Top Five Most Overrated Destinations in Italy

This may be something of a controversial post. But, in my opinion, there are several destinations in Italy that are highly overrated. Maybe it is because of advertising or pop-culture, but these cities have managed to convince everyone that they are the premier destinations in Italy. Now, I am not saying they aren’t great, or not worth a visit, just that I feel they are a bit overrated, causing tourists to spend too much time there at the expense of other amazing destinations (don’t worry I will also be sharing my top 5 underrated destinations). Of course, this is just my opinion. You may disagree and I would love to hear why if you do!

Ok, let’s start with the one I will get the most flack about. There is no denying that Venice is unique and amazing, but it is also small, overrun with tourists, and overpriced. You don’t need a week in Venice. You can honestly see everything in a couple days, and I know lots of people who do it in one. Thanks to movies, Venice is highly romanticized. If you have unlimited time and money, than a relaxing week in Venice is perfect for some high-end shopping, dining, and living out your cinematic fantasies. But for your average traveler, you will spend a lot of money to stay on the island and eat second-rate food. I am not suggesting skipping Venice, just allocate your time more wisely.

Lake Como
I blame George Clooney for this one. Americans are always excited to go to Lake Como, but I have seen the disappointment when they arrive firsthand. There just isn’t much to do there if you are not staying in a villa or luxury hotel. The towns are cute, but tiny. And unless you go in the peak of summer, it will likely be chilly (it has always been overcast when I have visited). The lake itself is not the best for swimming, so many of the hotels offer pools. But at that point, why not head to a beautiful seaside village?

San Gimignano
This little medieval city wins the award for most successful PR campaign. I don’t know how they did it, but everyone seems to know about this tiny little town. The town is really neat and has a fascinating history–it is known as “Medieval Manhattan” because of all of the Medieval towers that remain standing. But again, it is tiny, and once you have taken pictures of the towers, eaten a gelato, and purchased ridiculous souvenirs, there isn’t much else to see or do. Instead of making it your destination, I think it simply warrants a quick stop along the way to somewhere else (like this tour).

The Island of Capri is another super famous destination, but, like Venice, insanely expensive. Most travelers can barely afford to eat on Capri, much less stay there. And while the blue grotto is amazing, it is only open when the weather and tides permit. Instead of focusing on Capri, head towards the Amalfi Coast in general and take the ferry out to Capri for a full or half-day.

Millions of tourists flock to Pompeii to walk among the volcanically-preserved ruins of this famous Roman city. Like Venice, Pompeii is something you should still see, but what people don’t tell you is that almost all of the excavated items (pottery, plaster casts of people, sculptures, art, etc.) is actually in the archeology museum in Naples, not on site in Pompeii. So if you visit Pompeii, you are really only seeing half of the city! If you are interested in the excavations, and ancient archeology in general, make sure you also make time for the archeology museum in Naples.

I am curious to see if anyone agrees or disagrees. Also, if you have traveled to Italy, which destinations did you think were overrated?

32 thoughts on “Top Five Most Overrated Destinations in Italy”

  1. I actually agree with you completely about Venice, Capri, and Pompeii. I haven't been to Lake Como or San Gimignano so I can't speak to them, but a day trip or a stop along the way was just enough time for me for each place. I don't feel like I missed out on anything, and I'm happy I got to visit, but I really don't think I'd ever need more time than that at each place.

    Sweet Spontaneity

  2. Totally agree! I went to Lake Como just for the day, and it was the perfect amount of time. We took a boat tour of the lake, and ate at the local cafes, but there wasn't much else there. Same for Venice – I spent only a day there, took a walking tour, and explored on my own – and it was plenty of time!

  3. Of this list I've only been to Pompeii and Venice, so I can't comment on the others – though I've never felt particularly drawn to visit any of those destinations so it's good to know that may have been for good reason.

