A trip to Italy is an easy inclusion on any European holiday. Arguably the best country in Europe, if not the world (yes, I’m 100 per cent biased), it’s not a difficult itinerary decision to make.
What is, however, slightly more confusing is where you should go once you’re there. Shaped like a rather large boot – definitely an over-the-knee – the country quite literally has something for everyone. So how do you decide which Italian city is for you?
Having recently spent some time in Florence I have now been to the ‘big five’ Italian cities. So I thought it only fair to help shed some light so you can choose the best Italian city for you.
The heart of Italy, Rome may be the capital but don’t hold that against it. There’s no disputing the fact it’s a tourist trap, however, it’s also home to some of the more beautiful attractions. Among them are the Trevi Fountain, Colosseum and the Spanish Steps, all of which are worth the bun fight to see. With great shopping, Rome is one of those places where you don’t need dining suggestions as it is safe to stumble upon things on your own. All around the city there is a high calibre of food, coffee and culture.
The Tuscan capital is much smaller than Rome but just as beautiful. With the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore as it’s jaw-droppingly beautiful centrepiece, it’s the ideal city to visit if you’ve only got a few days. Florence has great shopping (especially leather), coffee, food, gelato and plenty of sights to see, and it is the perfect gateway to the rest of Tuscany. It especially outshines nearby Pisa, which lacks culture unless you’d like a clichéd tourist shot of you pushing over a leaning tower.
One of those places you either love or hate, I fall into the latter category. Despite visiting Milan on multiple occasions,I find the city far too industrial. That said, it does have a picturesque centre featuring the Gothic Duomo di Milano cathedral and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Eating and drinking can be expensive and a tad hit and miss, so it’s best to do your research beforehand or go armed with suggestions. If you’re headed to Como, Milan is easily the best city from which to get there.
Another Italian city overrun by tourists, Venice is still worth a visit at least once for the unique floating factor. While the gondola rides are a rip off to say the least, you can live like a local and use the ferries to get around. The locals are, understandably, a bit over tourists, so it’s better to know in advance where to go for good food if you want to avoid the average service provided to the masses. If you’re considering a cruise, Venice is an ideal port to include as you get the memorable experience of approaching the city by water.
A city that gets a pretty unflattering rap, Naples isn’t all bad. The best choice for travelling to the Amalfi coast, Naples is known for its pizza. The city has plenty of character from it’s pretty port and the 13th Century Castel Nuovo to the traditional street life in its narrow winding streets. The city reveals a glimpse of Italian life different from the other main cities. While I wouldn’t suggest basing a holiday around it, it was well worth the 24 hours we spent there.
While any Italian city will offer good coffee, food, wine, architecture, shopping and a taste of of the coveted la dolce vita, they aren’t all created equal. Identifying what you want most out of your trip will help you choose the best option and avoid.
Travelling around is simple thanks to a great train network. Last year, we used Rome to bookend our Como trip despite Milan being much closer. The two days in the capital were well worth the scenic route in order to avoid visiting an industrial city that neither of us enjoy much. Life is too short to spend time in places that don’t inspire you to leap out of bed.
Which is your favourite Italian city and why?