Holidays To Italy:
The Top 10 Italian Cities
When planning holidays to Italy, it's a great idea to make a list of the top Italian cities you absolutely must see, as well as the rural attractions that appeal to you.
Here is our list of top Italian cities and their array of attractions:
1. Rome – The Eternal City
Rome is host to Vatican City, and countless famous tourist attractions, including all major locations featured in Dan Brown's novels, The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. Among the most iconic of Rome's historic locations are the Coliseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Roman Forum, the Palentine Hill, the Circus Maximus and the Alban Hills.
Steep yourself in history by day and enjoy the 21st century nightlife after dark. We'd hazard a guess that the majority of holidays in Italy include a trip to the Eternal City.
2. Venice – The Floating City
Enjoy the unique water city before it sinks beneath the waves. Glide by gondola through the liquid streets of the Grand Canal, one of the major water-traffic corridors. With only single stakes of wood acting as fences, you will snake your way through the Venetian canals past homes that appear to rise directly from the water. Pause for a delicious lunch, then take a slow stroll through the shops.
Browse the famous Venetian glass boutique as you make your way to Saint Mark's Square to get the best view of Venice from the clock tower. Venice is the usually the 2nd or 3rd city on the agenda for people planning holidays to Italy.
3. Florence –The Renaissance City
Florence, the capital city of Tuscany, is widely considered the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, a cultural and social 'rebirth' which swept through Europe from the end of the 14th century to around 1600. The Uffizi Gallery, one of the oldest and most famous of the city's many galleries and museums, houses the masterpieces of some of the world's most influential artists, including Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto, Botticelli, Donatello and Raphael.
Florence is also the birthplace of Dante and Galileo, along with present-day fashion designers Salvatore Ferragamo, Guccio Gucci, Roberto Cavalli and Emilio Pucci. After you've browsed the galleries and shops, be sure to take a stroll through the open-air markets. Most holidays to Italy include at least a day or two in Florence.
4. Pisa – The Leaning Tower City
A short distance from Florence, Pisa is primarily famous for its leaning tower, which many people take the iconic photo of your massive might holding up the ever tilting Leaning Tower of Pisa. If you decide to take a tour of the tower, get there early, because once the maximum amount of people has entered, you won't gain access. A lovely way to see the city is to book a leisurely boat cruise down the River Arno.
The University of Pisa has a venerable history. Officially founded in 1343, although its origins date back to the 11th century, its list of alumni reads like a Who's Who of Italian scientists. Luca Ghini (founder of the world's first botanical gardens) and Andrea Cesalpino (pioneer in the classification of plants and the discovery of blood circulation) both headed the Botany department. Gabriele Falloppio (pioneer in the study of the sense organs, bones and muscles, and the reproductive organs (including the fallopian tube), and Marcello Malpighi (discoverer of the capillaries, pioneer in embryology, and father of microscopic anatomy and histology) both lectured in Anatomy and Medicine. And Pisan native Galileo was a professor of Mathematics.
5. Milan – The Fashion City
Renowned as the fashion capital of Italy, Milan is the perfect place to catch up on he current trends, and, if you're lucky, see a runway show. Just as in New York and London, you can find yourself immersed in Fashion Week if you're in the city at the right time of the year. If shopping is one of your passions, browse the fashion houses and shops along Via Monte Napoleone and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, reputed to be the world's oldest shopping mall.
Milan has a rich cultural heritage. The city is the home of composer Giuseppe Verdi and the Teatro alla Scala opera house. Milan is also well known for its museums, palaces and churches. Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper covers the wall of the dining hall at the Santa Maria delle Grazie monastery. If architecture is more of your passion, take a tour of the Sforzesco Castle and the Milan Cathedral.
6. Verona – The Shakespearian City
Take a trip from Milan to Verona, the city Shakespeare used as the setting for two of his famous plays, Romeo and Juliet and Two Gentlemen From Verona. While you can visit Juliet's house, Juliet was not an actual historical person. The house is more of a symbol of the iconic balcony scene that Shakespeare included in the play.
Verona has a substantial artistic heritage. It hosts several annual fairs, shows, and operas. In the center of the city is a wealth of Roman architecture, including an amphitheater that is one of the oldest and best preserved in Italy. Verona has a number of churches featuring a number of architecture styles. Be sure to visit the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore and the Basilica of San Lorenzo.
7. Assisi – St Francis's City
Not far from Verona is Assisi, birthplace of St Francis and a mecca for religious pilgrims. The son of a rich cloth merchant, Francis's life was changed one day when he heard a sermon in which Christ bids his followers to go forth and spread his word with no money or possessions. Francis took a vow of poverty and began preaching. Within the first year he had attracted eleven followers and the Franciscan order was born. Be sure to visit the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi as well as Assisi's beautiful churches and their amazing works of art. Assisi also boasts two medieval castles.
When you're ready to get away from the city, the surrounding countryside of Umbria is a wonderful antidote. Umbria is bordered by Tuscany and is just as beautiful but less plagued by tourists. Todi is a great region to visit. Take a night walk through the uphill cities that reach into the sky, providing breathtaking views of the countryside over the Tiber Valley. You'll find olive vineyards where you can buy amazing olive oil and even indulge in multi-course meals featuring regional meats such as boar and rabbit.
8. Naples – The Pizza City
Naples is a chaotic, exciting city famous for its history, art, architecture, culture, music, and, of course, food. When you visit La Bella Napoli, you must indulge in some authentic pizza, a dish that originated in the city. Pizza Fritta, a deep-fried pizza dough ball filled with cheese and red sauce, is a popular lunch item.
Enjoy a stroll through the wonderful Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque churches, castles and palaces. Music plays a strong role in Neapolitan culture so visit the impressive music museum at the San Pietro a Majella music conservatory. And be sure to visit the Museum of Capodimonte to see some fine examples of Neapolitan art.
9. Pompeii – The Frozen City
While you're in Naples, take a day trip to Pompeii where you can travel back in time and witness the destruction of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that buried the city under 4-6 meters of ash and pumice. Lost for over 1,500 years, this city was only accidentally rediscovered in 1599.
Take a tour through the excavated city to get a feel for life in 79AD. Pompeii is another of the top destinations people flock to on holidays to Italy.
10. Palermo – The Sicilian City
Palermo is the capital of Sicily, and has a rich history, culture and cuisine. Palermo has a large number of impressive churches and cathedrals, and is famous for its Norman architecture. Must-see palaces include the Palazzo dei Normanni, hunting lodges Zisa and Cuba, the Palazzo Chiaramonte and the Palazzo Abatellis which contains the Regional Gallery.
The Museo Archeologico Regionale is one of Italy's best museums, containing archaeological remains from the Carthaginian, Etruscan, Hellenistic and Roman eras. The Teatro Massimo, Palermo's most famous opera house, is the largest one in Italy and the third largest in Europe. Be sure to visit the Quattro Canti square and the Piazza Pretoria.
Some holidays to Italy favor the northern cities, but there are equally fascinating attractions south of Rome.