The statistics for travel to Italy are wild. As a country roughly the size of Arizona, Italy saw nearly 75 million visitors annually as of 2022, making it the fifth most visited country in terms of international tourism volume. While Italy has 20 regions with diverse cultures, landscapes, and offerings, some regions in particular continue to draw in guests year after year with their magnetic allure. Below, I’m sharing 5 regions to visit in Italy based on the most requested areas for Compass & Vine travelers, plus my hotel recs and must-have experiences in each. I have a few honorable mentions and honestly, the list keeps expanding with more under-the-radar regions growing in popularity as travelers continue to search for off-the-beaten-path locales.
1There’s no doubt that Tuscany tops the list of must-visit regions to visit in Italy for first-timers. The Tuscan experience is broad. Visitors can spend time in one of the world’s most beloved cities (Florence), before heading out to quaint hilltop towns or seaside gems. The kilometer-zero approach to food is as genuine as it comes here, with wines, cheeses, meats, fruits and veggies all sourced hyper-locally, plus artisans still thrive here with everything from pottery and jewelry to ironwork and leather crafted hand-tooled as it has been for generations. Tuscany is the Italy of postcards, the laid-back breath of fresh air that many visitors envision when planning their escapes and it’s no surprise it features heavily in many itineraries.
Must-Have Tuscan Experiences
- Enjoy a cooking class in the Tuscan countryside, learning the art of pasta-making
- Spend a day wine tasting in Montepulciano, Montalcino or Chianti Classico
- Explore Florence’s fabulous art scene and wander the city streets of this Renaissance city
- Drive the Val d’Orcia (in a vintage vehicle!) and take in the UNESCO-protected landscapes for the ultimate postcard views
- Go truffle hunting with a local truffle hunter before having a truffle-laden lunch on site
Where to Stay in Tuscany
- Borgo San Felice, Chianti area
- Borgo San Vincenzo, Montepulciano
- La Bandita Townhouse, Pienza
- Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, Montalcino/Countryside
- Borgo Pignano, Volterra
Heading to Tuscany? Don’t miss these 10 wineries in Montepulciano!
2The most requested area that I see for summer escapes is the Amalfi Coast + the islands in the Bay of Naples, particularly Capri. From Positano and Ravello down to Amalfi and Minori, the coast draws a huge number of visitors every summer waiting to glimpse the colorful cascading facades that drip down the seafront. The region feels overrun in the summer and so inundated, but it’s that way for a reason. It’s utterly beautiful and jaw-dropping and warrants a visit at least once in a lifetime. For those wanting something that feels slightly removed from the typical tourist circuit, opt for Praiano vs. Positano or try Ischia instead of Capri. Now, a note that this isn’t to say that the Amalfi Coast + islands are the only areas worth visiting in Campania but they’re by far the bulk of travel requests over Naples proper which make it one of the top 5 regions to visit in Italy for Compass & Vine travelers.
Must-Have Experiences on the Amalfi Coast and Campania
- Sip an Aperol Spritz taking in the cascading colorful facades in Positano
- Tour Naples to get beneath the surface with food, art, and more
- Hike the Path of the Gods, Sentieri degli Dei, from Bomerano to Positano
- Explore the jaw-dropping gardens and artists’ outposts in Ravello
- Enjoy a boat trip around Capri (from Sorrento or another coastal destination) to take in the iconic landscapes
- Visit Pompeii for the ultimate history lesson brought to life
Where to Stay on the Amalfi Coast and Capri
- Casa Angelina, Praiano
- Palazzo Murat, Positano
- Le Sirenuse, Positano
- Belmond Caruso, Ravello
- Hotel Santa Caterina, Amalfi
- Hotel La Minerva, Capri
3We could talk about the wines of Veneto: Valpolicella, world-famous Amarone, or beloved Franciacorta, or about Verona, of Romeo and Juliet fame, but those aren’t the reasons that the Veneto is one of the top 5 regions to visit in Italy for travelers. There’s one city that reigns supreme consistently for travelers to Italy and gets incorporated into about half of C&V trips to the country: Venice. Venice is highly polarizing, insanely unique, extraordinarily beautiful, and wildly perplexing at the same time. Generally speaking, people that seem to pooh-pooh Venice haven’t really spent time there but for a brief stint off of a cruise. It only takes a night or two in the city to wow newbies with its complex system of waterways, romantic ambiance, stunning architecture, and unique history. Despite the fact that it can feel overrun in peak months, I adore Venice and will always be entranced by its never-ending labyrinth of streets and canals, a puzzle that only Venetians can seem to solve.
