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Italy see + do

Italy contains more than half of the world's cultural holdings, according to UNESCO, so history, art, and architecture are always going to be the main draw. Museums like the Uffizi in Florence, the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice, and the Vatican Museums and Galleria Borghese in Rome contain a remarkable store of famous paintings and statues; many more artistic treasures (especially frescoes) remain in situ in Italy's churches, private palazzos, and villas. Then there are the archaeological sites, from spectacularly located Pompeii, in the shadow of Vesuvius, to the atmospheric Etruscan necropolises of northern Lazio and Sicily.

But there's more to Italy than Roman arenas and the Sistine Chapel. The contemporary art scene has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years, and now new spaces like the MADRe museum in Naples or Rome's forthcoming MAXXI gallery are springing up alongside fixtures like the Venice Biennale art fair.

And of course, Italy is as much about scenery as it is about art: Tuscany's rolling vine- and olive-covered hills; the breathtaking vertical coastline of the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre; the primitive, trullo-dotted hinterland of Puglia. Hot springs (mostly in central Italy) and snow-covered resorts (at their best in the Alps) cater to wallowers and winter sports fans. Most visitors will want to tick Rome, Venice, and Florence off their lists—generally in that order. But even on a first visit, it's worth making time for some of Italy's smaller, less crowded art towns—Siena, Perugia, Verona, and Bologna are all worthwhile options—and factoring in a few days of seaside or country rest and relaxation.

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Arezzo, Arezzo

Arezzo was the birthplace of Guido d'Arezzo, inventor of the musical scale, and medieval poet Petrarch, but these days it's most closely associated with...more

see the Tuscany guide
Editors' Pick
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Around Siena

Some of Tuscany's most essential landscapes, cultural attractions, and wines are concentrated in the province of Siena. The town itself has plenty to offer, but...more

see the Tuscany guide
Editors' Pick
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Assisi, Assisi

The city of Saint Francis, Assisi looms above the surrounding olive groves like a holy ocean liner. There's some sprawl in the lower town outside the walls, but...more

see the Umbria guide
Editors' Pick
Atrani

It comes across as a salty, rough-and-ready kind of place, but back in the day, Atrani was the Beverly Hills to Amalfi's Los Angeles, where rich merchants built...more

see the Amalfi Coast guide
Editors' Pick
Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome

Rome's huge performing arts center—a startling complex designed by superstar architect Renzo Piano—is the success story of recent years, shaking up...more

see the Rome guide
Editors' Pick
Baia di Ieranto

The Amalfi Coast is so rocky that there's little space for beaches. A magnificent exception is the Baia di Ieranto, a scenic hiccup in the coast just before its...more

see the Amalfi Coast guide
Editors' Pick
Bari

The capital of Puglia, and its main entry point, is an industrial port city with a historic old town that's been revitalized in recent years, thanks partly to...more

see the Puglia guide
Editors' Pick
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Basilica di San Marco, Venice

Entering St. Mark's Square from its western end and suddenly confronting this glittering, magnificent Byzantine cathedral has been the oh-wow moment for...more

see the Venice guide
Editors' Pick
Beaches, Capri

The rocky coast of Capri is not known for its beaches. Marina Piccola, the best of the bunch (it's one of the few with a real sweep of sand) is usually covered...more

see the Capri guide
Editors' Pick
Beaches

The rocky Gargano Peninsula has some of Puglia's best beaches and coves, especially the Spiaggia del Castello, south of the area's former medieval capital, and...more

see the Puglia guide
Editors' Pick
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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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