• Leslie

35+ Historic Landmarks in Italy, For Your Italian Bucket List

Updated: May 29

the beautiful Tuscan town of Verona
the beautiful Tuscan town of Verona

Planning a trip to Italy? Bell'Italia! Italy is show stoppingly beautiful -- a heady mix of world famous landmarks, stunning cathedrals, and masterpieces of Roman and Renaissance art. There are so many amazing things to see and do in Italy. How to choose between the myriad options?

In this Italy travel guide, I aim to give you some Italy destination inspiration. I take you on a tour of 35 of the best historic landmarks and destinations in Italy, for your Italy bucket list or itinerary. From the crumbling ruins in Rome to the ancient treasures of medieval villages, you'll travel through Italy soaking up its rich culture along the way.

These iconic Italian landmarks could be mini vacations in and of themselves. They can also be combined for a regional road trip. To further this cause, I’ve grouped these unmissable Italian landmarks by region. As you’d expect, there’s a high concentration in and around Rome and Florence.

35+ Historic Landmarks in Italy

The 35 Best Historic Landmarks and Destinations in Italy

So let's get down to business and discover the best and most famous landmarks in Italy.

classic shot of the Roman Forum
classic shot of the Roman Forum, with the ruins of the Temple of Castor and Pollux and the Temple of Saturn

Rome & Environs

1. Roman Forum

The ancient Roman Forum is a rectangular valley running from the Arch of Titus to Capitoline Hill. The main road is the Via Sacre. The forum was the beating heart of Rome, the seat of political power, and its stunning central showpiece.

Today, the Roman Forum is mostly a rock strewn ruin that you'll need to have interpreted by a good guide. Stroll by the Basilica of Constantine, the Temple and House of the Vestal Virgins, the Temple of Venus and Rome, the Basilica of Constantine, and the 3 columns of the Temple of Castor and Pollux.

You'll also find the ruins of the Temple of Caesar. It was built by Rome's first emperor, Augustus, after Julius Caesar's assassination. Inside, in a small apse area, is a mound of stone and dirt covered with coins and flowers. This is the altar holding Caesar's ashes and marks his grave.

If you've purchased Rome's special S.U.P.E.R. Pass, you'll also have access to two restricted Roman Forum sites via tour -- the Temple of Romulus and the Santa Maria Antiqua Church. Both sites have some rare ancient frescos.

READ: Complete Guide To the Roman Forum

the Pantheon in Rome's historic center
the Pantheon in Rome's historic center

2. Pantheon

Without a doubt, the Pantheon is the best preserved building from ancient Rome. The Pantheon was a temple dedicated to all of the gods. It was originally built by Augustus' right hand man, Marcus Agrippa, in 27 BC. The pediment still proclaims that "Marcus Agrippa, three times consul made this." But Agrippa's version was destroyed by fire.

In 120 AD, the Pantheon was rebuilt by Hadrian. The well-traveled emperor, a true Grecophile, reimagined it as an oversized Greek temple -- with 40 foot tall Corinthian granite columns from Egypt, a pediment, and portico. It was considered a masterpiece of engineering and mathematical precision.

The Pantheon's most emblematic feature is its perfect unsupported spherical dome. At the time, it was a major architectural breakthrough. The dome became the model for Michelangelo's dome for St. Peter's Basilica and for Brunelleschi's dome for Florence Cathedral. At the top is the oculus, or eye, which is the Pantheon's only source of natural light.

After the fall of Rome, the Pantheon became a Christian church, which helped save it from looting at first. But eventually the interior, marble, and gold were all looted in the 7th century, although the marble floor is now lovingly recreated. The Pantheon is filled with tombs of important Romans, including famed Renaissance artist Raphael.

READ: 5 Day Itinerary for Rome

St. Peter's Basilica and the Bridge of Angels
St. Peter's Basilica and the Bridge of Angels

3. St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Basilica is the most famous church in Christendom. It's a magnificent church in a city that does churches like no other. Designed by Bramante, Raphael, and Michelangelo, it’s a true Renaissance masterpiece. The dome of St. Peters, designed by Michelangelo, is the tallest in the world.

