Beautiful Cities to Visit in Italy

Beautiful Cities to Visit in Italy

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

Whenever you think about a dreamy and romantic destination, Italy always seems to pop up in the suggestions. This is because Italy is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Not only is Italy beautiful but it is home to the most delicious cuisine, famous art, great culture, trendy fashion, and timeless historical monuments.

Italy is visited by millions of tourists every year and is one of the most visited countries in the world. The Bank of Italy estimated that tourism in Italy produces directly more than 5% of the GDP (Italian link). Moreover, Italy encompasses 55 World Heritage Sites making it higher than any other country in the world. If you are planning to visit Italy soon, make sure to visit these amazing cities below. Here are some of the beautiful cities to visit in Italy.

Rome

Rome is a city that everyone should visit once in their lifetime. This city is in itself a museum; walking around Rome is enough to take you back in time and give you this great overwhelming feeling. In Rome, you will casually see the huge Colosseum, the Vatican, the Pantheon, and the Roman forum, just by taking a stroll. Most of the famous landmarks are close to each other where you can discover each one on foot or by taking a tram.

While in Rome, visit some of the famous squares such as Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, St.Peter’s Square, and Piazza di Spagna (Spanish steps). Also be sure to visit the pretty Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Piazza Navona fountain), Arch of Constantine (near the Colosseum), Altar of the Fatherland (Piazza Venezia), Castle Saint Angelo and the Palatine Hill.

Rome has over 900 churches, with a few of the most remarkable ones including Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, San Giovanni in Laterano, Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica. Do not forget to finish your day with a delicious Italian dinner and gelato anywhere in the city.

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Matera

In Matera, it is all about caves; you can eat, sleep, shower, and drink in a cave. This place is extremely beautiful and has incredibly unique landscapes that makes it a special destination in Italy or even in the world. The history of Matera is crazy because this place was thought of in the past as the place of poverty, diseases where its people resided in these caves without sources of water, or electricity. Matera is a source of pride for Italy as it is now an UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts a great number of tourists each year.

The first thing to do in Matera is to discover it on foot and enjoy its unique and mesmerizing structures and hidden alleys where houses and churches are carved in stone and located in caves. Some of the historical things to see are the Palombaro Lungo, Duomo of Matera, Santa Maria de Idris Church, and Madonna delle Virtù. Make sure to check out the amazing Casa Grotta di Vico Solitario (cave house) and the Matera Museum of Contemporary Sculpture.

Matera is also known for its great hike to Parco della Murgia. The hike is very scenic and adventurous as you have to cross bridges and climb up some rocks. The view at the top is priceless; luscious greenery and mouth-dropping bird’s eye view of Matera.

Matera at sunrise
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Palermo

Palermo is the capital of the island of Sicily and was known as the “Kingdom of the Sun”. Sicily is actually the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Palermo is a warm and gorgeous island surrounded by a green mountain range. In Palermo, you can have a fantastic beach experience (Mondello Beach) where you can enjoy several water activities like Parasailing. Also, make sure to check the churches and chapels of Palermo, such as Palermo Cathedral, Capella Palatina, Martorana (Cathedral of St. Mary of the Admiral) and San Giovanni degli Eremiti.

The largest Opera House in Italy is actually located in Palermo and is known as Teatro Massimo. Sicily is also known for its delicious and cheap fresh food and markets; so, while there make sure to visit the markets of Ballaro, Cap and Vucciria which are located in the centre. Other things to look out for are the Palermo Archaeological Museum, Fontana Pretoria and the Capuchin Abbey and Catacombs. 

Palermo Cathedral exterior
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Florence

Florence is the capital of the Tuscany region and is known to be home to several famous masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. When in Florence, have a walk and check out the following squares:  Piazzale Michelangelo, Piazza Santo Spirito, Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria. Make sure to visit the gorgeous churches and cathedrals such as Florence Cathedral, Basilica of Santa Croce, Baptistery of St. John, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and the church of Santa Maria Novella.

Florence is home to many famous pieces of art and museums. So, do not forget to visit the Da Vinci Museum, Galileo Museum, National Museum of Bargello, Archaeological National Museum, Casa di Dante Museum, and the dreamy Boboli Gardens.

