Italy has an architectural history that’s as extensive as any place on Earth. For centuries before and during the Roman Empire, the territory was known for the massive structures that were built under the various emperors and rulers.
Since the Romans ruled Italy, the country has been the epicenter for other significant movements as well, most notably the Renaissance.
In this article, we will examine 10 of the most famous buildings in Italy throughout history and the architects behind each work.
Famous Buildings in Italy
Few buildings in the world are as awe-inspiring and fascinating as the Colosseum. This major structure from the height of the Roman Empire is located in the heart of Rome’s historic district.
It was designed and built under the supervision of Roman emperor Vespesian, who ruled from 69 to 79 A.D. After Vespesian’s death, his successor and heir, Titus, took over the project and guided the many builders, stonemasons and architects to finish the Colosseum by 80 A.D.
The Colosseum was home to a wide variety of different spectacles as it was a massive amphitheater which was built for entertainment.
It is recorded that the Colosseum was home to some of Rome’s legendary gladiator battles, as well as brutal executions, chariot races and many other events.
Today, the structure is mostly intact, but half of the Colosseum’s upper section collapsed after a major earthquake many centuries ago.
Since that time, people have stripped the interior of the various metals and precious stones or other material, leaving only a stark foundation and stonework behind.
2. Milan Cathedral
The Milan Cathedral is arguably the most historically-rich structure in all of Italy. The building was constructed over the course of more than 5 centuries and much of its design and architectural styles reflect the gradual change in culture and architecture over the course of the nation’s history.
This cathedral is located in Milan, which sits in Italy’s northern Lombardy region and operated as its own city-state for many hundreds of years.
The Milan Cathedral was first designed by architects working under the direction of Archbishop Antonio da Saluzzo.
Construction on the project began in 1386 and Saluzzo took in massive amounts of funding from the public under the guise of completing the project, yet many historians believe that he misused much of the money for other purposes.
The next 6 centuries would involve some of the greatest minds and designers in Milan’s history working on the project, including Leonardo da Vinci. It was finally completed in 1965.
3. Leaning Tower of Pisa
Another one of Italy’s most architecturally unique structures is known as the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This strange, but incredible building is located in Pisa, which is a city in Tuscany and a province near the Ligurian Sea.
According to historians, the Leaning Tower of Pisa was designed by the well-known Italian artist and architect, Guglielmo, as well as Bonanno Pisano, who was an artist living in Tuscany during the 12th century.
Construction on the project was underway in the summer of 1173, but the work dragged on slowly due to the difficulties in obtaining materials, as well as the obviously poor section of land that had been chosen for the tower.
Within the first few years of the project, some of the builders raised concerns that the foundation would not be sufficient for the Leaning Tower of Pisa’s height or weight. Those concerns were ignored and the work continued another century-and-a-half before it was finally finished in 1372.
4. Florence Cathedral
One of the most famous buildings in Florence, as well as the nation of Italy as a whole, is the Florence Cathedral.
This beautiful structure is known as Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, which is Italian for the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flower. It was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, who was a highly-respected architect and sculptor during the era in which the Florence Cathedral was constructed.
Di Cambio’s overarching theme for the structure was one that involved heavy influences of Gothic architecture. The work on the cathedral began in 1296 and it would quickly become one of the most prominent structures in all of Florence before it was ever finished.
It was finally completed by 1436, but the Florence Cathedral is perhaps best known for having one of the most visually-stunning brick-domes in existence.
The Florence Cathedral’s dome is recognized as the largest in the world and the site draws a considerable amount of tourists each year to the location.
5. Pantheon Rome
The Pantheon Rome sits among the Italian capital city’s most highly-revered buildings from the famous Roman Empire. The Pantheon was a massive temple structure that, in Greek, means ‘temple for all the gods.’
According to historians, the structure is believed to have been constructed on the site of an already-existing temple or building that was used for religious ceremonies.
The Pantheon Rome is recognized as one of the most famous buildings in Italy for both its interior and exterior architectural wonders.
The inside of the Pantheon consists of a massive arched dome that was perfectly-designed to accommodate a giant spherical opening that would measure 43.3 meters in diameter.
The Pantheon is one of Rome’s most iconic buildings and is one of the most historically-significant structures in all of Italy.
6. Roman Forum
Although much of its structures lie in ruins, the Roman Forum is widely-recognized as one of the ancient city’s most historically-rich sites.
The Roman Forum sits in the middle of the space in which tourists often visit many other ancient structures in the heart of the city. Historians note that the space was home to a variety of different Roman governmental buildings during the height of the Roman Empire, as well as after its reign.
The Roman Forum is a vast rectangular space that is mostly made up today of various pillars and stone foundations of buildings that have long since been demolished or turned into rubble by invading armies, earthquakes and people pillaging the materials to build other structures.
According to historians, the Roman Forum was often referred to as the Roman Magnum, or simply as the Forum among Rome’s citizens.
7. Saint Mark’s Basilica
One of the most elaborately-decorated churches or cathedrals in Italy is known as Saint Mark’s Basilica. This massive church sits in the former island-nation and historic city of Venice, Italy.
It is officially known as Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark and is dedicated to Saint Mark, who was one of Jesus’ original 12 apostles and a pivotal figure in the Roman Cathlic Church who is said to have his remains interred in the church.
The large basilica sits on a stretch of property that was once an ancient Christian church that is believed to have been founded by the apostle himself.
Work on the basilica as it exists today began as early as 836, but the project would drag on over the course of nearly a thousand years before it was officially completed in 1797.
The architectural styles that can be observed in the design of Saint Mark’s Basilica can be tied back to the Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture.
8. Verona Arena
Aside from the massively famous Roman Colosseum, the Verona Arena is recognized as one of the greatest stone amphitheater structures in the world that dates back to the once-mighty Roman Empire.
This giant structure is located in Piazza Bra in Verona, Italy and is one that is much more well-preserved than the Colosseum in many different aspects.
The overall design appears to be very similar to the Colosseum and the Verona Arena is a building that’s actually still used today for a variety of events, theatrical plays and performances.
It is believed to have been constructed and finished around 30 A.D. during the height of the early Roman Empire.
9. St. Peter’s Basilica
The building that’s recognized as the crown jewel of Vatican City is undoubtedly St. Peter’s Basilica.
This church is one that is arguably the most popular church, cathedral or basilica in the world for those of the Catholic faith, as well as the Christian religion in general.
It is known officially as Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican and was dedicated to Saint Peter, who many church historians believe to have been the first pope, upon its completion in 1626.
The church is built on what many believe to have been the site in which the venerated apostle’s remains are buried.
10. Uffizi Gallery
Another one of the most famous buildings in Italy’s history is known as the Uffizi Gallery.
This large, beautifully-designed structure was created during the height of the Italian Renaissance movement, which is recognized as the most influential art movement in history.
The building was designed by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 and it was originally intended to be a place in which Florentine magistrates could operate.
The Uffizi Gallery was finished in 1581 and exists today as one of the most well-known art museums in Italy.