My love affair with Italy started a number of years ago when I set foot, for the first time, in regal Rome. Since then, I’ve been lured back to the country more times than my credit card cares to admit; I even got married there!
The cities of Italy are distinct, bold characters: each offering something different to the millions of visitors that pass through them each year. From history buff to foodie lover, Italy’s many towns offer something for every type of traveller.
So, whether you want to gorge on pizza or experience some of the world’s finest architecture, here are my top five suggestions for short city breaks to my favourite country in the world.
1) Rome: history
The capital of Italy – majestic Rome – offers the chance to truly take a step back in time; a must-see for anyone looking for a historic city break. Immerse yourself in the world of one of history’s most successful civilisations: the ancient Romans. The city’s crowning jewel, the Colosseum, provides a glimpse into ancient Rome, where gladiators once warred with wild beasts, whilst the Pantheon, one of ancient Rome’s most famed monuments, will leave you speechless with its hypnotising dome.
Once you’ve had your fix of ancient Rome, step into the walled city of The Vatican, where religion and history collide. St Peter’s Basilica is worth the queues, rewarding you with dazzlingly intricate interiors, including Michelangelo’s dome. And of course, the Sistine Chapel is a sight that no visitor, history lover or not, can miss.
2) Florence: art
Stepping into frenetic Florence is like stepping into a Renaissance dream; albeit it a very busy one. A city bursting at the seams with world-class art and jaw-dropping architecture, Florence is an ideal last minute break for those looking to wander art galleries and streets, steeped in both history and beauty. Head straight to the Uffuzi Gallery to marvel at the greatest collection of Renaissance art that the world has to offer. Once you’re torn yourself away from here, head over to Galleria dell’Accademia to come face-to-face with Michelangelo’s ‘David’.
If the city leaves you in need of some relaxation you’re in luck: Florence is the gateway to Tuscany. Beyond the city walls lie rolling hills and endless vineyards, so why not extend your stay at take some much needed r’n’r in a Tuscan bolthole.
3) Venice: romance
Venice, a city built on water, has a unique charm that’s difficult to find in any other city in the world. Winding alleyways, hidden bridges, beautiful piazzas, and colourful islands, Venice is the perfect last minute break if you’re looking for some romance.
This is the city to get lost in with the one you love; letting time slip away as you stroll through its sleepy squares or enjoy a coffee at one of its many Osterias. Tucked away in many of the city’s alleyways, and with barely enough room to swing a cat, these quirky eateries are both intimate and fun. After filling your belly, it would be rude not to pay the admittedly small fortune for a whimsical gondola ride: the ultimate romantic experience.
4) Milan: shopping
Home to Italy’s fashion and design elite, Milan is ideal for a short city break for those looking to replenish their wardrobes in an elegant and stylish setting. A morning spent in the famous shopping district of Quadrilatero d’Oro could quickly slip into a weekend. Strolling its cobbled streets, adorned with designer shops galore, people watching is obligatory.
Milan, however, is also a city that offers more than shopping. The 600-year-old Gothic Duomo (Cathedral) is hard to miss and a must-see. The same is said for the famed ‘Last Supper’ painting by Leonardo da Vinci, which is housed in Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie.
5) Bologna: food
A foodie heaven, Bologna is the perfect spot for anyone looking for a last minute Italian break. Known as ‘La Grassa’, (the fat one), this city offers some of the best restaurants in the country. Indeed, this is the city that introduced the world to ragù (now commonly adopted as bolognaise sauce). The region of Emilia-Romagna, in which Bologna sits, is also home to balsamic vinegar, parmesan cheese and Parma ham. Dribbling yet?
Of course, a short break to Bologna doesn’t have be all about the food. Leave time to burn some calories to explore the city’s two other famous inhabitants: La Dotta (the learned one) and La Rossa (the red one). La Dotta refers to the city’s famed University, founded in 1088, whilst La Rossa makes reference to the bold terracotta medieval buildings that make up the city.
From starry-eyed Venice, floating atop the water, to the modern bustling metropolis of Milan, an Italian city break offers something for everyone. These cities are strong and unique characters, ready to cater to the interests of any traveller seeking a little of the dolce vita.
Have you got a favourite Italian city? Let us know in the comments below!
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