Historic sites in Italy

What are the best Historic sites in Italy?

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There's a host of top Historic sites in Italy to visit and among the very best are Ostia Antica, The Doge’s Palace and Herculaneum. Other popular sites tend to include Hadrian’s Villa, The Colosseum and Pompeii.

We’ve put together an experts guide to Italian cultural places, landmarks and monuments, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of Historic sites in Italy, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.

1. Ostia Antica

Ostia Antica is an extraordinary Roman site that contains the ruins of the ancient port town that served as the gateway to Rome. Just half an hour from central Rome by train, Ostia has all the inspiration of Pompeii without the throngs of tourists.

Today, visitors can view a great many ruins from the ancient town, including a well preserved Roman theatre, the Baths of Neptune, remains of the military camp, temples to ancient deities, the forum and even Ostia Synagogue, which is the oldest known synagogue site in Europe.

There is a small museum on site which has a number of artefacts and further information on the history of Ostia Antica.

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2. The Doge’s Palace

The Doge’s Palace of Venice is a gothic style structure in St. Mark’s Square which served as the residence of each successive ‘Doge’ or leader of the Venetian Republic until its fall in 1797.

One can now either tour the Doge’s Palace independently with audio tours or take the pre-booked secret itinerary tour, which includes a visit to the prison cell of the infamous Giacomo Casanova and other parts of the building only accessible through this tour. The wealth of history and architecture, including the Bridge of Sighs and the Doge’s apartments, make the Doge’s Palace a fascinating attraction.

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3. Herculaneum

Herculaneum was a port town established by the ancient Romans in what is now modern Ercolano. Like nearby Pompeii, Herculaneum was engulfed by the lava and mud which spewed from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and, as a result, much of the town was preserved throughout the centuries. 

In fact, Herculaneum arguably withstood the natural disaster better than Pompeii with many of its upper floors still being intact. This, combined with the fact that Herculaneum is less crowded and easier to walk through makes it a great site to visit. Some of the most stunning sites at Herculaneum include the thermal spas and baths, the gymnasium, the House with the Mosaic Atrium and the House of Neptune.

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4. Hadrian’s Villa

Hadrian’s Villa is perhaps the best-preserved Roman villa complex in the world. Built in the early 2nd century, the villa was the central hub of power in the Roman world for the latter years of Emperor Hadrian’s reign.

Hadrian’s Villa covers almost 250 acres and consists of over 30 buildings and a number of other points of interest. It includes a large colonnaded swimming pool, libraries, the Palestra and the famous Maritime Theatre. Most intriguing of all are the remains of the Emperor’s small island retreat – including his personal toilet – which served as Hadrian’s private escape from the stress of Imperial life.

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5. The Colosseum

The Colosseum is a site like no other. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, nothing represents the sheer power and magnificence of the Roman Empire like this stunning piece of ancient architecture. A visit offers an insight into the lives of Roman citizens and those who had the misfortune of fighting there.

 In particular, it is now possible to tour the underground hallways and corridors where the gladiators of ancient Rome would prepare to fight and ponder their mortality. Also recently opened are the higher areas of the structure, from where you can take in views of the Roman Forum. There is a museum within the Colosseum with a wealth of interesting artifacts and information and audio guides are available in a number of languages.

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6. Pompeii

One of the best known ancient sites in the world, Pompeii was an ancient Roman city founded in the 6th to 7th century BC and famously destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Today, Pompeii is one of the world’s most famous archeological sites. It is a ghost town filled with the bodies of its tragic citizens, many of whom died from asphyxiation and who were preserved by the ash and cinders which buried them. 

The most intriguing aspect of Pompeii and what makes it such a popular site to visit is the extent to which its homes, buildings and artifacts have remained intact. Essentially, walking through Pompeii is treading in the footsteps of ancient Roman life, with its houses, shops, walkways, pedestrian stones and carriage tracks. Pompeii Amphitheatre is also staggeringly impressive, it being a 20,000 seat structure and the first ever stone amphitheatre.

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7. Palazzo Vecchio

Palazzo Vecchio in Florence is an iconic fourteenth century palace. Completed in 1322, it served as the seat of the city’s governing body, a function it still fulfils today. Housing a stunning collection of artwork and sculptures by some of Italy’s most celebrated artists such as Donatello, Bronzino and Michelangelo, it's a fascinating and beautiful site.

