No place better epitomizes the greatness of the Renaissance than Florence, where there’s a masterpiece around every corner, from Michelangelo’s David
to Botticelli’s Venus
. The central regions of Tuscany and Umbria are characterized by midsize cities and small hilltop towns, each with its rich history and art treasures. Highlights include the walled city of Lucca; Pisa and the Leaning Tower, Siena, home of the Palio; and Assisi, the city of St. Francis. In between, the gorgeous countryside produces some of Italy’s finest wine.
The region of Campania is a popular place both to unwind on the pint-size island of Capri or the resort towns of the Amalfi Coast and to explore the past at the archaeological ruins of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Paestum. In the middle of everything is the vibrant, chaotic city of Naples. Farther south, in the off-the-beaten-path regions of Puglia, Basilicata, and Calabria, you’ll find attractive beaches, mysterious ancient dwellings, and the charming town of Lecce. Across a narrow straight from Calabria is Sicily. Baroque church-hopping could be a sport on the cacophonous streets of Palermo and Siracusa, and amid the almond groves of Agrigento stands one of the world’s best-preserved Greek ruins.
Italy’s capital is one of the great cities of Europe. It’s a large, busy metropolis that lives in the here and now, yet there’s no other place on earth where you’ll encounter such powerful evocations of a long and spectacular past, from the Colosseum to the dome of St. Peter’s. With more masterpieces per square foot than any other city in the world, Rome presents a particular challenge for visitors: just as they begin to feel smitten by the city, they realize they don’t have time to see more than a fraction of its treasures. Explore all the glories of Rome that you can, from Ancient Rome and the Vatican to Piazza Navona and Trastevere.