Jan 30, 2024



Travel Inspiration

The 5 Best Places to Visit in Italy for the First Time

Fora Author Fora

The Modern Travel Agency


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A Venetian cathedral mere steps from one of Venice's famous canals, lined with gondolas and motor boats. (Photo by Mali Maeder)

Curious about the best places to visit in Italy for the first time? Whether you’re a history junkie, a foodie or anything in between, your travel preferences may have a big impact on which famous Italian destination makes the most sense for your debut trip. So: we’re breaking down the five best cities to visit in Italy for first timers.

Or, if you’re ready to start travel planning today, connect with Fora to book and plan your first trip to Italy with expert travel recs, complimentary VIP hotel perks and more.

The 5 best cities to visit in Italy for the first time, from historic Rome to trendy Milan

If food and architecture are your vibe, virtually all the best places to stay in Italy for first-timers deliver (although, there’s plenty of variety across Italy). But if you’re visiting for another reason — perhaps to explore the best of Italy’s countryside — some destinations may make more sense than others. 

(BTW: if you want to visit all the best places in Italy for your first time in-country, read through our 14-day Italy itinerary.)

1. Rome: Italy’s best place to visit for history-loving first timers

In line with classic Rome architecture, the courtyard of Hotel De La Ville boasts fine table settings under umbrellas while wrought iron balconies on ornate walls host hanging plants

Image courtesy of Hotel De La Ville, A Rocco Forte Hotel

Thousands of years after Rome’s mythical founding by the brothers Romulus and Remus, it’s nearly impossible to navigate the city’s venerable streets without reminders of the city’s deep history. Rome isn’t just one of the best places to visit in Italy for the first time, but Europe as well considering just how long the city was the center of Western civilization. 

Beyond Rome’s history, though, there’s a cosmopolitan vibe with plenty to do and see. Our 3-day Rome itinerary, for example, highlights intriguing art museums, cooking classes and more. And if you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Rome (including some of the best boutique hotels in Italy), check out our guide or connect with Fora directly for one-on-one, expert travel planning. One of our go-to's, however, is the luxe Hotel de la Ville.

Fora Perks at Hotel de la Ville, A Rocco Forte Hotel:

  • $100 hotel / resort credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible, additional exclusive offers.

2. Florence (& Tuscany): the best place to visit in Italy for first timers who love art

From the chic rooftop lounge of Continentale in Florence, the grand canal is visible at sunset

Image courtesy of Continentale

Like Rome, Florence’s influence on history can’t be overstated. Florence is widely believed to be the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has continued to serve as one of Italy’s most important cultural hubs since great figures like Leonardo de Vinci and Niccolò Machiavelli called the city home hundreds of years ago.

While Florence is best known for its art scene — with museums like the Galleria dell'Accademia having a hand in cultivating that reputation — the city is also home to a thriving gastronomy that samples native Tuscan cuisine and international menus (see our insider’s guide to Florence).

Overall, Florence is one of Italy’s best cities to visit for first timers who love to immerse themselves in new cultures. Wondering where to stay in Florence (or where to stay in Tuscany, Italy’s famous countryside)? Our guides offer a rundown of the best places to stay, including one of our favorite retreats, Continentale.

Fora Perks at Continentale:

  • Complimentary one-way airport transfer, complimentary entrance to Salvatore Ferragamo Museum for two, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

3. Milan: the best place to visit in Italy for first timers obsessed with fashion & luxe travel

An attendant stands at the walled gate to the Mandarin Oriental in Milan

Image courtesy of Mandarin Oriental, Milan

There may not be a city in Italy that blends historical significance with contemporary Italian culture quite like Milan. 

On one hand, Milan is one of the world’s foremost fashion capitals. The city is home to dozens of world-class luxury brands and fashion shows, making it an ideal destination for shoppers and designers alike. On the other hand, the city is regarded as Italy’s financial hub, drawing travelers from all over for a huge variety of interests. 

