20+ of the Best Places to Visit in Central Italy: Highlights and Hidden Gems

From medieval towns and cities to rolling hills and vineyards to natural wonders, there’s no shortage of jaw-dropping places to visit in Central Italy.

The regions of Lazio, Umbria, Tuscany, and Marche are a must-have on any Italy lover’s bucket list, so let’s see what they have to offer, whether you are looking for a road trip destination or want to plan a weekend getaway.

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Central Italy travel guide: Best places to visit in Central Italy (destinations in Lazio, Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche)


20+ OF THE BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN CENTRAL ITALY

ROME, LAZIO

While the Italian capital might not be the number one highlight of this Central Italy bucket list (no offense to any Rome addicts), it most certainly is a magnificent place to visit.

Known as the Eternal City, it is the infamous capital of the Roman Empire, the city of gorgeous piazzas and fountains, and the home of invaluable archeological sites, basilicas, and works of art by Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and many others.

There’s no shortage of landmarks in Rome that will transport to the past, including the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Baths of Caracalla, and Circus Maximus. If you’re an art lover, don’t miss Galleria Borghese and the Capitoline Museums.

Take your time to stroll through the enchanting Trastevere neighborhood, throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, appreciate the beauty of Piazza Navona, admire the Castel Sant’Angelo, and indulge in Cacio e Pepe, Carciofi alla Giudìa, and Suppli.

You should also pay a visit to the Vatican City to see the Sistine Chapel or take day trips to Ostia Antica and Tivoli. That’s, of course, just the tip of the iceberg because Rome offers hundreds of things to do and see.

Views of the Roman Forum in Rome

FLORENCE, TUSCANY

Florence, the Tuscan capital, is one of the most captivating cities in Central Italy. Considered by many as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, it’s the ideal destination to marvel at art and architecture from that period.

From the infamous Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo di Firenze) and dozens of palazzos across the city to Michelangelo’s David sculpture and Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’ painting, Florence is a Renaissance powerhouse.

Its historic center is a UNESCO Site, home to unmissable squares, landmarks, and museums such as Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Strozzi, Uffizi Gallery, and Basilica of Santa Croce.

To follow the footsteps of the noble Medici family, the wealthy dynasty that allowed Florence to flourish as a Renaissance capital, visit Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Palazzo Pitti, and Palazzo Vecchio.

Last but not least, be sure to see the medieval Ponte Vecchio, enjoy the scenic views from Piazzale Michelangelo, admire the Great Synagogue, and stroll through the Boboli Gardens.

Santa Maria Novella church in Florence

CASTIGLIONE DEL LAGO, UMBRIA

By Brigitte & Jake from Nothing Familiar

Castiglione del Lago is a beautiful small town overlooking Lago Trasimeno in the Umbria region. The area is known as the “Green Heart of Italy,” which is evident from the surrounding nature. 

If you can believe it, this historic town dates back over 2,600 years! The center is filled with small streets that are bursting with life, restaurants, and fun cafes. 

No visit to Umbria is complete without experiencing the palace of Castiglione del Lago and its 12th-century castle.

In the summer months, you can even watch an outdoor movie or catch a play at the theater inside the historic walls. 

Castiglione del Lago makes for a great stop during your day of exploring the area. It is only 30 minutes from the famous town of Montepulciano and 20 minutes from Cortona.

Green landscapes and lake views at Castiglione del Lago
Castiglione del Lago by Nothing Familiar

LUCCA, TUSCANY

By Kate from Our Escape Clause

Located more or less between Florence and Pisa, the laid-back and gorgeous city of Lucca is one of the best places to visit in Central Italy!

Known for its Renaissance architecture, picturesque historic center (still fully surrounded by its city walls), and for being the “City of 100 Churches”, Lucca is a peaceful alternative to Florence if you’re looking for a place to base yourself in northern Tuscany.

Some of the best things to do in Lucca include paying a visit to the oval-shaped Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, strolling along the city’s intact defensive walls, and climbing the Torre Guinigi to visit Lucca’s Garden in the Sky.

When it comes to Lucca’s churches, don’t miss St. Martin’s Cathedral, the Basilica of San Michele in Foro, or the Basilica of San Freidano (don’t miss the mummy inside!). Opera fans will also want to visit the Puccini Museum.

In addition to the city itself, Lucca is also very well-positioned for day trips to Pisa, Florence, San Gimignano, Volterra, and beyond. Even Cinque Terre is a workable day trip from Lucca!

