Rome or Milan?

Rome or Milan?

Which is the perfect city for your next Italian trip?

The “two capitals” of Italy: Rome as a political and traditional symbol, and Milan with its modern and innovative vibe and its economic power.

Both cities represent a special side of Italy and you should visit them both to experience the many facets of this County.

If you don’t have enough time, let’s see how to choose the best destination for your next trip to Italy according to your preferences!

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Rome vs Milan. Which one to visit?

Choose Rome if…

  • You are interested in ancient history and archeology

Rome has plenty of archeological sites: Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Caracalla Baths, and Domus Aurea, just to name a few! The cradle of Mediterranean culture is rich in historical heritage and the Imperial Era is still present and alive at every corner. Not for nothing, Rome is surnamed “The Eternal City”! 

Lines are huge at all Rome’s top attractions so book your skip-the-line tickets and tours in advance.

  • You want to experience some spirituality

Vatican City is the tiny State located at the heart of Rome and it’s a pilgrimage destination for thousands of people each year. No matter what your religious beliefs are, this place has a unique atmosphere that leaves nobody indifferent. Other than for its spiritual value, Vatican City is also rich in worldwide famous works of art, especially in the Vatican Museums and in St. Peter’s Basilica. Rome has hundreds of beautiful churches deserving a visit and housing many precious works of art from all times. 

  • You are not bothered by crowds and long lines

Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world, so there are tourists everywhere all year round. Be prepared to wait in line not only to enter museums and visit famous monuments but also to get on buses and metro trains, to sit down at a restaurant table and even to take a picture of some landmarks like the Trevi Fountain!

If you’re looking for a quiet place and a relaxing holiday, Rome is not for you, but if you choose the right times of the day (usually very early in the morning and late in the evening) for your visits, you’ll be able to enjoy its views and beauties at your own pace. Also, booking a skip-the-line ticket whenever possible is a great idea! Beware of pickpockets on public transports and in crowded places!

  • You would like to squeeze in some relax on the beach

Beaches are only 30Km away from the city center, so you can plan a relaxing day trip on the coast during your stay in Rome! The best destinations are Ostia with the archeological park of Ostia Antica, Anzio with its high rocky cliffs, Fregene to experience a typical day off as a local, Nettuno with its picturesque medieval Old Town, Sabaudia between sea and lakes, and Santa Severa with its medieval castle on the beach.

  • You’ll be traveling in winter

Rome is one of the best Italian destinations for a winter trip since the weather is mild all year long. You’ll be able to spend several hours outdoors in any season, just bring an umbrella and a raincoat with you!

Check out: A guide to Rome in winter.

  • You would like to taste some traditional Italian dishes

Pasta is everywhere in Italy but there’s no place as rich in traditional pasta recipes as Rome: cacio e pepe, carbonara, amatriciana, gricia, and many other pasta dishes are to be found in any typical trattoria! The best neighborhood for a food tour or a night out at a traditional restaurant in Trastevere. If you want to buy some local products at a typical market and taste some street food, head to Testaccio instead.

me in Rome in December
  • You like taking plenty of Insta-friendly pictures

Rome is one of the most scenic Italian cities and it’s extremely rich in picturesque views and stunning monuments: Spanish Steps, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Vittoriano, Pantheon, Villa Borghese, and Gianicolo Terrace are just a few of the many popular spots where you can take your Insta-friendly pictures!

  • It’s your first trip to Italy

If you’ve never been to Italy before, there’s no better place to start exploring this Country! Spend at least 4 or 5 days in Rome to fully experience the local lifestyle.

Planning a trip to Rome? You might like:

Where to stay in Rome

How to spend 5 days in Rome

How to spend 3 days in Rome

Things to do in Rome at night

Choose Milan if….

  • You are a shopping-addict

Milan rhymes with high fashion and glamour and it’s also one of the main headquarters of international stylists and models. One of the favorite activities of both locals and tourists is shopping and the best neighborhood in town is Quadrilatero d’Oro: Via Monte Napoleone, Via Manzoni, Via della Spiga and Corso Venezia.

In these 4 streets, the main international luxury brands have at least one boutique and it’s not uncommon to spot celebrities shopping there. Anyway, you don’t necessarily have to break the bank to go shopping in Milan: in Piazza del Duomo, Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele II and Corso Buenos Aires, there are plenty of shops and malls where you can find popular budget-friendly brands.  

Castello Sforzesco - Milan in a day
  • You like medieval castles

At the heart of Milan, there’s one of the largest and best-preserved Italian medieval castles: Sforza Castle. Inside, there are 9 museums and it’s best to take a guided tour not to get lost and waste too much time wandering around and missing some famous works of art! A few examples are Sforza Castle and Museums 2-Hour Guided Tour or Sforza Castle & Leonardo Skip-the-Line Private Tour.

  • You like opera or ballet

La Scala Theater is a real institution in Italy and you shall not miss a glamorous night out at the opera! Check the schedule here Official Ticket office – Teatro alla Scala or get a discount at ScalAperta – Teatro alla Scala

La Scala - Northern Italy itinerary
  • You like modern and contemporary architecture

Milan has a unique international vibe that makes it completely different from the other Italian cities (for better or worse, it’s up to you to decide!). The most modern and innovative neighborhood is Porta Nuova, with the famous futuristic Gae Aulenti Square, its skyscrapers, and the award-winning architectural complex named “Vertical Forest”.

  • You’re planning to spend a romantic weekend

Locals have a thing for Lake Como and it’s a popular location for weddings, celebrations, photoshoots, and weekends off. You can easily reach it in about 1h by car or by train and you’ll be spoilt for choice when deciding which village or town to visit! The best destinations for a day trip from Milan are Bellagio with its elegant villas, Menaggio with its flowers and the beautiful promenade, and Varenna with its medieval Old Town.

  • You would like to have dinner in a starred restaurant

There are 20 starred restaurants in Milan and fine dining is even more popular than going to a typical trattoria. The most famous starred restaurant in Milan is located in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and it belongs to Carlo Cracco, a famous Italian chef who is a real celebrity!

  • You only have a couple of days

Unlike Rome, Milan can be fully explored in just 2 or 3 days, so it’s a perfect destination for a short trip. The local subway is fast and efficient and it connects every corner and neighborhood of the city allowing you to get around quickly. A carnet of 10 tickets costs 18 euro. As an alternative, get your Milan City Pass at Milano Card – info and details Milan City Pass | Milan Public Transport

  • You are interested in learning more about Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci’s story is closely connected to Milan and he contributed to the development of the city in many different ways. A few examples: his artistic masterpiece “The Last Supper” is located inside the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, he designed the famous local waterways named Navigli and he decorated a few rooms inside Sforza Castle. To learn more about his life and his inventions, visit the local  Museum of  Science and Technology.

  • Italy is not enough…get a glimpse of China too!

The largest and most populated Chinatown in Italy is located in Milan: typical shops and restaurants, ideograms, exotic scents, and a vibrant and chaotic atmosphere will make you feel like you’re on the other side of the world for a while! The heart of Chinatown is via Paolo Sarpi and you shall spend a night out there to taste some Chinese dumplings or to have fun in a typical Chinese karaoke!

Planning a trip to Milan? Check out my guides:

One day in Milan

Milan in winter

Interesting facts about Milan

What if you want to visit both Rome and Milan?

Visiting both Rome and Milan is easy with a high-speed train! Italo and Frecciarossa connect Rome and Milan in about 3 hours, so you could split your stay between these two special places. Start with your favorite one, since both cities have great international airports with flights to and from the main European cities.

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