I have a love affair with Italy… can you blame me, few places in the world are as beautiful as Italy! From cyprus lined roads, windy coastal drives to snowcapped mountains you cannot help but fall in love with Italy. Yes, the countryside in Italy is beautiful but the cities are just as stunning and full of history, art, and incredible architecture. I dream of living in one of the beautiful cities in Italy (maybe Milan or Florence) and driving through the small towns and discovering all the scenic towns, sunflower fields, rolling vineyards and sampling all the pasta.
We have been to Italy a few times, our first visit was when Ms. Peachy was only 3 years old. I still remember sitting on Spanish Steps to give her little legs a break after a long day of exploring Rome. Here are some of our favorite cities and a few that we want to visit someday. For the purposes of this list, I kept it to the most beautiful cities in Italy that have a population close 100,000 or more and are easy to get to via a train or have major airports. You can see a list of the Italian cities and the census here.
YOU MAY HAVE THE UNIVERSE IF I MAY HAVE ITALY.GIUSEPPE VERDI
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Verona still feels like a Shakespearean town, strolling around the streets you can almost feel the romance in this City of Love. Verona considers itself the hometown of Romeo and Juliet, and there are several places you can see evidence of this lovers’ story. The most famous spot is Juliet’s House, the building dates back to the 13th century and has the Capulet’s emblem on the external façade. A gate opens onto a covered space where lovers from all around the world leave their messages.
Best Experiences in Verona: Visit Juliet’s Balcony and the ancient Arena, Dante’s Square, shop at Piazza delle Erbe, walk on the Stone bridge of Ponte Pietra.
Best Place to Stay: I highly recommend a stay at the Escalus Luxury Suites. Part of the Small Luxury Hotels, the suites are perfect for families.
Tuscany, in Central Italy with its capital of Florence has a rich artist and architectural heritage. Visiting Florence you will see why it inspired so many artists and writers! Called the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is one of Europe’s great art cities. There is so much exquisite art and architecture like the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio. Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy we want to go back to visit again. The kids were younger when we visited Florence years ago and didn’t fully appreciate this great city! From Giotto’s frescoes, Michelangelo’s David, canvases by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci and a whole host of other masterpieces can be found in the Uffizi Gallery.
Top Experiences in Florence: Michelangelo’s David, climb up the Duomo, see the masterpieces in Uffizi Gallery, stroll across Ponte Vecchio, catch a sunset over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo. Drive to the wine country and visit Sienna and San Gimignano.
Best Place to Stay: From boutique hotels with amazing views like Villa La Vedetta and Relais Santa Croce to luxury hotels like Four Seasons Hotel Firenze housed in a magnificent Renaissance palazzo to other estates a short drive away from the city center, there are plenty of options. We think St.Regis Florence is perfect for families.
No trip to Tuscany is complete without a day trip to Pisa – to Piazza dei Miracoli. The Square of Miracles has gained international fame thanks to the leaning tower. It is also home to other marvelous monuments like the Cathedral, the Baptistery and the cemetery, all of them pure white standing out over the lush green ground representing the circle of life. Built between the 12th and 13th centuries, did you know that the Leaning Tower of Pisa started leaning before it was even finished!
Top Experiences in Pisa: Visit the Cathedral, the Baptistery, Climb the tower for the view and take some goofy photos with the Leaning Tower.
Venice is one of the most beautiful cities in not just Italy but the world! Built entirely on canals, Venice is so unique. It has lovely architecture, churches, and, of course, beautiful square including the famous St. Mark’s Square. Being in Venice transports you to another era, it is so atmospheric and romantic! We have been to Venice three times so far and always love getting lost walking down different alleyways and bridges stopping for Gelatos always taking in the sights and sounds of this beautiful city in Italy!
Best Experiences in Venice: Go for a morning walk along the canals, take a gondola ride, see St. Mark’s Square, walk across the Rialto Bridge, eat all the gelato, visit the Doges’ Palace and Saint Mark’s Basilica. Take a trip to the colorful islands in the Venetian Lagoon.
Best Place to Stay: From Aman Venice to Gritti Palace, Venice has its share of grand properties. We stayed at a beautiful boutique property Hotel Antiche Figure right across from the train station. This hotel is absolutely beautiful, we had one of the two rooms that have a little balcony and great views to look out at the grand canal.
