- A young woman from Surrey who doesn't know what she wants. Her piano skills show that she has potential for great passions and the ability to recognize truth even if it means breaking the social codes that are expected of her. She grows into a woman through the course of the book, choosing to follow the true instincts of love (as represented by George) over the tedious falsities perpetuated by pretentious upper class society (as represented in Cecil).
- Lucy's older, poorer cousin and an old maid, Charlotte accompanies Lucy to Italy as a chaperone, and attempts to uphold what is "proper." She has old-fashioned notions and does not approve of the Emersons. She seems to conspire against the happiness of everyone with her tiresome and cloying manner, but in the end, she mysteriously assists Lucy to pass into final marital happiness.
- A young man with a passionate desire for truth, and at the beginning of the book, a faltering hopelessness that life is not actually worth living. Though he is of a lower social class, he falls in love with Lucy in Italy, and she becomes a beacon of hope to him in his search for joy and meaning. He encourages her not to marry Cecil and helps her to follow the true ways of her heart.
- Described, alternately, as being both ungentlemanly and beautiful, Mr. Emerson means well but constantly offends proper societal conventions with his abrupt manner of speaking and his blatant honestly. An avid reader, he espouses liberal values, and also plays a role in helping Lucy to surrender herself to her true desires even if it means violating social taboos. His wife is dead.
- The dislikable man who becomes Lucy's fiance for a short period of time. Cecil is pretentious and despises all the country people of Lucy's town, finding them unsophisticated and coarse in comparison to the affluent London society he is used to. He sees Lucy not for herself but as an abstract vision that he has hung upon her. He treats people without kindness or respect. Cecil tries to be authoritarian and manly, but is actually awkward and self-conscious.
- Lucy's cheerful, talkative, good-natured, and warm-hearted mother, who always says what's on her mind. Her husband is dead.
- The rector in Lucy's town, a tactful and pleasant man who aims to use his influence to help various characters. He takes a liking to those who are honest, but sees the good in almost everyone. He supports Lucy all through the book until she decides to marry George, when he oddly turns against the idea.
- Lucy's younger brother, who is energetic and loves tennis, swimming, and the study of anatomy. He dislikes Cecil and likes George.
The Miss Alans
- Usually referred to in the plural, these two old spinster sisters, Catharine and Teresa Alan, stay at the same pension as Lucy and the others in Florence. They are mild-mannered and very proper, but they have an adventurous streak that will eventually take them traveling all over the world.
- An ostentatious writer who also stays in the same pension in Florence, and hopes to write novels about Italian life. She is outspoken and clever, but also abrasive. She despises English people traveling abroad and believes she alone knows the "true" Italy; however, her unconventionality falls very close to conventional ideas.
- The British chaplain in Florence. He is rude to Italians, unkind to the Emersons, and perpetuates a false rumor that Mr. Emerson murdered his wife.
- Mr. Beebe's rambunctious 13-year-old niece, who stays with the Honeychurches during a diphtheria epidemic.
Sir Harry Otway
- A local in Lucy's town who buys the two villas, Cissie and Albert, subsequently letting one out to the Emersons.