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Discover the Top Five Cities for you and your family to delight in La Dolce Vita

There are various factors to consider when it comes to finding the perfect place to embrace the Italian way of life. From quality of life and cost of living to easy access to infrastructure and natural beauty, each aspect plays a vital role in determining the ideal city. In this article, we will explore the top five Italian cities that excel in various criteria, offer an exceptional lifestyle for locals and expats alike, and the benefits of raising your children in la bell’Italia.

San Quirico d’Orcia, an Italian countryside villa on a hill surrounded by cypress with golden light
San Quirico d’Orcia, Siena

Raising children in Italy is a unique and enriching experience. The country’s rich culture, art, architecture, and natural beauty, create a vibrant backdrop for their upbringing. Children have the opportunity to immerse themselves in a society that values culture, history, creativity, and artistic expression. From a young age, they can explore world-renowned museums, visit historical landmarks, and breathe in the beauty of Italian architecture.

Italy is also home to some of the best international and bilingual schools, offering a high standard of education and a multicultural learning environment. These schools offer diverse curricula, allowing children to develop their language skills and embrace cultural diversity. The opportunity to learn the Italian language is invaluable, as it opens doors to communicate with locals, connect with their heritage, and gain a deeper understanding of the country’s traditions and customs.

The presence of prestigious universities further enhances the educational opportunities this beautiful country offers, allowing the pursuit of a higher education in various fields. The academic excellence and low cost of Italian universities make them attractive destinations for students around the world.

In addition to formal education, children in Italy have access to a wealth of extracurricular activities. They can participate in art classes, music lessons, dance academies, and sports clubs, nurturing their talents and fostering personal growth. Italy’s natural landscapes, such as picturesque countryside, mountains, lakes, and coastal areas, provide endless outdoor exploration and adventure opportunities.

Moreover, raising children in Italy means being part of a strong community. Italians place great importance on family and social connections, creating a supportive environment for raising children. The tight-knit communities foster a sense of belonging and provide a support network for parents and children.

Raising children in Italy offers a well-rounded upbringing, combining cultural immersion, academic excellence, and a deep appreciation for the country’s rich heritage. The fusion of art, architecture, nature, and diverse educational opportunities ensures that children grow up with a broad worldview and a strong foundation for their future endeavours.

Each of the following cities, given their smaller size in comparison to Milan or Rome (the smallest population being that of Siena at 53,772 and the largest being that of Bologna at 388,367), offers a diverse range of housing options from charming apartments in the centro storico to more spacious villas in the surrounding suburbs.

The choice between strolling through the centre of town to take one’s morning cappuccino before heading off to the market, basket in hand, for the day’s fresh produce and that of a family friendly villa with pool perhaps in the hills surrounded by the tranquillity of vineyards and olive groves could be a hard one to make.

Join us on this journey as we discover the top five cities that truly embody La Dolce Vita and are the best choice for raising your family.

A courtyard in the city of Bologna with a logia with vaulted ceiling and a bronze chandelier hanging down

Bologna: Far more than just Italy’s capital of gastronomy

Known as the “food capital” of Italy, Bologna is a vibrant city that blends history, culture, and a high quality of life. Bologna consistently ranks high in quality of life indexes, thanks to its well-preserved centro storico, excellent healthcare system, and a wide range of cultural activities. Bologna boasts several prestigious universities, including the oldest university in the Western world, making it a hub for intellectual and academic pursuits. It also offers a conservatory of music and two international schools that cater to the needs of expat families.

Bologna has a well developed public transportation network, including buses and a metro system, making navigating the city and commuting to surrounding areas easy. It also has an international airport and is a major rail hub, with excellent train connections to other Italian cities and European destinations, including high speed bullet trains known as “Frecciarossa”.

Bologna, Italy, view of the city from above and from a distance

Whilst Bologna is not directly located on the coast, it is within a reasonable distance from beautiful beaches in Emilia-Romagna, such as Rimini and Ravenna. Additionally, its proximity to Venice, just a short train ride away, allows residents to explore one of Italy’s most iconic and enchanting cities. The city is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes, including the Apennine Mountains and regional parks.

