Italy is made up of 20 official regions. Each has its own unique history, landscape, culture and even cuisine. Understanding the different regions is crucial when planning a trip to Italy. Do you want to cruise down the canals of Venice in Veneto, admire the Renaissance architecture of elegant Tuscany or hit the beautiful beaches of chilled-out Puglia? To help you plan your next Italian vacation, we’ll explain the best tourist regions of Italy and what to see in each.
Located in Northern Italy, Veneto is located in the northeast of Italy and is most famous for being home to the floating city of Venice. But Venice isn’t the only thing this popular tourist region has to offer. As well as its many historic cities and towns, including romantic Verona, Treviso – the place where Tiramisu was invented, and the bustling student city of Padua, Veneto has some of the most scenic and diverse landscapes in all of Italy.
There are the iconic canals that criss-cross their way across the cities and countryside, the rolling vineyards of the Prosecco wine region, the towering peaks of the mighty Dolomite mountains and the beautiful turquoise waters of popular Lake Garda.
Sat in the northwest of Italy, on the border with Switzerland, scenic Lombardy is the most populous and wealthiest region in Italy. It’s also home to the country’s second city (or first according to many) of Milan. Lombardy is also where you’ll find many of the most affluent holiday resorts in all of Italy, from the grand villas of upscale Lake Como to the luxury ski resorts of the dramatic Alpine mountains.
The Lazio region in central Italy is best known for being home to the country’s capital of Rome with the Colosseum, and Vatican City, home to the Pope and the Sistine Chapel. And while Rome is certainly one of the top places to visit in Italy, there’s actually far more to the region than just this one city. Lazio is filled with many fascinating archaeological sites like the 2,000-year-old Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli and La Tuscia‘s historical ruins of the ancient Etruscans. There are also beautiful nature reserves, as well as the limestone mountains and valleys of the central Apennines which spread across the southeast of the region.
Tuscany is one of the most popular tourist regions in Italy thanks to its world-class art scene, rich history, picture-perfect countryside and hearty local cuisine. Regarded as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Tuscany’s cities are home to some of the most famous Renaissance architecture and art in the entire world, including the Duomo and Michelangelo’s David’s statue, both in breathtakingly beautiful Florence. Also not to be missed is the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Pisa, and the Medieval city of Sienna with its stripy Cathedral.
Outside of the cities, Tuscany also has some of the most scenic landscapes in all of Italy, with its rolling green hills dotted with fairytale castles, small medieval towns like San Gimignano, and traditional farmhouses. And that’s before you hit the romantic vineyards and ancient wine cellars of the idyllic Chianti wine region.
Campania is a region on the southwest of the Italian Peninsula that’s best known for its ancient ruins and dramatic coastline.
Shaped by its history of volcanic activity, Campania is home to three of the world’s most important archaeological sites – the ancient cities of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum – all of which were preserved by a layer of volcanic ash after an eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius.
But the main reason many people head to Campania is for its long coastline that stretches along the Tyrrhenian Sea. In particular, the luxurious Amalfi Coast, with its breathtaking coastal views and colourful fishing villages that tumble down into the sea below. Don’t miss Naples, home of the original Neapolitan pizza.
Making up the ‘heel’ of Italy’s boot in the southeast of the country is the hidden beauty of the Puglia region. Puglia has long been a popular summer destination amongst locals, but only recently is it starting to be discovered by international tourists too. With the longest coastline of any mainland region in Italy, Puglia is home to numerous charming coastal cities and beautiful beaches, while the centre of the region is characterised by its ancient hilltop towns like Ostuni, endless olive groves and unusual cone roofed ‘Trulli’ houses of Alberobello.
The region also has its own distinctive Apulian cuisine, featuring plenty of freshly caught seafood directly from the local fishermen, seasonal produce from the area’s many farms and Puglia’s traditional ear-shaped orecchiette pasta. Also not to be missed: the castle of Castelsardo, Bari old town and seaside Monopoli.
Italy is more than its boot shaped mainland. It is also home to some very stunning islands, including popular holiday hotspot, Sardinia. Sardinia is a large island in the Mediterranean Sea, sat 250 kilometers west of the Italian coast. The island has over 2,000km of coastline dotted with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, while its mountainous interior is filled with scenic hiking trails, hilltop settlements and thousands of ancient nuraghi (mysterious Bronze Age stone ruins) in Barumini.
Popular stops include the historic capital of Cagliari, Castelsardo with its castle perched on a rock and the beaches of Costa Smeralda (The Emerald Coast). Or you could just visit for the food alone since Sardinian Cuisine is both unique compared to the rest of Italy and some of the best in the country (it’s one of the healthy Blue Zones).
Sicily is the largest Italian island and is often referred to as the ‘ball’ being kicked by Italy’s boot due to its position off the country’s southwest coast.
Sicily has a long and fascinating history dating back thousands of years. The island was under Greek, Germanic, Byzantine, Roman, Arab and Norman rule before becoming an official region of Italy in only 1860. This has resulted in the island’s rich and unique culture and the abundance of important ancient archeological sites found there today. The best sights include the capital city of Palermo with its grand palaces, Mount Etna – Europe’s tallest active volcano, the trendy tourist resort of Taormina on the Ionian Sea and The Valley of the Temples complete with Greek ruins.
Want the full list of all 20 Italian Regions? They are: Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campagnia, Emiglia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Latium, Liguria, Lombardy, Marche, Molise, Piemonte, Puglia, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany, Trentino-Alto Adige, Umbria, Valle d’Aosta, Veneto.
And while there is plenty to see in the regions not in our top 8, you have to start (and stop) somewhere.
That’s our guide to the best tourist regions of Italy and what to see there. Got any questions, let us know in the comments below.
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