5 landmarks in Italy worth visiting for their design ingenuity and significance


The Colosseum gradually lost two-thirds of its original structure due to multiple earthquakes, neglect and vandalism. Photos: Canva

If you're a travel enthusiast who loves architecture, then a trip to Italy is a must-have experience in your lifetime. Italy has a rich history, vibrant culture and magnificent architectural masterpieces that draw millions of visitors each year.

Its stunning buildings range from ancient Roman ruins to Renaissance palaces. In this article, we will take you on a virtual tour of Italy’s most iconic buildings which make the city so memorable. It’s surely not an exhaustive list, but more of my personal curated recommendations.The majestic Colosseum in Rome is a symbol of Roman engineering and architectural ingenuity built in 80AD.The majestic Colosseum in Rome is a symbol of Roman engineering and architectural ingenuity built in 80AD.

The Colosseum, Rome

No visit to Italy is complete without exploring the majestic Colosseum in Rome. This ancient amphitheatre is a symbol of Roman engineering and architectural ingenuity. It was built in 80AD to function as a grand arena for all Roman citizens to seek entertainment by watching gladiatorial fights, animal hunts and mock naval battles. Despite its violent past, the structure remains the largest amphitheatre in the world today. The massive elliptical arena is made up of travertine stone and concrete. It measures 189m long, 156m wide and approximately 50m high, with a seating capacity of around 70,000 spectators. When you visit the Colosseum, avoid rushing with a tour group. Take your time to soak in the sights of arches and columns. The Colosseum gradually lost two-thirds of its original structure due to multiple earthquakes, neglect and vandalism. Today, it is the city’s most important monument, drawing over six million visitors each year.

The Pantheon’s external facade is iconic with its 16 colossal Corinthian columns that are each 1.5m wide and 11.8m tall.The Pantheon’s external facade is iconic with its 16 colossal Corinthian columns that are each 1.5m wide and 11.8m tall.

The Pantheon, Rome

Most architecture students will remember the Pantheon taught in their history lesson. It is a magnificent example of ancient Roman architecture, having been constructed first as a temple to the Roman gods. Why is the Pantheon so significant? Its design and engineering construction of the central dome shook the world with a diameter of 43.30m, making it the largest dome made of unreinforced solid concrete. It was built with a circular opening called the oculus which allowed natural sunlight and rain to enter the interior.

I felt humbled when looking up to the sky from within. As time passes, the spot of sunlight moves along the interiors of the dome, evoking a strong sense of awe and connection to nature. Pantheon’s external facade is equally iconic with its 16 colossal Corinthian columns that are each 1.5m wide and 11.8m tall. This 2,000-year-old ancient monument has since inspired countless designs of modern architecture around the world.The Grand Canal acts as Venice’s main water channel, traversed by traditional gondolas which wind through stunning palaces, churches and historic buildings.The Grand Canal acts as Venice’s main water channel, traversed by traditional gondolas which wind through stunning palaces, churches and historic buildings.

Grand Canal, Venice

Venice is frequently regarded as one of the most romantic cities in the world. Inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List in 1987, the city offers unique picturesque canals, charming alleyways and stunning sunsets, making it a popular destination for couples and honeymooners.

The Grand Canal acts as Venice’s main water channel traversed by traditional gondolas, which offer romantic rides through its waterways. The gondola winds through stunning palaces, churches and historic buildings. It’s widely known that the city is now overwhelmed with mass tourism, declining local population and gradual sinking due to its geological factors. Yet, Venice is still charmingly unique, one-of-a-kind and still worth visiting today.Despite its tilt, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has stood for over 800 years, survived multiple earthquakes and continues to amaze visitors with its unique architecture and engineering. Photo: Tan Bee EuDespite its tilt, the Leaning Tower of Pisa has stood for over 800 years, survived multiple earthquakes and continues to amaze visitors with its unique architecture and engineering. Photo: Tan Bee Eu

Leaning Tower of Pisa

Located in Piazza dei Miracoli (“square of miracles”), this landmark was built as a freestanding bell tower for the adjacent Pisa Cathedral. The 56m tower took nearly 200 years to complete. Unstable ground conditions caused the tower to tilt during its fifth year of construction. The unintended tilt made the tower world-famous! Despite its five-

degree lean, the tower has stood for over 800 years, survived multiple earthquakes and continues to amaze visitors with its unique architecture and engineering. The structure was stabilised by remedial work between 1993 and 2001, which reduced the tilt to 3.97 degrees.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

Italy’s oldest active shopping gallery was named after Vittorio Emanuele II, the first king of Italy. Housed within a four-storey double arcade in Milan, the gallery was built to commemorate the country’s unification. The landmark is a global shopping destination because it is not only home to the oldest shops and restaurants in Milan but also to prestigious luxury brands like Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. The Galleria consists of four intersecting arcades that converge at the central octagonal space beneath the central glass dome. These arcades are rich in distinctive architectural details and decorative motifs.Made of iron and glass, the Galleria’s central glass dome allows visual connectivity to the sky and natural light to flood the interiors. Photo: Tan Bee EuMade of iron and glass, the Galleria’s central glass dome allows visual connectivity to the sky and natural light to flood the interiors. Photo: Tan Bee Eu

Made of iron and glass, the central glass dome allows visual connectivity to the sky and natural light to flood the interiors. It is an amazing shopping experience with a heightened sense of openness and spaciousness. The strong axial layout is excellent for wayfinding and exuding a strong sense of grandeur and majestic ambience in the interiors.

These are just a few of the many architectural gems that Italy has to offer. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture fan, or simply a curious traveller, Italy’s architectural wonders are sure to leave you awe-inspired.

Tan Bee Eu is a professional architect and interior designer registered with Lembaga Arkitek Malaysia with over two decades of professional practice. She also teaches at Universiti Sains Malaysia and is a frequent keynote speaker at architectural forums and juror of international awards. She can be reached at www.betadesignz.com/contact.


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