Italy has many beautiful and historic cities that can easily be visited by train. These are our picks for the top ten Italian cities.
Rome (Roma) is the capital of modern Italy. Rome is full of history everywhere you look. It has many ancient monuments, interesting medieval churches, beautiful fountains, museums, and Renaissance palaces. Modern Rome is a bustling and lively city and has some excellent restaurants and nightlife. Saint Peter's Square and the Vatican City are also easily visited when in Rome. We recommend at least 3 days in Rome.
Venice (Venezia) is a unique city built on water in the middle of a lagoon. Venice is one of Italy's most beautiful and romantic cities as well as one of the most popular for visitors to Italy. The heart of Venice is Piazza San Marco with its magnificent church, Saint Mark's Basilica. There are many museums, palaces, and churches to visit and wandering along Venice's canals is interesting. Venice is in the northeast of Italy and historically was a bridge between East and West.
Florence (Firenze) is one of Italy's most important Renaissance architectural and art centers. Its Duomo and Baptistery are magnificent but crowded with tourists as is their large piazza. Florence has several excellent museums with many famous paintings and sculptures. There are also Medici palaces and gardens. Florence is in the region of Tuscany.
Milan (Milano), one of Europe's richest cities, is known for stylish shops, galleries, and restaurants and has a faster pace of life than most Italian cities. It also has a rich artistic and cultural heritage. Its Gothic Duomo, with its beautiful marble facade, is magnificent. Da Vinci's painting of The Last Supper is one of Milan's top attractions and La Scala is one of the world's most famous opera houses
Naples (Napoli) is one of Italy's most vibrant cities. It lies on the coast south of Rome and is the most important city in southern Italy. Naples has recently undergone some renovation but still retains much of its old character. It holds many historical and artistic treasures.
Verona is known for the story of Romeo and Juliet and for its Roman Arena, the third largest in Italy and the venue for a top opera festival. Verona has a good medieval center, Roman remains, and an interesting castle complex. It's the fourth most visited city in Italy and well worth a stop on a northern Italy train travel itinerary.
Turin (Torino), in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy, is a major cultural hub with excellent museums, elegant shops, and good restaurants. There are also some very nice examples of Baroque architecture and historic palaces, historic coffee houses, artisan workshops, and streets with arcades.
Bologna is known for its beauty, wealth, cuisine, and left-wing politics. Its streets are lined with arcades, making it a good place to walk even in the rain. It has one of Europe's oldest universities. a nice medieval center, and several attractive squares, lined with buildings with porticoes. Bologna is the biggest city in northern Italy's Emilia-Romagna region.
Genoa (Genova), in Liguria on the northwest coast of Italy, is Italy's principal seaport. Genoa was a 2004 European Culture Capital and money flowed into the port city making it a better place than ever to visit. Genoa has a fascinating aquarium, an interesting port area, and a historic center said to be the largest medieval quarter in Europe, with a wealth of churches, palaces, and museums.
Perugia, in central Italy's Umbria region, is a very cosmopolitan city and home to two universities. It hosts a world-famous jazz festival in the summer and its University for Foreigners is a great place to learn Italian. It's a walled city on a hilltop with great views over the valley and has several important monuments and a good central square. Its history goes back to the ninth century BC.
If you've seen the top sights in Italy's big cities or prefer to travel to smaller cities with fewer tourists, consider these recommendations for less-visited but interesting Italian cities.
Travel between big cities is best done by train as driving in Italian cities may be very difficult and the extensive Italian rail system is fairly inexpensive. Most city centers are well-suited to walking and parts of the city centers are closed to cars without permits. Large Italian cities generally have good public transportation, too.