Top Italian city breaks for culture vultures

Do you listen to every kind of music genre going, from folk to jazz? Do you know your Caravaggios from your Canalettos? Is your favourite actor Mark Rylance rather than Brad Pitt or George Clooney?

If the answer to any of those questions is ‘yes’ you can rightly call yourself a culture vulture – someone who has a great interest in the arts, bordering on the obsessive.

basilica of st peter

This probably means that beach resorts in the Balearics aren’t exactly your cup of tea when it comes to choosing a summer holiday destination. Instead, it’s highly likely that you’re someone who seeks out cheap city breaks where you can make the most of the museums, galleries and sightseeing on offer.

In that case, I can’t recommend Italy more highly. Nowhere in Europe indulges culture vultures more readily, and in Rome, Verona and Venice you’ve got a great selection of attractions covering art, music and literature.

Read on for a guide to what cultural treats you can expect to find there, and then visit for some great deals on your accommodation.


The Italian capital is something of a culture vulture’s nirvana. With spectacular architecture harking back to the times of the Roman Empire; world-class art galleries such as the Galleria Borghese featuring paintings by Raphael, Titian and Rubens; numerous theatres putting on operas and plays; and a famous coffee culture, Rome will keep your busy for days on end.

Often art and architecture are fused in breathtaking style, such as at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City, where Michelangelo created his almost impossibly intricate ceiling and walls frescoes, including The Last Judgement, on a grand scale.


Verona is a place where English and Italian culture combine thanks to the legacy of a certain William Shakespeare.

Bring his most famous tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, to life by visiting Juliet’s balcony, Romeo’s house and Juliet’s tomb, before experiencing a performance of the play in the spectacular 15,000-seater Arena di Verona, one of the world’s finest venues. The atmosphere there is truly magical – enough to give you goosebumps.

Aside from Shakespeare-related points of interest, Verona has a number of fine museums and beautifully designed buildings.


While Venice is most famous for its narrow canals and pretty bridges, it also has a fine array of attractions that can please even the most ardent culture vulture.

It is, of course, another of Shakespeare’s favourite locations, with both Othello and The Merchant of Venice set in the City of Water. But it has also been the inspiration for countless other writers, from Casanova to Thomas Mann.

And it’s not just writers who put Venice on the map. The Venetian state used to be called “the Republic of Music” and it was also a leading centre of art.

Today, this legacy is enjoyed at the Palazzo Ducale Museum, where you’ll find paintings by Tintoretto and Titian; Teatro La Fenice, where you can experience a full-blooded Italian opera; and, every year, when the city also hosts the world’s oldest film festival. During this prestigious event, screenings taking place in the historic Palazzo del Cinema on the Lungomare Marconi.

As you can tell, whichever one of these cities you pick for your next getaway, you won’t be disappointed.