These Are the Best Cities to Visit in Italy

Italy is one of the most popular destinations to visit, not just in Europe but across the whole world. Visitor numbers to the country are constantly increasing.

That’s because Italy has so much to offer, from exquisite food and delectable wines to sunny beaches and warm Mediterranean waters. There are many reasons to visit Italy, but one of the best reasons to visit is to explore the historic, diverse and beautiful cities that are found across the nation.

In Rome, you can delve into the ancient history of the Romans, visit the Vatican, or admire classic sights across the city, while in Venice you can take to the canals and visit the iconic lidos in the lagoon.

There are many more great cities across the country, from Naples and Pisa to Bologna and Florence. To help you decide which destination is best for you, these are the best cities to visit in Italy.

1. Rome

Top of the list is Rome, because this is undoubtedly one of the best cities to visit in Italy. This is the Italian capital, one of the largest and most impressive cities in the country, and it’s a must-see destination for anyone travelling to Europe.

Rome is where you can find a plethora of Roman ruins, from the mighty arches of the Colosseum to the ancient streets and buildings of the Roman Forum. You can explore medieval castles, visit the Trevi Fountain and walk the Spanish Steps. Of course, you can also cross the international border on a day trip to Vatican City.

More than this, there are plenty of national galleries and museums, and for anyone interested in history, Rome is the birthplace of Western civilisation. Few other places in Italy can beat it.

2. Venice

Venice is easily one of the most popular cities to visit in Italy, though for many the crowds can be too much. But it’s worth braving the busy streets, because there’s a reason that Venice is so popular.

The classic Italian destination is known for its intricate network of canals and for its beautiful architecture, medieval and Renaissance-era bridges and palaces, and for its unique history.

Ride a gondola along the waterways, visit the Venice Carnival for one of the most cultural events in Italy, and escape the crowds with a day trip to Venice Lido, where you’ll find golden sands separating the Venice Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea.

If you don’t like the crowds, it might be best to avoid travelling to Venice in the summer. But head to the city outside of peak season and things are comparatively cheaper and quieter.

grand-canal-Venice

3. Trieste

Located in the northeast of Italy, just a two-hour drive away from Venice, Trieste is often overlooked in favour of the country’s better-known destinations. But this city on the border with Slovenia has much to offer.

This is a fantastic place to visit if you’re bored of the crowds, or are looking for a lesser-known destination. Trieste has always been isolated from the rest of Italy, and the result is a city that is arguably the most diverse in the country.

You can see the mixed heritage of Italian, Slovenian, Croatian and Austrian legacies in the architecture, in the food, and in the very dialects and languages that are spoken in the shops and streets. For that reason, Trieste is one of the most popular cities for people with dual heritage to immigrate and become Italian citizens. Very much hidden Italian gem, it’s a fascinating city to uncover.

4. Milan

Located in Northern Italy, Milan is the second-largest city in the country and the traditional rival to Rome in the south. This is the heart of the north, and you can discover a beautiful city full of Renaissance architecture and bursting with history.

Uncover the city’s past by visiting the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, before exploring the Piazza del Duomo and the mighty cathedral that presides over the square. Learn about the medieval-era Sforza family who turned Milan into the powerhouse it is today, take a walk through the castle in the centre of Milan built by the Sforza dynasty, and marvel at the surrounding architecture of the city.

There’s good food in Milan and, of course, this is the most fashionable city in Italy – and there is fierce competition! – so spare some time and money to go shopping.

5. Naples

Located just a two-hour drive south of the capital, Naples is a destination that more often than not is overshadowed by Rome. And in fairness, Naples once had a rough outlook and a bad reputation for crime and violence. But that’s in the past. The city has been transformed into a burgeoning tourist destination, so get in before the visitor numbers hit the same scale as Venice.

Naples is one of the oldest settlements in Europe, with a history dating back to 2000 BC. The city centre is one large UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s teeming with ruins and ancient structures.

Better still, just along the road to the south is the infamous city of Pompeii, which was buried under ash and lava by the eruption of Vesuvius in the Roman-era.

For foodies, Naples is unmissable because supposedly the city, or at least the region, is the birthplace of the humble pizza.

6. Bologna

If you’re a lover of food and history, then you’ll want to head to Bologna, the capital of the northern Emilia-Romanga region.

This ancient city is known for its medieval structures, and the skyline is punctuated by tall, in some cases leaning, towers that were built centuries ago as fortifications. Bologna has a wide range of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the city centre is full of glorious Renaissance-style architecture and wide piazzas.

But as well as spending your time in the city exploring the museums and admiring the heritage, you’ll also want to prepare yourself to eat – a lot. Bologna is the home of Bolognese, the simple meat and tomato ragu whose popularity has spread all over the world.

