Friday 24 January 2020

Off the beaten track: Authentic Italian cities to explore in 2020

Alice Murray

From the soaring peaks of the Dolomites to the picturesque villages of Sicily, there’s just something about Italy. This fantastic country has it all, whether you’re looking for an exciting city break, laid back beach holiday or exhilarating ski trip.

It’s no surprise then that the country is a popular choice for Irish tourists every year. But if you’re planning a trip to Bella Italia in 2020, why not go off the beaten track and explore some of these lesser-known but equally beautiful destinations? Experience the real Italy with all the charm, delicious food and wonderful locals (minus the tourist crowds).

Parma

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Parma is a charming town in the Emilia-Romagna region, in the north of Italy. It is not far from Bologna and is famous for its amazing food (Parma ham and Parmesan cheese anyone?). But there’s a lot more to this quaint area than the amazing cuisine.

In fact, Parma is the Italian Capital of Culture for 2020 and it’s not hard to see why. The town has lots of great shops, picture-perfect winding streets and a stunning Cathedral and Baptistry to boot. If you’re planning a visit, you simply must take in a classical opera performance, after all this is Giuseppe Verdi’s town. Teatro Regio, Parma’s primary theatre, is a wonderful place to visit. They offer both main theatre and backstage tours.

Rimini

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Just over two hours from Parma lies Rimini, a beautiful seaside town that is bursting with character. Popular with tourists and locals alike, Rimini boasts 15km of white sand beaches, clear water, and excellent facilities.

The town also has a nice mix of ancient Roman architecture, charming hotels, beach bars, and restaurants which makes it popular with young families and couples.

This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Federico Fellini, the film director responsible for La Dolce Vita, Amarcord and La Strada, and Rimini’s most famous son. To celebrate, the town will hold a rich programme of cultural events, openings, exhibitions, and restorations throughout 2020.

Milan

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Milan is the perfect place to go if you want a weekend break with a difference. Known as one of the fashion capitals of the world, this bustling city has a lovely blend of history and cosmopolitanism. Plus, it is the perfect starting point to visit the stunning Lake Como and Lake Maggiore.

Milan has its own network of canals called Navigli which were once used to transport marble blocks from Candoglia into the city centre to build the Duomo. Today, a cruise on the Navigli is a romantic and comfortable way to see the sights. Plus, the area surrounding them is full of trendy bars and restaurants.

Milan has lots of exciting upcoming events this year including IGLTA Convention, the most important appointment for the LGBTI community, from May 6 to 9, 2020.

Cortina d’Ampezzo

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Fancy hitting the slopes this year? Cortina d’Ampezzo is a great place to go on a ski holiday. Located a couple of hours from Venice or Verona,  this picturesque resort is nestled in the valley of the river Boite, surrounded by the imposing Dolomites.

Cortina offers a variety of runs for all standards of skiers and snowboarders. The resort hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956 and is to hold them again in 2026, alongside Milan. The area also holds regular races on the women’s World Cup circuit and will host the Alpine World Championships in 2021. Our advice? Visit now before it’s thrust into the limelight in 2026.

Urbino

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Urbino is a walled city in the Marche region of Italy, south-west of Pesaro. The town was known as Urvinum Metaurense in Roman times, and it became an important centre during the Renaissance in Italy. Today, it is a World Heritage Site and a brilliant place to visit if you’re a history buff.

The Palazzo Ducale is the main attraction. Built in the second half of the XV century by Federico II da Montefeltro, it’s one of the best examples of Italian Renaissance architecture. The town is also the birthplace of Raffaello Sanzio, one of the most famous Italian painters. In 2020 Italy will celebrate the 500 anniversary of the artist’s death with a series of events both in Urbino and Rome.

To plan your Italian adventure, check out the Italian Tourism website for more information.

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