10 Top Italian City Break Holidays
Off to Italy soon? There will be plenty in store for you in the bel paese (beautiful country). Awe-inspiring art, elegance and mouth-watering cuisine are just some of the things which beckon, not to mention those special, quintessentially Italian moments you’ll remember forever.
If you plan it right, you can get a lot out of a short break away in Italy. Thanks to several direct flights from across the UK, you can easily take off for an Italian city break or even short weekend breaks to immerse yourself in the wonders of Latin life!
To help you plan your trip, we’ve put together ten of our Italian favourites.
Florence is amongst Italy’s most important Renaissance centres, making it a great place for art lovers. This vibrant city has several outstanding museums featuring famous paintings and sculptures. Giotto’s frescoes; Michelangelo’s David; canvases by Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and other greats … there’s so much awe-inspiring art and architecture to enjoy that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to start.
Before planning a trip, music lovers may want to check the schedule of the Teatro del Maggio Musicale, Florence’s world-class classical music and opera venue. It’s also worth looking at the exhibition calendar of the dynamic arts centre, Palazzo Strozzi, which puts on top-notch shows.
There are also the Medici palaces and gardens to explore, as well as the nearby vineyards of Chianti. Florence really is one of Europe’s most romantic destinations for a weekend break.
Airport connections: Florence airport (FLR) is called Amerigo Vespucci Airport and sits on the north-west outskirts of the city, just four km from its centre, it can be reached from the airport by taxi or any of the regular bus services. Vueling, British Airways and Iberia fly direct from London Gatwick, while British Airways, Vueling and City Jet also operate direct flights from London City Airport.
Uniquely floating upon a lagoon, Venice is one of Italy’s most loved and stunningly beautiful cities, making it a favourite amongst tourists. Don’t miss Piazza San Marco in the heart of the city and the impressive Saint Mark’s Basilica which are the main attractions, while the Rialto Bridge and Palazzo Ducale are also unmissable landmarks. Venice’s many museums, palaces and churches will keep culture vultures entertained and wandering along the canals or taking a vaporetto (water taxi) on the shimmering water makes for an idyllic experience.
On top of the historic churches and museums, you’ll find delightful traffic-free streets, lively squares and an exciting contemporary art scene. If you are in Venice during spring, the famous Venice Carnival takes place 40 days before Easter so put on your costume and mask to be part of one of the most amazing festivals in Italy.
Airport connections: Venice has one official international airport named Venice Marco Polo Airport just eight miles from the city, and another nearby at Treviso which is used by Ryanair. EasyJet and British Airways both operate direct flights to Venice Marco Polo from London Gatwick, with prices that can sometimes compete with the low-cost airlines. You can get into Venice from Marco Polo Airport via one of many public ferries and speedboats, train or bus services.
Milan is famous for its superlative shopping as well as numerous eating and cultural attractions. It’s also one of the most ancient cities in Europe with over 26 centuries of history and heritage to its name.
Amongst the most important sites on the tourist track are the impressive Gothic Duomo cathedral, the world-famous Scala Opera House and the Pinacoteca di Brera art gallery. But equally inspiring is Milan’s energetic pace of modern life. This is partly due to the fact that the city heads the national Stock Exchange and is Italy’s largest urban area – a main industrial powerhouse. In addition, Milan is the country’s central transport hub, boasting the biggest international airport in Italy, the most rail connections and one of the finest subway systems in the country.
Airport connections: Milan has two airports: Milan Bergamo and Milan Malpensa, both of which connect direct with London via budget airlines. Ryanair flies from London Stansted and Easyjet from Gatwick. British Airways also operates direct flights to Milan Malpensa from London Heathrow. You can easily transfer to the city centre easily via low cost coaches, train or pre-booked taxi.
As one of Italy’s largest cities, Naples buzzes with life and offers a wide range of attractions both old and new. The beauty of this city is the way it retains much of its old character and style – namely in its historic centre, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and in its museums which boast some of the finest archaeology and art in Europe. Look beyond the tattered walls and graffiti in certain parts of the city and you’ll find fabulous frescoes and sculptures plus bustling Neapolitan street life.
“Built like a great amphitheatre around her beautiful bay, Naples is an eternally unfolding play acted by a million of the best actors in the world,” Herbert Kubly exclaims in his “American in Italy”. Indeed, few regions of Italy are as varied as the azure seas of the Amalfi Coast, the city of Naples and the sun-kissed islands of Capri, Ischia and Procida, which captivate visitors to the Campania region of Southern Italy.
Airport connections: Naples Airport Capodichino is just six kilometres north-east of the city and a short bus ride away from the centre of Naples, stopping only twice to get there. EasyJet, British Airways and Meridiana all fly direct to Naples from London Gatwick and Stansted, making it ideal for short city breaks.
Think Rome and it’s likely you will conjure up images of giant classical ruins and the Vatican as well as Renaissance palazzos with elegant Baroque fountains and majestic stone lions… but there’s a whole lot more to enjoy in this energetic city: vibrant neighbourhoods, local trattorias, quirky shops and, of course the magic of the Rome Opera House.
Modern Rome is a buzzing, lively city with excellent restaurants and nightlife, while Saint Peter’s Square and the Vatican City are must-sees on many a discerning tourist’s itinerary. Most arrive in spring and autumn to avoid the summer months which can be overwhelmingly hot. If you do venture here in July or August, do as the Romans do – get up early, seek refuge from the afternoon heat and resume sight-seeing activities in the early evening.
