A first time trip to Italy is pretty exciting and totally incredible; that’s a given. Though, with so many of the best places in Italy to visit on a first trip, it can get pretty overwhelming when you’re in that planning stage.
From the gorgeous towns of Southern Italy (yes, I am naming you; Matera), cities like Florence and Naples, the Amalfi Coast to Cinque Terre, you’re gonna be spoilt with heaps of choice on places in Italy to visit.
Italy is a country steeped in history, culture and mountains of delicious pasta and the best gelato spots on every street (trust me on the latter). If you’re not rolling back to your hotel in a pasta-induced haze, you’re not doing Italy right!
Whether you’re looking for the more iconic places to visit, or somewhere a little less known, you’ll be spoilt for choice when planning a trip to Italy.
With that in mind, I wanted to pop over some of the best places in Italy to visit on a first trip. Now, to make things easier, we’ve popped in some of the spots you can’t miss up and down Italy. This way, regardless of what region you fly into, you’ll be guaranteed to find a few gems close by.
Have the best time exploring Italy!
Let’s start off with arguably the most famous cities in Italy; Venice!
Venice is easily one of the best places in Italy to visit on a first time trip. Now, even though it can be a bit more expensive compared to other places in Italy, it’s kinda a must-see.
Filled with the most gorgeous canals, Doge’s Palace and a huge array of historical sights and galleries, Venice has it all. Now, just be prepared to get a little lost whilst winding through the little alleys and waterways, they can be bamboozling! This happens so much; but just embrace it, you’ll find some epic new spots.
Oh, and try (if you can) to avoid the main thoroughfares for dinner, prices here tend to be hiked up. You can literally walk a few minutes from the main plazas and streets and find the yummiest (and reasonably priced) restaurants, too. Same goes for gelato, too!
A once thriving Roman city, Pompeii was completely destroyed by a catastrophic eruption of its temperamental neighbour, Mt. Vesuvius – which completely obliterated the city.
If you’re wanting to visit Pompeii, make sure to check out our top tips on visiting this ancient city. Just be sure to give yourself a good few hours to wander the whole site. Oh, and if you want to avoid the crowds, go first thing in the morning; this spot can fill up fast.
Pisa is a relatively small Italian city but a great place to visit for its iconic leaning tower. In fact, it dates back almost 700 years and is probably one of the most famous sights in all of Italy.
Interestingly, rumour has it that the Leaning Tower actually started leaning before it was even completed.. those pesky builders! 😉
If you want to plan a trip to Pisa, take a look at our complete low-down on what to do; it’s one of the best places in Italy to visit on a first trip to the country.
If you want to give yourself a little break from the hectic sight-seeing of the city, head over to a rustic piece of Italian charm in the Tuscan Countryside.
We recently stayed on an organic blueberry farm and slept in the most beautiful Tuscan farmhouse you can imagine – it was a great way to discover the natural beauty of Tuscany away from the hustle and bustle of the cities. Bliss!
Also, you can easily plan a road trip around Tuscany and the surrounding regions by taking in cities like Siena, too.
See more pictures from our stay on an organic blueberry farm in Tuscany. We loved it!
Milan is the fashion capital and one of the best places in Italy to visit if it’s your first time visiting (and in the north of the country).
Though don’t be fooled, Milan isn’t just about fashion; far from that.
A first-time visit to Milan will have a massive mix of epic spots to see, from; the Milan Cathedral, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Pinacoteca di Brera to the impressive and somewhat ominous Sforza Castle, too.
Though, don’t forget to pack your umbrella; the weather in Milan is notoriously unpredictable!
Palermo is one of Italy’s most southern cities and is one heck of a great place to visit.
No visit to Sicily is complete without a few days exploring the stunning architecture, art galleries, markets and cafes that line the streets of Palermo.
For a rather unique and somewhat macabre type of experience, head towards the Catacombe dei Cappuccini – where hundreds of mummified residents and nobles are kept. Interesting and rather macabre in equal measure!
If you’re thinking of visiting Palermo, see more on our trip to the beautiful Sicilian city, (right here).
Matera is a southern Italian city that’s thousands of years old! It’s one of the oldest, continually habited, cities in the entire world.
This beautiful city is one place that everyone should visit once. Not only that, it’s totally iconic and one of the best places in Italy to visit on a first trip to the country.
Be sure to book yourself into one of the cave hotels that are carved within the mountain and wander the Sassi area of the city. It’s so beautiful.
Orvieto is arguably one of the prettiest communes in all of Umbria. This makes it a must-visit and easily one of the best places in Italy to experience whilst travelling by car.
This stunning town is perched right up on top of a volcanic tuff that juts out of the Italian countryside. Take a wander through its cobbled streets, grab a homemade gelato and watch the sunset across the Umbrian countryside!
Thinking of visiting Orvieto? Take a look at our itinerary.
9.) San Miniato
This stunning town always strikes me as the quintessential image I have of Italy; beautiful buildings, green countryside and friendly locals.
San Miniato is a perfect stop if you’re considering an Italian road trip and can be explored in a few hours. A perfect pit stop between bigger destinations or for a more relaxing day of exploring.
10.) Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is one of Italy’s most stunning ‘lands’. Consisting of five main towns, Cinque Terre is a beautiful region to explore over a few days.
Stay in any of the five towns (or just outside, in a much larger town) and take the train or walk the coastal path between them all.
The towns are truly breathtaking.
Florence is one of the first cities I ever visited in Italy and it totally shaped my love of this amazing country (and no, not just because of the gelato parlours on every street corner).
The beautiful streets, stunning architecture and the medieval Ponte Vecchio Bridge make this one of the best places in Italy if you’re visiting Florence for the first time.
Make sure you explore; the Cathedral, Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Strozzi and Piazzale Michelangelo for stunning views across the city. you’ll have a blast.
Let’s not forget a visit to the capital of Italy, Rome.
Visit the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Sistine Chapel, along with hundreds more beautiful places; you’ll be spoilt for choice. Make sure to spend a good few days (at least 4-5) in the city, we spent five days and only just squeezed in most of the places we wanted to see!
Also, if you’re a bit of a foodie, like us, then make sure to head to the smaller side streets, away from the big-draw spot. This is where prices tend to be lower and the food much better quality.
I found, even walking for 10 minutes from the main spots opened up a whole array of intimate and yummy restaurants. All much cheaper than some of the tourist traps you’ll find surrounding the major sites.