Typically, when organizations are planning their study abroad programs in Italy and they’re considering which places they are going to travel within the country, names like Rome, Venice, Florence, and Milan pop into their minds. They want to take a gondola ride in the canals of Venice, visit Vatican City, see the David in Florence, and the Gothic Architecture Duomo in Milan. Although these destinations are iconic and incredible, the Italian Peninsula has much more to offer than just those four cities. These cities are breathtakingly beautiful however, their beauty can be taken away by the overcrowding of tourists and attractions, depending on when the program will be operating.
Below you will find our list of 5 cities that aren’t as popular amongst tourist and study abroad programs alike, although, they are a perfect opportunity to take in the local Italian culture.
Perugia is the capital and largest city in Italy’s Umbria region. The city used to be called Perusia and was once home to the Etruscan civilization. There are several ancient Etruscan historical sites open for visitation. Such as the Etruscan well, Etruscan Arch also known as the Arch of Augustus or Augustus Gate, and the chamber tombs. The Arch is one of the eight gates to enter the city which also has several beautiful churches and buildings dating back hundreds of years. As well as the National Gallery of Umbria and the National Museum of Umbrian Archaeology holding several pieces that cannot be found anywhere else in Italy.
Besides housing such a distinctive history, Perugia offers some of the best local food in Italy and is known for its chocolate. Once a year they hold a chocolate festival during the fall where millions of people flock from all over the world to taste several varieties of chocolate treats the city has to offer. Perugia is home to the company Perugina whose factory can be visited and unique chocolate pieces can be tasted. A tour of the origins of their chocolate and how its made is given. Perugina and Perugia’s most famous chocolate delight is the Baci, which is a small truffle and hazelnut piece. The world’s largest Baci is in Perugia and is a must see.
Verona might sound familiar only because it was the setting for Shakespeare’s famous play Romeo and Juliet, however, the city has a lot more to offer then being the setting for the tragedy. Close to the city of Venice and just as beautiful and romantic, Verona is much less crowded. There is plenty of culture to embrace students in when in Verona. They hold opera festivals in their Roman Arena, which is the third largest in Italy. Seeing the Opera in an open-air amphitheater surrounded by 2000 year old architecture is an experience unlike any other during the summer.
The city also has its own unique take on Italian cuisine. A must try dish is their risotto all’amarone, which is cooked using wine local to Verona giving it a dark red color. La Piazza delle Erbe is the main Piazza in the city of Verona, where a market is held during the day and locals can be seen engaging with each other and during night time they walk through the square admiring the medieval architecture that surrounds them. Just by the square is the Arco della Costa, an arch which owns its own legend. Down the middle of the arch hangs a whale rib, waiting to fall on the first righteous passerby who hasn’t told a lie ever. This place comes with an interesting history that cannot be replaced with other Italian cities.
3) Rimini, Italy
Rimini is a hidden beach side gem in Italy. Rimini dates back to 268 B.C. and during the Roman times use to be a communications hub between the North and South of Italy. It is known to many in Europe, however, it doesn’t make the must visit list most years. The city rests between Marecchhia and Ausa Rivers along the Adriatic Sea. Rimini is also the city where film director Federico Fellini was born.
Besides being known for its gorgeous beaches, the city is art central. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci have been hosted in Rimini and the Tempio Malatestiano was produced in the city. The Tempio Malatestiano is built on top of a medieval church featuring early Renaissance architecture to honor the tombs of the ruling family of Rimini, the Malatestas. It very much still follows its art origins from the Renaissance and holds several exhibits at its local galleries and Museo della Citta along with the Rimini School of Artists promoting its own exhibits. Rimini also has its own Arch of Augustus and they have the Tiberius Bridge. Rimini makes the perfect location to visit for study abroad art history and architecture students.
When it comes to visiting the region of Tuscany, the chosen destinations are cities like Florence, Pisa and Siena. The city of Lucca is overlooked as just another city in the region. Although, Lucca is immersed in history and just, if not more beautiful, than all of Tuscany. During the middle ages the city was walled in through high fort like walls, which still do their job until this day. Leonardo da Vinci designed these walls and they are so thick that they have a road that sits on top going around the city. The whole city can be viewed from the walls, whether you are on foot, on a bike or a car. These walls allow for the city to preserve its historical architecture which is untouched by modern society and reflects its heritage.
Since it has been able to keep intact with its roots, there are plenty of famous buildings to visit such as cathedrals and churches. St. Martin Cathedral depicts its own unique design, with gorgeous columns. The most famous church to visit is the Church of San Michele in Foro, located within the old town center. The church sits under a large statue of the Archangel St. Michael and is quite a high building. The whole of Lucca offers breathtaking views from columns all over the city. It is a must visit city in the region of Tuscany.
Genoa, the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, Basil Pesto and the name place for the word jeans is located in northern Italy near the French border. Charles Dickens describes Genoa as “a beautiful confusion” and said “It is a place that ‘grows upon you’ every day”. The city features all types of areas, such as the hills where neighborhoods are perched on top or the piazzas on lowest level. The city has kept its historical medieval roots intact, which can be appreciated when walking through the historical centre. Genoa as mentioned before is the birthplace of the famous Basil Pesto, known locally as Pesto alla Genovese. Typically it is made with local Ligurian olive oil and trofie pasta. Another staple food part of Genoavian cuisine is fish; fresh fish can be found anywhere in local markets.
Between the walks and trying out the local specialities, the Church of San Lorenzo is a must visit sight. Decorated in black and white exterior design on the outside, the church was made the city’s cathedral in 985. To leave the city and find a full view, there is a 30 minute walk up the hill to Spianata Castelletto overlooking Genoa. Another great view can be found from Museo delle Culture del Mondo holding several local and international artifacts. A must visit Museum is the Museo Diocesano where the oldest denim in the world is exhibited. Genoa is the city which gave the world the word jeans, since the city’s french name Gênes it is what the English were trying to pronounce in their own accent, when collecting shipment of Denim coming in from Genoa. The city is the perfect destination for all study abroad students, especially history and fashion studies students.
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