The basilica is the burial place of St. Peter and past popes and houses the famous Bernini Baldachine altar. The basilica is just packed with statues of popes, saints, and cherubs. The most famous is behind stained glass, Michelangelo's tragically beautiful Pieta. St. Peter’s also has one of the greatest collections of the work of Bernini, the greatest artist of the Baroque.

For just € 6, you can climb up a narrow flight of stairs to inspect the dome at close range. There's also an elevator for € 8. From there, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of the nave below. Continue higher to stand on the outside of the dome. This is where you have the iconic view of St. Peter's Square and a panoramic view of Rome.

READ: Bernini's Rome: Guide To All His Sculptures in Rome

view of St. Peter's Square from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica
view of St. Peter's Square from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica

4. Vatican City

The Vatican isn't just a walled city. It holds one of the world's greatest art collections, housed in former wings of the Vatican Palace. The Vatican Museums are one of the world's most visited sites, attracting millions of visitors annually. The works in the Vatican are invaluable crowning glories of Western art.

A museum path leads you through the long corridors and wings of the Vatican Museums. Most of the fine art, as opposed to decorative art, is in the Vatican Pinacoteca (painting gallery), the Pio-Clementine Museum (sculpture gallery), the Raphael Rooms, the Borgia Apartments, and the Sistine Chapel.

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescos are the undisputed highlight of a visit to the Vatican. They're among the most famous paintings in the history of art. 20,000 people visit daily to cast their eyes upward to the glorious ceiling. Michelangelo spent 4 years toiling away on the 9 ceiling panels, which depict scenes from Genesis and seem to open up the chapel to heaven.

When the Sistine Chapel ceiling was unveiled in 1512, it was somewhat shocking. The frescos were revolutionary in their execution. Instead of staid figures, Michelangelo painted figures that looked like sculptures in almost acrobatic poses. They wear flowing brightly colored garments.

In 1533, Michelangelo made a return visit to the Sistine Chapel. Pope Julius II summoned him to paint The Last Judgment on the altar wall. This time, Michelangelo worked entirely alone, taking 5 years to complete the project.

This fresco is rendered in a different style than Michelangelo's prior ceiling frescos. The figures are more monumental and the colors are largely monochromatic -- essentially sky and flesh tones. In the middle, Christ is excessively youthful and floats on clouds. He's depicted more like Apollo than the suffering bearded savior one expects.

READ: Guide to the Masterpieces of the Vatican Museums

the ancient Colosseum in Rome
the ancient Colosseum in Rome

5. Colosseum

Formally named the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colosseum has stood in Rome for almost 2,000 years. It's the most instantly recognizable monument from the classical world. Despite the ravages of time, the Colosseum is an incredibly well-preserved piece of Rome’s fascinating history.

Emperor Vespasian began constructing the Colosseum in 72 AD. It was finished by his son Titus in 80 AD. Domitian subsequently added the hypogeum, or basement.

In its glory days, the Colosseum was a vivid white with painted trim and frescoed hallways. There were monumental statues of the Greek and Roman gods in the arches of the middle two stories. The top story had a retractable canvas awning to shade spectators.

The Colosseum hosted the popular "games," a form of ancient theater re-creating far flung lands and mythological themes for the masses. There were many variations. The spectacles pitted men against men, men against beasts, and beasts against beasts.

READ: Guide to the Colosseum

Castle Sant'Angelo and the Bridge of Angels
Castle Sant'Angelo and the Bridge of Angels

6. Castle Sant'Angelo

Castle Sant'Angelo is a 2,000 year old landmark in Rome. As a national museum, it's official name is the Museo Nazionale di Castle Sant'Angelo. You might consider the distinctive round bulwark a sign that you've arrived at the Vatican.

Castle Sant'Angelo is the perfect reflection of Rome's history. Though Castle Sant'Angelo owes its name to a medieval legend, its history dates back to ancient Rome. Visiting the Castle Sant'Angelo is a walk through the entire history of Rome in one go.

In 139, Emperor Hadrian commissioned the castle's construction as a mausoleum. Unlike Rome's other famous archaeological sites, Castle Sant'Angelo never fell into ruins. Instead, it continued to thrive and was repurposed. Castle Sant'Angelo was transformed from a tomb, to an impregnable fortress, to a prison, to a magnificent Renaissance papal residence, and finally to a museum.