It’s also worth noting a popular Florentine and Tuscan dish to try which is “Pappardelle Al Ragù Di Cinghiale”, a pasta dish with sauce and wild boar meat.

Florence skyline at sunset
Photo 44736988 © Rudi1976 | Dreamstime.com

Bergamo

Bergamo is a charming city located northeast of Milan, in the region of Lombardy known for its historic Venetian walls. While in Bergamo, hop on the old funicular to the old town (Citta Alta seen below) and stop to discover the beautiful squares of Piazza Matteotti, Via XX Settembre, and Piazza Vecchia.

Bergamo is known for its beautiful churches and cathedrals so make sure to visit the Basilica of St. Mary Major, Colleoni Chapel, San Michele al Pozzo Bianco, the Baptistery of St. Mary Major and the Cathedral of Sant’Alessandro. Other things to watch out for are the Museo di Scienze Naturali e Archeologico, Rocca Museum and Museo Donizettiano.

From Bergamo, you can enjoy a trip to the famous San Pellegrino Terme (Bergamo Alps), known for the production of the natural San Pellegrino sparkling water.

Citta Alta, Bergamo
Photo 137877493 © Krajinar | Dreamstime.com

Catania

Catania is also located in Sicily and is an archaic port city on the east coast. Catania is located at the base of Mount Etna which is an active volcano. There are actually guided tours to Etna where you go to the foot of the volcano and discover the area around and end the day with a sunset over the Volcano.

Catania has some amazing squares that you must check out on your walks, including Piazza del Duomo where you can find the city’s symbol: The Elephant’s Fountain, and Piazza dell’Universita where you can find Palazzo dell’Universita and the Palazzo San Giuliano. Behind the elephant fountain, you can find the great Catania Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Agatha.

There is a street (Via Crociferi) in Catania dubbed “the Church Street” since you can find several famous churches along it. Other things to visit include Villa Bellini, Catania Roman Theatre, Ursino Castle, Museum of Contemporary Art of Sicily, and the Catania Museum of Cinema.

St Agatha Cathedral of Catania, Sicily
Photo 77533511 © Evgeniy Fesenko | Dreamstime.com

Venice

When you hear the word Venice, you may immediately think about the gorgeous canals, colourful facades, beautiful architecture, and dreamy gondola rides. Venice is indeed a fairytale place to be as it is a small and compact city that has it all. When in Venice, visit the famous landmarks like San Marco Campanile (the tallest structure in Venice), St. Mark’s Square, Gallerie dell’Accademia, and Doges Palace. Make sure to take a boat or gondola ride along the beautiful Grand Canal and discover Venice from the waters.

Also, visit the town of Murano (island town) where many famous sights like the Basilica of Saint Mary and Saint Donatus, and the Palazzo Da Mula are located. Do not forget to check the churches of St. Mark, Santa Maria Assunta, and Santa Maria della Salute. Also nearby is the picturesque Burano which is just a little bit further than Murano and easily accessible through water taxi or a tour.

Venice Night

Parma

Parma is a university-city located in the Emilia-Romagna region, famous for the delicious and vastly used Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. So, if you are all about cheese and ham, Parma is the place to be. You can visit the “Parmigiano Reggiano Factories” and take a tour to uncover the elaborate art behind the Parmesan cheese making. During the tour, you will see how the cheese is made and stored, followed by a cheese and local wine tasting.

Other “un-cheesy” things to do in Parma are several. Visit the Piazza del Duomo where you can find the Parma cathedral, and the Baptistery (1196 by Benedetto Antelami). Other churches to visit are St. John the Evangelist Church, the Shrine of Santa Maria della Steccata, Santa Croce, and the Baroque church of Santissima Annunziata.

A few other highlights include Teatro Farnese, Teatro Regio (Royal Theater), Palazzo della Pilotta, the National Gallery, Parco Ducale (the Ducal Palace), and Castello dei Burattini.

Piazza Duomo in Parma
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Cagliari

Cagliari is the capital of the beautiful island region of Sardinia. Cagliari is actually called “Casteddu” in Sardinian language, translated to mean castle. Sardinia is a dream destination due to its cyan crystal-clear waters, amazing nature, and great warm weather. While in Cagliari, take a stroll in the historical medieval center including Villanova, Castello, Stampace, and Marina. In the center, you will get to indulge in the beautiful scenes of churches, domes, palaces, and towers.

