10 Italian cities to visit instead of Rome
Rome is known as the Eternal City and is popular among travelers due to its long history, delicious cuisine, and incredible architecture. However, accommodation prices are high in the city center, and it might not be in the budget of anyone backpacking through Europe.
Luckily, it’s possible to experience the best of Italy without ever visiting Rome. These 10 cities are some of the liveliest and most culturally rich in the country but are often overlooked. Visiting one or more of these destinations will make you fall in love with the Italian lifestyle and la dolce vita.
Florence is a jewel of Italy. It is the capital of the Tuscan region of the country, and it is also the heart of Italian Renaissance art and culture. Although many people avoid Florence in favor of crossing Rome and Venice off their to-do list, Florence has a more laid-back artsy atmosphere than Rome and is likely to be less touristy. This is especially true if you visit during the shoulder season, between April-May or October-November.
Florence offers amazing shopping and tons of artwork, as well as delicious Tuscan cuisine. For travelers who want a taste of Italy’s rich culture without going to an overly touristy city like Rome, Florence is the best bet.
Made famous by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona is a charming city that doesn’t get enough attention as a travel destination. Verona is in the Veneto region of northern Italy and is located along the Adige River. Medieval structures and cobbled streets give travelers an authentic sense of Italian architecture and a more local experience.
Accommodation in Verona is 73.86% cheaper than in Rome for those who want to stay in an Italian city center. Lower prices mean backpackers and honeymooners on a budget can stretch their cash further to indulge in the exceptional food and fun nightlife.
Head to the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy for one of Italy’s most underrated travel destinations. Bologna is a large city with approximately 400,000 inhabitants in the urban center and 1 million in the metropolitan area.
Bologna has a beautiful and well-preserved old town that allows travelers to step back in time. Piazza Maggiore is Bologna’s main square and is an important social and historical feature of the city. A must visit in Piazza Maggiore is the Basilica of San Petronio. Bologna is also considered the Italian capital of gastronomy, so dining through the city is one of the best reasons to visit.
Fashion capital of the world, Milan (Milano) is a well-known city in northern Italy. Located in the Lombardy region, Milan is famous for its high-end shopping and Gothic architecture. One of the best sites to visit here is the Duomo di Milano, a magnificent cathedral that took six centuries to build. Its construction began in 1386.
Risotto is a classic northern Italian dish, so while in Milan, travelers should try risotto alla milanais, which is risotto Milanese style. Cotoletta Alla Milanese (Veal Milanese) is another local dish to try when in town.
History buffs looking for an alternative to Rome will fall in love with the ruins of Pompeii. Pompeii is a massive archaeological site that was once a major city in the Campania region of Italy. It is located in the Bay of Naples and is well preserved, giving visitors a good idea of what the city looked like before 79 AD, when it was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius.
Northeast of Milan, in the Lombardy region, is a lesser-known Italian city called Bergamo. It has incredible medieval architecture, museums and plazas. One of Bergamo’s most energetic and exciting squares is Piazza Vecchia, which sits in the heart of Citta Alta.
Citta Alta is a district of Bergamo (the upper town) with narrow streets, romantic trattorias and cozy cafes. It is quickly becoming a favorite place for travelers to spend their afternoons and evenings shopping at independent boutiques and enjoying a delicious meal inside the Venetian walls.
Close to Pompeii, Naples sits in the Bay of Naples and is located in southern Italy. Naples is steeped in history, with a complicated past and a bright future. Travelers can visit Napoli Sotterranea during their stay in Naples to visit the underground ruins on which the modern city is built. Other highlights of Naples include strolling through Castel Nuovo and Castel dell Ovo, a seaside castle.
Travelers who center their time in Italy around the Amalfi Coast can get a taste of Italy’s big cities by adding nearby Naples to their itinerary.
Venice is one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations, but for good reason. Venice is located in the northern part of Italy in the Veneto region and offers a slower pace of life than the big city of Rome. Venice’s iconic canals give the city a unique tranquility even though the streets are bustling during the summer when tourism is at its peak.
For a more authentic experience and sense of the artistic, unassuming side of Venice, head away from San Marco and head to Dorsoduro. Dorsoduro is Venice’s university district and is full of vintage fashion shops and local cafes. Nightlife here is low-key and attracts a younger crowd, making it a much nicer experience than staying in areas with the biggest tourist attractions.
Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia, Italy, and is a fantastic option for those wishing to visit a vibrant, coastal Italian city. Located on the island of Sardinia, Cagliari offers colorful buildings and clear blue waters that are perfect for a relaxing vacation.
Sardinian cuisine differs from traditional Italian cuisine with its own distinct flavors and signature dishes, making it a highlight of any foodie trip to Italy. Head to San Benedetto Market, Italy’s largest covered market, for a wide variety of tastes, sights and smells that will make your mouth water.
Travelers looking for a city with great food and historic architecture can head to Pisa instead of Rome this summer. Located in the Tuscany region, Pisa is a great choice to pair up with Florence when hopping cities in central Italy. Pisa is best known for the Leaning Tower of Pisa, a structure that took over 300 years to build. Construction of the tower began in 1173 and was completed in the mid-1300s. Travelers love to take goofy selfies with the tower, but it’s also worth taking a guided tour to get more information about the tower. rich history of the region.
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