The Best Cities to Visit in Italy
Italy, a European country with a long Mediterranean coastline, has left a powerful mark on Western culture and cuisine. Its capital, Rome, is home to the Vatican as well as landmark art and ancient ruins. Other major cities include Florence, with Renaissance masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s “David” and Brunelleschi’s Duomo; Venice, the city of canals; and Milan, Italy’s fashion capital.
Italy is home to more than 62 million individuals as of 2017 and is ranked 23rd in population size when compared with other countries throughout the world. Italian culture is steeped in the arts, family, architecture, music and food. Home of the Roman Empire and a major center of the Renaissance, culture on the Italian peninsula has flourished for centuries.
About 96 percent of the population of Italy is Italian, though there are many other ethnicities that live in this country. North African Arab, Italo-Albanian, Albanian, German, Austrian and some other European groups fill out the remainder of the population. Bordering countries of France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia to the north have influenced Italian culture, as have the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Sicily and Sardinia.
Although highly diverse according to the region, Italy is considered to have a temperate seasonal climate. The southern half of the country generally experiences a climate one would expect from a Mediterranean country, with hot summers and mild winters. The northern areas and inland could be described as humid continental, while other inland areas at altitude experience very harsh winters.
Florence is a city in central Italy and the capital city of the Tuscany region. It is the most populated city in Tuscany, with approximately 400,000 inhabitants and over 1.5M in its metropolitan area.
The city attracts millions of tourists each year. The city is noted for its culture, Renaissance art and architecture, monuments, numerous museums and art galleries (Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti). Forbes has ranked it as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Amalfi Coast Italy
The Amalfi Coast is a 50 KM stretch of coastline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region. It’s sheer cliffs and a rugged shoreline dotted with small beaches and pastel-colored fishing villages are a major attraction.
The most popular towns on the Amalfi Coast are Amalfi, Positano, Sorrento and Ravello
Naples, a city in southern Italy, sits on the Bay of Naples. Nearby is Mount Vesuvius, the still-active volcano that destroyed nearby Roman town Pompeii. Naples is the birthplace of the original wood-fired Neopolitan pizza.
Forte dei Marmi Italy
Forte dei Marmi
Forte dei Marmi is a seaside town in Tuscany, Italy, known for its beaches. The Pontile is a long pier offering views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, plus the city, which features the Apuan Alps in the background. Sculptures dot the town center, including the marble Monumento ai Caduti war memorial. Nearby in Piazza Garibaldi, the 18th-century Lorenese Fort is a symbol of the city.
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean, characterized by a jagged and rocky coastline, interspersed with marvelous beaches of very fine sand. The past fifty years have seen Sardinia become a hotspot for tourism, with the Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast) in the northern area becoming a favorite retreat of Italian celebrities. Food in Sardinia is primarily seafood. Spicy fish soups called Burrida and Cassola, along with lobsters, crabs, anchovies, squid, clams and fresh sardines are all very popular dishes and ingredients along the Sardinian coast.
- Falkensteiner Resort Capo Boi
- Hotel Abi D’Oru
- Forte Village Resort – Villa Del Parco & SPA
- Petra Segreta
Santa Margherita Italy
Santa Margherita Ligure materializes like a calm Impressionist painting. You wouldn’t want to change a single detail of the picture-perfect seaside promenade in this fishing-village-turned-retirement-spot, where elegant hotels with Liberty facades overlook yachts. It’s decidedly less bling than Portofino, with some affordable hotel options and a surprisingly workaday town behind the waterfront.
Super Tuscan lovers: Look no further than Bolgheri, right off the Tuscan coast. This area boasts mouthwatering, full-bodied wines made from sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah grapes.
Tenuta dell’Ornellaia is one of the foremost producers in the Bolgheri appellation on the coast of Tuscany, particularly known for making one of Italy’s most famous and expensive wines, Ornellaia. This Bordeaux-style blend is one of the original Super Tuscans, and is made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, instead of Tuscany’s most famous variety, Sangiovese. Masseto is one of the most famous Super Tuscan wines, made entirely from Merlot. It is made by Tenuta dell’Ornellaia and is known for its aromatic complexity, opulent fruit and tannic structure.
NYC – Manhattan – The Neighborhoods
New York City is composed of five boroughs. While Manhattan and Staten Island are islands, Brooklyn and Queens are geographically part of Long Island, and the Bronx is attached to the US mainland. The islands are linked by bridges, tunnels and ferries. Check here for helpful NYC maps and guides.
At its core is Manhattan, a densely populated borough that’s among the world’s major commercial, financial and cultural centers. Its iconic sites include skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and sprawling Central Park. Broadway theater is staged in neon-lit Times Square.
