As the birthplace of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance, it is not surprising that Italy should be so rich in masterpieces of art and architecture, or that it should have more UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Sites than any other country in the world .
But Italy’s top attractions for tourists aren’t all art and architecture; The country is blessed with lakes, mountains and dramatic coastlines that also give it outstanding natural attractions. From Renaissance art to hiking, you
One can plan an entire itinerary inspired by a single interest, but most first-time visitors prefer to sample the best Italy has to offer in a variety of experiences.
The following attractions showcase Italy’s art, architecture, stunning landscapes and history, and also offer opportunities for active pursuits.
To make sure you find the best places to visit and things to do, plan your trip using this list of Italy’s top attractions.
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This massive amphitheater, the largest of its kind ever built by the Roman Empire and the largest structure to survive, has been a model for sports facilities until modern times. Built by Vespasian in 72 CE and enlarged by the addition of a fourth story by his son, Titus,
It was a place for public spectacles and shows – even sea battles.
The 83 by 48 meter wooden structure covers two additional underground stories with tunnels, rooms, cells and passageways that provide space for gladiators, workers, wild animals and storage.
Today, the structure stands in stark contrast to the modern developments around it and is a prominent reminder of ancient times and the wider history of Rome.
2. Florence Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore
Considered one of the world’s finest cathedrals, the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore, or Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, dominates the Florence skyline. The cathedral was built between the 13th and 15th centuries, with the most famous piece being the extraordinary dome , completed in 1434 by Filippo Brunelleschi.
The bell tower of the cathedral is next to the cathedral in Piazza del Duomo, covered in marble with a pattern typical of Tuscan Romanesque architecture.
Designed by Giotto, the campanile is 82 meters high and you can climb 414 steps to the viewing platform with amazing views of the city and the dome.
Opposite the Duomo is a magnificent baptistery , famous for its bronze paneled doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti. To see the original, exquisitely crafted panels, which have been replaced by exact replicas to protect the originals from the weather, visit the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo , the cathedral museum.
3. The Grand Canal in Venice
A gondola ride through the canals of Venice is a tradition that tourists have enjoyed for centuries. Venice is a city of islands, and the canals have long been the main streets of the city, connected by a labyrinth of narrow passages.
The Grand Canal is the largest and most famous of these waterways, cutting a wide S-shaped path through the city. At its sides are the most magnificent palaces owned by the richest and most powerful families of the Venetian Republic.
A vaporetto ride along the Grand Canal is the best way to see the many magnificent palaces, whose facades face the water.
Make sure your gondola ride – and your sightseeing on foot – includes some of the more atmospheric little canals, lined by old buildings that have remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years.
4. Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa (La Torre Pendent) is one of the many attractions in the city of Pisa, whose world fame comes not from the remarkable elegance of its design, but from a flaw. Work on the tower began in the 1100s, and by the time the tower reached its third floor, it was sinking, leading to a lean-to.
Leaning increasingly over the centuries, it was predicted to collapse by the year 2000, before restoration work in the 1990s. Today, visitors can climb the tower’s stairs for a panoramic view of the city.
The Leaning Tower stands on Piazza dei Miracoli, which it shares with the beautiful Romanesque Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the round freestanding Baptistery. Each of these exhibits exquisite works of medieval stone carving.
5. Vatican City: St. Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums
The Vatican is home to some of the world’s most precious art and art collections. The centerpiece is the great Basilica of St. Peter, which contains the tomb of St. Peter and one of Michelangelo’s most poignant works, the Pieta .
Outside is St. Peter’s Square, where the Pope addresses followers. The walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel are covered with frescoes by Michelangelo, and the Vatican Palace contains works by Raphael and other major artists.
More art fills the Vatican Museums , a group of private collections, including sacred art, Etruscan antiquities, sculptures, maps, papal carriages, even vintage cars.
6. The Uffizi Gallery in Florence
Besides being one of the world’s leading art museums, the Uffizi is a one-stop history of Italian Renaissance art. Although it houses works by some of the greatest masters of Western art, its greatest treasure is its collection of paintings that show the step-by-step evolution of painting that took place here from the 14th to the 16th century.
Here, you’ll see the first experiments with perspective, as well as some of the earliest paintings as painters moved beyond religious art, and the first use of natural and scenic backgrounds in religious art.
7. Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a beautiful coastal region with steep hills and sheer cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The five picturesque villages of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore can be reached by several routes , interconnected by walking paths, a railroad that tunnels through the headlands to originate in each town, or a beautiful narrow road. High on the hill above.
Hiking between the villages is one of the most popular things to do as it gives tourists a chance to enjoy the landscape. Small towns retain the feel of old-world fishing villages and offer a sense of remoteness even in the face of modern tourism.
If you are coming from Florence or Milan, there are many transport options available.
8. Lake Como
Lake Como is one of Italy’s most picturesque areas, surrounded by mountains and dotted with small, charming towns. A haven for the wealthy since Roman times, the lake boasts many magnificent villas and palaces along its forested shores; The best known are Villa Balbianello and Villa Carlotta, both surrounded by gardens that are open to the public.
The mild climate that makes the lakeshore ideal for gardens is also a tourist attraction, with characteristics similar to the Mediterranean. Along with the resort towns around the lake, there is also an 11th century abbey.
At the foot of the lake, the city of Como, important since Roman times, is a short train ride from Milan. From its waterfront, you can travel around the lake on regularly scheduled steamers that make it easy to visit the lake’s attractions.
The Pantheon, an exceptionally well-preserved remnant from Roman times , displays the amazing architectural achievements of the Roman Empire.
The exact proportions of the building dedicated to the planetary deities, the same height as the diameter and a ray of light entering the room from the top of the dome, were intended to represent the sky and the sun.
It was later consecrated by the Pope in 609 CE, after early Christian kings forbade the use of a pagan temple as a church. Italian kings, Renaissance painter Raphael and other great Italians are buried in the Pantheon.
10. Verona’s Roman Arena and Historic Center
One of the largest and best-preserved Roman amphitheaters still in existence , the Arena di Verona is the centerpiece of the Centro Storico – the historic center of the city.
It is one of the few features of the ancient period, when Verona was an important Roman city. In naming it a World Heritage Site, UNESCO notes that “Verona preserves a significant number of monuments from the Antiquity, Medieval and Renaissance periods.”
Verona continued to flourish under the rule of the Scaliger family in the 13th and 14th centuries and as part of the Republic of Venice from the 15th to 18th centuries.
The imposing Castelvecchio was both a palace and a defensive fortress (now an excellent art museum), overlooking the beautiful fortress of Ponte Scaligero , a 14th-century bridge .
Throughout the old center are Romanesque churches, imperial buildings with typical Venetian Gothic windows and stone gates that further remind of its Roman origins.
And, of course, in the courtyard near the daily market of Piazza del Erbi, you ‘ll find Juliet’s balcony (which was actually built as a tourist attraction in the 1930s).
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