Bergamo a city in the alpine Lombardy region of northern Italy, about 40 km from Milan, and 30 km from Switzerland is one of my favorite places. The alpine lakes Como and Iseo, and Lake Garda and Maggiore are not too far away. The Bergamo Alps begin immediately north of the city. The old city of Bergamo called the Città Alta or High City sits high on the hill overlooking the modern city. And there are beautiful yellow frescos! The medieval streets and buildings and 17th-century walls surrounding it are stunning and a perfect place for a peaceful stroll and a meal. If you have the time, Bergamo is one of the beautiful cities that is perfect for a weekend stay when you are in Italy.
Top Experiences in Bergamo: Wander the cobblestoned streets, explore the old town and visit Piazza Vecchia (the old public square), Palazzo della Ragione, the Duomo, the Colleoni Chapel and the Baptistery.
We didn’t stay at Bergamo but stayed in Milan at Hotel Principi.
Naples in southern Italy sits on the Bay of Naples in the shadows of Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano. It is a great base for trips to Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Amalfi Coast. The city has many historical and artistic treasures, and is famous for its pizza and desserts! The city’s cathedral, the Duomo di San Gennaro, is filled with frescoes. The lavish Royal Palace and Castel Nuovo, a 13th-century castle are worth a visit. Last time we were in Naples, we stayed in Sorrento, a coastal town facing the Bay of Naples on the Sorrentine Peninsula. Perched atop cliffs that separate the town from its busy marinas, it’s had sweeping water views and we loved wandering in Piazza Tasso, a cafe-lined square.
Best Experiences in Naples: Visit Pompeii and Herculaneum, try some authentic Neopolitan pizza and drive on the Amalfi Coast and visit Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. Stop at Blue Grotto.
Best Place to Stay: I suggest staying in Sorrento instead of Naples – Hotel Minerva where we stayed. Bellevue Syrene 1820 or Hilton Palace are great choices too. If you want to stay in Amalfi – Rifugio degli Dei, a country house with lovely views. Places to stay in Positano – Il San Pietro di Positano, an exquisite property or the popular – Le Sirenuse, you probably have seen photos of it on Instagram
Rome the capital and the main international gateway to Italy, it’s right in the middle of the country and needs no introduction. It’s historical and architectural significance is simply unmatched. Home to one of the oldest and most powerful empires on Earth, from the Colosseum and Parthenon to the Trevi Fountain and St. Peter’s Basilica, there is beauty and wonder around every corner. It is a city of contrast where old ruins that are centuries old dot the cosmopolitan city. While you’re there, don’t miss a visit to Vatican City and marveling at the magnificent Sistine Chapel.
Top Experiences in Rome: The Colosseum, Roman Forum, The Spanish Steps, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, and the Borghese Museum.
Best Places to Stay: Stay at Palazzo Manfredi, a historic villa if you want to wake up to views of the Colosseum. Close to the Spanish Steps and the boutiques of Via dei Condotti, this impressive hotel located in a resorted palace is walking distance from all major points of interest.
Milan, known as Milano to the Italians in another one of my favorites. It is one of Europe’s wealthiest cities, is known for stylish shops, galleries, and restaurants and has a faster pace of life than most Italian cities. It also has a rich artistic and cultural heritage. Its Gothic Duomo, with its beautiful marble facade, is magnificent, I love the rooftop views of the Duomo! Da Vinci’s painting of The Last Supper is one of Milan’s top attractions and La Scala is one of the world’s most famous opera houses.
Best Experiences in Milan: Walk on the roof of the Duomo, see Da Vinci’s Last Supper, go shopping at Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Have dinner at Naviglio, Milan’s version of Venice.
Best Places to Stay: We stayed at the Milan at Hotel Principi. Four Seasons has a great property in Milan as well. Located in the heart of Milan, just a few meters from the Duomo, Sina the Gray, a 5-star design hotel is another great choice if you love boutique properties.
ITALY IS A DREAM THAT KEEPS RETURNING FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.ANNA AKHMATOVA
Here are a few beautiful cities in Italy we haven’t been to yet, but hoping to visit sometime!
Genoa (Genova), in Liguria on the northwest coast of Italy, is Italy’s principal seaport. It is famous for its pesto! Genoa has a fascinating modern aquarium, an interesting port area, and a historic center said to be the largest medieval quarter in Europe, with a wealth of churches, palaces, and museums. Genoa is the Italian Riviera’s center and divides it into two main sections: the Riviera di Ponente (the coast of the setting sun), extending westwards from Genoa to the French border; and the Riviera di Levante (the coast of the rising sun) between Genoa and Capo Corvo. The perfect city to base yourself to explore the beautiful villages and the surrounding hillsides are part of the Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Turin (Torino), in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, is a major cultural hub with excellent museums, elegant shops, and good restaurants. It has great food, great wine, and incredible scenery. There are also some very nice examples of Baroque architecture and historic palaces, famous coffee houses, artisan workshops, and streets with covered arcades. Alba is another nice destination to visit in this region especially during the Alba white truffle festival, which takes place during weekends in October and November.
