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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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Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome

Remember the scene in Roman Holiday where Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn dance on a barge before jumping into the Tiber? The beautifully lit building in the...more

see the Rome guide
Editors' Pick
Cave Towns of Puglia

Northwest of Taranto is the land of the gravine: deep, eroded gashes in high limestone plains, carved by rivers that have since dried up or disappeared...more

see the Puglia guide
Editors' Pick
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Chianti

Southern Chianti: www.terresiena.com Northern Chianti: www.firenzeturismo.it The real Chianti is a surprisingly wild part of Tuscany, its small vineyards...more

see the Tuscany guide
Editors' Pick
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City of Siena, Siena

This gloriously preserved historic city is among Italy's most perfect examples of organic medieval urban planning. The centerpiece of Siena is café-lined...more

see the Tuscany guide
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Corniglia

On a rainy day in January it may be difficult to see its charms, but come here on a weekend in August when there are pedestrian traffic jams down in Vernazza,...more

see the Cinque Terre + Portofino guide
Editors' Pick
Cortona, Cortona

Dominating the fertile Valdichiana from a rocky spur, this handsome medieval walled town used to be a fairly recherché stop on the Tuscan tourist map,...more

see the Tuscany guide
Editors' Pick
Da Vinci's Last Supper, Milan

Some claim that a visit to Leonardo da Vinci's greatest wall painting is an Emperor's New Clothes experience: The artist used an unstable dry-painting technique...more

see the Milan guide
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Day Spas in Milan, Milan

When the Gianfranco Ferré spa opened at the back of the designer's new Quadrilatero d'Oro store in 2004, it was a first for Milan; way back then, the...more

see the Milan guide
Editors' Pick
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Dominican + Franciscan Churches, Venice

When the Dominicans and Franciscans arrived in Venice at the dawn of the Renaissance, they enticed parishioners by filling their churches with art. The works in...more

see the Venice guide
Editors' Pick
Duomo, Milan

With its fairytale forest of spires, herds of fierce gargoyles, and army of perched stone saints, Milan's Duomo looks from a distance more like a Disney castle...more

see the Milan guide
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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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