- Location: The peninsula of Italy in south Europe is surrounded by the Adriatic Sea in the East, the Ionian Sea in the south, the Mediterranean Sea in the southwest, the Tyrrhenian Sea in the west, and France, Switzerland, and Austria in the north.
- Country Capital: Rome
- Language/s: Italian
- Currency: Euro
- Time Zone: CET (UTC + 1), CEST (UTC + 2)
- ISD Code: 39
- Best Time to Visit: Throughout the year
- International Airports: Rome, Milan, Trieste, Palermo
Only one country in Europe can claim to have been the heart of the continent longest. Having been home to both the largest empire and the center of the dominant religion, the places to visit in Italy are too many to count. Each city has a story to tell, from the base of the Alps in the north to those kissed by the Mediterranean Sea in the south. You could spend a lifetime searching for the best sights and still come up short – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! If you are planning an Italian getaway, you must consider these five cities:
Inhabited for over 25 centuries, it’s little wonder the Italian capital is known as the Eternal City. Much of the Roman Empire’s wealth was funneled back to the area for building projects, not to mention that of the Catholic Church, so there is enough stunning architecture to feast your eyes upon for months. Take time to tour Vatican City, as most do, but don’t forget to schedule a day to walk from hall to hall at the Galleria Borghese gazing at paintings and sculpture from the Italian masters. After that, you only have the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Forum Romanum, and dozens of more landmarks to see!
When the Medici family came to power late in the 14th century, this gorgeous city began its reign as the de facto home of Italy’s best artists. Every block, it seems, to be adorned with elegant buildings – especially those around the Piazza Della Signoria and the Palazzo Pitti. Add in the Fountain of Neptune and the governmental building, the Uffizi, and it is easy to see why many call it the “Cradle of the Renaissance.” Once home to masters like Michelangelo, Peruzzi, and da Vinci, you will find yourself steeped in beauty from the moment you arrive.
It’s is difficult to imagine any city being regarded as more romantic than Paris, but an evening floating through the “City of Canals” might have you thinking otherwise. Located in the northeast of Italy, the Adriatic Sea spills into this cultural center, providing a unique experience to visitors accustomed to traffic-filled streets. The Piazza San Marco is the place to start, as St. Mark’s Basilica is an architectural wonder. The cathedral, a masterpiece of the Byzantine style, is more than 900 years old and goes by the nickname “Chiesa d’Oro” – Church of Gold.
The Greeks first settled this piece of the Mediterranean coast sometime around 800BC – more than two centuries before Rome. As one of the oldest cities in the world, this port has no shortage of historic sites for tourists to make their way through. The Castello Nuovo and Teatro San Carlo are very popular, but the food is considered by many to be the main attraction. The Greeks and Spanish both bring their culinary styles to mix with Italian tradition at the Neapolitan table. Both spaghetti and pizza are believed to have been invented here and there are plenty of places for you to get both of them – and much, much more.
One of Europe’s centers for fashion, this northern city is second only to Rome in size. Thanks to its biannual shows hosting world-famous clothing designers, the latest apparel fills Milanese shops. There’s much more, though: La Scala has a reputation as a fantastic spot for opera lovers and the Duomo di Milano, the main cathedral, is considered a benchmark of Gothic architecture. You will definitely want to set aside time for the Pinacoteca di Brera – a massive gallery – and, of course, the Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie, where da Vinci’s vision of The Last Supper decorates the refectory.