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Italy -Top 10 Underrated Italian Cities.

In this pretty short post I would like to mention in my honest opinion a theme linked to incoming tourism in Italy with a ranking list about the top 10 Underrated Italian Cities that for different reasons are not so much visited as they deserve.

1) TURIN- PIEDMONT- Turin is a beautiful centre, 4th Italian city behind Rome, Milan and Naples with an impressive historic core which boasts some of the best Baroque,Neoclassic, Liberty and Belle Epoque buildings and palaces of the entire Peninsula established all around magnificent squares such as Piazza San Carlo, Piazza Castello, Piazza Carignano, Piazza Statuto and Piazza Vittorio Veneto highlighted by elegant cafes, refined porticoes, fine arcades and stylish galleries.

With a rich historic patrimony, Turin was historically the first Capital of Italy after the reunification in the 19th century and closely related to that you will have the chance to admire a wide variety of splendid Royal mansions and constructions linked to the House of Savoy as the great Palazzo Reale, the Royal Palace.

Its splendid gardens and parks as the notorious Parco del Valentino, a stupendous green lung lying in the metropolitan area hosting the magnificent Castle another of the emblematic residences of the former Royalty are also extraordinary attractions.

The city has several important Museums for every taste, the superb Egyptian museum is one of an infinite list and the city is well known all around the world for the iconic Shroud of Turin.

That centre  after the Winter Olympic Games celebrated in 2006 greatly restored and refreshed its splendid image re-embellishing its splendid streets reminiscent the unmistakable joie de vivre and cultural active life of its golden ages.

The eternal fascination of idyllic landscapes of that site dominated by the majestic Mole Antonelliana, the hill of Superga with its emblematic Basilica with the same name at the foothills of the Alps with the scenic view of the imposing Mont Blanc and a large part of the western Alpine chain are other outstanding pictures of Turin in all its scenic splendour.
Packed by wonderful Churches erected in different architectural styles the capital of Piedmont is a very important hub linked to industry and business, Fiat, Iveco, Pininfarina, Italdesign Giugiaro, Lavazza, Martini & Rossi, Reply, Basic Net, Superga, Robe di Kappa are all companies founded in Turin which in 2014 was awarded by UNESCO as creative city about design. 

Seat important sporting events with two glorious football clubs  as F.C Juventus and F.C Torino with a very important airport as Caselle but despite all that it is not visited as it deserves.

2) LECCE -APULIA -That Sunny splendid city of the Salento ,the southernmost territory of the Apulian region is a shining jewel of Baroque art, named the Firenze del Sud, The Florence of the South, for its immense artistic patrimony scatted all around its boundaries.

The Duomo di Maria Santissima Assunta, Basilica di Santa Croce, Chiesa dei Santi Niccolò e Cataldo, Chiesa di Sant' Irene, Basilica di San Giovanni Battista, Chiesa del Carmine and Chiesa di Santa Chiara are only a little part of an incredible number of other wonderful Sacred sites erected in many monumental quarters of the municipality. 

Lecce was since ancient times a very important Colony of Rome and previously protagonist of an intense cultural life linked to the ancient Greek period of its colonisation. Relevant is its architectural, historical and archaeological patrimony simply unique and it is enough to mention its Roman Theatre and Amfitheater.

Rich of very interesting museums and exhibitions, that Southern Italian centre is very underrated and for many people almost unknown despite in 2010 Lonely Planet, the largest travel guide publisher in the world classified it in top 10 among the most beautiful Italian cities to visit.

That centre  has been always an important cross road, meeting point of cultures and civilisations between West and East with strong historical links with the Middle East in the past, hosting the Festival of the European Cinema since 2010  but it continues to live in a shade often ignored.

3) SIRACUSA -SICILY- We are mentioning one of the most important Greek cities of Megale Hellas elevated as the first iconic cultural cradle developed during the period of the foundation of the Magna Graecia in that enchanting Italian island which was in a concrete historical period for its active, social and artistic life it was just behind Athens for relevance.

