Europe is a continent most people want to travel to when they get the chance to explore and experience the vast selection of European landmarks, attractions, destinations and more. This is mainly because it offers a variety of travel experiences, whether you are visiting for a short or more extended period.
Italy is one of the most beautiful countries you can visit in Europe and the world, providing you with memories to last a lifetime. There are also many famous landmarks in Italy that first-time tourists to the country can visit.
Several of Italy's cities and regions are top tourist destinations, including well-known locations like Venice, Florence, and Milan. Less-visited destinations in Italy include Turin and Montefiascone. A few areas, like Rome and Sicily, are some of the warmest places to head to for some winter sun in Europe as well.
If this is your first time visiting Italy, planning your Italy trip can be overwhelming. Italy really does have an endless list of places to visit. This article is a guide, listing some of the most famous Italian landmarks that visitors should consider adding to their Italian bucket list!
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Using the map of Italy, you can explore all the landmarks.
Visiting Rome for a few days, the capital city of Italy, without seeing the Colosseum would be like visiting Naples and not having a Pizza Margherita.. you just don't do it.
The Colosseum is regarded as a main symbol of the city and is one of the most-visited and famous historical landmarks in Italy. Emperor Vespasian commissioned the Colosseum in 72 AD; however, his son Titus completed it in 80 AD.
Even though the landmark has been continuously used for over 1900 years, the structure is still well preserved. It was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1980.
Some of the features you must see when you visit this historic site include The Arch of Constantine, The Hypogeum, and The Bronze Cross. Visiting the Colosseum gives you an idea of how life was during the Roman Empire.
Booking a tour in advance that includes skip-the-line privileges and access to the top and bottom floor is recommended (see the Rome itinerary linked above for more information).
When you think about visiting a popular tourist attraction in Rome, the Colosseum is the first that often comes to mind. The Roman Forum is equally as famous as the Colosseum in Rome, so do not underestimate it!
The Roman Forum is adjacent to Palatine Hill, so you can easily walk from one historical site to another, but they have separate entrances.
If you have watched Roman movies like the Gladiator and Spartacus, you have probably noticed that some of the major scenes are centred around this historic area.
According to history, the rise and fall of the Roman Empire started here. Taking your time walking around the Roman Forum introduces you to how the Roman Empire was founded.
Insider tip: The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum are all located in the same archaeological park. So set aside about half a day or a full day to explore all three attractions properly.
Piazza Navona, translated into English as Navona Square, was initially built as a sporting stadium by Emperor Domitian in 86 BC. The once-popular sporting stadium was later converted into what you see today, a public square, but maintaining its oval shape.
The Square is one of the liveliest places you can be in Rome. It is filled with many incredible attractions, like a beautiful church, Bernini sculptures, a cast of street artists, and elaborate fountains.
Even though you don't need to visit the church, its location (which is adjacent to the Square) allows you to admire the church's beauty while you are resting in Piazza Navona.
Insider tip - visit the Square earlier in the morning to avoid the crowds later in the day.
Another major landmark in Italy for you to check out when you travel to Rome is the Trevi Fountain. The Baroque-style water fountain is one of the largest fountains you can find in Rome.
The mix of gushing water with the carved stone always attracts millions of visitors annually, making it one of the most famous buildings in Italy. It serves as a representation of the Eternal City which deals with art, romance, history, beauty and mythology.
Since the Trevi Fountain is one of the most popular spots in Rome, you can visit early in the morning or later in the evening if you dislike being in a crowd. The locals believe that throwing a coin into the fountain assures your return to the Eternal City.
Throwing a second coin in guarantees that you will find love, and a third coin promises marriage. You can try this if you are still looking for that special someone in your life.
As one of the most historical monuments in Italy, the Pantheon is another must-visit monument in Rome.
This famous landmark has withstood many challenges ranging from looting, war, and even natural disasters, like earthquakes. It has been standing for over 2,000 years.
The Pantheon was constructed in 27 BC to be used as a temple for the Roman gods. The monument was later rebuilt around 120 AD by Emperor Hadrian after a fire destroyed the original building.
The Pantheon is cherished for its architecture and concept of space. Its design is in the form of a sphere resting in a cylinder. The oculus is the only source of natural light that enters the structure, and it is an opening located at the top of the dome.
