Famous landmarks in Italy can be found scattered all across this beautiful country. From incredible cathedrals, geographical sites, to world-renowned monuments and art galleries! Regardless of whether you visit Rome, Milan, Venice, Tuscany or any other part of Italy, you are bound to come across one of these incredible attractions.
With so many iconic Italian sights to behold, I’ve asked my fellow travel bloggers to share their favourite Italian landmarks that you should visit at least once in a lifetime!
In this guide we outline 20 historical, religious, and famous landmarks of Italy that you should definitely add to your Italy travel itinerary when visiting next! So, as they say in Italian, “Andiamo”, (Let’s go)!
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Accademia Gallery in Florence
By Lyndsay from The Purposely Lost
One of the most famous Italian landmarks is the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy. The Gallery was established in the 1700s as a companion to the next door Academy of Fine Arts and housed in a space that once belonged to the Hospital of Saint Matthew.
While there are many works of Renaissance art housed within its wall, the most famous is Michelangelo’s statue of David. Originally displayed outside in Piazza Della Signoria, the statue was moved for its protection into the Accademia Gallery in 1873. The Tribune, a skylighted rotunda area, was specifically built for the David statue by 1882.
The Accademia Gallery is also home to a number of Michelangelo’s other works, like the four unfinished Prisoners, as well as other notable Renaissance artists like Bartolomeo Cristofori, Sandro Botticelli. There is also a hall dedicated to unique musical instruments crafted by musicians like Stradivari and Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Ancient Greek Theatre in Taormina, Sicily
By Veronika Primm from Travel Geekery
The Ancient Greek Theatre in Taormina belongs to one of the best-preserved amphitheatres in Sicily and Italy. It’s the second-largest such theater on the island of Sicily and can be found in the lovely Taormina on the Northeastern coast.
The Greeks built the theater in the 3rd century BC for the purpose of hosting theatre and musical performances. Later, Romans modified it slightly by building on the existing structure, making it larger and adding some decorative elements. During the Roman times, games and gladiator battles took place here too.
Nowadays, this amazing venue often plays host to an array of concerts and events. Even during a standard visit on a normal day, however, you’re going to be stunned by the magnificent views out over the Ionian Sea. On a clear day, you can even get a glimpse of Mount Etna.
Bear in mind this unique historical Italian monument is the no. 1 tourist spot in Taormina. Lines may form, so if you are able to, try to visit in the off-hours. The entrance fee is €10 for adults.
Arena di Verona
By Emily from London City Calling
Arena di Verona is the most important landmark in the northern Italian city of Verona.
Sitting in the large Piazza Bra in the centre of the historic city, Verona’s 30,000 seat Roman Amphitheatre dates back to 30 AD, making it older than the better-known Colosseum in Rome and one of the best-preserved ancient structures in the world.
Over its 2000 year history, the arena was used for everything from gladiator tournaments to exotic animal games, but since 1913 its main purpose has been hosting operatic performances. For the last 100 years, the venue has held the Arena di Verona Festival with a series of live opera performances throughout the summer featuring many of world’s most famous opera singers.
More recently, the arena has also started hosting other musical performances, with a number of famous artists including Pink Floyd, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Mumford & Sons, One Direction, Adele and plenty more using the unique venue for live concerts.
Tickets to watch a performance can be purchased online in advance or at the physical box office at the Arena. Tickets for seats on the stone steps are much cheaper than the chairs on the ground level, making the performances more than accessible for everyone.
When a concert isn’t taking place, ancient Arena di Verona can be visited for a €10 entrance fee. Being the city’s most important landmark, it can get particularly busy during peak times. It is best to visit the arena as early as possible to avoid the queues (it opens at 8:30 am).
Basilica di San Petronio in Bologna
By Larch from The Silver Nomad
Dominating the Piazza Maggiore in the centre of Bologna, the Basilica di San Petronio is one of the largest churches in the world. The lower part of the façade is red and white marble and the top is brick as the original design of the Basilica was changed.
