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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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Soul Space, Florence

If you're suffering from Stendhal syndrome—otherwise known as art overload—a session at this new day spa, a five-minute walk from Piazza del Duomo,...more

see the Florence guide
Editors' Pick
Siracusa, Siracusa, Sicily

One of the most sophisticated cities in the ancient Greek world, Siracusa is also the most elegant in present-day Sicily. The historic center, located on the...more

see the Sicily guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Selinunte, Selinunte, Sicily

Spread over roughly a mile, this huge ruined city on Sicily's southwestern coast was founded in 628 B.C., and subsequently became one of the richest and...more

see the Sicily guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Segesta, Segesta, Sicily

The Doric temple of Segesta, about an hour's drive from Palermo, is one of the world's most magical ancient sites. Set on the edge of a deep canyon amid wild,...more

see the Sicily guide
Editors' Pick
Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice

One of the most charming—and unsung—Venice attractions is the Scuola di San Giorgio. Scuole (schools) were charitable institutions, set up by trades...more

see the Venice guide
Editors' Pick
Santuario di San Luca, Bologna

A Bolognese landmark with breathtaking views, the sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca sits atop a hill two miles from the city center. Once a year, locals make...more

see the Bologna guide
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Santo Stefano, Bologna

Located in a quaint cobbled square, Santo Stefano is a magnificent complex of churches, cloisters, and courtyards dating back to the fifth century, all...more

see the Bologna guide
Editors' Pick
Santa Trinita, Florence

This 12th-century church hides several treasures behind its rather bland facade. The Sassetti chapel is decorated with frescoes of the life of St. Francis by...more

see the Florence guide
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Santa Maria Novella, Florence

The 13th-century Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella has a stunning black and white marble facade by Alberti. Inside, there is an extraordinary wealth of...more

see the Florence guide
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Santa Croce & Cappella dei Pazzi, Florence

The 13th-century Franciscan church of Santa Croce has a typical Florentine striped facade. The vast interior has an open timber roof and it houses many tombs of...more

see the Florence 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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