My 9 favorite locations to visit in Italy on a first trip

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

Italy is one of the most amazing places to visit in Europe or anywhere else in the world. Choosing which locations in Italy to visit, whether it is your first visit or even tenth visit, can be difficult considering the amount of amazing choices. This is my list of places in Italy that should be at the top of your itinerary if you are visiting Italy for the first time.

Rome (Roma)

Rome, the Eternal City

Rome, the Eternal City

No visit to Italy is complete without a visit to Rome or Roma, the eternal city. You could spend a lifetime wandering the streets of Rome and never see every sight, but those on a schedule should plan at least three full days.

Rome is one of the most amazing and beautifully chaotic cities on earth thanks to its thousands of years of history, delicious food, local markets, cats, and blockbuster ancient sights. Today, Rome is modern and vibrant along with being a tangled mess filled with some 2.7 million people and endless tourists.

One of my favorite spots in all of Rome is the Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi). Legend has it that if you throw a coin into the fountain with your right hand over your left shoulder, then you shall return to the fountain one day.

Don’t miss : Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, Campo de’ Fiori Market, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, pizza, gelato.

Florence (Firenze)

The famous  Ponte Vecchio in Florence

The famous Ponte Vecchio in Florence

The bustling city of Florence (Firenze) is an art lovers dream. It was here where the Renaissance began in the 14th century.

One of the greatest art masterpieces, Michelangelo’s original statue of David, is located here at the Galleria dell’Accademia. If you don’t have reservations, be prepared for long lines. Either way, the wait is worth it.

Another great activity in Florence is climbing the 463 steps up to the top of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo). Those who make it to the top will be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of Florence below.

Don’t miss : Ponte Vecchio, Statue of David at Galleria dell’Accademia, Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery, climbing to the top of the cathedral (Duomo).

Venice (Venezia)

Venice grand canal

Venice grand canal

I’ve honestly never met a person that did not want to visit Venice (Venezia) in their lifetime. I was one of these people before I made the journey myself.

Venice is a unique destination like no other on earth. It can only be described as a magical city built on hundreds of islands famous for exotic palaces lining sun soaked canals.

One of the best ways to enjoy Venice is by wandering and getting lost. From Piazza San Marco, the central square, just walk and get lost in the maze of narrow alleyways and bridges crossing small canals.

Many people decide to take day trips to Venice and miss the real charm of the city. During the day, the city is beautiful but crowded with tourists on nearly every alleyway. Those who spend a night here get to experience the true side of Venice, its quiet side.

Don’t miss : St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica, Doge’s Palace, Rialto Bridge.

Sorrento

Stunning cliffs of Sorrento

Stunning cliffs of Sorrento

Rome is great, but Italy only gets better the further south you explore.

Sorrento is a popular tourist destination in part to its location near Naples, the Amalfi Coast, the island of Capri, and Pompeii.

The small town is located on famous steep sea cliffs that overlook the Bay of Naples and Capri in the distance.

Sorrento may not have the famous sights that Rome is well known for but that’s what makes it great. Visitors come to this coastal gem for the amazing ocean fishing, swimming, beach activities, ocean diving, boat cruises, orange and lemon groves, hiking trails, and restaurants serving seafood and Mediterranean fare. Doesn’t get much better.

Don’t miss : the scenic town square, restaurants serving pizzas and seafood, sea cliff views, beautiful architecture.

Capri

The island of Capri

The island of Capri

The island of Capri is one of the most magical and romantic islands in the world. The beautiful island that rises from the blue waters of the Bay of Naples is a perfect mix of piazzas, Roman ruins, awesome ocean views, and cool cafes.

As with other destinations in Italy, Capri is overrun by tourists during the day. Those who choose to stay overnight are the lucky ones who get to experience a different side of the island, one that is more magical and quiet.

For the best views of the island and the surrounding area, hop on the chairlift and head up Monte Solaro, the highest point of Capri at 1,932 feet (589 meters). On a clear day you can see the Amalfi Coast.

Don’t miss : Anacapri, Blue Grotto, Faraglioni Rocks, chairlift up Monte Solaro, snorkeling at Marina Piccola beach.

Positano and the Amalfi Coast

Positano and the Amalfi Coast

Positano and the Amalfi Coast

Without a doubt, the Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world.

The bus drive from Sorrento along the Amalfi Coast is simply stunning. You will be amazed how a bus can traverse the many hairpin turns of the narrow road that somehow clings to the side of steep ocean cliffs. If you make the journey, be sure your camera battery is fully charged and that you have lots of memory for photos. You will being taking photo after photo.

If you are looking for the most picturesque and chic town, then head to Positano. This jewel of a town features pastel colored houses that rise from the ocean to the steep cliffs above. Another great place to visit is Ravello. The town perched high above the Amalfi Coast offers sweeping views of the surrounding area.

If you are based in Sorrento, consider taking the bus on your way to the Amalfi Coast while returning by boat from the dock in Positano.

Don’t miss : Amalfi Town and Amalfi Cathedral, Positano, Ravello, Paestum

Assisi

The hill town of Assisi

The hill town of Assisi

Assisi is a beautiful medieval hill town located in the Umbria region.

The town is best known for being the birthplace of St. Francis and St. Clare. Not surprisingly, the most famous site is the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, the final resting spot of St. Francis. He is one of the most famous and beloved saints in Italy.

Medieval houses line the cobbled stone streets that lead up to Rocca Maggiore, an imperial fortress that keeps watch over the city below.

If you are based in Rome or Florence, Assisi makes a great day trip by train.

Don’t miss : Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi, Rocca Maggiore, Basilica of Santa Chiara, sweeping views of the countryside below.

Vernazza and Cinque Terre

Vernazza, one of the towns of Cinque Terre

Vernazza, one of the towns of Cinque Terre as viewed on the way to Monterosso

Vernazza, the jewel of Cinque Terre, is one of my favorite places in the world to visit, thanks in part to Rick Steves who let the secret out.

Head to the harbor to find the best action, outdoor restaurants, and even a bar hanging at the edge of the castle. To get the best view of the town, head in either direction up the steep terraced hills that surround the harbor.

Vernazza is one village that makes up Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. The other villages, built on steep landscape directly on the ocean, are Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. A wonderful walking trail known as Sentiero Azzurro (Azure Trail) connects the five villages.

Don’t miss : Sentiero Azzurro (Azure Trail), classic town views from the terraced hills, Vernazza, town harbor, strolling down Vernazza’s main street, other Cinque Terre towns.

Siena

Rooftops of Siena

Rooftops of Siena

Siena is a popular medieval Tuscan town a few hours north of Rome by train.

The whole historic center of the town is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy.

At the center of the town is Piazza del Campo, one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

If you are lucky enough to be in Siena on July 2 and August 16, you will get to watch Palio di Siena, or Il Palio, a competitive and exciting horse race that draws thousands of people. Ten riders, one from each city ward, circle the piazza three times, taking no more than 90 seconds.

Don’t miss : Piazza del Campo, Mangia Tower, Siena Cathedral, medieval architecture.

Conclusion

So you have some big decisions to make if you are visiting Italy for your first time. If you can’t fit all these places in on your first visit, just remember that by the time you get home, you will probably be planning your next trip back.

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