Started in 1390, construction continued for over 100 years until it was realised that the finished church would be larger than St Paul’s in Rome. The Catholic Church put a stop to it and the Basilica was built in its current form.
The Gothic interior has soaring arched ceiling and red marble columns. There are 22 chapels and 3 naves as well as many sculptures and paintings from Italian Middle Ages and Renaissance artists.
Inlaid on the floor is the longest indoor meridian line in the world. Measuring over 66 metres, it was designed by Cassini, an Italian astronomer in 1656. A small hole 27 metres above the ground in the front of the façade lets light hit the line.
Although it is free to enter, if you want to take any photographs inside the Basilica, you will have to get a permit which cost around 2€.
Don’t miss climbing or taking the lift up the bell tower to the terrace for an amazing panoramic view over the rooftops of Bologna. Go to Galvani Square to the rear of the church for access. There is a charge of around 3€.
Colosseum in Rome – Rome Landmarks
By Pamela from The Directionally Challenged Traveler
An icon of Rome, and in fact the entire country of Italy, the Colosseum is an impressive feat of architecture that has lasted centuries. Built in under a decade by over 60,000 slaves (mostly Jewish), it was -and still is- unlike anything ever built. The Colosseum could seat over 50,000 people who would come from around Italy to watch the gladiator fights, animal fights, and even re-enacted battles! Some tournaments lasted a few days and featured both gladiator and animal fights. The emperor provided free food for attendees to entice them to stay for the entire festival.
One fun fact about the Colosseum that many people don’t know is that it was built on top of Emperor Nero’s manmade lake. After Emperor Nero committed suicide in 68 CE, Emperor Vespian wanted all traces of him gone. He commissioned an arena to be built on the lake. His plan was to create positive memories for the people of Rome.
Since it’s one of the most popular destinations in Italy, you now need a time slot to visit the Colosseum. This helps with social distancing and crowd management. Book your entry ticket that includes access to the Colosseum, The Roman Forum, as well as Palatine Hill ahead of time and make the most of your visit to these famous monuments in Rome.
Duomo di Firenze – Florence Cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore)
By Darcy from Plan, Ready, Go
The red dome of the great Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) dominates the Florence skyline. It’s the cultural and historical heart of the city and a must-see even if you’re only in Florence for a day. The cathedral itself was dedicated in 1412, but the construction of the dome was not completed until 1434. The dome was constructed after the design that Filippo Brunelleschi entered into competition in 1418.
Visitors to Florence can climb up into the dome of the cathedral, but you are required to have a reservation, so make sure you book this ahead of time. Visitors should note that the dome climb means ascending 463 steps. There are no elevators available. Those who don’t want to undertake that difficult of a climb may wish to purchase a ticket for the Duomo’s terraces instead, which would mean climbing far fewer (150) steps.
Entrance to the cathedral itself is always free. They don’t take reservations, so the line to get in can be long depending on the time of day. Other important sites at the Duomo monument include Giotto’s bell tower, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, and the Opera del Duomo museum.
For a more immersive experience, you could also opt for a 30-minutes guided tour of Florence Cathedral too!
Duomo di Milano – Famous Italy Landmarks
By Sophie and Adam from We Dream of Travel
The Duomo di Milano (or Milan Cathedral) is easily the most recognisable building in Milan, and one of the most famous landmarks of Italy. Located in the heart of the city, its grandeur has towered over Piazza di Milano since 1386. The enormous cathedral took over six centuries to complete, with the finishing touches completed in 1965. Today it has a capacity of over 40,000 people, making it the largest church in Italy and the second largest in Europe.
A visit to Duomo di Milano is an essential stop on any Milan itinerary. It is possible to admire its impressive exterior from many spots around the city, however, it is well worth exploring its incredible rooftops. Upon the roof, you can marvel at the intricacies of the ornate spires and sculptures that adorn the cathedral, as well as take in sweeping views of the city.
