If you have never been to Italy and are wondering where to go, here is a little heads-up: trying to come up with an itinerary can be overwhelming!
The country is very large and offers so many attractions for you to see that it is hard to choose the best places to visit, unless you have three weeks’ time or more for your vacation.
Nevertheless, in this article we have selected 5 main destinations for your first trip to Italy: it’s a sample itinerary that mixes the great Italian art cities with those idyllic nature landscapes that first pop into your mind when you think of an Italian countryside or coast.
Ideally, you have at least 10 days for a trip of this kind, so that you can ‘Slow Travel’ around Italy, and experience and taste the essence of the different places that you visit.
We start from Italy’s capital, Rome.
Here you cannot miss the historical landmarks that make the Eternal City one of the most fascinating places in the world.
Must-see attractions include:
- the majestic Colosseum and the Roman Forum;
- the Vatican City with St. Peter’s Basilica and the Museums with the mesmerizing Sistine Chapel;
- the Pantheon, which is one of the best-preserved of all ancient buildings;
- the romantic Trevi Fountain;
- and shopping around the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona.
But you should also visit lesser-known places, for example:
- explore the art paradise in Galleria Borghese and the lush gardens of Villa Borghese;
- get lost in the colorful alleys of the historic Trastevere neighborhood;
- buy fresh groceries in the lively market at Campo de’ Fiori;
- get in queue at Piazza Sant’Eustachio and drink the (locally famous) coffee;
- try Rome’s specialties like bucatini all’amatriciana but also the typical Carciofi alla Giudia in the Jewish ghetto.
From Rome you can move north into Tuscany.
But before reaching the next art city, you can stop halfway for a nature and relaxing break in Val d’Orcia.
Here you can admire the picture-perfect Tuscan countryside that alternates gentle, cultivated hills with picturesque villages such as Pienza and Montalcino.
This landscape, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been depicted in works of art from Renaissance painting to modern photography.
Next up is the cradle of the Renaissance and a fashion icon – Florence.
Take your time to see its beautiful religious buildings like the Duomo, the Baptistery of St. John, the Basilicas of Santa Croce and San Lorenzo; squares like Piazza della Signoria and
; and museums of the caliber of the Uffizi, Palazzo Pitti, Galleria dell’Accademia and Museo del Bargello.
If you’d like to go beyond the normal sightseeing itineraries, visit the panoramic (and perfumed) Rose Garden and the church of San Miniato al Monte, which is considered one of Italy’s most beautiful Romanesque churches.
If you like natural history and zoology, go to the eclectic La Specola Museum; for an exclusive experience book ahead your visit in the secret hallways of the Vasari Corridor (accessible only by appointment); eat like a true Florentine by stopping at a trippaio (tripe food stand) and eating the unusual lampredotto sandwich!
4. Cinque Terre
And after this second immersion in art, it’s time for another relaxing break in nature, this time along one of the most famous coastlines in the world… the Italian Riviera!
From Tuscany you can easily reach the five villages known as Cinque Terre:
- Monterosso al Mare.
Stay in this amazing area for at least 3 nights to hike slowly and enjoy unique experiences along the way, such as:
- wine tasting in wineries surrounded by heroic vineyards;
- joining a cooking lesson with a local chef;
- sailing on a private boat with lunch on board.
With a short boat or train ride, you can reach and explore the lesser known yet striking Gulf of Poets.
Here, the medieval village of Portovenere and the wild island of Palmaria are a UNESCO World Heritage Sites, just like the Cinque Terre.
Why is this bay called this way? Find out with a boat ride around the villages that captivated poets and artists throughout the centuries!
Your first trip to Italy cannot be complete without a visit to one of the most romantic and artistic cities in the world, Venice.
Its famous landmarks include the sublime St. Mark’s Basilica and the surrounding Piazza San Marco, the monumental Canal Grande bordered by 13th-century buildings, and the iconic Ponte di Rialto and Bridge of Sighs.
Enjoying a gondola ride around the canals and a glass-making show in Murano are classic activities, but you can also go off the beaten path.
Go to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco: Tintoretto spent 23 years working on this place!
You can also sail to the lesser known islands of Burano and Torcello; learn about local history in the Jewish neighborhood; visit the 17th-century pharmacy with original features that today hosts the Merchant of Venice.
Ready for Italy?
At BeautifuLiguria we are not only specialists of the Italian Riviera, but we also work with Italy’s main art cities and all the regions around Liguria.
If you need help in choosing the best travel experiences for your Italian vacation, contact our expert team with the form below.
We are insiders specialized in creating memorable trips that are characterized by a wide selection of authentic activities, by our carefully selected expert guides, and by our hand-picked accommodation.