For children, Palazzo Vecchio has a series of “secret rooms” to explore, although note that this must be booked in advance. Guided tours are available.

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8. Leaning Tower of Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the world’s most famous buildings, particularly due to its leaning stance which leaves it forever appearing to be toppling over. The tower began to lean very early on in its construction, apparently around the time of the construction of its third floor. The reason for the lean is that the ground on which it was built is sandy and unstable and the foundations used for the tower were insufficient to cope with this.

Today, visitors can admire the ornate white marble structure and climb the 186 feet to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa up a staggering 300 steps.

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9. Paestum

Paestum is a Greco-Roman site located south of Naples which contains the stunning remains of three ancient Greek temples which still stand tall today. Visitors to Paestum can still see the spectacular temples – the Temple of Hera, the Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Ceres.

The site also contains impressive defensive walls, a Roman forum, the basic remains of a Roman amphitheatre and a number of ancient tombs. Paestum also boasts an early Christian church and Paestum Museum, which has a wealth of information about the local sites.

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10. Saint Mark’s Basilica

Saint Mark’s Basilica is a world famous Byzantine cathedral in Venice’s St. Mark’s Square, sometimes known as Chiesa d’Oro or "Church of gold". Every aspect of the basilica is on a grand scale, from its three-part façade with ornate theological carvings to its Greek cross-shaped interior with its ceilings covered in golden mosaics. In fact, the basilica is so elaborate that its entrance or "narthex" is intended to prepare visitors for what they are about to see. 

Guided tours are available or an independent walk around St Mark’s Basilica only takes approximately ten minutes to half an hour. There is also a museum and access to the bell tower.

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Full list of Historic sites in Italy

Beyond the most famous Italian cultural places, landmarks and monuments, there’s many similar places to visit, including Palazzo Vecchio, Leaning Tower of Pisa and Paestum to name but a few. We’re constantly expanding this list of Historic sites in Italy and you can view the current selection below.

Acqua Marcia

Acqua Marcia is an ancient aqueduct of Rome built in the first century BC.

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Alba Fucens

Alba Fucens is an ancient city in the modern town of Albe in the Abruzzo region of central Italy and is a stunning example of Roman ruins dating back to 303BC.

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Aquileia Archaeological Area

The Aquileia Archaeological Area is home to the remains of an affluent Roman trading port.

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Aquileia Basilica

The Aquileia Basilica has a history dating back to the Romans.

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Arch of Augustus - Rimini

The Arch of Augustus in Rimini was built to honour the first emperor of the Roman Empire.

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Arch of Constantine

The Arch of Constantine was a triumphal arch built by the Emperor Constantine the Great in 315AD.

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Arch of Janus

The Arch of Janus is an Ancient Roman triumphal arch in Rome.

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Arch of Septimius Severus

The Arch of Septimus Severus is a Roman triumphal arch built by the Emperor Septimus Severus to celebrate his military victories.

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Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus is a Roman triumphal arch built by the Emperor Domitian to commemorate the victories of his elder brother, Emperor Titus.

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Area Sacra di Largo Argentina

Area Sacra di Largo Argentina is the site of four Ancient Roman temples.

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Atrium Vestae

The Atrium Vestae in the Roman Forum was home to Ancient Rome’s only holy priestesses.

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Aula Ottagona

Part of the vast 4th century Baths of Diocletian, the Aula Ottagona is probably the best preserved original structure.

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Baia

Baia was once the summer retreat of Ancient Rome’s elite and is now an archaeological park outside Naples.

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Basilica Aemelia

Basilica Aemelia was a commercial building of Ancient Rome located in the Forum.

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Basilica Julia

Basilica Julia was an Ancient Roman courthouse in Rome’s Forum.

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Basilica Santa Maria in Cosmedin

Santa Maria in Cosmedin is a charming 8th century church in Rome and home to an unusual ancient artefact.

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Basilica di Santa Croce

The Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, Italy is most famous for being the burial place of many of the city's most iconic figures.

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Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is a Patriarchal Basilica and home to the famous Sistine Chapel.