Experiences in the Veneto
- Explore the six sestiere of Venice on foot or by water taxi and get lost in the maze of streets that make up this city
- Visit Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Cathedral in St. Mark’s Square for a solid foundation of this unique city and the history of the Venetian Empire
- Sample cicchetti (Venetian small plates) and enjoy a Select Spritz, the original spritz, which was invented in Venice
- Take a private water taxi to colorful Burano or Murano or to simply explore the canals of Venice privately
- Go wine tasting in the Veneto to sample some of Italy’s most famous wines: Amarone, Franciacorta and Valpolicella
- Head to Verona, the home of Romeo and Juliet, to enjoy this city’s secret gems
Where to Stay in the Veneto
- Gritti Palace, Venice
- Ca’ Sagredo, Venice
- L’Albereto, Erbusco (great home base for Franciacorta)
- Villa Cordevigo Wine Relais, Verona
- St. Regis, Venice
- Aman, Venice
Heading to the Veneto? Read up on our two days in Venice for inspiration!
4Ten years ago, Puglia wouldn’t be in a conversation about the top 5 regions to visit in Italy. Even five years ago, the region was just seriously entering the conversation for most travelers. But Italy’s popularity has allowed up-and-coming regions to join the conversation more readily. It’s not just return visitors to Italy wanting a new-to-them-region asking about Puglia, it’s first-timers wanting to avoid the masses, too. That’s not to say Puglia is undiscovered by any means, but the region still retains a rawness and has a culture, cuisine and landscape all its own. Puglia produces 40% of Italy’s olive oil, is home to beautiful beaches, a collection of wonderful towns and cities (seaside and otherwise), and has its own wine making traditions with wines like Primitivo and Negroamaro hailing from the area. Some visit Puglia as an alternative to Tuscany, some opt for the coastal region as an alternative to the Amalfi Coast, but really, Puglia is a unique region all its own.
Read about our one week in Puglia for itinerary inspiration!
Experiences in Puglia
- Take a trip to Alberobello to see its famous trulli firsthand
- Head to the beautiful beaches in Salento for sun, salt and sea
- Sample food and wine across the region to get a taste for Puglian specialties — or join a cooking class!
- Don’t miss the charming towns dotting the region, from Ostuni and Polignano a Mare
- Visit the Baroque city of Lecce to explore Italy’s most famous city
Where to Stay in Puglia
- Borgo Egnazia, Savelletri
- Masseria Torre Maizza, Savelletri
- Masseria San Domenico, Fasano
- La Fiermontina, Lecce
5The Ligurian Coast is a thing of dreams. Home to the world-famous Cinque Terre and the perennial jet-set fave, Portofino, the Ligurian coast is a kaleidoscope of colors with a huge range of options for travelers in terms of accommodation. Budget travelers skew towards Cinque Terre where simple B&Bs tucked into the hillside reign supreme, while those in search of luxury land on Portofino or neighboring Santa Margherita Ligure for a coastal escape. More off-the-beaten-path, Sestri Levante offers a quieter area, while those wanting a city fix can head to Genoa to try focaccia and pesto at the source.
Read my post on Cinque Terre vs. the Amalfi Coast for a compare and contrast of these two regions.
Experiences in Liguria
- Spend time hiking and exploring the five towns of the Cinque Terre (in a bind, you can take a full-day tour to Cinque Terre from Florence, though it’s worth more time than this!)
- Enjoy a day in Portofino, shopping, dining and meandering the pretty streets
- Take to the waters in Portofino and neighboring enclaves to experience the area by water
- Enjoy a food tour in Genoa to get a taste of Ligurian cuisine
Where to Stay in Liguria
- Belmond Hotel Splendido, Portofino
- Belmond Splendido Mare, Portofino (the boutique sister to Splendido – just 14 rooms!)
- Grand Hotel Miramare, Santa Margherita Ligure
- Excelsior Palace Portofino Coast, Rapallo
- Hotel Helvetia, Sestri Levante
- Lombardia: Lake Como is always top of mind for honeymooners and luxury travelers around the globe, though the lake region expands beyond that with the beautiful Lago di Garda, and the lesser-known Lago d’Iseo. For those flying in and out of Milan, take a night to get the lay of the land in this fashion-forward city. Don’t miss the lovely city of Bergamo, and sparkling wine lovers can enjoy Franciacorta at the source.
- Sicily: Some will refer to it as the ‘White Lotus effect’; others just recognize that Sicily, with its vastness and unique culture, has been a draw for visitors for decades. Sicily’s size warrants a trip all its own. If you have 10 – 14 days to spend in Italy and Sicily intrigues you, you can easily spend the entire trip here exploring from Taormina and Syracusa to Palermo and the Aeolian Islands.