Whether you’re planning your first trip to Italy, or looking for ideas for the next one, you’re in for a real treat. With 51 UNESCO World Heritage sites, over 3000 years of history, all the classic art you can handle, delicious regional cuisine and some of the best fashion in the world, you are totally spoilt for choice! In fact the list of “must-see” attractions is so long that it can be overwhelming. So we’ve picked 12 of the classic Italy points of interest to get you started. And whether you’re packing for a city break, family vacation or grand tour, we know you won’t be disappointed!
Rome, Roma, the Eternal City!
The Roman Forum and Colosseum
If you want to get to know Italy, start at the very beginning, with the foundation of the capital, Roma. The ancient Roman Forum was the original religious and legislative centre of Rome with the Colosseum built later to provide entertainment for the masses. A behind the scenes tour of the Colosseum and Forum complex takes in over 3000 years of history in just 3 hours and is an essential part of any trip to the Eternal City.
Vatican City – home to the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel & St Peter’s Basilica
Millions of visitors flock to the Vatican City each year. Most make a beeline for the tiny city-state’s 3 key points of interest; the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica, home to much of the world’s greatest classical artworks.
In fact with 54 galleries, the Vatican museum is one of the largest in the world housing ancient Greek sculptures alongside the most illustrious painters of the Italian Renaissance. And don’t forget the jewel in the crown; Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, enhanced by Botticelli and Ghirlandaio’s side panels. But if you don’t want to waste valuable vacation time queuing, skip the line and learn all about the Vatican’s treasures with one of our guided tours.
Tuscany, home to the Renaissance
The Uffizi Museum, Florence
The Uffizi started out life as 16th century offices for the ruling Medici family – hence the name, meaning offices in Italian. Cosimo I de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, also planned to use the space to display his extensive art collection creating the first public art museum in the world. And it quickly became a key destination for aristocrats on their Grand Tours thanks to the Medicis’ rich collection of Western and Renaissance art.
Today the Uffizi is still one of the most popular attractions in the city. If art is your passion, you’ll love a guided tour of the gallery exploring the hidden messages in masterpieces by art giants including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Caravaggio and many, many others. It’s one of the top Italy points of interest and a fascinating peek into the classical art world.
The Accademia Gallery & Michelangelo’s David in Florence
If you prefer sculpture to canvas, the Accademia and its famous resident David is the one for you. Tourists have been flocking to Florence to admire David’s taught muscles for centuries and although there is a copy in the central Piazza della Signoria, the original, in all its wonderful marble glory, is tucked up safely in the Accademia gallery.
But there’s more to Michelangelo than just one sculpture. So to get a better understanding of his genius, why not take our Michelangelo-themed walking tour through the city. Your guide will trace his work from the Medici Chapel to the Medici Palace finishing up at the Accademia where you will explore the symbolism and carving technique of Michelangelo’s superlative masterpiece close-up. Bellissimo!
Brunelleschi’s Duomo, campanile & baptistery
The pink and green marble Duomo dominates the Piazza del Duomo alongside Giotto’s campanile bell tower and baptistery. But it’s arguably the soaring brick dome for which the Duomo is famous. It would have towered over the 16th century city when architect Filippo Brunelleschi started work and remains not only Florence’s tallest building but also the largest brick dome ever constructed.
So if you’d like to learn how he did it without modern tools, computers or hydraulic cranes, why not book our small group tour for an exceptional trip back in time and an unforgettable bird’s eye view over the city from the top!
Venice, La Serenissima and the land of Prosecco
Venice gondola ride
Venice is picture-postcard perfect in all her aged glory and has hundreds of palaces, galleries and museums to explore. But if you want the ultimate Venetian experience, to see the real Venice just as Casanova and Vivaldi once did, then hop on a gondola and let the gondolier gently glide you through the canals of this magical city and take in over 1000 years of history. Unforgettable!