Governed by Dionysus, birthplace of the great mathematician, physicist, astronomer and engineer, Archimedes, Siracusa was one of the favourite destinations of the eminent philosopher Plato, founder of the Academy in Athens, the first Institution of higher learning in western world and furthermore Cicero, another iconic character, declared that eastern Sicilian site as the most fascinating Greek city existing in the 1st century BC.

Siracusa is in addition the birthplace of St. Lucy and in 2005 it was named by UNESCO a World Heritage site. You will find there very important rests of fabulous Greek and Roman Theatres, Amphitheatres, Apollo Temple a destination boasting an immense monumental patrimony with superb construction and Churches erected in Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque styles.

It is enough to mention some of the most famed such as the Duomo, Chiesa di San Giovanni alle Catacombe, Chiesa di Santa Lucia al Sepolcro, Chiesa di Santa Lucia alla Badia, Chiesa di San Martino among others.

With wonderful sandy beaches lining mesmerising turquoise waters on a stupendous jagged coastline with all those extraordinary features Siracusa is just visited in some Series Coach Tours often with very short visits and it  does not receive intense flows of tourism as it deserves.

4) TRIESTE -FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA- One of the jewels of the Northern Adriatic loved by famed characters such as Mozart, D´Annunzio, Joyce and notable statesmen as Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, Napoléon Bonaparte and Russian Tsar Alexander I among others.

The major centre of the region has an immense history to narrate since the times of the Roman Empire inside that large land called Noricum which was epicentre in Central Europe as one of the most flourishing territory in the 1st century BC.

Elevated as one of the most thriving maritime centres of Northern Italy on a  striking Adriatic gulf highlighted by the stunning Castello di Miramare, one the most fascinating castles in Europe, that ravishing bay  is simply astonishing for size, opening and a marvellous shoreline which could be immortalised every day by the most inspired landscape painters.

Trieste offers a complete network of architectural marvels dated the times of the Imperial Rome but also Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque,Rococo.The splendid Cattedrale di San Zeno, Chiesa di San Nicolò, Chiesa di San Spiridione, Basilica di San Silvestro and Chiesa della Beata Vergine del Soccorso are only a little part of the big treasures erected in the urban grid of that Northeastern Adriatic beauty.

Neoclassical diamonds elevated all around the city and squares as Piazza Unità D' Italia and Piazza del Municipio among the most fascinating of Italy which also offers many chances to visit relevant museums.

It was one of the most important bases of trade and naval expeditions under Venetian and Austrian rules, with merchants always in love with those unforgettable Mediterranean landscapes and a marvellous maritime promenade 

In a more contemporary era closely related to its unmistakable seafaring spirit Trieste hosts every year since 1969 Barcolana Regatta,one of the most crowded International regattas in the world. 

Despite all that and the proximity of the superb Venice, that wonderful city is not visited very much and many are the mysteries about that.

5) CAGLIARI -SARDINIA-Capital of one of the most beautiful Italian regions, noble and important Phoenician, Carthaginian and Roman colony with a very long history, that extraordinary Sardinian centre boasts a historic centre absolutely amazing and a wonderful waterfront on the Mediterranean simply enchanting. 

It offers a magnificent and complete architectural setting highlighted by a large number of artistic and architectural gems such as the Cattedrale di Santa Maria, Torre Dell' Elefante, Basilica di San Saturnino, Bastione di Saint Remy able to bewitch all the most fervent art lovers.

All that next to its Roman amphitheatre which contained in ancient times over 10,000 people and the scenic Castello di San Michele, St. Michael castle, dominating the local ravishing gulf from a spectacular hill. Those fantastic wonders are just a highlight of an endless number of marvellous attractions you can admire in Cagliari.

That city lies in a spectacular bay called Golfo degli Angeli the Angels Gulf with one of the most beautiful urban beaches in the world called Il Poetto consisting in 8,0 kilometres of an immaculate sandy stretch.

