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An Art Lover's Guide to Italy

Jetting off to the Italian peninsula is every traveler’s dream. Experiences such as relaxing in a Venetian gondola, sipping fine wine in Tuscany, and tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain can all be categorized as “bucket list.” For art lovers, though, Italy holds a special place in their tourism fantasies. It seems as though every city is bursting with artistic history and talent. Each area of Italy tells a different story, so planning travel to Italy can be daunting. If you’re an art enthusiast and are enchanted by Italy, this article will help you choose which cities to visit and make sure that you don’t miss any of the beautiful artistry that calls this country home.

Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy

Artistic Tourism:

If Italian art is your motivation to book a plane ticket, you probably want your days filled with stunning architecture, inquisitive museums, and wonderful music. To plan a trip around artistry is not that difficult when your destination is as abundant in creativity as Italy. Even accommodations can be a work of art, helping you wake up every day inspired and excited. Boutique hotels can offer local charm while still making you feel like a valued guest. Pay attention to the small details, like the tiling of the bathroom, the linens, and the views outside your windows. A house for an art lover should make even mundane tasks feel a little more colorful.

Second, make an effort to incorporate individual art into your daily routine. Some popular ways of doing this are: bringing a sketchbook with you to take in your surroundings, carving out a day in your itinerary for a photography tour, or writing down any observations you make while eating lunch (pasta, of course). These small steps will fuel your personal creativity and serve as a meaningful souvenir when you return home.

The final way to incorporate art into your trip to Italy is to book experiences with local artists. Whether it’s learning how to make ravioli from scratch at a local restaurant or painting the Dolomites alongside an experienced painter, you can go home knowing you fully experienced artistic tourism.

Top 8 Cities for Art:

It would take months to thoroughly explore the entire Italian peninsula, but most of us don’t have that time! Here is a breakdown of the major artistic cities in Italy and what they’re known for so that you can make your itinerary planning a little easier.

1. Vatican City

It’s rumoured that the Vatican Museums house the world’s largest art collection that could span, if the art was placed side by side, almost 9 miles! The astonishing amount of artwork held in this town is why Vatican City is number one on our list. Located in the middle of Rome, Vatican City is a UNESCO World Heritage site, partly due to the fact that it holds St. Peter’s Basilica. The largest religious building in the world, the Basilica’s art and architecture make this city a must-see for a trip centered around art in Italy.

The ceiling of St. Peter’s Basilica

The ceiling of St. Peter’s Basilica

2. Pisa

Located in the widely popular the region of Tuscany, Pisa holds one of the most iconic Italian structures: the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Construction of the tower began in 1173, but due to soil shifting under the foundation, the leaning began as early as 1178. Now, you’ll be hard-pressed to visit this landmark without wanting to take a funny picture in front of it! What most people don’t know is that the Tower of Pisa holds seven bells in its seventh floor, meant to symbolize each note on the musical scale.

3. Florence

Ah, Florence … these city walls hold on tightly to pieces such as Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Annunciation. Works from Italian artists seem to call Florence home, and Florence is known to be one of the birthplaces of renaissance art. From the Uffizi Gallery (which holds works from Italian renaissance artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo) to the Museum of Opera, you’ll need at least a week to wander through each historic art collection.

Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy

Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy

While you’re here, making sure to stop into any restaurant that serves Pappardelle al Cinghiale. This is a flat, wide pasta that resembles fettuccine but is served with a thick meat sauce which could consist of boar, goose or rabbit. After finishing this dish, don’t miss the gelato! You can find any flavor in the world in Florence. With the art and the food, Florence is a can’t miss city!

4. Milan

Milan is the only place in the world where you can see Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper,” which was completed in 1498! Due to the fragility of the painting (it began to chip and peel in the early 1500’s), visitors are only allowed in every 15 minutes with a maximum of 30 people in the room at a time. So it’s safe to say that if you can claim to have seen this piece in real life, you’re one of few! And certainly no trip to Milan is complete without visiting the majestic Duomo di Milano, or Milan Cathedral. It took nearly 600 years to complete the building, which now is touted as one of the largest cathedrals in Italy and Europe.

