we have prepared a list of the most beautiful cities in Italy.This list contains some pretty well known places and some underrated gems that still are protected from over tourism. Il dolce far niente. The sweetness of doing nothing. No country on Earth quite possibly encapsulates the essence of the phrase as Italy. It’s not heaven, it’s not paradise, it’s some blissful part of Earth where you can stroll in grand plazas, walk-in narrow paved gullys, stay idly by the window at a café, lounge in the sun watching the sea hit the shores.
Italy is not just a traveler’s paradise but also the land that everyone yearns for, wishing they could float in time somewhere in the rolling hills of Tuscany or in the beautiful beaches of Sicily, away from all problems of life. Every city, town, and village in Italy has it’s own charm, a whole separate book can be written on each place. But for the ease of travelers looking for a short trip or a detailed vacation in Italy,
The first entry on our list of “the most beautiful cities in Italy” is a city that is uniquely Italian. the Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs and Normans have all coveted this city, many making it the central hub of administration over the island of Sicily. Palermo has given and taken from the biggest empires in the history of mankind and stands tall to this day as a vibrant, lively melting pot.
This southern Italian city is the capital of Sicily not just administratively but also in terms of economics, culture and tourism. In 2018, it won the coveted “Italian Capital of Culture” award and also hosted the Manifesta Biennale for contemporary art. Each year it attracts millions of tourists because of the Mediterranean climate, renowned gastronomical prowess, architecture ranging from Roman to Art Nouveau and the happening nightlife. For people who like taking in the hustle and bustle Palermo has it’s four historic and big markets: Capo, Vucciria, Borgo Vecchio, and Ballaró full of local produce and animated vendors in a way that reminds visitors of Arabian markets.
You can also get great street food here in the markets although navigating through alone might be a bit challenging. Palermo also has impressive architectural spectrum with Roman, Gothic, Baroque to Art Nouveau buildings, churches and palaces. It’s historic center is one of the oldest and largest in all of Europe. The Palermo Cathedral, Teatro Massimo (which is the third largest theatre in all of Europe), Martorana Church, Norman Palace are architectural masterpieces with deep history. Monte Pellegrino, Fountain of Shame and Duomo do Monreale are un-missable landmarks.
The nightlife in Palermo is exciting, vibrant and downright crazy at times. Centro Storico or Old Town absolutely buzzes with music, dances and drinks late into the night or say early in the morning! Downtown areas offer upbeat restaurants, cafes and pubs. While if you are brave enough you cam venture into the old markets and tackle it’s chaotic energy. Pro Tip: When going out at night, don’t lack in the dressing up department. Palermo takes its sense if fashion seriously and you might be turned down from an entry in clubs if you are underdressed. Sports shoes with non-casual shirts and pants are a big no.
From Palermo in Southern Italy we jump straight to the Northern part of Italy to the region of Emilia -Romagna. Bologna is the capital of this region and although doesn’t get the same hype as Rome, Venice and Florence it is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. You don’t need to look further than its nicknames, La Grassa, La Dotta, and La Rosaa meaning The Fat for it’s fame in food products and cuisine, The Learned for having the oldest university in the world with a young student population and The Red for buildings tiled with red Spanish tiles. For many years, Bologna was a town on the road, a city people would pass by while visiting the more famous places. But Bologna with it’s towers and arches, colonnades, young student population and unique gastronomical offerings is increasingly becoming a much sort after attraction. It is a place which can be the crown jewel of your Instagram feed while also being a city which teaches you a lot about history and architecture.
The whole region of Emilia-Romagna is deeply passionate about their food and Bologna is no different. The Pasta Bolognese originated here! Cafes, delis, restaurants like the old Trattoriadel Rosso and indoor markets like Mercato di Mezzo serve delicious food for everyone, even providing vegan-friendly menus. No city I have visited loves aperitif meaning alcoholic drinks with snacks before dinners as much as Bologna and bars serve you a whole wide menu of aperitif!
Climbing the Torri Degli Asinelli or Garisenda gives you one of the best views of the city. Like with every Italian city there are many squares and plazas here like the Piazzo Santa Stefano mixed with quiet streets where you can stroll around with drinks and gelato and mix with the local culture. If you can beat the sun, climbing uphill to Basilica San Luca is also a must-do here in Bologna.