Just like Rome, Prague, Lisbon and Istanbul is a city founded on seven hills, the capital of that dream island offers many chances to spend a unique stay within sea, art, history, a relevant cultural calendar but in many cases Sardinia is just remembered for the beautiful Costa Smeralda forgetting often the rest as its major centre Cagliari not very visited as it deserves.

6) ANCONA - MARCHE - Mainly known as seaport and for ferries connections, Ancona boasts over 2400 years of magnificent history, a splendid historic core with great examples of fine Medieval and Renaissance art, a city which called in the 13th and 14th century the best painting and architecture masters from all the region, motherland of the great Raphael born in Urbino.

The presence of stunning works such as the Duomo di San Ciriaco, Chiesa di Santa Maria della Piazza, Chiesa del Santissimo Sacramento, Chiesa di San Francesco alle Scale and the iconic fortified Cittadella, the imposing renaissance citadel among many other fantastic monuments confirms all that.

Apart  that stupendous group of magnificent works equally great are also ancient Roman monuments Ancona boasts as the notorious Arch of Trajan erected in honor of that well known Emperor, the Amphitheatre, the rests of Venus Temple and a beautiful Paleochristian Basilica among others. 

It is always a pleasure to visit Ancona discovering how many beautiful things has that coastal city in the centre of Italy in terms of art, history and culture.

Marvellous squares, urban hallways and historic sites such as Piazza Roma, Piazza del Papa, Piazza del Plebiscito, Via della Loggia, Fontana delle Tredici Cannelle, Loggia dei Mercanti and Via XXI Settembre are just some the main highlights of a monumental core packed enchanting sites.

Absolutely fantastic is the image of the Monte Conero, a beautiful height dominating that centre on a striking bay highlighted by the unforgettable beach of Portonovo which offers poetic sunsets all to immortalise in unforgettable pictures but also delighting the memories of every tourist.

The presence of beautiful villas, gardens, protected nature areas in its boundaries, superb museums and the celebration of several feasts and festivals with Medieval and reRenaissance origins are other attractions of that city extremely underrated offers. 

7) MATERA - BASILICATA - Despite to have been declared a UNESCO patrimony site since 1993 for its famed "Sassi", ancient cave situated in the old quarter composed by the Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso originated by a troglodylte settlement considered among the oldest inhabited environments of the history occupied by human beings about 7000 BC, that centre is for many people unknown.

That charming city lies on a picturesque hill of Lucania as is also known the Region Basilicata, a site very underrated for all the marvellous things it offers, a pity for the many great and wonderful attractions able to bewitch everybody in a while.

Matera was since ancient times was a emerita Hellenic and Roman colony but mysteriously it is often forgotten, very curious because it is not very far from an important centre as Bari and Apulia and worth to be visited undoubtedly more.

Its ancient historic centre is packed by masterpieces boasting  fine jewels of Romanesque art simply outstanding such as the Cattedrale, Chiesa di San Giovanni Battista, Chiesa di San Pietro Caveoso and many others erected in different times as the Chiesa di San Francesco D' Assisi and the great and emblematic Chiese Rupestri, Churches unique in their kinds.

The famed movie The Passion of the Christ that 2004 American epic drama directed by Mel Gibson had some scenes filmed in Matera. That notorious actor and film-maker strolling the winding streets and narrow alleys of that centre fell in love with that city which bewitched him in a while. Those images also impressed many Japanese citizens who remained enchanted looking at that scenic and unique setting.

On 17th October 2014 Matera was declared European Capital of Culture for 2019, first Southern Italian centre to receive that title but despite that it is not greatly visited as it deserves.

8) REGGIO CALABRIA - CALABRIA - Another important centre of the Magna Graecia conserving one of the most important museums dedicated to the Hellenic civilisation containing the emblematic Riace bronzes also known as Riace Warriors among many other relevant artifacts covering all the most significant times lived in that thriving land.