READ: Visitor's Guide To Castle Sant'Angelo

ruins of the Roman city of Pompeii
ruins of the Roman city of Pompeii

7. Ruins of Pompeii

Pompeii is Rome's most famous archaeological site, a living museum. In 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city in 60 feet of ash. The city was entombed and preserved for many centuries. Beginning in 1748, archaeologists began painstakingly excavating the ruins.

The ruins are a remarkable evocation of everyday Roman life. You can get a vicarious thrill sharing living space with ancient Romans. In the complex, you'll find roman baths, a roman forum, brothels, basilicas, a grand theater, and the oldest Roman amphitheater in the world.

Pompeii is the gift that keeps on giving. New finds are made all the time, including recently unveiled frescos. When you're done exploring the ruins, head to a vineyard or restaurant on the nearby Mount Vesuvius.

northern end of the Canopus in Hadrian's Villa
northern end of the Canopus in Hadrian's Villa

8. Hadrian's Villa, Tivoli

Hadrian's Villa (Villa Adriana) in Tivoli lies just 20 miles east of Rome on the edge of the Sabine Hills. Tivoli is the perfect day trip from Rome, especially for archeology lovers and history buffs.

Hadrian's Villa is an important archeological complex. It's the largest and most spectacular villa of ancient Rome, three times the size of Pompeii. The villa is a testament to the power and glory of ancient Rome and the world's most important leader, Emperor Hadrian. And it was designed by Hadrian himself, complete with its magnificent edifices, beautiful mosaics, and ancient statuary.

Hadrian's sprawling complex is called a "villa." But it's more accurately a miniature Rome that covers nearly 300 acres. It's dotted with 30 large structures -- palaces, libraries, baths, living quarters, dining pavilions, and sculpture gardens. Hadrian incorporated foreign landmarks and marvels of the classical world into Villa Adriana, making it a diorama of sorts of his vast empire.

Hadrian’s Villa is now an evocative ruin, the opulent accoutrements long gone. Hadrian's Villa became a UNESCO site in 1999. Archaeologists, architects, and historians have been working at Hadrian’s Villa for decades. It's still only half excavated. So new discoveries are made all the time.

READ: Complete Guide to Hadrian’s Villa

the spectacular Oval Fountain, with its nymph filled niches, at Villa d'Este
the spectacular Oval Fountain, with its nymph filled niches, at Villa d'Este

9. Villa d'Este, Tivoli

The UNESCO-listed Villa d'Este in Tivoli is the lush and watery country estate and gardens of a Catholic cardinal. It makes the perfect day trip escape from Rome, just a half hour away. You can also combine it with a visit to Hadrian's Villa.

The sumptuous late Renaissance estate is a playground of whimsy, topped with a frescoed villa. Built into a cliff, Villa d'Este's terraced gardens are one of Europe's most beautiful green spaces -- with waterfall fountains, ornate staircases, spiky cypress trees, and the gentle murmur of water everywhere.

The villa itself is a bit of an empty shell, with the furnishings and decor long gone. But most of the vibrant frescos and painted ceilings remain. Off the Central Room, a small loggia offer the first dramatic views of the main event -- one of the world's most beautiful landscaped gardens. A double stairway leads you down to this bucolic retreat.

Set over 35,000 square meters, the verdant gardens will blow you away. You’ll see thundering fountains, placid pools, grottos, waterfalls, and natural beauty. The 50 large fountains and 250 water jets are all gravity powered, a miracle of Renaissance plumbing. Statues of ancient deities complete the enchanting ensemble.

READ: Complete Guide to visiting Villa d’Este

fresco in the Necropolis of Tarquinia
fresco in the Necropolis of Tarquinia

10. Necropolis of Tarquinia

The UNESCO-listed Necropolis of Tarquinia is one of Italy's most magnificent Etruscan sites. The "city of the dead" dates back to the 7th century B.C. Since 1489, nearly 6,000 tombs have been excavated. The most important tombs are the Tomb of the Shields, the Tomb of the Lioness, and the Tomb of the Warrior.

