A first time trip to Italy is an incredible experience, it’s a country steeped in history, culture and mountains of delicious pasta and gelato on every street corner… and 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! 😉
If you’re anything like me, a first time visit to a new country is one heck of an exciting experience, with Italy being no exception to the rule. My mind went into a whirly maze of places to see, explore and discover when planning my first ever trip, which not only bamboozled me but put a great deal of pressure on my time-management skills – something that still need improving somewhat! 😉
Of course, we all know about the big hitting places; Venice for its canals, Rome for it’s colosseum and Pisa for some sort of leaning tower thing that not many people have heard about… said no one ever!
But seriously though, whether you’re looking for the ‘famous’ destinations or somewhere a little less known, Italy has a truly remarkable amount of places that any first time visitor can dive straight into and explore. Take a look at 11 of the very best places that you should consider on your first time trip to Italy.
1.) Venice: Lets start of with arguably the most famous canal and ‘water city’ in the world! Venice offers a huge array of perfect first time experiences to a one-of-a-kind city that is truly distinct from anywhere else across the globe.
From the beauty of the grand canal, a ride on a gondola and Doge’s Palace – Venice has it all. Download an offline map and discover the twisty turns of the Venetian city that have inspired and made people get lost for centuries!
If you’re thinking of visiting Venice, take a look at our complete guide on what to see, do and eat in the city, right here.
2.) Pompeii: A once thriving Roman city, Pompeii was completely destroyed by a catastrophic eruption of its temperamental neighbour, Mt. Vesuvius – which completely obliterated the city. Nowadays, this vast archaeological and UNESCO World Heritage site is a must-see place for visitors that are traipsing between the Amalfi Coast and Naples.
If you’re wanting to visit Pompeii, make sure to check out our top tips on visiting, right here.
3.) Pisa: Pisa is a relatively small Italian city with the Iconic leaning tower that dates back almost 700 years! A visit to Pisa is a great way to see one of the most iconic symbols of Italy and can easily be paired up with a trip to Florence, Cinque Terre or just eating gelato all day! 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, right here.
4.) Tuscan Countryside: 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!
See more pictures from our stay on an organic blueberry farm in Tuscany, right here.
5.) Milan: Milan is the fashion capital of Italy, and one of the most prestigious cities when it comes to couture clothing and stunning fabrics – but that doesn’t mean clothes (and shopping) are the only thing to see and do there. A first time visit to Milan should include a myriad of beautiful places and experiences, from; the Milan Cathedral, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Pinacoteca di Brera to the impressive and somewhat ominous Sforza Castle! Don’t forget to pack your umbrella – the weather in Milan is notoriously unpredictable!
See more on our top tips to see in Milan right here.
6.) Palermo: Palermo is one of Italy’s most southern cities 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 for people to visit to this day. Interesting and rather grisly in equal measure!
If you’re thinking of visiting Palermo, see more on our trip to the beautiful Sicilian city, right here.
7.) Bergamo: Bergamo is a city that most people happen upon by accident. This beautiful city is one place that everyone should visit once. We discovered Bergamo by total coincidence in search of food on the way to the airport and we’re so glad we did. Take a wander through the old hill-top town and discover one of Northern Italy’s most charming northern cities.
See more on Bergamo right here.
8.) Orvieto: Orvieto is arguably one of the prettiest communes in all of Umbria. This stunning town is perched right up on top of a volcanic tuff the juts out of the Italian countryside. Take a wander through its cobbled streets, grab a home made gelato and watch the sunset across the Umbrian countryside!
Thinking of visiting Orvieto? Take a look at our itinerary, right here.
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!
If you’re thinking of visiting Ciinque Terre, makes sure to check out our complete guide, right here.
…and don’t forget our 15 top tips to consider when you arrive in Cinque Terre, right here.
For more detailed information on the five towns of Cinque Terre, check them out here:
11.) Florence: 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 makes this one of my favourite places to recommend to everyone visiting Italy for the first time. Make sure you explore; the Cathedral, Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Strozzi and Piazzale Michelangelo for stunning views across the city.
If you’re planning a trip to Florence, make sure you check out our top sights you must see in this amazing Italian city, right here.
Rome… let’s not forget a visit to the capital of Italy and The Vatican! Visit the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain and Sistine Chapel… along with hundreds more beautiful places. Make sure to spend a good few days in the city, I spent four days and only just squeezed in most of the places I wanted to see!
Also, if you’re a bit of a foodie, like me, then make sure to head to the smaller side streets, away from the big-draw spot, where prices tend to be lower and the food much better quality. I found, even walking for 10 minutes from the main attraction/sight opened up a whole array of intimate restaurants and cafes that were amazing!