Bari, a typical commercial and maritime city, is the capital of the region of Apulia and the second largest city in Southern Italy by number of inhabitants. The city underwent a period of strong industrial development in the second half of the 20th Century and is where the largest fair in Southern Italy can be found. Tourists come here for the historic buildings, the art and the enchanting city centre as well as the surrounding beaches.
The citizens of Bari are fond of one phrase in particular, “If Paris had the sea, it would be a little Bari” – obviously an exaggeration but it goes some way in explaining how proud they are of their city (and says something about their sense of humour). Bari is very much a city with a deep sense of history and art with strong roots in culture and modern commercial aspirations.
An important city under the Greeks, Bari became a Roman municipality, and was later governed by the Saracens, the Venetians, the Normans, the Aragons and finally the Bourbons before becoming part of Italy – it was a bridge between the Greek and Middle-Eastern worlds. Bari experienced its golden age during the Middle Ages and the glories of that age are perfectly symbolised by the stupendous Cathedral and the San Nicola church.
Also worth mentioning is the Emperor Augustus Promenade, the place locals go for a stroll, and the Nazario Sauro seafront, which offers a wonderful walk along the coast and fantastic views of the city. To the left is the San Nicola wharf where every year on the 8th May, the ceremony of the miraculous statue of Saint Nicholas takes place, during which the statue is taken to sea on a boat where it is worshipped by pilgrims and believers. In this area, known as ‘nderre a la lanze’, you can sample some of the delicious seafood..
The capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is an art city, a university centre and a place renowned for its excellent cuisine. It hosts important international conventions and is one of the main car manufacturing cities in the world: Ducati, Lamborghini and Maserati are just a handful of car brands that were born in Bologna – the Ferrari headquarters are located in the nearby town of Modena.
Italians love to call Bologna the smart, fat and red city: smart because it has the oldest university in the world (founded in 1088); fat due to the Bolognese cuisine with its tagliatelle and tortellini; and red because of the colour of its houses and the political tradition of the city’s administration.
Bologna is also a city known for its porticos, which stretch across the town centre for roughly 40 km, and for the Garisenda tower, the only true leaning tower in Italy (as the leaning tower of Pisa is actually a bell tower). As a student city and as a symbol of good living, Bologna is famous for its efficient services and for the friendly nature of its citizens, whose joie de vivre is to be envied.
Bologna was initially an Etruscan settlement, which later became the Roman city Bononia.
During the Middle Ages, it became an independent town, reaching the peak of its power in the 13th century. Despite the Pope’s control in the 16th century, Bologna went on keeping its legal and political freedom. The town centre is one of the best preserved in the whole of Europe and it is dotted with beautiful palaces and churches rich in art works, which are a testimony to the city’s cultural importance over the centuries.
Founded over 3,200 years ago at the foot of the Alps, Brescia was a Roman colony known by the name of Brixia. In the 15th century, it fell under the rule of the Republic of Venice, influencing Brescia in a significant way and creating a link that still exists today with the Veneto region. Both the monumental area of the Roman forum and the Longobard monastery of San Salvatore-Santa Giulia (where the city museum is located) have been declared a UNESCO world heritage site as part of the “Longobards in Italy: Places of Power” sites.
Catania, the second most important city in Sicily, is surrounded to the west by Mount Etna and to the east by the Mediterranean sea. The city is full of life with bars and cafes, the honking of car horns and its narrow streets. Tourists can choose between relaxing in the cooler climate of the surrounding mountains or going for invigorating swims in the sea.
Catania, one of the nine provinces of Sicily, is bordered by Taormina to the north, Augusta to the south, Bronte, Adrano and Misterbianco to the west, and by the Ionian Sea to the east. Catania, the capital of the Province of Catania, was founded in 729 BCE at the foot of the Etna volcano and was initially one of the Greek colonies of the island. Like other Sicilian cities, Catania has been dominated by several people, such as the Romans, Arabs and Normans, to name but a few. However, the biggest damage to the city was caused by its neighbour, the Etna volcano. The eruption in 1669 destroyed the city and killed 12,000 people. Catania was then rebuilt in baroque style, with its wide boulevards and squares which still are characteristic of the city.
In the last couple of years, tourism has become one of the city’s main sources of income. The Catania airport, which today is the third most important airport in Italy, represents the hub of tourism towards the island’s east coast. From here, it is easy to go on day trips to the spectacular Mount Etna, to the centre of ceramics in Caltagirone or to the picturesque mountain villages such as Randazzo and Linguaglossa. Near Catania lies the most charming place in Sicily, the Roman city of Taormina with its medieval old town, where D.H. Lawrence wrote “Lady Chatterley’s lover”.