There are 140 fantastic large scale wall frescos behind plexiglass. Press a button to light them up. The necropolis was popular with Roman artists. Raphael and Michelangelo ventured there to study the frescos.

the Piazza del Duomo in Milan
the Piazza del Duomo in Milan

Northern Italy

11. Milan Cathedral, Milan

The Duomo is the nickname for Milan Cathedral, a world renowned edifice. Built over 600 years beginning in 1368, the Duomo is a flamboyant Gothic masterpiece with 135 marble spires. It's the fourth largest church in the Europe, second in size in Italy only to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Begun in 1386, the cathedral was constructed with a white-pink marble from the Lake Maggiore region. Cleaned in 2002, the stunning triangular facade was added only in the Napoleonic period. There's a golden Madonna statue on the tip top. By law since 1930, no building can be taller than the symbol of Milan.

Five portals beckon you inside. The Duomo interior seems cavernous. There's plenty to admire -- ornate statues, paintings, and the sarcophagi of famous Milanese citizens. In the transept, you'll find the rather ghoulish statue of St. Bartholomew Skinned by Marco d'Agrate, a Leonardo student.

The Duomo's truly spectacular and unmissable feature is its rooftop terrace. It can be reached either via a staircase or elevator. From the rooftop, you have an excellent view of the details of the intricate stonemasonry, especially the fanciful gargoyles that serve as drains. You can see the panorama of the entire city before you. It's especially nice at sunset.

READ: Must See Sites in Milan

Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1498 in Milan
Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper, 1498 in Milan

12. Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan

Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper is found on the back wall of the refectory in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. It was commissioned by Leonardo's patron, Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan.

No painting is so familiar, save for the Mona Lisa. Previous Last Supper artists focused on the moment when Judas is identified. Leonardo instead focused on the moment before, when Jesus has just announced he will be betrayed and doubt is in the air. In a swoosh of emotion, Leonardo captures each apostle's unique reaction to his declaration -- horror, astonishment, anger, anxiety, grief, shock, etc.

A mad-scientist experimenter with materials and techniques, Leonardo loved blending colors, playing with shading (chiaroscuro) and smoky space (sfumato). For this showpiece, rather than employing stable true fresco, he used oil and tempera paint over coats of gesso and white lead.

By the time Leonardo finished in 1498, the painting was already deteriorating. 20 years later, it was flaking off the wall. There have been seven documented attempts to repair The Last Supper, the most recent effort in the last 21 years.

You've got to be organized and reserve in advance to see this Leonardo masterpiece. It's kept in a special microclimate with restricted access. Advance reservations are mandatory. Click here for an analysis of the painting, practical information, and must know tips on how to see Leonardo's The Last Supper.

READ: Guide To The Last Supper Paintings From Renaissance Italy or Guide To All of Leonardo da Vinci's Paintings

Rocca Scaligera Castle in Sirmione near Lake Garda
Rocca Scaligera Castle in Sirmione near Lake Garda

13. Rocca Scaligera Castle, Sirmione

The beautiful town of Sirmione sits at the end of a narrow peninsula jutting into Lake Garda, the largest lake in northern Italy. Oleander, cypress, and palm trees mix into the foliage. And, rising against the town's medieval skyline, is the enormous Rocca Scaligera, Sirmione's unforgettable fortress.

Built in the 13th century by the Scaligera family of Verona, the square cut castle is completely surrounded by a navigable moat. Impregnable walls and turrets rise from pale rustic stone. Crenellated battlements wrapped in red top the fortress. The poet Dante is said to have stayed in the castle.

From the sweeping cobbled courtyard, steel staircases lead to the first turret and your first glimpse of panoramic views of the town. But you get the best views from scrambling up the 146 steps to the tallest tower.

Brunelleschi's iconic dome for Florence Cathedral
Brunelleschi's iconic dome for Florence Cathedral

Tuscany & Umbria

14. Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence

The symbol of Florence is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, nicknamed the Duomo. I recommend purchasing a 72 hour combination pass that allows you to see all the sites within the Piazza del Duomo complex -- the Duomo, the Baptistry, the Giotto Bell Tower, and the stunning Duomo museum. They're all eminently worth seeing.

Florence’s Duomo is Gothic in style, but not in the light and elegant way you think of Paris' Notre Dame. It's made of brown sandstone and beautifully faced with pink, green, and white marble.

