From brooding volcanoes to some of Europe’s best beaches, natural wonders in Italy are among the most captivating in the world.
With gleaming shores, mysterious caves, and nature-filled reserves, the country’s sizzling islands are not to be missed, too.
Here are 12 stunning natural wonders in Italy to explore on your next vacation to Europe.
Mount Etna, Taormina
The star attraction on the character-packed island of Sicily is the UNESCO-listed Mount Etna, one of the greatest natural wonders in Italy.
Looming over Sicily at 10,915 feet, simmering Etna is one of the highest and most active volcanoes in Europe, with ash-filled clouds and fiery rivers of lava a regular sight.
The four craters on Etna can be reached via hiking trails through pine, oak, beech, and chestnut woodlands within Etna Park. Paths that pass close to the summit reveal active steam vents, lava caves, and the journey of centuries-old lava flow.
Wear sturdy hiking boots for extra comfort as you tour Mount Etna’s landscape of extraordinary canyons, rivers, and sloping vineyards, and stay within the marked trails as the ground can be hot.
On the northeast slope of Etna, stop by Planeta’s Sciaranuova winery and vineyard, a chance for visitors to take in Etna’s striking surroundings while sipping on delightful pinot nero and refreshing riesling.
If you’re exploring the sights of nearby Taormina, gaze at Mount Etna’s natural beauty from the magnificent Teatro Antico di Taormina—the remains of a Roman amphitheater—which offers stunning views of the volcano.
Venetian Lagoon, Venice
Natural wonders in Italy reach peak romance in Venice at the city’s expansive lagoon. A saltwater bay on the Adriatic coast, the Venetian Lagoon comprises 118 islands.
The largest of these is the beautiful Italian city of Venice. Founded in the fifth century, Venice became a maritime superpower by the 10th century and is now centered on St Mark’s Square and its exquisite Saint Mark’s Basilica.
The Grand Canal snakes through Venice, with the city’s traditional gondola boats offering visitors romantic water tours around the city.
The real beauty of the lagoon, though, is found out on the water, which is often swathed in ethereal mist. Wooden pilings mark the navigation channels, essential as the water is so shallow, and you’ll spot seabirds perched on top of them.
There’s a real sense of peace out here, the bell towers of Venice in the distance and the thrill of discovering some of the other islands, including Burano, known for its brilliantly colored houses, and sleepy Torcello, green and lush, its main attraction a magnificent basilica.
Flat, almost entirely rural Sant’Erasmo is where the artichokes that are so popular in Venice are grown. All of these islands can be reached by waterbus from the city.
Read: One Day in Venice
Blue Grotto, Capri
From Roman emperors to glittering movie stars, Capri’s sun-warmed shores have seduced visitors for centuries.
On the island’s craggy northwest lies the Blue Grotto, a cave unfolding roughly 196 feet inside. Bathed by sunlight that filters in, the cave’s sapphire water emits an inviting glow.
While the cave widens to 82 feet inside, the entrance is just over six feet wide, prohibiting anything but small rowing boats from entering—and only then at low tide. You’re required to lie flat in your guided boat to enter the cave.
The mesmerizing scenes inside are worth it. Swimming isn’t permitted, but soaking up the dramatic ambiance is enough.
A journey to the Blue Grotto takes 10 minutes from Marina Grande. Alternatively, you could walk or take a taxi from Marina Grande to hilly Anacapri and take a 40-minute bus journey from there.
Lake Bracciano, Rome
Escape the pulsating streets of Rome in favor of serene Lake Bracciano, 20 miles north of the capital.
One of the best day trips from Rome, this beautiful volcanic lake has a 20-mile boundary, surrounded by picturesque towns and dense woodlands.
Anguillara Sabazia, with its roots in the Neolithic period, lies on the lake’s south shore. An ancient terracotta hilltop town, Anguillara Sabazia is filled with a tangle of cobbled streets and medieval houses.
Wander to the waterfront and its tree-lined promenade where a jetty leads into the water next to a black-sand beach.
