The Best Cities in Italy to Visit That Aren’t Rome

When determining the best cities in Italy to visit, the lists cans be long and Rome is often in the number one spot. Is Rome incredible? Yes, absolutely! But Italy has so many other incredible cities to visit as well. To help with trip planning, we’ve compiled a list of the best cities in Italy to visit that aren’t Rome.

Best Cities in Italy to Visit that Aren’t Rome:

Venice

Venice is one of the most unique cities we have been too and at the top of our “best cities in Italy to visit that aren’t Rome” list. We highly recommend spending 2-3 days here wandering around and getting lost in the streets.

Highlights for your time in Venice:

  • Bridge of Sighs. This bridge has a unique history to it as this is the bridge that prisoners would walk across when going to jail.
  • Rialto Bridge. This is the oldest bridge in Venice and one of the few that crosses the grand canal. The views of the canal from the top are iconic and should not be missed.
  • St. Marks Square. This historic piazza is lined with restaurants and cafes, making this a great spot for an afternoon break.
  • Doge’s Palace. This palace features Venetian Gothic architecture and has a lot of history to is as well. 
  • Get out on the canals. Whether you opt to pay 80 euros for one of the man powered gondolas or you pay 8 euros for the shuttle boat, we highly recommend you get out onto the canals at least once.

Verona

Verona is best known as the home of Romeo and Juliet. While this Shakespeare play is fictional, he did base it off of this town and not to miss a tourism opportunity – Juliet’s balcony can be found in this town. Romeo and Juliet aside, this town is filled with history, architecture and great shopping. The city can feel intimate and quant when compared to the larger Italian cities, which adds to the relaxing aesthetic this city has to offer.

Highlights to see in Verona:

  • Juliet’s balcony. You can actually walk up and onto Juliet’s balcony.
  • Verona arena. The Verona Arena is a Roman amphitheater that you can walk around and explore. While this is a smaller Roman Arena than the Colosseum in Rome, it’s still great to explore.
  • Piazza delle Erbe. This is a historic square in Verona that often houses a market as well. We recommend grabbing some souvenirs and fresh fruit here.
  • Funiculare di Castel San Pietro. This funiculare is a short gondola that will take you up to Castle San Pietro. Yes you could also walk up to this lookout point, but for 1.50 euro I think this is worth doing at least one way.
  • Castle San Pietro. If you’re looking for sweeping views of Verona, this is the spot to be.

For trip planning, check out our day trip guide to Verona.

Lake Como

Lake Como is located in Northern Italy, nestled below the alps on a stunning alpine lake. There are several towns around Lake Como as well as many hotel resorts to choose from. If you’re planning a visit here, plan to have a more casual and laidback time. We recommend spending your days on the lake and spend your evenings enjoying the excellent Italian Cuisine in the town where you’re staying. If you’re traveling throughout Italy, this is a great spot to stop halfway through to relax and rejuvenate before the second half of your trip.

Florence

The next city on the itinerary is Florence. Florence is the capital of Tuscany, the birthplace of the Renaissance and home to some incredibly famous art. With all this said, Florence is also filled with great food and has a small city feel that makes it popular among travelers.

Highlights to see while in Florence:

  • Duomo and Brunelleschi’s Dome. This is arguably the most famous building in Florence making it a must see.
  • Giotto’s Bell Tower. Looking to get your steps in? We recommend climbing to the top of this bell tower to enjoy some incredible views of Florence.
  • Lorenzo Market. This is an outdoor market and a great spot to barter for some deals.
  • Ponte Vecchio. This is the oldest bridge in the city, a perfect spot to take a break as you stroll along the river. If you’re willing to brave the crowds, stroll along the bridge to do some shopping.
  • Piazzale Michelangelo. This is a square that overlooks the city of Florence, we recommend enjoying the sunset from this spot.
  • Uffizi Gallery. The Uffizi is an art museum that houses some incredible and famous works of arts.
  • Accademia Gallery. This museum is visited largely to see Michelangelo’s famous Statue of David.
  • All’Antico Vinaio.  This was the best sandwich spot we came across during our Italian road trip.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre translates to ‘five lands’, which is very appropriate as Cinque Terre is made up of five seaside towns. The Cinque Terre towns are centuries old and are found in the Liguria region of Italy. These five towns are small, colorful and surrounded by stunning, rugged, coastlines. We highly recommend venturing into Cinque Terre to visit one or five of these villages. If you’re looking for further information for how to access Cinque Terre, get around the towns and everything you need to know to plan a trip – check our complete guide to Cinque Terre.

