Here are our top picks of some of the most fascinating places to visit in Italy this year, in roughly alphabetical order. Titles and pictures link to blog posts.
The area around Sant’Agnese is one of the most tranquil spots in all of Rome. Here you can discover the story of the Virgin Martyr Agnes, and see the early Christian mosaics inside the mausoleum of Santa Costanza. You can also visit the catacombs underneath the complex, where there are two skeletons preserved from ancient Rome.
San Giovenale is a pretty little church on the outskirts of Orvieto where you can admire beautiful frescoes from between the 13th and 18th centuries. Outside there are lovely views overlooking the rooftops, hills and vineyards.
A fascinating place near Crotone in the southern region of Calabria, Capo Colonna is the site of an ancient sanctuary to the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus. All that is left of the original structure nowadays is one single column. Several precious gifts to the goddess were found here which can now be viewed in Crotone’s archeological museum, including a golden crown and statues of a sphinx, a gorgon and a siren.
This hilltop village is worth a stop-off when you are visiting the area around Pienza in Tuscany. There are wonderful views of the rolling Tuscan hills and if you visit around August you may also get to enjoy their traditional “teatro povero” street theatre.
Ninfa is an eight-hectare landscape garden near Latina featuring a castle, a lake, ancient and medieval ruins, rivers and fountains, and a range of flowers, vegetation and trees. Hailed as one of the most romantic gardens in the world, it is only open on certain days of the year so it is worth checking if they fall during your holiday period.
This villa in Bagheria, east of Palermo, looks like any grand mansion when you first approach it. But once you enter its grounds, you will discover all sorts of unusual creatures including goblins, monsters and other mythological figures: the eccentric world of the seventh Prince of Palagonia.
Procida island near Naples is less well known than its bigger neighbours Capri and Ischia but can actually make for a more relaxing day out which will probably also be more of a bargain. There are some lovely beaches to discover and a tour of the Abbey of St. Michael is highly recommended.
This Roman villa in central Sicily dating back to the late third century AD houses extensive and stunning mosaics that everyone should make an effort to see. Their highlights include a depiction of female athletes and a duel between Pan, the God of the Wild, and Eros, the God of Love.
Spoleto is a lovely option for a day trip from Rome. Its top sights include the gardens of Hotel Palazzo Leti, the frescoes depicting chivalrous love in the Rocca, the Filippo Lippi painting in the Duomo and the small church of Sant’Eufemia. In the lower town you can also explore its UNESCO world heritage early Christian sites influenced by the Lombard tribe.
Stilo is one of the most interesting towns on the eastern side of Calabria. Here you can visit the Cattolica: a small monastery used by hermits and monks who lived in caves in the surrounding hills. You can also wander through the pretty streets of the village and discover its links to Italian philosopher Tommaso Campanella.