Italy is wonderfully diverse; below is a map of it. If you're just starting to plan your Italian vacation, you'll need to know the proximities of the cities best to visit. Our map shows Italy and its two largest islands, and the main cities to consider visiting.
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Map of Italy Showing Cities to Visit
Italy is composed of 20 regions, which are outlined in gray on the map. Each region has a different cuisine, and many regions and and provinces have their own dialect of Italian. This makes a trip to Italy like a trip to many different countries. You can access region maps by using the drop down list on the toolbar at the top of this page.
There are four main attractions in Italy on the map. Rome, Venice, and Florence make up the three most-visited cities, and the little villages of the Cinque Terre are the most popular rural attraction.
Major cities and towns in Italy are linked by rail lines, which is usually the recommended way to get between the larger ones. Trains usually drop passengers in the middle of a city, and that's usually where the historic core is found--the place you want to be. To plan a rail trip, see our Rail Map and Transportation Guide.
The cities are also linked be toll roads called autostrade, the plural of autostrada. We have an interactive autostrada map as well.
If planning a rail trip seems too daunting and you don't wish to drive, check out Viator's Extended tours. From the big cities you can take 1-3 day excursions to many popular destinations.
Accommodations in Italy
Italy has many forms, styles, and degrees of luxury in accommodations. Here's how I choose a hotel in Italy. I often prefer an apartment or vacation house to stay in, and I have compiled a list of extraordinary places to stay, called self-catering.
You can use the Booking.com box below to check out the range of accommodations in Italy. If you enter your dates, you can see prices as well.
Italy's Smaller Cities and Rural Areas
Rural food in Italy is amazing. The quality of the ingredients makes for simple dishes that bring out the best of local foods. See our video on the quality of ingredients grown where they like to grow: Culinary Ingredients.
Did you know there are special places in Italy that are protected against building speculation and mass tourism? Off the beaten track tourism is practically guaranteed in the Cilento, for example. And the greater part of it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Speaking of world heritage sites, did you know that the first Italian site so honored with the Valcamonica just north of Lake Iseo? The Valcamonica is stunningly beautiful, the ancient rock carvings it's known for (petroglyphs) are quite interesting, and the valley has numerous hiking trails to discover.
Many folks travel to experience the food and wine of Italy. Lunch in Italy, called pranzo, is often an Italian's big meal of the day, can start at noon but really gets going after 1pm, when the stores close until late in the afternoon. A pranzo di lavoro or "worker's lunch" can sometimes be had for as little as 10 euro in rural areas, and generally includes wine and coffee plus two courses, pasta and a meat course.
Generally, a service charge is included in the bill. It is customary to leave a few coins for a tip, or up to five percent of the total bill if the service is good (some say 10 percent in a fancy ristorante where the service is impeccable). In rural areas where one eats in a simple trattoria or osteria, tipping is usually not customary.
To find out more about eating out in Italy, see our guide to Italian food. Eating can be in interactive adventure, especially if you can converse in Italian. To find out what's best on the menu, see: How to Get Good Food in Italy.
If you're looking for an online source of books, we've partnered with bookshop.com, an online bookshop that supports your local bookstore as well as indy writers. Use the button below to see our recommended guides, cookbooks and maps.
Taking the Train
Each of the cities marked on the map above is easily accessible via Italy's vast rail network. Fast trains like the Frecce series (arrow in English) whisk you between the major cities like Rome and Naples at speeds over 150 km per hour. That's faster then you can drive--and without traffic jams or tolls. The train generally takes you from city center to city center, exactly where you want to be. International trains take you further. Venice is a mere three hours and forty one minutes from Zurich, for example. The smaller towns? You'll be surprised how well served they are by Italy's regional trains.
If you have a ticket or rail pass you can just arrive at the station, find the "binario" or track your train is on by reading the departures board and wait for or board your train if it's waiting at the station. There's no "arrive two hours early to assure your space on the plane" warnings when you ride the rails. If I'm going to a big city, I always choose the train, even when I have a car at my disposal.
Below are some resources you might find useful if you are considering taking the train on your Italian vacation.
A Little About The Geography of Italy
Italy is about the size of New Mexico, but very differently configured. About 40% of Italy is mountainous, with the alps arcing across northern Italy and the Apennine Mountains becoming the 405 mile "backbone" of Italy from the western Alps to the eastern Adriatic. Sicily and Sardinia form the largest islands. The largest Italian lake is Lake Garda. Agriculture takes up over 50% of the rural land.
Italy is simply amazing. If you're planning a trip for the future, sign up for our free newsletter, which includes destinations and discoveries as we travel around the boot.
Planning a Trip?
Here are some travel planning tools that are especially useful if you're planning your first or second trip to Italy.