Brunelleschi's dome (Florence): It took the genius of Filippo Brunelleschi to work out how to raise a vast dome over the huge hole in Florence's cathedral roof. Though rejected for a commission to cast the bronze doors of the Baptistery, Filippo didn't sulk. He went away and became the city's greatest architect, and the creator of one of Italy's most recognizable landmarks.

The Gothic center of Siena (Tuscany): The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo stands at the heart of one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities. Steep canyonlike streets, icons of Gothic architecture like the Palazzo Pubblico, and Madonnas painted on gilded altarpieces transport you back to a time before the Renaissance.

Pompeii (Campania): When Mt. Vesuvius blew its top in A.D. 79, it buried Pompeii under molten lava and ash, ending the lives of perhaps 35,000 citizens and suspending the city in a time capsule. Today, still under the shadow of the menacing volcano, this poignant ghost town can be coaxed into life with very little imagination.

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Valley of the Temples, Agrigento (Sicily): These seven Greek temples overlooking the sea were built to impress, and their honey-colored columns and pediments still do. Seeing the romantic ruins—some, like the Temple of Concordia, beautifully preserved; others like the Temple of Juno, timeworn but still proud—is an experience of a lifetime. 

Beehive towns of the southeast (Puglia): In the hinterlands of the Adriatic coast, storybook trulli dwellings enchant travelers to Alberobello and the Valle d’Itria. And once you’re here, a bonus: The mazelike “white cities” of Ostuni, Martina Franca, Locorotondo, and Cisternino. 

 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.