Our favourite Italian destinations for first-timers

22 January 2019

With world-famous sights such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Rome’s Colosseum, Italy is unquestionably one of Europe’s must-see destinations. Around 91 million people visited this perpetually romantic Mediterranean country in 2018 (5 million more than in 2016) and this growth is set to continue. Despite its global reputation, though, not everybody is clued-up on Italy. But don’t worry if you fall in to that bracket, we’re about to fill you in on our essentials.

Rome - for history

When it comes to history, Italy’s capital city is up there with the very best. ‘The Eternal City’ boasts almost 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture, with ancient ruins such as the Colosseum and the Forum standing as a lasting testament to the power of the former Roman Empire.

TC Tip: Pre-book a hop-on, hop-off bus trip to see all the major sights.

The bus tour gave us the freedom to explore at our own pace and jump off for a cappuccino by the Spanish steps, lunch by the Trevi Fountain or a wander through the wonderful streets with a gelato. It also included ‘skip the line’ tickets into the Vatican, Colosseum and Sistine Chapel.”

Joselin, Travel Counsellor

Milan - for shopping

Milan is famously one of the world’s fashion capitals and home to Italy’s most renowned designer brands, such as Gucci, Prada and Valentino. Add an exclusive and elegant garment to your wardrobe by hitting one of Milan’s luxury shopping streets.

On Via Montenapoleone, you’ll find names like Bottega Veneta, Salvatore Ferragamo and Fendi, while Corso Venezia is a must-visit for any discerning gentleman with menswear brands such as Henry Cotton’s, Brooksfield, Burberry and Stone Island.

Stretching for 1.2km, Corso Buenos Aires is one of Europe’s longest shopping streets, not far short of London’s Oxford Street or Paris’s avenue des Champs-Élysées, with more than 350 high-street and mid-range brands.

TC tip: Inject some history into your shopping experience at the Vittorio Emmanuel II Galleria.

“Built between 1865 and 1877, the Emmanuel Vittorio shopping arcade is the world's oldest shopping mall. We browsed at windows full of Prada, Benetton and many other classic fashion icons. The La Scala opera house is on the other side of the shopping centre too.”

Cathie, Travel Counsellor

Naples - for pizza

A trip to Italy isn’t complete without a thin, fresh, stone-baked pizza. Italians invented the stuff and it’s widely accepted that Naples serves the best pizza in the country.

Experience the finest slices you’ll probably ever taste by hitting up any of these pizza joints: Gorizia 1916, Carminiello, Starita, L’antica Pizzeria da Michele Forcella, Pizzeria da Attillo, and if you don’t mind the 90-minute queue: Sorbillo.

“Naples will quite literally redefine your understanding of what good pizza is. Just get the Margherita; nothing fancy but it will be the best €7 you’ll ever spend.”

Karen, Travel Counsellor 

Venice – for romantic breaks

For many, a ride in a flat-bottomed wooden gondola along the narrow canals of Venice beside their partner is a major bucket-list dream. Fares depend on what time you climb aboard, starting at €80 for a 40-minute daytime ride and rising to €100 after 7pm.

Couples can also crank up the romance in Venice by watching live opera at the Teatro La Fenice, taking in the panoramic views from the Rialto Bridge and the top of the San Giorgio Tower, and heading to Alberoni Beach at the southern end of the Lido.

TC tip: Quiz your gondolier for insider knowledge.

Our gondolier gave us a running commentary of who lived in which building, so we felt we got some info for our money. It was very relaxing and a pleasant way to see the city.”

Michelle, Travel Counsellor

Florence – for art

Florence has more than its fair share of heavy hitters in the art world, from the 20th-century Italian art of the Museo Novecento to the Uffizi Gallery, which counts Botticelli’s Birth of Venus amongst its treasure trove of Renaissance art.

A hefty chunk of the city itself is essentially an open-air art gallery and museum with the Loggia dei Lanzi comprising beautiful wide arches and spectacular sculptures.

TC tip: Set aside lots of time to truly appreciate the artworks.

If you want to do the museums of Florence, I would advise taking a three-day break, as you can’t do it in a day unless you like queuing.

“The history of Florence is a lot to do with the Renaissance movement, so the whole city feels like a work of art, with fountains, sculptures and statues everywhere.”

Suzanne, Travel Counsellor


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