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Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine

The Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine was an Ancient Roman meeting house, the remains of which stand in the Roman Forum.

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Basilica of Sant Angelo

The Basilica of Sant Angelo is an eleventh century church partially made up of the remains of a Roman temple.

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Baths of Caracalla

The Baths of Caracalla were an Ancient Roman public baths and leisure complex and remain well-preserved.

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Baths of Diocletian

The huge Baths of Diocletian complex was built in the early 4th century and covers a vast area. Today elements can be seen in a number of buildings, including the National Museum of Rome.

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Boscoreale Villa and Antiquarium

The Boscoreale Villa and Antiquarium contains the remains of a Roman villa, destroyed during the eruption of Vesuvius, as well as an archaeological museum.

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Cagliari Amphitheatre

Cagliari Amphitheatre is a rock-hewn Roman amphitheatre dating to the second century AD.

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Campania Amphitheatre

Campania Amphitheatre was second in size only to Rome’s Colosseum.

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Cannae Battlefield

Cannae Battlefield is the location of Hannibal’s greatest victory in 216 BC over a huge Roman army led Consuls Varro and Paullus.

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Capua Archaeological Museum

Capua Archaeological Museum houses a collection of ancient artefacts and is next to an ancient Mithraeum.

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Capua Gladiator Museum

Capua Gladiator Museum is a small archaeological museum connected to Campania Amphitheatre.

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Capuchin Crypt

The Capuchin Crypt in Rome is an eerie underground vault, located beneath a medieval church, which contains the macabre remains of 4,000 Capuchin monks.

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Castel Sant Angelo

Castel Sant Angelo was the tomb of the Roman Emperor Hadrian later used as a fort.

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Castel del Monte

Castel del Monte is an impressive thirteenth century fortified palace of Frederick II listed by UNESCO.

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Castello di San Michele

Castello di San Michele is a medieval fortress turned luxury home, hospital and museum.

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Castelvecchio Museum

Castelvecchio Museum and Fortress is a 14th century medieval castle which now hosts a fine art gallery and museum.

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Catacombe di San Gennaro

Catacombe di San Gennaro are a complex of underground tombs in use from early Christianity to medieval times.

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Catacombs of the Capuchins

The Catacombs of the Capuchins in which thousands of preserved corpses dating from the sixteenth century onwards are displayed.

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Chiesa del Gesu

The Chiesa del Gesu is an historic church in Rome notable for its artistic decorations, particularly its ceiling frescoes, and its place as the centre of the Catholic Jesuit Order.

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Chiesa di San Lucifero

Chiesa di San Lucifero is a baroque seventeenth century church in Cagliari built on the remains of a sixth century Christian necropolis.

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Circus Maximus

The Circus Maximus was the main sports stadium of Ancient Rome.

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Circus of Maxentius

The Circus of Maxentius is one of the best preserved Ancient Roman arenas in Rome.

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Civita di Bagnoregio

Known as ’Il paese che muore’ (The dying town), Civita di Bagnoregio is a stunning medieval city that sits atop an eroded citadel. Founded by the Etruscans 2,500 years ago, it has been continuously inhabited to present day.

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Como Monument to the Fallen

Como's Monument to the Fallen is an imposing memorial designed to honour fallen soldiers of World War I.

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Coriano Ridge War Cemetery

Coriano Ridge War Cemetery is a World War II Commonwealth cemetery in Coriano in Italy.

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Cumae Archaeological Park

Cumae Archaeological Park in Pozzuoli houses a series of ancient ruins and artefacts and is thought to have been inhabited as far back as the Iron Age.

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Curia Julia

The Curia Julia was the senate house in Ancient Rome and part of the Roman Forum.

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Domus Augustana

Domus Augustana was the palace of Ancient Rome’s emperors on the Palatine Hill.

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Domus Romane di Palazzo Valentini

The Domus Romane is an incredible Roman site found underneath the 16th century villa Palazzo Valentini, and located close to Trajan's Forum in the heart of what was once the centre of Imperial Rome.

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Flavian Amphitheatre

The Flavian Amphitheatre is a well preserved first century Roman structure in Pozzuoli.

