The Top 20 Highlights of Italy: Classic Sights and Hidden Gems

Are you planning a trip to Italy to explore some of the best places? Awesome.
Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. 

The mix of historical buildings, stunning coastlines, beaches, and delicious Italian cuisine, especially pizza, pasta, wine, and tiramisu, make it one of the most popular vacation destinations in Europe.

There are so many beautiful highlights in Italy, which can be found in every region and around every corner. 

Some are world-famous and well-known, while others are relatively unknown, yet worth a visit.

As Austrians, we frequently travel to our neighbor country. In this article, we share with you our highlights for Italy and the most beautiful Italian destinations:

The 20 Highlights of Italy (including Hidden gems and Lesser Known Places)

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It’s no wonder Italy is also called Bella Italia (beautiful Italy). Many cities in Italy are among the most beautiful in the world, and some of the sights rightfully belong to the list of the most beautiful places on Earth.

Let yourself be inspired and dive into the beauty of Italy with us.

1. Rome 

The capital of Italy is one of the most popular destinations for city trips. There is so much to see and even more to experience.

Some of Italy’s most important architectural wonders are located in Rome. 

The Colosseum in Rome is the top attraction in the Eternal City. The Colosseum was built in 79 AD and was known for infamous gladiator fights and chariot races.

Up to 50,000 people could attend the sometimes bloody spectacles here. Today, the Colosseum can be visited and should not be missed during a trip to Rome, as it is one of the Seven Wonders of the New World.

highlights of Italy
Fontana di Trevi in Rome

Also very popular is the Trevi Fountain. It is said if you throw a coin into the water, you will return to Rome a second time. During my visit to Rome, I threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, but the second trip to Rome is still pending. 🙂

Other sights in Rome include the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Spanish Steps, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon

Additionally, in Vatican City, there’s St. Peter’s Basilica with the Sistine Chapel.

2. Trulli Houses in Alberobello 

A visit to the Trulli houses in Alberobello is a must on a South Italy road trip. These distinctive, white-washed stone houses with gray stone roofs are part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

While you can find some trulli houses in the region, Alberobello has most of these buildings in one place.

best things to see in Italy trull houses

Some of the houses can be visited. There are souvenir shops here, and in some, you can climb onto the roof and admire the sea of Trulli houses from above.

A special experience is also staying overnight in a trullo house.

3. Verona 

Verona, the City of Love, in the Veneto region, is located between Lake Garda and the lagoon city of Venice. 

Even though Verona has a small historic city center, many of the top highlights are located here.

arena di Verona highlights of Italy
view from the Arena di Verona

One of the most important and beautiful things to see is the Arena di Verona. The arena is not as large as the Colosseum in Rome, but it is no less impressive.

When one thinks of Verona, the House of Juliet, Casa di Giulietta, probably comes to mind. Even though Romeo’s Juliet never lived here, a visit to the house, the statue of Juliet, and the balcony are a must during a trip to Verona.

4. Venice 

Not far from Verona is Italy’s most visited city after Rome. Venice, the city of canals, is characterized by its canals and dreamlike sights, such as the Rialto Bridge, the Doge’s Palace, the Grand Canal, and St. Mark’s Square with St. Mark’s Basilica.

An extraordinary experience, in addition to the not quite inexpensive gondola ride, is the carnival in Venice. Dressed with richly decorated masks and sumptuous clothing, this event takes place around St. Mark’s Square.

If you visit the sights of Venice, you should also visit the island of Murano. Here, you can find not only the famous glassblowers but also colorful painted houses.

5. Lake Garda 

Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and is located in the northern part of the country.

It is only half an hour away from Verona, and a day trip to Venice or Milan is also possible from the Lago di Garda.

lago di garda in italy
Lago di Garda

Lake Garda is perfect for all kinds of water sports, cycling, and hiking. The Mediterranean flair and beautiful places like Sirmione attract many visitors to the lake every year.

Apart from Lake Garda, there are also beautiful corners and sights, such as my highlight, the Parco Grotta Cascata Varone, or the wine-growing regions around the lake.

6. Milan Cathedral

The Milan Cathedral is not only the third-largest church in the world but also the landmark of the fashion city Milan.

Special highlights in the Milan Cathedral are the walkable rooftop terrace and the archaeological area, which is found below the cathedral and the Cathedral Square.

Right next to the Milan Cathedral is another important attraction of Milan, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The famous covered shopping arcade was built in the 19th century. 

Here, you can find mainly designer shops and also restaurants.

7. The Last Supper by Da Vinci 

The famous painting “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci is probably one of the most significant and most visited works of art worldwide, alongside the Mona Lisa.

highlight in Italy the last supper
The “Last Supper”, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece in Milan

It is located in Milan, next to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Visiting the mural is so popular that tickets are sold out weeks in advance.

8. Matera 

The rock city of Matera in the south of Italy, in the Basilicata region, has been named the European Capital of Culture

The Sassi di Matera, the rock dwellings in the old town of Matera, are unique.

