Italy is home to some of the most iconic tourist attractions in the World. From ancient Roman ruins to world-famous art museums, Italy offers something for every type of traveler. Here are the top 5 must-see attractions to include on your trip to Italy.
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Every trip to Italy is complete with a visit to the Colosseum. This massive Roman amphitheater was completed around 80 AD and could hold up to 80,000 spectators for events like gladiator fights, animal hunts, mock sea battles, and more. Today, the Colosseum draws over 7 million visitors annually, making it Italy’s most popular tourist attraction.
Visitors can explore different levels of the structure for views of the arena floor and underground passages where animals and gladiators await their fate. Guided tours are available in multiple languages. Allow at least 2-3 hours to experience this architectural and engineering marvel fully.
Canals of Venice
Known as the “City of Water,” Venice comprises 118 small islands connected by over 400 bridges crossing its 150 canals. A gondola ride along the Grand Canal and smaller side canals is an iconic Venice activity, revealing St Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge, and elegant palazzos.
Other ways to experience Venice’s intricate canal network include:
- Vaporetto (water bus) – Ideal for covering more considerable distances quickly
- Water taxi – More expensive but faster, suitable for individuals/small groups
- Rowboat rental – Exercise while you explore!
No matter how you traverse them, floating along Venice’s canals is a one-of-a-kind way to see this sinking city.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
Located in northwest Italy’s Tuscany region, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of Italy’s most photographed structures. Constructed over an unstable foundation, the 180-foot marble tower began tilting soon after the first three stories were built in 1173. Work continued despite the lean and was finished in 1399 after 84 years of effort.
Today, the top of the tower is over 13 feet from being centered over the base. Visitors can climb the spiral staircase’s 296 steps for views across Pisa and to experience the disorienting effect when looking down the tower’s sides. There are also vendors and restaurants in the grass field surrounding the building.
Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel (Rome)
Every trip to Rome involves visiting the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel. Sprawling museum complexes house art and treasures collected by the Catholic Church for over 500 years. Must-see highlights include:
- Sistine Chapel – Michelangelo’s famous ceiling and Last Judgement painting
- Raphael Rooms – Wall frescoes by Raphael with his iconic School of Athens painting
- Egyptian Museum – Artifacts from Egypt and the Ancient World
- St Peter’s Basilica – Largest church in the World
Purchase skip-the-line tickets in advance online when possible or go in the afternoon to avoid peak morning crowds. Visitors spend about 2-4 hours touring the museum’s highlights.
Pompeii Archaeological Site
Frozen in time by the 79 AD eruption of Mt. Vesuvius volcano, Pompeii offers a glimpse into everyday Roman life during its prime. Visitors can walk streets and buildings that have remained primarily intact for over 2000 years. Must-see spots include:
- Forum – Ancient city center and market
- Baths – Public bathing house with dressing rooms and cold plunge pools
- Villa of Mysteries – Well-preserved Roman home with frescoes
- Body casts – Plaster casts of volcano victims
Modern visitors can vividly imagine thriving towns before their abrupt end through preserved frescoes, graffiti, architecture, and even human remains. Allow at least 2 hours to walk the grounds.
When to Visit Italy’s Top Tourist Attractions
- The high season runs from September when the weather is ideal, but attractions are most crowded, and hotel rates are highest.
- October and March are good shoulder season months with milder weather and fewer tourists than summer.
- Winter is a low season; some attractions may have shorter hours but fewer crowds.
No matter when you visit Italy, purchase advanced tickets for crowded sights like the Colosseum and Vatican Museums when possible. Also, consider sightseeing in the afternoon when crowds thin out.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is there to do in Italy besides tourist attractions?
Sample authentic Italian food – pasta, pizza, wine, cheese and more
Explore local neighborhoods by foot to experience daily Italian life
Stop into small shops and markets for one-of-a-kind finds
Hike in Italy’s scenic countryside and along coastal trails like Cinque Terre
Relax at a cafe or piazza with a glass of wine or coffee
What is the best way to get around Italy?
Trains efficiently connect major Italian cities and attractions
Ride-share services or taxis for shorter day trips
Walking and public transit within cities and towns
Rental car for flexibility exploring regional towns/countryside
How many days do you need for a trip to Italy?
MostItaly trips range from 7 to 12 days, but more time allows for a more relaxed pace. Recommended minimum days per area:
Rome – 3 days
Florence – 2 days
Venice – 2 days
Day trips from Rome or Florence – 2 days (Pompeii, Cinque Terre, etc.)
Lake Como, Sicily, Amalfi Coast, etc. – Add 1-3 days per region