Italy is a country full of history and incredible places to visit. Some of the most famous landmarks in the world are right there in Italy! From the Roman Colosseum to the Milan Duomo, in this blog post, we will explore 22 must-see famous buildings in Italy. Italy’s diverse architectural landscape tells a beautiful story of art, culture, and innovation. These iconic landmarks in Italy are grandeur and have truly shaped Italy’s cultural identity.
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22 Must-see Famous Buildings in Italy
1. The Colosseum – Rome
Explored by Shweta of Zest In A Tote
The Colosseum located in Rome, is the most famous among all of Italy’s monuments. This stunning landmark is a three-tiered Roman amphitheatre that was built between 72 and 80 AD. It was built to hold more than 50,000 spectators. This Amphitheatre was mainly dedicated to gladiator fights, animal fights, and public executions.
Visiting this largest amphitheatre ever built is a must on any Rome itinerary. It has been declared as one of the 7 manmade wonders of the world.
The summer months of July and August is the peak season. Shoulder season (May, June, September, or October) would be the best time to visit this famous monument to avoid crowds. If you do go in summer, plan a visit on a weekday and avoid the weekend and public holidays.
You can take a metro or taxi to reach the Colosseum. You always have the option of taking a hop-on hop-off bus that stops at this site. There will be a lot of walking around the Colosseum. So make sure you are wearing comfortable walking shoes for this trip.
🕒 Opening Hours: The Colosseum is open from 830 AM until 430 PM in winter and from 830 AM until 5 PM in summer.
📍Location: Rome, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Adults: €16, Kids €6 (Booking Link) The ticket to the Colosseum, Forum, and Palatine is sold together. The cost varies a bit depending on your selection of access to the underground arena at the Colosseum.
2. The Pompeii Archaeological Park – Pompeii
Explored by Helen of Helen on her Holidays, Image: Sigmund
The Pompeii Archaeological Park is a large landmark between Naples and Sorrento, in the Campania area of Italy. The Archaeological Park covers the site of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79.
Pompeii is famous for how well it is preserved; because it was covered in rocks and volcanic ash, the city’s buildings were preserved with remarkable detail.
The site is huge, and walking its streets gives visitors the feeling that they’ve gone on a city break back to Roman times. When visiting Pompeii, you can see temples, theatres, bathhouses, shops, restaurants, grand villas and humble houses.
One of the most impressive sites is Pompeii’s huge amphitheatre, which is the oldest one to survive anywhere in the world.
Visiting Pompeii is an easy day trip from both Naples and Sorrento. The best way to get there is by public transport. The Pompei Scavi train station is right next to the main entrance.
Since the site is so huge, you’ll want to allow at least half a day for your visit, and preferably a full day. There’s very little shade inside the site, so cover up on sunny days and take a water bottle.
It’s also advisable to take a guided tour to help make sense of what you’re seeing. You can either book in advance to be sure of getting a knowledgeable guide or take one of the tours with an official, accredited guide from the Porta Marina entrance.
🕒 Opening Hours: The Pompeii Archaeological Site is open from 9am to 7pm from 1st April to 31st October and 9am to 5pm from 1st November to 31st March.
📍Location: Pompeii, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Adults €18, Child free. Pompeii is included in the Campania Artecard. Or, you can book this guided tour.
3. Leaning Tower of Pisa – Pisa
Explored by Yesenia of The Sisters Who Voyage. Photo: JOE Planas
Visiting the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa should be on almost everyone’s Italy bucket list. It is after all, one of the most famous buildings in Italy.
Pisa is located in the Tuscany region and is a short train ride around 1.5 hours from Florence. Since Pisa is located in the Tuscany region, it will be best to visit in the warmer summer months for blue skies to contrast against the tower.
However, this is also peak tourist season, so you will want to visit during the early morning hours to ensure you have the best photography of the tower and overall experience with exploring Pisa. The best time is arriving just before opening hours as the crowds will be lower. If you chance coming in later in the day, the crowds will peak, and you will have a more challenging time navigating the area.
