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A Tour of Italy: The best places and what to see

Posted August 31, 2018

From snow-capped mountains, fertile valleys, and Spaghetti Western landscapes to pulsating cities and rustic stone-built towns, to ancient ruins and the heights of artistic and culinary achievement, Italy is a true patchwork. And while you can visit for a week on the beach or a city break, this type of variety makes Italy perfect for touring. Cox & Kings Italy luxury tours are developed by in-house Destination Specialists to take in the variety Italy has to offer without limiting you to a single destination. That can mean a trip that packs in all the best sights around a single region, or a multi-region tour that takes you all over the country. We have divided Italy into regions popular with luxury travelers to give you a flavor of what you can expect, from Lombardy in the north to Sicily in the south.

Italy regions at a glance

Region Location Best places to visit
Lombardy North Milan, Great Lakes (Como, Maggiore, Garda)
South Tyrol and Veneto Northeast Bolzano and the Dolomites, Venice, Verona

Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Rome

Central Ravenna, Bologna, Florence, Pisa and Rome
Sardinia and Sicily South & West Palermo and Mount Etna (Sicily), Nora and the Gennargentu National Park (Sardinia)
Naples and the Amalfi Coast South Naples, Pompeii, Amalfi Coast, Capri

Lombardy: Chic Milan and the Italian Lakes

Lombardy is a region of lakes and rolling hills covering the central northern part of Italy, with the Alps as a spectacular backdrop. Milan is the heartbeat of the region, with the Duomo cathedral and the La Scala Opera House must-sees for any visitor. See Da Vinci's legendary depiction of the Last Supper first-hand in the Santa Maria delle grazie church, and come to understand Milan's status as a fashion capital through its elegant shopping arcades and boutiques.

Town of Menaggio on Lake Como, Milan, Italy
Town of Menaggio on Lake Como, Milan, Italy

The Lombardy lakes are some of Italy's best places to visit. You'll find picturesque villages on the shores of Como, Maggiore and Garda, all surrounded by some of the country's loveliest scenery. Lombardy is also a great jumping-off point for a multi-destination journey through the Alps, such as our tour of Northern Italy & Switzerland.

The must-see: Milan's Duomo, from its soaring Gothic facade to its roof terrace with panoramic views.

The hidden gem: Val Camonica (the Camonica Valley) is home to the largest collection of prehistoric cave drawings in the world.

South Tyrol and Veneto: Mountain villages and the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’

South Tyrol is home to the jagged peaks of the Dolomites and Italy's German-speaking minority, whose cultural influence goes beyond language and is best experienced through the distinctive local cuisine - think crisp Gewurztraminer wine, dumplings, strudel and fantastic mountain produce. Explore the mountain villages and hiking trails, and spend some time in the regional capital Bolzano, with its attractive squares and relaxed atmosphere.

Bordering the region to the south is Veneto, with its ultra-famous capital. There can be little question that Venice is a jewel in Italy's crown and packed with things to see, from its famous canals and bridges to the Doge Palace and the Piazza San Marco. The wider Veneto region also has a lot to offer, including the historic cities of Padua and Verona with their wealth of art, architecture and culture, as well as the Prosecco region, just an hour's drive from Venice.

The must-see: Venice is a city of islands, best discovered on the water via a boat tour.

The hidden gem: Landscape and culture come together at the Messner Mountain Museum in South Tyrol, named after famed mountaineer and adventurer, Reinhold Messner.

Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany and Rome: A taste of Italy

The rich landscape of Emilia-Romagna has given us many staples of Italian cuisine, from prosciutto and parmesan to balsamic vinegar and tortellini. Indeed, food is at the heart of a Cox & Kings tour of Emilia-Romagna, where you can also discover the lively university city of Bologna, and Ravenna, home to eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Tuscany also has a long culinary tradition, based around rustic dishes tied inextricably to the land. Beyond food, some of the most famous things to see in Italy are here, from Pisa's Leaning Tower to the art treasures of Florence, including Michelangelo's David. You can also find Michelangelo's work in Rome, the definition of a city packed with history, from the Colosseum and the Castel Sant'Angelo to the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and the Vatican museums.

The must-see: Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel at the Vatican - be sure to look around as well as up.

The hidden gem: Learn about the production and history of parmesan cheese at the Parmigiano-Reggiano Museum.

Aerial View of Bologna, Italy
Aerial View of Bologna, Italy

Sardinia and Sicily: Sun, sand and movie sets

On the island of Sicily, soak up the vibrant street life and cultural highlights of Palermo, including the golden mosaics of Monreale Cathedral, before heading to the lava fields and spectacular views from the top of Mt. Etna. Visit the historic city center of Catania at the foot of the volcano, and, elsewhere on the island, spot familiar locations from iconic movies such as The Godfather.

The village of Savcoa, Sicily, Italy
The village of Savcoa, Sicily, Italy

The wild landscapes of Sardinia are the main attraction of this rugged island, from the forested mountains of the Gennargentu National Park to the empty beaches and rocky coves of the coast, including the dramatic grottoes of the Bay of Orosei. Don't miss the ancient town of Nora, with its Roman baths and Phoenician ruins.

The must-see: Mt. Etna is Europe's tallest active volcano and offers stunning views of both land and sea.

The hidden gem: Wander the ancient ruins of Selinunte, close to Palermo, where 30,000 people once lived.

Naples and the Amalfi Coast: The Jewels of the South

Naples is the urban heart of southern Italy, and a true introduction to the region. Make time for the frescoes of the Duomo di San Gennaro and the extravagant Royal Palace, before taking a trip to Pompeii and the ancient streets and buildings of the Roman city buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The 50-mile drive along the Amalfi Coast is one of the world's great road trips. The dramatic coastline, hillside towns and quaint fishing villages are the stuff of classic movies and completely unforgettable scenes. Don't miss the chance to take a boat from Sorrento to the idyllic island of Capri.

The must-see: Let an expert guide you through the ruins of Pompeii to get detailed insights into the lives and stories of the people who lived in the ancient Roman town.

The hidden gem: A boat tour to the Blue Grotto to see how sunlight and seawater create amazing visual effects.

Whether it's really getting under the skin of a single region or combining the north and south, Italy is made for touring. But with that much variety, it's important to choose the right journey for you. Cox & Kings offers a range of different Italy tours, all of which are completely customizable, to help you best experience the authentic culture, history and landscape of the country. Browse the range or contact us today to start creating your dream Italian vacation with one of our knowledgeable Destination Specialists.