Veneto, the land of Prosecco
For many it’s the delicious Italian wine and cuisine that make their trip so special. So whether you’re a wine enthusiast or just like an occasional tipple, a trip to a vineyard is a great addition to your Italian vacation. You’ll follow the grapes from vine to bottle, learning all about the wine-making process and tasting a few vintages along the way. And there are plenty of wines to choose from, but if you’re in Venice there is just one name that springs to mind; Prosecco, the Veneto’s crisp, bubbly sparkling white wine. So why not take the “Strada del Prosecco” to explore the beautiful Veneto scenery and taste-test some of the best Prosecco on the market. Cin cin!
Milan, designer fashion and the Italian Lake District
Milan for all the senses
Milan, in northern Italy, has a tendency to divide opinion, especially on the soccer pitch. But if you appreciate gothic architecture, coffee culture, fashion or football, this is the city for you. Its spiky gothic Duomo is absolutely breathtaking and always cited in lists of the must-see Italy points of interest. And if you can face the knee-trembling climb to the roof (or prefer to take the lift!) you’ll be rewarded with a wonderful view out over the city to the snow-capped Alps. A typical espresso will then rejuvenate you before you hit the shops for the best fashion design Italy can provide. It’s truly a city for all the senses.
Italian Lake District
Just an hour outside Milan is the start of the wonderfully scenic Italian lake district. Lakes Maggiore, Como and Iseo encircle the northern flank of the city, with glorious views reaching out across the water, even as far as Switzerland on a good day. A guided tour of Bergamo, the sparkling vineyards of Franciacorta and a panoramic boat ride across Lake Iseo is a great antidote to the commotion of the city for anyone who enjoys the pleasures of the outdoor life!
Campania – Pompeii, the precipitous Amalfi Coast and Naples
Ancient archaeological ruins are scattered across Italy. Some, like Rome’s Colosseum or Sicily’s valley of Temples are larger than others, but none is more spectacular than the city of Pompeii on the Gulf of Naples. Pompeii started life as a prosperous Roman fishing and trading port but on August 23rd 79 AD life abruptly ground to a halt as the city was buried under the fiery lava, pumice and lava of nearby Mount Vesuvius as it erupted.
The city and thousands of its people simply disappeared until it was rediscovered over 1600 years later providing a tantalizing time capsule of ancient Roman life. Today we still have much to learn about how people lived but you can follow in the footsteps of Pompeii’s people with a guided tour to explore the old streets, brothels, markets and villas of this ill-fated but fascinating city.
La Costiera Amalfitana or Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast has been wowing visitors for centuries. Charming pastel painted fishing villages cling to the rocky cliffs and gulleys. And an electrifying 50 km long coast road twists and turns round hairpins revealing stunning views out over the isle of Capri and Mediterranean to one side or lemon groves and tiny inland villages to the other. Its simply beautiful, but not necessarily for the fainthearted as the road climbs the vertiginous craggy outcrops, with literally breath-taking sheer drops away to the sea! So if you want to enjoy the charm of this eternally romantic coastline without the stress of taking to the wheel let our private chauffeur do the white-knuckle work whilst you soak up the seaside, stopping anywhere that takes your fancy on this VIP experience! Andiamo! Let’s go!
See Naples and die!
“Vedi Napoli e poi muori!” say Italians. And certainly as one of the busiest metropolitan cities in Italy, set on the glorious Mediterranean’s Gulf of Naples, it has a wealth of treasures and attractions that should definitely be on your wish list before you kick the bucket. From freshly oven-baked margherita pizza, famously created here, to the hustle of its narrow lanes criss-crossing the city, to the brooding canvases of painter Carravaggio, the historic centre of Naples has plenty to offer. So if you’d like to discover Naples’ Neopolitan charms, why not treat yourselves to our walking tour through the city. It’s an unforgettable feast for the eyes, ears and soul!
Our 12 Classic Italy points of interest to start with
Ultimately Italy has countless attractions and points of interest for the visitor. We’ve listed just 12 of the classics to whet your appetite. And despite the Italian saying suggesting that once you’ve seen Naples you can die happy, there is still more than enough to explore, experience and enjoy for a lifetime of Italian vacations. To book your very own Italian adventure check in with one of our travel experts for help designing a truly unforgettable trip. And don’t forget to check out our Espresso blog for more inspiration. Buon viaggio!