Few countries in the world attract as many travelers as Italy. This Mediterranean marvel is home to some of the most famous landmarks you’ll find anywhere in the world. In order to see the top landmarks, you’ll definitely want to keep the list in mind as you plan your Italy itinerary.
For now, go on a journey from the comfort of your home to explore 20 of the most famous landmarks in Italy here in this article. Not only will you get a taste of history, but you will also be able to find out about some of the best cities in Italy to visit at the same time. You may want to soak up the history in these Italian medieval towns along the way.
Here's more to help you plan
If you’re hitting up Italy as part of a larger trip to Europe, be sure to check out our 2-week Europe Itinerary.
Getting Around in Italy
The best way to get around to all or even a few of these places in Italy is to rent a car and drive. I always book through DiscoverCars.com for the best deals. It’s not too difficult driving around in Italy, but you should be prepared for a few things:
- You need an International Driver’s License, which is just a translation of your U.S. or other country license. You can get this at the AAA office, or online.
- Most cars in Italy are manual (stick-shift). You can rent automatics, but there aren’t a lot of them so you have to book in advance.
- The roads are sometimes very narrow and not paved. It’s best to rent a very small car that can easily manuever the roads and parking spots.
Italy’s Famous Landmarks
With destinations like the colosseum in Rome, Venice’s amazing canals, the leaning tower of Pisa, and more, you might be wondering where to start. While there are so many incredible places to visit, these are 20 of the most popular Italian landmarks.
If you enjoy visiting famous buildings in Italy, then The Pantheon needs to be high up on your list. With more than 7 million visitors each year, it’s one of the main attractions in Rome.
It is a stunning example of classical Roman design. It features a large portico made up of granite columns exceeding 11 meters and a cylindrically domed main room. This dome is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world.
An audio guide or a guided tour is a great way to see the Pantheon to learn as much as you can about its history and architecture.
There’s a reason most people have heard of this surreal structure. The Colosseum will leave you in awe while you retrace the steps of Romans who lived over 2,000 years ago.
Experience the largest gladiatorial games venue from the perspective of the gladiators or as one of the 50,000 spectators. While you can enter this attraction without a guide, a guided tour is a great way to learn the most about the Colosseum and other nearby Roman attractions.
The Trevi Fountain is the most extravagant Baroque fountain in the world and one of the major landmarks in Italy. It was completed in 1762, after being commissioned by Pope Clement XIII.
The water feeding this fountain comes from over 10 km outside of the city, brought here originally by the Aqua Virgine – one of 11 Roman aqueducts.
One of the oldest famous sites in Italy, the Roman Forum was the center of civilization for many years. While the remaining ruins are just fragments of their former grandeur, you can still imagine the magnificence of these long-lost structures.
The main buildings found here were pagan temples – with the most notable being the Temple of Saturn. You can wander around the Roman Forum as part of a longer 3-day itinerary in Rome.
Vatican City: St. Peter’s Cathedral & Sistine Chapel
While in Rome, you can visit an entirely different country – in fact, the smallest independent state in the world. The Vatican City might be small, but there is plenty to see while exploring the Pope’s home.
You can view one of the most famous structures in Italy (the Sistine Chapel) as well as other legendary landmarks like St. Peter’s Cathedral and Square. Why not go ahead and meet the Pope while you’re here too?
Canale Grande & Venice Canals
Venice is on most people’s bucket list – and for good reason. The first thing you’ll notice when entering the city is the abundance of canals. While The Grand Canal is the main one, there are many smaller canals that dissect the city.
Enjoy a romantic gondola ride or simply stroll along the water’s edge while you explore some of the many attractions found throughout Venice.
St. Mark’s Square & Basilica
If you’re in Venice, you shouldn’t leave without visiting St. Mark’s Square. Considered the social, religious, and political center of the city, the square is home to two famous Italian buildings – St. Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace.
With so many things to see, you can even join a guided tour to make the most out of your experience. If you’re not a fan of birds, make sure not to carry any open food while walking here – the pigeons are famous for swarming visitors.
Cathedral of Florence & Giotto’s Bell Tower
The Florence Cathedral and neighboring bell tower are two of the city’s most visited attractions. The cathedral was completed in 1436 and is a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.
The two things to look out for are the polychrome marble panels used to decorate the exterior and the impressive Cupola del Brunelleschi (the largest brick dome in the world). If you’re worried about missing any details, you can always book a guided tour of the grounds.
» See our guide to the top things to do in Florence.
The old bridge as it translates to is much more than the name gives off. While its age is impressive, the shops that line this Florence bridge are the main attraction.
