Italy, one of the most alluring getaways in Europe, is known for its mouth-watering cuisines, rich and tasty pasta sauces, world-class- artists, beautiful landscapes, neo-classical civilization, and not to forget the famous Italian gelato. Having traveled to Italy probably over 30 times in my life, I am always drawn to the incredible architecture, historical ruins, and the people that live life less ordinary. We should all live like Italians. Working to live, not living to work. Once we can travel again, Kati and I will be heading back as there is always more to explore in Italy.
For anyone visiting Italy, it’s no surprise that one of its key attractions, apart from its stunning sceneries and warm hospitality, is its culturally rich cities. Drenched in antiquity, not only are these cities stunning, they are packed with fascinating history, a unique blend of old and new ancient palaces, a lively and chaotic atmosphere, museums, and iconic architecture.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s your first time or not; it can be stressful sketching out a travel plan that fits every need—In a country that has got so many beautiful cities to visit, deciding which city to leave out and which once to visit can prove to be a daunting task.
We have compiled a list of the absolute must-visit cities to visit while in Italy. All these cities are beautiful and we love them all. After you explore them, head out on your own. Rent a car. Drive the country side. Italy is really a magical place.
You certainly cannot travel to Italy and not go to Rome. It’s an amazing city. Rome is the center of ancient history during the day and trendy urban capital by night.
Whereas Rome’s emblematic monuments – such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Roman Forum– don’t need an introduction, with over four thousand years of history, Rome is clogged up with beautiful historical attractions, gorgeous fountains, stunning Piazzas, churches, mansions and more for tourists to explore.
Taking a morning stroll through its ancient street-ways of Rome is a divine experience. Be sure to carry your camera. Don’t miss the chance to explore the Vatican-the epicentre of the Catholic Church.
Although beautiful art is everywhere in the city, you have to visit the Vatican Museums for some breathtaking paintings and sculptures.
Other notable must-see sights include the Sistine Chapel and St Peters Basilica.
Away from history and art, Rome is full of life, particularly at night. You have so many options as there are so many restaurants if you can handle Italian cuisine. You can also try and get away from tourist areas and explore other areas like Trastavere and Monti for authentic jaw-dropping pizzerias and trattorias.
For your night stay you can check out these hotels, Rhea Silvia Navona, Hotel Fori Imperiali Cavalieri and Hotel Capo d’Africa. We actually typically stay in a small hotel walking distance from the train station. It allows us to get a train ticket, which are cheap, and explore the entire city.
Milan, also described as the Italian fashion capital, has a modern cosmopolitan outlook, a thriving food and drink culture, and dozens of hotels to accommodate all budgets. Its unique mix of ancient history and present-day life makes it one of the most exciting cities to visit.
For shoppers, you have to visit Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest shopping plaza in Italy. Other notable places include the Quadrilatero D’Oro district, one of the most renowned shopping regions.
If you still have time after shopping, you can climb to the rooftop of the spectacular Duomo (cathedral) or opt for a stroll along the streets for some eye-catching photos.
Other top attractions include the magnificent Last Supper Painting, Castello Sforzesco, and La Scala, one of the famous opera houses in Europe. While strolling the city, you will find great dining and sleeping areas everywhere you go. Just to name a few, London Hotel, Room Mate Giulia, and Luxury Park Hyatt Milano.
Probably one of the most popular cities in Italy, Venice is most definitely on top of the list when visiting Italy. Positioned on top of a lagoon, Venice is best described by locals as the “Floating City,” and is a great starting point when traveling to Italy.
Though quite touristy, Venice is simply charming; its gondola–filled canals are dotted with beautiful buildings, churches, and palaces. The Grand Canal and Piazza San Marco are some of the must-see tourist attractions, getting lost walking around the quaint town’s alleyways is a fantasy.
Once you find your way around the alleys, be sure to check-out the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the beautiful Venetian features of St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doges Palace, and also take some photos on top of Rialto Bridge. If you have time, you can take a gondola ride down the canals as you tour the city or visit the nearby island of Burano for some authentic local life.
If you feel hungry, you can pop into one of the local atmospheric restaurants around the city for some delicious homemade cuisines. For your night, it all depends on your budget as Venice is full of places to stay.
Crouched right at the center of Tuscany, Florence is arguably one of the best art cities in Europe. Built along River Arno banks, Florence is defined as one of Italy’s most Byronic getaway destinations. Its highlight is the famed Duomo, with the majestic Renaissance dome.
Historians believe the European Renaissances began in Florence. This city is custodian of some world-class museums such as Uffizi Gallery and Galleria Dell’ Academia, where many famous artworks and sculptures are on display.
As the sun sets, take a hike to Piazzale Michelangelo for some breathtaking evening photos of the aerial view of Florence’s city.
Later on, you can settle down for some homemade pizza and steak at Buca Mario’s or any other local restaurant that offers Italian food. Interestingly, most hotels are a stone throw away from the many historical sights.
