This is a question my buddy Terry asked me this week:
“If COVID were completely behind us, and it was 100% safe to travel to anywhere, where is the first place you’d choose to go shooting travel photography?“
It didn’t take me long to come up with an answer. Hands down, it would be Italy. Why Italy? It’s one place that pretty much has it all (as you’ll see in a moment), and because of the country’s small physical size (it’s actually smaller in size than the state of California), and its excellent train system and roadways, you can get to pretty much all of quick and easy, covering a lot of ground in a short time, without rushing around.
Italy has everything from snow-capped mountains, to gorgeous sprawling summer lakes, to hilltop villages, to ancient cities, to seaside hideaways, to big metropolitan cities, to floating cities, and landscape photo opportunities as far as the eye can see.
Here are my top picks for travel photography cities and regions in Italy:
Venice. One of the most unique cities on earth. No roads, no cars, no bikes — just canals and bridges, and wonderful architecture. It’s as close to a magical place as you can get.
Rome. Ahhhhhh, Roma. It’s got everything from ancient architecture to stunning cathedrals, from where Chariots raced to small winding alleys with quaint cafes and coffee shops. The Vatican is here, too, and a treasure to photograph inside and out. There are so many things to shoot in Rome — it, by itself, is a photographer’s paradise.
Tuscany. The hills of Tuscany — the light at dawn and dusk — the quaint villages and roads to wander for miles (er, kilometers), you could spend a month there and not see it all.
Cinque Terre. It’s a collection of five little coastal villages on the Italian Riviera that are so picturesque it looks like Disney made them. Incredible vistas, beautiful color, and charming as all get out.
The Dolomites. It’s a mountain range in Northern Italy that has become very popular with landscape and travel photographers. It’s incredible. Like a bit slice of the Swiss Alps right there in Italy.
Portofino. I’ve been there twice, and while very tiny and compact, there is still much more to be uncovered. One of the most beautiful harbor views you’ll ever see.
Sienna. It’s a hilltop village deep in the heart of Tuscany, and while it takes a few stairs to get up there, once there, you’ll be rewarded with many photographic opportunities. How cool is it that people live there and wake up each day surrounded by this magical place?
Luca. It’s another amazing town in Tuscany, with a unique circular town square that’s…well…it’s not square, and surrounded by charming buildings.
Florence. With its famous bridge extending over the river, and the amazing Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral dome rising over the city (not to mention the statue of David), so many people fall deeply in love with Florence and return to it again and again.
The Amalfi Coast. Another area with the most charming seaside villages, incredible views, places you’d want to move there to live, and so many wonderful shooting opportunities around every corner.
Pisa. Yup, the place with the Leaning Tower, and it’s cooler to see (and shoot) in person than you’d think, and the drive there (from wherever you are in Italy), is just beautiful.
Lake Garda. Another Northern Italy locale that is so charming and interesting and just fun. You’ll find a ton to shoot along the road that rings the lakes, winding through cute little storybook villages. You’ll dig it.
You’re crazy close to the South of France. When you’re in Portofino and Cinque Terra, you’re literally just three hours by car from a whole ‘nuther world — the South of France (Cannes, Nice, Marseilles, Saint-Tropez, and Monte Carlo is right there, too), and it’s so different than Italy but completely charming and awesome. You’re also pretty close to the rolling Lavender fields of Valensole — just a short drive and so worth it at the right time of year. Heck, it’s worth it in the off season.
Plus, have I mentioned Naples, or Genoa, or the super vibrant colors of Burano (seen above – just outside Venice) or Capri, or Ravello, or San Gimignano? I could go on and on because there are so many incredible places everywhere you roam in this amazing country. There’s still so many places in Italy I haven’t been, and I want to capture a piece of them all. :)
The Italian people are warm and wonderful
It’s one of the things that just takes any trip to Italy over the top. The language is among the easiest to learn (well, for Americans anyway), but almost all the folks you’ll deal with in your travels speak some (or a lot) of English anyway, so you don’t have to worry too much about the language barrier. In face, I’d say it’s not a barrier at all.
Did I mention the food?
I don’t have to tell you how incredible Italian food is, but the Italian food you get in Italy and that crazy next level stuff you only get there. My single favorite restaurant in the world is in Rome, it’s Mimi e Coco. Just indescribable and every bit as charming as a 20-seat restaurant tucked away down an alley in Rome can be. The food is worth the trip…but take your camera just in case. ;-)
I hope this inspires you to add Italy to your travel photography wish list — there’s just no place like it, and you’ll come back with pictures and memories that will stay with you forever.
P.S. If you’ve got a sec, I shared some of my favorite images from my last workshop in Rome, along with the stories and behind-the-scenes photos. Here’s the link.