A land with a long history, there’s a treasure trove of landmarks in Italy that are instantly recognisable. Italy is a history lover’s dream destination, packed with Greek temples, Roman ruins, Baroque churches and from medieval castles.
Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage sites reflect the mastery in architecture and building. With so many enchanting historic town centres, with clusters of monuments, in many places, it’s challenging to pick out individual landmarks.
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- 20 Landmarks in Italy For Your Bucket List
- Rome Landmarks
- Other Historic Landmarks in Italy
- Natural Landmarks in Italy
20 Landmarks in Italy For Your Bucket List
The Roman Empire left a legacy of ruins right throughout Europe but as there’s nowhere better to see Roman monuments than Rome.
It’s not surprising that the headquarters of the Roman Empire is a treasure trove of historical landmarks that deserve to be on everyone’s bucket list.
1- The Colosseum
One of the most famous landmarks in Italy is the Colosseum, which was completed by Emperor Vespasian in 80AD.
This is a 2000-year-old stone and concrete monument that was once an arena for gladiators to fight it out to the end.
The oval amphitheatre is vast and large enough to fit a football pitch as well as being as high as a 12-storey building.
With 80 entrances and seating to accommodate 50,000 spectators, it’s easy to imagine the crackle in the air as gladiators went to combat.
These ancient warriors fought other gladiators and an assortment of wild animals.
The events were a form of entertainment sponsored by the Emperors to win the hearts of the people.
2- Roman Forum
During the 7th century BC, the Roman Forum was the political, social and commercial hub of the Roman Empire.
From above, the Roman Forum is a sprawling landmark of ancient Rome.
It’s a showcase of well-preserved ruins that were once temples, churches and public buildings.
Within the Roman Forum are many individual landmarks that highlight the dominance of the Roman Empire.
These include The Rostra, where Roman leaders delivered speeches, Arch of Septimus Severus and the Temple of Castor and Pollux.
3- The Pantheon
Built during the reign of Hadrian (around 125AD), The Pantheon is one of the unique historical landmarks in Italy.
Not only is it the most well-preserved building from ancient Rome, but it’s also a jaw-dropping architectural structure with an impressive dome.
It’s mind-boggling to think how this landmark of ancient Rome has managed to remain intact for over 2000 years.
What’s even more amazing is that the giant dome is the largest concrete dome in the world that is not reinforced.
The tomb of Renaissance painter, Raphael, is within the Pantheon.
The original purpose of the structure is a mystery, although it became a church in 609 AD.
It has remained a church ever since, and you can attend Mass on Sundays.
4- Trevi Fountain
If you throw a coin over your left shoulder, with your right hand, according to the legend, doing this will most likely ensure your return to Rome.
The Trevi Fountain is a Baroque work of art and a landmark of Italy that has appeared in numerous movies.
Completed in 1762, the fountain is next to Palazzo Poli near the Spanish Steps.
It attracts thousands who come to admire its beauty and to put the legend to the test.
Other Historic Landmarks in Italy
5- Leaning Tower in Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the landmarks in Italy that attracts thousands of visitors.
The 12th-century tower was built in sandy soil and started leaning each year gradually.
Strangely, the tower in Tuscany has started leaning less and has straightened up by about 4 cm/1.5 inches.
This might have been the result of work done to keep it from falling over.
The tower is now back to the tilt it had at the start of the 19th century.
6- Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
The one architectural landmark that is an icon gracing Florence’s skyline is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
Its beautiful Renaissance dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi is quite a sight and instantly identifies the city.
The Gothic Cathedral was constructed on the site of the 7th century Santa Reparata church, the remains of which are in the crypt.
It took two centuries to complete this work of art beginning from the 13th century while the famous dome was a 15th-century addition.
The most significant work of art in the cathedral is Giorgio Vasari’s frescoes of the Last Judgment, completed in 1579.
Visiting the cathedral is one of the things to do in Florence you will love.
7- St Mark’s Basilica
Venice’s most famous piazza, where thousands of pigeons flock to sit on people’s heads, is a vibrant spot that is surrounded by graceful architecture.
Piazza San Marco started in the 9th century as part of the grounds of the Doge’s Palace.
These days, it’s home to many of the most famous landmarks in Italy, including St Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace.
Of all the monuments around the square, St Mark’s Basilica is the most photogenic.
Its Byzantine architecture has appeared in magazines and images around the world.
The building was built in the 11th century as a symbol of Venetian wealth.
Later, in 1807, the Roman Catholic church turned it into Venice’s cathedral.
Visiting the square is one of the top things to do in Venice.
8- Pompeii Ruins
The ruins of ancient Pompeii were discovered in 1748, much of the city was miraculously intact.
Pompeii’s amphitheatre was built in 70BC.
It’s the oldest pre-Colosseum style amphitheatre remaining in the world.
How it survived the eruption of Vesuvius is fascinating to ponder.
9- Milan Cathedral
There are many reasons why Duomo di Milano is one of the most impressive Italy landmarks to see.
Not only is it the second-largest cathedral in the world, but it’s also one of the most beautiful with distinctive spires.
A creation that started in the 14th century, the cathedral is a mosaic of different types of design.