Manhattan is roughly 13.4 miles long and about 2.3 miles wide at its widest. Except at its northern and southern tips, the borough’s avenues run roughly north and south, and streets run east and west. One-way thoroughfares are common, with traffic moving east on even-numbered streets and west on odd-numbered streets.
Fifth Avenue divides the island into east and west sides (for example, locations on 57th Street west of Fifth Avenue are designated “W. 57th St.,” and east of Fifth Avenue, they’re “E. 57th St.”). As you move farther east or west from Fifth Avenue, street addresses increase, usually in increments of 100 from one block to the next.
For north-south avenues, 20 blocks equals a mile, and the street numbers increase as you go uptown. Blocks can be a useful measure of distance, but keep in mind your direction: walking uptown from 1st Street to 6th Street is about a quarter of a mile, but walking the same number of blocks crosstown, from First Avenue to Sixth Avenue, is approximately a mile.
New York is the most ethnically diverse, religiously varied, commercially driven, famously congested, and, in the eyes of many, the most attractive urban centre in the country.
No other city has contributed more images to the collective consciousness of Americans: Wall Street means finance, Broadway is synonymous with theatre, Fifth Avenue is automatically paired with shopping, Madison Avenue means the advertising industry, Greenwich Village connotes bohemian lifestyles, Seventh Avenue signifies fashion.
“New York” was named after the Duke of York, who would go on to become King James II.
NYC – Gramercy Park
Gramercy is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Manhattan. It’s downtown, but it’s almost its own silent corner. There are few tourists compared with the nearby East Village and Soho. At the middle of Gramercy is Gramercy Park, a privately owned enclave built in the 1800’s. Unless you live on the blocks facing the park, you cannot get a key and get in. The community of Gramercy Park isn’t very friendly, but the surrounding parts of Gramercy can be very welcoming.
NYC – Upper East Side
Upper East Side
The Upper East Side has been known as the “Gold Coast” because of the wealthy men and women who dress well and live in this neighborhood. Due to its rich population, the Upper East Side is home to some of New York’s most expensive real estate, often in the form of single floor apartments and generous penthouses. It’s not an ideal place to live if you want to save money, unless you find a cheaper walk-up closer to the river than Central Park. The neighborhood is populated with many elite private schools like the Spence School, Rudolph Steiner School and some of the city’s best public schools. Families from other neighborhoods often tend to move to Upper East Side for its excellent schools.
NYC – Flatiron District
Flatiron is the inner west side of the blocks in the 20’s. The Flatiron District, a really nifty area, gets it name from the Flatiron Building, a building on 22nd and 5th that looks flat from the sides and–surprise–kind of like an iron. The real estate here used to be less than $1 million, however, now you’re likely to see prices around $2.5 million. 23rd street is the heart of the Financial District, and is flanked by Madison Square Park. It is a popular neighborhood among those working in entertainment, particularly models, directors, and media moguls. There are also a number of startups and coworking spaces in the area.
NYC – Chelsea
Chelsea is known as heaven for artists, and is also a bustling gay area. Some of the world’s most famous artists have lived in Chelsea because of the old buildings’ high ceilings and large freight elevators they could use to make and transport their work. Now over 300 art galleries exist in Chelsea. Chelsea is a great neighborhood to live in due to the restaurants, bars, shops and various cultural activities that exist within the vicinity, including the Chelsea Market. Chelsea is home to the High Line Park, a raised site of greenery made from an abandoned railroad track. The Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden are both within walking distance.
NYC – Midtown
Midtown Manhattan is one of the busiest place in NYC. Crawling with tourists, midtown is home to major attractions such as the Empire State Building and Times Square. Midtown is great for people who love crowds and bright lights. On New Year’s Eve, it is swamped with people waiting for the ball to drop. Times Square requires business owners to display illuminated signs, so you’ll never get bored.
NYC – Soho
SoHo, home of the famous shopping street Broadway, is one of the trendiest neighborhoods and also one of the most expensive. There are many high-end restaurants and stores that attract a combination of the local and global elite. Many of the best boutique shops in New York City can be found in SoHo, along with the nicest hotels. As SoHo doesn’t follow the traditional street-naming rules, it can be confusing to get your bearings when first getting to the neighborhood. There’s always something cool to stumble upon, but you can also make generous use of navigation apps.
NYC – Hells Kitchen
Hell’s kitchen may seem like a aggressive neighbor judging by its name, but that’s not the case. According to majority of the locals living here, it’s a very fun neighborhood. It has extensive theatre and restaurant culture. Hell’s Kitchen is now named Clinton, but most NYC citizens haven’t adapted to the new name yet. Hell’s Kitchen is home to many Broadway and off-Broadway theaters. Bryant park, the area’s greenery, has an ice skating rink in the winter and shows movies in the summer for free. You’re not too far from the chaos of Times Square, but it’s a little more peaceful.
