Pizza, wine, and cheese top the list of best things about Italy. But honestly, the list is a mile long. Aside from the local cuisine, it is renowned for its fashion, art, architecture, luxury cars, museums, and breathtaking scenery. It’s no wonder Italy is one of the biggest tourist spots in the world, with millions of people flocking to its ancient cobblestone streets and sandy beaches. In total, Italy has over 59 million people that live within its borders. But what about its cities? Discover the 10 most populated cities in Italy and what makes them so popular.
Note: populations are only estimates.
Rome is Italy’s capital and the most populated city in the country, with 4.3 million residents in the metropolitan area as of 2020. The city is also one of the most visited in the world and third in Europe. It is most famous for its history, archeology, architecture, fashion, panoramic views, and delicious food, such as carbonara, gelato, and Alesso di Boleto. And the most famous thing to see in in this city is the Colosseum, an enormous ancient amphitheater that housed 65,000 spectators for gladiator battles.
Located in Northern Italy is Milan, the second-most-populous city in the country, with an estimated 3.1 million residents in the metro area. However, Milan’s outer suburbs extend well beyond the metropolitan area. And suppose we count the entire population of the wider metro area. In that case, it numbers between eight and 12.5 million, making it the most significant metropolitan in Italy and one of the largest in Europe. It is best known as an art city, from paintings to fashion and architecture. But it is also the entertainment capital of the country, with clubs, discos, and many other attractions.
Naples is the third-largest city in Italy by population, featuring 909,000 residents. When counting the entire metropolitan area, which extends 20 miles past the city center, there are 3.1 million inhabitants. The Greeks found Naples in the first millennium BC, making it among the oldest inhabited cities on earth. The city is full of history, museums, and cultural attractions. Not to mention, it is the birthplace of pizza. This alone is reason enough to visit! Naples often gets overlooked as a tourist destination, but it is a treasure trove of delicious cuisine and beautiful sights.
The city of Turin is an important business center in Northern Italy. Its metropolitan area is estimated at 2.2 million residents, while its city proper has 847,000 people. Historically, Turin has been a European political hub, but it has rich culture and history that attracts thousands of visitors each year. It is one of the most beautiful places in Italy and is perfect for those who love art, fancy palaces, opera, and delicious cuisine. And the Alpine arch surrounds the city, providing breathtaking views from every angle.
Palermo is a city in Southern Italy and the fifth most populated in the country. The urban area contains 855,000 residents, while the entire metropolitan area features 1.2 million. The Phoenicians founded Palermo in 734 BC, making the city over 2,700 years old. So it’s no wonder it draws history buffs from all over the world. But many people also visit for the culture, art, music, and food. You can lounge on the beach, visit an ancient cathedral, and eat some of the best food on earth from a street vendor, all on the same day.
The sixth-largest Italian city, Genoa, has 855,000 residents in its city center and over one million in the wider metropolitan area, which extends along the Italian Riviera. Genoa is an essential Mediterranean port and the busiest in Italy. And the most densely populated area of the city is its historical center. The area is also a popular tourist destination for those wanting to visit beautiful beaches, charming seaside villages, and museums. Like most of Italy, Genoa features stunning medieval architecture and a varied food and wine scene.
Bologna is the largest capital city in Northern Italy and the seventh most populous city in the country. Over 400,000 people call the city center home, and around one million live within the wider metropolitan area. It’s nicknamed “fat city” for its rich and hearty cuisine. Bologna is famous for its cured meats, salty cheeses, and its famous Bolognese sauce, which is eaten with handmade pasta. But before you dig in, check out the city’s cultural and historical areas featuring architecture from the Middle Ages.
Located in Central Italy is Florence, the capital of the Tuscany region. Its city features over 380,000 people and the wider metropolitan area contain around one million residents, although some calculations put it around 1.5 million. Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance and was one of the wealthiest and most essential trade cities in Europe during Medieval times. Millions of people flock to this city each year. In 2019, over 95 million people visited Florence! If you love shopping, food, art, and beautiful scenery, then you will love Florence.
Bari sits near the Adriatic Sea in Southern Italy and is the second most important economic area in the region after Naples. The city of Bari features 315,000 residents and the urban area contains 750,000. Many think of Bari as just a port city, essential for the country’s economy but not an area for travel. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Bari is an excellent destination for fantastic food (isn’t all of Italy?), cathedrals, castles, and an authentic Italian experience with non-touristy attractions.
After Palermo, Catania is the second-largest municipality in Sicily. It sits on the region’s east coast at the base of an active volcano, Mount Etna. The city’s population is 311,000, with a metro area of 586,000. However, some reports put the total metropolitan area around 1.1 million. The city has been the site of several catastrophic events, including a volcanic eruption and several major earthquakes. But despite its dangerous past, Catania is still a popular destination. The area features beautiful architecture, a historical city center, and busy street markets.
Summary of the 10 Most Populated Cities in Italy
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