A visit to historic Bracciano, dominated by its fairytale Italian castle, is also recommended. Explore the 15th-century Castello Orsini-Odescalchi—former home of the Duke of Bracciano—with its frescoed ceilings and rich tapestries.
Take in some of the brilliant lake views from the Renaissance castle walls and stop for a cappuccino at one of Bracciano’s many café-bars.
Hiking, canoeing, sailboating, and swimming are also popular Lake Bracciano activities.
Isola Bella, Taormina
Just off the coast of the Sicilian town of Taormina, Isola Bella is a small rocky outcrop carpeted with a jungle of Mediterranean plants and trees and with a small pebble beach.
One of the most charming natural wonders in Italy, Isola Bella was once owned by a British gentlewoman, who turned it into a garden paradise, until it was bought by the Region of Sicily in 1992 and turned into a nature reserve in 1998.
Travelers can walk across a causeway to Isola Bella from Spiaggia di Isola Bella at low tide. Enjoy the gentle splash of the Ionian Sea cooling your ankles as you make the short crossing.
Pack a towel and a snorkel, and explore the clear water and sea grottos surrounding Isola Bella.
Mount Vesuvius, Naples
Lofty Mount Vesuvius rises above the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy. It’s one of the most eminent natural wonders in Italy, having destroyed the ancient towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 A.D, following cataclysmic volcanic eruptions.
Though still active (the last eruption occurred in 1944), visitors can visit the stratovolcano’s rim, some 4,000 feet above sea, for breathtaking views of Capri, Naples, and the Amalfi Coast stretching into the hazy distance.
Hiking trails lace Mount Vesuvius National Park leading to the summit. Don’t forget to take your camera as you trek around the slopes.
You could also take in Vesuvius from its southern slopes on a visit to Pompeii Archaeological Park, one of the best things to do in Naples.
Marvel at the remarkable ruins that Italy is known for, including sensational frescoed villas, theaters, temples, churches, and the former administrative buildings. There’s also a Roman brothel, bathhouses, gardens, and fountains to explore among the open-air museum.
Cala Goloritzé, Sardinia
Towering rock formations and azure waters greet visitors to Sardinia’s photogenic Cala Goloritzé.
A dazzling cove on Sardinia’s idyllic east coast formed by a 1962 landslide, Cala Goloritzé is
among the greatest natural wonders in Italy. One of its standout features is Monte Caroddi, a limestone spire that rises from the rocky shore.
Goloritzé is one of Italy’s best beaches, tempting travelers with its picturesque sea arch and a shimmering white shore made up of tiny pebbles.
There are two ways to reach Cala Goloritzé, either by boat or by hiking the verdant ravine path leading to the cliff edge, 1,500 feet above the beach. A staircase carved into the cliffs allows direct access down to Cala Goloritzé.
The challenging hike, though gratifying, takes around an hour each way so you’ll need to leave plenty of time.
Whether you arrive by boat or walking trail, immerse yourself in this UNESCO-listed cove by swimming in the sparkling water.
Read: Best Beaches in Sardinia
Grotta Gigante, Trieste
The spectacular Grotta Gigante, or Giant Cave, lies near the leafy village of Borgo Grotta Gigante in Trieste, northeast Italy.
Once occupied by cave dwellers, today, Grotta Gigante is one of the world’s largest caves open to the public and a fantastic example of Italy’s diverse natural landscape.
Join a guided tour to learn about the cave’s geology and explore the enormous chambers. Visitors are first led down 500 spiraling steps, 328 feet into the earth, to witness subterranean stalactites, stalagmites, and columns.
You’ll be amazed when you enter the main chamber. Its height is close to 400 feet, greater than New York’s Statue of Liberty, and is 918 long and 213 wide.
Take a jacket or sweater to wear inside Grotta Gigante. The year-round temperature inside is 11°C (51°F). If you’re not confident tackling the 500 steps down into the cave (and back up again), the visitor center’s virtual tour also offers a great insight.
