Italian cities to see before you die
- What to do in Rome, Italy
Rome is an exciting city that's been a bustling metropolis for thousands of years! Here are a few (of the many wonderful) things you can do when you visit Rome, Italy.
Rome - The eternal city
‘All roads lead to Rome', they used to say - because all roads did! And there is no other place to possibly start on a tour of Italy than this engrossing, enchanting and totally exhausting city of 7 hills and 400 churches. There's no way that a few short paragraphs can do justice to Rome, but here are some highlights.
The area known as Roma Antica, including, of course, the awe-inspiring Colosseum and the Roman Forum, is a must-see location. You'll also be overwhelmed by the maze of narrow, cobbled streets of the Centro Storico. It is here, between the Via del Corso and the River Tiber, that the legacy of the Renaissance era can best be viewed, as you stumble across stunning piazzas, with their palaces, fountains and street cafes. Try and make sure you find the Piazza Navona, with its fountain of the Four Rivers, and the Spanish Steps.
Of course, you'll want to see the Vatican and St Peter's Square - just remember, though, that the dress code in the Vatican Museum is strictly enforced, and short skirts or shorts should be avoided here. To the south of the Vatican, however, you'll discover Testaccio - where anything goes! This is the very best place in Rome, and probably the whole of Italy, for live music, clubs and superb wine bars.
- What to do in Florence, Italy
Florence was the center of the Italian Renaissance, and home to Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci. Today it's a fascinating city to visit! Here are a few highlights...
Florence - Cradle of the Renaissance
North of Rome, set in the lush Tuscan countryside, is the truly spectacular city of Florence - Firenze, to the locals. This is a city of art, in fact it was here that the Renaissance began and flourished, bringing the world art and culture never seen before.
You will feel the presence of the Medicis, Leonardo and Michelangelo as you wander across the famous Ponte Vecchio or climb the tortuous steps leading to the very top of El Duomo, the cathedral, from where you can see the city laid out in front of you.
My personal favorite thing to do in Florence is to wander through the elegantly formal Boboli Gardens at the Pitti Palace. Here, you can escape the crowded bustle of the city and catch glimpses of the dome of the cathedral and other special sights from some of the panoramic viewing areas.
- What to do in Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy, is full of surprises! One of the world's most popular destinations, it's still possible to escape the crowds in its narrow streets and hidden squares. Here are a few highlights...
Venice - Queen of the Adriatic
Ignore everything people have warned you about with regard to Venice! They may tell you it's dirty, or falling to pieces as it sinks. If so, then they either haven't been there or, more likely, they haven't been there for twenty years or so.
Not only is Venice unique in the world, but it has its own special beauty and atmosphere. It has also cast off the slightly decrepit aura it had towards the end of the last century. It's certainly worth anyone's time to visit -- in fact, if you're in Italy, this is really a must-see city.
Just make sure that, while you're here, you climb aboard a vaporetto, the water buses which take you around the city, and glide down the Grand Canal and under the Rialto Bridge. You will never, ever forget.
Milan - High fashion center
Milan, even further north than Florence, is Italy's most industrialized city but it's worth passing through some undistinguished hinterland to get to the heart of what is, definitely, the centre of Italian style.
Milan simply oozes sophistication and glamour. Right in the heart of the city, around one of the world's most impressive Gothic cathedrals, you can walk through streets crammed with designer shops which illustrate why Milan now rivals Paris as the European fashion capital.
- What To Do In Milan, Italy
If you're planning a trip to Milan, you'll want to know how to make the most of your time there. Here are some of my favorites.
Naples - Birthplace of pizza
People who know Italy might be surprised to find Naples on my list - or they might want it at number one. Naples is that sort of place - you either love it or detest it!
Sitting in the shadow of a large active volcano, Mount Vesuvius, Naples is a truly cosmopolitan city that, although it has its share of impressive Renaissance buildings, often doesn't feel ‘Italian' at all. Certainly the locals consider themselves to be different.
Search out the Piazza Plebiscito - there's a royal palace, an opera house and the Castel Nuovo, where you can sit on the terrace and gaze across the Bay of Naples. And pizza was invented here - so don't miss out!
Famous Italian Cities
More Italian cities to see
Genoa - where Columbus was born - is another city that has undergone considerable renovation during recent years. It has a medieval old town which can be reached by an invigorating climb up from the port, though narrow little streets. Try to make time to visit Mercato Orientale - a market that dates back to the 17th century and will assault your senses of sight, sound, taste and smell - it justifiably claims to be Europe's best market.
There's a small city between Rome and Florence, Siena, which has the finest town square in the whole of Italy. It's the place where they have the horse race round the square twice a year - the Palio - but this is the ultimate in small, walled medieval cities. I love Siena - everytime you go you discover another gem of a square, with a little café with seats outside where you can sit and hear the birds sing.
Finally, I must mention Montepulciano - it's not really a city and, in many ways, I feel guilty for telling you about it. Montepulciano is on the Tuscany and Umbrian border and it is, thankfully, an undiscovered gem. Sitting on its lofty perch overlooking the glorious Tuscan countryside, it has a single main street and the Caffe Poliziano - the best place I've found in the whole of Italy for sitting, drinking coffee and aperitivi and watching the world go by. Please go there - but don't tell too many others about it!
Explore the Cities of Italy
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