NYC – Tribeca
Tribeca is an acronym for “Triangle Below Canal,” which is fantastic if you can afford it. There was a time that Tribeca was one of the most deserted places in NYC as it was filled with warehouses. However, a lot has changed and it closely resembles SoHo. Currently it’s one of the liveliest and hippest neighborhood in Manhattan. Although it’s cool, this comes at a price. The neighborhood is a grid of factories and warehouse buildings, many of them which are old. The buildings are short, so you’ll can see plenty of sky. However, the streets are small and full of dead ends which can be frustrating when driving. Tribeca was once home to Robert De Niro, the founder of the Tribeca Film Festivals. Thanks to him, people in NYC began to admire the cobblestone streets such as Washington, Greenwich and Harrison Streets.
NYC – Upper West Side
Upper West Side
Home to the American Museum of Natural History, the Upper West Side is a great place to live. One of the best parts about the Upper West Side is the ease of access to both Central Park and Riverside Park. These are great places to refresh your mind or go for a jog. The UWS is pet-friendly, with many shops offering bowls filled with water outside for pets passing by. It also has a lot of great restaurants with diverse food options. Although it’s great for living in quiet and with family, there isn’t much nightlife here. Also, the rent can be pricey considering how small the apartments are.
San Francisco – The Neighborhoods
A jumbled collage of colorful neighborhoods and beautiful views, a taste for imaginative cuisine and a zeal for adventure. San Francisco boasts jaw-dropping sights, world-class cuisine, cozy cafes and plenty of booming nightlife venues. Spend an hour or two sunning yourself alongside sea lions on the bay, admiring the views of the city from Twin Peaks, or strolling along the Marina. Or, for the San Franciscan experience, enjoy a ride on a cable car or hop on a boat tour for a cruise beneath the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco is the nation’s leading tech-hub and a popular international tourist destination. The city offers visitors a unique blend of chilly summer fog, steep rolling hills and eclectic mix of Victorian and modern architecture. The Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, and Chinatown are just a few of its recognizable features. The city is also a principal banking and finance center, and the home to more than 30 international financial institutions. The city is home to the University of California, San Francisco, which is entirely dedicated to graduate education in health and biomedical sciences as well as the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco State University, the City College of San Francisco and the University of San Francisco.
Crowds gravitate to the touristy Fisherman’s Wharf area (which offers spectacular views of Alcatraz). The Presidio offers a glimpse of the famous Golden Gate Bridge. The Mission District, the Haight and the Castro for exposure to all of the different varieties of the San Francisco lifestyle.
The Castro is known for being a “gay mecca,” which means it’s also a tourist attraction, but if you’re off the main strip, it’s also a great, even quiet, place to call home. The Castro District, in Eureka Valley, is synonymous with gay culture. Revelers often spill onto the sidewalks at numerous bars, like Twin Peaks Tavern, whose floor-to-ceiling windows were revolutionary when it opened in 1972. The lavish Castro Theatre and the GLBT Historic Museum are also found here, as are homey restaurants and adult shops.
Who lives here: This neighborhood is constantly changing, but the Castro still reflects the high percentage of LGBT residents (singles and families) in the city, and typically they are engaged and actively participate in their neighborhood.
There is no neighborhood in San Francisco where the line between local and tourist is more solidly drawn. This is one of the oldest and most established Chinatowns in the U.S. Beyond iconic Dragon’s Gate, a bustling maze of streets and alleys brims with dim sum joints and other traditional eateries. Also found are herbalists, bakeries, souvenir shops, and dark cocktail lounges and karaoke bars. There are ornate temples, including the landmark Tien How, as well as the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum.
Who lives here: Chinatown has the largest Chinese population outside of Asia. It also has 15,000 people living in 20 square blocks which makes it the most densely populated urban area west of Manhattan.
It’s like the Marina’s big sister with lots of good restaurants and plenty of gyms to work off the calories after. Cow Hollow is an affluent section of town that’s popular with young professionals. Union Street, the main drag, is crawling with chic fashion boutiques, pilates studios, juice shops and beauty salons. Restaurants range from French fine dining to Italian bistros to brunch cafes, and there are also sports bars and wine lounges. The area’s historic past is on display at the landmark McElroy Octagon House built in 1861.
Who lives here: Young urban professionals; families with children
The Financial District is the city’s business center. Among the skyscrapers that dominate the skyline is the striking, spire-topped Transamerica Pyramid building. There is a wealth of happy-hour hot spots and elegant date-night destinations, including the classic Tadich Grill, the city’s oldest restaurant. The Jackson Square Historic District features remnants of the Barbary Coast, a 19th-century red-light district. Living in Financial District offers residents a dense urban feel and most residents rent their homes. In Financial District there are a lot of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks.
