protected Designation of Origin” certification. It’s a fresh cheese made from the spun paste of cow’s whole milk available only in Agerola.
Barbara from jet-settera.com writes:
The Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy is the ideal destination for a romantic weekend getaway or for a beautiful wedding. This beautiful coast has served as a residence of many Italian celebrities like Sophia Loren.
Today, it is one of the most popular wedding destinations of Europe. Its spectacular scenery and authentic places explain why the coast is so popular. The Amalfi Coast offers wonderful views to its visitors, authentic Southern Italian cuisine and a romantic atmosphere.
The best way to visit the Amalfi Coast is by boat, but one can take a bus or a car around too, however the roads are winding. You can cruise from Positano to Amalfi and to Ravello and visit all three of the charming coastal towns. Positano is one of the most beautiful beaches of Italy. Amalfi has a famous church in the center which is worth visiting. Ravello is a famous cultural center, where classical music festivals take place during the Summer.
Le Sirenuse in the center of Positano is a Michelin-starred restaurant with a famous oyster bar and a private balcony. It is the ideal place for a lovely dinner.
It is also a good idea to visit the nearby caves Grotto Dello Smeraldo. They are lit up in various colors during the day.
Nicole from nicolelabarge.com writes:
Capri is an idyllic island about an hour off the coast of Naples. For most people, this is a dream destination as Capri is a small, scenic island with a lot of history and removed from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.
There is only one road around Capri as most of the island is made up of narrow alleyways. There is also a funicular to take you to the top of the steep hill that is Capri. Once you get to the top you can visit the Piazzetta the compact town square with views over the island and have a coffee and people watch.
After you have discovered Capri by land I suggest you discover Capri from the sea with a wooden rowboat to enter the magical Blue Grotto. Rowboats are the only vessels able to fit inside the sea cave as the opening of the cave is only two metres wide.
The Blue Grotto is a sea cave. When the sunlight is shining through the sea water there is a blue light the shines in the cave. Inside the cave opens up and you can see the light reflecting off of the water. The best time to see the reflection is between noon and 2pm.
[Photo by Enzo Cositore at Morguefile.com]
Shanna from thereandbackagaintravel.com writes:
Naples often gets bypassed for flashier Italian destinations, but a visit to Italy’s third largest city is worth your time. It is located the Western side of Italy a couple of hours down the coast from Rome. Naples is a slightly gritty, real city that is deeply rooted in history. The museums, churches and castles here could keep you busy for weeks. Compared to Rome or some of its other more popular counterparts, Naples has scores less tourists and a visit will give you a much more authentic taste of Italian life.
In case you needed one more reason to visit Naples…add amazing food to your list. Neapolitan cuisine features sumptuous pasta dishes accented with seafood, and pizza…oh, the pizza. Pizza was literally invented here and you can find it all over the city. Look for lots of locals eating. This generally means good pizza. If you see a sign that says “Vera Pizza Napolitana” so much the better.
A good use of sightseeing time in Naples would be a visit to Vomero Hill. This Naples neighborhood has beautiful views of the city and bay below. If you like shopping, you will find some great deals on clothing and shoes in this area as well as a great, off the beaten path local food market that is open everyday except Monday.
One cannot talk about things to do in Naples without mentioning a day trip to nearby Pompeii. Pompeii will make your jaw drop, but Herculaneum is a nearby city that was also destroyed by the explosion of Mount Vesuvius. This smaller but more well preserved city is also less crowded. Naples is also a great base for scores of other day trips including Capri, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast or hiking up Mount Vesuvius itself.
The region of Emilia-Romagna is in Northern Italy between Tuscany (Florence) and the Veneto (Venice).
Amber from withhusbandintow.com writes:
The Italian region of Emilia-Romagna is home to some of the best food, and Italian food products, in the world. It is home to slow food, fast cars, and amazing wines. The three main cities for food travelers include Bologna, Modena, and Parma.
You can learn more about the region of Emilia-Romagna in these episodes of Amateur Traveler:
- Travel to Turin and Bologna (or eating our way through Italy) – Episode 208
- Life as an Exchange Student in Northern Italy – Episode 93
Allison from eternalarrival.com writes:
After three trips to Italy, Bologna in Emilia-Romagna is one of my favorite cities in the entire country. It’s one of the most authentic feeling Italian cities, one where tourists mingle with locals freely and you barely see a single souvenir shop. Bologna has three nicknames, each which give you valuable insight into the city. They are:
- La Dotta, ‘the educated’, for its university which is the oldest in Europe
- La Grassa, ’the fat’, for its delicious and rich cuisine
- La Rossa, ’the red’, for its distinctive reddish-hued architecture.
Each play an important role in modern life in Bologna. It’s still a vibrant student city, meaning that the feel of Bologna is a lot younger, and prices there are a lot more student-friendly to match. The university is a must-see, as its architecture is really beautiful. A few other must-see sites include the Asinelli Tower, which gives you some of the best possible views over Bologna, and the famous portici archways, which are unmissable considering the city is made up of over 40 kilometers of them.
But the real draw to Bologna, in my opinion, is Bologna’s amazing cuisine. Bologna is home to some of Italy’s best cured meats like mortadella — a delicious, fatty sliced ham nothing like what you get in America — and prosciutto de Parma, that classic Italian cold cut. It also is home to amazing dishes like tortellini al brodo (tortellini in broth — a simple but exquisitely delicious dish) and tagliatelle al ragu (the real version of spaghetti bolognese!).Tip: Don’t miss the gelato at Gelateria Galliera 49. It’s the best I’ve had in all of Italy.
Indrani Ghose from isharethese.com writes:
Modena, located in central Italy, may not be as popular as other sites of Italy yet it is a site worth visiting to devour the beauty in stone virtually. The city got its status for the Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande.
An imposing cathedral, a Romanesque basilica begun in 1099 and completed in the 13th century, is the highlight of Modena. Both façade and interiors has beautiful stone carvings. Don’t miss photographing the magnificent 13th-century rose window on the façade. Marble lions support the porticus, and reliefs beside the main door and above the side doors. The belfry of Modena, Torre della Ghirlandina, is believed to be tilted at an angle. Unfortunately for me when I was there it was covered for renovation. I couldn’t note this interesting aspect of the cathedral. Do check it out if you are there.
The Town hall the third impressive landmark of Modena is youngest of the three monuments, built in 17th and 18th centuries.
The breathtaking monumental square (Piazza Grande) here gives an idea of the magnificence the city had centuries back. Ghirlandina (little garland), the medieval bell tower is a sight to behold. Stand anywhere in city of Modena and keep walking with the sight of this tall bell tower. It will guide you to the grand square.
How to reach Modena
There are trains connecting Modena to Bologna in intervals of 20-30 minutes, Florence every 90 minutes and from Milan 110-120 minutes.
Modena Cathedral Opening Hours
6.30 to 12.30 and 15.30 to 19 (No tourist visits during the Mass, so check on that too.)
Ghirlandina Tower Opening Hours
April to September – Saturday and Sunday 9.30 to 12.30 and 15.00 to 19.00
October to March – Tuesday to Friday 9.30 am – 1.00 pm and 2.30 pm – 5.30 pm
Tickets cost 2 Euro. Cumulative ticket for Ghirlandina and Town Hall 3 Euro
Amber from withhusbandintow.com writes:
There’s something about Parma that makes it special. It’s a stunning city, with large squares, a beautiful cathedral, and their famous pink baptistry. It’s also home to some of the most iconic food products, including Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma.
But, similar to its neighbor to the east, Modena, some of the most amazing food experiences lie outside the city center. Sure, there are amazing restaurants in the heart of the city. But to learn how they make their local products, it’s important escape Parma and explore. The best way to do this is by hiring a rental car and exploring one of the Parmigiano Reggiano dairies nearby. Or, head to Langhirano, the home of Prosciutto di Parma, and learn how they make Parma ham. Even if exploring by rental car is not an option, the tourism board on Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi, can help arrange a half day bus tour out to Langhirano to learn about this iconic Italian product. Or, check out Rural, a shop specializing in local, artisan food products, located on Borgo Giacomo Tommasini.
