What do you imagine when you think of Italy? Maybe you picture Rome and its incredible history. Perhaps the uniqueness of Venice comes to mind. Very many of you will think of the wonderful dishes the Italians have given us. Who of us could live without pizza and pasta?
A word many people won’t immediately use is “picturesque”. There are many more defining features of Italy than its views, aren’t there? Well, this perception has led to friends telling me they were skipping Italy because they wanted to go somewhere beautiful, like Greece or the South of France.
The thing is, those who have visited more of Italy than Rome or Venice know that it has some of the most stunningly picturesque regions in the world. They range from coastal to mountainous, and almost everything in between.
If you’re looking for a vacation with magnificent beaches, landscapes, and towns, visit the following regions in Italy.
The Amalfi Coast
Start by looking for some incredible Amalfi villas. The Amalfi Coast stretches just fifty kilometers (or a little more than 30 miles), but is host to some of the most gorgeous towns and beaches on earth.
The town of Amalfi itself is perhaps the most well-known, and therefore it is packed with tourists over the peak period. This might get a bit much for some people, but those tourists are there for a reason. The town is dotted with charming houses and shops of different colors, but the main attraction is its cathedral. The architecture will take your breath away, with its magnificent facade and grand interior.
When you’re done with Amalfi (or if you choose to avoid its crowds), there are many more towns for you to visit that are as picturesque. The town of Sorrento is literally coastal, with beautiful buildings lining the coast. The town of Positano is infinitely “Grammable”, with its pastel-colored houses. Praiano is far less crowded than other towns but has some of the best views.
There are a range of incredible beaches, with crystal clear water, but the most stunning natural feature is the Grotto dello Smeraldo (or Emerald Cave). You can take a boat ride into one of the only caves in the world that is bathed in natural light. That light, of course, is emerald green, and you won’t quite believe what you’re seeing.
Lake Como is known as the vacation destination of the rich and famous since time immemorial. Seriously, rich Romans used to holiday there. These days, you’ll find figures like George Clooney and Richard Branson. In this day and age, they have far more options than the Romans but seem to agree that Lake Como is pretty amazing.
The lake itself is an inverted Y shape, with three branches that meet at the town of Bellagio. It is, of course, incredibly picturesque. It is also one of the deepest lakes in Europe, at 425 meters (or almost 1,300 feet).
The city of Como should be at the top of your agenda, as it is the birthplace of Renaissance architecture. You can also take a funicular from there to the mountain town of Brunate (yes, it’s a town on a mountain!). Don’t forget to spend at least a day in Bellagio, with cobblestone streets, the best view from a promontory where the branches of the lake meet, and one of the most famous villas – the Villa Serbelloni.
And that brings us to the villas, one of Lake Como’s most famous features. These villas were vacation or actual homes to important people once, and they were built with opulence and longevity in mind. The architecture is beautiful, and you can spend hours in some of their gardens.
Tuscany is home to the famous city of Florence, among plenty of other attractions. Florence is usually mentioned after the names of Rome and Venice, but that does not mean it isn’t the perfect destination for a vacation. It is the second biggest city in Italy, after Rome, but is picturesque in a more vivid way than Rome is. You’ll also find some of the most important Renaissance art there, including Michaelangelo’s David.
But Tuscany isn’t all about Florence. On the contrary, you can spend days in any one of the towns in this region. It is the perfect destination if you want time out in the country. Siena, a medieval hill town, is simply gorgeous. You can stop by in Pisa to take a photo with the leaning tower (it’s one of the less exciting Tuscany towns). The walled city of Lucca is another favorite of travelers.
Tuscany also has a wine region where you can see the vineyards, stay in beautiful villas, and go wine-tasting of course. Tuscany’s wine is some of the best in the world, and you can get it cheap at the wine farms where it is made.
If you want to spend some time at a spa, relaxing in luxury, the hot-springs of Montecatini Terme will more than meet your expectations. It is one of the best spa towns in the world and can be done in one day or it can host you for a retreat.
Italy is one of the most picturesque countries to visit in Europe, even if you tend to associate it more with history and canal cities. Visit any one of these three regions and you’ll have memories (and photos!) to last you a lifetime.