Another feature of the landmark is the tombs inserted in the walls, including the tomb of the artist Raphael. You are not allowed to make noise once inside as it is a religious place, but you can take photos to record your experience.
It is highly recommended to come and sit inside the building on a bench to take in the ambience of the space (it is free to enter) while listening to an audio recording about it. Rick Steves' free Pantheon tour recording is an excellent place to begin.
St. Peter's Basilica, presumably built over the tomb of St. Peter, the first pope in Catholic history, is considered to be one of the largest and holiest Catholic institutions in the world.
Construction of the renaissance church began in 1506 and was completed in 1626, with an exterior area of 21,095 square metres. The interior space is about 15,160 square metres and can accommodate up to 20,000 people.
One interesting fact about the Basilica is that it is not thought to be a cathedral, with the reason being that there is no bishop presiding over it.
When you enter the Basilica, you will be blown away by the number of detailed pieces of art you will find in it. Talented artists like Michelangelo and Bernini designed these pieces.
Another impressive part of the Basilica is the Dome, which has served as an inspiration for many cathedrals around the world, like St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Climbing to the top of the Dome gives you a fantastic view of St. Peter's Square and Rome. Make sure to come early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Vatican City is one of the most popular places in Italy and the world at large. This is because it is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church and the home of the Pope.
There are several reasons why you should consider visiting the Vatican City once you land in Italy, and the Vatican Museums is one of them. The Vatican Museums is one of the most beautiful and important sites in Rome. It contains the world's largest private art collection.
Aside from the artworks, there are many other attractions for you to see here. Some of these attractions include The Spiral Staircase, The Sistine Chapel, Pinecone Courtyard, and more.
Visiting the Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica in one day is recommended because both have a lot of ground to cover and are conveniently located close to each other.
The Sistine Chapel found in the Vatican Museums is one of the main attractions of the Vatican City. The Chapel was constructed between 1473 and 1481 by the architect Giovanni of Dolci under the mandate of Pope Sixtus IV.
The Sistine Chapel is usually the last place visitors see when visiting the Vatican Museums, reserving the best experience for last. The Chapel is known for its artwork and being the place where popes are elected.
The walls of the Chapel are covered in frescoes done by many important and famous artists. For example, the entire ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is a masterpiece by Michelangelo.
As mentioned above, make sure to do all three sites in one day (the Chapel and the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica).
Villa Borghese gardens, popularly known as the green lung of Rome, is a top-rated park in the capital city of Italy. You can locate the park close to the Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps on Pincian Hill.
Villa Borghese was built by the Cardinal Scipione Borghese in 1606, covering a ground area of 80 hectares. His motive for doing this was to convert his former vineyard into an extensive-looking garden.
While he was building the garden, he also commissioned the Villa Borghese Pinciana; a large building that is now a museum within the park.
Piazza del Popolo, translated into the People's Square in English, can be found near the northern gate of Rome. It was built in 1538 as a way of providing a grand entrance through the north gate of the city, but it has been remodelled several times, with the last remodelling ending in 1823.
When using the northern gate entrance, you might notice the inscription on it which reads, "For a happy and blessed entrance." This message was meant for Queen Christiana when she was travelling to Rome through that gate after converting to Roman Catholicism.
The Square has served as the meeting place for several people over the years. Piazza del Popolo is also popular because it has plenty of attractions for people to see.
One main attraction that draws many visitors to the public square is the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. Other attractions you can visit in the piazza include the Egyptian Obelisk and Santa Maria dei Miracoli, another beautiful church in the square.
Piazza di Spagna, one of the most popular and renowned public squares in Rome, can be located right at the bottom of the Pincio Hill in the city.
The Square is a wonderful representation of Baroque-style architecture and is definitely one of the most-visited landmarks in Rome, Italy.
One main attraction of Piazza di Spagna is the Scalina Spagna, the Spanish Stairs. The staircase was built between 1723 and 1725 by Pope Benedict XIII. It has become an emblem of Rome and a place for many to relax and enjoy the view of Piazza di Spagna.
Another attraction of the square worthy of your time is the Fontana della Barcaccia, the Fountain of the Ugly Boat. As you might have guessed, the fountain is shaped like a boat. You can also check out the stunning Trinità dei Monti church if you have enough time to spare.
