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The famous places to visit in Italy that you simply must see.
When you think about Italy, what comes to mind? Sure, you might think about eating platefuls of pasta, shoveling slices of pizza into your mouth, or sampling all of the wine. While I highly recommend tasting the delicious food and drinks throughout your trip, there are many famous places to visit in Italy. Did you know that Italy has a whopping 54 UNESCO World Heritage Sites? There are so many world famous historically and culturally significant attractions in Italy that there are entire books devoted to the subject.
I’m going to focus on just a few top places to visit in Rome and Florence. You can easily visit these sites by spending a few days in each city. When you travel to Italy for the first time, you might want to go to the spots you’ve dreamed about seeing with your own eyes. I’m sure you can think of at least one of these incredible locations off the top of your head, even if you’ve never visited the country. I’m going to share the best things to do in Florence and Rome, which includes checking out these beloved sites.
Rome is the capital city of Italy and its history spans a whopping 28 centuries. You are truly spoiled for historical marvels when traveling to Rome. It’s said that one of the best ways to explore Rome is to discover and understand its layers. This literal buried treasure lies beneath modern Rome in its subterranean structures of which many are still waiting to be uncovered. If you’re staying for several days in Rome, I suggest checking Rome’s underground catacombs and crypts. In addition, for all the cat lovers in the crowd (allow me to raise my hand!), check out the Roman cat sanctuary where the cats roam among the ancient ruins. However, if you’re seeking the most popular things to do in Rome, here are a few suggestions to check off your bucket list.
Out of all the places to visit in Italy, I am sure that the Colosseum is the first one that comes to mind. It’s only one of the most iconic, famous places in the world. The Colosseum is the largest amphitheater in the world and it could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. When marveling at this astonishing ancient wonder, you can’t help but try to imagine how it looked back in its heyday. From savage gladiator battles and grueling competitions that often resulted in death, I can only begin to imagine these thrilling and ghastly clashes. On a trip to the Colosseum, you can visit the arena floor, the dungeon, and the third floor. Ultimately, the Colosseum is one of the top things to do in Rome that you cannot miss.
Unfortunately, when we visited Rome, we didn’t end up checking out Vatican City. While we had booked a tour of Vatican City, I came down with a really bad case of food poisoning in Rome. Sadly, I had to miss seeing the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, but it’s somewhere I plan to see on my return to Rome. After all, there are so many places to visit in Rome that you can travel there on multiple occasions throughout your lifetime.
It’s easy to spend an entire day at Vatican City, the smallest independent state that’s under full ownership of the Holy See. You need to see the Sistine Chapel, 11 Vatican Museums, St, Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Gardens and the list goes on. As Vatican City is immensely popular and gets quite crowded, I highly recommend that you purchase a skip the queue ticket for your tour of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums.
The Pantheon is one of the best preserved ancient Roman structures and probably my favourite building in Rome. It’s a former Roman temple and now a church with the most fascinating architecture. While a portico with grandiose Corinthian columns beckons you to enter, it’s the massive circular domed cella that is truly amazing. Inside this concrete dome, there’s a central oculus that opens to the sky, allowing the natural light to pour into the church. Even though it was built over two thousand years ago, it’s still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. Simply put, the Pantheon is absolutely brilliant and tops my list of the places to visit in Italy.
The Trevi Fountain is the largest and most beautiful fountain in Rome. Although the fountain dates back to 19 B.C. as the end of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, the coin myth didn’t originate until the 1950s. Coming from the movie, Three Coins in the Fountain, the legend requires you to throw a coin (with your right hand over your left shoulder) into the fountain in order to return to Rome someday. I’m sad to say that I didn’t get to visit the Trevi Fountain or toss a coin because the fountain was under repairs when I visited. However, I am certain that I’ll return to Rome someday with a mission to see the Trevi Fountain as throwing a coin is one of the top things to do in Rome.
Where to Stay
With so many neighbourhoods and choices for accommodation in a city like Rome, it’s difficult to choose. I wrote an article about why you should stay in Trastevere and I hope that I’ll convince you to spend the night there, too. It’s a charming district within Rome with lots of quaint cafes and restaurants, and it’s also possible to walk to many tourist attractions. We spent a few nights at the comfortable and cozy Zen Trastevere and we really enjoyed our stay. Feel free to check out reviews from fellow trusted travellers and book your stay at Zen Trastevere.
Florence is another equally captivating city and filled with top places to visit in Italy. Here are my suggestions for the best things to do in Florence if you’re seeking the well known and most discussed attractions.
There are many reasons to visit the Duomo in Florence. It’s the main church in Florence, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. It’s the largest building in medieval Europe and the fourth largest in all of Europe in the present day. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of the Historic Center of Florence.
First, I recommend that you wander around the exterior of this absolutely massive building to appreciate its design. Next, venture indoors and proceed to climb to the very top. It’s worth climbing all of the stairs, trust me. While inside the Duomo, you can gaze up at the intricately painted artwork on its ceiling and the stained glass windows. Eventually, you’ll reach the outer balcony where you can admire panoramic scenes of Florence, extending beyond the city to the hills of Tuscany.
The Uffizi Gallery is a prominent art museum in Florence. It’s one of the top places to visit in Italy for fans of history and art. The gallery is one of the most visited, well known art museums in the world with a vast collection of priceless works. Some notable works inside the museum include Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Caravaggio’s Medusa, and Bandinelli‘s sculptures. Wandering around the Uffizi Gallery, especially if you experience a rainy day, is one of the best things to do in Florence. You can easily spend all day there if you thoroughly explored the entire museum.
Statue of David
Michaelangelo’s David is quite possibly the most famous statue in the world. It’s only fitting that David exists on this list of famous places to visit in Italy. Even if you’re not the greatest fan of history or art, it’s such an iconic sculpture that you’ll want to see with your own eyes. You can view David at the Accademia Gallery in Florence. Sculpted from a single block of marble, David stands at 17 feet tall and weighs 12,000 pounds. The statue is much larger in person than I ever anticipated. While most people check out the Accademia Gallery to see David, you’re welcome to wander the halls and witness other priceless paintings and statues around the museum.
Once you wander outside of the museums, you’ll realize that Florence is a living, breathing museum. There’s fascinating architecture and statues all over the city. Ponte Vecchio, translating to “Old Bridge”, is a medieval arch bridge over the Arno River. While the multicoloured buildings that hang over the river are mostly jewelry and souvenir shops, the bridge itself is quite beautiful and romantic. I suggest you admire it from afar and then take a stroll across the Ponte Vecchio to see even more of Florence across the river. We found a delightful vegetarian restaurant called 5 e Cinque across the river that had the yummiest risotto.
Where to Stay
Justin and I stayed at a luxurious accommodation called La Farina Apartments. We had our own modern and spacious private apartment in Florence. This apartment was the perfect home base for Florence and the rest of Tuscany as we spent five nights there in total. There was a full kitchen, fast Wi-Fi, air conditioning, and most importantly, it was clean and comfortable. Click here to read reviews by fellow trusted travellers and book your stay at La Farina Apartments.
Check out all of my Italy travel photos at my travel photography album. You can purchase prints, housewares, phone covers, and so much more from any of my photographs…would make a great gift for the travel lover in your life!
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with options when planning your trip to Italy. If you only have a short amount of time in Rome and Florence and it’s your first time going there, I recommend that you check out the most famous tourist attractions. After all, they’re famous for good reason! There are many famous places to visit in Italy that you must see in your lifetime. Depending on your personal interests, I think that many of these would make the cut.