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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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Islets Around Venice, Venice

Punctuating the lagoons around Venice are a few islets that are well worth visiting—and they can all be reached by vaporetto. Torcello was a city long...more

see the Venice guide
Editors' Pick
Isola di San Giulio, Orta San Giulio, Italy

The "capital" of Lake Orta is little more than the medieval village of Orta San Giulio. The town's cobblestone streets and main square are charming, but the...more

Editors' Pick
The Isole Boromee

The Borromeo clan has controlled much of the Maggiore region since Renaissance times and still owns most of the land on this trio of islands off the shore of...more

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Lake Como

Como is the most beautiful of the Italian lakes. The touristy-yet-delightful town of Bellagio, located where the main body of water meets its eastern Lecco...more

Editors' Pick
Lake Garda

Garda's biggest selling point is its balmy climate: The lake acts as a gigantic solar panel; a ring of mountains stores the heat while winds help keep...more

Editors' Pick
Lake Iseo

Little Iseo is perhaps the prettiest of all the lakes (if you ignore the quarry that mars part of the western shore). The small towns dotted along the coast...more

Editors' Pick
Lake Maggiore

Despite its stately bearing, grand hotels, formal gardens, and fringe of mountains, Maggiore is not highly rated by the lake cognoscenti. To unlock the...more

Editors' Pick
Lake Orta

Soft morning mists are a way of life on this pocket-size lake, just eight miles long and under two miles wide. Orta has a single, must-stay base town of Orta...more

Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Lake Trasimeno, Castiglione del Lago

The largest lake on the Italian peninsula, Trasimeno is a lovely place for a day out (although the weedy bottom and murky water aren't great for swimming). The...more

see the Umbria guide
Editors' Pick
Lecce

Lecce is rich in splendid Baroque architecture, but it's also a vibrant, youthful city with enormous brio and style. From the mid-16th century on, dozens of...more

see the Puglia 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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