How long could anyone go without mentioning Florence as one of the most beautiful cities in Italy? No matter how hard one tries to not be mainstream or be different than others, the beauty of Florence can not be denied. It is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy and with a good reason. Florence lies in central Italy and is the capital of the region of Tuscany. Throughout 1865 to 1871, Florence served as the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. It’s influences on Italian politics, culture, art, commerce and language can be felt throughout history, a flex that Florence still holds. Renaissance was born here and the city is often called as “the cradle of Renaissance “. The Santa Maria del Fiore and it’s famous dome built by Filippo Brunelleschi still remains as the world’s largest dome built with brick and mortar. A common theme across many European nations, the historical center contains masterpieces of architecture and art and was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 1982.
The Piazza Vecchio overlooking the Piazza della Signoria, Giotto’s Campanile and the Baptistery of Saint John are exquisite examples of varying styles of architecture in Florence. Santa Croce contains the tombs of Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Galileo. With arts from Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Raphael, Velasquez and Michelangelo the Ponte Vecchio is a must visit not just in Florence but in all of Italy.
For more laid back options visitors can stroll around the best gardens in Florence at the Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens. The Renaissance Villa is the destination for wine lovers where you can also see the Tuscan countryside and vineyards. Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site and offers unparalleled views of the Italian Riviera and chances of hiking while seeing idyllic fishing villages, is a day trip away from Florence.
Italy’s first capital Torino has something off-beat about it. It is underrated, under-discussed unlike many other Italian dream destinations, but like a classily dressed diva wrapped in expensive fur, it stands on the Western bank of Po River completely obsessed with itself. The Alps surrounding the city add the visual sophistication of Turin.
Turin’s place in Italian political history cannot be overstated. It was the capital of Kingdom of Sardinia, the first capital of the Kingdom of Italy and also became the intellectual hub for the unification of Italy. Along with Milan and Genoa, Turin is a powerhouse in industry and commerce. Fiat, Lancia and the favorite of car romantics, Alfa Romeo have their headquarters in Turin making it the home of Italian automotive industry
But not everything here is about cold and industrial. Walking through the streets of Turin you will notice a lot of chocolate shops, something that one may not automatically associate with Italy. But, Turin is the home to the world’s most famous chocolate: Ferrero Rocher. Gianduja, a milk chocolate with hazelnuts that is loved so much around the world as Nutella also started here. Turin is less crowded as compared to Rome or Milan but is equally beautiful everywhere you turn your head towards. The huge boulevards lined with trees and the Art Nouveau cafes rival the elegance of Paris and Vienna.
There are also places like the Old town center, Egyptian Museum, National Museum of Cinema, the Royal Library of Turin which has the self portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. The Alps surround the city of Turin giving it a unique natural landscape that you cannot find down South. The views of the Alps from Santa Maria di Monte dei Cappuccini are simply breathtaking. Greenery, parks, and gardens are aplenty here and the city is very kind on people who like to stroll around and immerse themselves away from the crowds.
Milan is more rounded as a city than most people give it credit for. Unlike so many other Italian cities that are laid back and slow paced, Milan has this fast and high paced vibe to it.
But it doesn’t mean it’s just a modern metropolis with no soul, Milan combines the old with the modern in a way that only it can. The most iconic landmark in Milan is of course the Duomo. It’s a gothic architectural masterpiece and the lines can be long here. One of art world’s most revered gems, Da Vinci’s Last Supper lies in Santa Marie della Grazie, a church in Milan. Alongside the Duomo, visitors can shop in unparalleled luxury and an architectural masterpiece in Galleria Emmanuele II which is full of designer shops and cafes. La Scala is one of the world’s most important theatres holding 3,000 people to operas, ballets and concerts by Italy’s leading artists. The Sforza Castle holds frescoes and paintings from Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Canaletto, and Titan which can be seen without having to tussle with a huge crowd of tourists. You can enjoy your dinner with style along Milan’s own grand canal in Navigli.
Roma. Touristy, packed with visitors everywhere you go, every landmark and nook of the city dissected and explained to death by hundreds of travel channels and blogs. Yet, Rome remains one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, well not just in Italy but in the whole world. They don’t call Rome The Eternal City for nothing. Having traveled all across the world and having lived in cities with deep history, my admiration for Rome started when I saw just how well preserved the whole city is. It has a long, mythical and pretty legendary history spanning as far as 2,500 years ago. Everywhere you turn in this city, you are reminded of it.
The Colosseum is a symbol of Roman Empire as well as their architectural ingenuity located right in the heart of Rome. Constructed in 118 AD, the Pantheon is also located in the Piazza della Rotonda and remains one if the most well-preserved Roman temples. There is always a huge crowd of people trying to throw coins at the Trevi fountain, an elaborate tribute to the Roman God Oceanus.
Rome is also one of the most beautiful cities in italy to have another independent state inside it’s borders. The Vatican City with St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square are one of the most visited places on Earth. The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel are also must visits.
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