Filippo Brunelleschi's magnificent terra cotta colored dome, built from 1420-36, is the highlight. The burnt orange Duomo cupola is the very symbol of Florence. It’s decorated with high Renaissance frescos by Giorgio Vasari, a Florentine artist and the world’s first art historian.

For panoramic views, climb up Brunelleschi's dome. You can admire the Vasari frescos up close and have stunning views over Florence. Alternatively, you can take in the superb views from Giotto's Bell Tower, which might be the best viewpoint in Florence.

READ: How To Climb Brunelleschi's Dome

Dante statue in front of the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence Italy
Dante statue in front of the Basilica of Santa Croce

15. Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence

Although a bit out of the way, the Basilica of Santa Croce is a must visit site for lovers of Renaissance art. It dates from 1280. The ancient basilica has one of the greatest assemblages of frescos, painting, sculptures, and funeral tombs in the entire world.

The Santa Croce highlights are the frescos by Giotto in the Bardi Chapel and the Peruzzi Chapel. There are also frescos by his students Taddeo and Agnolo Gaddi. The ones by Agnolo are well preserved and have been recently renovated.

Santa Croce is also the resting place of storied Renaissance luminaries. You can find funeral tombs for Michelangelo, Ghiberti, Galileo, Dante, and Machiavelli. Santa Croce also houses the famous Cimabue Crucifix. The artifact was damaged in a devastating flood in 1966, but has been somewhat restored.

READ: Complete Guide to the Basilica of Santa Croce Complex

the Ponte Vecchio and the Vasari Corridor in Florence
the Ponte Vecchio and the Vasari Corridor in Florence

16. Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Dating from 1345, the Ponte Vecchio, or "old bridge," is Florence's only bridge to survive WWII. The Nazis destroyed all Florence's other bridges. The only reason Ponte Vecchio escaped unscathed is that Hitler had a soft spot for the bridge. Instead of destroying it, he destroyed the buildings at both ends.

The iconic Ponte Vecchio looks like houses suspended over the Arno River. It has three arches topped with a jumble of charming shops. In an urban setting, space was at a premium, so the bridge became a sort of mall.

Originally, the Ponte Vecchio housed unglamorous butcher shops. But the Medici family didn't like escorting their aristocratic guests and diplomats over the bridge with the wafting stench. So they swamped the butchers for goldsmiths. Now, you can buy expensive jewelry on the storied Ponte Vecchio.

READ: Must See Sites in Florence

Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, 1486 -- in Florence's Uffizi Gallery
Sandro Botticelli, Birth of Venus, 1486 -- in Florence's Uffizi Gallery

17. Uffizi Gallery

Florence is synonymous with the Renaissance period of art history. The Uffizi is its premiere gallery, and the third most visited site in all of Italy. For art lovers, the Uffizi is a place of pilgrimage.

Built by art historian and architect Giorgio Vasari, the Uffizi houses the collection of the Medici, a wealthy family of art patrons that ruled Florence for three centuries. The museum has seminal works from the 13th to 18th centuries.

Some of the world's most famous paintings are in the Uffizi -- Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Primavera, Titian's Venus of Urbino, Leonardo da Vinci's Annunciation, Caravaggio's Medusa and Bacchus, Piero della Francesca's unflattering portraits of the Duke and Duchess of Urbino, and Raphael's Goldfinch Madonna.

READ: Guide To the Botticelli Trail in Florence

The Uffizi consists of 45 halls of art spread over two floors of the palace. If you have limited time, you should focus your efforts. The must see halls include the Hall 2 (Giotto), Hall 8 (Lippi), Hall 10-14 (Botticelli), Hall 15 (Leonardo), Hall 35 (Michelangelo), Hall 66 (Raphael), Hall 83 (Titian), and Hall 90 (Caravaggio).

Here's my complete guide to the Uffizi Gallery, which includes must see masterpieces and tips and tricks for visiting. If you want to do some DIY prep for the Uffizi, click here for tips.

READ: Who Were the Medici?

the beautiful Pitti Palace in Florence
the beautiful Pitti Palace in Florence

18. Pitti Palace

The magnificent Palazzo Pitti is located across the Arno River, in the off the beaten path Oltrarno district that's now Florence's trendiest neighborhood. The palace is one of Florence's most stunning architecture gems. It was built in 1457 for the Florentine banker Luca Pitti, a Medici rival.