Who lives here: Many young professionals live in Financial District and residents tend to be liberal. The median age is 46 and 20% of resident shave families with kids under 18.
This is the ‘hood all of the edgy cool kids move to when they come to SF. Young locals embrace the Lower Haight for its scruffy, laid-back vibe. Cozy coffeehouses, old-school record shops and local art galleries dot the bike-friendly district. The scene perks up after dark with craft beer bars such as the Toronado, a cash-only local institution, plus sports pubs and funky clubs with dance floors. Nearby Duboce Park has a playground and popular off-leash dog area.
Who lives here: Young people; people who love their bikes; hipsters
The Upper Haight can be annoying thanks to the tourists looking for the ’60s and street kids looking for free money, but it’s right next to Golden Gate Park and central to pretty much everything. The Castro is the birthplace of the 1960s counterculture movement, Haight-Ashbury draws a lively, diverse crowd looking to soak up the historic hippie vibe. Upper Haight Street is a hodgepodge of vintage clothing boutiques, record shops, bookstores, dive bars and casual, eclectic restaurants. Bordering Golden Gate Park, the neighborhood features many colorful, well-preserved Victorian homes, including the storied Grateful Dead House.
Who lives here: Former (and current) hippies; hipsters; longtime residents; newcomers. The Upper Haight, like so many neighborhoods, is really a melting pot. You won’t see a lot of suit and ties though.
Hayes Valley used to be super seedy back in the day, but now people use words like “chic” and “trendy” to describe this bustling corridor. Hayes Valley is a cool, revitalized neighborhood in the Western Addition. The main commercial stretch, Hayes Street, teems with upscale boutiques for designer fashions and home decor, plus dessert shops, chill watering holes and a wide array of on-trend restaurants. The close-knit neighborhood features a community garden, a pocket park with art installations, and access to music and theater near the Civic Center.
Who lives here: Young professionals, though Hayes Valley remains diverse, despite gentrification efforts – many different backgrounds and socioeconomic levels. Don’t get confused by Hayes Street. The folks who shop and hang out there are for the most part not neighborhood residents.
It’s kind of like a mini Chinatown that’s also close to a ton of parks. Inner Richmond, positioned between the Presidio and Golden Gate Park, is an under-the-radar, mainly residential neighborhood with a multicultural makeup. Clement Street’s concentration of dim sum joints has earned it the nickname New Chinatown, but casual Burmese, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants also line the blocks, along with independent shops. The area is sprinkled with a number of Russian eateries and Irish pubs.
Who lives here: The Richmond has a lot of Irish and Russian roots and there’s also a big Chinese population.
People either love the Inner Sunset or they hate it. Either way, it’s really not that far out there and it just feels like San Francisco. Inner Sunset, located just south of Golden Gate Park’s museums and gardens, attracts families and UCSF students to its quaint, often fog-shrouded residential blocks. Asian and Mexican restaurants, cozy cafes and dark watering holes cluster near the corner of Irving Street and Ninth Avenue. Urban hikers can climb the colorful 16th Avenue Tiled Steps to see citywide panoramas at hilltop Grand View Park.
Who lives here: People who were born in SF; UCSF students; families.
The Marina has a terrible reputation that anyone who lives there would argue is totally undeserved. You know the people who live there really love it since they’re willing to pay that much rent to live on landfill. The scenic Marina District, on the city’s northern shore, is known for its upbeat bars and restaurants. Fort Mason, a former military base, is a multifaceted arts complex and event space. A connected grassy park, called Marina Green, has a running and bike path and expansive views of Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and yachts on the water. The Palace of Fine Arts, dating back to 1915, is a neoclassical landmark.
Who lives here: Young professionals; people who were in sororities and fraternities; people who were young professionals, but are now older and have babies.
Easily SF’s most popular neighborhood thanks to the sunshine and bar scene, the Mission is also at the heart of almost every housing development and gentrification debate. Named for the 1776-built Mission Dolores, the Mission District is an exuberant, evolving neighborhood with Latino roots and a hipster vibe. Old-school taquerias and eclectic live-music clubs mix with chef-driven eateries and craft cocktail lounges. There are also tattoo parlors, gourmet ice cream shops and Dolores Park, a popular weekend hangout with skyline views. Vibrant murals line streets such as Clarion Alley.
Who lives here: A mixed group – low riders, tech workers, artists, foodies and not-so-retired revolutionaries. Hispanic families; blue-collar workers; hipsters; tech workers; 20-somethings.
Know before you go: some people call it “Snob Hill.” Also, there are a lot of swanky hotels on top of the hill, aka: lots and lots tourists. Still, there’s no denying it’s a gorgeous spot, thanks to Grace Cathedral and the amazing views. Once home to the mansions of the Big Four railroad barons, Nob Hill retains a sense of wealth and privilege. Some of the city’s swankiest hotels are here, as are the ornate, Gothic-style Grace Cathedral and charming Huntington Park. Steep streets are dotted with restaurants and nightspots like the Top of the Mark lounge, with its 360-degree views. The Cable Car Museum exhibits antique cars alongside live machinery.