    I LOVED Pompeii, however I visited it the same year I had learned about it extensively in my Latin class so I think that had something to do with it. We did also go to the museum in Naples and I agree with you, to get the full picture/experience it's a good idea to visit both. I think a mistake a lot of visitors to this area make is to allot more time than is necessary in the area. Outside of the museum, Naples leaves quite a bit to be desired (obviously that's subjective, but that has always been my feeling) so a day or two is ample to soak in Pompeii history then move on down the coast or up to Rome.

    I LOVE Venice. However, I do also agree with everything you said. I had the luxury of living there (twice) for extended periods of time in a tiny but beautiful and fantastically located apartment. I wasn't on my own dime either time (perks of being a child) and those summers are some of my best childhood memories. I recently went back with my mom for a milestone birthday because we had never visited together. She had previously visited and had the exact experience you described: Sub par food, everything being expensive, crowds, she's not a huge fan of Baroque architecture, etc. She was only willing to go again with me because I insisted she get to experience "my" Venice. Again, I had the luxury of not being on my own dime, however we were on a pretty strict budget and couldn't go to the amazing restaurants my Godmother had often taken me to when I lived there with her. However, even on a budget I sold my mom on the city! I think the trick is staying in the right area (finding a more local feel vs. the uber crowded touristy Rialto and St. Mark's) and seeking out food options that are not in the main tourist campos. Because I love Venice so much it breaks my heart a little every time I meet someone who has had a disappointing experience there (honestly, most Americans I have met who have been say the same things), but I totally understand it. Even with my tips it is still more expensive than most Italian destinations.

  4. I have not been at San Gimignano!!! But for me Lake Como is beautiful and I do not agrred is overrated!! With Venice i totally agree. Pompeii and Capri – pretty places but lil overrated, thats true

  5. Don't agree about Lake Como if you're staying in Bellagio, definitely the most beautiful town on the lake. I spent two weeks there and we explored all the towns and didn't find it boring. The scenery is amazing! It was 25 degrees Celcius in June which isn't chilly (but I'm irish so you may disagree). As for Pompeii, I preferred Herculaneum and Oplontis but as a Classics student Pompeii was still very interesting to see!

  6. I agree completely, I am happy to have seen these places, but I don't crave more time there. I visit Venice a lot with students, and it has grown on me, I just hate to see tourist spending so much time and money there when there is so much of Italy to explore. I went with my family once, and breakfast at our Venetian hotel was 80 euro, per person… I kid you not!

  7. No agree, Pompeii is amazing, IF you have studied it and get to go to the museum in Naples. So many people know little about it and aimlessly follow a quick talking guide in the scorching summer heat. And Naples is terrible, which is a shame there is a lot of great history there.

    Yes, I think if you live in Venice it is a completely different experience. And I am not saying I don't love Venice, I just think you just have to manage expectations and budgets so that people aren't disappointed. Venice is still one of the most unique and amazing places in the world, but that doesn't mean it doesn't come with difficulties!

    Thanks so much for sharing your unique perspectives and experiences, I am slightly jealous of your childhood!

  8. I have been to Bellagio and it is beautiful! I am impressed that you were there for two weeks and didn't find it boring. And yes, I am not a good measure for warmth. I am a Floridian so I expect at least 30 degrees and beaches lol. I think part of my prejudice is that I am not a lake fan in general.

  9. I haven't been to Italy yet, but Venice has been a topic of disagreement for Tony and I. He agrees with you 110% on Venice and has no desire to go back there…although he loves Padua. I, having never been, would love to see it once in my life.

    As for Pompeii, I've always wanted to see the ruins from Mt. Vesuvius, but we've decided to go to Ostia (again, Tony's already been to Pompeii)…after 6 years of Latin, it was drilled into me that Pompeii is for tourists and Ostia and Herculaneum are where people in the know should go. Right now we just have major stops in Florence and Rome planned…we were considering heading over to Sicily for a few days but I don't think it's going to be the relaxing beach atmosphere that Tony's anticipating – especially at the height of July! So now we're trying to decide what other location in Italy to visit. I'm leaning towards the Amalfi Coast, but wondering if it will be the same experience if we don't rent a car and just use trains and taxis.

    jess | Bows & Bouquets

  10. Haha, I definitely got to have some amazing travel experiences growing up and I do not take that for granted. I was lucky that we lived in England so it was MUCH easier to hop across to mainland Europe than it is from America, but mostly lucky that I had a fabulous real-life fairy Godmother who had no children of her own. I wish I could travel more now that I'm an adult – I love living vicariously through your adventures so thank you for sharing!