Jewelers, art dealers, and souvenir sellers can be found on the bridge itself. Take a stroll over the Arno river and potentially stop to buy something from a shop floating over the water.
Statue of David
Considered one of the finest sculptures in the world, David was completed by Michelangelo out of a single block of marble in 1504. While it was originally found in a square outside the Palazzo Vecchio, it has since been moved to the Gallery of the Academy of Florence art museum.
This popular attraction can be busy, so if you want to prevent any unwanted time wasting make sure to book ahead to skip the queue. You can, however, still enjoy the original experience in the square because they have placed a strikingly similar replica in its place.
Are you a fan of art museums? Then the Uffizi Gallery needs to be added to your Florence itinerary. It is a world-renowned museum that holds an impressive collection of renaissance and other Italian works.
It contains the personal collections of the Medici family and was officially opened to the public in 1765.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of Italy’s famous buildings. The intense white walls of the marble exterior are enough to take your breath away.
When you visit this attraction, you won’t only be able to snap a photo of yourself holding up this tilting tower. You can also climb to the top and admire some of the most superb views of the surrounding city. You can even take a guided tour to explore the neighboring Pisa cathedral and fresco art museum.
» Pisa is a great day trip from Bologna.
Ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum
The ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum are two of the most unique famous places in Italy. Both of these towns were wiped out almost instantly when Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered them in ash and pumice.
This left these towns almost perfectly preserved. The ruins left behind give you an unparalleled glimpse into Roman culture. You can even travel along with an archaeologist to both sites, allowing you to get the most out of your time here.
Royal Palace of Caserta
There are few buildings in Italy that match the opulence and grandeur of the Royal Palace of Caserta. It was built as the primary residence for the kings of Naples and is the largest palace built during the 18th century.
The grounds are massive, exceeding 47,000 square meters. It was declared a UNESCO world heritage site due to its impressive displays of Baroque designs and architecture. It’s a great place to visit on a day trip from Naples.
The Milan Cathedral is the largest cathedral in Italy and the third-largest in the world. Italy is already renowned for its churches, but the Duomo di Milano is on a whole other level.
The cathedral took 600 years to complete and was only officially finished in 1965. Explore the artwork of the interior before heading up on the roof to further admire the architecture and decorative sculptures.
» See our guide to the top things to do in Milan.
While the Colosseum is the most famous Roman amphitheater in Italy, the one in Verona is slightly older. Built in 30 AD, the Verona Arena is incredibly well-preserved. Despite being a bit smaller, the venue could still house 30,000 spectators.
What’s even more remarkable is that it is still in use today. Come at the right time and you might be able to enjoy a world-famous opera performance.
While the Amalfi Coast isn’t one location, it’s without a doubt one of the most famous of Italy’s landmarks. This 50 km stretch of coastline is arguably the most beautiful in Italy. It is located on the southern coast of the Sorrentine peninsula, with it being centred around the town of Amalfi.
Whether you want to enjoy a sunset cruise, experience the local cuisine, or just lounge on beaches all day – the Amalfi Coast is a must-see Italian landmark.
The Dolomites are the perfect getaway to the Alps – Italy’s northern mountain range. The landscapes and views are absolutely stunning and even if you are not an outdoor enthusiast, there are plenty of great places to enjoy in complete comfort.
In winter, the Dolomites are a great place to go skiing. While in summer, you can enjoy a plethora of activities from hiking to paragliding.
The island of Elba is one of many famous historical places in Italy and the third largest island in the country. It famously served as the home of Napoleon Bonaparte during his first exile in 1814.
If you visit the Villa Dei Mulini, you will be able to explore this lavish building which served as Napoleon’s primary residence. While on Elba, make sure to check out Sansone beach and Tuscany Archipelago National Park.
Another Italian coastline that has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site, the Cinque Terre is another must-see landmark in Italy. The area comprises five small fishing villages, which are quite difficult to access via car.
Luckily public transport is great in this part of Italy, allowing you to venture here and explore the surrounding areas in ease. Looking for things to do? Enjoy a Mediterranean sunset cruise or hop on the popular Blue Trail hike which takes you to each town.
Explore the Best Landmarks in Italy
Now that you know the most famous monuments in Italy, it’s time to get planning. With so many things to do, it is definitely worthwhile to plan an Italian travel itinerary before starting your journey. A holiday in this Mediterranean paradise is one you will never forget – Buon Viaggio!
Be Prepared For Travel
Planning is the most important part of any successful trip. Do it the easy way:
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Laura Lynch, creator and writer of Savored Journeys, is an avid world traveler, certified wine expert, and international food specialist. She has written about travel and food for over 20 years and has visited over 75 countries. Her work has been published in numerous guidebooks, websites, and magazines.