There are very few places in the world that make it onto more bucket lists than Italy. Both architecturally stunning with landscapes that’ll leave you breathless, from the rugged mountains to the craggy coast, Italy is charming and magical in every sense of the word and checks all the boxes for a dream destination. Classic European elegance? Check. Natural wonders? In spades. And that food? Oh, the food.
The very definition of la dolce vita, every inch of the country is worth seeing. Whether it’s your first trip to Italy or hundredth, you could spend weeks exploring the country from top to bottom. Unfortunately, most people don’t have that much time off so we’re prepared a list of the most beautiful cities in Italy (and maybe even the world) to guide your adventures. Get stoked and start trip planning because the wanderlust is real and Italy is calling. If you’re ready to host your own version of Eat, Pray, Love here’s where to head.
Positano is by far the most photographed city in Italy, and if you’ve ever seen a picture of it you’ll understand why. Referred to as the vertical city, the entire town is built into the mountainside upwards rather than outwards. One of the five cities on the Amalfi Coast, brightly colored buildings are enveloped by lush, green mountains while turquoise water sparkles in the distance that looks like they’re going to topple right into the sea at any moment. You could spend hours wandering the winding roads from the village to the beach, taking in the sweeping views, local boutiques, art galleries, and chic restaurants indulging in pizza and lemon everything. You’ll be stoked to know that pictures don’t even do it justice.
Just a short distance from Positano, Sorrento is another charming and coastal resort town along the Amalfi Coast. It is one of Italy’s more low-key travel destinations because it has yet to be truly broadcast to the world. Hauntingly beautiful, the city is built into high cliffs that drop sensuously into the crystal waters below. The surrounding mountains and stark blues only add to the dramatic landscape. Sorrento is not only beautiful from afar, but within the city walls, it is also a photographer’s dream. Old cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways are framed by colorful buildings sure to hold centuries of ancient secrets within their walls.
A little island in the Bay of Naples, Capri is a playground for the rich and famous in Southern Italy. Swarming with mega yachts, helicopters, and hideaways for celebrities like Mariah Carey and Versace, you’ll often hear whispers of Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift sightings. Essentially one giant cove, flower-lined villas are built right into the cliffside, flanked by beach clubs and ritzy resorts. One of the best-known natural sites is the Blue Grotto, underwater caverns that can be explored by boat (or yacht, if you’re a baller like that).
In a small lagoon in the Adriatic Sea, Venice is the capital of northern Italy and a conglomerate of over 100 islands. It has no roads, just canals and waterways that wind like arteries through the city. Romantic and charming, Venice is best explored by gondola as you take in the iconic bridged archways, mosaics, palazzos, and palaces. Their rich religious history has resulted in it some of the most architecturally significant buildings in all of Europe and you should make it a point to admire St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace in ornate detail.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cinque Terre is another one of the most beautiful places in Italy and an Instagram darling. A collection of five coastal fishing villages north of Pisa, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces as sailboats dot the harbor below. A completely carefree zone in the Italian Rivera, the Medieval walled cities are crisscrossed by numerous hiking trails that offer views from all different altitudes. There is an 11km trail (called the Blue Trail) connecting Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare, which lets you see all five towns in about five hours but allow yourself plenty of time to get lost in the magic and charm of each of the hamlets.
Rome differs from all other cities on this list because it is the only one not located near or on the water. As the capital and the main international gateway to Italy, it’s smack dab in the middle of the country and a stone jungle. That said, it’s historical and architectural significance is simply unmatched. Home to one of the oldest and most powerful empires on Earth, from the Colosseum and Parthenon to the Trevi Fountain and St. Peter’s Basilica, there is beauty and wonder around every corner. Centuries-old ruins dot the cosmopolitan city that has withstood the test of time, making it one of Europe’s most sought-after metropolises and global powerhouses. While you’re there, don’t miss a visit to Vatican City and marveling at the magnificent Sistine Chapel.
About the Author: Samantha Karen is the founder of the travel blog Sam Sees World. She is a millennial traveler on a mission to seek the new and unknown so she can document her experiences and inspire others to explore this wondrous world. Her objective is to provide valuable information on the best things to do, see, eat, and experience while traveling and getting some good Instagram photos along the way. You can follow her adventures on Instagram or Pinterest.
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