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Grand Tour della cultura attraverso i luoghi più suggestivi del nord e centro Italia

Ranked in first place in the world for number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Italy is an unparalleled destination when it comes to history and culture. Upper-class young European men knew it very well, when, between late 1600s and 1800s, devoted themselves to the “Grand Tour” of Europe’s most beautiful cities: the highlight of their journey of cultural growth and amusement was indeed the Bel Paese. If we should retrace a cultural Grand Tour today, our must-do stops would be many. Let’s start from northern and central Italy, then we will move to the south.

Milan


Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

It’s a modern, cosmopolitan city, at the same time rich in historical evidence and places of art: its amazing Cathedral, the symbol of the city, the Basilica of Sant'Ambrogio, the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie that contains The Last Supper, the well-known masterpiece by Leonardo Da Vinci, and its museums, among which stand out the Brera Art Gallery, the Museum of the XX Century and the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. Just one hour by car from downtown Milan, well worth a visit are Pavia, with the Visconti Castle, the Cathedral, the Ponte Coperto and the Certosa, and Bergamo, with its medieval center lying on the hills and embraced by the Venetian walls (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site).

Turin


Turin

Turin

Capital of the ancient Duchy of Savoy, today as then, Turin attracts visitors for its elegant squares and buildings, like the Royal Palace, Palazzo del Governo and Palazzo Madama, the major Residences of the Royal House of Savoy declared UNESCO World Heritage sites (together with, among others, the Castle of Valentino and Villa della Regina), the Cathedral dating to the XV century keeping the Holy Shroud, and the museums, like the eminent Egyptian Museum (second only to the Cairo museum) and the National Museum of Cinema, housed inside the Mole Antonelliana.

Aosta and its castles


Saint-Pierre castle

Saint-Pierre castle

In the heart of the Aosta valley, framed by the mountains, Aosta encloses many places of cultural and historical interest dating to the Roman period (not by chance it is nicknamed the “Rome of the Alps”), like the Roman Theatre and the Arch of Augustus. The region is also scattered with fascinating castles (more than 130) with interesting museum collections: like the Castle of Saint-Pierre, the Castle of Verrès and the Savoy Castle in Gressoney-Saint-Jean. Without leaving out the Fort Bard, housing ancient and modern art displays and temporary exhibitions.

Genoa


Piazza De Ferrari, Genoa

Piazza De Ferrari, Genoa

With its eminent past of Maritime Republic, Genoa boasts one of the largest historical centers in Europe, spread on a maze of squares and narrow alleys (the caruggi). Old churches, like the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and the Basilica of San Siro, and XVI century buildings, dominate the center of the city. The so called “Strade Nuove” together with the “Palazzi dei Rolli” – a set of noble buildings dating to the late Renaissance and Baroque era that housed illustrious Grand Tour travelers – enjoy the recognition of UNESCO Heritage site.

Verona


Arena e Palazzo Barbieri, Verona

Arena e Palazzo Barbieri, Verona

It is the quintessential “city of love”, but offers much more than the myth of Romeo and Juliet: starting from its city center overflowing with art and archaeological sites, such as the Arena, the unmistakable symbol of the city, the Roman theatre and the walls, the Scaliger-dynasty squares and palaces. A cultural tour of Verona cannot but have a stop in Vicenza, UNESCO Heritage site thanks to the valued works by Palladio, in Padua, among medieval towers, noble squares and museums (first of all the Scrovegni Chapel frescoed by Giotto), and Mantua, art city linked to the legacy of the Gonzaga family, one of the best examples of Italian Renaissance.

Venice


Venice

Venice

Millennial capital of the Republic of Venice, unanimously recognized as one of the most romantic cities in the world, the “Serenissima” boasts an extraordinary historical center, UNESCO World Heritage site together with its lagoon. Many are the opportunities to feed your hunger for culture, starting from St Mark's Square with the St Mark's Basilica, the Bell Tower and the Doge's Palace, without neglecting the churches of Santa Maria della Salute, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, the synagogues of the Jewish ghetto, the many beautiful palaces overlooking canals, campi (the local squares) and calli (the streets) and the extensive network of the Civic Museums (among which, in addition to the Doge's Palace, also the Museo Correr, Ca’ Rezzonico, Ca’ Pesaro and Palazzo Mocenigo).

Trieste


Miramare Castle, Trieste

Miramare Castle, Trieste

A border town with a Habsburg past, Trieste is a crossroads of cultures with a strong Middle-European identity. Very elegant its squares – first of which Piazza Unità d'Italia – and refined its buildings, as well as its interesting mixture of catholic, orthodox and Hebraic religious architecture. At the gates of the city are majestic castles, like the well-known Miramare Castle. Just a few kilometers away from the city center, you reach Aquileia, with its Roman ruins, UNESCO Heritage site together with Palmanova, enclosed by walls and with an odd star-shaped plant, and Udine, with its castle and medieval architecture examples.

Bologna


Basilica di San Petronio, Bologna

Basilica di San Petronio, Bologna

Bologna is an important city of art and culture: UNESCO’s city of music since 2006, it houses the oldest university in the western world and shows off a historical center made up of squares, towers (the symbol of the city) and long covered walkways. The heart of the city is Piazza Maggiore, overlooked by the Basilica of San Petronio and elegant historical buildings. From Bologna, our cultural tour can continue to Parma, Italian capital of culture for 2020, and go discovering other extraordinary cultural places, UNESCO World heritage sites, in the area: nearby Modena, with its amazing Cathedral, the Ghirlandina Bell Tower and Piazza Grande, Ravenna, with its early Christian and Byzantine masterpieces, and Ferrara, a renaissance city with its renowned castle and the “Delizie estensi".

Florence


Florence Cathedral

Florence Cathedral

The cradle of the Renaissance, a city of art and history with a priceless heritage, Florence has an unparalleled beauty, and you can’t but fall in love with its majestic historical center, recognized UNESCO heritage site – Piazza della Signoria, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza del Duomo, Santa Maria Novella – with the wonderful treasures of the Uffizi Galleries and Galleria dell’Accademia. A cultural tour in the surroundings should also include Siena, whose historical center is UNESCO World heritage site too, Pisa with the well-known Piazza dei Miracoli, Arezzo, a real open air museum, and San Gimignano, the “city of one hundred towers”.

Assisi


Basilica of Saint Francis, Assisi

Basilica of Saint Francis, Assisi

The city that gave birth to Saint Francis ad Saint Clare, Assisi is one of the most evocative medieval hamlets in Umbria, with a spiritual atmosphere and a timeless charm: the village is dominated by the Rocca Maggiore with its mighty walls, the Basilica of Saint Francis (inside is the Saint Francis cycle by Giotto), the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo and the Torre del Popolo. In the Umbria region, we recommend continuing your cultural grand tour to Perugia, a small artistic and monumental jewel, then a little further north, in Gubbio, another picturesque hamlet among the best kept in the region, and a little further south, in Spoleto, “the most beautiful discovery in Italy” according to Herman Hesse, and Orvieto, well-known for its extraordinary gothic cathedral and the underground city.