For a lot of photographers in Italy landscape photography will always be our genre of choice. Many of us have a strong connection to the region, city, or village where we grew up. Sometimes even to the place our parents or grandparents came from – despite never having lived there for any amount of time ourselves.
This connection not only manifests itself as a certain pride in our local regional culture, but often also in an appreciation for the land itself. This being the case, it’s hardly surprising that many of us choose to explore this side of our personal identities when we pick up a camera.
Of course, the popularity of landscape photography in Italy is also partly due to the sheer diversity of terrain available to us: from the alpine regions of the north to the arid scirocco-swept islands in the south, in Italy landscape photography enthusiasts have an incredibly wide range of subjects to choose from.
However, while stunning landscapes can be found all over the country, obviously some areas are more photogenic than others. And with the rise of Instagram in recent years, certain locations for landscape photography in Italy have achieved considerable fame – in some cases out of all proportion to their actual merit.
Whether you find it satisfying to point your camera at the exact same locations everyone else has already photographed is something you’ll have to decide for yourself. In a way though, we might look on this phenomenon similarly to “standards” in Jazz: compositions such as My Funny Valentine, So What, and Round Midnight have been endlessly reworked and rerecorded over the years by countless artists, each giving their own twist to these classic tunes. Perhaps there’s a similar creativity to be found in photographers bringing their own creative vision to well-worn landscapes?
Nonetheless, whether your preference is for shooting iconic ‘Grammable locations, or for tracking down more off-the-beaten-track subjects of your own, here are some of my favorite Italy landscape photography destinations to set you off on the right path.
Those photographers looking for real scenic drama will want to head to the Dolomites. While obviously this alpine region tends to be a lot more accessible in the summer months, the deep valleys, alpine lakes, and jagged peaks to be found here make great photographic subjects all year round.
The Trentino region in particular is home to some stunning scenery, with a few locations recently becoming almost as ubiquitous on social media as the Kardashians. The church of San Giovanni in Val di Funes is one very obvious example. This charming little chapel has likely become one of the most photographed locations in Italy due to its unique setting: alone in the middle of a field, below a pine forest, and with the dramatic mountains rising over it in the background. The scene is quite surreal, and above all unbelievably cute.
Similarly, the nearby church of Santa Maddalena has also achieved a considerable degree of Instagram fame, largely owing to the stunning mountain landscape in which it sits. Meanwhile, another heavily photographed location is the boathouse on Lago di Braies, where photographers gather on windless mornings hoping to capture crystal sharp reflections of the mountain scenery in the water.
As beautiful as all these places undoubtedly are though, there are many less well-known but no less stunning lakes, forests, meadows, villages, churches, and mountain peaks in this part of the world for those willing to break away from the herd and do a little exploration on their own.
As birthplace of the Renaissance, the Tuscan landscape has a very long history of being depicted in works of art. And rightly so: the region’s cypress-dotted hills, meandering country roads, hazy vineyards, and misty olive groves make for impossibly beautiful subjects for both landscape painters and photographers alike.
While pretty much all of the region between Florence, Pisa and Siena is worthy of exploration, a fantastic base for photographing the Tuscan landscape would be San Gimignano: a beautiful little town just south of idyllic Chianti wine country. Other nearby locations of note for landscape photography include Orciano Pisano and Santa Luce over towards Livorno.
In many ways the Umbrian landscape is similar to Tuscany, which it borders to the north. Yet the Umbrian hills are often a little more rustic and rugged than those around Florence. And the region is scattered with numerous charming mediaeval hill towns perched on rocky outcrops.
If Tuscany is famed for the gold-green tones of turning grape, Umbria is synonymous with the rusty brown hues of its rich earth – as honored in the names of the color pigments raw umber and burnt sienna. While Umbria tends not to attract quite the same quantity of tourists as neighboring Tuscany, it’s nonetheless a popular spot for photography workshops: driving through the region on a Fall weekend you may well chance upon a field full of twenty+ photographers all pointing their lenses at the exact same stretch of freshly plowed chocolate hillside.
Amalfi Coast and Capri
A short hop from my home town of Naples, world-famous Capri and the Amalfi Coast offer a landscape that differs markedly from either the rugged mountain terrain of the Dolomites or the mellow rolling hills of Tuscany and Umbria. Instead, the coastal regions of Campania offer an altogether different kind of charm: this is a land of sunbleached cliffs, maritime thrills, and Mediterranean luxury.
On the jagged rocky promontory of the Amalfi, small fishing villages cascade down steep lemon-groved shores to the azure waters below. Further out in the sea, Capri’s terraced coastline lends itself to leisurely landscape studies in the warm littoral light of late afternoon.
After the Dolomites, the Abruzzo region is likely the best Italy landscape photography destination for those seeking dramatic mountain vistas. In particular, the area around Gran Sasso – the highest peak in the Apennine mountain range – offers a wealth of stunning highland scenery.
While possessing considerable charm of its own, the terrain here is generally more isolated and desolate than in the Dolomites. This is not a land of chocolate-box alpine cliches, but with stark peaks rising dramatically from broad high plains, is often more reminiscent of the Wild West. An impression further reinforced by the presence of wild horses roaming some of the lower slopes around the gran Sasso.
Sicily and the Eolie islands
The island of Sicily offers huge diversity of terrain In itself. From the surreal volcanic landscapes around Mount Etna, to the Vale VALLE dei Templi, and the incredible waterfalls, grottoes, lakes, and oak forests of the inner highlands, this is one part of Italy where landscape photographers are unlikely to ever run out of inspiration.
Although Sicily’s stunning coastal scenery of course makes for some fantastic landscape images, those looking for wilder, less obvious views of the island might head to the national parks of Nebrodi and the Parco delle Madonie in the interior – just a short hop from the popular tourist destination of Cefalu.
Those seeking more unusual landscapes still, will likely find satisfaction in the Eolian Archipelago: a chain of volcanic islands to the north of Sicily. Stromboli is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, so if you’re lucky you might even get to shoot a little bit of hot lava action while you’re there.
Of course, there are many other fantastic landscape photography destinations in Italy that you could visit too. But even exploring just a few of the ones I mention here could keep most photographers busy for several years without running out of material.
If you are not a photographer yourself, and want some of these dramatic and unique sceneries pictures (either for business purposes or personal interest), that are very hard to find online, you can check my landscapes photo gallery and eventually buy the shots you need.
Feel also free to contact me for any information or to share your experience with these kind of landscape photography, I would love to hear from you!