What makes this tower so unique is its crooked footing in the Tuscany region since its completion in the late 1300s. The notable lean of the tower was caused by it being built on a soft field, which has led the structure to continue to sink to this day.
You can make the most of this phenomenon by snapping a quick touristy photo near the tower or by reserving a climb to the top to see the remarkable architecture that has held up all this time.
If you want to experience all there is to know about this iconic tower and beyond, take a guided tour, which will guide you through the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Baptistery and explore the Cathedral.
🕒 Opening Hours: The Leaning Tower of Pisa is usually open from 9:00 to 19:00 but hours can change depending on season.
📍Location: Pisa, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Adult & Child each €26.50 (must be over 8 years old and accompanied by adult to climb tower) (Guided Tour Tickets)
4. Verona Arena – Verona
Explored by Martina of PlacesofJuma
The Arena di Verona is an ancient Roman amphitheater in the heart of Verona, in the province of Veneto. It is definitely one of the most impressive and famous buildings in Italy and is located in the picturesque Piazza Bra. A visit is one of the best things to do in Verona.
Built in the 1st century AD, the Arena is over 2,000 years old, making it one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheaters in the world. Originally designed as a venue for gladiatorial fights and public spectacles, it is now used for opera performances and concerts.
What makes the Arena di Verona so special is not only its age and historical significance but also its colossal size and impressive architectural design. The elliptical structure, which can hold more than 30,000 spectators, consists of three levels of pink and white limestone, creating an impressive and imposing image.
Photographers should visit the arena at sunset when the warm hues of the setting sun accentuate the beauty of the ancient structure. Inside, the intricate details of the seats and arches are worth seeing, especially when illuminated at sunset.
If you want to attend one of the evening operas, you should plan your visit for the summer months. Otherwise, the arena is open to tourists all year round. The interior can be visited during the day.
The number of visitors is always high, so it is worth booking a Verona card in advance, for example on GetYourGuide.
5. Trevi Fountain- Rome
Explored by Claudia Tavani of My Adventures Across The World; Photo by Cristina Gottardi
The Trevi Fountain is one of the most iconic places to visit in Rome and one of the most famous buildings in Italy. Located in the Trevi District, in the heart of the Historic Center of Rome, you really can’t miss it on your wanderings.
The fountain takes its names from the fact that it is at the intersection between three major streets in Rome (tre vie, in Italian). The first project to create the fountain dates from 1629, when Pope Urban VIII asked Gian Lorenzo Bernini to design a beautiful fountain to be built in the center of Rome. However, the fountain as we know it today was only finally finished in 1762 by Giuseppe Pannini.
Since the Trevi Fountain is a must-see in Rome, you can expect it to be crowded throughout the day. For a quieter experience, you should plan to visit late at night or in the first hours of the day, taking advantage of one of the many cafés in the area where you can have breakfast.
Once you are at the fountain, you will want to throw a coin there. It’s meant to be for good luck: if you throw a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder, you will visit Rome again. If you throw a second love, you will also find love.
One important thing to point out is that it’s forbidden to put your feet or to jump in the fountain. The area is continuously patrolled by local police who will promptly get you out of the fountain and fine you for doing that!
🕒 Opening Hours: throughout the day. The Vicus Capraricus, AKA Trevi Underground, is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
📍Location: Rome, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: The Trevi Fountain is free to visit. The Vicus Capraricus has the following prices: €4 adults, €2,50 reduced; €1 children from 14 to 18 yo.
6. The Roman Forum – Rome
Explored by V Kay of Travel Addicted Unicorn
The Roman Forum is an archeological site located in Rome, Italy. It is situated right beside the famous Colosseum between the Palatine Hill (birthplace of Rome) and the Capitoline Hill.
It is one of the things you must see while visiting Rome. The Roman Forum used to be a hub of political, religious, and social activities in ancient Rome. In addition, it was the place for public speeches, elections, processions, and religious ceremonies.
It was the ”heart” of Ancient Rome where the citizens did their day-to-day activities, the main street lined with different shops, businesses, and food markets.
