From the Amalfi Coast to Tuscany to Pompeii, Italy has a little something for everybody. It does tend to be on everyone’s wish list, after all.
#1. Civita Di Bognoregio
Civita Di Bognoregio might be Italy’s most charming hill town. It’s less popular than many other hill towns, but for no good reason, turns out. It’s simply one of those underrated destinations! Civita Di Bognoregio is perched precariously atop a hill inside a deep canyon, and the only way in and out is by footbridge. Yep, you can’t even drive into this place. The town gets its supplies by moped.
Step inside, and you’re surrounded by history. The Etruscans even created the main stone entrance 2500 years ago. The streets are cobbled. Ivy climbs up stonewalls. Balconies jut into narrow alleyways. It’s pure, lovely Italy!
Hang out in the main piazza if you wanna people-watch and hang out with the locals. Most of the town’s festivals and special events take place here, and if you come between June and September, you might even witness a donkey race.
Tuscany isn’t easily summarized in a few short paragraphs. It’s what many people consider the quintessential Italian experience – reminiscent of the famous book/movie “Under the Tuscan Sun.” With its Renaissance art, rolling vineyards, olive groves, and gorgeous cypress trees, Tuscany is dreamy beyond words.
Are you a wine lover? Taste some wine in Chianti. Visit medieval towns like Siena, and enjoy the views from Piazza del Camp. Visit the famous leaning tower of Pisa, or the walled city of Lucca. Relax in Montecatini Terme, known for its thermal waters and for being one of Italy’s top spa towns. And then of course you CAN visit Cortona, featured in “Under the Tuscan Sun,” surrounded by Etruscan walls dating back to 3000 years ago. Watch the movie first. It’ll get you in the mood.
Florence, although a part of Tuscany, deserves its own little moment in the spotlight. This city is many things all at once: a fashion capital, a cosmopolitan and hip-and-savvy town, and a historical hub featuring some of Italy’s most important heritage highlights. Some special places to take note of: the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Uffizi, the Bargello, and the churches of Santa Maria Novella and Santa Croce. Head to the library of San Lorenzo to see some of Michelangelo’s best work, and wander the streets taking in Florence’s stunning architecture.
For the more modern side of Florence, head to the Oltrarno area. The Pitti Palace is worth a visit, as well as the Boboli Gardens. If you climb to the church of San Miniato al Monteto, you’ll get an amazingly gorgeous view of the entire city.
Florence is especially a good spot for exploring Italy’s food scene, including the almighty olive. From here it’s possible to visit olive farms to learn about olives and the hard work that goes into producing olives and olive oil.
Also in Tuscany you’ll find Volterra, a comforting sight after driving through the surrounding rugged terrain of La Balze, a series of hills and green fields and valleys that have been eaten away by erosion over the years. Volterra was once a classic Etruscan town, and dates back to 25 centuries ago. It was excavated in the 18th century to uncover many Etruscan artifacts, most of which are now on display at the Museo Etrusco Guarnacci.
Later, the Romans and the Florentines besieged the town, thanks to its appealing abundance of minerals and stones. There’s a beautifully preserved Roman forum you can visit, and you’ll find that many shops and boutiques still use stones like alabaster in their featured handicrafts.
Who can resist Pompeii? This famous ancient city was destroyed in AD 79 when Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered the town in thick layers of ash. When a rock and ash avalanche crushed the city, Pompeii’s 2,000 citizens were entombed forever. As the bodies decomposed, they left hollow spaces in the volcanic debris. Archaeologists have since filled the spaces with plaster casts to create unbelievably heart-wrenching molds of those people’s last moments.
The city structure itself is also beautifully preserved, showcasing an impressive and complex water and plumbing system. The best-preserved building is the House of the Vetti, once owned by a rich merchant. You can still see the gorgeous frescoes in the central courtyard, where there would have been a formal garden and a pool.
#6. San Gimignano
San Gimignano is especially special thanks to its UNESCO World Heritage status. It was originally an Etruscan town, and was an important stopping point for pilgrims travelling to and from Rome on the Via Francigena.
Two rich families mostly ran the town, both of who built 72 tower houses to display their wealth. You’ll also find several excellent examples of 14th and 15th century Italian art here. This includes the fresco of the Last Judgment in the Cathedral, as well as Heaven and Hell by Taddeo di Bartolo. Art history lovers, you’ll be in heaven!
There isn’t a great deal to do in this town other than appreciate it for its historical significance and beauty. Take the time to slow down here, and soak up the Italy experience.
#7. Amalfi Coast
Italy’s Amalfi Coast is the gem of the Mediterranean, where coastal mountains meet the sea, quaint villages huddle in the countryside, and lush forests scatter across the region. It’s where you go when you want a taste of rural Italy along with some epic scenery.
You can visit Positano here, as well as the gorgeous villas at mountaintop Ravello. There’s also Sorrento and Salerno, two port towns. And of course, there’s Amalfi town itself – once home to 70,000 people, it’s now dwindled to a modest 5,000. But that’s what makes it so special. Whitewashed homes wind their way between alleys and arches, and several very popular beaches are within walking distance.
Amalfi is also a fantastic spot for adventurers. Cycling along the coast is very popular and safe, and one of the best routes you can do is to Bernina Pass at 2300 meters above sea level. You’ll see the White Lake, the Garden of the Glaciers, and some remarkable vantage points of the surrounding area. If cycling isn’t your thing, warm temperatures make the Amalfi Coast ideal for water sports. No excuses – it’s easy to get out and enjoy Amalfi!
If you’d like to make the most of your time here, hire a tour guide on the Amalfi Coast.
Positano is a picturesque coastal town on the Amalfi Coast with so much beauty it’s hard to believe it exists. You’ll find terracotta houses piled hillside and tumbling into the ocean. And there’s a vibrant dining and shopping culture here that appeals to travellers of all budget sizes.
One thing you especially can’t pass up while in Positano: visiting the domed Church of Santa Maria Assunta, where a black Byzantine Madonna icon stands proud from the 13th century. Positano is also surrounded by beautiful beaches, grottos, and sea caves for those who want to get a little adventurous.