Italy is a country of great passions, its art, culture, and food inspiring people from all over the world to visit in order to get a taste of la dolce vita.
Equal parts bougie and bolshie, grand and gritty, Bologna is the historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. While Rome is the “Eternal City” and Florence is “la Bella,” Bologna has three nicknames: “la dotta, la rossa e la grassa.” - “La dotta,” the educated, doffs a cap to Bologna’s university founded in 1088, the oldest in Europe. “La rossa,” the red, is a reminder of the city’s left-leaning politics and its historic culture of student protests, while “la grassa,” the fat, is reflective of Bologna’s gastronomic grandeur, a city whose food legacy is as rich as the ragu it gave birth to.
Known as the Cradle of the Renaissance, Florence’s wealth of art and culture is breathtaking in its expansiveness. From fresco-adorned churches and museums bursting with masterpieces to 15th and 16th century palazzi practically around every corner, this UNESCO World Heritage city is a testament to Italy’s enduring cultural legacy. When travelling to Florence by train, don’t miss hiking up the 2km path from Ponte Vecchio to Piazzale Michelangelo at sunset. From this beautiful vantage point, it’s easy to see why Henry James once said of this city: “Everything about Florence seems to be coloured with a mild violet, like diluted wine.”
Genoa, Italy’s largest sea port, has a long history of welcoming travellers from near and far. Nicknamed “La Superba” (the Proud one), Genoa has a rich and contradictory history, its architectural heritage reflecting both its former glory days as the Most Serene Republic of Genoa in the 12th and 13th centuries, as well as its history of seafaring squalour. Today, Genoa is a sparkling historic city with an old town full of twisting caruggi (narrow streets), Enlightenment-era halls and a UNESCO-listed palazzi. Genoa is also a gateway to the Italian Riviera and the beautiful Cinque Terre, with a train to La Spezia taking just over 1 hr 30 mins.
A city where money talks, creativity thrives and fashion reigns, Milan is a heady blend of old-world romance and gritty, fast-paced cosmopolitanism. Thanks to its long-standing status as Italy’s financial capital, Milan’s mixture of old and new architectural styles is unlike any other Italian city. Art deco and rationalist buildings sit alongside Zaha Hadid’s additions to a contemporary skyline such as Generali Tower and CityLife Residences. In contrast, the National Science and Technology Museum Leonardo da Vinci, housed in a 16th century monastery, welcomes cultural disciples to The Last Supper. Travel to Milan by train for a fast-paced, high-fashion city where aperitivos are ritual and living well is an art-form.
Travel by train to Naples, a wholly singular city, blending together history and modernity with an energetic intensity quite unlike any other European destination. The birthplace of pizza draws plenty of hungry visitors each year, including those hungry for culture. Naples’ historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the largest in Europe, covering 1,700 hectares and 27 centuries worth of history. Aside from exploring its own piazzas, frescoes and food, Naples is also the perfect jumping off point to visit Pompei and the glamorous Amalfi Coast.