Over 78 architects have left their mark on the design.
Thousands of artisans and sculptors worked on this magnificent monument, which has 3,400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figurines.
There’s a viewing platform where, on a clear day, the view of Milan framed by the snow-peaked Alps is stunning.
10- Basilica of the Sacre Monte di Varallo
In northern Piedmont, 66km from Vercelli, the Sacro Monte di Varallo is a cluster of 45 chapels that is a unique Italian landmark.
Sacre Monte di Varallo is one of nine Sacri Monti (Sacred Mountains) that are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Created by Franciscan friars in 1491 to simulate Jerusalem.
The main building is the 1614 basilica, but you’ll want to explore the entire site.
Other chapels portray the life of Christ through frescoes and 800 life-size terracotta statues.
11- Mole Antonelliana
At 167.5 m (550 ft) high, Mole Antonelliana is an imposing structure with an unusual conical dome that can be seen from just about anywhere in Turin.
The 19th-century landmark in Italy’s first capital was designed by architect Alessandro Antonelli, initially as a synagogue for the Jewish community.
These days, the building is home to the National Museum of Cinema, which has an impressive collection of cinema paraphernalia.
Visiting Mole Antonelliana is one of the things to do in Turin not to be missed.
If you’re visiting Turin at the right time of the year, be sure to check out Turin’s Slow Food Festival, Salone del Gusto.
12- Caserta Royal Palace
Caserta is a palace complex built by King Charles III during the mid-18th century as Italy’s answer to Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid.
Located in the north of Naples, the complex is fit for royalty, with a palace, gardens, natural woodlands and hunting lodges, as well as a silk factory.
There are impressive fountains and a waterfall, four courtyards and three atriums.
Aqueduct Carolino’s viaduct “Ponti Della Valle” is a marvel of engineering, with infrastructure that served the palace as well as mills, ironworks and manufacturing industries.
13- Romeo and Juliette Balcony in Verona
It’s easy to see why Verona is one of Italy’s most beautiful cities.
Verona is also one of the most romantic places in Italy, known for its famous Juliet balcony from “Romeo and Juliet”.
Some of its famous landmarks and monuments date back to the medieval age when the wealthiest families in Verona flaunted their wealth.
The ‘Tower of the City’ in Piazza Delle Erbe is 84 m (275 feet) high and graces the skyline of Verona’s UNESCO World Heritage centre.
14- Rocca Maggiore
Rocca Maggiore in Assisi is a 12th-century castle and fortress that sits atop a hill overlooking Assisi.
Set among the rolling hills of Umbria, Assisi was the birthplace of the patron saint of Italy, St. Francis.
The UNESCO World Heritage town is a treasure trove of historical sights.
They include the Basilica of San Francesco, which is St. Francis’ burial place, and the Basilica of Santa Chiara, home to the tomb of St. Clare.
Climb the Maschio tower for a panoramic view of Assisi and the Umbrian Valley.
Natural Landmarks in Italy
15- Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius the volcano that adorns the skyline of the Bay of Naples.
It’s a natural landmark in Italy that has erupted over 50 times and is part of the Campanian volcanic arc of volcanoes.
The most famous historical eruption occurred in 79 AD, burying Pompeii for over 2000 years.
Although the last major volcanic eruption of Vesuvius was in 1944, it’s still an active volcano that could potentially threaten the millions of people who live around it.
The Dolomites is a stunning natural landmark in Italy and a paradise for adventure seekers.
In winter, it’s the place to go skiing or snowboarding while at other times of the year, it’s great for mountain climbing, hiking and cycling.
The 141,903 ha mountain range in the northern Italian Alps has 18 peaks that are higher than 3,000 m.
The landscapes are stunning, with sheer cliffs and deep valleys.
17- Mount Etna
Sicily’s east coast is home to Mount Etna, an active stratovolcano that is 3,300 m high, it’s also Europe’s biggest active volcano.
The volcano has erupted many times since the Roman era, most recently in 2017, although, its last major eruption was in 2008/2009.
If you’re an active traveller, climbing to the top of Mount Etna to look into the crater is a bucket list experience.
If you love adventure, another cool experience is to hike Stromboli.
18- Lake Garda
The largest lake in Italy straddles the provinces of Verona, Brescia and Trento.
Measuring 50 km -from north to south – and 20 km from east to west, Lake Garda is an impressive natural landmark in Italy when seen from the sky.
Covering an area of 370km² (143miles²), there’s plenty to see on and around the lake including picturesque Scaligero Castle, which is a national monument of Italy.
19- Lake Como
Mountains and charming villages dot the landscape around Lake Como, which is the third-largest lake in Italy marking the scene in the shape of a Y.
One of the world’s most famous historic hotels, Villa d’Este has an enviable position on the lake.
Stately gardens and lovely fountains surround the grand historic hotel.
Built in 1568, Villa d’Este became the home of Princess Caroline of Brunswick.
20- Torre Unicredit
Torre Unicredit is the tallest of a host of modern Italy landmarks.
The tower is 231 m high. It has a spiral that stretches up to the sky, a shiny glass surface and contemporary curves that reflect natural light.
The urban areas around the skyscraper and the piazza are part of a significant urban renewal project.
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