If you’re lucky enough to be traveling to the Mediterranean anytime soon, then here’s your guide to some of the best and most beautiful cities to visit in Italy.
Italy is a country known for its great food, incredible coastlines, and some of the most spectacular cities in the world. This ancient land has seen its fair share of human history, with countless cultures mixing together to form a breeding ground for the renaissance.
The result? A country filled with more amazing destinations than you can count. Hop from city to city, exploring the many different tastes, sights, and sounds that are on offer. To help you find your favorite ones, I’m here to take you on a tour through 9 of the best cities to see in Italy.
Although it might seem cliched, Rome certainly has earned the right to be named one of the top Italian cities. It is one of the oldest major cities in the Italian peninsula and was the crown jewel of the Roman Empire for almost 1,000 years.
Rome, or Roma, is also the biggest city in Italy and home to some of the most impressive historical sites in the world. The famous Colosseum, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and Circus Maximum are just four of the many places you will be struggling to fit into your itinerary. Although it’s possible to spend the perfect weekend in Rome, I personally believe you’ll need AT LEAST 3 Days in Rome to get to all the sites.
Apart from the historical significance of visiting Rome, you will also be able to enjoy some true Italian cuisine. You’ll find endless Italian pasta, pizza, and gelato dishes that are unique to the city.
The fun doesn’t stop there, Rome is also home to the smallest country in the world. That’s right, there is a country inside Rome. The Vatican City State is the smallest country in the world by both population and size. Here you can see some of the most well-preserved holy grounds in the world, including the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s famous murals.
The ‘floating city’ as many people know it, is arguably just as popular as Rome. Every year, millions of tourists flock to this one-of-a-kind city that offers a glimpse into the history books.
The city itself is a marvel, with buildings erected on wooden beams to raise them from the marshlands below. In between these buildings are the famous Venetian Canals, which are home to the spectacular Gondola boat rides.
There’s nothing quite as picturesque as taking a private gondola ride with your partner through the canals of Venice. It is also the easiest way to travel through the city because cars are not allowed in these ancient areas.
Spend the day just walking through the city streets as you buy from vendors and savor some of the many local flavors. Must-see destinations are littered throughout the older parts of the city. The most notable of these are St. Mark’s Basilica and Square, the Doge’s Palace, and Rialto Bridge.
If you’re looking to escape the confines of the city, you can head to Lido Island. Officially a part of Venice, this large expanse of sand is what separates the Venetian lagoon from the Adriatic sea. It has become a popular tourist destination with beautiful beaches and the annual Venice Film Festival being the main attractions.
Florence is the capital of Tuscany, one of the most well-known regions in Italy. This magnificent city is regarded as the birthplace of the renaissance and it’s a cultural hotspot of Italy. Here you will find artistic architecture, impeccable churches, and some of the most magnificent city streets in all of Europe.
This is a very lively city and you will find plenty of awesome things to do in Florence, including public events or gatherings taking place on most nights. Although cars are allowed in certain parts of the city, walking is still your best option to explore the older areas like Ponte Vecchio bridge, the Florence Cathedral, and Michelangelo’s famous statue titled ‘David’.
One of the main reasons people visit Florence is its surroundings. The beautiful Tuscan countryside is the setting of the famous movie ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’. Once you’ve visited Florence, you will understand why they chose this part of Italy for the movie.
Tip: If you’re a meat lover, make sure to try the legendary Bistecca Fiorentina (steak from Florence). It’s a famous Tuscan delicacy that is difficult to find, even in Florence itself.
Also be sure to read my guide on how to spend 2 Days in Florence for a more detailed guide to this incredible city!
Napoli, as it is known locally, is one of the biggest cities in the country and a must-see if you’re traveling through southern Italy. Visiting the city after one of the previous options on this list, you might be taken aback by the difference. Stepping into Naples is like traveling into another country. It is much more chaotic than its northern counterparts but what it lacks in order, it makes up for in beauty.
The old town of Naples is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so make sure to visit some of the many landmarks found here. While you walk through the Spaccanapoli street that cuts the historic old town in two, you will be able to appreciate the different cultures and architecture found in this city.
The difference in style is largely due to the influence after the fall of Rome. Naples had a tumultuous history filled with French, Spanish, and Arabic influence. Some of the most famous sites in the city are the Castel Nuovo castle, Certosa di San Martino (monastery turned museum), and the Piazza del Plebiscito square.
If you’re feeling adventurous, Naples is a great city to tour other famous landmarks of southern Italy. Nearby you will be able to visit the ancient city of Pompei (consumed by lava in 79 AD), the Amalfi Coast (an idyllic stretch of coast), and the luxury island of Capri.
Milan is known as the center of the fashion world, but that’s not all this incredible city has to offer. Sitting on the throne of northern Italy, this is the richest city in the country according to GDP. The city is also filled with impressive attractions that make it one of the top contenders on this list.
