Is there anywhere in the world as easy on the eye as Italy? From art-filled cities to heart-stopping coastlines and gorgeous landscapes, you could criss-cross the country at random and come across thousands of stunning sights. Here’s our list of Italy’s most beautiful places – as voted by you.
This Renaissance beauty has it all. For starters, there’s the glorious architecture – who could resist the cheerful pink-and-green facade and famous cupola of the Duomo, the photogenic Piazza della Signoria with its statement statuary, and the Ponte Vecchio’s jumble of shops spanning the river Arno? For most, though, Florence’s biggest draw is its staggering hoard of world-class paintings, frescoes and sculptures: according to UNESCO, 30 percent of the world’s most important works of art can be found here.
Tuscany has no shortage of winsome hill-towns but San Gimignano stands tall above the rest for its distinctive skyline, bristling with medieval towers, and its remarkably intact historic centre, a gorgeous assemblage of honey-coloured stone buildings. Its winding backstreets hold frescoed churches and Gothic palazzi, and beyond the city walls on all sides, the hills are blanketed with vineyards and olive groves.
3. Lake Garda
With a more down-to-earth feel than glitzy Como, but with plenty of class, Lake Garda is the largest of Italy’s spectacular lakes. Rugged mountains encircle its deep blue waters, with boats zipping between the pretty towns that hug the shore. You could base yourself here for a week or more – choose between luxury spas and faded waterside hotels – or day-trip it from Milan. Whatever you do, make time for a Spritz overlooking the lake, preferably at sunset.
The Amalfi Coast is wildly beautiful, and the few towns strung along its length are ideal vantage points for taking in the coast’s dazzling ensemble of craggy cliffs, lush forests and dramatic seascapes. Chichi Positano, a dramatic huddle of pastel-coloured houses tumbling down to the sea, is the pick of the towns. Its centre is a warren of stepped lanes framed by pink bougainvillea and lined with smart boutiques.
With its crystalline seas, white-sand beaches and hidden rocky coves, Puglia is many Italians’ favourite place to soak up the sun in the summer months. Its interior is just as beautiful, with wooded hills, wildlife-rich lakes, and endless olive groves: the region produces around 40 percent of Italy’s olive oil.
The legendary island of Capri, beloved of the emperor Tiberius, any number of artists and writers in search of inspiration, and legions of modern-day celebrities, has star appeal in spades. Away from its twin centres, Capri Town and Anacapri – bursting with designer boutiques and chic cafés – picturesque lanes wind past Roman ruins and grand villas, with staggering views over the deep blue Mediterranean.
No one forgets their first glimpse of Venice. However many times you’ve seen it in pictures, you can’t prepare yourself for the sight of a city of stately marble palazzi sitting pretty atop a dazzling green lagoon. Mesmerizing in sunshine, moodily atmospheric when wreathed in mist, colourful at Carnevale, unforgettable when it floods: Venice is never anything short of a knockout.
8. Cinque Terre
These five fishing villages, wedged into steeply terraced cliffs along a stretch of craggy coastline on the Italian Riviera, take the top spot for the unvarnished beauty of their pastel-painted houses and diminutive harbours filled with fishing boats. The hiking trails that thread between the villages are some of the world’s most scenic, taking you past vineyards and olive groves, with dramatic seascapes at every turn.
Despite Verona’s spurious Shakespeare connections – Juliet’s much-visited balcony is a twentieth-century fabrication – there’s plenty to love about this city. It’s chock-full of Roman ruins, not least the legendary Arena, the hulking amphitheatre in the centre of town that puts on summer opera performances under the stars; and its historic piazzas and buzzing thoroughfares are ideal for people-watching with the obligatory gelato in hand.
Unashamedly a holiday resort, Sorrento enjoys a privileged perch on the Bay of Naples’ lofty southern peninsula, as well as a gloriously long summer season. Its labyrinthine historic centre holds plenty of Baroque and Renaissance buildings, and its hub, Piazza Tasso, is a fun place for an aperitivo. For a touch of indulgence, head to one of the glamorous clifftop hotels’ terrace bars: the perfect vantage point to take in that view.
Inspired? Listen to Rough Guides writer, editor and resident Italy expert Natasha Foges speaking of her memories from the country.