Located in the lower plain of the Emilia-Romagna region, the city of Ferrara was born on the banks of the Po di Volano river, which separates the medieval part of the city from the ancient village of San Giorgio and marks the border with the new contemporary settlements south of the walls. Ferrara enjoyed a golden age during the early Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when under the power of the Este family, it was transformed into an artistic hub of great importance not only to Italians but also to Europeans, attracting personalities such as Ludovico Ariosto and Torquato Tasso, Nicolaus Copernicus and Paracelsus, Andrea Mantegna and Titian, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Pietro Bembo.
It was during the Renaissance that one of the most important urban design projects of modern European history was completed at Ferrara – the Addizione Erculea – the first example of rational planning of urban spaces, which was commissioned in 1484 by Duke Ercole I d’Este (which is where the project gets its name) and planned by the architect Biagio Rossetti. The new part of city was called ‘Arianuova’ (New Air) both due its location outside the old axis of the medieval castle and due the fact it was characterised until the end of the nineteenth century by large green areas with no buildings, called “orchards and gardens”, inside the new powerful rossettian walls. It is thanks to this architectural creation, that Ferrara is considered by scholars to be the first modern city in Europe.
Ferrara is also the site of an ancient university (the Università degli Studi di Ferrara) and archbishop residence (the archdiocese of Ferrara-Comacchio). It is home to important cultural centres such as: the National Art Gallery of the Palazzo dei Diamanti, the National Archaeological museum, the museum of the Risorgimento and della Resistenza, the Filippo de Pisis museum of modern and contemporary art, the museum of the Cathedral, the Giovanni Boldini museum, the Italian museum of Judaism and the Shoah and many other museums.
In medieval times, Florence was a key cultural, commercial, economic and financial centre. In more modern times, from 1569 to 1859, it served as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, with the government of the Medici and Lorena families and from 1865 to 1871, it was the capital of Italy after the unification of Italy (1861).
Florence is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance and is universally recognised as one of the cradles of art and architecture, and renowned as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, thanks to its numerous monuments and museums – including the Duomo, Santa Croce, the Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Pitti. It is also an important university centre and UNESCO world heritage site.
Milan is the city of design and fashion; the choice of shops and trendy bars is sometimes overwhelming, and there is still so much more to see, such as Milan’s Duomo and ‘The Last Supper’ by Leonardo da Vinci.
Milan was founded around 600 BCE but it was named “Mediolanum”, which means ‘the land in the middle’, only when it was conquered by the Romans. Thanks to its strategic location, Milan quickly became an important centre of trade in the Roman Empire and later, a Roman residential city. Today, Milan is the second largest city in Italy and here everything seems to revolve around the world of fashion. In fact, most of the major fashion houses and designers can be found here. The heart of the fashion industry is located in the area around Via Monte Napoleone and Via Della Spiga, where all the fashion houses are lined up. The Centro Storico area is where many of the most famous attractions are to be found, such as the Duomo and the opera house, La Scala. Other picturesque parts of the city are the Navigli district, located along the canals, which is mostly famous for its nightlife, and Brera for its charming art districts.
The quiet and welcoming city of Nova Siri offers various facilities, from family-run to luxury hotels, as well as inviting, pleasant resorts. The variety and beauty of its landscapes (adorned by the macchia mediterranea, a type of shrubland that grows wild along most of the sandy strand), combined with the wide range of sport activities (sailing, windsurfing, canoeing, fishing, etc.) as well as the proximity of famous archaeological sites, attract a large number of tourists both from Italy and abroad every year.
Over the past decade, Nova Siri has experienced an increase in its wine production, becoming one of the jewels in the crown of the Basilicata region – with the Aglianico, Cabernet and Syrah grape blends representing the most significant productions of the territory.
Pavia was the capital of the Longobard kingdom and from medieval times Pavia was the home of one of the oldest universities in Italy. The city was fortified until 1872 when the ramparts were turned into streets and public gardens; a large part of the walls, however, survived until 1901 when they were knocked down to construct the city’s ring roads.
Pavia’s ancient origins and greatly important history have left a significant artistic legacy. Its main tourist attractions are: the museum in the Castello Visconteo, San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro, the Pinacoteca Malaspina, the Duomo, the churches of Santa Maria del Carmine, San Michele Maggiore and San Teodoro, the Ponte Coperto over the Ticino river – not forgetting the Palazzo Bottigella.
