Cities such as Lucca, Perugia and Ravenna can offer culture but smaller crowds and lower prices than the better-known city break destinations.
For many years people travelling to Italy for a cultural break needed look no further than the big cities of Florence, Rome, Verona and perhaps Venice. Now travellers are looking to explore deeper into Italian culture and discover new cities and new sights. Cities Direct offer some fabulous multi-centre breaks which will appeal to those who are interested not only in culture but also in history too. It goes without saying that a holiday in Italy must also include sampling the local cuisine and probably the local wine!
Perugia is the capital city of Umbria in central Italy. It lies on a hill with the old town partly enclosed by Etruscan and Medieval Walls. The outermost wall dates back to the Middle Ages and is still intact for several miles. The inner wall is much older, having been built under Etruscan rule using huge rocks. Entering through Porta San Pietro, the first monument to visit is the Basilica of San Domenico, where many statues and valuable works by local artists are housed. The nearby cloisters and monasteries are now home of the National Museum of Umbrian Archaeology, which houses archaeological finds discovered in local excavations. Art lovers should head to the Palazzo dei Priori built between the 13th and 14th Centuries, which is now home to the National Gallery of Umbria.
Less than 200 kilometres from Perugia lies the charming town of Lucca. In contrast with Perugia, Lucca is not a hilltop town, but it does also possess well-preserved city walls. As the walls lost their military importance, the top of the 16th and 17th century ramparts became a pedestrian promenade and taking this walk is an ideal way to start exploring the city. Many of Lucca’s attractions date back to ancient times, including the traces of the Roman amphitheatre and the archaeological remains under the 12th century church of Saints Giovanni and Reparata . Other top attractions include the Clock Tower and Guinigi Tower as well as the Piazza San Michele with its beautiful Church of San Michele in Foro and the Basilica of San Frediano.
Another lesser-known centre of culture in Italy is Ravenna. Lying on the Adriatic coast to the south of Venice, it is a little- known fact that Ravenna was the capital of the Western Roman Empire for three centuries beginning in 402. The city is a perfect destination for anyone who loves culture – for art lovers and historians alike. It is most famous for its fabulous early Christian and Byzantine mosaics, the greatest of which have been given UNESCO World Heritage status. The heart of Ravenna, and the best place to get your bearings, is the Piazza del Popolo. This charming piazza is lined with attractive historic buildings including the Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall), originally built in the 15th century. In the 19th century the city was rediscovered by famous visitors such as Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Sigmund Freud and Gustav Klimt.
Perugia, Lucca and Ravenna – three centres of culture and history waiting to be discovered by many British tourists. All three deserve to be on everyone’s wish-list.