Italy has some of the most spectacular old cities in the world. If you want to go beyond the usual tourist routes and see them in a whole new light, have a look at some of our tours lead by passionate, expert guides.
It’s not just the countryside that’s beautiful in Italy—so are many of the cities! Not only are they stunning, Italy’s cities are incredibly fascinating, full of art, history, ancient ruins, and more.
Although it was hard for us to keep it to only 10, here are 10 of the most beautiful (and interesting!) cities in Italy. (Nota bene: For this post, we’ve considered only cities with a population of 75,000 or more!). Trust us: a visit to any one of them will be a life changing experience!
Verona isn’t just where William Shakespeare set Romeo and Juliet—it’s also a beautiful city that offers a lot to do and see! From ancient Roman ruins (including an incredibly well-preserved arena) to a medieval castle, from stunning piazzas to historic churches, Verona is bursting with sightseeing opportunities. And, oh yes, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Italy… and every bit as romantic as you’d expect!
What makes Venice one of the most beautiful cities in, well, the world? Let us count the ways… There’s Venice’s unique, lovely architecture (learn the secrets of Venetian symbolism in our blog on how to “read” Venice’s palaces!), its beautiful churches, and, of course, the show-stopping St. Mark’s Square. But what really makes Venice beautiful is the fact that it’s built entirely on canals—so there’s no traffic or bus exhaust, and along many canals, all you can hear is the lapping of the water! To make the most of Venice’s tranquil side, consider going in autumn or even in the winter, when a lovely mist hangs over the entire city. To learn more, read out guide to traveling Venice in the off-season.
Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, one of our favorite regions in Italy (to learn we love it so much why check out our guide to Emilia-Romagna). Bologna is also utterly beautiful. And there’s a ton to do here. From soaking in the academic ambience (Bologna is home to Europe’s oldest university), to enjoying the region’s excellent cuisine in local trattorie, to taking fun pictures with the leaning tower of Bologna (it’s not just in Pisa!), there’s something in this buzzing city for everyone.
Rome is the largest city in Italy and with its 2,500 years of history and innumerable archaeological sites, art museums, churches, and ruins, it might just be the most fascinating! Despite Rome’s relatively compact (and beautiful!) historic center, you could easily spend a month exploring the city and not see everything. And, yes, there are a lot of places to see in Italy. But to come to Italy in search of its most beautiful spots and cities… and not visit Rome? Well, that would be a crime! For a more in depth look on what to see in Rome and what to do in Rome, check out our various guides to Rome.
Naples often gets a bad rap—and, yes, the city is a little “grittier,” and much more chaotic, than Italy’s other cities. But there’s a reason why people call it bella Napoli. There’s something about the decay of Naples’ elegant palaces and medieval castles that’s both bittersweet and beautiful. And there is a ton to do and see here, from enjoying the city’s world-famous food to exploring its eerie underground to seeing some of the most important art and archaeology in Italy at Naples’ top-notch museums. (Here are 9 reasons not to skip Naples!). The energy here, though, is the true core of Naples’ bellezza—and something everyone has to experience at least once in a lifetime.
Visit Florence once, and you’ll see why it inspired so many artists and writers! With its graceful buildings, cobblestoned streets, and showstoppers like the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio, Florence is a feast for the eyes. And that’s just if you’re walking around outside! Inside those buildings, even more beauty awaits, from Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia to masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Caravaggio, and more in the Uffizi. (Find out more about the 10 unmissable sights of Florence!).
With about 100,000 residents, Lecce is one of the biggest cities in the region of Puglia. It’s also one of the prettiest! With its ornate, Baroque architecture, Lecce couldn’t look more different than Florence or Venice or Bologna. And exploring the city yields one interesting sight after another, like a 16th-century castle, one of the most important churches in Italy, and an ancient Roman amphitheater—just to name a few. If you’re considering a trip to southern Italy check out our pictorial guide to Puglia for inspiration.
Located a short train ride outside of Florence, lovely Lucca, home to about 85,000 residents, offers up cobblestoned streets and elegant palaces, elaborate churches and a ring of Renaissance-era fortification walls that have been turned into biking and walking paths. For music aficionados, it also happens to be where the composer Giacomo Puccini was born. If you’re looking for great day trips from Florence, it’s hard to find a better spot that Lucca.
If you want to get what must be the most iconic photo in Italy, Pisa’s your place. But there’s much more to Pisa than that. Yes, the Leaning Tower is spectacular—even more so in person than in pictures. But the medieval city also boasts an 11th-century Duomo chock-full of gorgeous art, the elaborate Baptistery, and beautiful palaces.
The largest city in Umbria (and the region’s capital), Perugia dates back to the time of the Umbrii and the Etruscans. You can still visit an Etruscan chamber tomb, well, and arch. History buffs won’t want to miss the National Museum of Umbrian Archaeology which includes a plethora of amazing artifacts. There also are artistic masterpieces in the National Gallery of Umbria, important churches, beautiful buildings, elegant piazzas, and much more! As one of our 6 favorite spots in Umbria, we recommend that everyone visit it at least once.
Which city in Italy do you think is the most beautiful? Tell us in the comments!