I will admit that Castel Sant'Angelo is not a tourist attraction that many visitors add to their Rome or Italy itinerary, but this does not mean that it's not worthy of a visit; it means the opposite. This Castle, just like other similar historical monuments in Rome, gives you a taste of Roman history.
Construction of the Castle began in 135, with it being completed in 139 A.D. under Emperor Hadrian. He wanted the Castle to serve as a mausoleum for him and his family.
It is believed the Castle was named after Angel Micheal in 590 when Pope Gregory I dreamt of an incident whereby he saw the angel on top of the Castle ending an epidemic facing the city.
Castel Sant'Angelo is divided into five floors, with Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo being one of its top attractions. The Castle, located near St. Peter's Basilica, offers a fantastic view of Rome from its rooftop as well.
The Capitoline Museums is another set of historical museums that is easy to find in Rome because of its popularity. It can be located on one of the seven famous hills in Rome, Capitoline Hill, in the Piazza del Campidoglio.
Capitoline Museums is actually two buildings that have been turned into one large museum. Pope Sixtus IV started the historical journey of the museums when he donated an important collection of bronze statues in 1471 to the people of Rome.
The collections gathered in the museums continued to grow until it was declared a public museum in 1734 by Pope Clement XII.
Today, the Capitoline Museums holds an extensive collection of Romanesque paintings and sculptures. The Capitoline Museums is the most important museum for you to visit in Rome after the Vatican Museums.
Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, or simply the Basilica of St. John Lateran, was built in the fourth century as a way of honouring St. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.
The Basilica is located in Rome and is one of the most important churches in the city. It is also considered to be the mother church of the Roman Catholic faithful and is the official seat of the Pope.
The interior of the Basilica is a beautiful example of what one can achieve by mixing both baroque and neoclassical architectural styles. It is filled with mosaics, colossal statues and frescoes covering the ceilings to the ground.
You can visit the Scala Santa (The Holy Stairs) as well, relocated from Jerusalem to Rome. It is believed that Jesus Christ stepped on them before his crucifixion.
The Uffizi Gallery, located in Florence, is one of the famous landmarks in Italy and one of the most-visited museums in the country.
Construction of the museum began in 1560 and was completed in 1581. Millions of visitors travel to Florence just to observe the remarkable works of art it displays from well-known artists. The Uffizi Gallery houses one of the world's most important collection of paintings, as well as a large number of foreign art and sculptures.
The artworks found in the museum are the works of artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Giotto, and Botticelli. These works of art were made between 1300 and 1500, serving as a guide to Western art.
The Uffizi Gallery is a must-visit museum if you love all forms of art. I definitely recommend visiting the Uffizi Gallery when you happen to be in Florence next.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo di Firenze or the Florence Cathedral, is another famous monument located in Florence. It is a symbol of the city, being one of the most-visited tourist attractions in Florence.
The Cathedral is a Renaissance church designed by Arnolfo di Cambio in 1296 and completed by Filippo Brunelleschi. It was built to show how the city was 'progressing'. The Church is 152 metres long and 90 meters wide, making it the third-largest church in Italy.
The artistry represented by the Florence Cathedral is what makes it one of the must-see monuments in Florence. The front of the Church, known as the façade, was completed in the 1800s.
Piazza della Signoria, also known as the Old Palace, is a public square known to be the political centre of Florence since the 14th century.
This same public square has been the venue for several public celebrations, an example being the return of the Medici in 1530. Piazza della Signoria has many attractions that draw tourists to it when they are in Florence.
Some of the attractions include the Uffizi Gallery, The Neptune Fountain, and copies of statues designed by Michelangelo and Donatello.
Having a measurement of 115 metres in length and 38 metres in width, the Basilica of Santa Croce is one of the famous monuments in Florence. It is the largest Franciscan church in the world and the second largest in Florence after the Duomo.
Construction of the Basilica was completed in 1294. It possesses an artistic nature showcasing frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi and Giotto.
The Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence also holds the tombs of well-known people in history, such as Michelangelo, Galileo, and Dante. It draws many visitors annually because of the magnificent art it displays inside as well.
Other attractions of the Basilica include the Pazzi Chapel and a small museum holding artwork that has been collected over the years.
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, or the Bargello National Museum, is a museum that is focused on exhibiting medieval and renaissance art.