Standing next to the River Adige, this ancient town in northern Italy is more like a smaller Rome version. Verona is believed to be Romeo and Juliet’s home, a tragic love story authored by the famous Shakespeare.
Besides the play, Verona is full of Roman ruins, dozens of churches, and numerous vibrant coffee shops. The neighboring areas boasts of some of the best wine in Italy including the breathtaking Lake Garda.
Your typical day should start by touring the Roman amphitheater Arena di Verona, similar to Rome’s Colosseum. If staying for a few days, check out the jaw-dropping concerts too.
If you are into plays and acting, you can check out the house where Juliet was born; you will also see where she was buried. You can also check out the balcony where Juliet used to sit; this is an excellent opportunity for some breathtaking photos.
Other attractions worth your time include the Magnificent Cathedrals, ancient Palaces and Castles, the medieval Roman Bridge, and not forgetting the beautiful Italian gardens.
With charming colonnades buildings winding their way through the city, Bologna is a mix of beauty and sophistication that contrasts the downtown section, which’s filled with graffiti.
Bologna is a city that boasts of high class modernization, from swimming in the academic atmosphere (it’s home to the oldest university in Europe), to tasting the city’s exquisite cuisine in the downtown trattorias, to snapping memorable photos of the leaning towers of Bologna. This bustling city has something for everyone.
When you get to Bologna, you can take photos next to the Neptune statue at the Piazza Maggiore, the city’s main square. Then take a walk to the Basilica of San Petronio; the church is so huge that it is listed as the 10th largest church in the world.
After a tiring day, try some of the street side trattorias for some Tagliera (cold meat) while sipping some wine, and if this is not for you, then you can head over to some uptown restaurants and try out Zuppa Inglese some Italian Cuisine.
Sitting at the Gulf of Naples, this vibrant city is full of energy and vigor, with various cultural and historical sites to explore.
Once in Naples, you can explore the two royal palaces (the Royal Palace of Naples and Royal Palace of Caserta) and then maybe check cross over to the three medieval castles and other historical ruins for some historical lessons. Other notable sites t include the National Archeological Museum of Naples and the Gothic Cathedral.
The biggest Isle in the Mediterranean Sea, this tropical island is a laid-back village with a difference. It’s a blend of Italian culture and modern luxury surrounded by a sparkling ocean, whose waters gently splash over beautiful rugged rocks, and thick, lush forests covering the rolling hills.
If you visit Sicily, get ready to have a fabulous time in the excessively luxurious but traditional resorts. Enjoy tasty Italian seafood, traditional good old cheese pasta and delicious deserts – immerse yourself in the calm sea waters gently sweeping off soft waves onto sandy shores, under the glowing sunshine in the distance.
Sicily, a pleasant, phlegmatic town with old folk set in their old ways – often expressed in their way of life refuge, the Sicilian cuisine and passion for life. Some of the best activities to indulge in while in Sicily include the fabulous beaches, the ancient ruins like the curious Valley of the Temples, the Greek Taormina Theatre, and many others.
You can’t miss out on viewing the glorious volcanic Mount Etna, arancini, the amazing Teatro Massimo Opera house and the variety of fresh seafood in abundance – are all worth the experience.
I think this could be Kati’s parents favorite destination. Sardinia, lies 9,301 square miles west of the mainland, off the Mediterranean Sea. The little Isle lures holidaymakers with its heavenly perfect coastal views and the fascinating Italian ancient culture. And the food? Sample out deliciously dripping Sardinian seafood – mainly delicious pasta and wine. You can snorkel in nearby coves, discover Sardinia’s old-style villages and mingle with cheerful shepherds in the lush green meadows as they tend to their flocks.
Now, Sardinia is not a dream destination with posh resorts and dreamy sleazy hotels. It’s a laid-back village with virgin beaches, absolutely gorgeous shorelines with breathtaking views. You’d be fooled to think it is uninhibited. The town is quiet, laid-back and so peaceful. Driving along the countryside is just such a jaw-dropping sight to behold. And that is the beauty of this hidden gem.
Things to do in Sardinia; Exploring the coast at places like Parco Nazionale dell’Archipelago di La Maddalena, Cala Mariolu hiking the northern Capo Testa or driving the Costa Smeralda to take in jaw-dropping views of the Mediterranean, visit Museo Archeologico Nazionale to learn about the Nuraghi culture, or better still, take a tour of the Nuraghi settlements, sprinkled throughout the island.
Our Final Word
Whether you are interested in art or history, rare cuisines, stunning beaches, Italian-made shoes and clothing, museums, or modern architecture, Italy has it all. It’s a country with many facets, and there’s always a new attraction to discover each time you visit. Even if you don’t have time and only manage to see the main attractions. It’s still worth your time. We have basically been to Italy over 30 times and have not seen everything and every place. Pick a location and move out from there. Enjoy the cities and the surrounding country side and enjoy the dolce vita of the Italians.
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