Verity from veritru.co.uk writes:
Italy is one of my favourite countries, but one of my favourite cities is Ravenna. It’s a pretty little city. The top monuments of Ravenna are filled with the most beautiful mosaics and artwork that you will ever see, alongside enough history for buffs to keel over.
Most of the mosaics can be found in the churches and baptisteries around the city, the buildings look so unassuming from the outside but inside will truly take your breath away. The main 5 are included in a ticket for €9.50 (or €8.50 reduced for students/groups etc) which you can pick up from the Tourist Information Centre.
Now I’m not religious, but you can’t help but step back, look up with your mouth wide open and appreciate the beauty! It’s truly enchanting and even though you might leave with a neck ache, it is so worth it. My personal favourites were Basilica di San Vitale, home to not only mosaics but also a beautiful baroque painted dome, and Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, home to the oldest mosaic work of the New Testament and a seriously impressive interior featuring stunning columns and a square panelled ceiling.
Alongside the mosaics, Ravenna provides everything you could want from a quaint European city. Whimsical winding streets, beautiful open squares, incredible architecture; you cannot help but fall in love with the cities charm.
Rimini / San Marino
Halef from thertwguys.com writes:
San Marino is one of the smallest countries in the world and claims to be the oldest republic in the world. Not surprisingly, many visitors are curious to visit San Marino, and tourism is the main industry in this small country.
San Marino’s border is completely enclosed within Italy; however, it maintains an open border policy with its much larger neighbor. To get there, you will have to drive, or to take the train, to the Italian city of Rimini, the only gateway to San Marino.
A regular 40-minute bus ride takes you from Rimini’s main train station to the San Marino capital, with some stops in smaller towns within San Marino. The capital city bears the same name of the country. The majority of San Marino historic city center, along with Mount Titano, is under the protection of UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
After getting your optional passport stamp at the San Marino visitor’s center, don’t miss just getting lost by wandering around in historic San Marino. You can visit many of the country’s museums and climb along the scenic fortress of Guaita.
As you can imagine, staying in San Marino “proper” can be very expensive. If you are budget-aware, consider staying in the smaller towns of San Marino, like Serravalle and La Dogana. You can even stay in Rimini, Italy. A day trip to the capital can easily be done by bus.
Friuli Venezia Giulia
This region of Italy is adjacent to Austria and was for many years part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Its capital is Trieste.
Kristin from TravelPast50.com writes:
Trieste, perched at the top of the Adriatic Sea at Italy’s border with Slovenia, and only 30 kilometers from Croatia, attracts history buffs, geography nerds, and fans of 20th Century literature. For over two millennia, Trieste has been volleyed back and forth between Roman, Austro-Hungarian, French, German, and Slavic interests. James Joyce lived here for a time; Sigmund Freud was here, and so was Mussolini. It’s no wonder that a walk through Trieste is marked by diverse architectural styles and eclectic cuisines.
Trieste slopes uphill from the massive port. Along with the railroads, the port has defined the city, an important crossroads not only for trade but for arts and literature. It’s café culture once outshone Venice.
Two attractions offer a closer look into Trieste’s layered history, and both are built atop Roman ruins. The castle of San Giusto includes an exhibit of Roman statuary, inscriptions, mosaic floors, and military armament. Views over the city are really good from here, despite the infamous insanity-inducing winds.
Nearby stands the Cattedrale di San Giusto, a 9-11th Century Romanesque church built on top of a 6th Century basilica. It is small but outstanding for its impressive purple mosaics. Pay the 50 cents to light up the chapels to see these works of art.
Great food and wine can be discovered in the old town, in the vicinity of the Arco Riccardo Roman ruins.
Lazio may be the region of Italy that more people have been too, but have never heard of. This is the heart of Italy. and is the region where you will find Rome. But there is more to Lazio than just Rome.
You can hear more about the region of Lazio on these episodes of the Amateur Traveler podcast:
- Cruise to the Western Mediterranean (Spain, Gibraltar, France, Monaco, Italy) on Holland America’s Westerdam – Episode 574
- Travel to Lazio, Italy – Episode 427
- Travel to Rome with Andy Steves – Episode 288
- Travel to Rome, Italy – Episode 29
Civita di Bagnoregio
David from travelsewhere.net writes:
Alone on a small rocky hilltop in the province of Viterbo sits the village of Civita di Bagnoregio. Known as the “Dying City”, the (then) town suffered greatly after a devastating earthquake in the 17th century and its population has dwindled ever since. Today, it is said as few as 10 people now live there permanently.
The first glimpse of the precarious clifftop village from across the valley is truly a special sight. Atop bare, rocky cliffs, you see just a handful of stone buildings up there. As a small village, you can wander its ancient streets and bask in its beautifully preserved heritage. Certainly, the chance to uncover new viewpoints of the surrounding countryside is worth straying down its little alleys as well. The village’s isolation means there are very few obvious hints to modern life.
Access to the isolated Civita di Bagnoregio is only possible via the long and surprisingly steep bridge from the modern commune of Bagnoregio. The walk over gives you more time to appreciate its remoteness and the vast valleys that lay below. It’s truly the setting of the village alone among the landscape that makes it such a unique place.
Tip: You only really need a few hours to fully explore Civita di Bagnoregio, but there’s always the option of staying in one of its historic guesthouses or hotels, to feel totally transported to another time.
Clemens from travellersarchive.com writes:
Although Rome itself offers a lot of beautiful ruins, a trip to Ostia, the ancient port city of the metropolis is well worth it. No wonder that the small city is a popular destination for tourist to Rome.
In addition to the excavations in Ostia Antica, it is the beautiful beaches that attract the tourists. But be aware, the beachfront is often overrun, especially in summertime, because Ostia is something like the recreation area of Rome.
You can reach the excavations (“Scavi”) via the stop “Ostia Antica” of the railway line Roma-Lido. The settlement, some kilometres inland, offers a completely different – and in many ways more accessible – impression of an ancient city than Rome. This is because the urban area was largely abandoned and thus preserved. Some of the buildings have been preserved up to the upper floors.
Tip: The excavation site is very large, I would advise you to take a hat and plenty of water and especially to put on comfortable shoes. Why not chill out at the beach afterwards before heading back to Rome? You surely won’t regret it.
Laurence from findingtheuniverse.com writes:
No visit to Italy would be complete without a trip to the capital city of Rome. The saying goes that all roads lead to Rome, and certainly during the height of the Roman Empire, this was absolutely true. Today, a visit to Rome is a journey through over two thousand years of history. Rome is like a huge archaeological cake, with buildings layered over buildings, and everything on offer from Roman highlights like the Coliseum and Castel Sant’Angelo, through to Renaissance masterpieces like the Sistine Chapel.
With so much to offer, it’s hard to pick just one highlight, but if I had to, it would be the Coliseum. Home to the ancient gladiators, and the place where ordinary Romans and emperors alike came to watch gruesome spectacles as entertainment, a visit to the Coliseum will be an experience you never forget. Just make sure you come early, and ensure you take advantage of the online advance booking system so you can skip the ticket lines and head straight to the security lines. You definitely don’t want to spend your time in Rome standing in line. As a bonus, your ticket to the Coliseum also includes entry to the Roman Forum next door, which should also be on your Rome “to-do” list.
For more ideas of what to do in Rome, take a look at my guide to spending 3 days in Rome, which will give you plenty more sightseeing ideas.
Gary from everything-everywhere.com writes:
Just 30-45 by car from Rome is the town of Tivoli. Located in the hills above Rome, it has been a place where the rich and powerful of Rome could retreat for centuries. Here you will find two UNESCO World Heritage sites which are both villas of powerful Romans but separated by over a 1,000 years.
The Villa Adriana is the palace of Emperor Hadrian. Built from 118-138 AD, it was built because Hadrian didn’t enjoy living in his palace on the Palatine Hill of Rome. Several other emperors lived in the villa, including Marcus Aurelius and Septimius Severus. Today you can still see original statutes and much of the layout of the original buildings.
The other famous villa in Tivoli is the Villa d’Este. Constructed in 1550 by the Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este, it was an attempt to impress electors so he could become pope. It didn’t work. The villa was an impressive display of water engineering and fountains, which are still functioning today.
