Italy began as a collection of city-states. Today each of its many cities still feels like its own little world with its own set of world-famous treasures: beautiful cathedrals and important da Vinci paintings. Move from city to city, investigating relics from the Roman Empire, some of the world’s largest and most spectacular churches and some of the best-known pieces of Renaissance art.
Start in Rome, the center of the world for both Catholics and classicists. See legendary Roman architecture and artifacts, including the 50,000-seat Colosseum, Rome’s ancient administrative center at the Roman Forum and the Pantheon. Then, step into Vatican City at Rome’s core, where the Pope’s residence is located. Walk along Saint Peter’s Square to reach Saint Peter’s Basilica, the largest basilica in the world and Catholicism’s holiest site. See Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel in one of the Vatican museums.
Head north to the region of Tuscany, with the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, Florence. Tour the city’s main art museums to see crowning achievements in Italian art, including Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell'Accademia delle Belle Arti and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery. In the nearby city of Pisa, see one of Europe’s biggest attractions, the Campo dei Miracoli complex with its leaning Bell Tower. Finally, enjoy a tour of Tuscany’s wine country, including the famous Chianti region.
Italy’s northernmost region has two more great cities: Venice and Milan. Take a gondola tour along the Canal Grande of Venice. Then, head to Milan to see its Duomo, one of the most ornate Gothic cathedrals in Europe. Nearby, the relatively modest Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie features da Vinci’s Last Supper.
Arrive in Italy by flying into an international airport in Rome, Milan or Venice. Get around the country by car or train. If you need to rest after exploring all of Italy’s major cities, take a boat to the relaxing Mediterranean islands of Sicily or Sardinia.