Italy's top cities

By Michael Manton, Thursday 22 November 2012

This autumn, Italy replaced Spain as the most popular holiday destination for the over 50s and it's not difficult to see why. From art and culture (Italy is home to 40% of the world's art), to the food and wine of La Dolce Vita (“the sweet life”), these five incredible cities are perfect for a short break or longer holiday.

Renaissance FlorenceRenaissance Florence
Roma (Rome)

Italy’s capital has almost 3,000 years of history packed into the narrow, winding streets and majestic piazzas of its historic centre. Nowhere else will you find such a surfeit of artistic riches, from the grandiose ruins of the ancient city to the glories of the Vatican.

Rome's greatest monuments include the civic and religious headquarters of an ancient empire, churches founded during the earliest days of Christianity, and pompous baroque palaces built for the powerful noble families who amassed vast collections of works by the great artists they patronised.

Firenze (Florence)

Florence is Renaissance Italy at its civilised best. The most accomplished artists and architects of the period flocked to Florence from all over central Italy to work for the powerful families.

Today, the compact historic centre of Tuscany’s busy capital is a mass of masterpieces from that flourishing era. Beyond the museums and architecture you can explore the markets, food shops and restaurants that make Florence home to the greatest of Italy’s regional culinary traditions.

Venezia (Venice)

One of the most painted, filmed and written about cities in the world, Venice is disturbingly beautiful; nothing quite prepares you for that first glimpse of distant domes and spires emerging from the flat, grey waters like a mirage.

Within the city, murky canal watera laps the bases of dreamlike buildings, creating a slightly disorienting, rocking effect enhanced by the gentle rattle of the wind through boats and mooring poles.

Milano (Milan)

What Rome, Florence and Venice are to romantic, historic Italy, Milan is to stylish, modern Italy. This busy metropolis is Italy’s second largest city and, while Rome is the political capital, Milan can claim to be the capital of business, finance and industry.

For most visitors, Milan means chic Italian fashion, stylish bars and restaurants, bustling streets and the chance of seeing opera in the world-famous Teatro all Scala. However, there is even more to Milan and the city also boasts some splendid art collections and monuments.


The capital of Emilia-Romagna is a cultured, prosperous city of arcaded streets and historic monuments. It has one of the oldest universities in Europe (13th century or earlier), which numbers the inventor of radio, Guglielmo Marconi, among its alumni.

Boasting one of the country’s great medieval cityscapes, and an eye-catching ensemble of red-brick buildings and renaissance towers, Bologna is a wonderful alternative to the north’s more famous cities.



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