It is possible to easily visit both villas in a day trip from Rome. Many tour operators offer tour pages to visit Tivoli.
Angela from romeactually.com writes:
At some 80 km and one and a half hours train ride from Rome, Viterbo makes it for a fascinating day trip from the capital. Known as the City of Popes, the beautiful city centre whirls you back to medieval times, when Viterbo was a bustling hub of artisans, traders, artists and politics.
In the wake of the fall of the Roman Empire, the struggle for power among Roman noble clans made it unsafe at times for the head of the Christendom. This is why several popes spent some time in Viterbo, fortified city surrounded by the medieval walls that still now we need to pass to reach its central quarter. It’s here, in San Pellegrino neighbourhood, that you can better experience the culture and the history of this once crucial hub of central Italy.
Alongside the tangled maze of cobbled alleys, the Popes’ Palace, the historical handicraft workshops, and the beautiful views, what attracts tourists and locals, including Rome’s residents, are Viterbo’s wonderful thermal baths, the most famous of which was aptly named Terme dei Papi, The Popes’ Baths. If you don’t feel like booking a treatment but simply soaking in the hot spring pool, you can stay as much as you want for as little as 12€.
This narrow region of Mediterranean coastline in northwest Italy is also known as the Italian Riviera. This is where you will find Genova (Genoa), Portofino, and the Cinque Terre. It’s beaches are small, its coastline is spectacular, its roads are winding.
Learn more about the region of Liguria on these episodes of Amateur Traveler:
Catherine from HerBagsWerePacked.com writes:
When I was planning my month in Italy, I knew I wanted to go to Rome and Florence to hit up all the “must-sees,” but I also wanted to get away from the busy tourist zones and experience quiet Italian life. This is how I ended up in Camogli, a sleepy little fishing village about 55 miles north of the heavily trafficked Cinque Terre. Here I found a small beach resort town that catered to real Italians with empty hiking trails, breathtaking sunsets, a rich history, and fresh pastas with unique pestos and walnut sauces.
The region is considered the birthplace of traditional Italian focaccia. “Focaccia di recco col formaggio” is paper thin and oozing with cheese. Consider grabbing a slice or two from Panificio In Scio Canto by the harbor or from Revello on the beach. Revello’s version holds an “Indication of Geographic Protection” certifying it as the “real deal.”
After you’ve had your fill, head over to the harbor where you can take a ferry to Abbazia di San Fruttuoso. The Abbey, hidden within a cove at the foot of heavily wooded hills, can only be accessed by foot or boat and has a unique and complicated history involving time as a traditional Catholic Abbey and a pirate hideout. Once you arrive, you can relax on the beach, go for a hike, dive down to the Christ of the Abyss statue, or tour the grounds.
I recommend bringing some snacks along to the Abbey because there are only two food options — a counter service cafe and a sit down restaurant. After dining on the tastiest focaccia in all of Italy, neither will seem like anything special and both are a bit overpriced.
Michael from timetravelturtle.com writes:
The five small villages of Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, Monterosso), nestled between hills on the Italian Riviera, create one of the most beautiful coastlines in the country. The natural beauty has always been here – dramatic cliffs falling down to wild waters, natural bays and harbours with calm beaches, lush green hillsides and jagged rocky outcrops. But it’s the communities along the way that make it so special.
The five villages that make up Cinque Terre (which translates as ‘five lands’) still have a colourful charming atmosphere to them because of their geographical isolation. Historically, they were cut off from each other and the region by land and most of the transport was done by boat. The hills around the villages also restricted the amount of development that could happen. And so, for centuries, they stayed relatively the same size with the same style of architecture.
When you visit today, you’ll want to spend some time in the villages to get a sense of what they feel like. All of them are now overrun by tourists but they still each have their own unique aspects. There are hotels, restaurants, and cafes in each village but they will get crowded at the height of summer.
The most popular activity in the Cinque Terre – which I highly recommend you do – is hiking. There’s a trail that connects each of the villages and you can spend most of the day going from one end to the other. There’s then a train to take you back to where you started. The same train also connects to the nearby cities of La Spezia and Levanto. As a tip, I would consider looking for accommodation at one of them during peak season if you’re having issues with availability and/or price.
I would add to what Michael said that because they are accessible by train they are a popular day trip for Italians on the weekend. During the summer, visit on a weekday if possible. The hikes at the southern end are the shorter and easier hikes. You can also stay in nearby La Spezia and travel to Riomaggiore by boat.
Elisa from worldinparis.com writes:
Genova, the capital of Liguria region, is a city located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Apennine Mountains. There are no midterms for Genova, “La Superba” (the proud one): you love it or hate it and many people will tell you they are in the second group. Genova, unlike other famous cities in Italy, is not the kind of place people love at first sight, you need to take your time. I was lucky to live two years in Genova, time enough to explore the city, know its people, discover its cuisine, and I learned to appreciate its beauty and character. Today I can say I left my heart in Genova.
During many centuries Genova was together with Venice, Pisa and Amalfi one of the four Maritime Powers in Italy and you can still see many beautiful remains of its glorious past. Genova’s historical center (a UNESCO Site) is the largest in Europe and it is populated by beautiful noble palaces, splendid churches and an intricate maze of medieval alleyways called “caruggi” which open unexpectedly onto beautiful small squares.
Piazza de Ferrari is the main square in Genova, dominated by Doge’s Palace, the Opera-Theater Carlo Felice, and other impressive baroque buildings.
Another interesting place to visit in Genova is its old harbor, a blend of historical buildings beautifully restored and new entertainment buildings designed by the famous architect Renzo Piano. The most outstanding of these new constructions is the Aquarium, the biggest aquarium in Europe.
Finally, don’t leave Genova without tasting its cuisine, with staples like focaccia and mains like troffie al pesto or pasta with walnuts sauce.
Add Genova to your Italy bucket list and discover its interesting history and beautiful architecture. Also, Genova makes a good base camp for exploring other places in Liguria, like Cinque Terre, Camogli or Rapallo.
Lombardy is the center of finance and fashion in Italy. If these people seem a bit more business-like than they do in southern Italy then you should know the region is named after a Germanic tribe the Lombards who invaded and ruled much of the Italian peninsula in the 700-900s. There is some debate about whether Lombardy culturally is northern Italy or southern Germany. The main city in Lombardy is Milan which is also one of Italy’s two major international airports.
Learn more about the region of Lombardy in these episodes of the Amateur Traveler:
- Travel to Northern Italy (Mantua, Verona, Padua) – Episode 552
- Travel to Milan, Italy – Episode 249
- Travel to Italy – The Cinque Terre, Lake Como and Milan – Episode 102
If you’re headed to Italy, Milan is a must-see. While the country’s south is splashy and colorful, northern Milan is more sophisticated and subdued city, full of charm. The city is fashionable, super cool, and undeniably gray. Even the famous Duomo is a stark gray and white masterpiece. But if you do want a pop of color, look up. The city’s buildings are full of beautiful details in muted hues, but they’re both wonderful and delicate.Once there, make sure to check out all the wonder hiding in the churches in Milan From a lock of Lucrezia Borgia’s hair to a chapel made entirely of bones, the city is full of spectacular renaissance churches that have been displaying their secrets for centuries.For art lovers, the church Santa Maria Delle Grazie is a must. The church is the home of one of the world’s most famous paintings, Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Da Vinci painted directly onto the wall of the monastery, and the work has miraculously survived horrendous conditions and the allied bombing of the city in World War II. Today the church has turned the room it’s in into a high-tech museum. Make sure to book tickets weeks in advance. They’re almost always sold out early.
Bellagio / Lake Como
Arzo from arzotravels.com writes:
Italy is probably the most beautiful country and there is definitely not shortage of beautiful places to go and visit. However, if you need nice places to add to your Italy itinerary then you should consider the region of Lake Como.
Lake Como is located in the northern part of Italy, just close to the Swiss border. While the town Como itself is nice to visit, Bellagio is the most beautiful part of that area.
Bellagio is a must-see place in Italy for several reasons – the town center is beautiful. The staircase has become quite famous and there is a reason why it is such a popular photo stop for many, but also the promenade is colorful with many flowers and colorful houses.
