Paradigms in the pathogenesis of urinary tract infections have shifted dramatically as a result of recent scientific revelations. Beyond extracellular colonization of the bladder luminal surface, as traditional clinical thinking would hold, uropathogenic bacteria direct a complex, intracellular cascade that shelters bacteria from host defenses and leads to persistent bacterial residence within the epithelium. After epithelial invasion, many organisms are promptly expelled by bladder epithelial cells; a minority establish a niche in the cytoplasm that results in the development of biofilm-like intracellular bacterial communities and serves as the primary location for bacterial expansion. Exfoliation of the superficial epithelial layer acts to reduce the bacterial load but facilitates chronic residence of small nests of bacteria that later reemerge to cause some episodes of recurrent cystitis, a familiar clinical scenario in otherwise healthy women. Advances in both in vitro and animal models of cystitis promise to provide insights into the bacterial and host transcriptional and biochemical pathways that define these pathogenic stages.