Bologna annually hosts The Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Biografilm Festival and the art fair - Arte Fiera, amongst many other events. It is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, historic landmarks, and vibrant arts scene. The city’s numerous theatres, museums, and art galleries, such as the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna and MAMbo - The Museum of Modern Art, together with its prestigious university, contribute to its lively intellectual and cultural atmosphere attracting a diverse expat community and creating a cosmopolitan environment. The city is known for its exceptional culinary scene, offering a cornucopia of traditional trattorias, fashionable restaurants, and international cuisines to satisfy every palate.

Florence from a small winding cobblestone street, looking down at the city of Florence with the duomo below

Florence: Where Art and History Flourish

The birthplace of the Renaissance – Florence is a city that epitomises art, culture, and history. Florence offers a high quality of life with its rich cultural heritage, stunning architecture, and a vibrant arts scene. The city’s compact size allows for easy exploration on foot, fostering a sense of community and providing a close connection to its history.

Florence offers a wide range of educational opportunities, attracting students from around the globe. From renowned universities and language schools to international baccalaureate programs, all providing a rich academic environment attracting scholars and students from all over the world.

The city has an efficient and well-developed public transportation system composed of buses and trams connecting various neighbourhoods and landmarks and is also served by the Florence Airport – Peretola Airport, which provides domestic and international flights. Additionally, Florence is well-connected to Italy’s extensive train network, allowing residents to easily travel to other parts of the country and explore further afield.

The Duomo, Florence
The Duomo, Florence

Whilst Florence is not located on the coast, it is within reach of beautiful beaches and lakes. Residents can venture to the nearby Tuscan coastline or visit stunning lakes in the region for a relaxing day trip or a weekend getaway, enjoying the natural beauty surrounding the city.

Surprisingly, given that Florence is a popular tourist destination, the cost of living is relatively moderate compared to other major Italian cities such as Rome or Milan. Although more expensive than the aforementioned cities in this article, housing prices, dining options, and everyday expenses are generally quite affordable, making it an attractive city for those looking for a balanced lifestyle.

Florence is synonymous with culture and the arts. The city’s rich history and Renaissance heritage are showcased through world-class museums, such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia Gallery, housing masterpieces such as Botticelli's "The birth of Venus"and Michelangelo’s David. Florence also boasts a vibrant theatre scene, with various venues offering various performances, from opera and ballet to contemporary theatre.

Florence has a thriving expat community, attracting people from around the globe who are drawn to the city’s beauty, history, and cultural offerings. The international community in Florence creates a welcoming and cosmopolitan atmosphere. The city’s dining scene is a gastronomic delight, with numerous restaurants, trattorias, and cafes serving both traditional Tuscan cuisine and international flavours. Residents can savour the exquisite local delicacies and indulge in a wide range of dining experiences.

Canal in Verona

Verona: Where romance meets bewitching beauty

Famous as the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Verona is a picturesque city that captures the hearts of residents and visitors alike and concisely ranks among the top cities in Italy for quality of life.

The Shakespearian walled city, reminiscent of the Middle Ages, with its well-preserved centro storico and excellent healthcare facilities, provides a charming and comfortable living experience. Verona offers reputable schools and educational institutions, such as The University of Verona, providing quality education options for families. It also has an international school that follows various curricula to accommodate expat children.

Verona has an efficient public transportation system, including buses and a light rail network, making navigating the city and its outskirts easy. Although not situated on the seaside, it benefits from its proximity to stunning lakes such as Lake Garda and Lake Iseo, offering residents ample opportunities for outdoor activities and relaxation amidst breathtaking natural beauty.

Verona and its canals and bridges from above at sunset

This charming city is steeped in history and culture, with its beautifully preserved Roman amphitheatre, museums, and art galleries. The city also hosts various cultural events, including the famous Verona Opera Festival - The Melody of Passion, Verona Jazz Festival - Rhythm in the Air, and The Verona Shakespeare Festival - Theatre Under the Stars.

Verona welcomes a thriving expat community, offering a supportive environment for newcomers. The city boasts an array of traditional osteria, upscale dining establishments, and international cuisine options, ensuring a diverse and satisfying culinary experience.

Trieste canal looking towards the sea

Trieste: Vienna by the sea

Nestled on the stunning Adriatic coast in the far north eastern corner of Italy, Trieste (nicknamed "Vienna by the sea") is a unique city that harmoniously blends Italian, Austrian, and Slovenian influences. Trieste continuously ranks highly in terms of life quality (with one of the lowest crime rates of Italian cities), offering a relaxed and peaceful lifestyle with striking neoclassical architecture and a stunning waterfront.