If you are in Bellagio make sure to drive up the mountains – the views from there are just breathtaking. You can find nice restaurants that have good food to reasonable prices that come with a great view.
You should know that the region of Lake Como is not very cheap – it might be the proximity to Switzerland, but this place is also as expensive as Switzerland, so if you plan a trip to the region make sure not to stay in Como directly but in areas like Bellagio or outside the main town, if you are on a budget.
Often forgotten in lieu of its more famous counterpart, the fashion capital Milan, Bergamo is a beautiful gem of the Lombardy region. Surrounded by mountains, the city is distinctly split into two parts. While the Città Alta (Upper City) is located high up and is filled with cobbled lanes, lower Bergamo is known as Città Bassa (Lower City) and is a financial hub for Lombardy and beyond.Although many people just see the city’s airport (many budget airlines base their Northern Italian services at the Bergamo International Airport), it’s well worth venturing beyond the terminal to experience life in an authentic Italian town; quaint lanes, small museums, countless churches, and all.While in Bergamo, you simply must take the funicular up to the Rocca di San Vigilio. Although it’s possible to walk the steep ascent to the very top of the city, the funicular is a fun way to see the city stretching out below you. Once at the top of the city, there’s an ancient castle to explore, a breathtaking view to admire, and many restaurants in which to enjoy local cuisine.
Nat from loveandroad.com writes:
Borno is an unspoiled town up in the mountains of Val Camonica, Lombardy region. Unknown by international travelers, Borno is a truly Italian experience completely different from big and touristy cities like Florence, Rome or Venice. The old town is quiet and charming with old buildings, cobblestone alleys, tiny cafes, family restaurants and osterias.
Borno is deeply connected with nature and most visitors go there for hiking, trekking and mountain biking during summer and for skiing in winter. You can explore Borno old town in a day, but the mountains, natural parks and lakes can keep you busy for a week.
Spring and Autumn are the best seasons for outdoor activities, and you can do them by yourself as most of the trails are well marked. Along the trails you will find many rifugios, local restaurants and resting places for travelers serving traditional food, homemade liqueurs with lovely people that will help you find your way back to the city.
From December to March the mountains are covered in snow and if you go for a day on the slopes you must have lunch at Ristorante Capanna Plai Rifugio-Museo. The food is gorgeous and the place looks like a museum of vintage skis and old radios.
Borno is an amazing place to eat and drink. Most of the restaurants cook family recipes prepared with fresh local ingredients. In Borno, the aperitivo, Italian version of happy hour with drinks and finger food starts at 2 pm, while in most of the other big cities it only kicks off at 6 pm. Not to mention the gelatos and the coffee, all them prepared and served with the Italian love for food and for life. There are so many things to do in Borno that you should add this cute town to your Italian itinerary and stay at least two or three days there.
Christina and Adam from oursweetadventures.com write:
There are several reasons why Brescia, Italy should be on anyone’s Italian itinerary. Brescia is in the Lombardy region situated at the foot of the Alps. Beautiful mountains surround the city with several lakes just a short drive away. It is a precious city during the day and night with roman ruins, a gorgeous basilica, a peaceful piazza and a castle that sits on a hill that towers over the city.
Brescia is also home to Italy’s leading culinary school, Cast Alimenti, so it goes without saying that the food in Brescia is outstanding, including the best Italian pasticerria (pastry shop) with the country’s leading master pastry chef, Iginio Massari.
The one sight we recommend you must see during your trip, is the Castle of Brescia. When you imagine a medieval castle, the Castle of Brescia is what comes to our mind. It is one of the largest fortified structures in Italy with 75,000 square metres enclosed within its surrounding walls. Within the walls of the castle, visitors can find a tower, drawbridge, tunnels and two museums. The Luigi Marzoli Arms Museum boasts 15th and 16th century arms and armor, as well as, 17th and 18th century guns. The Museum of the Risorgimento has historical documents, pictures, period prints, and relics on display that date back from the end of the 18th century to the late 19th century. Visitors have so much to see and explore inside and around the castle grounds.
Like most cities in Italy, driving around and finding parking is never easy. We recommend you take a day trip from Venice or Milan to Brescia and arrive by train. The train station is a fifteen minute walk to the city’s center Piazza della Loggia. The city is small, therefore everything is within walking distance. A car is really not necessary.
Nam from laughtraveleat.com writes:
Mantua is a small city in the Lombardy region of Italy not too far from the Veneto border. It was the cultural capital of Italy in 2016 and the European Capital of Gastronomy in 2017. Still relatively unknown, the city is home to three palaces and the old town is a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built by the Gonzaga Family, the three palaces are:
- Palazzo Te, the summer palace
- Palazzo Ducale, the grand palace
- Castle of St George, the military castle
If you are a fan of architecture, Italian history, and venturing a bit off the beaten path, then this is the city for you. It’s only an hour from Verona by train.
Here’s a nice literature tidbit: this is where Romeo was banished to in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The recent movie starring Douglas Booth and Hailee Steinfeld even got permission to film in the Room of Giants in Palazzo Te. The room is a piece of art that depicts the Greek mythology scene of the Giant’s fall from Mount Olympus from floor to ceiling in a seamless canvas.
The city isn’t large, and it is completely doable to walk from one castle to the other or to walk to the train station. It is surrounded by three artificial lakes that also make for a lovely walk.
Ryazan from everythingzany.com writes:
Just a few miles away from Lake Como, one of the famous lakes and beautiful places in the Northern region of Italy is the picturesque town of Tirano, also known as the main hub of Bernina Express. The rugged snow-capped mountain range of the Swiss Alps can be seen from Tirano, Italy sitting right at the border of Italy and Switzerland. Italian and German language is widely used in this area due to its demographics.
The Bernina Express route is part of the UNESCO World Heritage. It is one of the most beautiful train journeys in Europe and the slowest too. The train journey is around 4-hours long and will stop in 28 stations along the Swiss Alps. I recommend this as the best way to see the Swiss Alps region.
Bernina Express is a panoramic train with massive windows on both sides to enjoy the scenic views of the countless lakes and valleys, plus a magnificent view of Swiss glaciers along the route. The Bernina Express is managed by Rhaetian railway as a part of their regional transportation system. It is also popular route for the tourist and Ski enthusiasts.
You can take your Bernina Express rail journey from Tirano, Italy to Chur, Switzerland or in the other direction. Either way, you will definitely enjoy it and it’s a must-include in your next trip to Italy.
The name for Piedmont comes from the two Latin words foot and mountain. This is the foothills of the Alps in northwestern Italy. Its major city is Turin which is the center for Italy’s automobile industry.
Learn more about the Piedmont region of Italy on this episode of Amateur Traveler:
Karen from wanderlustingk.com writes:
If you’re interested in experiencing the rich historical and cultural side of Italy, you need to visit Turin. Turin is a beautiful city in Northern Italy that is a quick day trip from the Piedmont wine region, the mountains, and Milan. Although not as famous as Milan, Turin is a booming city with stunning architecture that has been well-maintained.
Lovers of history will need to visit the church that houses the famous Shroud of Turin although many visitors are disappointed to learn that the shroud can be only seen once every couple years.
Lovers of chocolate will also love visiting Turin as some of the most famous chocolate in the world (and Italy) originates here, so be sure to stop off for gianduja during your visit. Gianduja is a chocolate made with hazelnuts that resembled Nutella.
Beyond the incredible food and drinks, Turin has a fascinating romanticized recreation of a medieval village that is free to visit with a park that has one of the best views of the city. Be sure to bring a bottle of Barolo to enjoy by the river, perfect for a romantic picnic with a view of the stunning Mole Antonelliana (Turin’s most famous landmark).
Izzy from thenextsomewhere.com writes:
There are twenty regions that make up Italy, but many people would not be able to name the island of Sardinia, lying off the southwestern coast of Italy, as one of them. Although it’s been eclipsed in popularity by the better known Sicily, for anyone visiting Sardinia, you get the history, culture, and fantastic weather of Sicily, minus the humidity and crowds.
Claudia from MyAdventuresAcrossTheWorld.com writes:
Among the most unique places to visit in Italy, is the island of Asinara off the northern-western coast of Sardinia. The island is a National Park and protected area since 1997. Asinara history is quite interesting. It was hardly ever inhabited. It was used in the late 19th century and early 20th century as a leper and health colony, and later on as a prison colony.