Highlights of the five towns of Cinque Terre:

  • Riomaggiore. Explore around the harbor looking in on the town, visit Kepris for pizza, visit Old School for gelato and, lastly, walk up to Castello di Riomaggiore to explore.
  • Manarola. Walk up to Manarola Scenic Viewpoint for the views and then enjoy a meal at Nessun Dorma.
  • Corniglia. Head to Viewpoint Corniglia for some coastal views, opt to enjoy a meal at either Restorante La Posada or Dau Tinola.
  • Vernazza. Walk along the waterfront and the harbor for views of the town, head over to Ananasso Bar for pastries, Relax at Vernazza beach, hike the blue trail for unbeatable views overlooking the town.
  • Monterosso al Mare. Enjoy the seafront promenade and wandering the streets of ‘old Monterosso’, hike up to Cimitero di Monterosso for views of the town, relax at one of their three beaches.

Positano

Located along the Amalfi Coast of Italy is the can’t miss town of Positano. Positano is a bucket list destination to visit, filled with stunning coastal views, the bluest water and winding roads – this is a one of the best cities in Italy to visit. When visiting, we recommend taking your time to wander the streets and enjoy the small shops, delicious Italian cuisine and the colorful houses along the way.

Highlights to see while in Positano:

  • Relax at Spiagga Grande. This is the main beach in Positano and one you will probably recognize from photos. The beach is filled with colorful chairs and umbrellas with a backdrop of the coastal town along the cliffside. You can pay ~22 euros/ person for a lounge chair for the day.
  • Hike Path of The Gods. This 5 mile hike takes you along the coast from Boomerang to Positano. The hike originated as the main connection between towns and while cars are now used the hike remains. The trail is steep in sections and you should come prepared for a strenuous hike. For further information, check out Alltrails.
  • Visit Franco’s Bar. Looking to enjoy an Aperol Spritz with a view? Franco’s Bar will offer just this, we recommend visiting here at sunset to enjoy the coastline views as the lights start to twinkle on.
  • Go on a Boat Tour. Another great way to see the Amalfi coast and Positano is by boat. There are several boat companies that do tours and these are a great way to check out the incredible coastline from a different view.

Matera

Located in Southern Italy, in the region of Basilicata, is a city built on a rocky outcrop called Matera. Matera is a lesser known city with a unique history and incredible caves. The town of Matera was carved into the rock, made up of a network of caves. Since the Paleolithic era, the residents lived within the caves creating a hidden society until the 1950s. Once this society was exposed the government passed a law that required all residents to live in modern housing, which are found in “new Matera”. Today, these caves have been transformed into boutique hotels so you can stay here when visiting.

Highlights to see while in Matera:

  • Wander around Sassi di Matera. Sassi di Matera is the “old Matera” which is now a UNESCO world heritage site. We recommend wandering around these streets exploring the caves, white-washed buildings and winding streets. Come prepared with good shoes as this will involve a lot of stairs!
  • Casa Noha. We recommend starting your trip at Casa Noha, which provides a brief exhibit that goes over the history of Matera. Visiting this prior to exploring Sassi di Matera will provide more information and make you appreciate the area even more.
  • Visit the Cathedral of the Madonna della Bruna and Sant’Eustachio. This cathedral was built between 1230 and 1270 and has undergone extensive restoration in the 2000s. Wander around inside the cathedral to take in the Baroque decorations and gilded ceilings.

Best Cities in Italy to Visit Trip Planning Tips:

  • As with all current travel, these towns are bustling with tourists. I would recommend getting to a town early (before 9am) to best enjoy the sites crowd-free.
  • Bring sunscreen and a hat. The sun will be unrelenting when visiting anywhere in Italy during the summer. Furthermore, there are minimal shady spots when exploring and eating, so be prepared with adequate sun protection.
  • Bring a reusable water bottle. Throughout Italy there are outdoor fountains with drinking water, we found these the best option for water.

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