The museum, which opened in 1865, is located in Palazzo del Bargello in Florence. The Bargello National Museum is relatively small when compared to the Uffizi Gallery, but it is still rich in art.
Many visitors prefer to visit the two main rooms containing renaissance art, but the museum has other unique features for you to explore. The main building itself is an art piece that is worth exploring.
Aside from the sculptures which make the museum well-known, it houses a collection of goldwork and enamels that have been gathered from the Middle Ages up to the 16th century.
The Bargello National Museum is the place to be when you want to admire renaissance art or sculptures, and it should be included on your 3 days in Florence itinerary.
Basilica of Santa Maria Novella is one of the most important and major churches in Florence, Italy. The white and green façade (front of the church) was built during the 13th and 14th centuries.
The architectural style of the Basilica is a mix of Gothic and Renaissance. Leon Battista Alberti designed the upper section and the main doorway of the Basilica, which was built from 1456 to 1570.
The Basilica's interior certainly proves that it is in the ranks of being one of the most beautiful churches in Florence. Some of the highlights of the Basilica include the carved crucifix by Brunelleschi, Masaccio’s Holy Trinity of 1424 and a large painting of the crucifix by Giotto from 1290.
There is no doubt that Duomo di Milano, or the Milan Cathedral, is one of Milan's most popular sites for tourists. The Cathedral is one of the largest of its kind, precisely the 4th largest in the world, leaving an unforgettable impression on the hearts of people.
Duomo di Milano attracts visitors mostly due to its sheer size and gothic-architectural style. Adding the Milan Cathedral to your two days in Milan itinerary is a must!
Construction of the Cathedral took an astonishing six centuries, starting in the 14th century, and it is dedicated to Santa Maria Nascente, also known as the Saint Mary of the Nativity.
The Cathedral has six main sections that are open to the public, namely the Duomo Museum, the archaeological area, the rooftops of the Cathedral (the views from the top are incredible!), inside the Cathedral, the Crypt of Saint Charles, and the San Gottardo Church. Each part has its own entrance and is interesting in its own right.
Parco Sempione, or Sempione Park in English, is a large green space located near Castello Sforzesco in Milan. The park has an overall area of 47 hectares and was built between 1890 and 1893. There are several must-see attractions in the park.
You have the option of visiting Acquario Civico di Milano (The Civic Aquarium of Milan), Arco della Pace (the Triumphal Arch), Arena Civica (a multi-purpose arena), and La Triennale (a design and art museum). The Acquario Civico di Milano is an aquarium with 36 tanks housing about 100 animal species.
Sempione Park is one of the best places to be in Milan if you want to relax during your stay in Italy. There are also many activities for you to enjoy here, like taking a stroll, going for a bike ride, and simply taking your time to enjoy the amazing scenery.
Sforzesco Castle was built by Francesco Sforza, the Duke of Milan, in the 15th century. The castle was later renovated and enlarged from the 16th to the 17th century, making it one of the largest castles in Europe.
The defence of the famous castle was designed by Leonardo da Vinci and is one of his masterpieces. Today, Sforzesco Castle is home to several specialised museums.
The Egyptian Museum is one of the popular museums in the castle and Florence. The Ancient Art Museum is another museum open to visitors with artworks from the medieval and renaissance times. You can also visit the Musical Instrument Museum, which exhibits musical instruments collected from the 15th to the 20th century BC.
Milan, popularly known as the global capital of fashion and design, is the home of many famous monuments in Italy. Pinacoteca di Brera, a public art gallery, is one of the main attractions in the city.
The art gallery was founded by Napoleon I in 1809 and is one of the largest art galleries in Italy. The Pinacoteca di Brera was not established because of private collections belonging to noble families or important people, unlike other famous Italian museums.
The paintings and art collections found in the gallery have all been gathered through acquisitions, donations and exchanges, with more collections being added as time goes on. Pinacoteca di Brera has 38 halls with every painting arranged in chronological order.
Pisa is a small city in Italy located west of Florence. In the city, there is a public square named Piazza dei Miracoli, which, when translated into English, means the Square of Miracles.
Piazza dei Miracoli is the home of a few famous monuments in Italy, like the Cathedral and the Baptistery. However, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the third-oldest monument in Pisa, is the most famous monument in the city.
