Italy is one of the most popular destinations to visit in Europe. A country that provides a cultural elegance to go along with some achingly beautiful scenery all helping to make it the perfect European getaway. There are many places that you can visit but for those who are seeking something a little different and are looking to beat the crowds whilst straying away from the usual popular cities, then the small list of alternatives that I have compiled might just suit your very needs. So with that being said, here are my four alternative Italian cities that should be on your travel list.
Located in the northern Italian region of Emillia-Romagna and surrounded by sprawling countryside lies the beautifully, diminutive Parma. Known for its fine dining culture, being home to one of the best opera houses in Italy, music, art, architecture and Romanesque buildings that include Parma Cathedral and the pink marble Baptistry, this little delight might just well be Italys best kept secret. Pastel coloured houses line the streets whilst piazzas add a drama with their imposing architecture and a rare untouched beauty. The city is compact and best explored on foot, whilst the local choice of transport is cycling meaning that the streets are almost devoid of cars allowing you to wander along and marvel at a city that has remained mostly untouched by the hoards of tourists that visit Italy each year. There’s an alluring innocence about Parma that pulls on your heart strings and in a time when there seems to be a constant need to regenerate often rendering cities unrecognisable from years gone by, Parma does a great job of holding onto an identity and way of living that was formed many years ago helping to make it a unique experience and one that should make its way onto your Italian itinerary.
Situated in Tuscany and only a short train journey away from its beautiful sibling Florence, lies Pisa. To those that have never visited before the city is primarily known for its leaning tower. But upon arrival you will soon realise that Pisa offers far more than an architectural mishap and holds a rather persuasive charm that invites you in to take a closer look. Pisa is a small city and very walkable meaning that the opportunity to explore the city’s beautiful streets is hard to resist and one that you should not pass up. Tucked away amongst the side streets locals mingle as cafes, bars and fashionable boutiques bubble in a melting pot of activity. The museums and art galleries compliment the city’s Romanesque style architecture, whilst an elite university means that there is a youthful energy to accompany a quaint charm in this compelling city. Pisa offers a slower pace of life for those that might be looking to savour the moment and unwind, whilst a distinct local feel that encapsulates the city makes for a more intimate experience that you will not find should you choose to travel to one of Italy’s larger, better known cities.
Bordering the Alps and with views as far as the eye can see, this northern, Italian, former manufacturing heavyweight offers a different taste of Italy that you will not find present in other Italian cities. Those who visit Turin often find comparisons with Vienna or Paris and whilst it is easy to see why, doing so would be to undersell this great city as although similar on the surface it possesses its very own identity that allows a unique personality to shine through. The city boasts an array of fine architecture for those seeking a historical indulgence, whilst a thriving arts and music scene compliments a host of grand cafes, bars, restaurants and vegan eateries all helping to make Turin a cultural hub. Shopping enthusiasts will not be left wanting either as the city seems to do an effortless job of blending elegance with contemporary for those that are seeking a little retail therapy. But don’t for one moment be fooled into thinking that Turin is all style over substance, as although recognised as one of the cool kids there is no shortage of beauty either and what better way to spend an evening then by taking in the views as you stroll along the river Po before ambling up to Chiesa di Santa Maria del Monte dei Cappuccino to gaze across the city with a smile on your face and the satisfaction in knowing that you were right to choose a trip to Turin over its more illustrious neighbour Milan.
So often sidestepped and merely used as a gateway to the Riviera for most of those who are looking to travel to Italy. With Cinque Terre only a short train journey down the road, the place that they call La Superba is often overlooked without so much as a fleeting glance. But to do so would in my opinion be a grave error as Genoa has so much to offer. Theres a vibrant energy that runs through the city intertwining with a cool undertone in a throwback to how cities used to be before they were trying to be cool. The old town is the heart beat with its petit, winding alleyways sprawled over an area that seems to have stood still in time as local businesses and houses that have been present for generations add a warmth to an area that screams nostalgic Italy. Cafes, bars and boutique shops mingle effortlessly, whilst a once run down port has now been transformed into a thriving part of the city and hosts many dining and drinking options as well as museums. Great views can be enjoyed throughout Genoa as both Spianata Castelletto and Boccadasse offer up great vantage points to watch the sun go down whilst the latter a beautiful, fishing village with sea views, provides a slower pace of life and showcases the city’s sublime beauty leaving you to ponder why you hadn’t visited this great Italian city sooner!
Have you visited any of these four Italian cities? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comments below.
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