But, like everything else it seems, the palace soon became Medici property. In 1549, Cosimo I's wife purchased the Pitti Palace. It became the Medici's principal private residence, the family's third palace in Florence. The Medici expanded it and placed 8 art galleries in its interior.

The most important museum is certainly the Palatine Gallery. It occupies the left wing of the first floor. The gallery houses an impressive collection of over 500 paintings, chock a block on top of each other amid lavish furnishings. There are works by Raphael, Titian, Botticelli, Rubens, Caravaggio, Gentileschi, and other European and Italian painters. The ceilings are beautifully frescoed by Pietro da Cortona.

The Royal Apartments showcase styles from three different eras of ownership. You'll find Baroque frescoed ceilings, gilded inlaid work, Rococo stucco, and red damask decorations. Amid the cacophony, there's a beautiful Caravaggio painting, Knight of Malta.

READ: Best Museums in Florence

Hall of the Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio
Hall of the Five Hundred in the Palazzo Vecchio

19. Palazzo Vecchio

Dating from the 13th century and steeped in history, the Palazzo Vecchio was Florence's seat of power. It was the home of the City Council that governed the Republic of Florence and a residence of the Medici dynasty. On the first floor of the palace is the stunning Michelozzo-designed courtyard, decorated with fresco-filled loggias designed by Giorgio Vasari.

The magnificent Hall of the Five Hundred is awash with more frescos by Vasari. On the second floor are the sumptuously decorated private rooms of the Medici, with recently restored frescos in the beautiful Apartment of the Elements.

The Palazzo Vecchio was the site of key moments in Florentine history — the Pazzi conspiracy (attempted coup), the sermons of the “mad monk” Girolamo Savonarola, the site of the “bonfires of the vanities” when Savonarola set fire to precious Renaissance art, and finally the spot of his execution.

the Tower of Arnolfo, named after the architect of Palazzo Vecchio
the Tower of Arnolfo, named after the architect of Palazzo Vecchio

If you're up for a climb of 400 steps, the Tower of Arnolfo offers 360 views. You enter via the Museum of Palazzo Vecchio, with a combined ticket for Palazzo Vecchio or for an additional small fee.

The Palazzo Vecchio sits in the famous Piazza della Signoria, which is studded with many famous sculptures (or copies thereof), including Michelangelo's David. In the Loggia dei Lanza (the covered arcade), you’ll find works by Cellini and Giambologna.

READ: Visitor's Guide to the Palazzo Vecchio

the Piazza del Campo in Siena, one of Europe's most beautiful squares
the Piazza del Campo in Siena, one of Europe's most beautiful squares

20. Palazzo Pubblico in the Piazza del Campo, Siena

The magnificent Palazzo Pubblico sits proudly in one of Europe's most beautiful medieval squares, the Piazza del Campo. The herringbone brick pavement is divided by white marble lines into nine sections. They fan out like a claim shell, representing the Council of the Nine. A 19th century replica of Jacopo della Quercia's Fonte Gaia fountain is on one side.

The palace was built in 1297-1308 for the Council of Nine, the governing body of the Republic of Siena. The facade is a harmonious example of early Renaissance architecture, an elegant and symmetrical backdrop to the famed piazza.

Palazzo Pubblico has triforate windows, a Sienese architectural specialty, in which a single window aperture or opening is divided into three arches resting on small columns. Above the portals and the window arches is the black and white coat of arms of the Town Council of Siena, called the balzana.

the magnificent Palazzo Pubblico in Siena
the magnificent Palazzo Pubblico in Siena

Inside, in the Hall of the Grand Council, you’ll one of Italy’s most precious paintings, Simone Martini’s Maesta. The Hall of Peace has an amazing cycle fresco, Ambrogio Lorenzetti's Allegory of Good and Bad Government. This is one of the most marvelous, poignant, and timeless fresco cycles in Italy. It's the only secular painting of everyday urban and rural life that exists from the middle ages.

Beside the Gothic palace soars the slender Tower of Mangia, which you can climb for panoramic views. Click here for my complete guide to visiting the magnificent Palazzo Pubblico.