Some of the notable buildings in the Roman Forum are the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Saturn, Curia Julia, which housed the Roman Senate. Also, the Basilica of Maxentius, with its huge arches, and the Temple of Vesta, dedicated to the goddess of the hearth are amazing sights to see within the Roman Forum.
Today, the Forum’s ruins provide a look into the city’s past and have become one of the main landmarks in Rome. You would need about 2 to 3 hours to explore everything.
Most visitors do the Colosseum and the Roman Forum together. To get to it, get off at Colosseo Metro Station (Blue Line) and it will be right in front of you.
Before entering, make sure you have water with you as there is nowhere to buy food or water once you enter (tap water is safe to drink in Rome) and you are not allowed to re-enter.
Highly recommend wearing comfortable shoes, and if you are visiting in the summer sunscreen, and a hat.
🕒 Opening Hours: The Roman Forum is open every day 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m. **Last admission is at 3.30 pm
📍Location: Rome, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Adult (18+) €25.00 and EU Citizen (18-25) €11.00
7. Trullo Homes – Alberobello
Explored by Jackie of Jou Jou Travels
Trulli (plural for trullo) are traditional Apulian dry stone huts with a conical roof. They are often characterized by white-washed walls and unique symbols painted on the roofs. These charming structures have become iconic symbols of the Puglia region in Southern Italy.
These cone-shaped roofs help regulate the temperature inside the trullo and provide stability to the structure. Many people lived in them and today they have transformed into shops and even hotels.
One of the most famous places to see the trulli architecture is the town of Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alberobello is renowned for its high concentration of trulli. Walking through the narrow streets of Alberobello is truly magical and has become a hot tourist attraction.
Pro tip: in many of the shops you will see a sign saying “casolare panoramica” which means panoramic cottage. Here you’ll find a view above the shop and you can see all the cute trulli dotted across the town. You only need to buy something small (even a water) from the shop to venture up!
8. Rialto Bridge – Venice
Explored by Joanna of The World in My Pocket
Rialto Bridge is one of the most famous monuments in Italy, connecting the districts of San Polo and San Marco in Venice. It is one of the few bridges over the Grand Canal, that you will find on pretty much every postcard showing Venice.
Rialto was built in 1591, to replace a wooden bridge that stood in its place. The design of the bridge, with a single sweeping arch and two smaller lateral arches, is attributed to the architect Antonio da Ponte.
The construction of the Rialto Bridge was a significant engineering achievement of its time, given the challenging conditions of building over the Grand Canal. Its strategic location made it a focal point for commerce, a tradition that continues to the day, with the shops along the bridge known for selling a variety of goods, including jewelry, textiles, and souvenirs. Rialto also offers great panoramic views over the Grand Canal.
Being one of the main attractions in Venice, Rialto is a very crowded bridge. The best time to visit it is early morning or late at night.
When you visit Rialto, don’t miss passing by Gelateria Suso, which sells one of the best gelatos in Venice, which is just off the bridge. Opt for a cherry and pistachio unique flavor combination, which is only sold here.
Pro-tip: Another great place to see Rialto from is Fondaco dei Tedeschi, a luxury shopping center on the left-hand side of the bridge. The panoramic terrace is open for visitors, but remember to book a free slot ahead of time. You can only visit if you book.
Don’t miss my full guide if you’re looking for more things to do in Venice, Italy.
📍Location: Venice, Italy (Google Maps)
9. Milan Duomo – Milan
Explored by Lowri Thomas of Many Other Roads
The Duomo di Milano, or Milan Cathedral, stands as one of Italy’s most iconic landmarks, captivating visitors with its stunning architecture, historical significance, and cultural prominence.
This architectural masterpiece, situated at the heart of Milan is one of the best reasons to visit the city! The cathedral’s construction spanned over six centuries, resulting in a blend of styles that include Gothic, Renaissance, and neoclassical elements.
You will be amazed by how amazing it looks on the outside, but wait until you reach inside. With its magnificent stained glass windows, elaborate altars, and intricate sculptures, it’s stunning.
However, the best part of visiting here is climbing to the rooftop. This is the best place to get panoramic views of the city and the most amazing photos. It’s a really popular spot so for the best experience, it’s recommended to visit early morning or late afternoon.
