Ah, Italy - the land of ice cream and pizza, renaissance art and leaning towers, architectural wonders and hotbeds of style. The cities of Italy are living breathing examples of the some of the most amazing achievements of man through the ages. In Italian cities the food is delectable, the architecture awe-inspiring, the art truly inspiring, and the people chic, elegant, yet somehow still homely. Here’s my pick of 8 Irresistible Cities of Italy:
Fashion, art and design are more than just a flavor in Milan. They are the way of life. Stylish boutiques make for some of the best shopping and undoubtedly Milan is one of the fashion capitals of Europe. The likes of Gucci, Prada, Versace, Armani and Dolce and Gabbana all have flagship stores in the Quadrilatero d’Oro. Milan is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, graced by the world famous opera house La Scala and its stunning cathedral with its marble façade, and it is also home to one of the world’s most famous paintings, Da Vinci’s Last Supper. Take a much earned rest from shopping in the canal side cafes and trattorias of Navigli and enjoy a stroll through Isola to drink in its funky vibe.
Naples is one of the greatest Italian cities and the most important in the south. Tucked under the skirts of Mount Vesuvius, Naples was one of the city states back in the Middle Ages and its prosperity can be seen in its expansive piazzas and elaborate architecture. It’s a wonderful mélange of shambolic crumbly alleys and massive palazzos, tiny back street pizza parlors and fine dining restaurants and the traffic is more like a South East Asian city than Europe but that’s all part of its charm. It’s a coastal city but without a beach, however, the drive along the Amalfi Coast is one of the best scenic trips in the world, and especially at night, when the bay of Naples is illuminated by the city lights.
Home to the oldest university in the world, Bologna is one of the stunning medieval cities of Italy. Here you’ll find tall towers, arcaded porticoes, imposing palazzos and wide open piazzas. Known as the ‘Red City’, as much for the color of its distinctive medieval center as well as its politics, Bologna has a youthful vibe thanks to its large student population. Of course, among Italian cities, Bologna has cult status when it comes to food. The infamous Bolognese sauce is firmly rooted in the heritage of the restaurants and family trattorias here.
Another of the Italian cities to have claim to a golden age in its past, Genoa is probably one of the most underrated tourist destinations, and surprisingly to some, its medieval quarter is larger than that of Florence. It enjoys a magnificent setting squashed onto mountain slopes in hilly Liguria. Its streets are a spaghetti-like mass of tiny winding alleys and steep passages furnished by tall townhouses made distinctive by bright colors and even brighter by bold shutters. The pedestrian only caruggi is a dense labyrinth of tiny streets just begging to be explored. Also, head to the glorious waterfront - ref. Christopher Columbus - the stopping place for luxury cruise liners, fancy yachts and shabby fishing boats, to enjoy a stroll, a gelato, a chilled limoncello, or a visit to the glass biosphere.
The renaissance capital of the world, Florence, to many is the epitome of what makes Italian cities so amazing. The hand of the all-powerful Medici dynasty created a canvas that subsequent artists and architects have only added to. The wealth of art and architecture is second to none and so many sites are instantly recognizable including the Duomo, Giotto’s Campanile, the Baptistery, the Uffizi Gallery and the piazzas. Shop amid palazzo on elegant boulevards or pop into a traditional restaurant for some rustic Tuscan fare washed down with a nice Montepulciano or raise a glass of Chianti to toast the delights of Florence.
Ok, so they really milk the Romeo and Juliet connection, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that Verona is one of the most gorgeous cities in Italy. Known as Little Rome, the city is blessed with antique heirlooms from when it was an important imperial stronghold and its golden age in the 13th and 14th centuries. Verona is the 4th most visited of Italian cities, whose guests come to watch outdoor opera in the most majestic setting in the Roman Arena, view Juliet’s House and wander the magnificent churches.
The name might lack the romance of the other cities in Italy, but Turin sits in a gorgeous location in the foothills of the Alps, and is a delicious northern hub of culture with excellent museums, great shopping and plenty of dining options. There’s an artisan feel here amidst the ancient palazzi, baroque architecture and colonnaded walkways. If you want to experience the ambience of Italian cities without the massive tourist crowds, Turin has much to commend it. It’s green and contemporary, fashionable yet traditional.
You can’t mention Italian cities without immediately thinking of Rome. Rome once ruled practically the known world and the legacy of this immense power remains in its antiquities that date back to the times of the Emperors. The Colosseum remains one of the most incredible buildings in the world but, it isn’t all about antiquity. Rome has been a great city throughout the ages. Relive La Belle Epoque in the aristocratic palazzo and gardened villas of Borghese or get right up to date in the 21st century in the trendy boutiques and nightclubs. Rome is a living breathing museum, and the exhibits aren’t locked away but alive in the streets, buildings, antique heirlooms and the people.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our short tour around some amazing Italian cities. I’m sure you all have your own favorite?