More than just incredible pasta, truffles, and tiramisu. Italy is rich in history and culture. And, one of the easiest countries to find on a map 👢. The land was first inhabited by Etruscans before others like the Celts, Phoenicians, and Greeks. And let’s not forget the Roman Empire which was founded in 753BC. It lasted hundreds of years until its fall in the Middle Ages. The Roman Empire left a lasting effect on religion, art, culture, language, philosophy, and government.
So, how do you decide where to spend your time in Italy? How do you choose when there is so much yummy food, rich culture, and wonderful cities to visit? Here is an overview of the most notable places and their features, popular for first-time visitors.
This capital of Italy is one of the oldest cities in the world and a favorite among Italy lovers. Known as the “City of Seven Hills” because of its geography. As well as, the “Eternal City” with its connection to the Catholic Church. In addition to standing in the Roman Colosseum, be sure to include a visit to Vatican City where you can see St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Take a stroll through the different piazzas (town squares) and see its famous statues and fountains. Trevi Fountain is a must-see, as one of the most famous fountains in the world and one of the largest Baroque fountains in Rome.
Most people think of Venice when they think about the romance of Italy. A series of canals connects 118 islands and more than 400 bridges in the city. The Grand Canal is the most famous with its S-shape that splits the city into two parts. Take a gondola ride through the canal and under the famous Ponte di Rialto bridge. Enjoy the ringing of the St. Mark’s Campanile from St. Mark’s Basilica and visit the beautifully ornate Doges Palace.
Considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is the capital of the Tuscan region. The skyline’s most notable features of this city are the Duomo, the domed cathedral of Santa Maria del Flore, and the Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall. The town hall overlooks Piazza della Signoria which houses a replica of Michelangelo’s David statue. The original David statue can be viewed in the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze. Art lovers should be sure to also visit the Uffizi Gallery.
Known mostly for its influence on the world’s art and fashion, hosting the famed Milan Fashion Week yearly. While in town for fashion, be sure to see some of Leonardo da Vinci’s best works like The Last Supper. Maybe even take in an opera at La Scala Opera House.
Don’t limit your experience in the Tuscany region to only Florence. First-time visitors can’t miss the tower of Pisa (in this region) as well as enjoy all that the countryside has to offer. The area is best known for its classic Italian wine, Chianti, the medieval architecture of San Gimignano, and the oldest bank in the world in Siena.
This city’s historic center, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest of its kind in Europe. It has much to offer from natural beauty to unbelievable ruins. Enjoy the city full of historic castles like Castel dell’Ovo, Egg Castle, and Castle Nuovo. Be sure to visit the Royal Palace of Caserta during the spring to see its gardens and parks in full bloom. Known for its ancient cities of Pompei and Herculaneum. Ruins were preserved in volcanic ash from the Mount Vesuvius eruptions from 79AD until excavation.
This luxurious area, made up of 13 picturesque coastal towns, is what most people imagine when thinking of the Italian Coast. Known mostly for the towns of Positano and Amalfi. Positano is a town made up of pastel buildings, resorts, and restaurants built into the cliffside. While Amalfi is a historic maritime republic. Enjoy a hike along the Path of the Gods and treat yourself to a locally produced limoncello.
One of the more famous Italian islands in the Bay of Naples. The isle of Capri, is known for its laid-back but luxurious charm that draws royalty and celebrities alike. You can stay on the island for holiday or take a ferry for a day trip. Don’t miss a visit to the Blue Grotto natural sea cave. It is a must-see as the most notable site on the island. In the cities of Capri or Anacapri, enjoy shopping and dining.
Though it has long been a favorite spot to vacation for locals. The lesser-known region of Puglia is beginning to grow in popularity for tourists. Some are evening calling it “Little Florence.” This area, located at the heel of the boot, is more slow-paced and a quiet retreat. Small towns, peppered with boutique hotels allow visitors to wander the streets easily and engage with locals alike. Great architectural things to see are the trulli houses that have cone roofs in Itria and the white city of Ostuni. Don’t miss Lecce, where you can see the Basilica di Santa Croce and the Sant’Oronzo column.
This triangle-shaped island is Italy’s largest island and one of its 20 Italian regions. A visit to Sicily gives you a tropical island mixed with sandy beaches, green hills, and ancient ruins all in one. Topped off with some of the best seafood and pastries in the world. Not to mention Mt. Etna. The ACTIVE volcano you can actually hike.
Each place mentioned is somewhere that can fill your vacation, short or long. As a first-time visitor, you may want to focus only on one or two popular places like Rome or Venice. Schedule a “best of” private guided tour in each major area to get a nice taste of what to see on your next visit. No matter where you choose as your first stop in Italy, you won’t be disappointed in the sights, the culture, the food, or the memories.
Schedule a quick call with me here to learn more about planning an epic trip to Italy. Let me know your dream vacation and I’ll put all the pieces in place for you.
At Gourmet Adventures Travel Co., I craft culinary getaways for travelers who love to eat well and yearn to truly savor the authentic side of their destination. From a river cruise through Provencal wine country to a journey through the heady spice markets and medinas of Morocco, you'll taste your way through the world's most enchanting landscapes.