As this is a religious place it is important to dress appropriately. If you are not dressed respectively, they simply won’t let you in even if you have bought a ticket in advance. This means covering shoulders and knees, not hats, low cut or revealing clothes. This can be hard during the high summer temperatures but even though it’s a huge tourist attraction, it is still a place of worship.
10. The Pantheon – Rome
Explored by Tori of Tori Pines Travels
The Pantheon is easily the most impressive building in Rome, and quite possibly all of Italy! While it might not be quite as famous as other buildings, like the Colosseum for instance, it is sure to impress you that much more.
It’s located right in the heart of Rome’s City Center, a short walk from all of the other sights in Rome. There are many great hotels and restaurants within a short walk!
The original building was built around 25 BC originally as a temple for the Roman gods. The building burnt down twice by fires before the building that stands today was built in 126 AD. The Pantheon is the only Roman building to remain almost fully intact since the Roman Empire.
The building has had many different uses over the years, but today the Pantheon is a Christian church. While the outside of the building is so grand and impressive that it will indeed take your breath away, from the inside you can see the part that it is most known for.
As you enter, look up to see the massive dome with a small round opening at the very top, called an oculus. The dome is so perfect it would be impressive to build today, let alone thousands of years ago. The design of the dome has been used for many other buildings since then including the U.S Capitol building.
Visiting the Pantheon is easy since it is located in the center of the city. Download the free Rick Steves Audio tour of the Heart of Rome and the Pantheon will be a stop along the route. There’s also an audio tour just for the Pantheon itself! If you prefer to take a guided tour, this tour would be a great option.
And for pictures like this with not a soul in sight? Get there by 7am to have this remarkable building to yourself, then head down to the Trevi Fountain, just a few minutes away to do the same!
11. Florence Duomo – Florence
Explored by Madison Krigbaum of Madison’s Footsteps
The Duomo di Firenze is Tuscany’s claim to fame and an integral feature of the Florence skyline. Observed atop the hill from Piazzale Michelangelo or with an Aperol Spritz in hand at View on Art rooftop bar, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more picturesque Florence Instagram spot.
The Florence Cathedral itself is made up of six different attractions: the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, Opera del Duomo Museum, and the Ancient Basilica of Santa Reparata – all located in the heart of Piazza del Duomo.
Constructed in 1436 by the Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi, Brunelleschi’s Dome is the largest masonry dome ever built. It served as Michelangelo’s inspiration for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and is widely considered to be one of the most important architectural triumphs of the Renaissance.
Whether you climb the 463 steps to the top of Brunelleschi’s Dome (not suitable for mobility-impaired or claustrophobic travelers), peruse through the Opera del Duomo Museum, or simply opt for a free visit inside the Cathedral, no Florence itinerary is complete without a stop at the Duomo di Firenze.
To really immerse yourself in the history of the Duomo, consider booking The Brunelleschi Pass for €30. This pass includes entry into all attractions within a 3-day validity period.
🕒 Opening Hours: The cathedral is open daily from 10:15 am – 3:45 pm. Closed Sundays. Opening times vary for Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, Opera del Duomo Museum, and the Ancient Basilica of Santa Reparata.
📍Location: Florence, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Entrance to the cathedral is free, but it’s recommended to book the €30he Brunelleschi Pass to experience all the highlights.
12. St. Peter’s Basilica – Vatican City
Explored by Mal of Renting A Car In Europe 101
Located in the heart of the Vatican City, just across the River Tiber from the historic center of Rome, St Peter’s Basilica is the most sacred church for Christianity and a destination for the faithful from all over the world. Even if you’re not a believer, visiting this grand temple is a must-do when visiting Rome!
The first basilica was built over the tomb of St. Peter, who was the head of the twelve Apostles and subsequently crucified by Emperor Nero. In 312 A.D., Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity and built the first church.
The construction of the current basilica began in the 16th century and took over 120 years! Today, the temple measures 218 meters in length and 136 meters in height, including its dome. These staggering dimensions make St. Peter’s Basilica not only a marvel of Renaissance architecture styles but also one of the largest churches in the world.