Later, visit the great churches located in Cagliari; Nostra Signora di Bonaria Basilica, the Santa Maria Cathedral (Cagliari Cathedral) where you can find the crypt which stands as one of the most fascinating places to see in the center. Also, make sure to visit the Roman Amphitheater of Cagliari, the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Palazzo Viceregio, the Monumental Cemetery of Bonaria, and Palazzo Civico. You can also enjoy a beach day at the Poetto beach followed by a wildlife hike in Parco di Molentargius, which is situated next to the Poetta beach.

Cagliari in Sardinia
Photo 961304 © Noel Marc | Dreamstime.com

Summary:

Italy is a great place to be in any season or time. It is blessed with everything from beauty, nature, landscapes, history, weather, culture, cuisine, and great architecture; it is a place for everyone. The cities mentioned are wonderful escapes; home to the most delicious food, most famous artists and architects, historic landmarks that stood time, endless beaches, great activities, and gorgeous natural landscapes. These will make any trip a “great vacation”.

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Unique Day Trips From Rome: Part 1

Unique Day Trips From Rome: Part 1

*This article was originally written for travelmagazine.co (www.travelmagazine.co)

Rome is obviously a terrific place to be! Not only is Rome the eternal city with its breathtaking buildings and monuments, marvelous art, and legendary cuisine, but it is also central and close to many of Italy’s traveler gems.

Below I will present 5 unique and charming places that are less than 2 hours away from Rome. These sites are less touristy than the rest of the recommended places and so you will get the chance to have the authentic and local Italian experience!

1. Spoleto

Spoleto

Spoleto is a “hidden-gem” in Umbria, Italy surrounded by vast green hills and rich vineyards. It is 1.40 hours away from Rome. Walking around Spoleto’s narrow streets and enjoying its landscapes is enough to make you feel you are back in the Medieval Era. When in Spoleto, make sure to check the town’s popular attractions: Duomo di Spoleto (Spoleto Cathedral), Ponte delle Torri, Rocca Albornoziana (Castle of Spoleto), Teatro Romano di Spoleto, and Basilica of Sant’Eufemia.

If you have time, catch a movie at Sala Pegasus; a movie theatre/exhibit that was formerly the church of San Lorenzo. After, head to Piazza del Mercato and enjoy a great stroll around the piazza with a warm cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

2. Calcata Vecchia

Calcata Vecchia

Calcata is just 50 minutes away from Rome and is known as the town of witches. It is best recognized for being the home to a community of about 100 artists, bohemians, and aging hippies who started living in its abandoned houses and caves to live far from civilization and technology. The New York Times described it as what “may be the grooviest village in Italy”.

Calcata’s medieval architecture is well visible on the churches and the civic buildings. So, make sure to walk around and discover the artistic and vibrant houses surrounding this town. Also, check the Treja Valley Regional Park which lies in the surroundings of Calcata. The park is a protected natural area in Lazio, established by the regional law in 1982 and makes a great place for hiking and horse-riding.

3. Sperlonga

Touring Sperlonga

Sperlonga is the perfect summer getaway since in a way it looks like a little Greece. It is around 1.50 hours away from Rome. The waters are crystal clear, and the vibe is amazing. You can instantly feel that you are far from Rome and away from the stress of the city.

When you arrive, start your day on a public beach and enjoy the amazing sunshine and sceneries. Later, head to the many local restaurants and enjoy a delicious and fresh “spaghetti alle vongole” with a sea view.

4. Tivoli

Visiting Tivoli

Who knew that a 3 euro train ticket from Rome can take you to this little haven called Tivoli. Tivoli is a small town in Lazio(1.25 hours by train and 40 mins away by car from Rome).

Make sure to visit Villa d’Este, a 16th-century villa in Tivoli famous for its terraced hillside Italian Renaissance garden and especially for its profusion of fountains. It is now an Italian state museum and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. This villa is one of the most beautiful villas I have visited yet.

Later, head to Via delle Cascatelle, a walkway surrounded by the amazing views of waterfalls that cascade in the northern part of Tivoli. Do not forget to check The Temple of Vesta, Villa Gregoriana, and Rocca Pia.

