This is one of the best places to visit in Italy if you want to enjoy its lush countryside, excellent art and wonderful food. Florence, the region’s capital city, is where art lovers flock to see Renaissance masterpieces such as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) and the Basilica of Santa Croce. Almost everywhere in Tuscany is worth a visit; Sienna, Pisa (home to the Leaning Tower of Pisa), and Arezzo all have stunning examples of Italian architecture and are far less busy than Florence, if you were looking for a more laid-back vacation. If you want to see more of the region, Tuscany is the perfect place in Italy to rent a car and take a road trip.
Fly to: Florence from around Dh1,270 per person
Home to the Duomo cathedral, Leonardo’s Last Supper and the Renaissance Sforzesco castle, it’s no surprise Milan is one of the most popular places to visit in Italy. Located in the northern part of the country, Milan is a haven for art, culture and shopping lovers, and gets busy in the summer months. If you’re happy to join the crowds, make sure you visit the Milan Cathedral and the Museo del Novecento, which houses the Quarto Stato (The Fourth Estate) by Pellizza di Volpeda, one of Europe’s best known paintings. Leonardo’s Last Supper fresco is in the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery just outside the city centre.
Fly to: Milan from around Dh836 per person
3. Amalfi Coast
This is another of the best places in Italy to enjoy a road trip. Fly to Naples, rent a car, and set off on a spectacular journey along the winding coastal roads, stopping off at some of Italy’s most beautiful Mediterranean towns and cities. South of Naples is Sorrento, a beautiful but touristy town. Popular things to do here (other than find a pew at a coffee shop and watch the world go by!) include visiting the Museo Correale di Terranova, the Duomo and the Basilica di Sant’Antonino, the oldest church in the town. Even further south is Positano, probably the most popular town on the Amalfi Coast, thanks to its photogenic terracotta and pink house built on the cliffs leading down to the water’s edge. It’s not cheap, however, so don’t feel guilty for just stopping off to take a photograph or two. The best way to enjoy the road trip is to be flexible, and happy to explore places as you find them.
Fly to: Naples from around Dh1,957 per person
Palermo is the capital of Sicily and has more of an African influence than most other places in Italy. It has been conquered and occupied a number of times over many centuries and this shows in its architecture, art and food. The Palermo cathedral (the Duomo) began life as a Byzantine church but was later converted to a mosque when the city was conquered by Arabs in the 9th century. It’s been added to and changed as the years have gone on, with a Renaissance period porch and Baroque-style cupolas and dome that were built in the late 18th century. If you want to experience the famous Sicilian cuisine, check out the Palermo street markets which are crammed with all the flavors of Sicily. Sicilians like their spices, most of which were introduced to the island centuries ago, so the food is colorful and flavorsome. Popular markets are at La Vucciria and Ballaro.
Fly to: Palermo from around Dh1,934 per person
It’s a city famous for gondoliers, canals and delicious gelato, and is by far one of the most popular places to visit in Italy, especially for couples. Famous sights include the Bridge of Sighs, named after the ‘sighs’ of condemned prisoners who glimpsed the bridge on their way from Doge’s Palace to prison, as it was their last sight of freedom. Another famous bridge (which is now very popular with souvenir hawkers) is the Rialto Bridge, which gives those who cross it wonderful views of the Grand Canal. The Museo della Musica (music museum) is a good land-based attraction where you can learn about Venice’s strong musical heritage. As well as displays of rare instruments and exhibits about Venice’s instrument makers, there’s also a section of the museum about Anotonio Vivaldi, the Venetian Baroque composer of The Four Seasons. Venice can get very expensive so if you’re on a budget you might consider visiting in winter months which, as long as you’re wrapped up, can be equally as beautiful as summer.
Fly to: Venice from around Dh1,093 per person
The modern city of Pompeii is not much to write home about (compared with some of our other best places to visit in Italy), but it needs to be on this list because it is one of the world’s most famous archeological sites. The city of Pompeii was built in around the 7th century BC and conquered by the Romans in the 8th century. Almost 160 years later it was destroyed when nearby Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city in tons of ash. It laid buried and undisturbed for another 1,500 years until it was first rediscovered. As an incredible glimpse into Roman life, Pompeii began welcoming tourists almost a quarter of a century ago and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The site is split into sections and ticket prices vary depending on what you want to access. Check out the full details here. It’s open from 8.30/9am – 7.30pm from April through October, and 8.30am – 5.30pm November through March.
Fly to: Naples from around Dh1,952 per person
You could easily spend your whole vacation in Italy in Rome, with its incredible architecture, world-class food, and stunning art. First, there’s the Pantheon, built as a temple to the gods in the first century BC. There’s also the St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican, two of Rome’s most popular sites. The Basilica is the biggest church in the world and full of religious treasures such as the Michaelangelo Pieta Virgin Mary and Jesus sculpture. When it comes to food, it’s no secret that Rome has some of the best in the world. Try some of the tastiest pizzas on the planet at Sforno and Dar Poeta, or treat yourself to a gelato at Gelateria Corona, a fantastic family-run gelato store.
Read more: A local’s guide: top 10 things to do in Rome
Fly to: Rome from around Dh933 per person
8. Italian Lakes
If you prefer to be by the water than in the city, head to one of Italy’s stunning lakes instead. Lake Como, is one of three biggest – and arguably the most impressive – in the region. Much of the coastline is lined with stunning villas, many of which you can explore. One of the most impressive is Villa Balbianello in Lenno. You might recognize some of the exterior from the movies Casino Royale and Star Wars Episode II, which were both filmed here. It was built in 1787 and has a fun and interesting collection put together by Guido Monzino, its last resident who traveled Africa and the Poles. Other must-visits include the 1808 Villa Melzi d’Eril and Villa Carlotta with its large gardens and olive tree orchard.
Fly to: Milan Malpensa from around Dh1,252 per person
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*Published October 2017. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.