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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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Hotel Photo

With its ripple of bright houses on a rocky promontory and its main piazza chock-full of fishing boats above a pocket-sized harbor, it's easy to see why many...more

see the Cinque Terre + Portofino guide
Editors' Pick
Vedova Foundation

The stunning makeover by architectect Renzo Piano is reason enough to take a look at this former salt warehouse overlooking the Giudecca canal, but lovers of...more

see the Venice guide
Editors' Pick
Valle delle Ferriere

Most visitors think of Amalfi as a seaside town—and it's true that the Republic's glory days in the early Middle Ages were founded on its maritime...more

see the Amalfi Coast guide
Editors' Pick
Valle D'Itria

Between Bari and Brindisi the fertile Valle d'Itria is one of the great market gardens of Italy. Almonds, fruit trees, and cherry tomatoes grow alongside the...more

see the Puglia guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Val d'Orcia, Val d'Orcia

The open,gently rolling hills of Val d'Orcia, recently named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, are among the most beautiful landscapes in Italy. Take the...more

see the Tuscany guide
Editors' Pick
Tuscan Gardens in Tuscany

With its ancient cypresses, formal vegetable garden around a multilevel fish pond, and exquisite teatro di verzura (outdoor theater, its backdrop formed by...more

see the Tuscany guide
Editors' Pick
Triennale di Milano, Milan

Erected in the 1930s, this lofty pavilion on the edge of the Parco Sempione gardens has found new life as an exhibition venue and design center after years of...more

see the Milan guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Trastevere, Rome

Ineffably picturesque, Trastevere is a district of two halves. West of Viale Trastevere, besotted tourists mingle with the few locals who have survived the...more

see the Rome guide
Editors' Pick
Torre degli Asinelli, Bologna

More than 200 towers, built by the aristocracy as symbols of wealth and power, once pierced Bologna's skyline. Thirty remain today, many incorporated into later...more

see the Bologna guide
Editors' Pick
Todi, Todi

Todi has been referred to as Italy's "ideal town" (the phrase was coined by Kentucky University professor Richard S. Levine, an expert in sustainable cities),...more

see the Umbria guide
Editors' Pick
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