The high security prison hosted (in)famous mafia bosses such as Toto Riina and Bernardo Provenzano. Italian public prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino lived in Cala D’Oliva, the only (tiny) village in the island, while they worked to prepare the trial against the mafia and before they were killed in Sicily (1992).
Once the local community living in northern Sardinia realized that with the arrival of mafia bosses and their families crime in the area increased, a protest started to close the prison. Finally, the island was turned into a National Park.
Nowadays, nobody lives in Asinara aside the rangers. The island can be visited on guided tours that depart daily from either Stintino or Porto Torres, or even independently. There’s a number of beautiful hiking and biking trails. Visitors can explore the magnificent nature, enjoy the beaches – among the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia – and even visit the former leper colony and prison.
There’s a hostel where you can stay overnight. It has basic dorms and meals are communal. Guests often go to have a drink in Cala D’Oliva after dinner and that’s when they realize that animals rules Asinara. It is not uncommon to see wild boars, foxes, and the many white donkeys (asino, in Italian: hence the name of the island) freely walking around the village.
For a top experience, make sure to stay overnight to enjoy the silence and the magnificent starry sky.
The closest airport to Asinara is Alghero, which is well connected to the rest of Italy and Europe via budget airlines.
Izzy from thenextsomewhere.com writes:
For around $50USD, Cagliari is a mere hour long flight from Rome.
Hire a local skipper to sail you around the Tyrrhenian Sea where you can snap a scenic shot of the city. Cagliari is a colorful array of boxy, pastel toned buildings capped with terracotta rooftops, shaded by clusters of palm trees.
It’s hard not to spot Il Castello, an elevated fortress marked by its high walls and weathered towers, that overlooks the medieval area of Cagliari. Sardinians like to enjoy the Italian pastime of fare una passeggiata, or taking a walk, on the ramparts of this ancient citadel. It is known simply as Su Casteddu, meaning “the castle”. Inside the citadel you’ll find the university, the cathedral, and swanky bars hidden inside caves.
Be advised that any cave resto/bar is a tourist trap and there are far better views and things to eat whilst in Cagliari. One said alternative is Caffè Libarium Nostrum located at 33 Via Santa Croce, offering both spectacular ambiance and vistas. And for foodies, specifically carnivores, don’t miss out on Su Porcheddu, roast suckling pig, which is perfectly complemented by Sardinian sangria.
It is often said that when you visit Rome and you find it too chaotic then head north, but if you love the chaos go further south. If you love that then visit Sicily which has its own rich but sometimes tempestuous history.
G. Isabelle from dominicanabroad.com writes:
Most travelers who visit Italy often go to the more frequented locations such as Rome, Milan, and Florence. But what of the most southern part of Italy? What about the very special island of Sicily? Sicily maintains a rich and very relevant history to understand the complexities of Italian culture and the Italian diaspora in the United States.
To learn more about the Island of Sicily listen to these episodes of Amateur Traveler:
G. Isabelle from dominicanabroad.com writes:
My favorite part of Sicily is the ancient port city of Catania. Situated on Sicily’s east coast, Catania is located at the foot of an active volcano, Mt. Etna. This makes Catania one of the best places in Europe for gorgeous and unique hiking trails, volcanic black sand beaches, and skiing / snowboarding on slopes by a volcano.
If nature or volcanos do not excite you, the city is bustling with rich culture and history. Cruise the old cobblestone dilapidated streets until reaching Catania’s central square, Piazza del Duomo. Or check out the weekday fish market, La Pescheria – a very local market experience.
One tip travelers should be aware of is that Sicilian Italian (often referred to as just Sicilian) is vastly different from the Italian spoken throughout mainland Italy. Some linguists argue whether Sicilian should be categorized as an Italian dialect or its own language. But these unique differences of Sicily from mainland Italy are part of what makes visiting Catania worth it.
Amanda from marocmama.com wrote:
Favignana isn’t one of the “big” names on the map when it comes to travel in Sicily – at least not for anyone who isn’t Italian. For many years it has been a place that Italians know and visit. Favignana is a part of the Egadi Islands, a group just off the west coast of Sicily near Trapani. The island is small; you can easily use a bike to get around. You’ll also discover that while it certainly has links to Italian cuisine, there is a very big influence of other food cultures here, especially North African due to its close distance.
If you want to explore a part of Italy that has a distinct and unique culture, Favignana is the place to go. Expect to find a small local community who are very proud of their island. Rent a bike to explore, making sure to stop at some of the gardens that have been built into rock quarries to protect them from the wind that blows across the island. Some have even been turned into hotels and restaurants. Do keep in mind however English is not widely spoken so it’s best to know a little bit of Italian or bring a long a phrasebook.
Inma from aworldtotravel.com writes:
When holidaying in Sicily, an absolute must-see is Taormina.
This picturesque place is set high above the sea and has been a favorite amongst tourists for dozens of years. You can find here enthralling restored buildings from the Middle Ages and superb views across the twisting streets filled with bars and restaurants. It really is something to observe and is the perfect place for those looking for an authentic Italian vibe.
While you are here, check out the Teatro Greco (aka Greek Theatre), an impressive construction thought to have been built back in the 3rd century. Take in the views of the sometimes smoking Mount Etna and the gorgeous Bay of Naxos. If you are a sunset fan, head there in the afternoon as it is also one of the best spots to enjoy the sundown.
Manouk from bunchofbackpackers.com writes:
Trapani is a small crescent-shaped city in Sicily sandwiched between the Mediterranean Sea and the Tyrrhenian Sea. Compared to more well-known cities such as Palermo and Etna, Trapani has relatively few visitors and it has been able to maintain its traditional charm. Walk through the small alleys in the historic city center with beautiful Art Nouveau and baroque architecture. Relax on one the beautiful beaches. Enjoy typical Sicilian cuisine.
At night, there are no big loud discotheques, but instead people gather at the bars surrounding the town square to have a drink and enjoy the warm summer evenings. From Trapani, you could take a boat to the stunning and nearby Egadian islands Levanzo, Marettimo and Favignana. The best way to get around Favignana is by bike. You can visit the picture perfect beaches and enjoy the view over the turquoise water as you cycle around.
Tip: Don’t miss Erice. Erice is a gorgeous walled medieval town, which is only 10-minutes by cable car from Trapani’s town center. It is the perfect place to get lost in small alleyways, to enjoy a great view on Trapani’s port, and to have a delicious lunch.
South Tyrol (Alto Adige)
Mike from 197travelstamps.com writes:
Italy is not all about pizza and pasta. Way up north in this incredible country lies the beautiful mountain region of South Tyrol. Here, the majority of the population speaks German as their native language and the area offers a unique mix of Austrian and Italian cultures.
To learn more about the region of South Tyrol listen to this episode of Amateur Traveler:
Corinne from reflectionsenroute.com writes:
Bolzano, the gateway to the Dolomites, is where Italian fashion and coffee culture meet Alpine hospitality and charm. A walkable city, Bolzano has a laid back vibe that entices you to sit and sip that smooth cup of Italian coffee or enjoy a glass of excellent local wine as you watch the world go by.
Spend the day visiting some unique museums like the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology and meet Oetzi the Iceman or wander among the many archways and vaulted shops along the Laubengasse and gawk at the latest Italian designs.
Later in the evening, dine al fresco under the twinkling starlit sky on Walther Square. However, one tip is that after 7:00 PM on a Sunday evening, many of the restaurants close down so plan on eating pizza that night. They have some great pizza restaurants such as Da Zia Alfonso. Get the one with the local salami…delicious.
Get out of town, and go for a ride along a scenic Alpine drive at the base of the most incredible mountain spires and columns. The Dolomites are arguably the most photogenic mountain range on the planet, so park the car and go hiking.
If you don’t have your own car, don’t fret. Just take the Renon cable car up into the highlands overlooking the city. Gondolas leave from the edge of the old town every four minutes, whisking passengers up and out of the city and into the mountains. After singing your heart out on Alpine meadows, hop on the historic narrow gauge railway and complete your round trip journey back into town.
