Let’s face it. Just about every spot in Italy is a lovely place to take a photograph. But there are some spots that are truly special, places that make friends and family go “Wow!” when they see the photos on Facebook or in the picture frame on the mantle piece. Far beyond the hokey photographs of “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa or posing with modern-day gladiators in Rome, here are some lovely places to record some memories.
I have to admit that I got the idea for this post from looking at my friend Laura’s photo on her Ciao Amalfi blog. Take a look at her blog and her profile pic and you’ll see exactly why I picked this location as one of Italy’s most beautiful places for a photo op.
The Faraglioni Rocks are a group of three mini rock islands that have been known since Roman times. I Faraglioni, which are named Stella, Faraglione di Mezzo, and Faraglione di Fuori (Scopolo), are some of the most photographed features in southern Italy and you can even get up-close photographs of the rocks on a boat tour around the Bay of Naples. Faraglione di Mezzo even has a natural arch in it, which is a thrill to go through.
The typical place that tourists go to take photos of Florence – with the giant Duomo dome in the background – is Piazzale Michelangelo, a hill high above the city that is accessible by motor coach and has a huge parking lot buzzing with postcard vendors and “professional” photographers. Don’t get me wrong – this is a lovely place for a photo op. But even better is in front of the church of San Miniato al Monte, which is only about a five minute walk from Piazzale Michelangelo.
San Miniato itself is a beautiful, medieval, green-and-white-marble church with spectacular interior mosaics where you’ll sometimes hear Gregorian chanting. If you enjoy getting out an about rather than hopping on board a motorized tour, you can hike a small path from the Lungarno along the city walls up to San Miniato. It can be a bit of a challenge, but the views are so much more rewarding once you make it to the top.
You can scale the heights of the Duomo in Florence, the dome of St. Peter’s in Rome, and go up into the domes and attics of countless churches and bell towers in Italy. But none of these locations give you the kind of fabulous backdrop that you get from the top of the Duomo in Milan.
The gorgeous Gothic church in the heart of Milan is a great photographic subject in itself and you can certainly capture some lovely pics of the whole cathedral while standing in the vast Piazza del Duomo. But take a trip to the Duomo’s roof and it’s as if you’re walking atop an intricately decorated wedding cake. A trip to the top also affords you nearer views of the church’s spires, statues, and gargoyles as well as a panorama of the Alps (on a clear day).
Rome – the Bocca della Verità
When you’re in Rome, there is pressure to get that perfect shot with either the Colosseum or St. Peter’s Basilica in the background. Indeed, you should get those shots – for the Colosseum go up to Colle Oppio Park or here for a good angle and for St. Peter’s, the perch of the Pincio above Piazza del Popolo can’t be beat. But I like to suggest two classic places for a Roman photo op.
The first is the Bocca della Verità (the Mouth of Truth), an ancient manhole cover that is located in the entryway of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin around the corner from the Campidoglio. You may remember this landmark if you’ve seen the film Roman Holiday which starred Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. The legend is that if you place your hand inside the mouth of the god/monster depicted on the cover that your hand will be chopped off if you haven’t been telling the truth. A photo in front of the Mouth of Truth is a fun diversion. And if it’s good enough for Audrey Hepburn, then it’s good enough for you.
Rome – The Tomb of Cecilia Metella
Another great locale to have your photo snapped is among the ruins along the Appia Antica.
In the days of the Grand Tour it was de rigueur to have your portrait painted among the remnants of antiquity. One of the most evocative portraits of this kind is of the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who lived in Rome in the late 18C. The artist Johann Tischbein painted Goethe in the Countryside with the distinctive tomb of Cecilia Metella in the background.
This is still a major monument in the Appia Antica park, and you can still enjoy a nice hike to the tomb on the weekend when the thru-ways are closed to traffic. While you won’t get the completely uncluttered panorama that Goethe enjoyed when he sat for his portrait, you will have a unique shot for the mantle. Kudos if you can also strike the same leggy pose!
The pastel houses of Portofino, a fishing village turned wealthy tourist haven in the region of Liguria so lovely that developers in Orlando, Florida, had to replicate it, make for a romantic backdrop for an Italy travel memory.
Ideally, you want to get a photo of yourself in front of Portofino’s colorful port while on board a yacht. But if you can’t make that happen, there are a couple of options.
One overlook is from the grounds of Castello Brown, a fortress located high above the bay. This ancient castle (some hypothesize that its foundations have been there since Roman times), however, is typically rented out for private events like weddings and conferences. It’s also a little high up for my liking. Another even better place to go to get a shot of the picturesque bay is to the church of San Giorgio, located on the Salita San Giorgio. Of course, there are also plenty of hotels located along this street where you can pay to see that bay view from your window every morning.
These are just a handful of some of my favorite Italy photo locations. Where else would you suggest?
Last Updated: September 3, 2020