Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.
Italy has a spot on the bucketlist of many travelers around the world as there are so many amazing places to visit in Italy. As there are so many this article focuses on the most scenic attractions and towns regardless if you like taking photographs or just soaking in the scenery.
This bucketlist of Italy sights is broken down into four sections:
- Beautiful small towns and villages in Italy
- Coastal towns for beach holidays in Italy
- The prettiest National Parks in Italy
- Beautiful Lakes in Italy
Bonus: if you’re wondering when the best time to visit Italy is, check out our guide here.
Read on for the best places to visit in Italy with a scenic edge.
1. Beautiful Small Towns & Villages in Italy
Situated in the Sicilian province of Palermo, Cefalu is a small Italian town that’s popular with both locals and tourists. One of the main attractions here is the 12th century Duomo, a medieval cathedral nestled in the old town center. Above the town center you will see the Rocca, a huge cliff that was once inhabited for protection against invaders.
At the top of the Rocca you will find the ancient Temple of Diana, along with numerous other ancient ruins. The Rocca also offers the best panoramic vistas over the town of Cefalu, with many opportunities for taking amazing photos.
What makes the town of Alberobello unique are its trulli, which are houses with roofs in the shape of cones. “Trulli” is a Greek word meaning “dome”, and refers to the ancient houses with cone-like roofs made out of limestone. Located near the modern town center, the Rione Monti district is the most vibrant area in the town of Alberobello.
There are many bars and shops nestled inside the trulli houses which are a great spot to shop for souvenirs. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the beautiful town also has a trulli church known as the Church of St. Antony.
With only 13,000 residents, Vieste is nonetheless a charming little Italian town that is located in the province of Foggia. The gorgeous town is nestled on the steep Pizzomunno cliff, right in the middle of two beautiful sandy beaches. Traditionally oriented towards agriculture and fishing, Vieste was popularized as a tourist destination by the establishment of Gargano National Park.
Assisi is a beautiful Italian town that is located within the province of Perugia in the region of Umbria. One of the region’s art and culture centers, Assisi is popular among religious tourists as the birthplace of St. Francis.
Visitors can explore the Basilica of St. Francis and marvel at the famous Giotto frescoes in the Upper Church. You can also climb up to Rocca Maggiore to enjoy stunning vistas of the small town.
A fishing village with flair, Marzamemi is centered on an ancient tuna factory established in 1,000 AD by the Arabs. Located on the southernmost tip of the island, this hamlet consists of a cluster of old fishermen’s cottages.
Wander the narrow cobbled streets absorbing the crumbling low-roof sandstone buildings before resting at sunny piazzas by the azure sea.
The Byzantine jewel of Calabria, Stilo is a small village that is nestled gently on the slopes of Mount Consolino. Located just a few kilometers inland from the Ionian coast, Stilo brims with amazing monuments, ancient churches and castle ruins.
The main attraction of the village is La Catolica, a stunning 9th century Byzantine church topped with beautiful tile-covered domes.
Santa Maria di Leuca, Puglia
Santa Maria di Leuca is a village that has been popular among the elite of Puglia for over a century. The port town is nestled at the southernmost tip of the Salento peninsula, on a promontory washed by 2 seas. The elegant village boasts a seafront promenade framed by swaying palm trees and noble Art Nouveau villas.
Its stretch of emerald coastline is dotted with striking grottoes and hidden sandy coves. The panoramic drive from Leuca to Otranto, another of Puglia’s wonderful towns, is among the best in Italy.
Very picturesque and well-preserved, it’s easy to fall in love with the charming village of Sovana. This off-the-beaten path Tuscan village is located in Maremma and comprises of little more than a single street.
Nonetheless, it boasts period sandy stone architecture and wonderful monuments, with art-filled Romanesque churches and amazing Etruscan tombs.
2. Coastal Towns for Beach Holidays in Italy
With its splendid castle that overlooks a gulf, Vernazza is one of the most beautiful beach towns in Italy. A pretty sight to behold, the town features small roads and steep alleyways, with colorful houses surrounding the marina. Vernazza boasts two beaches: a small one located near the main square, and a bigger one on the other side.
The bigger beach is accessible via a caved passage in the rock close to the main square of the village.
A unique Italian beach town, the main color in Sperlonga is white and the facades shine gloriously in the sun. The old town features a maze of narrow alleys and stairways, while the pure white beaches are among Lazio’s best.
The two main beaches in this beach town are Levante and Ponente and both are quite beautiful.
