Unlike many countries surrounding the Mediterranean, Italy’s cities are probably a bigger attraction than its fantastic beaches, not just for art lovers and culture seekers, but also romantics and disciples of fashion. One visit will never be enough and legions return year after year to indulge their senses. Wherever you choose, city life in this part of the world is an experience to behold – invariably frantic and full of energy. Whether you plan to explore more than one city in this fantastic country or are simply looking an ideal place for your next romantic break or long weekend, this guide – to our favourite Italian cities – will help you decide which one is right for you. But be warned, choosing a city break in Italy can be very difficult. Book self catering Italy vacation rentals today!
For many the ultimate city break in Italy is Rome! Impossible to define in a few sentences and impossible to do justice in a single visit, the Italian capital breathes culture and refinement. No city on the planet comes close to Rome for history and the sheer volume of architectural treasures awaiting visitors is breathtaking. From the Piazza Di Spagna, or Spanish Steps, a relatively recent addition, constructed in the 18th century, to the mighty Coleseum, which dates back to AD72, Rome has something to offer around every corner. The ultimate destination for a romantic break or long weekend, the Italian capital also boasts some of the country’s best restaurants and finest food. Rome’s charms have seduced millions and walking through the old city it’s easy to see why. Don’t make the mistake of missing the Vatican, if you’re a first time visitor to the Italian capital this walled city within a city is a an absolute must. Book holiday apartments in Rome now!
Built over a string of islands in the middle of a lagoon, Venice is an enigma, as unique as it is beautiful. With the spectacular piazza San Marco at its beating heart, this northern city is one of the ultimate destinations for romantic break. With dozens of museums, palaces and churches to visit Venice is simply perfect for a few days away with a loved one. Where they exist streets are narrow, winding and traffic free, perfect for a walking tour of the city. When you run out of dry land one of the city’s famous gondolas will be waiting to take you on the ultimate canal ride, through Venice’s maze of interconnecting waterways. Seafood is popular in Venice and gastronomes will not be disappointed by the fantastic range of fish available in many of the city’s restaurants. Look out for a Venetian speciality – Cicchetti – similar to Spanish tapas, these delicious snacks are traditionally eaten before lunch.
Florence is the capital of Tuscany in the northeast of Italy, and one of Europe’s most visited destinations. Art lovers will already be familiar with the city’s Renaissance treasures, but first time visitors can often find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer volume of artwork gathered in this ancient city. Florence rose to prominence in the 14th century and many of its boldest architectural statements date from the era of the powerful Medici family, who commissioned an elaborate series of buildings, sculptures, paintings and frescoes by the likes of Botticelli, Da Vinci and Titian. For one of the greatest collections of art anywhere, be sure to visit the Uffizi, a magnet for aficionados from all over the world. A walking tour of Florence’s Centro Storrico is also a must and any exploration through this maze of high sided streets inevitably leads to the Duomo – the very essence of this timeless city and it’s cultural heart. With fantastic views on offer it’s well worth the twenty minute climb to the top of the Duomo, for unparalleled views of this unique walled city. Book Florence holiday rentals today!
Often overlooked in favour of more glamorous cities, Turin has plenty to offer anybody touring the northwest of Italy, or in search of somewhere a little bit different for a weekend away. It’s elegant arcades are home to some of Italy’s chicest shops and restaurants, while its Baroque architecture and reputation, as the originator of café culture, makes Turin an excellent place to explore on foot. A visit to Turin puts you deep in the heart the Italy’s Piedmont region famed for the exceptional quality of its food. Cheese lovers will be in heaven with over 160 varieties on sale, but truffles, pastries and several fine wines are also on the menu. Be sure to take in Via Po, Turin’s famous promenade, lined with palaces and restaurants and to spend an afternoon exploring the maze of streets which make up Il Quadrilatero, the city’s medieval centre.
Known as the capital of European, if not global fashion, Milan is a city where style really is everything. The city’s frenetic pace and energy can be daunting for the first time visitor, but give it time and Milan has a slower, more serene rhythm, which cannot fail to charm even the most wary. Home to the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, Milan has cultural and historic attractions to match any Italian city. La Scala is surely one of the great opera houses and Milan is without doubt one of the great places to see opera, especially if you get a chance to enjoy one of the famous outdoor shows which run through the summer months. Milan is packed with stylish restaurants and the exclusive Quadrilatero d’Oro is the place to shop for exclusive fashion and high end designer clothing.