St. Peter’s Basilica is a pilgrimage site not without reason; under the church lies a necropolis where St. Peter’s tomb is believed to be located, along with the tombs of numerous popes throughout history.
The entrance to the basilica is free of charge for anyone who wishes to visit; however, there is always a large line since all visitors need to go through security screening. If you want to save time, we recommend either arriving one hour before opening time or booking a skip-the-line ticket. If you have the chance, make sure to climb to the top of the dome, which will give you a panoramic view of the city.
If you’re already in the historic center, you can simply walk to the Vatican, and if you’re traveling from different parts of Rome, the nearest metro stop to the Vatican is Ottaviano.
🕒 Opening Hours: open every day of the week, from 7.00 am – 19.10
📍Location: Vatican City (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: FREE but you can expect long queues so it’s better to buy a skip-the-line ticket. You can also get a Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica Tour.
13. Galleria Vittorio Emanuele – Milan
Explored by Stephanie Beyens of Bey of Travel
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the oldest active shopping gallery in Italy. It is centrally located in Milan by the iconic Piazza del Duomo (Milano Cathedral plaza). You can take the metro line 1 or 3 stop ‘Duomo’.
The longest part of the Galleria connects the Piazza del Duomo with the Piazza della Scala and the Teatro alla Scala, making it perfect to spend a day in the neighborhood and check off all the Milanese landmarks.
The beautiful center was designed in 1861 and built by architect Giuseppe Mengoni, making it one of the oldest in the world. As you step inside the Galleria, the glass-vaulted arcades will welcome you. The colorful arching glass ceiling inside and the glass dome outside is a stunning spectacle.
The Milanese arcade is home to luxury designer brands such as Gucci, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Prada, and more. You will find everything from clothing, jewelry, paintings, books, souvenirs, cosmetics, etc.
If you wish to dine or stop for brunch, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II has a lot of options. Restaurants and cafes are not very expensive, and many come with views of the Milano Cathedral or the Duomo (especially if you sit by the Galleria entrance).
If you want to capture the best shots of the ceilings and the mosaic floor, arrive before the stores open. To capture the view of the piazza, the cathedral, and the surrounding areas, head to the top floor (entry fee is 12 €). You can walk all the way around and even see Porta Nuova from here, with its special architecture.
The shopping center is a significant landmark of Milan, named after the first king of the Kingdom of Italy – Victor Emmanuel II.
🕒 Opening Hours: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is open 24 hours daily (individual store timings vary).
📍Location: Milan, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Free entry to the shopping arcade; 12 euros for the top floor
14. Duomo di Siena – Siena
Explored by Lavinia D’sousa of Continent Hop
Duomo di Siena is located in the heart of Siena, Italy. It is an outstanding historic landmark recognized for its Gothic structure. In the 12th century, well-known artists like Nicola Pisano (who carved the pulpit) and his son Giovanni (who labored on many other parts of the cathedral) commenced constructing the modern church. Great artists like Michelangelo, Bernini, and Donatello have contributed to the cathedral’s splendor.
Inside the cathedral, you’ll find the Piccolomini Library known for the vivid paintings by Pinturicchio that show Pope Pius II’s life. Among the museum’s most renowned pieces is Maesta, an International Gothic masterpiece by Duccio de Buoninsegna. Explore the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo which exhibits important artworks including Giovanni Pisano’s 14th-century marble statues, Donatello’s Madonna del Perdono, and Bernini’s Golden Rose.
The cathedral has a lot of interesting things to see and do which are a must-have in your Italy itinerary. Discovered and restored in 1999, the Crypt has well-preserved 12th-century artworks. The museum’s Facciatone has a terrace where you can take in breathtaking views of the cathedral and Siena below.
Getting to the cathedral from Florence is effortless. Accessing the historic center near the Duomo can be done by the Rapide SITA buses or train, which takes approximately 90 minutes.
Autumn is the finest time to visit Siena because the Tuscan landscape is bright and cooler. For a complete experience, buy tickets in advance.
Note: Avoid flash photography or touching the art during your visit.