Who lives here: Upper-class families; young urban professionals; old money.
Noe Valley’s main shopping drag has everything you could need, but if you live in one of the hills surrounding it, be prepared to get your heart rate up on the way home. Noe Valley is a quaint, in-demand place to live that’s geared toward young families. The neighborhood features tidy rows of Victorian and Edwardian homes, and thanks to surrounding hills, has some of the city’s sunniest weather. Stroller pushers and dog walkers jostle along 24th Street, which is stocked with bakeries, wine and cheese shops and relaxed cafes. A weekly farmers’ market is held in the modest town square.
Who lives here: The middle- to upper-management tech/biotech/professional folks who could take the shuttle to work but otherwise drive their Prius/Audi/BMW to work around 10am to avoid rush hour. Families and tech people with young children who appreciate that there are so many Google bus stops nearby.
Known for being home to Italian Americans (which it still is) and beatniks (not so much), North Beach is a bustling neighborhood that gets a ton of bridge and tunnel traffic on the weekends.
Who lives here: It’s still home to a lot of Italian Americans and old-school San Franciscans. A chain-smoking, espresso-drinking artiste wearing a black beret who really, really wants to talk to you about the later films of Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Lower Pac Heights
Thank you realtors for yet another neighborhood that used to be called something totally different 20 years ago. (Western Addition, Upper Fillmore, Lower Pac Heights.) Lower Pacific Heights is an eclectic, pedestrian-friendly part of the Western Addition near ritzy Pacific Heights. Fillmore Street buzzes with designer boutiques, trendy restaurants and cafes. Residents enjoy proximity to long-standing music venues and Japantown’s sushi bars.
Who lives here: People who want to claim Pac Heights, but can’t afford Pac Heights; young professionals
If you like mansions, stunning views, and mingling with the 1%, then you’ll love Pac Heights. Pacific Heights is a posh residential enclave known for its architecturally significant homes, including the opulent Spreckels Mansion and the 1886 Haas-Lilienthal house, a Queen Anne Victorian that’s open to the public. A pair of grassy hilltop parks, Lafayette and Alta Plaza, and the Lyon Street Stairs provide sweeping views of the bay. Fillmore Street is a lively hub with high-end fashion boutiques and cafes.
Who lives here: Well-heeled seniors and entitled 30-somethings who don’t work in tech – Danielle Steele; Nancy Pelosi; Larry Ellison.
It’s always sunny in Potrero Hill. And often times, there’s parking as well. Family-friendly Potrero Hill is an often-sunny, hilly area with bay and skyline views and a mix of condos and classic Victorians, plus parks with sports facilities. A working-class neighborhood until gentrification in the 1990s, it is now an upper-middle-class, family-oriented neighborhood with two freeways and a Caltrain station. 18th Street has quaint eateries and shops. Nearby are gritty music spots and the historic Anchor Brewing Company, which offers tours. On the neighborhood’s eastern edge, industrial-cool Dogpatch, with hip bars and eateries, runs along the waterfront.
Who lives here: Creatives and techies. Upper-middle-class people, often with families.
A lovely extension of Pacific Heights that’s right on the border of the Presidio. Presidio Heights is a serene, tree-lined area featuring many styles of high-end single-family homes, including the Tudor-inspired 1909 Roos House. The vast Presidio park borders the neighborhood, offering residents access to the Julius Kahn Playground, plus hiking and golf. Sacramento and California streets offer a mix of elegant eateries, old-school markets and stylish outposts for fashion and home goods.
Who lives here: Affluent people
The Outer Richmond is still somewhat affordable, which makes it a great place to live, if you don’t care that there are never any cabs or Ubers around. And if you’re okay with constant fog. The Outer Richmond is a low-key district with Russian and Chinese roots, and pockets of casual neighborhood eateries. The foggy area is bounded by the Pacific, sprawling Golden Gate Park, the scenic Presidio and Lincoln Park, which features the acclaimed Legion of Honor art museum. There’s surfing at blustery Ocean Beach, overlooked by the landmark Cliff House restaurant, and the ruins of the historic Sutro Baths.
Who lives here: There are a lot of families in the Richmond District, and a great mix of nationalities, including Asian, Russian, Japanese, and Eastern European residents. Surfers; families; Russians; Irish; Chinese; wealthy people.
