Italian cities to see before you die

Rome, Italy

Flickr: Rome, Italy, Coy
Flickr: Rome, Italy, Coy

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.

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.

Florence, Italy

View of Florence from the Duomo. Photo by Adventurous Wench
View of Florence from the Duomo. Photo by Adventurous Wench

Venice, Italy

Flickr: Rialto bridge in Venice, Italy, llamnudd
Flickr: Rialto bridge in Venice, Italy, llamnudd

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.

Fashion In Milan. Photo by julia_o (flickr)
Fashion In Milan. Photo by julia_o (flickr)

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.

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

Montepulciano, Italy

Flickr: Montepulciano: Italy, AlexPears
Flickr: Montepulciano: Italy, AlexPears

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

show route and directions
A markerRome, Italy -
Rome, Italy
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B markerFlorence, Italy -
Florence, Italy
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C markerVenice, Italy -
Venice, Italy
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D markerMilan, Italy -
Milan, Italy
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E markerNaples, Italy -
Naples, Italy
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F markerGenoa, Italy -
Genoa, Italy
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G markerSiena, Italy -
53100 Sienna, Italy
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H markerMontepulciano, Italy -
53045 Montepulciano Sienna, Italy
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Read more about Italy

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Comments 30 comments

robie2 profile image

robie2 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

I've been waiting for another one from you, happyexplorer, and this was worth the wait. Just a wonderful round up of Italian cities that makes me want to pack my bags right now. Just great!!~

Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Very nice hub! I've spent time in Italy and plan to go again, your hub suggestions on Salento and Montepulciano just made my list to explore next time.

Elena. profile image

Elena. 7 years ago from Madrid

I'm missing out on Montepulciano! The rest is spot on in my opinion. Modena and Bologna are also very recommendable! The whole Tuscany experience is memorable!

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 7 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Robie - Thanks for the note! I know it's taken me awhile to get more hubs published, but I'm hoping to be quicker on them in the future! Thanks for reading! :-)

Jerilee - Thanks for your comment. I see you're planning to go to Italy again - that's great. It does get into your blood, doesn't it, and make you want to return?

Elena - Thanks for your suggestions! I've never been to Modena, so I'll have to look into that. You're right about Bologna - another wonderful city. And Tuscany... Ahhh... :-)

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

What a wonderful discovery.........that of discovering YOU! I just started viewing the Youtube feature and don't have the time to see all of it just now, but put it into My Favorites + sent an email to my husband to view it when he has time. He was in Milan just last year and then went up to the Valtellina area up near Switzerland. If you have not yet been there, it was being considered as a World Heritage Site because of it's uniqueness and beauty.

Wanderlust profile image

Wanderlust 7 years ago from New York City

I am drinking Brunello and reading your hub - how appropriate! I love Italy, so beautiful country and Rome is absolutely amazing. I would add Lake Como to the list - a great place to visit when in Milan. And also Capri and Sardinia are just fantastic!

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 7 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Peggy - Thanks for the good words! I've never been to the Valtellina area, though it must be beautiful up in that Alpine region (and to be a World Heritage Site)! I'm adding that to my list of places to go next time. (-:

Wanderlust - Brunello certainly is appropriate -- what am I doing with California wine here? (-: Lake Como certainy is beautiful, and Capri is very deserving too. One country with so much beauty, history and culture to offer -- and wine, too! I'll add Sardinia to my list. Gee, the "to see" list is getting longer and longer! Thanks for the tips.

Lynne and Chad profile image

Lynne and Chad 7 years ago

What a great hub! We love to travel and Italy is definitely on our list of places we plan to see, so we will keep all your recommendations and tips in mind :)

Lynne and Chad

Gerg profile image

Gerg 7 years ago from California

Thanks for the reminder and suggestions - I actually did manage to spend time in Montepulciano when I was there. Also notable are the five cities that make up the Cinque Terre along the Italian Riviera. We spent time in Vernazza, but I'd recommend adding one of these seaside villages onto your list. Buon Giorno!

Lgali profile image

Lgali 7 years ago

very nice collection nice photos

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 7 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Lynne & Chad - Good luck with that trip to Italy -- I know you'll love it!

Hi Lgali - Glad you like them!

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 7 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Gerg - Thanks for the suggestion! Cinque Terre is spectacular, isn't it? Surely it deserves to make the list. Perhaps I need to go back to Italy and do a little more research on that... (-;

Pierre van Eck 7 years ago

A brilliant collection and a fine, inspiring and informative Hub. Congratulations and many thanks for sharing!

Drake's Compass profile image

Drake's Compass 7 years ago from Denver, Colorado

Greetings, happyexplorer! Thank you for serving up this sumptuous feast of an article. I also have a big passion for travel, but regret to say that I have not visited Italy...yet! Personally, I believe that this beautiful, timeless, historic land offers the best combination of food, wine and music anywhere.

I look forward to reading more of your hubs...and I love your compass logo!

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 7 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Pierre  -  Thanks for the good words!

Drake's  -  Compasses are the coolest!  (-:

M. Rose profile image

M. Rose 7 years ago from Orange County, CA

happyexplorer, Great collection you've put together here! This is a beautifully concise hub with the perfect amount of information on each city and why each is special. Sadly, I haven't made it to Italy yet...but it's the place in the world I want to go to the most!

I'm looking forward to reading more from you :)

soni2006 profile image

soni2006 7 years ago from New Delhi, India

Really a nice, descriptive, comprehensive, and well-detailed hub = A great hub, that's what we call it at hubpages. Thanks for the incredible info.

Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland

Thanks for the Hub, happy-x, really interesting since I worked over in Italy last summer. Good to see you've included Milan as I liked it there.

I would give a shout for Verona too, marvellous city.

sophs 6 years ago

Great hub! Italy is such a beautiful place

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Thanks for the good words everybody! And thanks for the suggestion on Verona, too -- another lovely city, and I will have to write about it, too!

Riviera Rose profile image

Riviera Rose 6 years ago from South of France

Isn't Italy wonderful? So many gorgeous places to go - thanks for this great hub.

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 6 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Riviera Rose - Thanks! You're totally right - Italy is fabulous, one of my favorite countries! (-:

Kalsey 5 years ago

What a great list! We are planning our honeymoon to Italy in the end of June! We are only going to have about 12 days and I want to go to all of these wonderful suggestions! haha! Thanks everyone!

Italian Food Recipes 5 years ago

Italy is one goal or item on my bucket list to go to. I want to experience not only the great landscapes and scenery but I really want to taste authentic Italian cooking. I will keep this list handy when my trip comes true!

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Kalsey -

Thank you! It's easy to come up with a great list if one is writing about a great place. :-)

I hope you get to visit all these places. Have a fabulous time on your honeymoon!

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Italian Food Recipes -

Thanks for dropping by. I'm sure you already have a list of of Italian food on your list - who knows your trip will soon come true!

Samantha S. 5 years ago

Hi! My officemate had a recent vacation trip in Italy and I saw a few photos but I think he missed out a lot from what I see here. He'll never forgive me if I point out each and every one of these locations. Hahaha!

You did a great job writing up all about these beautiful spots. I'm looking forward for more of this.

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi Samantha,

Thank you! I enjoy writing about Italian cities because these places never cease to amaze me.

You can mention some spots to your officemate when he plans to go back. ;-)

timonweller profile image

timonweller 5 years ago

Many places I would like to see over in Italy, beautiful pics..

happyexplorer profile image

happyexplorer 5 years ago from Mostly USA, sometimes elsewhere Author

Hi timonweller! Italy is gorgeous - cities or countryside alike. Thanks for dropping by!

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