Best Places to Visit in Italy

Tourists and travel experts have long agreed that Italy is a special place, so much so that the country has become a de facto bucket list destination for just about everyone. Famous for its incredible food, rich historical sites, highly regarded art, beautiful small towns and equally picturesque cities, countrysides and coastlines, it's safe to say Italy's offerings are unmatched. U.S. News rounded up the best places to visit in Italy considering a number of factors, from affordability and seasonality to sights and crowds, to help you decide exactly where to go. Have a favorite destination in Italy? Vote below to influence next year's ranking. (Note: The U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning in 2020 for Italy due to the coronavirus outbreak. As such, destinations designated "Do Not Travel" did not qualify for the rankings this year. Consult the U.S. Department of State website for the latest information as you plan your vacation.)

SUMMARY

Best Places to Visit in Italy

  • Rome
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    Rome

    #1 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    A standard stop on many European vacation itineraries, Rome is not to be missed. The city is a globally renowned cultural and historical powerhouse. Here, you'll find the most important relic from the Roman Empire (the Colosseum), some of Michelangelo's greatest works (in the Sistine Chapel), the best food in Italy (Rome is home to many Michelin-starred restaurants) and, of course, the center of Catholicism (the Vatican).

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  • Amalfi Coast
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    Amalfi Coast

    #2 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    Reaching the cliff-side Amalfi Coast is certainly a trek, but travelers say the journey is more than worth it. The region covers more than two dozen miles of coastline and is home to 13 colorful seaside towns, each with its own unique story. Positano and Amalfi are the two most popular, housing numerous hotels and restaurants. While here, hike, relax on the beach and eat to your heart's delight (there are multiple Michelin-starred restaurants in this region).

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  • Florence
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    Florence

    #3 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    Florence feels like small-town Italy, even though it's the exact opposite. Situated in the scenic Tuscan valley, Florence is lined with adorable avenues leading to picturesque piazzas big and small. While you're soaking up the city's splendor, make sure to stop by the Piazza del Duomo, where the breathtaking namesake church is located, and the romantic Ponte Vecchio overlooking the Arno River, preferably at sunset.

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  • Cinque Terre
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    Cinque Terre

    #4 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    Cinque Terre, located on Italy's northern Ligurian coast, is made up of five colorful, seaside towns tucked seamlessly on the region's cliff-side terrain. It's not as well known for its beaches as the Amalfi Coast but still offers an abundance of awesome activities, with boat tours and hiking being the area's main points of interest. While here, save time for the oceanfront Footpath Monterosso hike.

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  • Tuscany, Italy
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    Tuscany, Italy

    #5 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    If you're looking for Italy without the crowds, Tuscany is the place to go. Italy's famous countryside is really all it's cracked up to be, offering travelers spectacular landscapes dotted with romantic, secluded villas and castelli (castles) that house wineries and superb restaurants. What's more, Tuscan locales like Pisa and Siena are an easy drive from top destinations such as Bologna and Cinque Terre, perfect for those who don't want to stay in one place for too long.

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  • Capri
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    Capri

    #6 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    For centuries, this small southern Italian island has attracted plenty of famous faces, from emperors to movie stars, due to its gorgeous scenery. Some of Capri's most amazing sights are best seen by boat, including the Faraglioni rock formations and the Blue Grotto, where sunlight turns the water into an unbelievably vivid shade of blue. On land, Villa Jovis, formerly inhabited by Roman emperor Tiberius, and the Gardens of Augustus provide more spectacular views. And in the town center, visitors will find high-end shops and restaurants.

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  • Sicily
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    Sicily

    #7 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    As the location of several ancient Greek legends, Sicily has an almost mythical quality. Once you visit for yourself, you'll see why so many writers were inspired by this island, which happens to be the largest in the Mediterranean. Be enchanted by Sicily's clear blue waters and black sand beaches. Marvel at Mount Etna, the highest active volcano in Europe, or try hiking up it in summer or skiing down it in winter. Also save time for taking in the many cultures that have called this island home at its various cathedrals and archaeological sites.

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  • Naples, Italy
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    Naples, Italy

    #8 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    You can't think of Italy without also thinking of its delicious cuisine. So why not visit the city credited with being the birthplace of pizza, one of Italy's most popular culinary creations? Along with its famous food, Naples is home to some incredible art, most of which you can see at the Sansevero Chapel Museum and the Naples National Archeological Museum. Journey beneath the city to see Napoli Sotterranea (Naples Underground), a network of underground tunnels and chambers built by the ancient Greeks and Romans.