Airport connections: The main international airport for Rome is Leonardo da Vinci Airport, also known as Fiumicino (FCO) which is about 30km southwest of the city centre. Getting to and from the airport into Rome is normally easy via taxi, shuttle bus or train. EasyJet operates direct flights from London Gatwick and Luton and you can fly direct on Norwegian from Gatwick or from Heathrow via British Airways or Alitalia flights. Ryan Air flies from Stansted to Rome’s other airport, Ciampino (CIA). Ciampino is just 15km from the centre and connects to downtown Rome via several shuttle bus services.
Northern Italy’s Verona is the fourth most visited city in the country, claiming its fame from the magnificent Opera Festival and the house and balcony of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But Verona’s beauty doesn’t stop here. Amongst its many attractions are a castle complex; Verona Arena’s stunning Roman amphitheatre; and the city’s magnificent cathedral. If you enjoy a colourful street market, don’t miss the one at Piazza delle Erbe, the most ancient square in Verona where you can marvel at the historic monuments and the ancient Madonna Verona fountain dating back to 1368.
Eating in romantic Verona is another glorious treat. Rice and polenta are typical ingredients while peperita (beef with a peppered cheese sauce), pastisada de caval (horse stew) and paparele (home-made pasta with peas and beans) are common choices on restaurant menus. Verona is also known for its DOC wines (government guaranteed in origin) – the Bardolino or the Valpolicella are well worth a taste.
Airport connections: British Airways and EasyJet fly from Gatwick to Verona and Monarch operate flights from Manchester. Verona’s Valerio Catullo Airport is eight miles from the city centre which can be accessed by taxi or Aerobus service.
Turin is one of northern Italy’s major cultural and industrial hubs and, unexpectedly, a magnificently elegant city which echoes the mood of Paris or Vienna. Here you’ll find smart shops, cobbled streets, shady arcades and art nouveau cafés as well as artisan workshops and eye-catching Baroque architecture.
Turin is popular with religious visitors and a trip to the cathedral could bring the rare opportunity to view the Shroud of Turin, believed by many Catholics to be the cloth which was used to wrap Jesus’ crucified body.
Chocolate, another of Turin’s icons, is strictly connected to the city and Piedmont where it is believed the very first chocolate was invented. Today Turin boasts hundreds of beautiful chocolate shops, ideal for your sweet indulgence. There’s even an annual chocolate festival (Cioccolatò) when Turin’s main piazzas and streets are packed with stalls full of artisan chocolates and traditional luxury brands – true chocoholics really shouldn’t miss this!
Airport connections: Turin-Caselle Airport lies about eight miles north of the city and it’s normally easy to get to the centre via shuttle train or bus. British Airways operates direct flights from London Gatwick, while EasyJet offers seasonal services, also from Gatwick. Monarch flies seasonally from Birmingham and Jet2.com provides a seasonal service from Manchester. Meanwhile, Thomas Cook Airlines also fly seasonally from Gatwick and Manchester.
Bologna is famed for its medieval beauty, art and cuisine. The city’s streets are lined with stunning red stone arcades and porches which make it a great place to explore on foot, even in the rain.
A modern, high-tech city which is ideal for theatre and opera goers as well as fine diners, Bologna also has a political edge. It’s the kind of city where you can be discussing philosophy with a newspaper-seller one minute and be eating like an Italian king in a fine restaurant the next. Bologna hosts the world’s oldest university whose students fill the piazzas, giving the city an air of shabby chic blended with gothic fashion.
City breaks in Bologna tend to be wonderfully authentic experiences where Bolognesi of all ages come out at aperitivo time to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life: lively conversation, a glass of wine and affettati misti (mixed cured meats).
Airport connections: Bologna’s Guglielmo Marconi Airport is just six km from the city centre and there are a number of convenient bus and rail shuttle services that will get you into the centre. Direct flights operate seasonally to Bologna from London, Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh. Ryanair flies direct year round from London Stansted and EasyJet operates direct from Gatwick.
Genoa, on the northwest coast of Italy, is the nation’s main sea port and comes packed with an intriguing cultural and sea faring history, thanks partly to its fame as the birthplace of the Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus.
Since hosting Expo 1992 and being awarded the honour of 2004’s European City of Culture, Genoa has undergone some radical renovations to make it the interesting place it is today. Don’t miss the Maritime Museum and the amazing aquarium– one of the largest in Europe – set within an interesting port area.
You may want to explore the interesting, narrow lanes (caruggi) of its historic centre, said to be one of the largest medieval quarters in Europe. The dark, almost cavernous lanes are mainly residential but with a sprinkling of bars, shops and cafés to keep you entertained along the way.
Airport connections: Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport is approximately seven km west of the city and has regular bus and train shuttle services into the centre of Genoa. You can get to Genoa using direct flights year round from London Stansted (Ryanair) or from London Gatwick seasonally (British Airways).
The walled city of Perugia sits majestically atop a hill in central Italy’s Umbria region with magnificent views across the valley of patterned fields below. It is a likeable, cosmopolitan city and home to two universities.
Perugia is an elegant, wealthy city and with its trendy boutiques, refined cafés, and grand architecture, its affluence is clear to see. With history dating back to the ninth century BC, Perugia’s past seeps through every corner of its cobbled alleyways, arched stairways and stairs; a walk through the old city effortlessly takes you back to former times.
Modern Perugia is a party-loving university city, with students setting the city’s nightlife abuzz and filling café terraces. Perugia also hosts a world-famous jazz festival, Umbria Jazz, attracting worldwide music lovers every July and Eurochocolate, the international chocolate festival, is an irresistible draw each October for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Airport connections: The International Airport of Umbria – Perugia is the main access to and from what is known as the “green heart of Italy”. In addition to hire cars and taxis, shuttle buses and trains are available to take you about 15 km to the city. Ryanair operate direct flights to Perugia from London Stansted.
Did we forget to mention an outstanding Italian city?