Home to the (not actually) crookedest street in the world, hidden staircases, and cozy restaurants, Russian Hill is a favorite spot for people who like the idea of the Marina, but don’t want to live in the Marina. Russian Hill is a quaint, upscale residential community known for the famously crooked Lombard Street, a major tourist destination. The iconic San Francisco cable cars crest the neighborhood’s hills, which provide views of a number of city landmarks including the Golden Gate and Bay bridges. Commercial stretches along Polk and Hyde Streets offer an assortment of trendy and old-school restaurants, bars and shops.
Who lives here: Young urban professionals; couples who haven’t had babies (yet); San Francisco families with old money.
Pretty much like the Outer Richmond, except on the other side of the park. You’re close to the beach, but that means you’re also close to the fog. And at times it can feel like suburbia. The peaceful Outer Sunset neighborhood rests along the city’s foggy western shore, just south of expansive Golden Gate Park. A flat street grid is occupied by unassuming single-family homes and commercial stretches featuring brunch hot spots, Asian restaurants, beer bars and indie boutiques. Often cold and gusty, Ocean Beach is a major destination for surfing as well as walking and biking among sand dunes.
Who lives here: Half of the Sunset’s residents are Asian American. There are also a lot of Irish Americans and plenty of families. And surfers.
SoMa used to be warehouses and seediness; now it’s charmless loft apartments and startups. Still, it is home to the Giants and there are some great food and drink options. During the week, anyway. Truthfully, this neighborhood is hard to define because it’s so sprawling. SoMa, or South of Market, is a vast, warehouse-filled district. It encompasses Mission Bay and South Beach, where the Giants play baseball at waterfront AT&T Park. Surrounding Yerba Buena Gardens is an arts center, sleek convention complex Moscone Center and several museums, including the acclaimed San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). The area is dotted with upscale dining options and high-energy nightclubs.
Who lives here: Yuppies in puffy North Face sweaters buying prepared foods at Whole Foods or big hairy daddies clad in leather chaps in search of the nearest beer bust. Tech bros; homeless people.
In a city full of nice neighborhoods, the TL is not. In fact, it has the some of the highest crime rates in the city. Still, there are plenty of reasons to live here, one of which is affordable housing and the other of which is good bars and restaurants. The famously gritty Tenderloin has underground art spaces, classic concert venues such as the Great American Music Hall and historic theaters staging Broadway and indie shows. It’s funky, colorful streets feature a mix of upscale, trendy and casual restaurants. Nightlife ranges from dark dives slinging beer and shots to speakeasy-style bars mixing craft cocktails. Little Saigon is known for its Vietnamese eateries.
Who lives here: There’s a large homeless population (Drug dealers, drug addicts, and the mentally ill) as well as young people looking for cheap places to live.
Wine Country California
Northern California’s wine country is much more than vineyards and rambling country roads. Here’s how to experience the region’s most charming town squares and thriving communities, many of which have raised hospitality to an art form.
When to Go: Harvest season spans September and October, so plan to visit during those months to see the vines heavy with grapes and the wineries whirring at production pace — but expect to face crowds, pay high prices, and for your first-choice hotels and restaurants to be booked. For better availability (but iffy weather and scenery that’s less lush), arrive between November and March. By spring, the tourist influx starts to thicken again, thanks in part to the profuse mustard bloom.
Cities and towns associated with the Wine Country include Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, Sonoma, Kenwood, Petaluma, Sebastopol, Guerneville, Windsor, Geyserville, and Cloverdale in Sonoma County; Napa, Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena and Calistoga in Napa County; and Hopland and Ukiah in Mendocino County.
Northern California Wine Country
Sonoma County: Alexander Valley, Bennett Valley, Chalk Hill, Dry Creek Valley, Green Valley of Russian River Valley, Knight’s Valley, Los Carneros, Northern Sonoma, Rockpile, Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Mountain, and Sonoma Valley.
Calistoga Wine Country
Calistoga is a town in California with a population of 5,285. Calistoga is in Napa County. Living in Calistoga offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. Many retirees live in Calistoga and residents tend to lean liberal. The public schools in Calistoga are above average.
Calistoga is a small city in California’s Napa Valley. It’s known for hot springs, mud baths and wineries, including one set in Castello di Amorosa, a medieval-style castle. The Old Faithful Geyser of California erupts at regular intervals. Works by Italian artist Carlo Marchiori are displayed at the Ca’toga Galleria D’Arte, in town. To the southeast, Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park has an 1846 mill.
In addition to its highly reputed wineries, Calistoga is dotted with natural volcanic hot springs that are rumored to have healing powers. Consider visiting Bennett Lane, Chateau Montelena, Dutch Henry, and Castillo de Amorosa before heading to the springs for some relaxation.