Located to the south of Naples, Amalfi is a gorgeous beach town that is distinct for its wonderful Moorish architecture. The houses here seem to be randomly arranged on the side of a hill at the edge of a cliff.
The main beach is the Marina Grande, a vibrant location ideal for those who want to enjoy a thriving summer. At Duoglio beach, you can hire water sports gear and engage in activities such as windsurfing, canoeing and scuba diving.
Alghero is a splendid beach town in Italy that boasts a stronghold on the sea and a vibrant old town. Although often crowded, Bombarde is the most famous and popular of Alghero’s beaches, and you can also find celebrities here.
If you’re after white sand, head over to Lazzaretto beach for some leisurely strolls. Mugoni has showers and parking, and is ideal for windy days thanks to its pine forest which protects the beach.
Taormina is yet another scenic beach town in Italy boasting little whitewashed houses that loom over the splendid volcanic beach. Isola Bella is its most important beach with one part organized with rental parasols, while the other section is free.
The splendid beach comprises of pebbles and the waters here are clear blue and ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving. Mazzaro beach is a gorgeous inlet that is not too crowded but just perfect for a relaxed sunny day out.
Polignano a Mare
Built on a cliff, Polignano a Mare boasts a beautiful old town that is characterized by gorgeous low, white buildings. Situated in the center of the country, Lama Monachile is a free beach of white pebbles and clear azure waters. With its pretty singer statue, Mare Grottone in Polignano village, provides access to the sea via the Domenico Modugno promenade.
The Cala Paura beach is a wonderful stretch of coastline that has been amazingly preserved from the ravages of tourism. Ponte Lapilli beach is made up of pebbles, while the Porto Cavallo is a sandy beach that’s perfect for families. It’s also a great place to visit from Bari.
With arguably the most beautiful Adriatic coastline, Peschici’s old town is an architectural gem where Byzantine and Aragonese artworks coexist. Located 7km from Peschici is Calalunga beach, a 300 meters stretch of golden sand set within an inlet. Peschici beach is the main beach in the area, which is situated directly below the town.
Camogli is a tourist resort and fishing village that is ideally located on the western part of the Portofino peninsula. Situated along the Garibaldi waterfront is the Bagni Lido, a pretty beach organized with a restaurant, bar and fitness studio. Nestled just below the San Fruttuso Abbay is San Fruttuso beach which boasts golden sands sheltered from the wind.
Gallipoli boasts a striking old town perched on a limestone island. This beach town is protected from the rough seas by its walls, towers and bastions. Baia Verde is the town’s most famous beach, and also its most crowded one. The beach offers white sands, blue waters with emerald reflexes and about three kilometers of coastline.
Famous for its cliff top historic center, Tropea is a beach town built on a former Byzantine cemetery. Hidden between the port and the San Lorenzo Rock, Canone beach is one of the less frequented beaches here.
For stunning panoramas, head over to Spiaggia della Rotonda which is located close to a cliff on the sea. Palombaro Cave is the most romantic beach which is accessible only by swimming or on a paddle boat.
3. The Prettiest National Parks in Italy
Bellunesi Dolomites National Park
Nestled to the north-east of the country, the Italian Dolomites is one of the most beautiful national parks in Italy. The stunning national park boasts a spectrum of mountain ranges such as the Monti del Sole and the Talvena range.
During the summer months, visitors can enjoy hiking along sparkling streams, through pretty fields and up high mountains. There are also many great spots for rock climbing and canyoning that will have the blood of adventure seekers pumping.
Stelvio National Park
Stretching down from the Alps in northern Italy, the Stelvio National Park boasts deep valleys, magnificent ridges and pristine lakes. This national park offers an abundance of scenic walking trails that cater to visitors with all levels of hiking experience. Beginners can enjoy pleasant walks through the valley, while pro hikers can tackle the highest summits in the park.
The area is so beautiful and the only real interruption will be the jingling of cow bells across the meadows. Also stop by the Stelvio Pass which has several easy hiking trails, although the pass is also accessible by car.
Gargano National Park
Nestled close to the picturesque town of Puglia in southern Italy, Gargano National Park is another beautiful park worth visiting. The national park boasts fragrant citrus trees perfect for making limoncello, pristine seas and rolling mountains dotted with olive trees. Gargano is one of the Italian parks where you can explore the pretty coastline, especially around the San Felice Arch.