Or spend the day exploring the family owned vineyards, tasting local wines like the bold Lagrein or the fruity Vernatsch. Both of these incredible reds are worth a second sip. Whether your passion lies with culinary adventure or outdoor adventure, Bolzano will be sure to please!
Mike from 197travelstamps.com writes:
Nova Levante, a charming mountain village, nestled between the impressive mountain peaks of the Dolomites, makes the hustle and bustle of the big Italian cities seem worlds away. If you are looking for plenty of outdoor activities, incredible views and relaxation, this is the right place for you.
Before climbing up the mountains, make sure to stop by Lake Carezza, an incredibly beautiful emerald green mountain lake. The lake is located just a short drive outside of the town center and can also be reached via public transport. Since the lake feeds from the water of melted snow from the mountain peaks, the best time to visit is between May and June when the water level in the lake is high.
The mix of Austrian and Italian culture can also be experienced through food in South Tyrol. Make sure to try Polenta with beef goulash, the perfect mix of Italian and Austrian cuisine.
Nearly all of the population in the mountain villages of South Tyrol are German native speakers. So if you decide to travel to this region, try to learn a few basic words of German or carry a phrasebook. You won’t have any problems communicating with locals in English but some German words show that you have appreciate their differences and uniqueness from the rest of Italy.
Jorge from couplertw.com writes:
The Stelvio Pass (Passo dello Stelvio in Italian) is a mountain pass in South Tyrol, Italy, very close to the border with Switzerland. The road itself is a marvel of engineering skill. It was built in 1820 and is famous for its hairpin turns and high altitude. It goes up to 2757 meters (9045 feet), making it the highest pass in the region and one of the highest paved roads in Europe.
The Stelvio Pass is extremely popular among cycling fans as it is one of the most iconic climbs of the Giro de Italia. However, it draws an even bigger appeal to car lovers because of its exhilarating serpentine sections asking to be driven and enjoyed. Top Gear even considered the Stelvio the world’s greatest road. I don’t know if it is actually the greatest but it is easily the best I’ve ever driven.
All in all, this is probably the most magnificent road in Europe and it’s surely one of the most scenic drives in the world. If you are planning a trip to Italy you need to include it in your plans. You will be able to have some fun climbing it and enjoying the astonishing alpine views. However, please note that due to the altitude snow is possible even in summer. Make sure you check ahead for the weather forecast.
This region in central Italy is a major tourist destination. Whether it is because people are inspired by reading Under the Tuscan Sun or simply because this seems to be ground zero for the Renaissance, the wall hill towns of this region have been a favorite with tourists as long as there have been tourists in Italy.
Learn more about the region of Tuscany on these episodes of Amateur Traveler:
- Cruise to the Western Mediterranean (Spain, Gibraltar, France, Monaco, Italy) on Holland America’s Westerdam – Episode 574
- Travel to Tuscany, The Hill Towns of Southern Tuscany – Episode 350
- Day Trips from Florence, Italy – Episode 242
- Cycling in Tuscany, Italy – Episode 70
- Travel to Siena, Italy – Episode 30
Kate from ourescapeclause.com writes:
The small city of Arezzo in Tuscany is stuffed full of art, history, and gorgeous architecture. In other words, it is the classic Tuscan city.
Removed from the hustle and bustle of spots like Florence and Pisa, one of Arezzo’s biggest selling points is its relaxed vibe: this is the perfect place for a long, leisurely Italian dinner with a few glasses of Chianti Classico and an evening walk around the town square.
While you’re in town, don’t miss climbing the clock tower at the Palace of the Lay Fraternity for incredible views over Arezzo’s main square, a visit to the Basilica of St. Francis for some fresco masterpieces dating back to the Renaissance, or the chance to see remains of a Roman amphitheater that is right in town.
Set only an hour outside of Florence by train, we recommend adding Arezzo to any Tuscan itinerary. You definitely won’t need to rent a car to visit Arezzo. It’s much easier to simply take the train there and back, and the town itself is very walkable.
If you’re visiting for a day trip, be sure to check the train times in advance and get to Arezzo as early as you can.
However, we definitely recommend spending one night in Arezzo if you have the time. You won’t be disappointed by the charms it has to offer.
Sandy & Vyjay from imvoyager.com write:
Fiesole, a small town that overlooks Florence from an elevation of over 1,000 feet has a history dating back to 238 BC. It is a charming place with a heady mix of historical sites and enchanting nature walks. The view of the city of Florence stretched out below is stunning. This town which was once the bastion of the elite aristocracy is even today an elite region. When in Fiesole do visit the Archaeological Site of Fiesole which has ruins dating back to the 3rd Century BC. The ruins include a Roman theatre, Roman Baths, Etruscan Walls and an Etruscan temple.
On the way to Fiesole or on the way back, stop at Piazzale Michelangelo which is a square built on a flat tableland. One can catch spectacular views of Florence from here including the magnificent Duomo. The Piazzale Michelangelo is of course dedicated to Michael Angelo, and a replica of his most famous sculpture, ‘David’, occupies the pride of place in the square.
Claire from talesofabackpacker.com writes:
I adored Florence. It was my favorite city I visited in Italy; incredibly beautiful, smaller, and less-in-your-face than Rome, Florence definitely deserves a place on any Italy itinerary.
The must-see site in Florence has to be Michelangelo’s statue of David. The white marble statue is taller and more detailed than I would have thought possible, and it is truly incredible to think that Michelangelo began carving his masterpiece when he was just 26 years old. The Uffizi Gallery is also worth a visit, with paintings by Italian masters Botticelli and Piero della Francesca, among others. Be sure to book tickets online in advance though, or be prepared to wait in line to get in. These are the most popular attractions in Florence, and the queues can be long.
Away from the museums, even just wandering the streets you can’t help but be impressed. The city’s architecture creates an enviable skyline. Il Duomo di Firenze towers above the cobbled streets. Climb the Duomo bell tower for incredible views or head up to the Piazzale Michelangelo across the river for panoramic views of the city. In the evening, go back to the river to see the golden lights of the Ponte Vecchio bridge reflected in the water, and buy souvenirs from the shops built on the bridge.
The food in Florence is amazing too, and the market has a heady mix of smells to get your stomach rumbling. Cheese and truffle oil on freshly baked bread, focaccia sandwiches stuffed with cured meats, bags of dried porcini mushrooms and herb mixes for risottos are just some of the delights you can buy to gorge on or stash in your suitcase. There is no doubt that you will fall in love with Florence like I did.
Faye from delveintoeurope.com writes:
It’s a city without any real ‘headline’ sights, but as a whole, I find it very hard to think of any as appealing. I’ve visited three times over twenty years, and have found it has grown on me more and more over the years.
The one must-see sight I’d recommend is the unusual Piazza Anfiteatro, an oval-shaped ‘square’ surrounded by yellow houses and cafes. It has such an unusual shape because it was built on the site of the ancient Roman amphitheatre.
Most of Lucca dates from medieval times. The Duomo and the church of San Michele in Foro have similar 12th century Romanesque facades to the Duomo in nearby Pisa, and each alone is worth the visit.
You can also walk or cycle around the city walls of Lucca. The circuit is around 2.5 miles (4km long), and there are some great spots if you pick up a panino (sandwich) from an alimentari (deli). The best views are around the Duomo, on the south side of the walls.
Lucca was the hometown of composer Giacomo Puccini, and the house where he was born, on Corte San Lorenzo, a few steps from San Michele in Foro, is a must for opera lovers.
The one Lucca tip I would offer is to climb both of the towers that offer high viewpoints over the city and surrounding mountains – they both give great views. The Torre Guinigi has an oak tree sprouting out of the top of it, offering welcome shade in the warmer weather. The Torre delle Ore is a great place from which you can see the city towards the end of the day, but that bell is extremely loud, so pack some earplugs for that one.
Elizabeth from temporaryprovisions.com writes:
Come to Montalcino, Italy for the wine, stay for the community! Montalcino is a very small, very rural traditional town in Tuscany. It’s exactly what you think of when you picture Tuscany’s hillside medieval towns surrounded by vineyards below, and it’s within day trip distance from Siena or Florence.