All of the other major cities on this list are filled with historical architecture, but Milan has something else in its favor – its modern-day life. No matter what you want to enjoy, you will have it all at your fingertips. Shop in designer boutiques, savor world-class dining, and explore some of the most extravagant art galleries in the world.
If you still want to take in the popular cathedral and square combination that is found in most Italian cities, you will not be disappointed. The Duomo di Milano, Milan Cathedral, is one of the most impressive sites in all of Italy. It is the largest cathedral in the country and the second-largest in Europe (after St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican City). This towering Gothic-style cathedral is truly magnificent and dates back to the 1300s.
To some, Milan is the best city in Italy, where history and modern luxury co-exist beautifully. If you find yourself traveling around northern Italy, it would be worthwhile adding this city to your itinerary.
The leaning tower of Pisa is one of Italy’s most well-known landmarks. How many pictures have you seen of people who look like they’re trying to hold up this iconic building? Well, by visiting this city you can join in on the fun.
Although the leaning tower is far from the only thing to experience in Pisa, you can’t visit the city without seeing it. Spend the day in the Piazza Dei Miracoli (miracles) as you admire the stunning white marble used to decorate both the Duomo (cathedral) and the leaning tower of Pisa. If you’re a fan of cemeteries, there is a stunning one also found in the square – an ode to the previous generation.
Once you’ve taken in these popular tourist attractions, it’s time to venture out into the rest of Pisa. Although you might not find the same level of architecture, the authentic Italian culture that you will be able to experience is unique for such a large Italian city.
Pisa is also located in Tuscany, which makes it a popular stop for tourists traveling through the region. You can stop here on your way to the Cinque Terre, Florence, or Sienna.
It’s easy to overlook this city when reading through a list mentioning Rome, Florence, and Milan. However, you would be wise to give Bologna a chance as its incredible architecture, cuisine, and social life makes it one of the best Italian cities.
Bologna earned the nickname ‘la dotta, la grassa, la rossa’ (the learned, the fat, the red). This is in reference to the famous Bologna University (one of the oldest in Europe), exceptional local gastronomy, and the red-colored rooftops of all the buildings.
The food alone is worth a visit, with many considering Bologna to be the food capital of Italy. Considering the reputation Italy has, this is a big name to stand up to, but this city will not disappoint.
If you want to take in the more historical attractions, make sure to wander through the Piazza Maggiore square as you visit the Fountain of Neptune and the two leaning towers of Bologna. That’s right, there’s another city with leaning towers in Italy.
This lesser-known major city in Tuscany is famous for the many delicacies that they produce as well as the annual horse race known as the Palio di Siena. That’s right, this Italian city is famous for desserts, what more do you need to know?
If you’re someone with a sweet tooth, make sure to pop through to Sienna when in Italy. The two most famous desserts are Ricciarelli di Siena (soft almond cookies) and Panforte di Siena (a traditional Sienna hard cake). Although it might seem strange to visit a city just for the dessert, because of Italy’s strict laws regarding food, you can’t find these authentic dishes anywhere else.
Compared to Florence, Sienna is a much more peaceful city. It’s a great place to visit if you want to just stroll through the streets and admire the Tuscan way of life. The Siena Cathedral (Duomo di Siena) and Piazza del Campo allow you to experience quality architecture without waiting for long queues of tourists.
The Piazza del Campo square is not only a great place to stroll through, but it is also the venue for the famous Palio di Siena. If you are lucky enough to visit on the 2nd of July or the 16th of August, you will be able to experience this magnificent race. Watch from the square or an adjoining balcony as the bareback horse riders bring thousands of spectators to their feet. This is one of the most exciting live events you can enjoy in Italy.
To round out this list, we’re going to take a trip to fair Verona where the story of Romeo and Juliet played out. Although this might not be considered the best Italian city to visit, Verona is still one of the most romantic cities in Italy – perfect for any traveling couple.
If you want to re-enact the famous balcony scene, you can head over to Juliet’s Balcony where a statue of her will greet you – this is allegedly where Shakespeare got his inspiration from. Once you’ve taken in this famous site, it’s time to see what else Verona has to offer.
Castelvecchio (old castle) is one of the most popular medieval attractions in Verona. A true marvel of engineering at the time, this fortification was used as the main form of defense for the city. The bridge leading to the castle (Ponte di Castelvecchio) is another impressive attraction, which also earned the title of ‘longest bridge of its kind’ when it was constructed.
Although it might not be as grandiose as the Colosseum, the Verona Arena is almost better than the one in Rome. This amphitheater has been incredibly preserved, so much so that they even host concerts there throughout the year. If you want to experience a Roman-style arena without as many tourists as there are in Rome, then Verona is one of the best cities in Italy for you.
Planning a trip to Italy?
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