  11. Looks like I'm doing it right, because I'm doing a full-day trip to Capri from Rome next month! (Actually in exchange for photos and blog exposure, which rocks.) Also, dates aren't totally finalized, but I'll be back in Florence for at least a couple of days (probably May 15-16ish). If you're in town/free/interested, I'd LOVE to meet up for a cappuccino with you at Caffè Giacosa! 🙂

    Chloe | Wanderlust in the Midwest

  12. Yes, Venice is overrated. Lake Como is just beautiful to look at and thank you for the tip on Capri as we were thinking of traveling there for a visit, but there are so many other beautiful places to see in Italy. I also think Cinque Terre is beautiful, but has become way too touristic and expensive to eat there.

  13. I agree with all of this but Venice is better stayed overnight in a less touristy neighborhood. Pompeii is a great thing to do on your way to the Amalfi Coast. When we were staying on the Amalfi Coast we stayed in one of the smaller towns between Positano and Amalfi and loved it. Great base to get around. We took and boat to Capri skipped the blue grotto when we heard it could take 1 hour to get in to see it! We also basically skipped Capri and to the bus right up to Anacapri and it was so beautiful and hardly a tourist to be found. If you aren't afraid of heights take the lifts up to the top of Anacapri for one of the most amazing views! I am a little afraid of heights and I was fine. We have always wanted when we go back to go to Lake Como, and Cinque Terre. Do you have any suggestions what town we should stay in? We like quiet but may take our kids as well so not sure it would be best place.

  14. I have to say I generally disagree with your assessment of Venice, Lake Como and San Gimignano. We visited Italy for the first time in May and visited all of these locations. Lake Como was absolutely stunning and everything I hoped. Amazing views, beautiful villa's and gardens to tour, quaint lakeside villages to wander through and wonderful food. Venice was also absolutely amazing. I agree you don't need a week, we were very happy with spending three nights. It's a stunning city and we can't wait to re-visit! San Gimignano was wonderful, with gorgeous views of Tuscany. I enjoyed it much more than Siena. Here's the deal, Italy is startlingly expensive. We also visited Florence, Castellina in Chianti, Cinque Terre and the Dolomite Mountains and we didn't see much of a difference in price anywhere we went. The only location I found to be oversold was Vernazza in Cinque Terre. I think next time we'd go with Portofino. We'd visit Lake Como and Venice again in a heartbeat!!

  15. Totally agree, though Venice is at it's best very early morning, when the tourists haven't arrived yet. But I think Tower of Pisa should be top of this list. A disappointingly small tower with far too many tourist trying to make yet again the same picture of them holding up the tower. A ridiculous long queue to climb the tower (if it is accessible) is only guaranteeing more disappointment. Even the food stalls and most restaurants around the grounds make the experience more annoying. Get out of there fast!

  16. I visited Venice and I really thought it was packed with people en you were mislead here by the beggers and the high prices at the square. The other sites I haven't visited yet, so I can't judge on them, but I'm glad you warned me. I'm crazy about old towns, so it would definately be likeley for me to have visited Pompeii or San Gimignano.

  17. That's the thing with San Gimignano, it's not the only one, these medieval towns are all over the place! People just have only heard of this one. If you love old towns, I recommend renting a car and road tripping from town to town (like Volterra, Pienza, Sienna, Lucca, etc.)

  18. I have only visited Venice from this list, but I agree…we were there 3 nights. I really enjoyed it but that was enough. Road trips in the countryside stopping in random towns is more our style.