Aperitif in Lucca with a backdrop of a lovely square
Lucca by Our Escape Clause

ORVIETO, UMBRIA

By Jolene from Wanderlust Storytellers

Orvieto, a small town in Central Italy, is not one that you hear of often, but it is definitely a must-see place.

This historic city has some of the most incredible sights, and after exploring this town for yourself, you may find it to be the prettiest city in Italy, located just outside of Rome.

As you stroll through the storied streets of Orvieto, you will be immersed in so much history. Visit sites like the Duomo di Orvieto or Orvieto’s underground passageways.

You can even climb the Torre del Moro, where you can see amazing views of the surrounding Paglia Valley. Be sure to also check out the tower with the two bells.

These are just a few of the great places to see when in Orvieto. If you want to ensure you do not miss any of the sights, book a walking tour!

Orvieto from above
Orvieto by Wanderlust Storytellers

FRASASSI CAVES, MARCHE

By Alyssa from An Apple a Plane

If you find yourself on Italy’s east coast, you’ll definitely want to cross the Frasassi Caves off your list!

Tucked deep inside the region’s mountains, the Frasassi Caves were first discovered in 1971 and are now one of the largest known cave systems in Europe. The caves are located in Genga, Ancona, Italy.  

The easiest ways to get here are by car along highway A14 or by taking the train via Railway Ancona to S.Vittore Terme Station. Plan to arrive at the ticket office 30 minutes before your entrance time.

Tickets can be purchased online or on arrival at the ticket office. You can choose to walk just under one mile from the ticket office to the cave entrance or ride the shuttle.  

The caves are chilly year-round so wear warm clothing and comfortable walking shoes.

Spelunking the Frasassi Caves is not recommended for visitors with heart conditions. Wheelchair access is in place through the first room of the caves only.

Frasassi Caves in Italy
Frasassi Caves. Photo 245596294 © Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

VAL D’ORCIA, TUSCANY

By Martina from PlacesofJuma

The charming Val d’Orcia is one of the highlights of a trip through Central Italy.

Here you will find the most stunning hilly landscapes in Tuscany, which you usually only know from postcards! Endless fields, breathtaking viewpoints along the panoramic roads, and the typical cypress avenues conjure up a picture-perfect ambiance.

On the trip, you’ll also enjoy the dreamlike medieval towns. You’ll love the small town of Pienza, which is considered the cradle of the Renaissance, but Montepulciano and Montalcino are also worth a visit.

Another highlight is the fantastic wineries of the region. You should try the Rosso di Montepulciano DOCG and Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG.

The entire Val d’Orcia region, with its many beautiful towns and unique landscape, has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2004, making it a real must-visit in Central Italy!

Tuscan landscapes of fields and cypress trees
Tuscan landscapes by PlacesofJuma

BRACCIANO, LAZIO

By Joanna from The World in My Pocket

Bracciano is a wonderful medieval town located less than an hour away from Rome. You can easily take a day trip to Bracciano if you want to see something different when you are in Italy.

The town is famous for the Orsini-Odescalchi Castle, which dominates the skyline and can be seen from different places around the lake with the same name. The castle was built in the 15th century and can be visited.

It is also the place where Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes.

Bracciano also has a black sand beach at the bottom of the hill. In summer, you can enjoy the beach or swim in crystal-clear water. The lake serves as a water reservoir for Rome, so all engines are forbidden here, making it a very tranquil place.

The medieval streets of Bracciano make a touristic attraction themselves. They are narrow, paved with cobbled stones, between houses decorated with flowers.

The castle at Bracciano Italy
Bracciano by The World in My Pocket

PISA, TUSCANY

Home to one of the most iconic monuments in Italy, the city of Pisa has earned millions of yearly visitors thanks to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

This 14th-century building is the bell tower of the impressive Pisa Cathedral, currently leaning at a little under 4 degrees.

It is possible to visit the tower itself, but be prepared to climb 300 steps, and be sure to book your ticket in advance because daily visits are limited and require a reservation of a specific time slot.

The tower and the cathedral, along with the Pisa Baptistery of St. John, dominate Piazza dei Miracoli, also known as Piazza del Duomo.

Other places to visit in Pisa include the botanical garden, Palazzo Blu, Giardino Scotto, and Piazza dei Cavalieri (with its statue of Cosimo I de’ Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany).

BOLGHERI, TUSCANY

By Michelle from Intentional Travelers

The charming village of Bolgheri is set amidst the beautiful rolling hills, vineyards, medieval castles, and olive groves that you probably associate with Tuscany. Even better, Bolgheri is near Tuscany’s Coast, so the beach is only a short drive away!