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Flavian Palace

The Flavian Palace, built by the Emperor Domitian on the Palatine Hill, was the place where several Roman emperors held their official functions.

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Florence Archaeological Museum

Florence Archaeological Museum combines an impressive collection of Etruscan art with Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman artefacts.

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Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral, with its iconic ‘duomo’, is a world famous fifteenth century cathedral.

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Fonte Avellana

Fonte Avellana is a picturesque medieval hermitage in Italy’s Marche region.

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Forum of Augustus

The Forum of Augustus was built by the Roman emperor to celebrate avenging Caesar at the Battle of Philippi and defeating his assassins.

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Forum of Caesar

The Forum of Caesar was the first of the Imperial Forums built in Ancient Rome.

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Forum of Trajan

The Forum of Trajan was one of the Imperial Forums of Ancient Rome.

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Ludus Magnus

The preserved ruins of Ancient Rome’s largest and most prestigious gladiator training school, located next to the Colosseum in central Rome.

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Mamertine Prison

The Mamertine Prison was an Ancient Roman prison in which Saints Peter and Paul may have been held.

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Mausoleum of Augustus

The Mausoleum of Augustus was the tomb of Rome’s first emperor.

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Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella

The Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella is a 1st century BC tomb turned medieval fortress.

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Mausoleum of Galla Placidia

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia is an early 5th century Christian chapel in Ravenna that was thought to hold the tomb of Roman Empress Galla Placidia.

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Metapontum

The remains of the Ancient Greek city of Metapontum - part of ’Magna Grecia’ - include theatres, temples and drainage.

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Monreale Cathedral

Monreale Cathedral is a twelfth century church near Palermo and an excellent example of Norman architecture.

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Monte Cassino War Cemetery

Monte Cassino War Cemetery is the biggest British and Commonwealth war cemetery from WW2 in Italy.

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Museo Egizio di Torino

Museo Egizio di Torino has one of the world’s best collections of Ancient Egyptian artefacts.

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Museo del Sannio di Benevento

Museo del Sannio is an historical museum in Benevento which displays ancient and medieval artefacts from the local area.

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Naples Cathedral

Naples Cathedral was completed in the fourteenth century and houses the relics of San Gennaro.

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Naples National Archeological Museum

The Naples National Archaeological Museum holds comprehensive collections from the Greek, Roman and Egyptian eras.

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Necropolis of Cerveteri

The Etruscan necropolis at Cerveteri in northern Lazio is one of the very best examples of its kind into the entire Mediterranean basin with a thousand tombs and is known as the 'City of the Dead'.

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Necropolis of Pantalica

The Necropolis of Pantalica in Sicily contains over five thousand ancient rock carved tombs dated to between the 13th and 7th centuries BC.

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Nora Archaeological Site

The Nora Archaeological Site in Sardinia houses ancient Phoenician and Roman ruins.

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Palace of Septimius Severus

The Palace of Septimius Severus was magnificent extension of the Domus Augustana on the Palatine.

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Palace of the Elders Ancona

The Palace of the Elders in Ancona has been a seat of local governance for centuries.

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Palatine Hill

The Palatine Hill is known as the birthplace of Rome. It houses some of the city’s most impressive ancient sites.

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Palazzo Nuovo

The Palazzo Nuovo is an archaeological museum of Ancient Greek and Roman art. Part of the Musei Capitolini.

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Palazzo Pitti

Palazzo Pitti was the home of the Medici family and now houses the Palatine Gallery.

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Palazzo dei Conservatori

Palazzo dei Conservatori displays numerous important classical pieces. Part of the Musei Capitolini.

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Palazzo dei Normanni

Palazzo dei Normanni is a Norman palace expanded from a ninth century Islamic building.

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Palermo Cathedral

Palermo Cathedral dates back to Norman times and was the site of coronations and royal burials.

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Pantheon

The Pantheon in Rome is one of the most famous and well-preserved ancient buildings in the world.

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Pianosa Island

One of Italy’s prison islands, Pianosa sits in the Tyrrhenian Sea and from 1856 until 1998 the penal colony was a prison farm, a sanatorium and also held some of Italy’s most notorious mafiosi…

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Pisa Cathedral Complex

The Pisa Cathedral Complex houses one of the world’s most celebrated ecclesiastical landscapes.

