Can you guess the best city to visit in Italy? You may have immediately thought of Rome or Venice. I’ve seen firsthand how amazing those cities are, and they are unlike any other city in the world. While those cities are great, there are lesser-known cities that are unique and worthy of a stop on your Italian adventure. These are my top five picks for the best cities to visit in Italy.
Florence Could Be the Best City to Visit in Italy
First and foremost, the most underrated major city in Italy is Florence. Traveling to Florence feels like you are stepping back into another era, and the city is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance! Florence, Italy is filled with history, art, and unique stories in every alleyway. Famous Florentine artists include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and more.
In my opinion, Florence should be at the top of your list if you plan to travel to Italy. Sure, I admit I think Florence is the best city to visit in Italy. I am biased because I studied abroad there, but the art, food, drinks, and sites to see are virtually limitless. It’s very easy to get around, and you can walk just about anywhere you want to go in Florence.
For fun, I recommend hiking up the famous duomo (“cathedral”) to see unforgettable views. Make sure you go early, as the tiny hallways and steep stairs in the duomo can easily get suffocatingly crowded. After, venture across the river on the iconic Ponte Vecchio bridge and snap a few pictures overlooking the Arno River. I made sure to do this as soon as I arrived.
Since Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, you need to make time to appreciate the art. After eating the best pizza in Florence at Gustapizza (my personal favorite), go visit the Uffizi Gallery. The collections of art stored here are known worldwide and are jaw-droppingly beautiful. No visit to Florence is complete without viewing Michelangelo’s David up close. I guarantee you will stand in awe of this masterpiece. Once you visit Florence, you will be forever changed. If anything, I can honestly say my interest in art and art history was sparked while living in Florence!
Verona, the City of Love
Ah, Verona, Italy. I stopped here with my tour group while we were on our way to Venice. I did not know what to expect, but I can honestly say I was pleasantly surprised! There’s a Verona Arena worth seeing that resembles the Colosseum in Rome, but on a smaller scale.
When I visited, the food was amazing. Make sure you avoid the touristy spots and meander down the alleys for better food. Here’s a tip: don’t pick a spot with pictures on the menu, it’s a tourist trap. Usually, the food is more expensive and the quality is not great. This goes for all of Italy. Stay away from the tourist traps as much as you can.
The main attraction of this city is its connection to Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The play takes place in Verona, which is the main reason this city gets so many tourists. I really enjoyed visiting Juliet’s (fictional) balcony. It made me feel connected to the story. There is a wall with writings and drawings from people wishing for their own love story. Next to the balcony, there is a bronze statue of Juliet. Tradition says that if you rub her breast, you’ll get good luck in love!
The Amalfi Coast’s Capri
Capri, Italy is a little piece of paradise off the Amalfi Coast. I only explored the Amalfi Coast for one long weekend, but I would go back in a heartbeat. Capri has gorgeous cliffs, stunning views, and a relaxing vibe that feels like an escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. You can relax at the beach or wander around the gardens of Giardini di Augusto.
If you can, I recommend booking a boat tour around the island. I did this with a group of friends and we had the best time soaking in the sun and staring in awe at the amazing beauty of the island. I especially loved getting up close to the Faraglioni (impressive rock formations).
Our tour led us to the Blue Grotto in the southern part of the island. The Blue Grotto is a cave on the water, and when sunlight hits the inside of it, the water glows! It’s like nothing I have ever experienced before. I felt like I was in a Disney movie. Make sure you visit this while you can. With water levels rising globally, it might not be possible to see it in the near future.
For a bite to eat, make sure you eat something with lemons. Capri is known for its lemons, and they are everywhere on the island. Lemon trees cover so much of the island that it’s hard to be in an area without them. While you’re there, try some lemon cake, drink lemonade, or do what I did and get lemon-flavored gelato!
The Ancient City of Pompeii
Visit Pompeii, Italy for the opportunity to see an ancient Roman city up close. It was founded in the sixth or seventh century B.C. The volcano nearby, Mount Vesuvius, erupted and buried the city and everyone in it. Then, centuries later, the city was rediscovered. Today the site is open for visitors to see what life was like in the days of ancient Rome.
When I visited, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought it was essentially a gravesite and possibly a bit morbid to visit. However, I found everything really interesting. My tour guide talked about the horrific tragedy, but he also talked about how advanced and ahead of their time these people were. It was fascinating to see the beginnings of modern living. There were baths inside homes, outhouses, and even water pipes. There are so many things to do in Italy, and seeing ancient ruins is something you do not want to miss.
If you’ve got some extra time after touring the ancient city, you can hike Mount Vesuvius and take in the views from the top next to the big crater. Technically, it’s still an active volcano (it last erupted in 1944), but that just makes it all the more exciting to hike.
The Tuscan City of Siena
Siena, Italy is a medieval walled city in the Tuscany region. One of my first memories of the city was walking down the cobblestone streets and smelling garlic and freshly cooked pasta. Siena is a great city to eat authentic Italian food like pici pasta, handmade pizza, and Cavallucci cookies if you can find them!
Besides the food, the region of Tuscany is known worldwide for its exceptional-tasting wines and beautiful vineyards. While in Siena, try as many wines as you can and maybe take a bottle or two home with you. I did! Also, here’s a tip: at restaurants, the house wine tastes incredible and is usually cheaper than water.
The city itself is split into 17 districts with residents showing immense pride for their little corners of the city. This is evident in the unique flags flying in each part of the city. Also, the intense Palio di Siena horse races are between the different districts in the city and are extremely competitive. This horse race is very important to the locals, and the two events each summer in the Piazza del Campo are highly anticipated.
More Italian Adventures
You do not want to miss visiting these unique cities. But besides Florence, Verona, Capri, Pompeii, and Siena, there are so many other unique and interesting cities to visit. There’s Sorrento, Positano, San Gimignano, Pisa, and so on. Do you have any recommendations? What cities should have been included but were not? In your opinion, what is the best city to visit in Italy? Let me know!
Interested in learning more about the many beautiful cities Italy has to offer? Check out this guide to planning a two-day stay in Bologna next!