Italy is a large country with many different parts. Each region in Italy differs from the others. With all these different regions, it can become overwhelming to decide which Italian destination you should visit. While these three destinations obviously do not represent the whole country, I thought I would break down a couple popular cities in Italy. Use this guide to decide which would be best for your Italian trip!
I’m starting off with Milan because it is the city where I am currently studying abroad! I’ll start off by saying Milan is not your typical Italian city so if you’re looking for rolling Tuscan hills or a quaint village, Milan is not the city for you. Milan is a modern European city with a major public transit system.
Milan’s public transit system is large and may seem intimidating at first, but it is surprisingly easy to navigate. The underground metro is easy to find. There are large signs above ground that point out where a metro stop is. Once underground, buy a ticket at a touch screen kiosk. These tickets will cost you 1,50 euro for a one-way urban ticket. Also around Milan is a tram, bus, and regional train system. To get from Malpensa Airport to the city center, hop on the Malpensa Express train which will drop you off at Milano Centrale. There are also buses that run from Malpensa, Linate, and Bergamo airports to Milano Centrale as well. These are typically cheaper than the Malpensa Express.
What to do:
The Duomo of Milan is the landmark that the city is most well known for. This cathedral is Gothic style with hundreds of statues and a beautiful white marble color. It is affordable to enter and once inside, you can go to the roof and enjoy spectacular views of Milan. The area around the Duomo is full of shopping as well. If you are looking for a more laid-back area of Milan, check out Navigli or Brera. Navigli is a popular area and is most well known for the canal that runs through the center. On most weekends you can find vendors selling fresh flowers, handmade soaps, and other goods. Navigli also has many bars, restaurants, and unique shops. Brera is the more upscale area of Milan. It is quieter than the city center and Navigli and features many fine shops. Head over to Brera if you are looking for a fine dining or shopping experience.
What to eat:
Milan’s signature dish is Risotto a Milanese. This is a rice dish which gets its yellow hue from the saffron in the dish. Since Milan is a large city, it features many restaurants with an array of global cuisines. If you are looking to try more than just Italian food while traveling, then Milan will be a foodie fit for you.
Heading south from Milan, you’ll find the smaller city of Florence. In comparison to both Milan and Rome, Florence is much smaller. This city has more of the traditional Italian vibe. From the city, you can see the rolling Tuscan hills with small cottages and wineries tucked into the countryside. The city itself may be smaller, but there are still many sites to see and yummy dishes to try.
Florence is a very walkable city. However, if you are looking for a quicker way to get around, you can give the small bus system a try. Also, there are plenty of taxis if you are okay to spend a little more to get around the city.
What to do:
The statue of David is the work of art that the city is most known for. The line to get inside the art gallery is usually long. You can save time by joining a tour group that will allow you to skip the line while providing additional information about Michelangelo’s famous work of art. We did one similar to this. The Duomo in Florence is also an impressive site that one should not miss. To make the most out of your time in Florence, try to arrive early to both sites.
What to eat:
In my opinion, Florence has the best food in Italy. Enjoy some gelato from a local shop while wandering through the quaint streets of the city. When you are ready for a true Italian meal, check out Trattoria ZaZa. This might be my all-time favorite restaurant I have tried in Europe with a reasonable price point. I recommend the creamy truffle ravioli. If you are wanting to try a traditional dish from the area, Florentine steak is known around the world for being one of the best cuts of meat. You can find Florentine steak in most restaurants in Florence.
Heading even further south in Italy, you will reach Rome. Rome is the city that holds the most history out of these destinations. When walking around Rome, it is easy to stumble upon Roman ruins just about everywhere. Rome is a city with much to do, therefore I recommend giving Rome the most amount of time out of these three cities. I also found that Rome was the most crowded and touristy city in Italy however, I went over Easter weekend. It is important to keep these dates in mind when planning a trip to Rome.
For as large as a city that Rome is, it has a surprisingly small and simple public transportation system. We only used the metro a couple times while in Rome because we tried to walk to as many sites as possible. Rome has an above ground metro as well as a bus system. These systems were not easy to figure out so my recommendation is using Google Maps to navigate the system. As with the other two cities, there are also taxis available.
What to do:
Rome is filled with world famous sites to see. There’s the Colosseum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Square, and The Pantheon just to name a few. Like I said earlier, I went Easter weekend so sites such as the Sistine Chapel were closed. However, I was still able to see many of the landmarks. Many of these places were packed with tourists so getting an early start would give you an advantage to beating the crowds. If you are wanting more in-depth information about these places, look into signing up for a tour group.
What to eat:
There is no shortage of Italian restaurants in Rome. However, it is important to avoid the restaurants that are tourist traps. To get the most out of your money and to enjoy a true Italian meal, avoid the places closest to the major sites. Go off the beaten path and discover some of the back streets of Rome for authentic food.
Hopefully all this information will make it easier to decide which city will be best for your Italian trip! Or if you can, try and visit all three to discover different parts of Italy.