But one thing makes Montalcino stand out from the rest of the region. It’s home to Brunello, which is widely accepted as one of the two best wines in the entire world.
Many tourists head to Chianti, but you can get a great Chianti just about anywhere. Visiting Montalcino is a much more unique experience, and it allows you to try Brunello wines that you’d never be able to find back home. A tour of the surrounding vineyards and wineries is a must. I did mine with Select Tasting because it’s one of the few tours led by an actual sommelier.
After that, you have to head into town for aperitivo. There are three charming wine bars with great aperitivo: Alle Logge di Piazza (the best wine list and atmosphere), Bar Belvedere (the best views), and Caffe Fiaschetteria Italiana 1888 (the most historic). I recommend hopping around to all of them! Skip the Aperol spritz. When in wine country, drink wine. The staff at all three places will be able to help you choose from their excellent wine lists.
If you visit in June or July, you may also get to catch some of the town’s medieval fairs and games, which are part of a greater tradition that takes place all over Tuscany.
Katy from untoldmorsels.com writes:
Every Italian itinerary should include a hilltop town in Tuscany and Pienza is surely the most beautiful.
Sitting high on a hill in overlooking the Val D’Orcia, Pienza was designed as the ideal Renaissance city by an ambitious pope. Today Pienza is UNESCO world heritage listed and is an idyllic town of cobbled streets and piazzas, an impressive Duomo and several grand palazzos.
The town’s strategic position overlooking the valley and out towards other towns like Montalcino and Montepulciano means the views from almost every point along the city walls are spectacular.
Most of the buildings in the town have shuttered windows that look down on colourful flower pots lining the streets, many of which have love lorn names like Via del Bacio (Kiss Street).
Pienza is one of those places where the best activity is to wander and soak up the atmosphere but you must also visit Palazzo Piccolomini. This impressive villa was the home of two popes and here you discover more about the town’s history and can enjoy the impressive garden from where you get some of the best views of the surrounding countryside.
Pienza is famous for its pecorino sheep’s milk cheese and many people go there just to taste it. If you visit Tuscany in the fall you can take part in the town’s annual harvest festivals. The most famous of these is the cheese rolling event in late September.
You can easily drive from Siena to Pienza in an hour or it is just under two hours from Florence. Many visitors join a tour that also stops at other famous towns in the region on a day trip. But if I suggest staying at least one night to enjoy the sun setting from Pienza’s city walls.
Porto Ercole on Monte Argentario
Dave from jonesaroundtheworld.com writes:
Before I visited my cousin and her family who live in Porto Ercole, I had never heard of this destination in Italy. I planned on staying for only a few nights, but I ended up extending my stay with them for nearly three weeks.
Porto Ercole is one of the major towns on Monte Argentario, a comune and peninsula in the Grosseto region of Tuscany. It feels like a small island, because there’s only one main road connecting it to the mainland.
There are so many amazing things to do, beaches to explore (or camp on), and places to eat. It’s a vacation hotspot over the summer for Romans, but it’s starting to gain a lot more attention from international travelers.
Porto Ercole is the main jumping off point to Isola di Giglio, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in Italy.
If you’re planning a trip to Tuscany, I’d strongly recommend renting a car and driving over to Porto Ercole. I guarantee you won’t regret it. If there’s one thing you must-do on the island, it’s drive around the entire island. The coastal views really are spectacular.
Divyakshi from quirkywanderer.com writes:
San Gimignano is a small village in Tuscany that is an idyllic place that will make you want to rent a villa and stay there for a long, long time. The lush green vineyards spread over the picturesque countryside landscapes are a photographer’s delight. As you enter this medieval hill town, you are welcomed with flowers mushrooming out of nowhere on both sides of the cobbled streets and quaint houses with windows adorned with flowerbeds. Cars aren’t allowed in the town center.
The town is known for its many stone towers built around the Piazza akin to castles. The height and beauty of a tower was an indication of their owner’s wealth. So the rich would compete through their construction. The walk on the streets reminds you of being in a medieval village straight out of a fairy tale.
Things to see / do:
- Walk around the Main square of the city, the Piazza Della Cisterna. The area is full of lovely shops selling ceramics and handmade soaps.
- Visit the Museum San Gimignano 1300 which showcases a brilliant ceramic representation of how the town looked in the medieval ages.
- Taste gelato at the famous Gelateria Dondoli which serves innovative gelato flavours.
- Indulge in a wine tour with the Vernaccia Wine Museum and sample the local biscotti.
Tip for vegetarians: Being a vegetarian, I gorged on sumptuous salads at Ristorante Pizzeria under the Tuscan sun with a view of the vineyards.
Kaylie from happinesstravelshere.com writes:
Driving through the narrow cobbled streets of Siena’s old town the buildings seemed to be getting closer and closer together, was the trusted GPS sending us on a Mr Bean like escapade? It wasn’t long before we had to fold in the wing mirrors and hold our breath to pop out onto a small square where we could open the doors and ask for directions.
Siena is a city in Tuscany, the hilltop historic centre a UNESCO heritage site (and best avoided in a car). Narrow streets, some with stairs, criss-cross over the brow of the hill. The city’s Medieval origins are evident.
On the Piazza del Campo the round shell shaped, sloping plaza a horse race is run twice a year. During the Palio di Siena, 10 horses are raced around the outer edge of the Piazza del Campo, a tradition that extends back more than 400 years.
Spend time wandering the streets and enjoying the architecture, be sure to pass by the Duomo di Siena, the Cathedral is decorated with pink, grey and white marble laid in patterns, intricate carvings and gold frescoes. The inside of the church is even more ornate.
Shop for leather and decorative masks and then stop for a pastry and an iced espresso served in a chilled martini glass.
If you are lucky enough to be in the area for a few days add the Chianti Sculpture Park to your itinerary. Set in a wooded area 10km from Siena. A permanent exhibition of contemporary sculptures can be viewed by following the marked trail through the woods. The combination of the geometric artworks against the natural backdrop and dappled light of the forest made this one of our favorite attractions.
Daniela from ipanematravels.com writes:
When visiting Tuscany most people see only the highlights in Florence or Siena, and places like Volterra remain in the shadow. Why should you include this little hilltop town on your Italian itinerary? Besides being absolutely adorable, standing there on the hill, surrounded by the old city walls, it will tell you the story of a less known civilization. Long before the Roman empire flourished, there was the Etruscan civilization and Volterra was one of the 12 towns that constituted what we call the Etruscan League.
What we know today of the Etruscans is quite limited, which makes it fascinating, throwing the veil of mystery upon the area and the people who lived there in 800 – 200 BC. Therefore, indisputably the highlight of Volterra is the Guarnacci Museum. Besides being one of the oldest public museums in Europe (founded in 1761), it has the largest collection of items from the Etruscan civilization: cinerary urns, votive figures, coins and other everyday objects found at the archaeological sites near Volterra. The masterpiece in this collection is the Shadow of the Evening – a bronze statuette representing an elongated human figure as if it’s a shadow of a body thrown on the ground at sunset. This statuette has inspired one of the greatest sculptors of the 20th c. Giacometti to create his masterpieces.
When visiting Volterra, you should know that it’s a car-free town. There are a few parking places outside of the city walls, which are well indicated and easy to find. The best way to reach Volterra is by car. There are also buses from Florence, Siena and Pisa, but it’s a bit of a hassle.
Andrew & Brenda from DishOurTown.com write:
Umbria is a landlocked region, but you won’t miss the sea once you venture into what is affectionately named, “The Green Heart of Italy”. Here, you will find the most beautiful hill towns, ranging from quaint to spectacular. There are the notables, such as Perugia, Orvieto, and Assisi.
Learn more about the region of Umbria on this episode of Amateur Traveler:
Andrzej from wanderluststorytellers.com writes:
When you are compiling a list of places to visit in Italy, Assisi must make its way to the top 10 for sure. This magnificent town was founded by St. Francis of Assisi during the 12th century’s religious revolution. These days it is a mecca for tourists and an amazing place to stay whilst road tripping around Italy.
Assisi is a crowned jewel and one of the most famous towns in all of Umbria. Like many Italian medieval towns, Assisi is perched on a hill and it is surrounded by 360-degree views.