Being one of the most famous buildings in Italy, it is worth booking your tickets online in advance to avoid disappointment. This top-rated 1.5-hours Guided Milan Cathedral Tour is a great option in order to make the most of your visit!
The elaborate interior of the cathedral is also worth checking out, so ensure your ticket includes entrance to both the rooftops and the church itself.
Duomo di Siena – Siena Cathedral
By Renee from Dream Plan Experience
The Siena Cathedral (Duomo di Siena) is a 13th-century medieval church in the Tuscan city of Siena and one of the most famous landmarks in Tuscany. This cathedral was built between 1215 and 1263 and is a classic example of Gothic and Romanesque architecture.
It lies in a piazza above the Piazza del Campo. Known as the most beautiful cathedral in Tuscany, its interior is even more impressive than the exterior. It is filled with intricate details and artwork by Pisano, Donatello, Bernini and Michelangelo. Therefore, the small fee for admission is worth it.
Once inside, you will be awe-struck by the striped black and white marble pillars representing the symbolic colours of Siena. There is a lot to take in, so don’t rush your time here. Be sure to look up to the beautiful frescoed ceilings and down to the incredible mosaic tile floors.
The incredible works of art are seen in the sculptures, stone, wood carvings, paintings, and stained glass. Some of the highlights are The Feast of Herod by Donatello, Saint Paul by Michelangelo, the impressive Piccolomini library, and the chapel of St John the Baptist.
Aside from visiting this famous landmark, there are other amazing things to see in and around Siena, including, touring other Tuscan towns. Make the most of your visit to this Tuscan gem by booking a 2-Hour Walking Tour of Siena that includes skip-the-line tickets to the Duomo.
Herculaneum – Italian Landmarks
By Megan from Megan Starr
One of the most prolific historic landmarks in Italy is the ancient city of Herculaneum, a city near Naples that was engulfed in lava and ash from the 79AD eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.
While many travellers will flock to Pompeii to see Vesuvius’ remains, Herculaneum actually kept intact far better than Pompeii and doesn’t receive quite as many crowds like the other site. There is definitely no reason to not visit both on your trip! In Herculaneum, you can expect to find skeletons of those who perished from the eruption, as well as several mosaics and other remarkable Roman ruins.
The best way to visit Herculaneum is to either plan it as a day trip from Naples or to take an organized tour – try out this 2-Hour Herculaneum guided tour with an Archaeologist.
By train, you will leave from Naples and head off to Ercolano station. This Circumvesuviana train will leave from Platform 3 in Naples. Signs will point you in the direction of the spectacular ruins as soon as you disembark from the train.
One perk of visiting Herculaneum and Pompeii on the same trip is that they are covered under the same ticket, and most people don’t know this. You can purchase your tickets to Herculaneum and Pompeii before arriving to make things easier and they also include other sites.
Herculaneum may be slightly overlooked compared to Pompeii, but it is most definitely one of the best historical places to visit in Italy.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
By Milijana from World Travel Connector
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of Italy’s famous landmarks known the world over. In fact, this sinking bell tower in the city of Pisa in Tuscany, Italy is one of the most famous monuments in the world and a top tourist attraction.
The magnificent white marble Tower of Pisa with almost 300 steps was built in medieval times. Among many related peculiarities, it is known as a playground for experiments by genius Galileo Galilei.
The Leaning Tower stands next to the cathedral in equally stunning Miracle Square or Piazza Dei Miracoli. The grand Piazza Dei Miracoli complex consisting of Pisa Tower, Pisa Cathedral, Pisa baptistery, and Pisa cemetery is an utterly spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site. In addition, the 56m tall and almost 4-degree leaning Tower of Pisa provides the most sensational panoramic views of Piazza Dei Miracoli and Pisa.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the most visited sites in Italy. It can be especially crowded in the summer months. Furthermore, the visitors are restricted to climb the top of the tower and go down the tower in strict 30 minutes.
