Italy is the kind of place where a fascinating mix of history, culture and scenery hits you smack dab in the face. It’s true, there is colorful art, impressive landmarks and ancient ruins at every turn and this is especially true in the major cities. With this in mind, whether you get lost down the side streets of Rome, explore the elegant palaces in Naples or take a gondola ride through the canals of Venice, there is simply no end of attractions and things to do in the cities of Italy.
At the same time, these urban centers have so much more to offer than the obvious tourist attractions and you should even find that the lesser known cities are just as interesting as the most famous.
Now, let’s take a look at 11 of the most beautiful cities in Italy to live:
As you may know, Verona was the infamous & romantic home city of Romeo and Juliet. However, you need not be familiar with Shakespeare to appreciate this incredibly historic city. Featuring endless castles, piazzas and medieval churches, the ancient facades of Verona are striking to say the least. In fact, this is arguable one of the most visually stunning cities in Italy and when it comes to Roman ruins in particular, the beautifully preserved arena is merely an example of what you can expect to find. It’s true, most people come to walk in the footsteps of this famous couple but the enchanting architecture is more than enough to forget about Shakespeare and get lost in this vibrant city.
For many visitors, the canals in Venice are not only a means of escaping the traffic but also the most unique way to explore this stunning city. After all, in how many cities can you sit back in a gondola and watch the medieval architecture as it drifts past? Venetian architecture is also incredible unique and you can also see this up close when you venture further into the city churches, piazzas and palaces. What’s more, if you visit Venice during the winter months, an enchanting mist hangs over the city and the lack of tourists crowds can make this a much more personal encounter. Either way, Venice is popular for good reason and this fairy-tale city never fails to excite and delight!
Bologna may not be the best known city in Italy but this is certainly one of the most historical and culturally important. In fact, Bologna is home to the oldest university in Italy and also some of the finest food. In many ways, there is also two sides to the city with the first being the ambitious and high-tech areas such as Po Valley and the second being the much more elegant and academic city center. Either way, both sides have world-class eateries and a certain buzz which is largely to do with the young and exciting university population.
Let’s be honest, Rome was always going to top this list and with more than 2,500 years of fascinating history, this is possibly the most interesting city in Europe. Featuring countless ancient churches, museums and archaeological sites, the capital city is also a historians dream destination. You will likely see a lot more tourists and lineups in this part of Italy but this is hardly surprising with presence of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and other famous landmarks. As if that’s not enough, the historical side of this city is also accompanied by a very modern vibe and the colorful art, culture and fashion in Rome is just as fascinating as any of the landmarks mentioned above.
Believe it or not, Naples has a rather poor rapport with tourists and a reputation for being a somewhat gritty version of Rome or Florence. On the other hand, this is also “Bella Napoli”, a nickname that refers to the beautiful palaces and castles you will find in the city. Naples is also famous for having no less than nine art and archaeology museums and with all the great food and passion that you might associate with this part of the world, this is truly a unique city that offers a very simplistic alternative to the fancy tourist destinations nearby.
Many of the most famous Italian artists and writers hail from Florence and with such an awe-inspiring appearance, it’s easy to see why. From the magnificent sight of the Palazzo Vecchio and the Duomo to the art museums and winding cobblestone streets, there is so much to see and just as much to love about the city. As you may know, Florence is also where you will find many masterpieces by Michaelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. That being said, there is also work by Caravaggio, Raphael and Titian here, making it one of the most historically significant art rich cities in the world.
Palermo is best known for being a crossroads of civilization and a city where arabesque domes and Byzantine mosaics dominated the architecture. Interestingly, the city has managed to retain some of this status with many souk-like markets, Gothic palaces and baroque churches filling the streets. At the same time, there is also decay and many remnants of old stone walls and staircases offer an insight into what this glamorous city looked like in the past. However, as with many of the fast moving cities in Italy, there is also a very modern undertone to Palermo and you can experience this contemporary side by sampling the wonderful eateries and trendy bars around town.
Cefalu is probably the most beautiful city in Italy that you have never heard about. You will find a stunning beach here, next to Arab-Norman architecture and a medieval town that looks like something you might see on a postcard. Giuseppe Tornatore used this city for the setting of his flim Cinema Paradiso and this should go some way to describing how beautiful is the city. Meanwhile, it can feel like stepping back in time down at the harbor, where fishermen tend to their boats and the quieter side of Cefalu gets under way. It may not be as famous as the movie but Cefalu hits all the right notes and just might be the most attractive city in Italy that you never thought about visiting.
Everyone has heard about the Leaning Tower of Pisa but not everyone knows that Pisa is a medieval city with stunning palaces and beautiful art. At one time, Pisa was a maritime rival to the cities of Venice and Genoa, while many Roman buildings and churches offer an alternative perspective from the leaning tower above. Believe it or not, locals also fill the streets here and still manage to outnumber the tourists, but they are forever thankful for the boost that the tower has brought to their beloved city.
Perugia is quite a large city and was founded during the time of the Etruscans and Umbrii peoples. For this reason, visitors can climb down into the famous Etruscan chamber tombs and witness some of the oldest remnants in medieval Italy. What’s more, there is also the National Museum of Umbrian Archaeology and the National Gallery, along with a number of ancient piazzas and churches to explore. If you wanted to uncover some of the ancient history in Italy yet escape the tourists at the same time, this is quite possibly the best city in Italy for you to visit!
It’s true, Catania can seem like a loud and chaotic city at first glance but this is actually quite a charming city with a very energetic atmosphere. In fact, Catania is known for having a very youthful population and this is certainly true in comparison with elsewhere in Sicily. With gritty bars and trendy clubs at every turn, this energy is also clear to see after dark nightlife. That being said, Catania has a very historic core and towers, piazzas, and an 18th century convent form a beautiful sight with Mt Etna looming large in the background. As far as Sicily goes, Catania is the jewel in the crown!
It’s true, Italian cities are full of intrigue, culture and history and each one has a unique personality. With this in mind, Rome, Florence and Venice may be top of the list of most visitors but the lesser known cities are just as interesting to experience.