Matura highlight of Italy

You can wander through the narrow alleys and admire the bright, stone-built, small houses.

You can enter some of the caves, and from the top of the gorge, you have a fantastic view of the rock city.

A stop in the old town of Matera should definitely be part of a South Italy road trip.

9. Positano 

The town of Positano, built on the steep coastline, is one of the most popular and most beautiful coastal towns in Italy, alongside Portofino and Cinque Terre. 

Italy highlights Positano Amalfi coast

Luxury yachts anchor off the coast, and the view of the island of Capri with the Blue Grotto attracts visitors from all over the world.

Moreover, the coastal road leads past the stunning Amalfi Coast

10. Florence 

Whether you want to see the best places in Florence in one day or you have several days, the city dominated by the Medici family is a dream for every art and culture lover. 

highlights of Italy florence

Some of the most important monuments, buildings, and paintings by the most significant artists like Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli can be found in Florence.

Florence is also a great place to base yourself if you want to visit the rolling hills of Tuscany.

Read more: The best places to visit in Florence in 1 day itinerary

11. Mount Etna in Sicily

Mount Etna in Catania, Sicily, is the highest active volcano in Europe. Thanks to cable cars and 4×4 vehicles, it is possible to get very close to the craters. 

A hike to the main crater is also possible on Mount Etna.

the best highlights of Italy
Mt. Etna in Sicily

On a clear day, the view from Mount Etna over the Mediterranean Sea and the coastline is breathtaking. 

And if you have time, don’t forget to visit the city of Taormina. From the historic arena, you have a fantastic view of Mount Etna.

12. The Leaning Tower of Pisa 

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a must-see in Italy.

leaning tower of pisa

It has been standing for over 1000 years which is a miracle because it started to lean shortly after its construction.

13. Cinque Terre National Park

The Cinque Terre area is located in the coastal area of Liguria. This region is known for its colorful, closely built houses on the cliffs.

verjazzt in cinque terre
Vernazza in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre consists of 5 small villages. As the Cinque Terre National Park is located here, you can only reach the villages by train or while hiking in Cinque Terre along the blue path (Sentiero Azzurro).

14. Amalfi Coast 

The Amalfi Coast is a coastal area southwest of the city of Naples. The Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful and popular coastal stretches in Italy.

Especially popular is the town of Positano and the nearby island of Capri with the Blue Grotto, one of the most beautiful attractions on the Amalfi Coast.

But Amalfi, the namesake of the coast, also offers small, fine beaches.

15. Pompeii near Naples 

The sad fate of the city of Pompeii, buried by the Vesuvius volcano, can be traced during a tour of the large area. 

Pompeii is one of the most visited sights in southern Italy.

pompeji and mount vesuvius
Pompeji with Mount Vesuvius

Near Pompeii, the Herculaneum is also worth a visit. This city was also buried by the volcano Vesuvius. 

Today you can still admire beautiful mosaics, villas, and the former streets.

16. San Gimignano 

Due to its many towers, San Gimignano is called the Manhattan of the Middle Ages

highlight of Italy san gimignano
San Gimignano

The town in Tuscany, located on a hill, is perfect for visiting during a Tuscany road trip.

The small town is in the Siena region, close to the city of Siena, and the best way to enjoy the Italian la dolce vita is around the Palazzo Comunale and Piazza della Cisterna.

17. The Dolomites 

The Dolomites in northern Italy are among the most beautiful mountain ranges in the Alps

A special highlight is the Tre Cime di Lavaredo.

view from Paternkofel mountain to Tre Cime di Lavaredo
view from Paternkofel mountain with the Tre Cime di Lavaredo

In summer, the Dolomites are a popular area for hiking, and during winter, for winter sports such as skiing or cross-country skiing.

18. Siena

Siena is one of the most beautiful cities in Tuscany. Besides Florence and San Gimignano, Siena is one of the most visited cities in this Italian region. 

The medieval center has some spectacular sights to offer.

siena highlight of Italy

The Cathedral of Siena and the particularly shaped Piazza del Campo in front of the Palazzo Pubblico, where horse races were held and still take place once a year, are particularly beautiful.

19. Livigno

Livigno is an outdoor paradise in Italy and belongs to the Lombardy region. In winter, the valley can only be reached via Switzerland. 

highlights of Italy in winter

The town of Livigno is popular among hikers and during winter for all kinds of winter sports.

Whether heli-skiing, skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, tobogganing, or snowshoe hiking – in Livigno, thanks to the altitude and the impressive mountains – the activities are almost limitless.

20. Reschensee

Lake Reschen is located in South Tyrol, at the border to my home country Tyrol. 

In and of itself, Lake Reschen at the Reschen Pass is nothing special if there wasn’t a bell tower rising out of the water at the edge of the reservoir.

highlights of north italy

There used to be a village here which was flooded to make way for the reservoir. The church tower is still a reminder of the former village and a popular sight on the way to Italy.

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zuletzt aktualisiert am September 10, 2023

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