So for visiting Pisa tower consider buying the ticket or a guided tour of the Tower & Cathedral in advance to avoid the queue and head early in the morning to avoid the crowds! But to get the most of visiting Pisa and Tuscany, think about taking a scenic road trip to Tuscany. Pisa is only 68 km (45 miles) from Florence and 124 km (77 miles) from Siena. So, hit the road and enjoy the splendour of Tuscany.
Mole Antonelliana in Turin
By Carly from Fearless Female Travels
You don’t have to travel to Turin, Italy to see its most famous landmark. No, the towering, pointy-topped dome, constructed in 1889, can be seen from all over Europe, on the back of Italy’s two-cent euro coin.
While it was originally intended to serve as a synagogue, the local Jewish community pulled out of the project as the architect’s vision grew in grandeur (and cost). Eventually, the Mole Antonelliana settled into its current role, as home to Italy’s National Museum of Cinema.
Visitors first pass through interactive exhibits chronicling the history of film technology before descending to the main hall, showcasing the best that each film genre has to offer. A separate ticket is required to ride the glass elevator through the middle of the museum’s grandest hall to the panoramic viewing tower offering 360° views of the city, the Po River and even the distant Alps.
If you’re visiting during high season and discover a queue to enter the museum, you can bypass the line by purchasing a same-day ticket online. The small service charge is easily worth the extra hour (or two!) inside the museum.
Pantheon in Rome
By Lisa from Travel Connect Experience
The Pantheon is among the best-maintained monuments in Rome. Although less renowned to outsiders than the Colosseum, it is also the historical site the locals love the most.
It began as a pagan temple dedicated to all the divinities (pantheon) and was totally renovated by Emperor Hadrian in 120 AD. In the 7th century A.D., it was rebaptized as a Christian church with the name of Santa Maria ad Martyres, but it retains its Roman structure.
Some elements of the Pantheon make it a masterwork in the history of architecture and engineering.
It is entered from the tympanum, the rectangular parallelepiped-shaped part overlooking the square with the fountain, through 18 giant columns of pink and gray granite. The entrance is protected by a bronze door 7 meters high, past which you are projected into a cylindrical environment. On the walls are the niches that housed the ancient statues of the gods. The dimensions create perfect acoustics: the height of the building and the diameter are identical.
There is only one opening, the oculus at the apex of the dome, which projects the sun’s rays in different parts of the temple according to the hour. The dome is the highlight of the temple, the second largest in Italy and one of the largest domes in the world. It weighs about 5000 tons and was made with a single casting of concrete composed of different types of materials, from the heaviest (travertine) at the base to the lightest (pumice) at the top.
As one of the most impressive & famous Italian landmarks to be found in Rome, a visit to the Pantheon should be top of your list of things to do when in the Eternal city. Not only for this incredible feat of engineering, but since entry is free!
Piazza San Marco in Venice
By Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
Piazza San Marco is the most important square in Venice. Known as “the drawing room of Europe,” the square is considered the social hub of the City of Canals. Saint Mark’s Square should definitely be high on the list on any Venice itinerary.
Along the eastern side of Saint Mark’s Square, you will find the beautiful Basilica San Marco, with its Byzantine domes, with other famous official buildings lining the square as well. Also in the square is the graceful Campanile of Saint Mark. Take the elevator to the viewing gallery at the top for panoramic views over the city and the sea.
On the side facing the sea, the Piazza leads into the narrower Piazzetta, which has the famous columns, one holding the Venetian winged lion, and the other a statue of Saint Theodore. The Piazzetta is lined by the Doge’s Palace on one side.