This international city, renowned for its multicultural heritage and vibrant cultural scene, hosts reputable schools, including an international school that caters to the needs of expat families. The city’s commitment to education ensures excellent learning opportunities for children.

Trieste has an international airport, facilitating travel connections to various destinations; an efficient public transportation network of buses and trams, making it easy to navigate the city and its surroundings; and is well-connected by train, providing convenient transportation options within Italy and Europe.

Neoclassical architecture in Trieste

Trieste’s coastal location allows residents to enjoy beautiful beaches along the Adriatic Sea and excursions into its surrounding picturesque landscapes, including the Karst Plateau and the nearby Slovenian countryside.

The city hosts numerous theatres, music festivals, and literary events, including the prestigious Trieste Film Festive and the Barcolana – the largest regatta in the world. Trieste is home to prestigious research institutions and universities, fostering a vibrant academic community. It also has a thriving expat community, making it a welcoming place for newcomers. With its rich culinary tradition and local cuisine, blending Italian and Central European influences, residents and visitors can savour a wide array of traditional dishes, seafood specialities, and international flavours.

Siena from above with the Tuscan countryside in the background

Siena: Timeless Charm in the Heart of Tuscany

Nestled amongst the rolling hills of Tuscany, Siena is a city that embodies the charm and beauty of the Italian countryside. Siena offers a high quality of life with its relaxed pace, friendly community, strong sense of tradition and one of the lowest crime rates of Italian cities. The city’s centro storico, a UNESCO World Heritage site, provides a unique and enchanting atmosphere. Siena benefits from its smaller size, contributing to lower pollution levels than larger metropolitan areas. The city’s commitment to sustainable practices ensures a cleaner and healthier environment.

Siena boasts excellent educational opportunities, including two renowned universities: The University of Siena - one of the oldest and first publicly funded in Italy, founded in 1240 and a university for foreigners – Università per Stranieri di Siena. The city provides a solid educational foundation for residents of all ages and also offers a top international school, making Siena a welcoming environment for families. Siena’s compact size makes it easy to navigate on foot. The city has a well-connected public transportation system, including buses, making it convenient for residents to travel within and around the city.

Countryside in Tuscany, near Siena
Countryside near Siena

Whilst Siena is not located directly on the coast, it is surrounded by the stunning natural landscapes of the Tuscan countryside. Residents can easily access nearby beaches, lakes, and naturally heated thermal pools within a short drive, allowing day trips to enjoy the region’s natural beauty. Siena doesn’t have its own airport but is well-connected to major airports in Florence and Pisa. Additionally, the city has a train station that provides convenient access to other Italian cities, making travel accessible and convenient.

Siena offers a more affordable cost of living compared to larger cities like Milan or Rome. Housing prices, dining, and everyday expenses are generally more budget-friendly, allowing residents to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. Siena is renowned for its rich cultural heritage, historical landmarks, and vibrant festivals. The city’s historic centre is home to magnificent Gothic architecture, including the famous Piazza del Campo and the Duomo. Siena also hosts the internationally acclaimed Palio di Siena, a thrilling horse race that showcases the city’s ancient traditions.

The city offers a variety of restaurants and cafes, serving both traditional Tuscan cuisine and international flavours. Residents can indulge in authentic Italian dishes while enjoying the locals’ warm hospitality.

Chart comparing the various factors of Italian cities (Bologna, Florence, Verona, Trieste, and Siena). Factors such as population, average temperature, average annual rainfall, crime rate, pollution index, and cost of living

In the quest for the ideal Italian city that encompasses the true essence of La Dolce Vita, Bologna, Verona, Trieste, Siena, and Florence emerge as exceptional choices. Each city excels in various criteria, offering a high quality of life, access to amenities, natural beauty, and a vibrant cultural scene. Whether you seek a culinary haven, historic charm, or coastal serenity, these cities provide the perfect backdrop for embracing the Italian way of life. Embark on your journey to find La Dolce Vita, and let these enchanting cities capture your heart. If you need assistance relocating to any of these destinations, Finding La Dolce Vita Srl. is here to help you make a seamless transition to your new Italian home by offering an extensive range of immigration, relocation, and concierge services.

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