Ancient Megale Hellas and Rome stronghold, Reggio Calabria conserves a great historic and archaeological patrimony linked to the most flourishing Greek classic period also remembered for that in a speech by Pope John Paul II who mentioned the city for its incomparable history.
The former Rhegium is a shimmering Mediterranean gem with a magnificent Cathedral, superb Religious constructions such as Chiesa degli Ottimati, Santuario di Sant' Antonio, Santuario di San Paolo, Chiesa di Santa Lucia, Chiesa di San Giorgio al Corso and Aragonese Castle among a vast number of other architectural wonders.

That stunning city of Calabria has one of the most charming Lungomare of the country, an extraordinary maritime promenade declared by the notorious writer from Pescara Gabriele D´Annunzio, the most beautiful kilometre of Italy.
Reggio in addition is well  known to be the last point of the "boot" of the Italian Peninsula between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Season facing the wonderful strait of Messina offering from its shoreline mesmerising views towards Sicily, images which could enchant every inspired thinker.

With its splendid urban beaches highlighting a dream local coast worth a mention a recent incredible highlight consisting in a new water front Museum and performing Arts centre designed by the talented British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid.

Favourite destination in different times of many prominent artists such as Stendhal, Pieter Bruegel, Henry Swimburne, Elizabeth Byron, Edward Lear and Norman Douglas  despite all that that Calabrian gem is not very known by many people and not visited so much.

9) VITERBO - LAZIO - Wonderful city in the Northern Lazio at just 80,0 kilometres  from Rome. Important Etruscan settlement and later vital centre during the times of Roman Empire which made it one of the most significant gates of the former Imperial Tuscia later renamed Etruria.

Viterbo is called the Cittá dei Papi, the city of the Popes,because it hosted for more than twenty years in the Palazzo dei Papi, the Pope Palace, the leaders of the Papal State.

In addition that very pleasant municipality has in the marvellous medieval San Pellegrino quarter a superb attraction highlighted by stupendous walls, gates and outstanding monuments such the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, Abbazia di San Martino al Cimino, Chiesa di San Silvestro and Chiesa di Santa Maria Nuova among many others.  

Other several artistic masterpieces are present in the boundaries as Villa Lante boasting among the best gardens developed in Italy all time.Beautiful decorated and fascinating squares such as Piazza del Plebiscito, Piazza della Rocca, Piazza dell Erbe and Piazza Fontana Grande are other attractions packed by refined buildings elevated in diverse historic periods. 

Viterbo offers all that and much more in a wonderful scenery at the foot of the picturesque Appennines and curiously it is not very visited.

10) PISTOIA - TUSCANY - A magnificent jewel of medieval art in one of the most charming Italian regions as Tuscany very close to Florence and another Tuscan diamond as the eternally fascinating Lucca.

That city has a long history to narrate extremely visible in its charming historic heart with the splendid Cattedrale di San Zeno one of its most shining gems on a square called Piazza Duomo, among the most attractive of Italy next to other superb masterpieces such as San Giovanni Fuorcivitas Church, Baptistery of St. John, Palazzo di Giano and Palazzo dei Vescovi among others.

That centre was since many centuries ago a relevant base of great civilisations in Etruscan and Roman times with a very important artistic activity during the Renaissance period as well. Picturesque landscapes highlighted by gentle hills packed by scenic olive groves and vineyards surrounding its municipal perimeter also that image makes that centre an impressive scenic wonder.

Since 1980 the city hosts Pistoia Blues Festival with illustrious stars protagonists in different editions such as The Rolling Stones, Carlos Santana, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Page, Joe Cocker and Joe Satriani among many others.

Mentioned by the iconic poet and writer Gabriele D' Annunzio in one of his successful works, the book Elettra published in 1903 containing a series of hymns dedicated to some of the most fascinating cities of Italy titled"Le Città del Silenzio", Pistoia was recently elected Italian Capital of Culture 2017 but it is not highly visited, all that is very strange  because it is simply beautiful.

I simply added some links below which could be useful to discover more those 10 cities and why not if you are interested to plan a trip with the brilliant idea to visit Italy in future discovering more and more all those  beautiful underrated Italian cities or some of them.

 Francesco Mari

Useful links

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