Looking for weekend break inspiration? Try one of Italy’s lesser-known cities for size – we’ve picked five that look set to be some of 2018’s hottest city break destinations…
You’ll find Matera in the southern region of Basilicata (if Italy’s a boot, Basilicata’s the arch). The modern town is perfectly nice, but everyone goes for the old town’s sassi – neighbourhoods of prehistoric cave houses.
Spend hours getting lost in the lanes, emerging every so often on terraces where you’ll have cinematic views of the sassi and the neighbouring national park. Matera’s been chosen as the 2019 European Capital of Culture, so get in quick before everyone else does.
Umbria’s capital is cute, compact and utterly charming. There are enough sights to keep you busy for the weekend (the Basilica of San Domenico, Palazzo dei Priori and Cathedral of San Lorenzo, for starters), but not so many that you’ll come home feeling like you need another holiday to recover.
The fact that Perugia’s a university city means you’ll also find stacks of great-value trattorias and osterias, plus plenty of buzzing bars for a glass of Montefalco red or Orvieto white.
Often overshadowed by nearby foodie haven Bologna, Parma is a gastronomic destination in its own right. Parmesan cheese and Parma ham both hail from the city, and there are plenty of opportunities to sample these staples in restaurants and on tasting tours.
Beyond the delicious food offerings, Parma is also home to fantastic museums and art galleries – a must-visit is the Galleria Nazionale, which houses works from the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci. At the heart of the city, you’ll find Parma Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century.
On sunny afternoons, enjoy a picnic and a bottle of the local red, Colli di Parma, in the Parco Ducale. These gardens lining the Parma River are a peaceful escape from the city. By night, you could dress up for an opera performance – the opera house, Teatro Regio, is one of Italy’s most renowned.
There’s beautiful and then there’s Syracuse’s Piazza del Duomo. This baroque square in the heart of the old town is one of Italy’s most stunning piazzas, an oval of cream-coloured stone that’s edged by intricately carved baroque buildings.
Move away from the square and you’ll find atmospheric alleyways hiding family-run restaurants, a seafront path lined with cafes, and the ruins of a Greek temple. For more Ancient Greece, there’s an archaeological park just outside of town.
Modena has produced some pretty impressive names – it was the birthplace of car maker Enzo Ferrari and opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. Today, music is very much what this city is renowned for. Concerts and music events are held annually, and many bars host live bands. For car lovers, the Enzo Ferrari Museum showcases some of the brand’s most luxurious automobiles.
The Piazza Grande is the beating heart of the city. With UNESCO World Heritage status, it’s lined with architectural treasures, including the Ghirlandina tower, a Gothic bell tower which looks over the square.
There are also tours and tastings around the city devoted to balsamic vinegar, the city’s most famous export.