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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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Santa Caterina del Sasso

A local 13th-century merchant, drowning during a shipwreck on Lake Maggiore, prayed to St. Catherine of Alexandria for help. She came through, and he dutifully...more

Editors' Pick
San Petronio, Bologna

Designed by Antonio di Vincenzo in 1390, Bologna's unfinished cathedral is one of Italy's finest and largest Gothic buildings. Of particular note, the main...more

see the Bologna guide
Editors' Pick
San Miniato Al Monte, Florence

Built in the 11th century, San Miniato is one of Tuscany's most beautiful Romanesque churches and the oldest still standing in Florence after the Baptistery. It...more

see the Florence guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
San Lorenzo, Florence

The Medicis' parish church stands on the site of one of the city's oldest places of worship. The present building was designed by Brunelleschi; work on it began...more

see the Florence guide
Editors' Pick
The Salento, Puglia

Puglia's wild southern promontory has been compared to Cornwall, and with its spectacular coastline, windswept interior, and deep-rooted folk traditions, it's...more

see the Puglia guide
Editors' Pick
Rocca Borromeo, Angera, Italy

This glowering Lombard castle was started in the 700s, though most of what you see was rebuilt between the 12th and 14th centuries by the Visconti dynasty of...more

Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore is the closest of the five villages to the urban sprawl and naval dockyards of La Spezia—which provide employment for a number of...more

see the Cinque Terre + Portofino guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Rent a Motorino, Rome

A trip on a motorino around Rome's twisting alleys can be heart-stopping for even the bravest of adventurers. That said, the adrenaline rush and the chance to...more

see the Rome guide
Editors' Pick
Ravello Festival

The cultural draw in an area celebrated for dolce vita pleasures like eating, drinking, and sun-lounging is Ravello's classical music, arts, and literature...more

see the Amalfi Coast guide
Editors' Pick
Hotel Photo
Ravello, Ravello

Perched high above the hustle and bustle of the seaside, peaceful Ravello has always been the gentleman scholar of the Amalfi Coast. In the 12th and 13th...more

see the Amalfi Coast 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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