Together, these aspects make Milan Italy’s most cosmopolitan city and an excellent destination for first-time travelers seeking high-end experiences from elite dining to an incredible nightlife (just see all the cool things to do in Milan). And since this is still Italy, virtually every street is lined with brilliant architecture and friendly locals eager to share their pride in their home city.

Want to know where to stay in Milan? (You can't go wrong with the Mandarin Oriental, Milan.) As always, plan your trip with Fora for personalized itineraries and support. 

Fora Perks at Mandarin Oriental, Milan:

  • $100 food / beverage credit, breakfast daily, upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

4. Venice: the most romantic city to visit in Italy for the first time

Elegant Old World furniture fills an exceptionally opulent room at Cipriani, A Belmond Hotel, Venice. Through a window, the canals of Venice and a famous church are visible

Image courtesy of Cipriani, A Belmond Hotel, Venice

One of the most unique places to visit in Italy (or Europe) for the first time, Venice — a.k.a. “the Floating City” or “City of Canals” — is a special place.

Technically a group of islands off the mainland coast, Venice feels disconnected from the rest of the country, lending the city an air of exclusivity and escapism. Classic Venetian architecture, narrow stone streets and scenic canals provide an intimate backdrop for couple’s trips, with hidden gems around every corner.

Cipriani, A Belmond Hotel, is one of our top choices if you’re looking for a ritzy stay. The hotel sits along the southern coast of the island of Giudecca, near the Church of San Giorgio Maggiore, a prominent feature along the Venezia waterway.

Looking for travel inspiration? Our 3-day Venice itinerary has plenty of ideas for things to do and see, and our guide on where to stay in Venice suggests the best neighborhoods and hotels. 

Fora Perks at Cipriani, A Belmond Hotel, Venice:

  • $90 hotel / resort credit, welcome amenity, breakfast daily.

5: Amalfi: a gorgeous retreat away from the confines of urban living

Okay, okay — Amalfi isn’t technically a city, but the town and its namesake coastline are still among the best places to visit in Italy for first timers (if not one of the best places to visit in Europe). 

This gorgeous stretch of Italian coastline promises endless relaxation and a wealth of both natural and architectural sights. A one-time Byzantine stronghold, remnants of that past can still be found throughout the town, which is otherwise made up of charming, cliffside homes and luxury resorts. 

Speaking of, Borgo Santandrea is among the most luxurious hotels in Amalfi. But there are plenty of other choices (including more affordable hotels) as you venture further from the town.

The coast is also a wonderful place to charter a boat tour, sample delectable gastronomy and explore lovely villages. 

(BTW: planning a romantic getaway? The Amalfi Coast is widely considered among the best honeymoon destinations.)

Fora Perks at Borgo Santandrea:

  • $100 food / beverage credit, breakfast daily, extended check-in/out whenever possible.

So what part of Italy should you visit first? (Hint: it depends!)

From the shore (unseen), the steep, tiered walls of Borgo Santandrea, with rooms built into the cliffside. At the top, a whitewashed hotel stands prominently, surrounded by manicured gardens

Image courtesy of Borgo Santandrea

There’s no right answer to this question, unfortunately. Your best place to visit in Italy for the first time will depend on your interests — and may not be featured here. Sorrento, Naples and Sicily are but a few of the coolest places worth checking out across Italy (check out where to stay in Naples and the best places to stay in Sorrento). 

To that end…

Ready to visit the best places in Italy for your first trip? Connect with Fora

Ready to find your best place to visit in Italy for the first time? Maybe the best places to stay in Sorrento or our guide to where to stay in Naples, Italy have your answer. 

Better yet, connect with Fora to plan and book your trip, and we’ll supply you with tailored recs and insider intel — not to mention awesome travel perks like complimentary room upgrades, property credits and more (all for the same price as booking online).

Not sure Italy is the right destination for your next trip? Check out these other awesome places to visit for the first time:

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