Want to live la dolce vita on your honeymoon? Head to one of the most romantic destinations in the world: Italy. From relaxing seaside resorts to glamorous metropolitan cities, the European country that gave us pizza, pasta and so much more offers something for every kind of traveler.
“In Italy, you can have a really varied itinerary, and traveling between places is relatively easy,” says luxury travel advisor Katie Jacobson. That’s likely why, pre-pandemic, Italy was the top requested destination for her clients.
Meet the Expert
Katie Jacobson is the founder of Ever After Honeymoons, a California-based luxury honeymoon and travel planning outfit. In business for over 12 years, Jacobson plans honeymoons in locations all over the world.
But with so many destinations packed into a country roughly the size of California, how do you begin to plan your trip? With an outline of the best options, of course! Read on for a helpful overview of how to honeymoon in Italy, including the best season to visit, average cost, and 15 places you should definitely consider adding to your must-see list.
Cost of an Italian Honeymoon
As with any destination, the cost of a honeymoon in Italy will vary greatly, depending on when you visit, how long you visit, and the level of luxury you're looking for in accommodations, meals, and activities.
You’ll need to budget for tourist taxes levied upon accommodations in certain cities, as well as VAT, or value-added taxes, on many goods and services. In Italy, the tax is called L’imposta sul valore aggiunto, and shows up as the acronym “IVA” on receipts. The standard rate is rather high—22 percent—but non-European Union residents can claim some of that back when exiting the country. Italy has one of the highest refund rates of all European Union countries, but it also, unfortunately, has one of the highest minimum spend amounts as well.
Best Season to Visit
“The best time to visit Italy is May to mid-June, but September is my favorite,” says Jacobson. “The weather is really nice, but you don’t have as many crowds as in the peak summer months. Also, the sea has had all summer to warm up, so it’s a great time for swimming and boating on the Amalfi Coast.”
When it comes to when to avoid going, Jacobson notes that July and August are typically the busiest months, and when museums and historical sites will be packed with throngs of tourists. August is also when many Europeans themselves head on vacation, which could mean that a lot of smaller, family-owned establishments in Italy will be closed.
How Long to Stay For
Per Jacobson, ten days to two weeks is ideal—as is spending a minimum of three nights in each place. “Otherwise, things are too rushed,” she says. “I don’t ever want couples to feel like their honeymoon is just packing and unpacking.”
A two-week honeymoon in Italy also gives you time to relax and kick back before gearing up for more ambitious adventures, and Jacobson always aims to construct her itineraries accordingly. “After the wedding, traveling, and jet lag, I think it’s nice to start somewhere really relaxing,” she explains. “Then you’re more ready and excited to explore a city or be active.”
If your trip runs two weeks, that leaves time to explore three to four destinations at a comfortable pace. Where should you head? Consult the list below for 15 of the best cities and regions to visit in Italy.
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Jacobson’s top pick for a seaside honeymoon destination in Italy is the Amalfi Coast. Situated about an hour south of Naples on the Tyrrhenian Sea, the picturesque cliffside towns are best known for their beaches, but there’s so much more to do. “It’s great for hiking, there’s wineries, and cooking classes are really popular in the area,” says Jacobson. Though Positano is perhaps the most well-known, Jacobson’s favorite town in the region is Ravello, which is situated a touch higher in the hills, and, as a result, offers stunning views of the fishing villages below. For a particularly memorable stay, book a suite at Palazzo Avino, a five-star hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Travel east from Portofino to reach these five picturesque villages in the La Spezia Province of Liguria. Known for pastel-hued homes built into seaside cliffs, the small towns of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore and the surrounding hills became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. Several walking and hiking paths connect the villages, with Via dell'Amore and Sentiero Azzurro being the most popular, but check conditions with a local tourist office before you head out—landslides and ongoing construction may mean major parts of your chosen path will be closed.