On the square, you will find some of the most famous cafes in Venice, including Caffe Florian and Caffe Quadri. Enjoying a drink here is a bucket-list Venice experience, but it can be pricey! The square is alive with activity all through the day, with throngs of visitors mingling with the many pigeons that love Saint Mark’s, and musical performances, as well as dining in the evening.
To see Saint Mark’s Square in a more tranquil light, visit early in the day. At sunrise, the square is quiet, and you can really enjoy the architecture and the view of empty Venetian gondolas bobbing in the water.
By Kate from Our Escape Clause
In 79 AD, the thriving middle-class city of Pompeii was destroyed overnight by the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius.
On that fateful day, about 12,000 people were living in busy Pompeii–and when the eruption happened, nearly 2,000 were killed, many of them by being buried alive in the volcanic ash that engulfed Pompeii and Herculaneum, along with the surrounding area.
Fast forward about 1700 years, and the buried city was rediscovered by a survey engineer, igniting an intense curiosity in both the scientific community and among tourists.
As a Roman city effectively frozen in time, Pompeii offered a rare window into typical Roman life, allowing us to learn about the culture, diet, and habits of everyday Romans living in Pompeii.
Today, visitors can tour ancient Pompeii, and the experience is otherworldly–far from feeling like you’re strolling through a set of ruins, similar to what you might see at the Roman Forum in Rome, strolling through Pompeii leaves absolutely no doubt that you’re walking through a city centre, complete with intact roads and semi-intact buildings.
From fast-food restaurants to private homes and even to a brothel, the variety of archaeological sites available to visit in Pompeii is fascinating.
Pompeii is also famous for its cast moulds, which are moulds of the people who died in Pompeii, created in the exact positions they died–an extremely haunting reminder of the human toll of the 79 AD tragedy.
Rialto Bridge in Venice: Italy landmarks
By Nichola from Family Hotel Expert
The Rialto Bridge is one of the most iconic and famous landmarks of Venice and is often seen in photos to represent this city. It crosses the Grand Canal and is the oldest of the bridges to do so, having been built first in 1173 before being replaced in the form you see today in the 16th century.
Indeed until the mid 19th century, it was the only way to cross the Grand Canal by foot. It is full of shops, is lined on either side with little stores making it a real mecca for tourists. One of the best times to visit can be as evening falls and the majority of the crowds leave. While the shops won’t be open it’s a much more atmospheric time to enjoy this beautiful bridge.
Another way is to book a gondola ride under it or take the public Vaporetto boat that stops very close to it. Some of the great family hotels in Venice are within walking distance of the Rialto Bridge so it’s a great, central location to be based in.
Roman Forum – Rome
By Joanna from The World In My Pocket
You can’t visit Rome and not explore the Roman Forum, the heart of what used to be the Roman Empire. For centuries, the Roman Forum used to be the centre of daily life in Rome, with all the major institution buildings and temples surrounding the main square. Statues depicting the most important men of the time used to decorate the area, and most of the events of the city would take place here, be it political, commercial or entertainment.
Today, walking along the cobble stone-paved road of the Roman Forum, the same ones the Romans used to 2000 years ago, is like stepping back in time. It does require a bit of imagination to reimagine the ruins as they used to be in their glory days, but the audio guides do a fantastic job explaining what everything is. Visiting the Roman Forum is such a fascinating history lesson of the rising of imperial Rome.
Even if you are only for two days in Rome, you must include the Roman Forum in your itinerary. Seeing all the sites can take the entire day, especially if you combine the visit with the nearby Colosseum, which is highly recommended.
Sassi di Matera
By Greta from Greta’s Travels
If you’re looking for the most famous landmarks Italy has to offer, then you have to add the “Sassi di Matera” to your bucket list. From being considered the “Shame of Italy” in the 1950s to becoming the European Capital of Culture in 2019, Matera has definitely gone a long way.
Matera is a city in the Basilicata region, in the south of Italy. The “Sassi” refers to two districts in Matera, where the old town centre is located. The Sassi are ancient cave dwellings, which have been inhabited since the Paleolithic period.
