Italy is one of the most beautiful, as well as historic, countries in the entire world. If you are looking for a destination for your next trip with your family, Italy should definitely be a top contender. However, first-time visitors may be at a loss for what cities to include on their itinerary. So if you aren’t sure where to spend your time, here are some of the best cities to visit in Italy.
Rome, the capital of Italy, is brimming with over two and a half thousand years worth of history. From medieval churches and museums to ancient monuments, stunning fountains and breathtaking palaces, you’ll be hard-pressed to decide on which historical landmark to see first.
Ancient sites such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Forum Romanum are at the top of many travelers’ bucket lists. The combination of history and architecture has a strong pull for people. Others are interested in more modern yet religious sites, such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. Of course, the Vatican is geographically surrounded by Rome. And every visitor to Rome should take in iconic sites such as the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.
There’s so much to Rome that you could spend months exploring its treasures, but many of us don’t have that kind of time and availability! So check this itinerary to see exactly what you can do in Rome in just 2 days.
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If you’re looking for a unique place to vacation, Venice should definitely be on your itinerary. It is a beautiful city built in the middle of a lagoon at the north end of the Adriatic Sea. Venice is most well-known for having canals instead of roads, and the beautiful gondolas that traverse them. Water travel is such an ingrained part of the city that Venice’s nickname is “The Floating City”.
Attractions include St. Mark’s Basilica, which sits on the square of the same name. The Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs are famous landmarks. But when you visit Venice, you simply must take a gondola ride on the grand canal. It can be especially romantic for couples, but families and friends enjoy the famous boat rides just as much.
Foodies will delight in the fresh seafood offerings found in this seaside city. The fish market is a delight to visit, and we really enjoyed the food tour we did in Venice. My favorite dish by far was Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia, or squid ink pasta. The sauce is made with ink and is jet black…and your mouth will be black after eating it! But it’s incredibly delicious. If that’s not your cup of tea, try Venice’s famous cicchetti, similar to Spanish tapas. These finger foods / appetizers often feature fish and shellfish, and the small amounts allow you to try a variety of flavors.
Florence is known as a doorway to the Tuscan region, but it has also earned a name for itself as the birthplace of the Renaissance. Art lovers shouldn’t pass up an opportunity to visit the various art and architectural centers found here, with museums such as Galleria dell’Accademia, where you can see Michelangelo’s famous Statue of David.
Among the architectural wonders found in Florence are the Palazzo Vecchio; Piazza della Signoria, the square it sits on; and Il Duomo, a cathedral also known as Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. If you go to the Piazzale Michelangelo, you can see an incredible view of the skyline of Florence, which is dominated by the famous dome.
Food is not to be taken lightly in Florence, either. This city is home to some of the best gelato in the entire world! And meat lovers will delight in the Florentine steak, Florence’s signature dish.
Finally, Florence is known for its amazing shopping. Here, you will find all of the high-end designer Italian brands, including Gucci, Prada, and Armani. What Florence is known for, however, is its leather goods. The tourist areas are lined with leather shops selling items of dubious origin and quality, so make sure to go somewhere known for its craftmanship. The Scuola del Cuoio, or School of Leather, is one of the best places to find well-made, truly-Italian shoes, jackets, purses, and more.
Milan is one of the richest cities in all of Europe. Fans of history and architecture will enjoy the Sforza Castle (Castello Sforzesco), the Duomo (officially Metropolitan Cathedral-Basilica of the Nativity of Saint Mary), and the La Scala Opera. For art lovers, Santa Maria delle Grazie cannot be missed, as it houses The Last Supper painting by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci.
Milan is widely known as the world’s fashion capital, and the sheer number of chic shops and boutiques found in this city will tell you why. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping gallery is next to the Duomo, and has many of the major high-end Italian brands. Apparently the rent here is so expensive that these stores individually operate at a loss, but the value comes from brand recognition opportunities due to the sheer volume of people who go by the stores each day! If you want to do some serious shopping, you might head to Via Della Spiga instead.
A trendy part of town to visit is Isola. There, you will find a lovely botanical park called Biblioteca degli Alberi, or the Library of Trees. From there, you can see the renowned Bosco Verticale, or Vertical Forest, which are two residential skyscrapers covered in live trees. While there, sit for a bit at Ratanà, a delicious restaurant where you’ll enjoy the meal of a lifetime!
Or get hyper-local and choose some of these hidden gems in Milan that aren’t what you might expect!
Naples is the largest city in all of southern Italy, and is one of the most vibrant. It is much more than a gateway to the Isle of Capri and Pompeii. Naples is actually the birthplace of pizza! The city is full of restaurants and cafes offering mouthwatering pizzas cooked in wood burning ovens, so make sure to grab some delicious Naples food!
If you’re an architecture and history lover, check out the Naples Cathedral and the National Archaeological Museum. For beach lovers, Naples is a great jumping-off spot for the Amalfi Coast.
Bologna, the capital of northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, is widely known for its world-class cuisine, lavishness, and beauty. Bologna has earned a reputation as “The Stomach of Italy”, and both locals and tourists will agree that it’s always difficult to say no to more food—even when full.
But Bologna’s charm extends beyond its delectable offerings. The city’s medieval core, adorned with graceful porticoes and labyrinthine alleys, evokes a sense of stepping back in time. The iconic Two Towers, which dominate the skyline, speak of Bologna’s medieval power and resilience. Piazza Maggiore, at the heart of the city, is a bustling square surrounded by architectural marvels that paint a vivid picture of Bologna’s historical significance.
Bologna isn’t merely a relic of the past; it’s a thriving center of knowledge and innovation. Home to one of Europe’s oldest universities, founded in 1088, the city boasts an intellectual energy that resonates through its vibrant streets. Museums and galleries offer a glimpse into its rich history, while the local markets burst with the colors and flavors of regional produce.
Verona is known primarily as being the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. However, Italy’s third largest city has so much more to offer. Verona is home to a world-renowned opera festival, as well as an outstanding medieval center, castle complex, and Roman coliseums.
Verona’s allure extends beyond the pages of literature. The city hosts a world-renowned opera festival that transforms its ancient Roman amphitheater into a stage for captivating performances. This vibrant celebration of the arts is a testament to Verona’s deep appreciation for culture and its seamless fusion of past and present. Christmas in Verona is an especially wonderful time to visit!
We hope this guide has helped you decide which cities in Italy you want to include in your travel plans. Of course, it may be that you want to see them all, and if so, good for you! They each have something special to offer, and are sure to make your Italian vacation one to remember.