🕒 Opening Hours: April 1 – October 31- 10 AM to 7 PM, November 1 – March 31 – 10:30 AM to 5:30 PM During the festive period (December 26 – January 6) – 10:30 AM to 6 PM On Sundays and public holidays, it is usually open from 1:30 PM to 5 PM
📍Location: Siena, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Tickets to the Siena Cathedral Complex (OPA SI Pass) are €18.5, and individual cathedral tickets are €9.5 (Link to Book)
15. Villa Carlotta – Lake Como
Explored by Zoe Elliott of Together In Switzerland
Located on the shore of Lake Como in the commune of Tremezzina, you can visit the stunning location of Villa Carlotta. It is one of the most beautiful villas in Lake Como. A special trip here takes you back in time through their beautiful botanical garden and museum.
The history of Villa Carotta dates back and was built in the late-seventeenth century by Marquis Giorgio Clerici. It has passed through many owners throughout the years, World War I and World War II – with every wealthy owner decorating and adding signature furniture pieces to the villa – such as artworks by Antonio Canova and Berthel Thorvaldsen.
Rare botanical specimens have also been added by owners from 1855 onwards. Making the stroll around the gardens to this day very pretty to see such uncommon plants. You can get lost through the fresh-smelling citrus tunnel, in the rose garden and spend hours smelling the local famous flower of camellias. There is also a section with hydrangeas and succulents. However, the highlight is the Azaleas flowers – which made the villa also famously known among tourists due to the wide range of colors.
With your ticket, you get a map that provides a slow or a fast route, depending on the time you have available. Both ways however do provide a good overview of those who once lived there, where you can learn the history of the villa and walk through the blossoming botanical garden.
The best time to visit without the crowds is on a weekday, which you can combine with a boat trip over Lake Como from Bellagio or Varenna.
🕒 Opening Hours: Villa Carotta is open from 10am to 6pm daily, opening in from the end of March yearly.
📍Location: Tremezzina, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Adult €15, Children under 5 is free, Student 6-18 €6, Student 19-25 10Eur (Buy Online HERE)
16. The Basilica of San Francis – Assisi
Explored by Lori Sorrentino of Travlinmad Slow Travel
Located in the picturesque town of Assisi, Italy, the Basilica of San Francesco (St. Francis) is a Catholic Church with artistic grandeur. The Basilica dates back to the early 13th century and is one of Umbria’s best places to visit.
But this medieval masterpiece is not just a religious site, it’s one of the region’s most important cultural gems.
Tucked into the green hills of Umbria just two hours north of Rome, the Basilica was (and still is) a pilgrimage destination from Rome that’s renowned as the final resting place of St. Francis, the patron saint of Italy, and native son of Assisi.
There are two distinct levels to the basilica – the Upper Basilica and the Lower Basilica. The Upper Basilica boasts stunning frescoes by renowned artists like Giotto and Cimabue, depicting the life of St. Francis.
As you descend to the Lower Basilica, you’ll find the tomb of St. Francis and a captivating series of frescoes illustrating his many virtues.
What makes this basilica truly special is its harmonious blend of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, creating an atmosphere that’s both spiritually uplifting and artistically inspiring. For the best experience, consider visiting in early spring or late fall when the weather is pleasant and the crowds are thinner.
Photography is prohibited inside the Basilica and docents strictly enforce this. However, photographers are amply rewarded outside in the courtyard if they stay past the blue hour.
Regardless of your religious affiliation, the Basilica of St. Francis promises a journey through history, art, and the enduring spirit of one of Italy’s most beloved saints.
🕒 Opening Hours: Daily 6:00am – 7:00pm
📍Location: Assisi PG, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Free. Individual multilingual audio guides with headphones are available for €2.50. Book a Guided Tour to make the most out of your visit!
17. Basilica of San Vitale – Ravenna
Explored by Hannah Kroes of Art Distance
The Basilica of San Vitale is the jewel of Ravenna, a city in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. The city is famous for its Byzantine mosaics, which adorn a collection of buildings in the city center.