The tower stands at over 50 metres tall and attracts many visitors because of its leaning nature. The Leaning Tower of Pisa, with construction occurring between the 12th and 13th century, was not built with the intent of making it tilt.
The tilting started when construction began because the ground it was being built on was not strong enough to support the weight of the tower. The tower continued to lean towards the ground until it was eventually closed down in 1990 when it was tilting 5.5 degrees.
In 2001, the tower, after undergoing more than a decade of intense reconstruction, opened again to the public. Climbing to the top of the building gives you a fantastic view of the city.
Cinque Terre is a collection of five different towns along the Italian Riviera dating back to the 1200s.
The towns that make up Cinque Terre are Manarola, Vernazza, Corniglia, Riomaggiore, and Monterosso al Mare, with each city being more beautiful and charming than the next.
Each town has its own character to show you, so taking the time to visit each one is worth it. Reaching this destination from Rome, Pisa, Florence, or Genoa is easy.
There are several activities for you to try once you get to Cinque Terre. One popular activity is hiking. There are many trails for you to walk on, with some linking all five towns together, making for an adventurous journey.
Cinque Terre has rocky coves suitable for swimming as well. You can also rent a small boat if you know how to drive one, or sign up with a boat tour company to explore the coast of each town.
Verona Arena, built in the first half of the 1st century A.D., is a Roman Amphitheatre located in Piazza Bra. The amphitheatre is one of the largest in Italy and a famous monument in Verona.
The Verona Arena once hosted historical events, such as gladiator shows and beast fights. Today, the arena is used to host large-scale opera festivals every year.
You can visit this historic monument year-round. I recommend visiting during the summer when the amphitheatre is most lively due to the annual Opera Festival - a must even for a one day in Verona itinerary.
The historic Teatro Antico di Taormina, a Greek-Roman theatre, is one of the most important and fascinating monuments in Taormina. Its location over the Ionian coast gives you a fantastic view of the sea.
The ancient amphitheatre may have been built in 265 B.C., but it is still well preserved to this day. It was first built as a Greek theatre to accommodate about 5,000 spectators for dramatic shows.
The Romans later renovated it to make room for games and gladiator battles. The theatre still hosts large events today, like opera shows, classical plays, and rock concerts.
The amphitheatre is the second-largest theatre in Sicily, after the Greek Theatre of Syracuse. It is divided into many areas; The Orchestra, The Cavea, The Portici, The Access Stairs, and the most important part, The Scene.
Sicily is excellent for a road trip in Italy. Consider spending at least 5 days in Sicily to make the most of your time on the island.
Bologna is a beautiful must-see city in Italy with several places for you to visit. You should spend at least two days in Bologna to get a good feel of the city. Piazza Maggiore is the main square of Bologna, surrounded by many important monuments in the city.
The idea of the square began in 1200 when city hall decided that it was time for the town to build a meeting place for the Bolognese people. The square still maintains its medieval charm, attracting millions of visitors to Bologna every year.
Almost every major tourist attraction in Bologna can be reached on foot from Piazza Maggiore. Some of the attractions include Palazzo della Podestà, the Basilica of San Petronius, and the main street in the city, Via dell'Indipendenza.
The construction of Saint Mark's Basilica, one of the must-see monuments in Venice, began in 828 and ended in 832. One interesting fact about the Church is that the one you see today is not the same one that was built in the 9th century.
The structure built in 832 was destroyed by a fire, meaning it needed to be rebuilt. The church you see today was built in 1063, and it symbolises the wealth and power of the people of Venice. It became the city's official cathedral in 1807.
The Basilica is one of the most beautiful churches in Europe and the world. In recent years, it has undergone many restructurings, but it still maintains its beauty that mesmerises visitors every time.
You can also take a detour after visiting the Basilica towards Doge's Palace located next to it. Make sure to buy tickets in advance if you choose to visit the Palace, even if you're in Venice for a few days.
Italy is a country filled with ancient history, unique culture and beautiful landmarks. You will not be short of options to explore when you visit here.
The capital of Italy, Rome, has many famous Italian buildings for you to see in particular, but some times having too much choice can make it hard to plan. I hope this Italy travel guide has helped you plan your trip to Italy, even in the slightest way!
This article was edited by Loredana Elena.
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