Worth mentioning for its famous architecture and frescos is the palace which is home to the Almo Collegio Borromeo, built in 1564 and just a stone’s throw from Lungoticino Sforza. Also just a few kilometres from the city is the Certosa di Pavia.
Pavia is the capital of a fertile province known for its agriculture which includes the production of wine, rice and cereals. It has very little heavy industry, its main focus being instead on academics due to the presence of the University of Pavia which in addition to the IUSS School for Advanced Studies makes up the so-called ‘university system of Pavia’, as well as the San Matteo Polyclinic.
Pavia is also one of the important stops on the ‘via Francigena’ – an ancient pilgrimage route to Rome.
Pavia also counts Albert Einstein as one of its former residents, who lived here with his family for roughly one year in 1894 at Casa Cornazzani, via Ugo Foscolo number 11.
Rome, known as the eternal city, has been attracting visitors for over 2,000 years and is still the most important and romantic city in the world. It has an interesting mix of grandiose monuments and colourful, interesting city life. Classic Italian shops, the best ice cream in the world, cappuccinos and exquisite wines – are just some of the delights to be discovered.
Where to begin the story of the eternal city? A rough date would be 21st April 753 BCE, the day on which it is said Romulus founded the city, after killing his twin-brother Remus. From then on, over the following centuries, Rome grew into an immense empire until the peak of its splendour during the reign of Marcus Aurelius from 161 to 180 CE. Just like the ancient city, Rome is built on seven hills: Capitolino, Palatino, Quirinale, Viminale, Esquilino, Celio and Aventino. The city centre, where the most famous attractions are, is called Campo Marzio, taking its name from Mars, the god of war and was originally a training camp of the Roman army. Other areas worth seeing are Trastevere, on the other side of the river Tevere, Monti and Pigneto, which is considered to be the historic Roman district.
The city of Siena is well known for its historical, artistic and natural heritage as well as the stylistic unity of its medieval street furniture and of course, the famous Palio horse race. It is for these reasons, Siena was declared a UNESCO world-heritage site in 1995.
Siena is also the site of the Banca Monte di Paschi di Siena, founded in 1472 and the world’s oldest surviving bank.
Turin is the place where food and drink are done right. Under the arches of the city centre there are countless wine bars, magnificent continental cafés and luxurious shopping streets. Turin is also the home of Fiat, Juventus and Italian cinema. Interestingly Turin is actually located much closer to Switzerland than to Rome. The city of Turin has roots in the industrialism of the 1900s and the pursuit for democracy and progress. The people here are punctual and respect the rules of the road. They certainly know how to eat well – but only after a hard day’s work.
The Romans founded the colony of Augusta Taurinorum, and still today the ‘Quadrilatero Romano’ is the centre of the city although not much remains of ancient times – the historic monuments of the city only date back to the 1600 and 1700s, built by the kings of Savoy who ruled the region at the time. The war for unification of Italy started in Piedmont and Turin was the first capital city of the country, from 1861 to 1865 – this was the driving force to create an industrial metropolis of Northern Italy, where for a long time Fiat was the engine. Today, however, Turin lives very much in the present and is searching for its identity in the future of Italy.
There’s no city quite like Venice. It is a city with 150 canals, 400 bridges and some simply spectacular palaces. If you add to that the general feeling that the city evokes: its fleeting timelessness, its tranquil daily life, the grandiosity of the buildings that surround you – then you come close to describing it.
Venice was originally founded in the 5th century by refugees from surrounding towns fleeing from Germanic tribes who would loot Northern Italy – many fled to this area as it was difficult to access from the Adriatic Sea. Over the centuries, the community of refugees transformed it into the most important trading port of the Mediterranean, so much so that at the height of its power, Venice boasted 3,000 commercial ships and 300 military vessels.
After the fall of Napoleon, Venice came to be governed by the Austrians, but after the 1848 uprising, the city once again gained its independence. Shortly after, in 1866, Venice became part of Italy.
1932 saw the opening of the motor and rail bridge between Venice and the mainland, which decided its future as a tourist destination. True, it is tricky to get around the city, but don’t let that discourage you as that is part of Venice’s charm. Leave the tourists in Piazza San Marco and on the Ponte di Rialto and explore the labyrinths of the smaller areas – the most interesting districts are Cannaregio, San Polo/Santa Croce, Dorsoduro, San Marco and Castello.