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Best Small Cities to Visit in Italy

Italian Cities Often Overlooked by Tourists

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Explore these recommendations for best small cities to visit in Italy. If you've visited Italy's top cities or prefer to travel to smaller cities with fewer tourists, consider these less-visited but interesting Italian cities. Click on the name of a city for the city's travel guide with tourist information including location, transportation, where to stay, and top sights.

Lucca

The roofs of Lucca
Jolivillage/Moment/Getty Images

Lucca, in Tuscany, has a historic center completely enclosed by walls that are some of Italy's best preserved ramparts. The top of the walls has been made into tree-lined pathways so you can walk or ride a bike atop the walls. Lucca has medieval towers, nearly 100 churches, a long shopping street, and an oval-shaped piazza that used to be a Roman amphitheater. Unlike many Tuscan towns, Lucca is flat rather than on a hill.

Top Lucca Hotels | Lucca Pictures

Matera

Sassi Picture © James Martin, Europe Travel

Matera is a unique city and one of my favorite places in southern Italy. It's a little off the beaten track but well worth the effort it takes to get there. The sassi of Matera are cave houses and churches cut into the rock walls of a large ravine. Although the houses and churches have mostly been abandoned, some have been renovated and made into cave hotels and the centuries old churches can be visited. The entire sassi area has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Matera Cave Hotels | Matera Pictures

Mantova

mantua pictrue, dinner, mantova, picture
Mantova Picture © 2006 by Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com

Mantova, or Mantua, is a historic city in northern Italy surrounded on three sides by lakes with three lively squares in the city center. Mantova was one of the greatest Renaissance Courts in Europe and home of the wealthy Gonzaga family. The Palazzo Ducale is a huge complex of buildings with beautiful frescoes. Palazzo Te also has great frescoes. Mantova is designated as a World Heritage Site for its Renaissance architecture and is part of the UNESCO Quadrilateral District that includes several other historic cites.

Mantova Pictures | Mantova Map

Ravenna

ravenna picture, ravenna mosaics picture, basilica di san vitale picture
Ravenna Mosaics Picture © 2007 by James Martin, Europe Travel

Ravenna, near the Adriatic Sea in Emilia-Romagna, is known for its mosaics. Stunning early Christian mosaic works from the 5th and 6th centuries decorate the walls of Ravenna's churches and monuments, eight of which have been designated as World Heritage Sites. Ravenna is still a top producer of mosaics and there are mosaic shops and classes. Ravenna also has Roman remains, museums, and cultural events.

Ravenna Photos | Emilia-Romagna Map

Parma

parco ducale picture, parma picture
Parma Picture © James Martin, Europe Travel

Parma, in northern Italy, is famous for its cheese and ham but it also has an interesting, compact historic center. Parma's 12th century Baptistery is one of Italy's top 12th century monuments and the interior of its Romanesque cathedral is coverd with amazing frescoes and art work. Parma also has museums, cultural events, and of course good restauarants.

Parma Pictures | Parma Duomo Photos on Europe Travel site

Padua

Botanical Garden Picture © James Martin, Europe Travel

Padua is an easy day trip from Venice or can be used as a base for visiting Venice if you prefer to stay outside the city. Padua has Europe's first Botanical Garden, Giotto frescoes, and the Basilica di Sant’Antonio. Padua's main square is impressive and a nice place to enjoy a drink at a cafe.

Photos of Padua and Padua Botanical Garden on Europe Travel site

Urbino

urbino travel picture, urbino ducal palace photo
Urbino Picture © by James Martin, Europe Travel.

Urbino is a hill town in the Marche region of central Italy. Urbino has a Renaissance center that's been declared a World Heritage site and its impressive Ducal Palace has one of Italy's top collections of Renaissance paintings. The city is also an important center for majolica ceramics and culture and has a university dating from the early 16th century and a fortress at the top of the hill.

Urbino Pictures on Europe Travel site | Marche Map

Cremona

cremona picture, cremona baptistery picture, cremona cathedral picture
Cremona Picture © Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com

Cremona, in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, is famous for its production of high-quality violins. Cremona has a compact historic center with the top monuments grouped around its central square. The 13th century clock tower, over 100 meters tall, is Europe's second tallest brick tower and is a great place for views of Cremona and the surrounding countryside. Cremona is an easy day trip from Milan.

Cremona Pictures | Clock Tower Photos on Europe Travel site

Lecce

Lecce Picture © Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com

Lecce, in the Puglia region of southern Italy, is sometimes called the Florence of the South because of its wealth of artistic Baroque monuments. Lecce also has a castle, remians of a Roman amphitheater, an archeological museum, and a main shopping street. Lecce makes a good base for visiting southern Puglia.

Lecce Pictures on Europe Travel site | Puglia Map 

Brescia

Brescia Picture © Martha Bakerjian, licensed to About.com

Brescia is an often overlooked city east of Milan in northern Italy's Lombardy region with a castle, Roman ruins, Renaissance squares, and an interesting medieval city center. The Santa Giulia City Museum of Brescia is one of my favorite museums, taking the visitor on a route from prehistory through Roman remains and three interesting churches in different styles. The annual Mille Miglia car race starts and ends in Brescia.

Lombardy Map | Milan to Venice Train Itinerary

Best Places to Go in Italy

See more recommendations for best places to go on your next vacation.
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