Looking for inspiration for what to see and do in Italy? Here is a list of Italy's best-known attractions and must-see sights. Make sure you book tickets in advance if possible to avoid having to wait in a long line.
The Roman Colosseum
Ancient Rome's huge amphitheater, built by Emperor Vespasian in AD 80, held as many as 55,000 spectators. Deadly gladiatorial and wild animal fights were often held in the Colosseum but it was used for other events as well.
A ticket to the Colosseum includes entrance to the adjacent Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, among Rome's top ancient sites. The Colosseum's top level and underground passages are open only on specially guided tours, also including general admission, such as the Dungeons and Upper Tiers Tour available through Select Italy or Dungeon, Third Level, and Arena Floor offered by The Roman Guy.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Tuscany town of Pisa is most often visited by tourists wanting to see or climb the Leaning Tower, one of Italy's most well-known attractions. The ornate Romanesque tower is one of Europe's most famous towers. To get to the top, you'll have to climb almost 300 steps.
Other monuments that should be visited along with the tower are the adjacent white marble cathedral for which the bell tower was built and the 12th-century Baptistery, the largest in Italy.
Ancient City of Pompeii
The Roman city of Pompeii was buried by an eruption of Mount Vesuvius volcano in 79 AD and now its ruins give a good look at what an ancient Roman city was like. The site includes villas, baths, shops, an arena, temples, and the Forum. There's a lot to see so plan to spend several hours. Select Italy offers a half-day guided tour, Totally Ruined: The Excavations at Pompeii.
Pompeii can easily be visited as a day trip from Naples or from Sorrento and Amalfi Coast. The train station in Pompei (the modern city is spelled with one i) is a short walk from the excavations. If you'd like to visit Pompeii from Rome, consider a guided day trip with transportation such as Select Italy's Lost Cities: Pompeii and Herculaneum from Rome.
il Duomo in Florence
Florence's Cathedral, il Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore, tops the list of things to see in Florence and is probably the best known of Italy's cathedrals. When it was completed in 1436, it was the largest church in the world but today it's the third largest. It is best known for its dome, called Brunelleschi's Dome, with its stunning fresco. Visitors can climb the 436 stairs to the top of the dome (ticket required) for fantastic views of Florence.
Piazza San Marco
Saint Mark's Square, or Piazza San Marco, is Venice's main meeting place and one of Italy's most famous squares. Lined with cafes, shops, and a number of museums, the square is home to two of Venice's top monuments, Saint Mark's Basilica and the Doge's Palace. Saint Mark's Square is the most popular area for tourists.
Cafes around the square are expensive and sitting at a table outside will add on an additional service charge but if you plan to linger for a while and enjoy the ambiance, it might be worth it if your budget permits. In the evening, orchestras sometimes play at the cafes.
Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
One of the world's most visited museums, with more than 6 million visitors in 2014, is the huge Vatican Museums complex that includes the famous Sistine Chapel. Although technically not in Italy but in Vatican City, it's the most visited museum by tourists when in Rome.
The museum complex is huge and usually crowded. Expect to spend at least several hours and do a little research beforehand about what to see in the Vatican Museums so you can plan your route. Be sure to buy tickets in advance or book a tour so you don't waste time in the ticket line. Or better yet, consider a before or after hours tour so you can see the Sistine Chapel without the crowds.