Italy is an amazing country that you could spend a ton of time in and I have a feeling it's on every single traveler's bucket list at some point.
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There are many cities to visit and each one offers something unique — but don't stress out too much. Every city you'll explore in Italy means delicious gelato, amazing food, gorgeous sites, quaint market squares ... you get the picture. We love Italy, but if you only have a couple of days to explore this country, we suggest choosing one city to really soak in. It's a hard choice but if you only have a few days, this guide should help you out.
- Cinque Terre
When you picture Italy in your mind, Venice is part of what you're picturing. With cute windy streets to explore, colorful shops, unique water canals, mouthwatering gelato and ancient buildings you'll fall more and more in love every corner you turn. Here are a few reasons why it's so popular:
Venice is famous for its canals, but listen how cool this is! Venice is spread across 118 islands and the canals are what connects that - no roads are used (what!?). Just seeing that alone will blow your mind. Make sure you spend time walking around the canals and if you want the true Italian experience take a little gondola ride through them.
The Grand Canal is one of the most popular destinations and is over 2 miles long. Lined with shops and cafes you will want to add this to your "must visit" list. Venice is really the only spot you'll get canals like this.
St. Mark's Basilica + Square
St. Marks Basilica is famous around the world and a place you need to visit if you're in Venice. This Catholic Cathedral will leave you in awe as you stroll around and soak in the beauty. There are many churches scattered throughout Venice and most of them will be very intricately decorated. Check them out as you walk by — St. Mark's gives you an idea of the gorgeously ornate architecture in Italy.
St. Mark's Square is often referred to as "The Heart of Venice". On the square you can find St. Mark's Basilica as well as Doge's Palace. Many restaurants line the square and it is a nice relaxing place to take a break and people watch.
This Unique Bookstore
"The Most Beautiful Bookshop In The World" is a self proclaimed bookstore that is wonderfully unique. Like more bookstores, this store has tons of books .. but here's where it differs: even the stairs are made out of them! Whether you're looking for old or new ones, they've got you covered.
Rome is also quintessential Italy; if you want the most iconic photo in all of Italy, you'll probably head to Rome and take a picture in front of the coliseum. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is also pretty iconic, but Rome offers so much more to do and see and explore (and eat) than the city of Pisa, which makes it one of our top pics.
Come For History + Beyond Famous Buildings
Wander where Julius Caesar was stabbed, have a romanic moment in front of the Spanish Steps, gaze up in the Parthenon and think about standing in one of the oldest Roman temple, view where Gladiator fought each other in the Coliseum ... Rome is a city strewn with some of the country's most famous sites.
Plus, who can resist tossing a coin in Trevi Fountain, ala Lizzie McGuire, right??
Visit Two Countries At Once
Rome is home to the world's smallest country, the Vatican City! It's itty bitty complete with it's own flag, currency (though Euros work just fine) and coat of arms. Visit some of the buildings you've heard about in person, like the the painted ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica.
Honestly, if you are looking for a couple of jam-packed days where you are walking all over the city and seeing buildings you recognize from history books (not to mention the fact that you can cross off a few items on your bucket list) I would say that Rome is going to be your best bet.
Get a bigger glimpse into all there is to see and do in in this city with our Guide To Rome.
Another bucket list country in Italy, Florence is home to some impressive pieces of art and is home to what may be my favorite building in all of Italy — the Duomo. Florence is artistic, culture, and an absolute gem.
Maybe one of the most recognizable piece of art (ever), you'll need to head to Florence to see this masterpiece yourself. But don't stop there; this city in particular is one full of museums, so art fans — this may be your top pick if you're looking for an Italy city that will make your art history textbooks come alive.
Italy is a country of architecture and the towering Duomo is certainly one of the most impressive and breathtaking. The massive Renaissance dome towers over the red-tiled roofs of the city, making it hard to miss. You'll want to spend enough time gazing over all the intricate details and sculptures on the outside, but don't neglect the interior; impossibly high domed ceilings are supported by magnificent marble columns and details mosaic flooring.
This is more of a vacation-y type city to experience Italy. You'll get killer views, seaside restaurants, the fishing village vibe that makes up all of Italy's coastline, and taste of the highlife as you walk along the piers and see a few yachts docked there. It's gorgeous, luxurious, relaxing and really couldn't be prettier.
This is more of a countryside approach — you'll take a train through the grapevines and the fields which is a whole other side of Italy.
Italy has a few spots we love for coastlines, but Cinque Terre is definitely one. You can charter out boats for the day to take you to different beaches, plus you really can't beat the idea of jumping off the rocky outcrops into the glittering Ligurian Sea.
For our foodies out there, famous Italy basil is grown in this area of Italy, plus you'll get some of the best seafood of your life.
The Stacked Villages
You'll find a few colorfully painted villages stacked high on the mountains in this area of Italy. Cinque Terre actually means five lands, so the idea of hopping over to experience these little suburbs has got to be on your itinerary. If you love the idea of wandering along quiet neighborhoods strung up with laundry and covered in bloom bougainvillea, this spot is for you.
You can take a train between the villages, or even hike them if you'd rather trek them. You can see all five cities in a day, so you get to see a lot.
Did you get all of that? Maybe your best approach is to spend a semester living in Europe, and plan to spend a couple of vacation days (or more) exploring Italy. Click the button below to learn what it's like to take a semester abroad in Lithuania, Ukraine, Poland and other ILP countries!