Italy offers a huge variety of places to go, making it hard to narrow down an itinerary. My picks for top places to go in 2023 include this year’s Italian Capital of Culture, a foodie and car lover’s city, a southern coastal region, and Italy’s northeastern region.
Where to go in Italy in 2023:
Brescia and Bergamo, Italian Capitals of Culture
On the rail line between Milan and Venice, Brescia and Bergamo are often overlooked by travelers but are interesting cities that aren’t so touristy and are well worth a visit. The two cities are co-capitals of culture for 2023. Brescia’s sights include Art-Deco architecture, a castle, a beautiful Renaissance square with clock tower, the old and new cathedrals, Roman ruins, and one of my favorite museums – the Santa Giulia City Museum housed in an 8th century convent. Brescia is also the starting point for the train ride to Lake Iseo and the Valcamonica, home of Italy’s first UNESCO World Heritage site.
The medieval city of Bergamo, above the modern city, is enclosed by 16th century Venetian defense walls that are a UNESCO World Heritage site. From the lower city a funicular takes visitors to the upper city, Citta Alta. Top sights include the 14th century citadel, a Romanesque church and 14th century baptistry, medieval architecture, the Civic Museum, and a botanical garden. There’s a modern art gallery in the lower part of the city. Bergamo can easily be visited as a day trip from Milan but staying in the old city is a great experience.
Brescia Travel Guide
Lombardy Map and Guide
If you like good food or fast cars, Modena, between Parma and Bologna, is the place for you! Modena is known for Balsamic vinegar and Ferrari but it also has a great historic center that includes a beautiful 12th century Romanesque cathedral. The city is in Italy’s food heartland as well as its motor valley so there’s something for all tastes. The Palazzo dei Musei is a complex of galleries and museums ranging from modern art to archaeology and ancient manuscripts. Its town hall also houses beautiful historic frescoes and tapestries.
We visited Modena for 3 days as guests of Italian Culinary Adventures, a fantastic 6 day program that combines great food experiences with cultural visits. Participants enjoy visits to artisan producers, cooking classes, outstanding dining experiences, a city tour, and even a visit to the Ferrari Museum. If you’re looking for a unique way to explore Italian food and culture, we highly recommend this program!
Italian Culinary Adventures
Modena Map and Guide
Emilia-Romagna Map and Guide
Cilento Coast, Southern Italy
The Cilento Coast is a less-developed and less-touristy stretch of coastline, south of the famous Amalfi Coast, lined with nice beaches with clean water. If you like to get a little off the beaten path, this is a great place to do it! In summer it’s a popular vacation spot for Italians and the main season runs from April through October.
One of the top places to visit in the area is the excellent archaeological site of Paestum, with both Roman and Greek remains including 3 well-preserved Greek temples, that can be reached by train or car. Another extensive archaeological site to explore is the Roman and Greek site of Velia, reached by car.
Agropoli is the largest town in the area and makes a good base for exploring coastal and inland sights. A short drive from Agropoli is the charming hill top town of Castelabbate, designated one of the Most Beautiful Villages of Italy, where the movie Benvenuti al Sud was filmed. Top coast towns include Acciaroli (a pretty town visited by Hemmingway), Pioppi with the Museum of the Mediterranean Diet, Polinuro where excursion boats take visitors into sea caves in summer, and the walled medieval town of Policastro (which can be reached by train). Head up the mountain to Pollica, a larger town and gateway to the small mountain communities and be sure to taste some of the fresh mozzarella for which this area is known.
Cilento Map and Travel Guide
Agropoli Travel Guide
Paestum Map and Travel Guide
Bordered by Austria, Slovenia, and the Adriatic Sea, Fruili-Venezia-Giulia is the northeastern region of Italy. Trieste, the region’s principal city and once the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s only port, sits on the coast on a sliver of land jutting into Slovenia and Slovenian influence can be seen in its architecture, food, and language. The region’s other provincial capital cities are Gorizia, Udine, and Pordenone.
To the west of Trieste is a beautiful lagoon area. Grado is a great place to stay to explore the area. One of the top archaeological sites is the excavations of the Roman city of Aquileia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, near Grado. Interesting small towns, castles, rolling hills, and vineyards dot the region. One of the most famous regional foods is prosciutto di San Daniele, a town in the region’s center.
Until May 31, 2023, tourists can get reimbursed for the cost of train tickets to travel within Italy to any of these four cities: Trieste, Udine, Grado, or Lignano Sabbiadoro as well as a 48-hour FGVCard for transportation, admissions, and tours. Offer Details
Fruili-Venezia-Giulia Map and Guide
Trieste Travel Guide
Grado Travel Guide
More Places to Go in Italy
My 2022 Travel Highlights
Top 5 Cities to Visit in Italy
Italy Guide Books
- Rick Steves Italy
- Fodor’s Essential Italy
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Italy
- Rome Books- Eating, Unusual Guides, and Memoirs
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