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Ponte Rotto

Ponte Rotto is the remaining arch of a second century BC Roman Republic bridge.

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Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio is one of Florence’s most famous tourist attractions and the oldest bridge in the city. It is known for the collection of jewellery shops which span its length and is now a massive draw for visitors.

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Pyramid of Cestius

The Pyramid of Cestius is a unique and startling pyramid-shaped tomb dating back to Ancient Roman times.

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Rimini City Museum

The Rimini City Museum is this city’s most extensive history museum.

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Rimini Gurkha War Cemetery

The Rimini Gurkha War Cemetery is a World War II graveyard for Commonwealth forces in Rimini.

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Rimini Roman Amphitheatre

The Rimini Roman Amphitheatre dates back to the second century.

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Roman Forum

The Roman Forum was the very centre of ancient Rome. Throughout the lifespan of Roman civilisation the Forum served as the focus of political, civic and religious life.

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Roman Theatre of Benevento

The Roman Theatre of Benevento is a well-preserved semi-circular Roman theatre that was built under the Emperor Hadrian.

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Salerno Cathedral

Salerno Cathedral is an eleventh century cathedral housing the tomb of Saint Matthew the Evangelist.

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San Giorgio degli Schiavoni

San Giorgio degli Schiavoni was a fifteenth century school of Venice’s Schiavoni community.

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San Giovanni in Laterano

San Giovanni in Laterano is Rome’s cathedral, originally founded by Constantine the Great.

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San Lorenzo Church

San Lorenzo Church in Florence is a fifteenth century church commissioned by the Medici family.

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San Lorenzo Maggiore

What seems to be an attractive 13th century church in Naples contains a startling secret – the amazing underground remains of the Greco-Roman city of Neapolis.

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San Pietro in Vincoli

The beautiful San Pietro in Vincoli in Rome is a quiet, inconspicuous ancient church containing several stunning sculptures by the famous artist Michelangelo as well as famed religious artefacts said to date back to St Peter.

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San Saturnino Basilica

San Saturnino Basilica is one of Sardinia’s oldest churches.

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Sanctuary of La Verna

The Sanctuary of La Verna is said to be the site where Saint Francis of Assisi received stigmata.

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Santa Maria in Trastevere

Santa Maria in Trastevere is thought to have been the first Christian church in Rome.

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Segesta

Segesta contains the famous fifth century BC incomplete, but very well-preserved, Temple of Segesta.

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Selinunte

Selinunte is an Ancient Greek archaeological site in Sicily containing the ruins of an acropolis and five temples.

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St Sebastian Catacombs

The St. Sebastian Catacombs are some of the earliest of the Christian catacombs in Rome.

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Stabiae

Stabiae contains the ruins of both ancient Roman and Oscan civilizations, dating back as far as the 7th century BC.

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Su Nuraxi di Barumini

Su Nuraxi di Barumini is a pretty UNESCO-listed prehistoric site in Sardinia and one of the island’s many nuraghe.

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Syracuse Archaeological Site

The Syracuse Archaeological Site contains the impressive remains of an ancient city dating as far back as the eighth century BC.

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Taormina Amphitheatre

Taormina Amphitheatre was first built by the Ancient Greeks in the third century BC and reconstructed by the Romans.

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Tempio Malatestiano

Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini is a former Franciscan church turned lavish Renaissance mausoleum.

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Temple of Antoninus and Faustina

The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina is one of the best preserved of the structures in the Roman Forum.

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Temple of Caesar

The Temple of Caesar was built in honour of Julius Caesar. Its altar remains in the Roman Forum.

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Temple of Castor and Pollux

The Temple of Castor and Pollux in the Roman Forum was built following a military victory.

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Temple of Concord

The Temple of Concord was an Ancient Roman temple in Rome’s Forum.

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Temple of Ercole Vincitore

The Temple of Ercole Vincitore is Rome's oldest surviving example of a marble temple.

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Temple of Saturn

The Temple of Saturn was the site of the national treasury of Ancient Rome, the ruins of which stand in the Roman Forum.

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Temple of Venus and Rome

The Temple of Venus and Rome was created under Hadrian and is located in the Roman Forum.

