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My favorite place in the world! It's on the top of almost all my lists. The best art (I love Bernini), the best food (Spaghetti alla Carbonara and Bucatini all' Amatriciana are my favorites), and the most fascinating history (I'm very interested in the ancient Romans). It's a big, bustling city but it still manages to feel friendly, and you can still find a cozy corner in which to relax and enjoy La Dolce Vita...
Visiting Pompeii had a huge impact on me. The ruins are in really good shape due to being buried under volcanic ash for centuries. It really is an entire city with a street plan, not just a few buildings here and there. I would combine a visit here with a trip to the Archeological Museum in Naples so you can see many of the excavated items that were removed from the homes. There are some amazing mosaics and frescoes. One of the most moving parts of a visit to Pompeii is seeing the plaster casts of the victims' bodies lying as they were at the moment of their deaths. It really makes you see the human side of Pompeii, much more so than visiting other ancient ruins in Europe.
A wonderful city that is very underrated! I loved Verona even more than nearby Venice. It is said to have the most Roman ruins of any city outside of Rome. The Piazza delle Erbe is one of the most gorgeous public squares in Italy. It is not surprising that Shakespeare chose Verona as the setting for Romeo and Juliet, it is so serenely beautiful and romantic, especially with all the buidlings made of the pink-tinged Veronese marble. Verona is also the epicenter of the Valpolicella wine region, which makes world class wines such as Amarone.
This town has to have some of the most dramatic scenery in the world. The buildings literally are built into the sides of cliffs which plunge down into the Mediterranean. Positano is roughly in the middle of the Amalfi Coast, arguably the most scenic drive in the world!
The picture-perfect Tuscan town. Climb to the top of the Torre Guinigi (the tower with the tree on top), hike the perfectly preserved city walls (built in the 16th-17th centuries), and walk through town to see the ancient Roman amphitheatre and several beautiful churches. To me, this is Tuscany at its best. It's big enough to be well served by public transportation and to be listed in the guidebooks so you are aware of what to see and do. On the other hand, it's still not as popular as Florence, Siena, or some of the Tuscan hill towns, so it doesn't feel overcrowded with tourists.
These are five small coastal towns that sit on cliffs that drop straight down into the sea. You can go between all of the towns either by the milk train or by the hiking path that connects them. My favorite town is Vernazza; it has the most picturesque setting with a medieval castle overlooking the sea.
This is the most beautiful city in the world. Its nickname isn't "Bride of the Sea" for nothing. The city accumulated such a mass of wealth from Medieval times through the Renaissance, and it shows everywhere from the Basilica di San Marco to the Palazzo Ducale to the Ca d'Oro. Granted it would be nice if the pigeons and tourists didn't outnumber the Venetians... but regardless, there are back alleys where you can still wander and enjoy Venice away from the crowds. This place is just breathtaking, and definitely one of the most romantic places I've ever been.
Serene lake in Northern Italy that is surrounded by peaceful resort towns and spectacular villas. Lake Como is the deepest lake in Europe and is located at the foot of the Italian Alps. The attractive town of Varenna makes a good base for exploring the area.
Capri is a lovely island off the coast of Campania. The shopping and atmosphere are a bit high-end, but there are still many places that non-millionaires can enjoy. There are several hikes that are rewarded with stunning vistas of the sea below. I was not a fan of the famous Blue Grotto, I thought it was a bit of a ripoff just to see some blue water in a cave! My favorite Capri activity would be finding a small trattoria and enjoying some delicious Insalata Caprese and some limoncello!
I know, you're wondering what Florence is doing at the bottom of my list. Well, everyone has their personal favorites, and Florence just isn't one of mine. I think everyone should go there at least once and I'm glad that I did. The amount of Renaissance art that is all over is just mind-blowing. For me, that was both what I liked about Florence AND what I didn't like about Florence. It was a bit like Art History 101,102, 201, etc... all crammed into too short an amount of time. I found it to be a hard place in which to relax. The number of tourists was overwhelming. Rome has a lot of tourists but they are more spread out, and at least in Venice there are no cars or crazy scooter drivers so it is a little quieter there. I felt a bit claustrophobic. The most crowded, frustrating museum I have ever visited anywhere was the Uffizi Gallery. But I can't deny the importance of Florence. There were many things that I loved about it and will not soon forget: seeing Michelangelo's David, the Boboli Gardens, and the Duomo (one of the most beautiful in Italy, in my opinion).