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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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Duomo (Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore), Florence

Florence's massive green and white cathedral and its wedding cake facade dominates the center of the city. Building began in the 1290s under the direction of...more

see the Florence guide
Editors' Pick
Duomo di Como, Como, Italy

Two thousand years of Como history are depicted on the delightfully crowded facade of this 14th-century cathedral. You'll see sculptures of the usual saints and...more

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EUR, Rome

For a complete detox after overdosing on Rome's classical wonders, take Metro Line B to EUR, the "model" suburb dreamt up by Mussolini and his Fascist urban...more

see the Rome guide
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Exhibition Venues in Rome

Rome's exhibition scene hasn't always matched up to its status as one of the world's cultural capitals, but things have improved since the turn of the...more

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Fiesole, Fiesole, Tuscany

A small hill town just to the north of Florence, Fiesole was founded by the Etruscans. Today, it is a charming upmarket suburb accessible by a short taxi ride...more

see the Florence guide
Editors' Pick
Fondazione Prada, Milan

Not merely a fashion genius, Miuccia Prada is an inventive patron of the arts. Her contemporary-art foundation, housed in a former bank archive in the eastern...more

see the Milan guide
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Forte dei Marmi & Carrara

Forte Dei Marmi: www.welcometuscany.it Carrara: www.aptmassacarrara.it With its vast white-sand beaches and dramatic Apuan Alps backdrop, the chic seaside...more

see the Tuscany guide
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Forum Museum, Omegna, Italy

Everyone knows that Italy makes some of the best high-design housewares in the world, but few people realize that the top names are based in this unassuming...more

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Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

The greatest collection of Renaissance painting in the world is housed in the former administrative offices of Cosimo de' Medici's court, a 16th-century...more

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Galleria dell' Accademia, Florence

The vast majority of the people in the mile-long line outside this former art school are here for one reason only: to ogle what is probably the most famous nude...more

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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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