Italy’s third city and the capital of the south, Naples has a history dating back to the 7th century B.C. Filled with historical piazzas and street markets, Naples lies at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, and is close enough to the Amalfi coastline to enjoy a refreshing breeze, on all but the hottest summer days. The home of Italy’s most famous dish, Naples, or Napoli as it is called in Italian, is the place to come if you love pizza. Make sure your restaurant has an authentic wood oven, and wherever you eat you can expect a real treat. Seafood is also popular on local menus with clams and mussels featuring in many local delicacies. The last decade has seen some serious renovation and Naples is now back to its vibrant best, many of its historical and architectural treasures have been restored to their former glory and the bustle of its winding streets make a wonderful site, whether you are visiting for the day or staying in the city. Juts two hours south of Rome, Naples is said to have one of the country’s most beautiful harbours.
Best known for its ancient beauty, fine cuisine and as a seat of learning, Bologna is often overlooked by visitors for other northern destinations. Home to one of Europe’s oldest universities, the historic city centre dates back to medieval times and its streets are lined with elegant covered arcades, making Bologna ideal for exploring on foot. The city’s liberal politics and academic influence lends it a distinctly bohemian vibe, typified by the open air discos and free concerts frequently held around town. Bologna’s ancient centre contains several beautiful churches and monuments and the cafes and restaurants of its many piazzas are just the place to enjoy the city’s best known contribution to Italian cuisine, pasta. Tortellini was first made in the city and so was Bolognese sauce, making both endearing favourites on many menus. If you enjoy street food, check out the stalls stretching along Via Clavaturan, on the east side of town.
Located in central Italy, Perugia is a vibrant and youthful place. Home to a large university and foreign language school, this medieval hill town is surrounded by the green hills of Umbria and its ancient walls contain plenty to make it worth a visit. An eccentric set of escalators known as the Rocca Paolina link two of Perugia’s main gathering spots, Piazza Italia and Piazza Partigiani. Food is a big part of life in Perugia and several restaurants specialise in offering menus consisting solely of dishes containing chocolate, the city’s most famous contribution to Italian cuisine. In July each year Perugia is the place to be if you’re a music fan, when the enormous Umbria Jazz Festival offers two weeks of live concerts and exhibitions. As with all ancient walled towns, the best way to explore Perugia is on foot, its winding streets contain several squares which are as popular with locals as they are with visitors. The Fontana Maggiore, an intricately carved pink and white fountain is a great place to people watch. Book Perugia accommodation today!
Boosted by a spell as European City of Culture, in 2004, a revitalised Genoa is now better than ever to visit. Italy’s principal seaport has what is claimed to be Europe’s largest medieval town centre. It’s certainly easy enough to get lost in the Carrugi, as it is known, an endless warren of tiny streets and narrow alleys. Once a maritime republic, Genoa has attracted spectacular wealth over its history and contains a number of Baroque and Renaissance palaces, several of which are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. The city makes a great place to explore if you love history and with a 13th century cathedral along with several noted galleries and museums, culture fans will not be disappointed. Genoa is the city that introduced Pesto to the world and most local restaurants offer their own version, often served with trofia pasta, green beans and potato. For the more adventurous, Cima alla Genovese is a veal dish, served with internal organs and nuts.
A short journey from Venice, Padua is probably best known as Shakespeare’s setting for The Taming of the Shrew, and this medieval walled city certainly lives up to its dramatic reputation. Its bustling squares and twisting streets are home to one of Europe’s finest botanical gardens and whether you are visiting just for a day, or planning a short break to the city, you’re sure to come across the Basilica di Sant’Antonio. Its vast domes dominate the city and together with Giotto’s frescos they form the backbone of Padua’s cultural heritage. An understated city in comparison to others on this list, Padua is none the less a captivating place which makes an ideal spot for a short break, or a couple of night’s stopover if you are touring the region.
If this list has left you inspired, why not view our holidays in Italy page for more information.