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  • Ischia
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    Ischia

    #9 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    Oftentimes overlooked for the more well-known island of Capri, Ischia may be one of Italy's best kept secrets. A volcanic island with dozens of thermal springs and spas, Ischia's waters are known for their healing and rejuvenating properties, making it the perfect destination for some rest and relaxation. When you're ready to explore, check out Giardini La Mortella, a botanical garden full of rare and colorful plants, and Castello Aragonese d'Ischia, a medieval castle.

  • Puglia
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    Puglia

    #10 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    This rustic region in the heel of Italy's boot is well known among locals as a go-to vacation spot, but tourists are starting to catch on. Tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the area's more crowded cities, Puglia has it all – some of the country's best beaches for swimming, an array of restaurants serving fresh Italian fare and castles, grottos and forests for exploring. The region is also famous for its unique white trulli houses with conical roofs.

  • Bologna
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    Bologna

    #11 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    There are several reasons why Bologna is often called "la dotta, la grassa e la rossa" ("the erudite, the fat and the red"). It's home to the oldest university in Europe, the University of Bologna. The city is also a food lover's dream thanks to its renowned cuisine, which includes Italian staples like tortellini and lasagna covered in Bolognese sauce. Bologna even features a gelato university and the food-themed FICO Eataly World. Plus, the city boasts an array of terra cotta-roofed medieval buildings, including a pair of leaning towers.

  • Sardinia
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    Sardinia

    #12 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    Sardinia provides the best of both worlds. Costa Smeralda is all about luxury, with its lush beaches and coves overlooking yacht-filled waters. And away from all of the glitz and glamour of Costa Smeralda, you'll find a more laid-back side of the island, including small medieval towns where Sardinians still practice sheepherding and wear traditional clothing. What's more, Sardinia features several ancient ruins, such as UNESCO World Heritage-listed Su Nuraxi di Barumini.

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  • Rimini
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    Rimini

    #13 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    Rimini is one of Europe's most popular beach resorts, which comes as no surprise considering its 9-plus miles of white sand beaches, thriving nightlife and plethora of hotels, bars and restaurants. Here, you can see all of Italy's major monuments in one place – though on a much smaller scale – in the Italy in Miniature theme park. Additionally, Rimini is where the Arch of Augustus, one of the oldest-surviving Roman arches, and La Grande Ruota Panoramica, a giant Ferris wheel with spectacular city views, reside.

  • Pompeii
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    Pompeii

    #14 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    This former Roman city in southern Italy is equal parts chilling and impressive. Pompeii was left almost completely intact after it was buried in ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Its astonishingly well-preserved ruins now provide present-day visitors a glimpse into what life was like in ancient times. True history buffs might also enjoy a trip to nearby Herculaneum, another city that was preserved by the same eruption, while more adventurous explorers should consider hiking to the top of Mount Vesuvius for jaw-dropping panoramas.

  • Sorrento
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    Sorrento

    #15 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    Considered the land of the sirens in Greek mythology, Sorrento continues to lure people with its charm and stunning views. Here, vacationers can hike or relax near the water before watching the sun set behind the cliffs. Plus, lemons are big in Sorrento – both in size and in popularity – and the area is known as one of the best places in the world to taste authentic limoncello, a lemon-flavored liquor. It's also the perfect base for daytrips to nearby Capri, the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and other popular Italian locales.

  • Portofino
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    Portofino

    #16 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    The small, crescent-shaped village of Portofino is known as a vacation hot spot for the rich and famous. The water surrounding Portofino is often filled with yachts and is great for swimming and diving. Plus, the area's beauty and tranquil atmosphere make it an excellent place to unwind. When travelers need a break from relaxing, they can venture just outside of Portofino to check out historical sites like Castello Brown and Abbazia di San Fruttuoso.

  • Genoa
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    Genoa

    #17 in Best Places to Visit in Italy

    As one of the largest cities in Italy and the largest medieval city center in Europe, Genoa is rich in art and history. Along with its many museums, forts, churches and palaces, this port city boasts 13 funicular lines and an expansive aquarium with roughly 12,000 aquatic animals. Genoa also beckons to foodies, as it is famous for its pesto, focaccia, fresh seafood and filled pastas.

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