San Vitale is the largest Basilica, and therefore the most grand and impressive of all the mosaics. The church itself is built in an octagonal structure and both the building and mosaic date back to the 6th century!
The mosaics of San Vitale celebrate Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora of the Byzantine Empire, which was centered in Constantinople (Istanbul).
The fact that their power reached as far as Ravenna is astonishing. The mosaics in San Vitale are remarkably well-preserved and they glitter in gold and green, catching the light of the altar. It’s one of the most significant buildings in Italy, both for its history and its beauty.
As the major tourist attraction of Ravenna, visiting San Vitale and the other mosaic locations is simple and straightforward, and possible as a day trip from Bologna or even Florence. There are many trains directly into Ravenna, and then it is a short walk to San Vitale.
Tickets can be purchased ahead of time, or directly at the ticket office, which provides plenty of visiting information as well. The ticket is combined with several other sites, including a museum and St. Apollinare Nuovo. The baptistery and mausoleum require extra €2 tickets and are very much worth seeing as well.
18. The Duomo of Orvieto – Orvieto
Explored by Lisa of Rome Travelogues
The Duomo of Orvieto is located in the highest part of the historic center of Orvieto, a small city in the Umbria region of central Italy. Here is one of the most beautiful and famous cathedrals in Italy, the kind you could stand and admire for hours, never getting tired feeling your soul lighter in front of so much beauty.
This was precisely one of the purposes of Gothic architecture: to stretch the heads of the beholders and their consciences upward, toward the heavens, considered the house of the lord. The history of the cathedral begins in the late 13th century, with the demolition of two simple pre-existing churches and the laying of the foundation stone of the new cathedral by the pope.
The completion of construction took more than 200 years and hundreds of men including architects, sculptors, glassmakers, goldsmiths, painters, and laborers. The leading architects were Arnolfo di Cambio and Lorenzo Maitani.
The facade features mosaics with gold inserts that make them glow when illuminated by the sun and narrates episodes from the life of the Virgin Mary. A large rose window catalyzes attention at the top of the facade. Episodes from the Old and New Testaments are carved all over the facade.
The three interior naves are divided by imposing black and white marble columns. The most extraordinary frescoes are on the walls and vault of the San Brizio Chapel, by Luca Signorelli, and depict the Last Judgment. Most of the sculptures and precious treasures that the cathedral has housed for centuries are now kept at the Opera del Duomo Museum, adjacent to the cathedral.
It is also possible to visit the crypt, which houses the relics of Orvieto’s bishops and medieval frescoes.
🕒 Opening Hours: Orvieto Cathedral is open from 9:30 AM to 5 PM from November to February; from 9:30 AM to 6 PM in October and March; and from 9:30 AM to 7 PM from April to September.
📍Location: Orvieto, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: €5, Children up to 11 yo free. Book this 2-Hour Cathedral and Underground Tour
19. Teatro Antico di Taormina – Taormina
Explored by Jackie of Jou Jou Travels
The Teatro Antico di Taormina, is located on a hillside overlooking the Ionian Sea in the picturesque town of Taormina, Sicily. It stands as an ancient marvel with Greek origins dating back to the 3rd century BC. Visiting is one of the unmissable things to do during your visit to this stunning town.
The theatre has a semi-circular design and has gone through many Roman modifications. The tiered seating and a stage were expanded for gladiatorial contests.
The theatre’s continues to host cultural events and performances here. The best part of the visit is witnessing the breathtaking backdrop of Mount Etna and the Sicilian coastline.
The Teatro Antico di Taormina has to be one of the most famous landmarks in Italy so be sure to add it to your list.
🕒 Opening Hours: 9-5:30 pm daily except Mon and Tues when it closes at 5pm.
📍Location: Taormina (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Tickets are around €10 for adults. You can buy entry tickets and an audio guide here.
20. St. Mark’s Basilica – Venice
Explored by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast
The San Marco Basilica (or St Mark’s Basilica) is located in Venice, Italy, right in the heart of the city in the Piazza San Marco. The basilica is a stunning building built in Italo-Byzantine architectural style.
