There is no such thing as too much time in Italy. Of all of the places I’ve been, I always say that the one country I would choose to move to if I had the chance is Italy. From striking landscapes to a vibrant culture and endless history to explore, Italy is a place that feels like home the second you step out of the airport. After spending pretty significant time traveling around this Southern European nation, I’ve put together my list of the 5 best cities to visit in Italy. Some of these won’t surprise you, but others might. Andiamo!
Everyone refers to the shape of Italy as a boot, and it honestly is a great analogy. Using this analogy, Lecce is located right around the heel of that boot. While everyone tends to think of the beach cities on Italy’s western coast, you’d be mistaken to overlook what Italy has to offer to the east. Lecce is a beautiful city that is colored almost entirely white. Due to the heat in the area, the buildings have always been made of lightly colored sandstone to stay as cool as possible. Located just a few miles from the coast, Lecce is a great place to visit if you’re looking for a relaxing Italian getaway.
Lecce is by no means a big city. Its population is only around 100,000 people. It is also not really a beach city, as the beach is 5 miles or so from the center of the city. However, what Lecce is is a relaxing place to wander and get lost in true Italian culture. From a lively piazza to quaint, iconic Italian streets, Lecce is a place to drink wine, eat good food, and truly unwind. While this isn’t a huge tourist destination – there isn’t a ton to do, per se – it absolutely is worth visiting if you want a real, authentic Italian experience.
Speaking of true, authentic Italian experiences, Naples is one of the most culturally authentic major cities in the country. As the celebrated home of pizza and the neighbor to the infamous Mount Vesuvius, Naples is a place you truly don’t want to miss. Naples has always been a major factor in Italian history, and its legacy lives on even today. As the third biggest city in Italy with a population just below a million people, Naples is easily one of the best cities to visit in Italy.
While the city itself has more than enough things to do and see, part of what makes Naples so attractive as a vacation destination is its proximity to other major tourist sites. Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii are literally right next door, and just past them is the famed Amalfi Coast. By choosing Naples as your home base for your trip, you have access to these famous places in addition to the benefits of staying in a bustling metropolis. If you want a city with plenty of nice weather, beaches, and unforgettable tourist sites, Naples is about as good as it gets within Italy’s borders.
I promised to put some surprises on this list, didn’t I? When you imagined a list of the best cities to visit in Italy, Turin probably didn’t make the cut. Well, it might have if you’re a soccer fan! Turin is the home of Italy’s Juventus soccer club, which until recently was the home of the famed Cristiano Ronaldo! Turin is about a lot more than just soccer, though. This northwestern Italian city is totally under visited by tourists, and I don’t really understand why. Home to the Shroud of Turin, the Juventus soccer club, the world’s largest Egyptian history museum outside of Egypt, and located right next to some of the top skiing slopes in the world, Turin absolutely should be on your radar.
Turin is located pretty close to both the French and Swiss borders, and the world-class skiing I mentioned is in the Alps along both of those borders. Being less than two hours away from Milan, Turin is very accessible as a side trip from Italy’s biggest northern city. But here’s my hot take: Turin is better than Milan. Milan is great for fashion lovers, and it’s worth a quick trip to visit the stunning Duomo, but other than that Turin beats it out in my opinion. For more information about visiting this city, be sure to read my Turin travel guide.
If you want the quintessential Italian experience, a good percentage of people would probably tell you that Florence is the place to go. As the birthplace of the Renaissance and the home of some of the most famous artists of all time, Florence certainly has made its mark on history. From names like Michelangelo and Leonardo Da Vinci to the entire Medici family that produced countless top tier politicians and four popes, there is no shortage of name power associated with Florence. Some of Italy’s most famous works, like Michelangelo’s statue of David, are located in Florence, and if you are looking for museums, Florence might be the best spot in Italy to go.
As a history fan myself, Florence is honestly so fascinating. However, I realize that not everyone is looking for history and art when they go on vacation! If this is you, don’t worry – Florence has other perks too. For one, it is located right in the heart of Tuscany, and there is plenty of fine wine to be had! Tuscany is known to be one of the most beautiful regions in Italy, and Florence is the most convenient major city to stay in for a trip to Tuscany. On top of that, Florence is filled with universities and is very popular with college study abroad programs. This constant influx of foreigners living in the city has made it extremely friendly to foreigners, and while getting around Italy isn’t very hard in the first place, getting around Florence is about as easy as it will get. For more information about visiting Florence, make sure you read my Florence travel guide.
It would be a sin to put anything but Rome first on this list of the best cities to visit in Italy. There is just so much going on in Rome that it is pretty hard to beat. As someone who has been to just about every major city in Europe, I can honestly tell you that Rome is one of the best cities in all of Europe. The history is unmatched…one look at the Coliseum will tell you that. The museums are world-class, the tourist sites are endless, the food is delicious, the public transportation is amazing, and the overall vibe of the city just rocks. On top of all of that, the city of Rome contains an entire country within its borders – the Vatican City. If you’re looking for the single best city in Italy, Rome is it without a doubt.
The only thing Rome doesn’t have to offer is a beach. Rome is near the beach technically, but it is by no means a beach city. A day trip to the beach is totally possible! Outside of that, Rome has the most astounding historic sites to visit, is home to the only Wonder of the World in all of Europe and is one of the most important cities in the history of the western world.
A trip to Rome gives you the chance to couple all of the best parts of Italy – history, culture, and architecture – with the things that people look forward to the most about Italy, like fantastic food and wine. If I could pick any city in the world to live, it would probably be Rome. If that doesn’t tell you right there how incredible this city is, I don’t know what will. If you are planning a trip to Rome, make sure you read my Rome travel guide first.
Thanks for reading my post on the five best cities to visit in Italy if you don’t speak Italian. Hopefully these recommendations are useful to you as you plan your next trip to the Italy! If there is a place that you think we missed, or if you disagree with our rankings, please let us know by either dropping a comment below or sending us an email.