Furore Fjord, Amalfi Coast
Italy is full of surprises, including a show-stopping fjord between Positano and Amalfi on the sun-warmed Amalfi Coast.
Furore Fjord is a rugged inlet with soaring cliffs rising above the azure water, with a small pebbly beach at its innermost tip. The entrance to this stunning fjord is crowned by an arched bridge, forming a section of the dramatic Amalfi Coast highway.
A trip to Furore Fjord is one of the best things to do on the Amalfi Coast, perfect for combining nature with relaxing on the buzzy beach.
Travelers can reach the beach via steps from the cliff-top road above. Pack a towel and find a slither of the shore to stretch out on and cool off with a swim in the alluring water.
Steps chiseled into the rockface lead to a path under the bridge, sweeping around the cove. Follow the track to take in the sublime views of the Salerno Gulf.
Afterwards, follow the zigzagging mountainside route to the nearby town of San Michele, where you could sip on a zesty Aperol Spritz and take in more eye-popping views.
Sella del Diavolo, near Cagliari
On the edge of enchanting Cagliari in southern Sardinia, Sella del Diavolo is a glorious clifftop next to the long stretch of Poetto Beach.
Sella del Diavolo is a wonderful spot to feel the warm Mediterranean breeze while embracing the marvelous landscape of the coastal Italian town.
There are the remains of two towers, Torre di Sant’Elia and Torre del Poetto, near the very tip of Sella del Diavolo, and intimate coves and secret grottos below.
Descend to the lesser-known Spiaggia di Cala Fighera or Spiaggia Calamosca via the rugged coastal tracks for a soothing swim.
There’s a seafront restaurant and bar with outdoor seating on Spiaggia Calamosca, serving mouthwatering dishes of grilled octopus, fried squid, and a sublime shellfish spaghetti.
Vendicari Nature Reserve, Sicily
Sicily’s Vendicari Nature Reserve is a dream destination for nature lovers. Ensconced on the southeast coast, this lush wetland is a major stopping point for many migratory birds.
While more bird activity takes place in spring and autumn, you can also see plenty of bird life during summer in Italy.
Gray herons, egrets, black storks, white stork, redshanks, Caspian terns, common sandpipers, and gray plovers are among the species swooping and feeding. Fall is an exciting time, too, with the arrival of pink flamingos on their journey from France to Tunisia.
Wander among the juniper forests and rocky coastline between Marzamemi to Avola. Three hiking options provide plenty of opportunity to witness the thrilling bird species.
Vendicari’s isolated shores and crystalline water are richly rewarding. Try Marianelli, one of Sicily’s best beaches. This heavenly-scented spot is nestled next to rolling dunes, lemon, and almond trees.
Pack a picnic to savor on the beach between leisurely dips in the pristine water.
Lake Garda, near Venice
Few destinations live up to the romance of the Italian Lakes. Beguiling Lake Garda—the easternmost of the lakes—is one of northern Italy’s most beautiful natural wonders.
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, encircled by pretty towns and villages, leafy vineyards, and stirring mountain ranges, including the Dolomites to the north.
Distant peaks are capped in snow in spring and fall, while the temperature down on the lakeshore is balmy, the fragrance of lemon groves in the air.
Take a cruise on the lake to absorb its beauty, both natural and man-made. You could visit Sirmione, a hamlet on Lake Garda’s south shore that juts into the water.
At its very tip is Grotte di Catullo, the archaeological site of a Roman villa featuring exquisite Italian gardens near the fairytale 13th-century Scaligero Castle.
Bardolino, set beneath the Monte Baldo mountain range on the east side of Lake Garda, is always a good idea. Stroll along the wide waterfront promenade, where boat tours depart from the harbor. Browse chic boutiques before joining a tasting at one of the many wine cellars.
Finish with a visit to a quaint trattoria for plates of homemade pasta paired with velvety Valpolicella, produced locally in the wineries that flank this Italian charming resort.
A cruise is one of the best ways to soak up the natural wonders of Italy, as well as its architecture and cuisine. Explore Celebrity’s luxury cruises to Italy to book your next getaway.