The original building was built in 1828 to house the remains of St Mark (which had been stolen from Alexandria), but the current building was rebuilt in 1094. Arches covered in colorful, golden mosaics cover the outside, and the entire building is adorned with tracery stonework, intricate designs, and curlicues so typical of Venetian design.
The inside is even more stunning – the domes and mosaics theme continues, with shimmering gold covering the domed ceilings and archways, with Biblical scenes being portrayed in the mosaics that cover the surfaces.
Beyond walking through the church, you can also see the Pala d’Oro (a high altar table covered in gold and precious gems), or go upstairs to visit the small museum (which was actually very interesting) and go out on the terrace of the basilica. On the terrace, you’ll stand right under San Marco’s recognizable horse statues, and get great views over the square.
It’s recommended to buy your tickets online in advance if you can – that way you can skip the long, snaking queue. This attraction can get very crowded, so be prepared for crowds, or go first thing in the morning or join an after-hours tour.
Make sure your shoulders are covered and your shorts/skirt isn’t too short as you can get turned away for inappropriate dress.
🕒 Opening Hours: St. Mark’s Basilica is open from 9:30am-5:15pm daily. On Sunday, it opens at 2pm.
📍Location: Venice, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Entrance varies considerably depending on which parts of the basilica you choose to visit. However, if you visit everything, Adults are €20 and children under 6 are free. Fast Track Entrance Tickets
21. The Twin Towers – Bologna
Explored by Linn Haglund of Brainy Backpackers
The most prominent landmarks of Bologna are the Twin Towers, the Garisenda and Asinelli Towers. Only the Asinelli Tower can be visited by the public. By climbing the 498 steps, you will reach the top of the 97-meter-high tower where you will be met by sweeping views of Bologna and the lower Garisenda tower below.
A visit takes around 45 minutes and entry is every 15 minutes with a maximum of 20 people at a time. While it is strenuous to climb to the top, the views are one of the top reasons to visit Bologna.
The Asinelli Tower dates back to the early 1100s and was built by the Asinelli family as a manifestation of their wealth. It was given to the municipality one century later. The Garisenda Tower was also built around the same time but was shortened in the 14th century to its current 47 meters because there was a possibility of it collapsing.
Note that it is currently closed due to the restoration of the Garisenda Tower in 2024 and cannot be visited until further notice.
🕒 Opening Hours: The Asinelli Tower is open daily from 10AM to 4:30PM in winter and from 10AM to 6PM in summer.
📍Location: Bologna, Italy (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Adults €5, Child+Senior €3
22. Su Nuraxi of Barumini – Sardinia
Explored by Claudia Tavani of Strictly Sardinia
Sardinia’s only enlisted UNESCO World Heritage site, Su Nuraxi of Barumini is a great place to visit on day trips from the capital city, Cagliari. One of the more than 7,000 nuraghe found in Sardinia, Su Nuraxi is also the most important on the island. If anything, because it’s where most research on these conical towers and the villages that surround them has been carried out.
The complex was first discovered by Giovanni Lilliu, a local archeologist who, with his team, excavated the site between the late 1940s and the early 1950s. The main complex dates from 1,500 BC (the Bronze Age), but the site remained in use until the 7th century AC (an era that is known as Iron Age).
The nuraghe was still being used during the Punic invasions of Sardinia in the 5th century BC, and continued to be used until roughly the 3rd century AC – by then, the Romans had already been present in Sardinia for several centuries.
Today, the site is an impressive sight. During your visit, you will be able to explore the nuragic village that surrounds the main defensive castle and learn about the life and beliefs of the Nuragic civilization. You will also be able to get inside the actual castle – from the main tower, you can enjoy beautiful views of the surroundings.
Su Nuraxi is open year-round. You can visit guided tours that you can get directly at the ticket counter and that are available in a variety of languages. Tours depart roughly every 30 minutes.
🕒 Opening Hours: Su Nuraxi opens every day at 9:00 am. Closing time varies with the season.
📍Location: Viale Su Nuraxi, Barumini (Google Maps)
🎟️ Entry: Adults €15 for adults, Kids from 13 to 17 €12, Kids from 7 to 12 €9. Admission includes a guided tour.