Experience la dolce vita the slow way, step-by-step, taking in the nuances and atmosphere of these five incredible Italian cities with an easy walking tour.
The Duomo to Via Solferino
With its fairytale pinnacles, Milan’s glorious Gothic cathedral is topped by the city’s lucky-charm “Madonnina” statue of the Virgin Mary – don’t miss the view from the roof. Afterwards, head through the magnificent 19th-century Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II glass-and-iron shopping arcade, where the boutiques of leading Italian luxury brands lie in tempting ambush. Skirt the world-famous Teatro alla Scala opera house to enter the absorbing Brera district, home to antique shops, art galleries, design stores and the recently revamped Pinacoteca di Brera, with its unrivalled collection of Northern Italian art. Walk the night-life hub of Via Solferino before sampling a cocktail at the famed Dry Milano.
Piazza San Marco to Via Garibaldi
Begin early in the morning in Venice’s famous square. With the rising sun gilding the Byzantine domes of the basilica, head east past the delicate marble tracery of the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) to the lagoon promenade of Riva degli Schiavoni, where serried gondolas await their first passengers. Pause to admire the romantic vision of the Ponte dei Sospiri (Bridge of Sighs) then head inland at the Vivaldi church, Santa Maria della Pietà, through the cute residential quarters of eastern Castello to emerge in front of the Arsenale – a historic shipyard that at its 16th-century peak could turn out a galleon a day. Continue east past quiet canals to refuel at a quaint café in the busy neighbourhood hub of Via Garibaldi.
Ponte Vecchio to Forte di Belvedere
From elegant Via Tornabuoni, head east along the river and cross the Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s oldest bridge, lined with goldsmiths and dating back to the 14th century. The Oltrarno quarter on the other side is a fascinating warren of craft workshops, bustling piazzas and noble townhouses. Check out Pontormo’s dynamic Deposition in the church of Santa Felicità before heading up the steep medieval lane of Costa San Giorgio. Just beyond the entrance to panoramic Forte di Belvedere, where contemporary art shows are often staged, the lovely rural lane of Via San Leonardo brings home just how close city and country are in the Tuscan capital.
The Colosseum to Isola Tiberina
Unveiled in 2016, the first phase of a major restoration project funded by Tod’s has removed centuries of grime from the Colosseum, the world’s most famous gladiatorial arena. Head from here along Via dei Fori Imperiali and over Capitoline Hill, mother lode of Roman imperial power, to Teatro di Marcello, a Renaissance palace built atop an Augustan-era theatre. Venture into the maze of the Ghetto, one of Europe’s oldest Jewish communities. A slice of wild cherry and ricotta cake from Boccione, a tiny corner bakery on Via Portico d’Ottavia, will set you up for the stroll across to Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island), a boat-shaped island in the Tiber that has long been associated with healing and medicine.
Castel Nuovo to Mergellina
Start with the muscular Anjou and Aragon stronghold of Castel Nuovo, the opulent Bourbon residence of Palazzo Reale and one of Italy’s great opera theatres, Teatro di San Carlo. All three monuments were the political and social engine room of Naples for centuries. Head west along the bustling shopping street of Via Chiaia to the elegant Piazza dei Martiri. Wander through Villa Comunale park, past one of Europe’s oldest aquariums, then along the broad seaside promenade to the fishing port of Mergellina, where a scoop of gelato from local legend Chalet Ciro should ease the walk back.