The Della Gherardesca family, who fortified the settlement and cultivated the land, has lived in Bolgheri for over 1000 years.

Now home to world-class wineries like Sassicaia, the “Oil and Wine Road” (La Strada del Vino) leading out of town is lined with cypress trees and has been declared a national monument.

You’ll love Bolgheri if you want to dive deeper into the top-quality ingredients and food heritage of Italy. Wine and olive oil tastings, food excursions, and admiring the scenery are must-dos here. 

A lovely olf street in Bolgheri Tuscany
Bolgheri by Intentional Travelers

CALCATA VECCHIA, LAZIO

By Annalisa from Travel Connect Experience

One of the lesser-known places to visit in the countryside near Rome is Calcata Vecchia. This medieval village stands on a flat cliff of tufa surrounded by valleys covered with forests.

Driving along the road to Calcata Vecchia, one cannot help but be amazed at the panorama that seems to have come straight out of a fairy tale.

In the mid-1950s, the government had geologists check the condition of the rock on which the village rests. The technicians declared that there was a serious risk of collapse, so the peasants who lived in Calcata Vecchia moved a few kilometers away, founding Calcata Nuova.

Calcata Vecchia seemed doomed to decline when something unexpected happened in the mid-1960s. A group of artists sought refuge in the village, escaping the industrialization that was expanding in the Western world.

Calcata Vecchia began to be known as “the village of artists.” Studios and galleries sprang up in the village, while artists organized unique cultural events involving the whole community.

Even today, shortly after entering the ancient gateway to the village, you immediately know that you have arrived in a special place. You will meet artists not only in their workshops but also sitting and chatting in the village’s unique little piazza.

Calcata Vecchia is a maze of picturesque alleys that lead to breathtaking views of the surrounding valleys where the Treja River flows.

The village also features many small restaurants offering authentic local food. La Piazzetta restaurant prepares only “slow food” and serves one of the best Tiramisu in the region.

Add to your itinerary the open-air museum Opera Bosco, about 2 km from the historic center. Here, an international collective of artists has created about 50 installations using only natural materials from the woods.

Calcata Vecchia, an old Italian village perched on a cliff
Calcata Vecchia by Travel Connect Experience

AREZZO, TUSCANY

By Enzo from Inguaribile Viaggiatore

Built in pre-Etruscan times in the northern part of the Val di Chiana, Arezzo is an ideal destination for a Tuscan weekend in search of beauty and art.

Arezzo is often overlooked, with people preferring other places in this fascinating and rich region, starting with Florence, Pisa, or Siena. Yet this city has a charm, character, and artistic heritage that are worth discovering.

Among ancient palaces, churches, and patrician villas, Arezzo is also the capital of craftsmanship and the processing of gold and precious metals. It’s home to one of the most famous antique markets in Italy and the birthplace of Francesco Petrarca.

You can visit the historic center of Arezzo and the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Donato, getting lost in streets with a medieval atmosphere.

You can admire Piazza Grande, which combines the Middle Ages with the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is right here where every first Sunday of the month you can take a tour of the stands of the antique fair, one of the most important in all of Italy.

Still to be seen in Arezzo are the Basilica of San Francesco, the Basilica of San Domenico and Casa Vasari, Piazza San Francesco, and the Petrarca Theater, but also, continuing with the places of the famous Benigni film, the Abbey of Sante Flora and Lucilla, the Caffè dei Costanti and the Cartolibreria Orefice.

Piazza Grande in Arezzo Italy
Arezzo. Photo 131491219 © Sergey Dzyuba | Dreamstime.com

SPELLO, UMBRIA

By Ilene from Our Italian Journey

Looking for a charming Italian town that will take your breath away? Spello is situated in the province of Perugia in Umbria at the foot of Mount Subasio.

This enchanting town is located only a few kilometers from well-known cities such as Assisi, Perugia, Foligno, and Spoleto. In fact, using the train, you can visit each of these amazing places very easily and quickly.

In June of each year, Spello comes alive with bursts of color and an invasion of visitors when the Infiorate di Spello takes place on the Festa del Corpus Domini (Feast of Corpus Christi). It is celebrated on the ninth Sunday after Easter.

The night before, thousands of residents work throughout the night into the wee hours of the morning to create incredible paintings and carpets made from flower petals, chopped herbs, and such on the town’s tiny, narrow streets.