Calistoga Wine Country Highlights: Calistoga is an Old Western-style town with a California twist. Most of its sights are on or just off its main street (Lincoln Ave.), including the railroad depot that now functions as a quirky little shopping center. Also on the main drag is Dr. Wilkinson’s — one of Calistoga’s many hot-spring resorts, where you can detoxify in a volcanic-ash mudbath. At a bit of a distance from the town itself is the Old Faithful Geyser, which shoots a plume of hot water 60 feet high every 30 minutes.
Napa Wine Country
Napa is a town in California with a population of 79,516. Napa is in Napa County. Living in Napa offers residents a dense suburban feel and most residents own their homes. In Napa there are a lot of coffee shops and parks. Many families and young professionals live in Napa and residents tend to have moderate political views. The public schools in Napa are above average.
Napa is the seat of Napa County, California, in the heart of the Napa Valley wine region. Its downtown is known for late-1800s and early-1900s architecture, a riverfront promenade with shops and restaurants, and an arts scene anchored by the Napa Valley Opera House. The Oxbow Public Market houses a farmer’s market and cheese shop, and the Napa Valley Wine Train visits area wineries via vintage Pullman cars.
The namesake city of this wine country valley draws crowds to its downtown area where you’ll find hip restaurants and wine tasting opportunities. Consider scheduling a walking tour of the historic downtown area or spend the day shopping the area’s chic shops.
Napa Wine Country Highlights: The riverfront Historic Napa Mill building dates back to the 1880s, when it operated as a grain mill (the old tin silos are still attached). It’s now a gourmet shopping center and the home of the endearing Napa River Inn. Look for the mosaic fountain depicting scenes of Napa’s colorful history. Other food-filled retail complexes include the newer Oxbow Public Market (plenty of artisan bites and wines) and the Napa Town Center, where a pedestrian street connects antique buildings — you’ll know it by its two massive oak trees.
Oakville Wine Country
Oakville is a suburb of St. Louis with a population of 36,827. Oakville is in St. Louis County and is one of the best places to live in Missouri. Living in Oakville offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. Many young professionals and retirees live in Oakville and residents tend to lean conservative. The public schools in Oakville are highly rated.
If you’re going to Napa for the wineries, which most people do, you’re going to want to stop in Oakville. It began as a simple water stop for steam trains, but it has grown to be so much more. Oakville is where many of the grapes are grown for the likes of Robert Mondavi, Plumpjack and others. Wine cellar tours, stunning gardens, wine museums and an open-air amphitheater are just a few of the things you can do while in Oakville.
Rutherford Wine Country
Here, you’ll find some of the regions most famed Cabernets. The soil in this area is perfect for nourishing the grapes to create some of the best Cabs in the world. Much like fairy dust, the “Rutherford dust” that is present in wines from this area give them a mysterious, spicy element that you won’t find in wines from other regions.
St Helena Wine Country
St. Helena is a town in California with a population of 6,079. St. Helena is in Napa County and is one of the best places to live in California. Living in St. Helena offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. Many retirees live in St. Helena and residents tend to have moderate political views. The public schools in St. Helena are highly rated.
St. Helena is located in the heart of the Napa Valley and some would argue that the region has its own pulse. Winemakers have been calling St. Helena home since the 1800s, and the area’s history is evident throughout. For a mix of the typical wine-tasting experience with a rich dose of history, visit Beringer and Charles Krug. You’ll also find juggernauts like Sutter Home and Louis Martini in St. Helena.
St Helena Wine Country Highlights: The main thing to do in St. Helena (say “Hel-een-uh”) is to browse the boutiques, galleries, and showrooms on Main Street. Up the road is the Culinary Institute of America, a castle-like building that’s sure to remind you of Hogwarts. Its massive store is stocked with any type of culinary tool or book you could ever need, and its fine-dining facility, Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant, lets you watch as chefs prepare your small plates.
Yountville Wine Country
Yountville is a town in California with a population of 2,982. Yountville is in Napa County. Living in Yountville offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. Many retirees live in Yountville and residents tend to have moderate political views. The public schools in Yountville are above average.
Yountville is one of the most popular places to stay in Napa Valley because it seems to have the best of everything. World-class resorts, top-notch restaurants, shops, bakeries and wine – all within walking distance. What more could you ask for? Here, you’ll find Domaine Chandon (perfect for a morning tasting), Chiarello Family Vineyards, Hill Family Estate and more.
Yountville Wine Country Highlights: Things to see here include the upscale swap meet that is V Marketplace, the art galleries of Beard Plaza, and Thomas Keller’s meticulous garden of ingredients, which you can admire from the sidewalk. But if we’re being honest, this town is all about the restaurants. The big names include Bistro Jeanty, Bottega, Bouchon, Brix, Hurley’s, Lucy, Mustards, Redd — and a little place called French Laundry.