When visiting Matera you have to schedule in some time for simply wandering around the Sassi, and getting lost in the little side streets. The majority of the Sassi are pedestrian-only, since the streets are too narrow for cars or scooters, so you can leisurely stroll around them and feel like you’re stepping back in time.
Some of the Sassi has been renovated to hotels or guest houses, while others have been preserved as cave museums that you can visit. Because of the way the city developed, there are lots of excellent viewpoints over the Sassi di Matera. The most scenic ones are from the Convento di Sant’Agostino, Belvedere Piazzetta Pascoli and Belvedere Luigi Gurrigghio.
No Italy bucket list would be complete without a visit to the Sassi di Matera.
St. Peter’s Cathedral – The Vatican – Religious landmark in Italy
By Chrysoula from Travel Passionate
Built in the Renaissance style, this breathtaking basilica is located in the Vatican, the papal enclave in Rome. St Peter’s is one of only four basilicas in the world – and all of them are situated in Rome.
It is believed that the Apostle Peter, who was the first Bishop of Rome, was buried here after he was martyred. The first basilica was built on the Apostle’s tomb but was later knocked down. Work began on building the current basilica in 1506 and was completed 120 years later. The basilica is one of the holiest Catholic shrines and is protected by the Swiss guard. A visit to St Peter’s can be combined with ones to the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum.
There is no entrance charge for visiting the main basilica. It is best to visit early in the morning – especially in the summer when the queueing time by 11.00 is about 40 minutes. The basilica is also very busy on a Wednesday morning and on Saturdays. Alternatively, the basilica is usually quieter after 16.00 and during the winter months.
Su Nuraxi, Barumini (Sardinia)
By Claudia from Strictly Sardinia
Su Nuraxi is one of the most beautiful archaeological sites in Sardinia, and currently its only UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a nuraghe – an ancient megalithic construction only found on the island, most of them dating back to a period between 1900 and 730 BC. There is no certainty about the functions of nuraghe – some scholars say they were used as homes, others argue they were intended for defensive purposes.
Of the more than 7000 nuraghe in Sardinia, Barumini is the one that has been most excavated and brought back to its glory. The site – which used to be inhabited between 1600 BC and the 3rd century AD – is characterized by the presence of four towers which are connected by a wall. It is constructed from basalt stone – a volcanic stone.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION: Su Nuraxi is just outside Barumini, at about 45 minutes drive from Cagliari, Sardinia’s capital. It’s open daily from 9:00 am to either 5:00 or 8.00 pm depending on the season. Admission is €14 and includes a guided tour.
Trevi Fountain in Rome
By Ophelie from Limitless Secrets
The Trevi Fountain is undoubtedly one of the most famous Italian landmarks found in Rome, but also one of the most famous in the world! Its spectacular dimensions of 26 meters high and 49 meters wide also make it the largest baroque fountain in the city.
A fountain at this location was already existing in 19 BC at the end of the Aqua Virgo aqueduct that supplied water to ancient Rome. Because the fountain was constructed at the junction of Rome’s three most important roads, it got the name of “tre vie”.
But the existing more stunning version was built between 1732 and 1762. It was designed by the architect Nicola Salvi and completed by 4 sculptors and the architect Giuseppe Pannini.
This fountain is beautiful by day, and also by night as it’s all lit up! You can access it for free and, as it’s a very popular site, it’s usually crowded. The best time of the day to visit if you want to avoid the crowd is at sunrise.
The movie “Three Coins in the Fountain” in 1954 created a legend around tossing coins in the fountain. If you throw one coin: you will go back to Rome, two coins: you will find love in Rome, and three coins: you will marry that person! But for this to work you have to follow the proper tradition: use your right hand to throw the coin over your left shoulder. Each year more than 1,2 million euros are thrown in the Trevi Fountain!