5. Bracciano

Bracciano

Bracciano is a small town in Lazio, only 50 minutes away from Rome. The town is famed for its volcanic lake, Lago di Bracciano. The lake is surrounded by beautiful medieval towns, lush green mountains and architecture.

The medieval Castello Orsini-Odescalchi palace in Bracciano is famous for hosting the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. The lake is surrounded by cute aperitif places where you can have a drink with some delicious local food. You can also enjoy a lovely lunch or dinner inside the town away from the lake.

10 Best Places To Visit In Ukraine

10 Best Places To Visit In Ukraine

*This article was originally written for Travel & Destinations (www.travelanddestinations.com)

Under visited and less touristy than other parts of Europe, Ukraine stands as one of the largest countries in Europe. Ukraine is a vibrant and beautiful country perched on the Black Sea, full of beaches, ancient castles, wild forests, stunning countryside, and a welcoming attitude from its friendly people.

Ukraine offers several gorgeous attractions for tourists including its traditional villages and colourful modern cities, many of which feature UNESCO World Heritage Sites and well-kept historical artefacts. Its capital, Kiev, features the gold-domed St. Sophia’s Cathedral, with 11th-century mosaics and paintings is a highlight. Moreover, huge festivals celebrating its rich culture and history of folk traditions and diverse cultural influences take place yearly. Ukraine is also a very budget-friendly travel destination. All this together makes Ukraine a special destination, despite its political problems.

Below are 10 places that will make you fall in love with this eastern European gem. Here are the best and most beautiful places to visit in Ukraine.

Lviv

Established in 1240 and named after Leo, the oldest son of the King of Ruthenia, Lviv is the largest city in western Ukraine. This city is packed with monuments, galleries, and buildings with archaeological findings dating back to the 5th century.

Dubbed one of Ukraine’s most popular cultural cores, Lviv is home to some amazing operas, ballet performances, and art galleries, such as the Lviv National Art Gallery, home to over 60,000 works of art. In this city, you will discover all kinds of beautifully eccentric bars and knaipas (local pubs) hidden down narrow side streets.

Skyline view of Old Town Lviv
Photo 124964658 © Scanrail | Dreamstime.com

Kharkiv

Kharkiv was the first capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (December 1919-January 1934). It is now known as the city of students and youth with an average age of 35 years old.

The city offers many theatres, cinemas, museums, a variety of music and theatre festivals demonstrating its traditions.

Kharkiv is home to “Freedom Square”, the 8th largest city-centre square in Europe. A noteworthy landmark of the square is the Derzhprom building, which is one of the most prominent examples of constructivist architecture.

Kharkiv
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Odessa

Located on the north-western shore of the Black Sea, Odessa is commonly called the “Pearl of the Black Sea”. This city was first taken by the Greeks, then again by the Ottomans, and finally the Russians. This formulates the interesting history this city holds which can be told through its many museums and artefacts.

Odessa is now a modern city that offers a great collection of Art Nouveau architecture, theatres, underground catacombs, gorgeous beaches, great wineries, pretty cafes, and a prosperous nightlife scene.

Odessa Opera House in Ukraine
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Kiev (Kyiv)

Located in north-central Ukraine, its capital is of course the place to be. Kiev (also called Kyiv) is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe (482 AD). It is loaded with historic Soviet architecture, golden-domed churches, huge monasteries, and beautiful streets.

Kiev is for sure a fascinating cultural trip. Make sure to check its history-filled museums, like the Museum of Folk Architecture and Ethnography, which stands as one of the largest open-air museums in Europe. Do not forget to visit the oldest and the most popular monasteries in Ukraine, Kiev Pechersk Lavra (aka the Kiev Monastery of the Caves).

Make sure to check the theatre, opera, and musical performances which are immensely popular in Kiev. Later, head to one of the many city bars, sidewalk cafés, and enjoy a walk down Andriyivskyy Descent, a gorgeous cobblestone street lined with Art Nouveau-style houses and magnificent gargoyles.

St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery, Kiev
Photo 120971672 © Flydragonfly | Dreamstime.com

Chernobyl

If you are interested in dark tourism, then this place is suitable for you. Chernobyl guarantees a dark exploration into the notorious 1986 nuclear disaster that led to the mass killing of thousands of people.