READ: 24 Hours in Siena Italy

Siena Cathedral
Siena Cathedral

21. Siena Cathedral, Siena

One of Italy's most beautiful Gothic complexes, Siena Cathedral is also known as the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption and the Duomo. It might as well be nicknamed the Siena Art Museum, it's so stuffed with Italian masterpieces. For a church, it's shockingly interesting.

Siena Cathedral is one of Europe's most beautiful churches. It's the symbol of medieval Siena, clad all over in Siena's trademark white and dark green marble. Consistent with the Gothic ethos that "more is always better," every inch is decorated with marble, mosaics, sculptures, and frescos.

Visiting Siena's Duomo complex is akin to going to an art museum. It's filled with mind blowing art from some of the greatest artists of the Gothic and early Renaissance periods, including Donatello, Pisano, Pinturicchio, and Michelangelo.

The Duomo complex consists of six must see structures: the cathedral itself, the Piccolomini Library, the Baptistry, the cathedral museum (Museo dell'Opera del Duomo), the Crypt, and the Facciatone viewing terrace. To visit the amazing Siena Duomo complex properly, you need to pre-purchase the Opa Si Pass.

READ: Complete Guide to the Siena Cathedral Complex

the spiky towers of San Gimignano
the spiky towers of San Gimignano

22. Towers of San Gimignano

Nicknamed the "Medieval Manhattan," the turreted hill town of San Gimignano boasts a startling cityscape with 13 spiky towers poking the sky. The most famous tower is the Torre Grossa. Climbing to the top is a must do in San Gimignano.

Not surprisingly, San Gimignano's historic center is a UNESCO site. Park outside the city walls and walk into the tiny town. The central square is the Piazza del Duomo. There, you'll find the Collegiate Church of Saint Mary of the Assumption. Consecrated in 1148, it's a beautiful (mostly) Romanesque church, austere on the outside with a feast of frescos on the inside.

In the Chapel of Saint Fina, there are paintings by early Renaissance master Ghirlandaio. There's also a violent fresco cycle of Black Death paintings, possibly by the mysterious artist Barna Da Siena, who allegedly fell to his death from scaffolding while painting the frescos.

Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi
Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi

23. Basilica of St. Francis, Assisi

Located in Umbria, the saintly and stunning hill town of Assisi is a destination for art lovers. Because Assisi was the home and final resting place of St. Francis, it's also a pilgrimage destination. In fact, the 13th century Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi is one of Italy's best known churches and a UNESCO site.

There are two parts to the church -- the lower church (for pilgrims) and the upper church (for clergy). The frescos in the lower church mark the pivotal transition in art history from the Gothic period to the early Renaissance era. The highlight are Giotto's frescos in the Chapel of Santa Maria Maddalena. That chapel also has a fresco cycle by Pietro Lorenzetti, with a haunting Depostion.

The upper church houses paintings by Cimabue, the greatest Italian painter of the 13th century International Gothic style. Giotto, who was Cimabue's protege, also painted a 28 panel cycle called The Life of St. Francis, between 1297 and 1300. It's worth noting, however, that some scholars dispute the Giotto attribution.

READ: Guide To the Best Art in Tuscany

the Pisa Duomo and Leaning Tower
the Pisa Duomo and Leaning Tower

24. Field of Miracles, Pisa

The UNESCO-listed Field of Miracles is a true spectacle -- a simply splendid assemblage of Romanesque, Gothic, and Early Renaissance art and architecture. When you clap eyes on its marble sheathed buildings, you'll likely gasp and conclude that it deserves the hype. Here are the six must see sites on the splendid square:

✔ The Leaning Tower

✔ The Duomo di Pisa

✔ The Baptistery

✔ The Monumental Cemetery

✔ Duomo Museum

✔ Museum of Sinopie

Although a tourist-fly draw, the Leaning Tower is the least interesting of the monuments. The Duomo's facade is decorated with alternating black and white marble stripes, quarried from Carrara. Inside, you’ll find a beautiful mosaic in the apse attributed to Cimabue and an ornate pulpit carved by Giovani Pisano.

The Baptistery is so ornate it appears to be dripping with lace. It houses another ornate pulpit carved by Nicola Pisano. The stunning Monumental Cemetery houses beautiful sculptures and important frescos. Click here for my comprehensive guide to Pisa's must see sites.