Sonoma Wine Country
Sonoma is a historic city in northern California at the heart of the renowned Sonoma Valley winemaking region. It’s known for its art galleries and the colonial-era Sonoma Plaza. Surrounding this plaza are significant 19th-century adobe buildings including Mission San Francisco Solano and the Sonoma Barracks, once used by the Mexican military. Seasonally, the square hosts a popular weekly farmer’s market.
Sonoma Wine Country Highlights: The town of Sonoma is what the whole county is named after. The plaza’s crowning jewel is Mission San Francisco Solano (also called Sonoma Mission), Mexico’s last and northernmost outpost in California. Take the time to appreciate the town’s deep historical roots, but also enjoy the plaza’s duck-and-geese-filled ponds, whimsical shops, and excellent restaurants.
Healdsburg Wine Country
Healdsburg is a city located in Sonoma County, in California’s Wine Country. As of the 2010 United States Census, the city had a population of 11,254. Healdsburg is a small tourist-oriented town in northern Sonoma County.
Healdsburg Wine Country Highlights: Healdsburg comes up as many travelers’ favorite wine country town because it has everything a getaway destination should: fancy hotels, world-class restaurants, unique shops, and a collection of tasting rooms representing the best local wineries. Even with all those big-money attractions, Healdsburg manages to stick to its friendly — and sometimes quirky — small-town personality. Don’t miss the twice-weekly organic farmers’ market or the interesting (really, it is) Hand Fan Museum.
Mendocino Wine Country
The Mendocino County wine is an appellation that designates wine made from grapes grown mostly in Mendocino County, California. The region is part of the larger North Coast AVA and one of California’s largest and most climatically diverse wine growing regions.
Mendocino Wine Country Highlights: Maybe because Mendocino Village is two hours north of Napa and Sonoma, it’s often overlooked or underrated. But it’s well worth the scenic drive. Enjoy wind-swept coastal views, plus historic architecture, antiques shops and specialty boutiques, and a smattering of tiny museums. There are redwood forests all around, and the best way to get into their ancient groves is via the almost unreasonably fun Skunk Train, an old-fashioned steam-powered train that traverses a circa-1885 railroad.
Guerneville Wine Country
Guerneville is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, California, United States. The town is historically known for the logging community, formed in the late 1800s.
Guerneville Wine Country Highlights: This town (say “Gurn-ville”), on the banks of the Russian River,looks like it could be any small American borough — except that almost every business here happily displays the rainbow gay-pride flag. In addition to its progressive orientation and celebration of all things LGBT, Guerneville’s highlights include its fun Main Street shops, its access to the river swimming or tubing, and the fact that it’s surrounded by one of California’s prettiest redwood forests.
Glen Ellen Wine Country
Glen Ellen is a census-designated place in Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County, California, United States. The population was 784 at the 2010 census, down from 992 at the 2000 census. Glen Ellen is the location of Jack London State Historic Park, Sonoma Valley Regional Park, and a former home of Hunter S. Thompson.
Glen Ellen Wine Country Highlights: Small and sweet, Glen Ellen is a bit different than other wine country cities in that it doesn’t have a truly defined downtown — it’s comprised mostly of woodsy scenery and lovely byways. Also, the people (there aren’t too many) of this unincorporated village are still slightly obsessed with a prolific former resident: Jack London. There’s much that bears his name here, from the Jack London Lodge to Jack London State Historic Park, where you can visit his gravesite.
Angwin Wine Country
Angwin is a town in California with a population of 3,424. Angwin is in Napa County. Living in Angwin offers residents a suburban rural mix feel and most residents own their homes. Many young professionals live in Angwin and residents tend to lean liberal. The public schools in Angwin are above average.
Angwin is a census-designated place in Napa County, United States. California, best known as the site of Pacific Union College. It is part of the northern San Francisco Bay Area.
At the base of the Howell Mountain, you’ll find one of the most storied wine-growing appellations in the world. The fog, mountain air and rocky soil force grapevines to root deeply, and this produces some intense wines. Cade, Ladera and Outpost call Angwin home, but there are plenty of other things to do if you want to skip the tours in this neighborhood. Angwin is a perfect place to enjoy the outdoors. In fact, the area hosts a 22-mile mountain bike race each year.
Deer Park Wine Country
Deer Park is a suburb of Houston with a population of 33,935. Deer Park is in Harris County and is one of the best places to live in Texas. Living in Deer Park offers residents a sparse suburban feel and most residents own their homes. In Deer Park there are a lot of parks. Many families and young professionals live in Deer Park and residents tend to have moderate political views. The public schools in Deer Park are highly rated.
This quiet Napa neighborhood is more residential than touristy. Most people steer clear of Deer Park during their visit, especially if it’s their first visit to wine country. If you do venture into this neighborhood, visit Burgess Cellars and Viader Vineyards. The benefit is that they are likely to be less crowded than the wineries Calistoga, Napa, Rutherford or St. Helena.