  19. Ok, I'm italian so my comment will probably be a little unusual… You know,I think that the problem is in the expectations that you American have. For examples I don't know a lot of people that went to san Gimignano; when I red your list to my brother he actually said that he never heard of it. And not a lot of people love Como's lake too… Capri it's overrated, I agree, and way too expensive. I never went to Venezia (shame on me!!) so I can't say anything , but I loved Pompei!! It was so intense, really. And yes, I also went to the museum in Napoli, it's a must if you want to see everything (I also visited the city, while I was there, and I loved it, it's a mess, but an amazing one and there are so many things to see… I want to go back there soon!)

  20. I totally agree with you! Thought I was the only one that felt that way about Venice, it's defiantly a must see, but no need to stay more than 2 days and definitely don't buy any glass products in the store off the Piazza, go further in. I learned the hard way, got the SAME chandelier for half the cost, well i got the first place to refund me half the cost.

  21. I live in Venice and we too are not happy with the amount of tourists and the food. Everything is pre made frozen and in high season you can't even walk. I wouldn't eat in the city if it was free. But almost all of Italy is like that now. Mass tourism has destroyed the country and people are just looking to cash in. Venice itself is amazing. But if you really want an authentic Italian experience you have to rent a car and go really off the beaten path. Then you will see the real Italy.

  22. I totally agree with what you said about Venice. On my second day I realized I had nothing left to see or explore. Pompeii, Capri and Lake Como are all on my travel wish list, haha. Thanks for the heads up!

  23. I was in Venice last year with my daughter. Spent 3 full days there and loved it. We stayed in an AirBNB apt. about 5 minutes walk from St. Marks Square.About $150 a night, which we split. Went to a local grocery store and got breakfast food, drinks and snacks, so saved on eating out. For luch we would just get a carryout sandwich, slice of pizza, or cicchetti(local version of Spanish tapas)If you go a few blocks away from St. Marks Square, you can easily find moderate priced restaurants for dinner.Spent first day touring St. Marks Basilica. They turn the interior lights on at noon each day, which makes the mosaics even more stunning. Paid a bit extra to be able to go to the upper levels, where there was an interesting, small museum. Plus you get to see the mosaics up close. And you get to go outside to the portico over the main entrance. There you have great views over the square and stand right next to the huge horse statues. Then went to the Doges Palace. Enjoyed it,and our tour included going thru the prison and seeing the tiny cells, and going on the Bridge of Sighs.Then went up the San Marco Campanile tower for incredible, open air views over Venice and the Bay. 2nd day we went to the fish market on the Grand Canal to see all the unusual, bizarre or huge freshly caught fish. Plus there were lots of small boats filled with supplies for the city.Interesting watching people unload them into carts, which are then hand pulled to deliver them, since there are no trucks, cars or bikes in Venice.Went across the Rialto bridge to a small museum in an old villa. Had displays of mens and womens clothing from the past, and a very intereting display of how perfumes are made.The owner had gotten wealthy in that business. In the afternoon, we took a 2 hour kayaking tour of the canals. Fascinating going under all the small bridges, going under a church, crossing the Grand Canal 3 times, and paddling thru tiny canals.People on the brides were taking pictures of us!3rd day we decided to just wander around and do some shopping. Crossed 38 bridges!Loved seeing all the different types of bridges, the tiny streets and gardens, and Venetians going about their lives.Passed a building with it's door open, with classical music coming out. We went in and it turns out there was a concert that night for only $24 euros each. We went and really enjoyed it. The 5 women and one man were dressed in 17th century costumes and played Vivaldi on old style instruments.There were only about 100 people there,in this small hall. My best advice,is do not go in the summer when it is hot and very crowded. We went in late Sept. and the weather was in the low 70's and not too busy. Once you get away from St. Marks Square,there are few crowds. There are also lots of art museums for those who like that kind of thing. Ran out of time to go to the islands in the bay, which are supposed to be fun, too. There is no other city like Venice, and we loved our visit!

  24. I have been to Capri 7 times and fall in love with it more each time I visit. I have made friends, shop at old favorite boutiques and gladly explore new places to shop. I can spend a week in Capri and not cover everything to see, restaurants to enjoy, views to envelop all of my senses. I would, however, love to visit the northern part of Italy, if only I could tear myself away from the island of pleasure…Capri.

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