The capital of Italy’s Tuscany region is known for walkable cobblestone streets and the world’s largest collection of Italian Renaissance art. You’ll find Michelangelo's David at the Accademia Gallery, and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery, an absolute treasure trove of classic works from the once-private collections of the Medici banking family, which wielded considerable power over the city from the 15th through 18th centuries—and produced four popes.
For couples looking for romance on the water, Jacobson has booked sunset cruises down the Arno River, which runs through the heart of the city. Though Florence is famed for its street food—and there are many tours available to guide you through sampling it all—be careful about where you consume your snacks. In 2018, the city banned eating on the sidewalk in the historic center.
Live like George and Amal with an excursion to Lake Como, a beautiful body of water nestled at the base of the Alps in northern Italy’s Lombardy region. Ninety minutes north of Milan, the area is filled with grand villas that were once the countryside homes of the city’s nobility. Beyond relaxing at any one of the opulent waterside hotels—for a splurge, book the Grand Hotel Tremezzo—you can also hike the hillsides, book boat trips for watersports, and explore the multi-level botanical gardens at Hotel Villa Cipressi and Villa Carlotta. Also good to know: Because of its northern location, Lake Como is an especially enjoyable destination during peak summer months, because the temps are noticeably cooler.
Though perhaps more frequented by business travelers than honeymooners, this major northern Italian city, capital of the Lombardy region, should still be high on your must-visit list—particularly for the sartorially inclined. As one of the major global fashion capitals, it’s home to high-fashion brands such as Armani, Prada, Missoni, and Versace.
Beyond great shopping, there’s also Il Duomo, the largest church in Italy, which took almost six centuries to complete, and The Last Supper mural by Leonardo da Vinci, which can be seen at its original location at the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie. In lieu of fancy dinner reservations, you may want to spend your evenings hopping between eateries for aperitivo, particularly in the lively canal-side neighborhood of Navigli. Milan is well-known for its over-the-top approach to happy hour, during which bars and restaurants put out lavish spreads of apps to enjoy alongside your drinks.
In 79 A.D., the volcano Mt. Vesuvius erupted in the Gulf of Naples and wiped out the nearby Roman city of Pompeii in the process. Thick layers of ash preserved the remains of the city surprisingly well, and today you can walk through excavations that paint a remarkably complete picture of what life was like there almost 2000 years ago. Recent discoveries make it even more exciting to visit right now, as does the fact that the city of Naples, the birthplace of pizza, is less than a 30-minute drive away.
The Italian Riviera is a coastal strip in northwest Italy’s Liguria region that winds around the Ligurian sea. (Head west along the water for a few hours and you’ll eventually reach Nice and Cannes.) The electric blue waters are dotted with the colorful buildings of quaint fishing villages—Camogli and Santa Margherita Ligure being two of the more low-key—but for a taste of the chic life, plan to stop in Portofino. Though you can’t lounge on the beach, you can peruse high-end boutiques, drink limoncello cocktails and eat fresh seafood at waterside restaurants, and maybe even do a little celeb-spotting. (Everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Beyonce and Jay-Z has vacationed in-town.)
Forming the heel of the Italian boot, this coastal region on the Adriatic Sea is an up-and-coming destination with American travelers, and for good reason. Hotels are opening at a rapid clip to take advantage of the turquoise waters and white sand, but many other travelers are drawn in by the slower pace of life that emanates from the surrounding farmland. (For the full rustic experience, book a farmhouse-style masseria.)
Situated further inland, Lecce is known as the “Florence of the South” because of its impressive Baroque architecture, while Ostuni, less than one hour north, attracts visitors with its white-washed buildings. To really vacation luxuriously, book a suite at Borgo Egnazia, which hosted Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel’s 2012 nuptials.
If you’ve never been to Italy, the country’s capital city should absolutely be on your itinerary. Situated just off the center of the western coast, Rome is Italy’s most populous city and home to several world-renowned historical ruins. Built between 70 and 80 A.D., the open-air Colosseum amphitheater was used for public spectacles such as gladiator battles, while the Pantheon, one of the best-preserved monuments of the same era, served as a house of worship for the Roman gods. Love to people-watch? Head to the Spanish Steps and nearby Trevi Fountain, a massive ornate Baroque fountain set in the center of the city, where tourists and locals alike are known to gather.