Visitors to Gargano National Park can also visit the little Italian villages located close by to explore their cobblestone streets. Be sure to also spend some time in Vieste and the breathtaking Peschici, which is located about 10-12 km away.
Cinque Terre National Park
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Cinque Terre National Park is one of Italy’s most beautiful national parks. It is nestled on the west coast of northern Italy around five beautiful towns: Corniglia, Manarola, Monterosso, Riomaggiore and Vernazza. Each of these tiny towns is connected by a short yet pleasant train ride, as well as picturesque coastal trails.
You will need to stay at least one full day if you intend to explore the pretty little towns.
Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo
D’Abruzzo National Park is located just 2 hours to the east of Rome within the Abruzzo region of Italy. The park comprises of dense forest and amazing mountain hiking trails that begin around Pescasseroli, and are breathtaking to explore. D’Abruzzo is also one of the few parks that is home to the Italian wolf, chamois and Marsician brown bears.
These animals roam the region and are rather rare to spot, but incredible should you be able to do so. See gorgeous Petroso, one of the park’s highest mountains and then stop by Rocca Calascio which is also quite beautiful.
Tuscan Archipelago National Park
Perched to the west of Tuscany, this is one of the few Italian national parks that’s situated on an archipelago. The park is made up of seven main islands and spans more than 50,000 hectares of land and sea. Once you get here, be sure to stop over at Elba Island to explore the hiking trails surrounding Mount Capanne.
Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park
One of Italy’s largest national parks, Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga is also one of Europe’s largest protected areas. This alone is reason enough to make it a worthy stop on your Italian vacation, particularly in the summer season. Once you get here, be sure to explore Castelvecchio Calvisio, see Santo Stefano di Sessanio, and explore Barisciano’s historic center.
If you’re after a beautiful yet easy hiking route, set off from Carapelle Calvisio to San Pancrazio Sanctuary. Also head out to the Campo Imperatore plateau which offers some of the best views of the Gran Sasso summit.
Parco Nazionale del Cilento
Located in Salerno in the southern part of Italy, Cilento National Park is just a 2-hours’ drive south of Naples. The national park is easy to visit and ideal for visitors looking for a bit of city and nature holiday. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this park boasts sweeping scenery of rolling meadows, whispering streams and majestic mountains.
Once you get here, be sure to see Cape Palinuro and Roscigno and explore the breathtaking landscapes. Cilento is one of Italy’s largest parks, which makes it a great spot to spend a couple of days exploring.
4. Beautiful Lakes in Italy
Iseo, Lake Iseo
bigstockphoto.com / stroop
Located in northern Italy, Iseo is a pretty little town nestled at the southern end of Lake Iseo in Brescia. For visitors who intend to visit the splendid lake, the town of Iseo is just the place to stay overnight. A popular destination for going on day trips, Iseo is quite large and has many shops, bars and restaurants. The main gathering place in town is the Piazza Garibaldi, which is an ideal spot to have lunch or coffee.
Orta San Giulio, Lake Orta
bigstockphoto.com / alessandrogiamello
Stretching along the eastern shore of Lago di Orta, Orta San Giulio is one of Italy’s most beautiful lakeside towns. The small town boasts quaint narrow streets, wonderfully arcaded piazzas and ancient facades striking in their sunny pastels. A pedestrian-only enclave, Orta San Giulio faces the exquisite Isola San Giulio, a little island surrounded by amazing church buildings.
Castel Gandolfo, Lake Albano
Located in Lazio, Castel Gandolfo is famous as the summer residence of the Pope. The town features an elegant stretch of pastel-colored buildings and grand villas. Visitors can enjoy a delicious meal at one of the flower-decked cliff-side restaurants that overlook Lake Albano’s pristine azure waters. The biggest attraction of this town is the 17th century Palazzo Apostolico which is home to the splendid Barberini Gardens.
Borghetto, Lake Garda
Located in the province of Verona, a few kilometers south of Lake Garda, Borghetto is a small fortified village. With its handful of houses and water mills that appear to float on the Mincio River, Borghetto is very picturesque. The lakeside village draws tourists with its romantic ambience and famous handmade tortellini served at the inviting riverfront restaurants.
Varenna, Lake Como
Varenna is a gorgeous lakeside town that spills down a steep hill on the eastern shores of Lake Como. The town’s dazzling terraced gardens and pastel-painted fishermen’s houses offer a dreamy backdrop for passegiata. Visitors to the serene village will enjoy taking walks along the narrow, steep streets past the scenic café-lined waterfront.