Spello is a must-visit during spring and summer.

An alley in Spello Italy
Spello by Our Italian Journey

PITIGLIANO, TUSCANY

One of the best things to do in Central Italy is to visit the picturesque Pitigliano.

This Tuscan town is like no other, whether because it’s built into a cliff or because it’s known as “Little Jerusalem” due to its Jewish history. Its origins trace back to Etruscan times, though its medieval flair is the prominent one.

Back in the 16th century, Jews fleeing persecution in Rome found a home in Pitigliano, allowing the community to flourish. Unfortunately, they had to escape town in WWII, and only a few managed to return.

To immerse yourself in Pitigliano’s Jewish history and heritage, visit the Jewish Museum (Museo della Piccola Gerusalemme) and the 16th-century synagogue.

Other things to do in the town include visiting the Museum of Palazzo Orsini and the Alberto Manzi Archeological Museum, admiring the aqueduct, and sampling some Bianco di Pitigliano wine.

Houses of Pitigliano built into the cliff
Pitigliano. Photo 31514469 © Shaiith | Dreamstime.com

SATURNIA HOT SPRINGS, TUSCANY

By Vanessa from I Heart Italy

Saturnia Hot Springs, known in Italian as Terme di Saturnia or Cascate del Mulino, is one of the most amazing wonders of the Tuscan countryside. 

Located about two hours south of Florence, the naturally warm water cascades into travertine stone pools, creating a perfect atmosphere for visitors to wonder at the beauty of nature and relax.

For now, the hot springs are free and open to the public. There are even restrooms and a restaurant on site.

The water at Saturnia is 37.5 degrees Celcius year-round. It’s warm enough to be comfortable and cool enough to be able to spend several hours soaking.

It’s recommended to wear water shoes or hiking sandals to protect your feet from the rocks and bring a towel to dry off when you’re done. If you’re in the area, it’s worth the drive to visit this beautiful natural wonder in Central Italy.

Saturnia Hot Springs
Saturnia Hot Springs by I Heart Italy

SIENA, TUSCANY

With a UNESCO-listed historic center, must-see medieval landmarks, and delicious local food and wine, Siena is a city that will win you over in a second.

In the heart of the action, you’ll find the seashell-shaped Piazza del Campo, one of the most beautiful and biggest European squares

Representing Siena’s Government of the Nine, which made the city thrive in medieval times, this unmissable Italian piazza is home to the Palazzo Pubblico (the town hall) and its tower – Torre del Mangia.

Around it, you’ll have a maze of cozy streets to explore, packed with restaurants, cafes, and shops.

Other incredible places to visit in the city are the striking 13th-century Duomo di Siena, Palazzo Salimbeni, Fortezza Medicea, Siena Synagogue, and Santa Maria della Scala.

Piazza del Campo, the main square in Siena Italy

MONTEPULCIANO, TUSCANY

By Lori from Italy Foodies

There is truly a wealth of small towns to visit in Central Italy, and one of the most charming is the hilltop Renaissance town of Montepulciano in southern Tuscany.

The origins of the town can be traced back to the 6th century BC, with many Etruscan and Roman artifacts being found.

The town can easily be reached from Florence in about an hour and a half by car. You can’t miss it with its imposing walls high above the countryside.

The main street in town has dozens of shops to browse and enough enotecas and restaurants to give you a good taste of Tuscan cuisine.

There are also plenty of historic buildings you can explore on your own, like the 16th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta in the Piazza Grande.

Wine lovers looking to taste the famous Nobile di Montepulciano the town is known for should head to Salcheto Winery, a leader in organic and sustainable wine production. 

A lively street in Montepulciano Tuscany
Montepulciano by Italy Foodies

SAN GIMIGNANO, TUSCANY

The walled medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano will take your breath away.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is known for its imposing medieval towers, of which only 14 still stand today, including Torre Grossa and Torre Campatelli.

San Gimignano may be relatively small, but it boasts a whole lot of beauty, from natural landscapes to art to Romanesque and Gothic architecture. 

Step back in time at Piazza della Cisterna, appreciate the art at the Palazzo Comunale, and enjoy the views of the surrounding Tuscan green scenery.

If that’s not enough, this lovely town in Central Italy also prides itself in its saffron production and its delicious white wine Vernaccia di San Gimignano, which you can learn about and taste at the Vernaccia di San Gimignano Wine Experience.

