Bella Italia! Italy has Europe's richest, craziest culture. After all, this nation is the cradle of European civilization — established by the Roman Empire and carried on by the Roman Catholic Church. As you explore Italy, you'll stand face-to-face with some of the world's most iconic images from this 2,000-year history: the Colosseum of Ancient Rome, the medieval Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo's David and Botticelli's Venus, the playful Baroque exuberance of the Trevi Fountain...and the elegant decay that surrounds the canals of Venice. Beyond these famous sights, though, Italy offers Europe's richest culture. Traditions still live within a country that is vibrant and fully modern. Go with an eye open to both the Italy of the past and of the present.
At a Glance
▲▲▲ Venice Romantic island city, powerful in medieval times; famous for St. Mark's Basilica, the Grand Canal, and singing gondoliers.
▲▲▲ The Cinque Terre Five idyllic Riviera hamlets along a rugged coastline (and part of a national park), connected by scenic hiking trails and dotted with beaches.
▲▲▲ Florence The cradle of the Renaissance, with the world-class Uffizi Gallery, Brunelleschi's dome-topped Duomo, Michelangelo's David, and Italy's best gelato.
▲▲▲ Siena Florence's smaller and (some say) more appealing rival, with its grand Il Campo square and striking striped cathedral.
▲▲▲ Rome Italy's capital, the Eternal City, studded with Roman remnants (Forum, Colosseum, Pantheon), romantic floodlit-fountain squares, and the Vatican — home to one of Italy's top museums and the Sistine Chapel.
▲▲ Milan Powerhouse city of commerce and fashion, with the prestigious La Scala opera house, Leonardo's The Last Supper, and three airports.
▲▲ Hill Towns of Central Italy Picturesque, wine-soaked villages of Italy's heartland, including San Gimignano, Volterra, Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano, and Cortona.
▲▲ Assisi St. Francis' hometown, perched on a hillside, with a divinely Giotto-decorated basilica.
▲▲ Orvieto and Civita More hill-town adventures, featuring Orvieto's classic views and ornate cathedral plus the adorable pocket-sized village of Civita di Bagnoregio.
▲▲ Naples Gritty, in-love-with-life port city featuring vibrant street life and a top archaeological museum.
▲ Near Venice Several interesting towns: Padua (with Giotto's gloriously frescoed Scrovegni Chapel), Verona (Roman amphitheater plus Romeo and Juliet sights), and Ravenna (top Byzantine mosaics).
▲ The Dolomites Italy's rugged rooftop with a Germanic flair, featuring Bolzano (home of Ötzi the Iceman), Castelrotto (charming village), and Alpe di Siusi (alpine meadows laced with lifts and hiking trails).
▲ The Lakes Two relaxing lakes, each with low-key resort towns and a mountainous backdrop: Lake Como, with quaint Varenna and upscale Bellagio; and Lake Maggiore, with straightforward Stresa, manicured islands, and elegant villas.
▲ Pisa and Lucca Two classic towns: Pisa, with its famous Leaning Tower and surrounding Field of Miracles, and Lucca, with a charming walled old center.
▲ Pompeii and Nearby Famous ruins of the ancient towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, stopped in their tracks by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
▲ Sorrento and Capri The seaside resort port of Sorrento, and a short cruise away, the jet-set island getaway of Capri, with its Blue Grotto.
▲ Amalfi Coast and Paestum String of seafront villages — including hilly Positano and workaday Amalfi — tied together by a scenic mountainous coastal road, plus nearby Paestum, with its well-preserved ancient Greek temples.
Riviera Towns near the Cinque Terre More Italian Riviera fun, including the beach towns of Levanto, Sestri Levante, the larger Santa Margherita Ligure, and trendier Portofino nearby, and to the south, resorty Portovenere and workaday La Spezia (transportation hub).