It’s very different here to what you might find at home. Bolognese in Bologna will be served with a hefty portion of tagliatelle rather than spaghetti. It is though, the most authentic and original Bolognese that you can eat anywhere in Italy and across the world.

7. Florence

Florence is another legendary Italian city. This is the heart of the serene Tuscany region and the home of the Renaissance.

This is a city that is famed for its role in medieval Europe, as a city-state that pushed the boundaries of art, science and engineering, and that led to the birth of the Renaissance, a turning point in western history.

Learn about the Medici Family, the infamous dynasty who led the city to wealth and power in the medieval era, and see the palaces and grand piazzas that they left behind. Marvel at the wealth of art found within the Uffizi Gallery, one of the most highly regarded art galleries in the world, and be amazed by the lavishness of the Pitti Palace, a grand legacy of the Medici.

8. Siena

Just south of Florence, nestled amongst the beautiful Tuscan Hills, you can find the medieval city of Siena.

Siena is one of the best-preserved examples of an Italian, medieval and Renaissance-era city in the country, and its centre is a well-regarded UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Siena is a spectacular place to visit any time of the year, but the city is most famed for its annual horse-riding event, which is held on the medieval streets. This iconic race is known as the Palio di Siena, and it’s an event that pulls in huge crowds to watch the dramatic racing unfold through the narrow streets, a tradition dating back centuries.

 

9. Pisa

Another classic Italian city is Pisa, which, of course, is famous for being the home of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. This is one of the most visited, most photographed and most popular tourist attractions in the world, because there’s no other building that’s quite so dramatic.

The tower is the perfect place for a selfie, and even if you don’t like crowds it’s worth travelling to Pisa at least once just see it. But more than this, Pisa has other sights to offer, and the rest of the city is rather underrated in comparison to the Leaning Tower. You can visit historic piazzas, cathedrals and the excellent Museo Nazionale.

 

10. Turin

Turin is an underrated city in the north of Italy that has the distinction of having once served as the Italian capital.

Turin was the first capital of a united Italy, in the 19th century, but it soon passed the mantle onto Rome, after just a few years. Turin is still the capital of Piedmont region, and it’s an understated cultural gem.

You can visit castles, former royal palaces, museums and piazzas, and you’ll find that Turin matches any other Renaissance-era city in terms of beauty – but there’s just not the crowds.

 

11. Palermo

Head south and cross the Strait of Messina to visit Italy’s largest island, Sicily. The island is a popular holiday destination, as you can find huge stretches of sandy beaches and exquisite coastline, as well as countless hotels and resorts.

But head to Palermo, the island’s capital and largest city, to see a different side of Sicily. While you can easily reach many beaches from Palermo, take the time to explore the local culture and attractions, because the city is almost 3,000 years old and has a fascinating history.

The most important attractions are the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Arab-Norman architectural sites and churches found in the city. As well as this, Palermo is well known for its lively markets, great restaurants and local bars, and you’ll find that the city is a world away from the beaches and resorts of Sicily.

12. Cagliari

Take a trip to Italy’s second-largest island, Sardinia, to see another unique side of the country. Like Sicily, Sardinia is known for its beaches and coastline, but Cagliari, the capital, is more than a worthy destination in itself.

This colourful port city is very different from the rest of Italy because Sardinians have traditionally been fiercely independent of the mainland, speaking different languages and dialects and enjoying different cultures and traditions.

In Cagliari, you can learn more at the local museums while you can experience the food and culture in the great bars and restaurants found here. Take a stroll through the marina to find great seafood and to enjoy wonderful views over the Mediterranean.

The real highlights of the city are the dramatic towers and castles that rise high above the city and create a rustic, archaic skyline.

FAQs

What’s the best city in Italy?

Each city in Italy is so different that it would be impossible to give a fair judgement on what’s the best city in the entire country! It also depends on your preferences, too. For Roman ruins, the best city is Rome, for fashion and architecture the best city is Milan, and for pizza, the best city could well be Naples.

When’s the best weather in Italy?

Italy is blessed with a beautiful Mediterranean climate, and for much of the year, the country enjoys hot, sunny weather. The hottest weather is in summer, from June through to August, but for many, it can almost be too hot, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius in some destinations. Winter is never too cold unless you’re in the far north, where snow is regular in the mountains, while spring and autumn have cool and pleasant temperatures.

What’s the busiest time to visit Italy?

Undoubtedly the busiest time of year to visit Italy is in the summer, between June and August, when tourists quite literally descend upon the country. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, then this is not the time to be in Italy!

There are so many great cities to visit in Italy that you could easily spend a lifetime exploring the country! From the ancient ruins of Rome to the canals of Venice, Italy has some of the most impressive cities in the world.

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