The number one thing to do in Assisi is the famous architectural marvel of the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi and the amazing St Francis Cathedral. This extraordinary building is filled to the brim with exciting history, stories and myths. Take a walking tour of the town to get more information.
Assisi is a relatively small fortress town with narrow cobblestone alleys lined with well-preserved beautiful stone buildings. It is decorated with potted plants and flowers everywhere. It is a magic place, a fairy-tale type of town. There are plenty of boutique hotels to stay in, and sensational upper-class restaurants. There are spectacular lookout points to check out as well. We loved exploring Assisi and I know that you will love it too.
Kristy from TassieDevilAbroad.com writes:
If you’re travelling between Florence and Rome, there is a town called Orvieto that is definitely worth a visit for at least a few hours. Situated on top of a volcanic tufa 300 feet above the Paglia valley, Orvieto offers stunning views over the Umbrian countryside as well as charming cobbled streets in which to wander and explore the history of this unique location.
Last conquered by Julius Caesar in 3 BC, the height and fortress built here meant this was once a very easy to defend Bastion which is now full of interesting history. You will need to ride a cable car and then a small tourist bus up the hill but once on top there is a beautiful Duomo, lots of lovely cafes and shops, and the ruins of the Albornoz Fortress.
Must-see sights include the small but beautiful Duomo and the views from the fortress ruins. You should add Orvieto to your itinerary if you are looking for stunning views and perhaps a taste of the region’s famous truffles or a wild boar burger. Pro tip: as well as the fortress there is also a secret underground labyrinth of tunnels that you can visit on a tour if you are interested in Etruscan and/or Roman history.
Natasha from theworldpursuit.com writes:
Perugia is the capital of Umbria and a manageable hilltop university city. Located just 160 kilometers from Rome and 150 from Florence, Perugia is centrally located and well connected by rail and bus.
The historic city is loaded with plenty of beautiful sites and buildings which makes for the perfect tourist stop in Italy. The city center is a maze of steps, cobbled alleys, and arched stairways. At its heart, you’ll find a number of large piazzas and mansions. One of the coolest sites is the Marzia Gate, an Etruscan gate that was built in the third century BC. This landmark site could easily be one of the oldest pieces you’ll ever see.
Besides old ruins and beautiful streets, there are also a number of fantastic festivals in Perugia. Most notably the Umbria Jazz Festival and the Eurochocolate festival. (Perugia is home to Perugina and Baci chocolates.)
It’s great to know that Perugia is indeed a city on hilltops, and car access will prove difficult. The city can be accessed by steps or elevators to the top. There is plenty of parking for tourists at Piazza Partigian.
Brenda from dishourtown.com writes:
If there were a diamond in the rough in Umbria, it would be the Town of Todi, a town worthy of adding to your Italy itinerary.
Todi, is a medieval town, with a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets that lead to a quintessential square, the Piazza del Popolo. On this main plaza sits the Duomo di Todi, the town’s Cathedral that dates as far back as the first millennium. This is a site that needs a bit of your time to appreciate. Todi is small but has all the best of the region to offer. It has a range of restaurants and specialty shops, along with some upscale accommodations.
People from all over the region make day visits or come to dine at night. The piazza is lively, where every night it seems that the whole town congregates, if not to eat and drink, at least for a stroll. This town’s economy is certainly not suffering. Our insider recommendation is an amazing porchetta sandwich joint toward the edge of the square, named Il Grottino, where for less than $5 you can have, what we consider the best sandwich in the world. Best part, you get to pour yourself a gratuitous cup of wine from a small keg to have with your sandwich.
Before you go, a good tip; rent an electric car from Umbria Green Card, which enables you to park in the center of town. Others need to park further down the hill. It’s their way of making a statement about how strongly they feel about the moniker given their region. You take care of the environment, we take care of you.
There are many places in the world that try and claim the name of the “Venice of something”, but there is only one Venice. But as great as Venice is, it is not the only great place to see in the region of the Veneto. This region covers much of northeastern Italy from the Dolomites in the north to the Adriatic Sea.
Learn more about the Vento on these episodes of the Amateur Traveler:
- Travel to Northern Italy (Mantua, Verona, Padua) – Episode 552
- Travel to Venice and the Veneto – Episode 182
Gábor from surfingtheplanet.com writes:
The city of Padua (Padova in Italian) is one of the major cities of the Veneto region, but as a tourist destination it has always lived in the shadow of its famous neighbor, Venice. Padua has always been a city of culture, and one of the most antique and prestigious universities of the continent is found here, where Copernicus and Galileo Galilei studied amongst others. Padua is also famous for being the city of Saint Anthony, one of the most venerated saints in the Christian World.
Padua is one of the most important cultural destinations of Northern Italy with fantastic landmarks such as the Scrovegni Chapel with its amazing fresco’s made by Giotto, but the main sight you can’t miss out on while visiting Padua is the Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua, the symbol of the city. The church was built between 1238 and 1310 in Gothic style, but it contains elements from both the Renaissance and the Baroque periods. The brick façade of the building and its orthodox-style cupolas are quite particular. You must visit the interior of the church where Saint Anthony is buried. Every year thousands of pilgrims come to honor him.
Tip: When you visit Padua, spend some time in one of the historical coffee houses, which have really authentic atmosphere. My recommendation is Cafe Pedrocchi in a beautiful neoclassical building. Although it always has been a meeting place of the intellectual elite, it’s also popular amongst students, and prices are quite reasonable.
Kelly from wanderlustbykelleyy.com writes:
Dreamy vibes, magical views and spectacular architecture, Venice is a poetic location and a must-see destination for anyone who is visiting Italy. Venice is the capital city of the Veneto region in Italy’s north. The city is built on 118 small islands, in a lagoon located in the Adriatic Sea. This enclosed bay lies between the mouths of the Po and Piave rivers. These islands are separated by canal’s and are linked via bridges. Venice looks like a city out of a fairytale. It is no wonder that the lagoon and part of the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In addition to wandering around and getting lost among the gorgeous canals, a must-see location for any trip to Venice would be the gorgeous Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s square). The public square of Venice, and also the cities prime attraction. It is a public square full of life with the most breathtaking architecture. Piazza San Marco has also been referred to as “the drawing room of Europe” by Napoleon. A visit to this square is a great way to absorb the city’s unique atmosphere and to also view the other major attractions of the city.
The Piazza San Marco is surrounded on three sides by state buildings, including the Doge’s Palace – a gothic masterpiece looking out to the Venetian lagoon. The fourth side of the square contains the magnificent St Mark’s Basilica, a beautiful church, with a mixture of eastern and western architecture. Piazza San Marco is also home to coffee shops, restaurants, street performers and of course the infamous pigeons, please note Venice has passed a law where you cannot feed the pigeons.
To make the most out of a visit to Venice, head to the outer Islands of Burano and Murano, to see a glass blowing demonstration and to eat delicious local food.
From the romantic canals, the renaissance structures, gothic palaces and dreamy vibes Venice is a very unique and breathtaking place to visit. A definite must-see location for anybody visiting Italy.
Verona may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of Italy, but it absolutely deserves a spot on your must-see list. This Italian city is famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. While this makes it an especially popular destination for bibliophiles and lovers, Verona has plenty to offer to all.Juliet’s balcony and the surrounding courtyard and home is probably the biggest attraction in the city. Even if you aren’t a fan of the tragic love story, you should definitely stop by. Legend says that if you rub the breasts on the statue of Juliet, you will have good fortune. Or, if that’s not your style, you can ask Juliet for advice on love by writing a message on the walls.While Juliet’s balcony is the highlight for many, visitors shouldn’t miss the Arena di Verona, Castelvecchio and the Ponte di Castelvecchio, Piazza del Erbe, or the Torre dei Lamberi. Winding medieval streets, busy piazzas lined with cafes, and the stunning architecture also add a lot of charm to this historic city and are worth wandering, even if just to get lost in.Verona can easily be visited as a day trip from both Venice and Lake Garda, but if you have the time I suggest spending at least one night. Verona is a popular destination for school trips for Italian children, and during the late morning and midday hours the main attractions are swarming with not only tourists, but students as well. If you spend the night you can enjoy quieter times in the evening or early morning.