The legendary island of Capri, beloved of the emperor Tiberius, any number of artists and writers in search of inspiration, and legions of modern-day celebrities, has star appeal in spades. Away from its twin centres, Capri Town and Anacapri – bursting with designer boutiques and chic cafés – picturesque lanes wind past Roman ruins and grand villas, with staggering views over the deep blue Mediterranean.
No one forgets their first glimpse of Venice. However many times you’ve seen it in pictures, you can’t prepare yourself for the sight of a city of stately marble palazzi sitting pretty atop a dazzling green lagoon. Mesmerizing in sunshine, moodily atmospheric when wreathed in mist, colourful at Carnevale, unforgettable when it floods: Venice is never anything short of a knockout.
These five fishing villages, wedged into steeply terraced cliffs along a stretch of craggy coastline on the Italian Riviera, take the top spot for the unvarnished beauty of their pastel-painted houses and diminutive harbours filled with fishing boats. The hiking trails that thread between the villages are some of the world’s most scenic, taking you past vineyards and olive groves, with dramatic seascapes at every turn.
Despite Verona’s spurious Shakespeare connections – Juliet’s much-visited balcony is a twentieth-century fabrication – there’s plenty to love about this city. It’s chock-full of Roman ruins, not least the legendary Arena, the hulking amphitheatre in the centre of town that puts on summer opera performances under the stars; and its historic piazzas and buzzing thoroughfares are ideal for people-watching with the obligatory gelato in hand.
Unashamedly a holiday resort, Sorrento enjoys a privileged perch on the Bay of Naples’ lofty southern peninsula, as well as a gloriously long summer season. Its labyrinthine historic centre holds plenty of Baroque and Renaissance buildings, and its hub, Piazza Tasso, is a fun place for an aperitivo. For a touch of indulgence, head to one of the glamorous clifftop hotels’ terrace bars: the perfect vantage point to take in that view.
Inspired? Listen to Rough Guides writer, editor and resident Italy expert Natasha Foges speaking of her memories from the country.