Five Beautiful Italian Cities to Visit (if You’ve Done Rome)

Done Rome and Venice? Get ready to eat your way around Bologna’s family-run trattorias and drink in Verona’s sorbet-coloured sunsets, after reading our guide to the five beautiful Italian cities to explore next.

You'd be hard pressed to find a bad angle of Italy, a destination dotted with crumbling piazzas, pastel-hued hamlets and rolling countryside scattered with orchards and olive groves. But, while most make tracks for Florence's artistic abundance or Rome's famous fountains, it's the smaller, under-appreciated cities that we're craving. You know, the sort of places where trattorias share centuries-old family recipes; where squares come alive after dark with live music and dancing; where quirky independent shops and hotels are the norm; and where festivals bring the whole community together? Well, we've found them. Read on for the lowdown on five breathtaking Italian cities ripe for discovery.

Five stunning Italian cities to fall in love with

Bologna, Italy


Italy's unofficial culinary capital, Bologna is beloved by foodies - the Emilia-Romagna region is the birthplace of lasagne, tortellini, parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar, to name but a few. Start your tour of this beautiful city with a stroll beneath the terracotta tiles of Piazza Maggiore, before swinging by the gorgeous, 1200-built Palazzo del Podestà. From there, head to the Quadrilatero, Italy's oldest food market, or, alternatively, treat yourself to a five-course feast at local favourite Banco 32 restaurant - the kitchen-facing bar is worth a visit alone. Grub aside, this city is home to the world's oldest university, so expect to rub shoulders with crowds of achingly cool bright young things.

Where to stay: Porta San Mamolo

Perugia, Italy


Bordered by Tuscany, Lazio and Marche, Perugia is exactly what you'd imagine a traditional Italian city to look like - all tangled olive groves, sprawling vineyards and renovated farmhouses. Despite its relatively remote location, the Umbrian capital draws crowds for its annual chocolate festival, in October, which offers experimental chocolate tastings, workshops and artisan markets - there are even chocolate-themed spa days and climbing walls. Sound too sickly? Perugia also hosts the Umbria Jazz Festival (usually in July), which fills the air with sounds almost as sweet as the taste of chocolate.

Where to stay: Castello di Monterone

Matera, Italy


Bond fans will no doubt recognise Matera from its starring role in No Time to Die - for others, kindly let us introduce you to one of Italy's most magical ancient sites. Situated in the country's south, this hilltop city is seemingly cut into two by the sparkling Gravina River. With its clusters of limestone-cave villas, in the Sassi area, winding dirt-track roads and great swathes of verdant terrain, the Unesco World Heritage site has, unsurprisingly, become a popular big-screen backdrop. To make the most of its rugged landscape, base yourself at Le Grotte della Civita, where you can bed down in a centuries-old cave.

Where to stay: Le Grotte della Civita

Bari, Italy


Though it's best known as the gateway to Puglia, the coastal city of Bari is an idyllic spot for a getaway in its own right. In the old town, sun-drenched passageways are lined with stone-faced villas, iron balconies and shuttered windows; in the Murat quarter, a bevy of independent boutiques and sleek bars make for a sophisticated set-up. History buffs should save time to check out the 12th-century Castello Normanno-Svevo, a former palace and prison, while those looking for a hit of sun and sea should skip straight to the secluded sands of Cala Porto. Whatever your vibe, be sure to snag a seafood platter from one of the eateries along Lungomare, Bari's waterfront promenade.

Where to stay: Palazzo Calò

Verona, Italy


Home to more than just Romeo and Juliet, Verona is undeniably one of the most romantic of Italy's cities. Ramble across one of the seven bridges that span the Adige River, visit the oldest still-operating library in Europe, Biblioteca Capitolare, and catch an opera at the intimate Teatro Filarmonico. If you're planning to visit for longer, consider volunteering with the Juliet Club, a quaint institution that sees an army of letter-writers sending love advice to heartbroken correspondents from across the globe.

Where to stay: Palazzo Monga

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