This city is also one of the biggest fashion capitals in the world, with exhibitions and shows happening very regularly throughout the year. If cloth, pleating, and color schemes are your style of artistry, seeing Milan in full swing during fashion week is a bucket list item.

Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

5. Rome

Rome, Italy’s capital, is one of the most visited cities in Italy. And for good reason! From the history of the Roman Empire, to the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, there’s no doubt that artwork in Rome drives Italy travel. In terms of sculpture, Michelangelo's Moses sits in the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome. If you’re more into architecture, look no further than the Gallery of Mirrors in the Renaissance Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. Or, head to St. Peter’s Basilica to see the largest basilica of Christianity in the world. Roman art is some of the most famous artwork in the world, and you cannot travel to Italy without experiencing the empire’s lasting impression on this area of the planet.

6. Naples

Although less well known, Naples should not be overlooked when planning an artistic trip throughout Italy. Its museums are unique due to its vicinity to the historic ruins of Pompeii, so Naples Archeological Museum is full of excavated discoveries. Observing these amazing artifacts will be a nice change of pace from the high renaissance artwork you’ll have been seeing thus far.

For more spooky exhibits, head over to Cimitero Delle Fontanelle, this is a cemetery utilized during the 1656 plague that now holds over 8 million human bones. As you tour this haunting place, you can observe ornate headstones, beautiful sacrifices, and a historic site that little have stomached in the past.

7. Verona

For literature lovers, Verona is a can’t-miss stop in the Italian peninsula. Home of the classic Romeo and Juliet, as well as the Opera that takes place in the Roman amphitheatre. Some people may consider Paris a lover’s paradise, but Verona is known as Italy’s city of love.

And we can’t forget food as a work of art as well! Verona is said to be the birthplace of gnocchi, which are potato-filled pasta dumplings traditionally served in horse meat stew. You can also have this pasta in classic marinara sauce if horse is not up your alley. No matter what you see and eat in Verona, you are sure to leave with a full stomach and heart.

8. Venice

While narrow streets and gondola-filled waters are what usually come to mind when people hear of Venice, this beautiful city also holds Raphael’s Madonnas, the oldest cafe in Italy (Caffe Florian), and the Galleries of the Accademia. While Venice is the last city on our list, it would be a crime to pass through without truly taking in the feeling of the town. Take your time to absorb the gorgeous bridges as you float in a gondola, sip some Italian coffee at Caffe Florian, and wander through the baroque churches that dot the town.

Venice Italy.jpg

Honorable Mentions:

We can’t talk about the artistic architectural wonders of Italy without mentioning Lake Como and Cinque Terre. If you want to bear witness to the most amazing scenery you’ve ever laid your eyes on, make your way to either of these areas. Cinque Terre will allow you to visit hidden beaches and live on the edge of the Italian cliffs. If you’re a hiker, Cinque Terre’s hiking paths will allow you to explore the breathtaking cliffside and ocean views.

Lake Como in the North will give you the opportunity to sit on the edge of the most beautiful lakes in the region while living beneath the Italian Alps. No matter which area you make a part of your trip, we can assure that you will not be disappointed.

Lake Como, Italy.jpg

As an art and travel enthusiast, it is imperative that when planning a trip you consider both of your passions. One cannot visit Italy and not experience a portion of the artwork that is on display, from paintings and sculptures to architecture and food. Before planning your dream itinerary, make sure you’re visiting at the ideal time for what you want to see and do. No matter where you decide to spend your time, Italy will live up to every expectation that you have. Have you ever been to Italy? What was the most memorable piece of art that you saw? Let us know, and thanks for reading!

X, Grace Poulos, chasinggracee