Italy’s main cities are well known the world over. Venice’s canals, Milan’s Duomo, Florence’s bridges and Rome’s Roman remains are all easily identifiable and have attracted tourists for centuries. However, there are plenty of other smaller cities in Italy that you may be less familiar with which still have much to offer holidaymakers but where you’ll find fewer crowds, less queuing and arguably a more authentic side to Italy. Here’s our top 5 pick of lesser known cities in Italy:
Lucca is a charming city in the heart of Tuscany, famous for its Renaissance walls which encircle the entire historic centre and which have been transformed into an attractive promenade complete with trees, grass and plants which you can walk along. Within the walls themselves you’ll find a plethora of churches hence Lucca’s nickname of the ‘city of one hundred churches’. Some of the most noteworthy include the Duomo and San Michele al Foro. You also mustn’t miss the oval shaped Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro, the Basilica of San Frediano and Lucca’s Clock Tower as well as the Torre Giunigi, a tower with trees that grow from its top. Climb the the tower to admire the roof garden at the top,
Assisi is a holy city for Christians thanks to being the birthplace of St Francis. They flock to visit the Basilica of St Francesco, home to impressive frescoes by Giotto and the tomb of St Francis. There are plenty of other things to explore in Assisi including the Medieval palazzi, the Roman Temple of Minerva and excavated Roman forum and the Pinacoteca Comunale art galley which is home to works by Giotto and Perugino amongst others. Asissi’s charming streets all lead from the bustling central Piazza del Comune.
Check out our Assisi travel guide to find out more about what to see and do in Assisi.
The capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna is one of Italy’s wealthiest cities and home to the oldest university in the world. Whilst attracting many modern businesses who have made it their base, it nevertheless has a remarkable and fascinating historic centre.
Make a bee-line for Bologna’s two leaning towers – Asinelli and Garisenda, stroll around the central Piazza Maggiore and adjacent Neptune Fountain or take a longer walk under the 666 arches of the Portico San Luca to the elevated setting of the San Luca monastery. Also worth a visit is the Archiginnasio and Teatro Anatomico, situated in what was once the main building of the University of Bologna, the oldest university in the world and see if you can find the hidden canals of the city as you explore all that it has to offer.
Check out or Bologna travel guide for more inspiration about what to see and do in Bologna.
Situated in the Northern region of Lombardy, Bergamo is usually overlooked in favour of its busier, more bustling neighbour, Milan. Divided into an upper and lower part – Città Bassa and Città Alta – it’s the latter that is the more attractive and interesting part to explore, characterised by charming cobblestone streets, encircled by 5 km long Venetian walls (whihc have UNESCO world heritage status) and accessible not just on foot from the town below but also by funicular.
At the heart of the old town is the picturesque Piazza Vecchia, with its central fountain and bustling cafes and restaurants and home to the Palazzo del Podestà where you will find a museum. Head up the adjacent 53 metre Campanone to enjoy phenomenal views over the city and the countryside beyond. Don’t worry! You can reach the top via lift! The Piazza Duomo nestles next to the Piazza Vecchia and is where you’ll find the Duomo as well as the Romanesque Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. We love just exploring Bergamo’s narrow streets, lined with small shops and cafes and with surprises around every corner.
Situated in Emilia-Romagna in the North East of Italy, Parma is probably most famous for two of the foodstuffs produced there – Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma (more commonly known as Parma ham). Both have been given Protected Designation of Origin (DOC) status however, whilst parma ham can only be produced in Parma using specially bred pigs, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese can also be made in Reggio Emilia, Modena, Mantua and Bologna.
The main sights of Parma include the Romanesque Parma Cathedral, home to some wonderful frescos, the adjacent Baptistery and the Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi where you will find a statue of the former Italian leader along with the Palazzo del Governatore, the Comune Di Parma and the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle. Also worth a visit is the Teatro Farnese. Dating back to the early 17th century, this was once the largest theatre in the world seating 4500 people and it remains a spectacular example of a wooden theatre today. The theatre is housed in the Palazzo della Pilotta which is also home to the National Gallery and the Biblioteca Palatina.
Parma isn’t just full of buildings though. It also boasts plenty of green spaces in which to relax. The most notable of these is the Parco Ducale which stretches over nearly 500 acres.