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Temples of the Forum Boarium

The Temples of the Forum Boarium are two of the best preserved Roman temples to have survived from the Republican era.

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Tharros

Tharros, in Sardinia, was founded by the Phoenicians and contains mostly Roman ruins.

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The Claudio Aqueduct - Rome

The Claudio Aqueduct is an Ancient Roman aqueduct which served Rome from 52 AD.

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The Felice Aqueduct - Rome

The Felice Aqueduct in Rome dates back to the sixteenth century.

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The Giuseppe Whitaker Museum

On the tiny San Pantaleo island off the western coast of Sicily is the Giuseppe Whitaker Museum which houses a magnificent collection of Phoenician artefacts collected by amateur archaeologist Joseph ‘Giuseppe’ Whitaker.

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The House of Augustus

The House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill was the home of Rome’s first emperor.

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The House of Livia

The House of Livia was the home of Augustus’s third wife.

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The Palatine Hill Stadium

The Palatine Hill Stadium was part of the imperial palace of Ancient Rome’s emperors.

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The Palatine Museum

The Palatine Museum exhibits ancient finds from the famous Palatine Hill in Rome.

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The Protestant Cemetery of Rome

The Protestant Cemetery of Rome is the final resting place of famous non-Catholic poets, artists and philosophers.

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The Regia

The Regia in Rome’s Forum was a royal residence turned office of the Pontifex Maximus.

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The Surgeon’s House - Rimini

The Surgeon’s House is an archaeological site which uncovers Rimini’s past from Ancient Roman times.

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The Temple of Vesta

The Temple of Vesta was an Ancient Roman shrine now found on the Roman Forum.

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The Uffizi

The Uffizi is Florence’s world famous art gallery and was originally intended as the offices of Duke Cosimo I dei Medici.

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Theatre of Marcellus

The partially-preserved remains of one of the most important theatres in ancient Rome, built by Julius Caesar and Augustus.

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Tiberius Bridge - Rimini

Tiberius Bridge is a first century Roman Bridge in Rimini.

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Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker

The Tomb of Eurysaces the Baker is an impressive ancient tomb dating back to 30BC.

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Trajan Arch of Ancona

The Trajan Arch of Ancona is an Ancient Roman monument to the Emperor Trajan.

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Trajan Arch of Benevento

The Trajan Arch of Benevento is a 2nd century AD triumphal arch built for the Emperor Trajan.

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Trajan’s Markets

One of the best preserved elements of the ancient city to have survived, Trajan’s Markets are an oft-overlooked gem in the heart of the Eternal City.

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Trani Cathedral

Trani Cathedral is a medieval church in Apulia, Italy.

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Trasimene Battlefield

Trasimene Battlefield is the location of major defeat of the Roman army by Hannibal during the Second Punic War.

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Trebbia Battlefield

Location of the first major battle of the Second Punic War between Hannibal and the Roman consuls Scipio and Longus.

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Urbino

Urbino is a beautiful UNESCO-listed walled city which was a creative hub during the Renaissance.

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Valley of the Temples

The Valley of the Temples is a UNESCO-listed site in Sicily housing the very well-preserved remains of several Ancient Greek temples.

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Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums house a comprehensive collection of artwork and historical pieces from throughout history.

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Velia Archaeological Site

The Velia Archaeological Site contains Greek, Roman and medieval ruins of the city initially founded as Elea.

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Verona Arena

Verona Arena is a stunning Roman amphitheatre built in 30AD.

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Via Appia Antica

Via Appia Antica, built in 312 BC, is one of the most important roads leading to Rome.

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Villa Gregoriana

Villa Gregoriana is a park in Tivoli which mixes natural and archaeological beauty to great effect.

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Villa Jovis

Villa Jovis was the cliff-top Capri home of Roman Emperor Tiberius.

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Villa Poppaea

Villa Poppea was the home of the second wife of the Roman Emperor Nero.

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Villa Romana del Casale

Villa Romana del Casale is a UNESCO-listed Roman villa in Sicily containing some of the world’s best preserved Roman mosaics.

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Our database of Historic sites in Italy is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. So, if you know of other Italian cultural places, landmarks and monuments, you can always add them to Trip Historic now by contacting us today.