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The history of Western civilization can be seen, felt, touched, and tasted in Italy’s cities and towns up and down the peninsula. To experience la dolce vita (not all of which is dolce – sweet), you need to visit both north and south: Differences are not only cultural, linguistic, and gastronomic, but also political and demographic. 

Italy Cities and Regions

Milan and the Lake District

It’s often said that Italy’s industrialized northern region has more in common with bordering Switzerland and northern Europe than with the rest of Italy. This region includes Alpine areas, dreamy lake landscapes, and the city of Milan – Italy’s capital for fashion, design, media, and finance. See our Milan Travel Guide and Italian Lakes Travel Guide

Italian Riviera

Bask in the coastal splendor of San Remo, Portofino, and Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. The once-powerful maritime city of Genoa, with the largest medieval city center in Europe, and the French-influenced city of Turin, home of the 2006 Winter Olympic Games, are nearby. See our Italian Riviera Travel Guide

Venice and The Veneto

With its maze of canals laced by bridges, and decaying, sienna-colored buildings, the famously-threatened city of Venice is unmatched for romance, even when it’s mobbed with tourists (as it usually is). The nearby countryside is dotted with villas designed by Renaissance master Palladio. See our Venice Travel Guide

Florence and Tuscany

It’s hard to think of another city with as many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture as Florence. The nearby hill towns of San Gimignano, Assisi, and Siena – set amid Tuscany’s emblematic cypresses and vineyards – are sights in themselves. And don’t forget that tilting tower in Pisa. See our Florence Travel Guide and Tuscany Travel Guide


Formerly the splendorous center of the vast Roman Empire, today’s Rome is a multilayered treasure trove of ruins and art that span centuries. The Vatican, dazzling Baroque churches, and the imperial glory of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum are all within reach. See our Rome Travel Guide

Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii

Naples is a zany, bustling city with a unique flavor – some stay to see the Archeological Museum and sample the street life while others move on to the stunning Amalfi Coast, with its cliff-hugging architecture, or to the ancient ruins at Pompeii. See our Positano Travel Guide and the Amalfi Coast Travel Guide

Southern Italy

Most tourists don’t venture below the Amalfi Coast, but those who do can experience the glorious mozzarella of Campania, remarkably intact Greek temples in Paestum, and the Neolithic caves of Matera, recently transformed into luxury hotels. The pace of life here is slower and more authentic than in the mediatic, status-driven north. 


Visit the magnificent mosaics of Monreale, the ruined temples of Agrigento, and, in the southeast corner of the island, the three charmed cities of Syracuse, Catania, and Taormina. In the hills of northwest Sicily, you can visit the town where The Godfather was born – Corleone. Take a guide with you to wander the narrow lanes of the island’s biggest city, Palermo. See our Sicily Travel Guide


Bologna la grassa (Bologna the fat) is also Bologna la dotta (Bologna the learned). Home of the oldest university in Europe (founded in 1088), it is the gastronomic capital of the country . . . and in Italy, that is saying a lot. With its 23 miles of covered porticos, it is a walker’s delight in any season, yet is surprisingly free of tourists (except for trade fair periods). See our Bologna Travel Guide


Next door to Tuscany lies Umbria, a gentle landlocked region called “the green heart of Italy” for its rolling green countryside, peaceful valleys, hill-clinging towns, and important religious buildings and monuments. It is Tuscany without the price tag or the tourist hoards. See our Umbria Travel Guide

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