Surrounded by the clear blue seas of the Mediterranean with a spine of mountainous terrain, there is no magical landscape that Italy cannot provide. We’re not talking your average sandy beach with sea views – we’re talking the Amalfi Coast, with its larger-than-life coastline featuring historic sea-facing villages nestled in the rocky crevices. It’s not just a quaint lake, it’s the pristine Lago di Como with its serene stillness and lush greenery that surrounds the historic villages dotted along the coastline. And you can say goodbye to forgotten towns in favour of the bustling, chaotic, energetic and unforgettable cities of this remarkable destination. Whether it’s a romantic getaway, an escape from reality or an intrepid adventure, Italy provides some of Europe’s most magical city moments. Here are the top 5 city breaks in Italy!
Rome isn’t just a city, it is the city. Capturing centuries of civilisation, the streets of this beautiful, beguiling and sometimes brash city will evoke a string of emotions with its unrivalled collection of culture and cuisine. But where to begin? Head to the world-renowned Spanish Steps for a taste of luxury shopping, explore the iconic Colosseum and the ruins that surround it, and get lost in the city’s revered art galleries, including the expressive street art in the shabby-chic suburb of Pigneto.
Top tip: Escape the city streets for the serenity of Villa Borghese, a public park offering historic monuments, beautifully manicured gardens and the impressive Galleria Borghese art gallery.
Beauty has lived on these streets since the dawn of time, and Florence won’t let you forget it. Winding streets collide into spectacular piazzas as cathedrals tower over bustling markets surrounded by an abundance of too-good-to-be-true gelaterias. Dominating the skyline is the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, its beauty and intricacies impressive to even the locals. Don’t miss the iconic Ponte Vecchio, a medieval arch bridge lined with historic shops full of art, jewellery and souvenirs. Capture the magic of Florence by heading to Piazzale Michelangelo in the Oltrarno district, where spectacular vistas of the city’s skyline can be admired.
Top tip: Enjoy traditional Italian treats as you dine al fresco on the terrace of Borgo San Jacopo, a top restaurant that overlooks the charming Ponte Vecchio and the river than runs beneath it.
No city in the world is as visually spectacular as Venice, with its winding canals, picturesque bridge views and iconic gondolas. Not only is the city a living museum of the Italian penchant for good architecture in quirky places, but there’s more to Venice than meets the eye. Behind the beautiful facades of the canal side buildings lie a city drenched in luxury, with hole-in-the-wall fine dining, world-class museums and traces of an opulence of years gone by that can be seen in the remarkable art and architecture. They say Venice is so beautiful it resembles a film set, so allow yourself to be a film star for a day in true Venetian style.
Top tip: Discover the wonderful Venetian art scene with a visit to the gorgeous Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal. The outer aesthetic is remarkable, but the gallery inside is an innovative and contemporary gallery focusing on cutting-edge visual arts and the personal art collection of owner François Pinault.
Overlooking the Bay of Naples from the city itself, you’d be forgiven for longing to venture away from the city chaos and into the towns of the charming Amalfi Coast. But turn your back on the bay and you’ll change your mind as quick as you changed your view with a glimpse of the beautiful, bustling and brazen city that is famed for being the birthplace of pizza. The historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that offers one of the largest historical city centres in the world, showcasing the city’s rich history and colourful present. Like the delectable bites being created in the never ending pizzerias, there’s a slice of everything for everyone in Naples. Wander the charmingly dishevelled streets of the old town, soak up the style in the city’s chic Chiaia to Posillipo, or head for an archaeological adventure in Campi Flegrei to discover the many faces of this fascinating city.
Top tip: For an alternative night out, head to the area surrounding the University of Naples to uncover the vibrant bar scene that spans ages, styles and tastes.
If you take the key elements from all Italian cities and blend them together, you have Verona. It has the beauty of Florence, the history of Rome (including the Verona Arena, which is not dissimilar to the Coliseum), the bustle of Naples and the canals of Venice are just a short train ride away. This is where Romeo met Juliet, and Verona will remind you of its romance with its river views, unique architecture and al fresco lifestyle. Verona captures the essence of city life with lively streets, a vibrant piazza and a unique buzz without succumbing to the rat race of bigger metropolises. Here, you can sit back with an Aperol spritz (which was created in the same region) and watch the world go by.
Top tip: Head to the top of the Torre dei Lamberti (Verona’s tallest building) for stunning panoramic views of the cityscape!
Filip Boyen is Chief Executive Officer of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
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