LIFE IS A COMBINATION OF MAGIC AND PASTA.FEDERICO FELLINI
Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna and is utterly beautiful. Founded in 1088 by an organized guild of students, the University of Bologna is the oldest university in the world, as well as one of the leading academic institutions in Italy and Europe And there’s a ton to do here in Bologna. From soaking in the academic ambiance to enjoying the region’s excellent Bolognese sauce soaked pasta in local trattorie, to taking fun pictures with the leaning tower of Bologna (yes there is one here as well), there’s something in this buzzing city for everyone. The Fountain of Neptune is Bologna’s most famous landmark along with the Two Towers. But not many know that one of Bologna’s nicknames is “la turrita“, meaning ‘the city with many towers’. It’s estimated that, between the 12th and 13th centuries, Bologna had as many as 180 towers
Lecce is one of the biggest cities in the region of Puglia. It’s also one of the prettiest! Puglia is easily identified on the map of Italy as it runs down the east coast of the country from the Gargano Peninsula all the way into the “heel of the boot”. With its ornate, Baroque architecture, Lecce is referred to as the Florence of the South. In the central Piazza del Duomo, the Cattedrale di Lecce has a double facade and a bell tower. The Basilica di Santa Croce features sculptures and a rose window. Nearby are the Sant’Oronzo Column, a Roman column topped with a bronze statue of the city’s patron saint, and the sunken Roman amphitheater.
Getting to this beautiful Italian city is easy as it is near an international airport and port of Brindisi. 40% of Italy’s olive oil production comes from Puglia, and they are famous for the orecchiette pasta. You can stay in a Trullo when visiting Puglia, the conical-roofed stone houses that are unique to the region and originated in the town of Alberobello in the 16 century BC.
Located a short train ride outside of Florence, Lucca is home to about 85,000 residents. It has cobblestone streets and elegant palaces, elaborate churches and a ring of Renaissance-era fortification walls that have been turned into walking and biking paths. Music lovers might know that the composer Giacomo Puccini was born. You can visit the beautiful city in Italy as a day trips from Florence.
Bolzano, Italy is known as the gateway to the Dolomites. It is the capital of the province of Trentino/ Alto-Adige also known as the South Tyrol. All town names here are written in Italian and German and German is spoken than Italian. This is because this area of Italy belonged to Austria before WWI. Bolzano is the gateway to the Dolomites mountain range in the Italian Alps. While the Italian mountain ranges technically belong to the Alps, locals call the range in Italy’s northeast corner the Dolomites, while those in the northwest, in the Valle d’Aosta, are the Alps. Valle d’Aosta can be reached in about 2 hours drive from Milan or Torino.
Other than Bolzano, the Dolomites include the ski resorts Cortina d’Ampezzo, Madonna di Campiglio, Val Pusteria, Val di Fassa, Val Gardena, and Sasso Lungo. Also located in the Dolomites mountain range is Seiser Alm is a Dolomite plateau and the largest high-altitude Alpine meadow in Europe. Another place that is high on my wishlist! See this post for some amazing hikes in the Dolomites.
Sicily has Greek and Roman heritage. It has seemingly eternal sunshine and is warm even in November. Sicily is the largest Mediterranean island located just off Italy’s “boot.” The capital of Sicily, Palermo is located in the northwest of the island of Sicily, right by the Gulf of Palermo in the Tyrrhenian Sea. The city was founded in 734 BC by the Phoenicians as Ziz. This majestic town boasts many grand sites that are well worth a visit, like the cathedral, the Palazzo dei Normanni and the Palazzo Abatellis for starters. The Museo Archeologico Regionale, botanical gardens and Catacombs are also worth exploring in this beautiful Italian city.
You can take a train easily from different destinations in Italy. Here is a link to the efficient rail system in Italy where you can check for schedule and rates. Find unique stays and villas here and check Walks of Italy, Context Travel and ArtViva for outstanding small group tours in Italy run by locals who know these beautiful cities in Italy all too well.
Let me know in the comments if I have missed any of your favorites, I will be sure to add it to my list of beautiful cities in Italy to visit!
You might also like: A day in Siena, Rooftop views of Duomo in Milan, Italy’s most colorful town, Pretty towns around Lake Garda and One day Amalfi Coast Drive Itinerary
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