Italy is a stunning country, with countless picturesque places to visit. It has some of the best beaches in the Mediterranean, a rugged, photogenic coastline, and breathtaking vineyards.
This lovely country is also home to around 145 cities, with a wealth of art, history, architecture and natural beauty among them, making choosing the best cities in Italy a truly difficult task.
The Most Beautiful Cities in Italy
If you’re looking to visit any these gorgeous cities, tours to Italy can be a great choice. A reputable tour operator like Firebird Tours takes care of many annoying travel logistics, and can also help you truly relax and enjoy your vacation.
Back in the day, we visited all our destinations independently, but lately we’ve become a big fan of quality guided tours. A good tour guide gives you insight and the history of a city that can be hard to get on your own short of living there for an extended amount of time.
It’s also especially nice to have a tour take care of our transportation and reservations in a busy destination, so we can enjoy more time with our kids.
Here they are: our top picks for the most beautiful cities in Italy.
If you asked most people what city tops the list of Italy’s most stunning, Venice would definitely be at or near the top. In fact, Venice is often called the most beautiful city in the world.
Gondolas cruising through winding canals, and under bridges, are some of Venice’s most famed scenes.
The lack of cars in Venice lends to its beauty, without busy traffic to block the sights, and no car horns and engine noise to distract from the scenery.
The city, which is often nicknamed “The City of Canals”, “The Floating City”, or “The City of Bridges” can still be busy and crowded during peak times, despite the absence of cars. To get away from the crowds, visit off season, or take a trip to the quieter outer islands.
St. Mark’s Basilica, Palazzo Ducale, and the Canale Grande (Grand Canal) top Venice’s most popular sights, but the city is also packed with hidden passageways and seemingly endless nooks and crannies.
The low lying seaside city is built on log piles among canals, making it especially vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise. In fact, this 1600-year-old UNESCO World Heritage site has a worse-case scenario for sea level rise (by the end of the century) of 120 centimeters (3 feet, 11 inches).
Our pick for the prettiest spot in Venice:The Island of Burano. Colorful Burano showcases a bright rainbow of homes and storefronts that contrast perfectly with the teal waters that surround it.
Rome alone has so much to see that you could easily fill a week with the main sights.
Rome captivates visitors with world class architecture, museums packed with masterpieces, and lovely cobbled streets.
The most popular places in Rome for the many visiting tourists are the Colosseum, the Forum Romanum and the Pantheon. You’ll also want to take in the ancient statuary and stunning Baroque fountains near the Colosseum.
The most beautiful spot in Rome: The Colosseum. Sure, we’ve all seen hundreds of pictures of the Colosseum, but there’s good reason. It’s a strikingly beautiful structure, especially bathed in sunset light.
The capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna, is lined with terracotta buildings in the old town, lending to the nickname, La Rossa (The Red).
Visitors to Bologna almost inevitably fall in love with the winding maze of streets in the old city, which connect several main squares. There’s so much to see here, from the Renaissance beauty of the world’s largest sundial at Basilica di San Petronio, to the Town Hall at Palazzo D’Accursio.
The streets and squares of Bologna’s medieval core sport UNESCO heritage listed porticoes, lending atmospheric shadows and lights to any walk. Bologna is a perfect city to just wander, with new charms around every corner.
There are many stunning attractions in Bologna, but the most popular include Santuario di Madonna di San Luca, Piazza Maggiore, observation areas at Le Due Torri Torre degli Asinell, Basilica Santuario di Santo Stefano, and Teatro Anatomico in the old university building.
The most photogenic spot in Bologna: San Luca Church. It’s hard to pick the prettiest spot in such a lovely city, but this church overlooking the city is a gem. It’s especially gorgeous at sunset, when the setting sun turns the church many shades of pink.
Amongst Italy’s beautiful cities, Florence alone is one of the most spectacular in terms of art, architecture and history.
The streets are packed with Renaissance wonders, like the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella, and the lovely Santa Maria del Fiore (also called the Duomo) while the Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio grace thousands of Instagram posts.
The most beautiful spot in Florence: The Duomo. In the heart of Florence, the Duomo is lovely from all angles. There’s a picture perfect view of the surrounding area from the Bell Tower, and there’s a lovely view of the Duomo itself from Piazzale Michelangelo.
Naples, or Napoli, as it is known locally, is one of Italy’s largest cities, and also one of its most beautiful. It’s decidedly chaotic and busy, but well worth the bother and hassle. It’s also helpfully close to the ancient city of Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast (an idyllic stretch of coast), and the island of Capri.
The old town of Naples is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and packed with French, Spanish, and Arabic influences.
The most photo worthy spot in Naples: Vesuvius. Ancient Vesuvius is the only active volcano in mainland Europe, and makes a stunning backdrop to a photo of Naples’ bay.
Honorable Mention: Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre didn’t make the list of Italy’s most Instagrammable cities on an important technicality: It isn’t actually a city.
Instead, Cinque Terre is the name given to the rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera. It’s made up of the five beautiful hillside towns of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, with Monterosso the largest of the towns.
What route should you take to see Italy’s best cities?
Taking a route from Rome, through Florence and Tuscany, and ending in Venice lets you see many of the must-see cities in Italy.
This route also lets you pass through the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy, often thought to have some of Italy’s best food and drink. It’s known for its medieval cities, rich gastronomy and seaside resorts.