READ: Why Does the Leaning Tower Lean?

the beautiful facade of Orvieto Cathedral
the beautiful facade of Orvieto Cathedral

25. Orvieto Cathedral, Orvieto

Medieval Orvieto is a popular day trip from Rome. The hilltop town's piece de resistance is its magnificent cathedral, a marvel of theatricality. Orvieto Cathedral is one of the most beautiful and ancient churches in Italy.

Begun in 1290, Orvieto Cathedral is a riveting ensemble of spires, spikes, golden mosaics, statuary, stained glass, and black and white striped marble. And that's just the facade.

Inside, the Chapel of San Brizio boasts one of the Renaissance's greatest fresco cycles by Luca Signorelli. The frescos depict the usual religious themes -- temptation, damnation, and salvation. But they're a searing vision of the end of the world, executed with fiendish exuberance. Michelangelo came to inspect the chapel before beginning his own master work, the Sistine Chapel.

In the cathedral museum around the corner, you can inspect 2,000 works of art preserved from the church. The best works are by Andrea Pisano and Francesco Mocchi.

the Rialto Bridge in Venice
the Rialto Bridge in Venice

Venice Region

26. Rialto Bridge, Venice

The iconic Rialto Bridge is one of the world's most famous bridges. It connects the sestieres (neighborhoods) of San Marco and San Polo. There was first a bridge located here in 1181. There's been a bridge here for most of Venice's history.

Space was an important urban commodity. So the Venetians didn't leave the bridge space unexploited. In 15th century, shops were added to the bridge, inspired by the Ponte Vecchio in Florence.

The present Rialto Bridge was built between 1588-91 by an obscure architect named Antonio de Ponte. He even beat out Michelangelo, who also submitted a design for the competition.

READ: The History of Venice in a Nutshell

facade of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice
the ornate facade of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice

27. St. Mark's Basilica, Venice

St. Mark's is an astonishing tour de force of Italo-Byzantine architecture. Consecrated in 1093, it's one of the world's most famous churches. St. Mark's was built to house the relics of the evangelist St. Mark. It also served as the private chapel of the doge, the constitutional monarch at the head of the Republic of Venice.

The church has a unique and eclectic mix of styles and materials. Venice imported the art and architectural style from the Byzantine world. The primary building material was brick, like everything else in Venice. Once the structure went up, it was covered by marble slabs and relief sculptures to make it richly decorative.

The church's footprint is a Greek cross plan, with a giant dome above the crossing point. Each of the four arms is also surmounted with a dome. Inside, is a golden extravaganza of mosaics, 90,000 square feet in total. The oldest mosaics in St. Mark's date back to 1070, telling Old Testament stories.

The basilica's uneven floor is decorated as well. There are two pulpits connected by a rare surviving rood screen, separating the clergy and the laity. The baldachin, or architectural shelter, marks the spot where the body of St. Mark rests in the crypt below. Behind the baldachin is the Palla d'Oro, a golden altarpiece. It's a massive bejeweled screen.

READ: Guide to the Must See Sites on Venice’s Grand Canal

the Grand Canal in Venice
the Grand Canal in Venice

28. Grand Canal, Venice

Venice is truly unique. It's one of the world's most beautiful and captivating cities, a natural movie set. No other place looks quite like it. Venice is a city built on water that shouldn't exist in real life.

Cruising the historic Grand Canal in Venice is a classic, unmissable thing to do in Italy. As you sail, you can admire Venice's must see sites and dreamy palazzos. The Grand Canal isn't man made. It follows the path of an ancient river bed underneath.

During Venice's heyday, the Grand Canal was used by traders, making their way to the Rialto Bridge. Today, it's flanked with over 170 buildings -- including pastel mansions, gleaming Byzantine palazzi, and Venice's finest museums.

The most important buildings on the Grand Canal were residences of Venice's powerful patrician families. Because of these sumptuous palaces, the Grand Canal has been described "as the most beautiful street in the world.”

READ: Guide to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice

Verona's beautiful Roman Arena
Verona's beautiful Roman Arena

29. Roman Arena, Verona

Verona is a beautiful peach colored town in northern Italy, an easy day trip from Venice. Its key landmark is the majestic Roman Arena, the Arena di Verona, in the Piazza Bra. It's the third largest classical arena in Italy, after