Ok, let's start with the one I will get the most flack about. There is no denying that Venice is unique and amazing, but it is also small, overrun with tourists, and overpriced. You don't need a week in Venice. You can honestly see everything in a couple days, and I know lots of people who do it in one. Thanks to movies, Venice is highly romanticized. If you have unlimited time and money, than a relaxing week in Venice is perfect for some high-end shopping, dining, and living out your cinematic fantasies. But for your average traveler, you will spend a lot of money to stay on the island and eat second-rate food. I am not suggesting skipping Venice, just allocate your time more wisely.
I blame George Clooney for this one. Americans are always excited to go to Lake Como, but I have seen the disappointment when they arrive firsthand. There just isn't much to do there if you are not staying in a villa or luxury hotel. The towns are cute, but tiny. And unless you go in the peak of summer, it will likely be chilly (it has always been overcast when I have visited). The lake itself is not the best for swimming, so many of the hotels offer pools. But at that point, why not head to a beautiful seaside village?
This little medieval city wins the award for most successful PR campaign. I don't know how they did it, but everyone seems to know about this tiny little town. The town is really neat and has a fascinating history--it is known as "Medieval Manhattan" because of all of the Medieval towers that remain standing. But again, it is tiny, and once you have taken pictures of the towers, eaten a gelato, and purchased ridiculous souvenirs, there isn't much else to see or do. Instead of making it your destination, I think it simply warrants a quick stop along the way to somewhere else (like this tour).
The Island of Capri is another super famous destination, but, like Venice, insanely expensive. Most travelers can barely afford to eat on Capri, much less stay there. And while the blue grotto is amazing, it is only open when the weather and tides permit. Instead of focusing on Capri, head towards the Amalfi Coast in general and take the ferry out to Capri for a full or half-day.
Millions of tourists flock to Pompeii to walk among the volcanically-preserved ruins of this famous Roman city. Like Venice, Pompeii is something you should still see, but what people don't tell you is that almost all of the excavated items (pottery, plaster casts of people, sculptures, art, etc.) is actually in the archeology museum in Naples, not on site in Pompeii. So if you visit Pompeii, you are really only seeing half of the city! If you are interested in the excavations, and ancient archeology in general, make sure you also make time for the archeology museum in Naples.
I am curious to see if anyone agrees or disagrees. Also, if you have traveled to Italy, which destinations did you think were overrated?