Chernobyl now appears frozen in time. While vising it, you will observe the demolished buildings, supermarkets taken over by nature, dolls resting on top of corroded playground equipment, a ferris wheel that never took another spin and the abandoned possessions of the people who had to run for their lives. For the fear of radioactive contamination, the citizens were not allowed to bring with them almost any of their belongings, including their own pets. On the bright side, guided tours are available to learn about the tragedy first-hand.

Abandoned school in Chernobyl
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Chernihiv

Chernihiv is one of the oldest cities in Ukraine and was first mentioned in the Rus’-Byzantine Treaty of 907. The treaty ranked Chernihiv as the second most vital Ukrainian center after Kiev.

Chernihiv is situated on the banks of the Desna River in northern Ukraine and features magnificent medieval architecture, especially the five-domed Transfiguration Cathedral and Catherine’s Church with its golden domes.

If you love beer, then you will be extra pleased: the city has a beer (Chernihivske) named after it. Chernihivske is the preferred beer for millions of Ukrainians. Do not forget to visit the two ancient cave monasteries (caves of the Eletsky Monastery), located on the outskirts of Chernihiv which were once used as the bishops’ residences and the 18th-century Kachanivka Palace with its beautiful neoclassical architecture, vast gardens, and gorgeous lake.

Transfiguration Cathedral, Chernihiv
Photo 196534754 © Ksya | Dreamstime.com

Kamianets-Podilskyi

Kamianets-Podilskyi is most famous for the Kamianets-Podilskyi Fortress and constitutes one of the major reasons tourists visit this dreamy city in the first place. This fortress towers over the Smotrych River and is truly one of the most charming fortresses in Eastern Europe.

Make sure to wander in the cobbled streets of this well-kept medieval town that is known for its beautiful pastel-coloured houses and amazing street art. Also, do not miss the opportunity to witness the amazing festival of hot air balloons in the springtime or the chance to ride one of these balloons.

Kamianets-Podilskyi fortress
Photo 83751183 © Scanrail | Dreamstime.com

Uman

Situated in central Ukraine, this city is situated on the banks of the Umanka River located between the famous cities of Odesa and Kiev. This place is well equipped for tourists and you will not face trouble finding your way around it.

The city of Uman is rich with historical and cultural heritage. Make sure to check the Shopping Rows, and the National Dendrological Park “Sofiyivka”. Also, make sure to check the Basilian Monastery (1764) which stands as the oldest building in the city.

Sofiyivka park and fountain in Uman
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Rakhiv

Rakhiv, the highest city in Ukraine, is a mountainous town enveloped within the rich Carpathian woodlands of western Ukraine. Rakhiv is perfect for nature lovers, adventure seekers and hiking enthusiasts.

Rakhiv offers fantastic scenery with picturesque slopes and swinging bridges leading across the Tysa River. If you are looking for a peaceful escape in the mountains, head to the calm Dilove village.

Do not miss the Hutsul Bryndza Festival that takes place in September and is held to honour the shepherds who return from the Carpathians every winter bringing with them delicious types of cheese (wurda and bryndza), folk songs, and lots and lots of traditional dancing.

Rakhiv and mountains
Photo 109765280 © Yuriy Brykaylo | Dreamstime.com

Bukovel

Surrounded by three huge mountains and the highest peaks of the Carpathians, Bukovel is a perfect winter holiday destination. This place constitutes Ukraine’s biggest skiing destination and is in fact one of the largest ski resorts in Eastern Europe!

When you are not enjoying the ski slopes, head to the bicycle park, snow park, or the ski school to learn some new tricks. From December to April is the best time to plan a winter holiday to Bukovel.

Bukovel ski resort
Photo 126155972 © Scanrail | Dreamstime.com

Summary

Ukraine is a rare gem in Eastern Europe that ought to be on everyone’s bucket list. From its beautiful and unique architecture, dreamy and scenic cities, vast green landscapes, gorgeous beaches, charming lakes to its historical museums, Ukraine has much to offer.

Ukraine being an exceptionally budget-friendly travel destination, you need not worry when visiting this remarkable place. Just pack your bags and head there; there is never a bad time to visit Ukraine.

Rating: 5 out of 5.