Beyond bucket-list tourist attractions, there are also many charming neighborhoods to explore in Rome. Jacobson’s favorite? Trastevere. “It’s so charming, with its small pedestrian-only walkways,” she says. “It’s the kind of place where you can go to a restaurant with six tables and hear only Italian spoken because there aren’t as many Americans.”
Another less well-known destination amongst non-European travelers, the Mediterranean island of Sardinia offers a bit of everything, as well as a taste of life at a deliciously slower pace. There are romantic resorts and white-sand beaches (Costa Smeralda and Spiaggia di Piscinas are both popular), but also rugged mountains and ancient stone-walled ruins (nuraghi towers being the most common). For a unique foodie experience, visit during the Feast of San Francesco in May or October for a chance to try su filindeu, the world’s rarest pasta.
The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea can sometimes feel like a separate country from Italy—and that’s a good thing. A melting pot of influences from Greek, Roman, Arabic, and North African traders, cities such as Palermo, the capital, are filled with unique architecture and lively food markets, while the water in beach towns such as Castellammare del Golfo and Cefalu can rival what you’ll find in the Caribbean. The largest theater in Italy is Palermo’s Teatro Massimo—book tickets for an opera—and oenophiles will want to visit the up-and-coming Mount Etna region to sample biodynamic wines.
Outdoor adventurers flock to this remote mountain range in Northeastern Italy for skiing and snowshoeing in the winter and mountaineering in the summer. With parts originally belonging to Austria until Italy annexed them after World War I, Dolomite food and culture can feel unique from the rest of the country: In certain places, expect lots of strudel and sauerkraut, and to hear German spoken more commonly than Italian. Two must-dos: hike to Lago di Braies, a remote Alpine lake where you can rent wooden rowboats come summer, and the Messner Mountain Museum Corrones, where you’ll explore the history and science of mountain climbing in a futuristic Zaha Hadid-designed structure.The Do
Italy’s most well-known wine region is located in the west-central part of the country. With rolling hills, expansive sunflower fields, and rustic country estates, it's every bit as pretty as the movies paint it. Yes, there are vineyards aplenty—Jacobson especially loves Castello di Albola, as well as options in the Bolgheri region—where you can see the grapes and sample chiantis, but don’t forget about the olive oil. For a bit of history, head to Siena—the historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site—or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The towns of Montepulciano and San Gimignano, both easy day trips from Florence, also paint a pristine picture of medieval Italy.
You don’t have to be Catholic, or even religious, to be wowed by the home of the highest leader of the church. Though it’s fully surrounded by Rome, the 109-acre Vatican City is technically its own city-state, with its own government. Here you’ll find the Sistine Chapel, where the massive ceiling is adorned with elaborate frescoes painted by Michelangelo, and room after sumptuous room of historical treasures in the many Vatican museums. Especially breathtaking: the Gallery of Maps, and the four Raphael rooms.
Located high in the eastern portion of the boot in the Venetian Lagoon, Venice is known for water. In lieu of roads, many of its main passageways are canals, which makes romantic gondola rides and water taxis an integral part of a visit. To marvel at ornate architecture from a comfortable cafe seat, head to Piazza San Marco, the city’s largest and most important square. (Be sure to order a bellini—the cocktail was invented in Venice.) To take in priceless works of modern art, schedule a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, where you’ll see paintings and sculptures from the Cubism and Surrealism movements. To shop colorful glassware and pose for pics against rainbow-hued homes lining canals, head to the nearby islands of Murano and Burano.
With so many winding streets and hidden gems to explore in a city like Venice, it can feel overwhelming to figure out where to head first. For that reason, Jacobson recommends hiring a guide for a few hours on your first day. “They can help you get oriented, share off-the-beaten-path areas, and tell you about their favorite restaurants,” she says.