Town and towers of San Gimignano Italy
San Gimignano. Photo 46630546 © minnystock | Dreamstime.com

PERUGIA, UMBRIA

By Maddalena from Venice Travel Tips

Perugia, the capital city of the Umbria region, is located in the heart of the Italian peninsula. It is situated on a hilltop surrounded by green lush hills from where you can admire wonderful views of the natural landscape.

Perugia was once an Etruscan city of great importance, and in the 2nd century AD, it was conquered by Caesar Augustus.

Today in Perugia, you can stroll around the historical city center and walk down Corso Vannucci, the main pedestrian street leading to Piazza IV Novembre. One of the main attractions is the stunning Fontana Maggiore, a 13th-century fountain, and the Duomo.

You can learn more about Perugia’s history by visiting the National Archaeological Museum of Umbria, and if you’re into art, visit the National Gallery.

One popular attraction is the Etruscan Well, which is a 36-meter-deep water well dating back to the Etruscan times. If you’re here for lunch, try the ‘torta al testo’ with ham at the Antica Porchetteria Granieri, you won’t regret it!

Perugia from above
Perugia by Venice Travel Tips

CASTEL GANDOLFO, LAZIO

By Clotilde from A princess travelling with twins

Castel Gandolfo is a small town about 25 km from Rome. The historic center is charming, and you can spend a delightful half day there. One of the buildings that can not go unnoticed is the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo.

The palace was, for many years, the exclusive summer residence of the Popes, but less than ten years ago, a part of it was opened for the public to visit.

If you’re interested, some tours allow you to visit the palace starting from the Vatican City using the train once kept for the exclusive use of the Popes.

Part of Castel Gandolfo is also the shore of the pretty lake of Albano, which it overlooks. In summer, the lake is a very pleasant place to escape the heat of Rome, and both the town and the lake are perfect destinations for a day trip.

Wherever you stay in Rome, it shouldn’t be too difficult to reach Castel Gandolfo, as they are conveniently connected by train. Around 40 minutes on the train and 15 minutes walking is all that’s needed to get to the old town.

Lake views at Castel Gandolfo
Lake views at Castel Gandolfo by A princess travelling with twins

HOT SPRINGS OF BAGNI SAN FILIPPO, TUSCANY

By Annalisa from Travel Connect Experience

Near the postcard-perfect hills of the Val d’Orcia in southern Tuscany is one of Italy’s most scenic hot springs.

Bagni San Filippo’s thermal water comes from underground rivers that flow from the base of Mount Amiata, which was once a volcano.

The springs are located near the village of the same name, close to a forest within a nature reserve. Over the centuries, thermal water has eroded the limestone rock of which the ground is composed and given it a shape resembling a whale’s head.

For this reason, the Bagni San Filippo hot springs are also known as “The White Whale.” This whale has its mouth wide open, and many of its teeth can be glimpsed.

Water flows down a large rock wall. At the base is a wider pool where you can bathe at about 48°C. Going up the wall, you reach the “mouth” of the whale, where a small pool perfect for couples is hidden. From this tiny pool, you enter the whale’s mouth.

Inside, the rhythmic roar of the water creates a hypnotic effect. Standing up, one can enjoy the natural shower created by the water falling from the whale’s upper lip.

Views of Bagni San Filippo hot springs
Bagni San Filippo’s hot springs by Travel Connect Experience

ASSISI, UMBRIA

By Lauren G.

Located on Mount Subasio’s slopes, the UNESCO-listed city of Assisi is mostly known as the birthplace of Saint Francis (the founder of the Franciscan orders) and Saint Clare, making it a historically and religiously-important destination in Central Italy.

That’s why it’s no surprise that the most visited landmark in the city is the imposing Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, a 13th-century church adorned with the most colorful medieval-time frescoes, which is a major pilgrimage site.

Other notable religious sights in Assisi are the Basilica of Saint Clare, the Church of San Damiano, and the Cathedral of San Rufino.

The city has more to offer to those who roam its charming medieval historic center and explore its surroundings, from the picture-perfect Piazza del Comune and the Roman-era Temple of Minerva to the Rocca Maggiore fortress and the Mount Subasio Park.

Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi
Assisi. Photo 51403122 © minnystock | Dreamstime.com


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About Or Amir

Hey, I'm Or! I'm a passionate traveler with a severe coffee, chocolate, and pastry addiction (or any other carb for that matter). Obsessed with anything Spain-related, I'm always planning my next trip (and the excitement alone can bring tears to my eyes, not that it's difficult to make me cry).

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