When it comes to Italy, we all know the gist – the archaic ruins of Rome, the impressive dome of Florence, the romantic canals of Venice and some winter fun in the Italian Alps. But does this meant that Italy has nothing more to offer? Absolutely not!
Between the buzzing streets of tourist meccas and top attractions that inspire swarming crowds, it’s high time you considered visiting less popular spots that will still astound you with their beauty and cultural richness comparable to all the Italy’s favorites.
Ready to discover the hidden gems of Italy? Here’s a selection of amazing spots off the beaten path that are simply waiting to be discovered and enjoyed.
Singing the tunes of Puccini’s famous arias, you’ll enjoy visiting Lucca – the hometown of the great opera composer – and an antique town that deserves attention. Wander through the streets of its historical center enclosed in impressive and fully-intact Renaissance walls.
You’ll find some of the most beautiful piazzas of Tuscany: Piazza San Michele, Piazza Napoleone and Piazzale Verdi – you’ll be amazed by their architectural beauty. A must see is the oval-shaped Piazza dell’Anfiteatro – have an aperitivo in a charming trattoria and enjoy the city’s tranquil atmosphere.
This little picturesque village is famous for its delicious Brunello di Montalcino wine, but that’s not all it has to offer. In fact, Montalcino dates back to the Etruscan times and boasts quite a few Renaissance wonders, typical for the region of Tuscany – like the towering Rocca fortress or the impressively thin tower of Palazzo dei Priori.
Admire the natural setting of Parco Naturale della Val’Orcia and explore this Tuscan gem with its captivating streets and corners, stylish wine bars and cozy trattorie. You can enjoy a lively cultural life as well – every July, the city hosts the classic Jazz&Wine Festival.
This gem is located in the north of Italy. Among the picturesque mountains, you’ll find a small city full of historical jewels hidden within its walls. The town itself offers a vibrant cultural atmosphere – it’s definitely much more Italian than the nearby Bolzano.
Have a walk along the narrow streets and look for the Renaissance-era pastel-colored palazzi with their characteristic wooden balconies. Admire Trento’s spacious Piazza Duomo and the beautiful architecture of Case Cazuffi Rella. Don’t forget to visit the impressive Castello del Buonconsiglio, which houses breathtaking frescoes by Romanino and the Dossi brothers.
photo credit: campinggalsole
When visiting the amazing city of Florence, travelers tend to miss out on the little town of Fiesole overlooking this impressive city. Just 10 minutes outside Tuscany’s permanently overcrowded jewel you’ll find a place that not only offers some spectacular sights on the Florentine Duomo, but itself boasts quite a few marvels.
If you’re a history buff, you’ll surely enjoy the ancient Etruscan Acropoli and walls, as well as breathtaking Roman ruins like teatro romano. Top spot of Fiesole is the local casa del popolo – drinks are cheap and the views are simply to die for.
photo credit: girlandgraff
This little town used to be a great treasure for folks ranging from pirates and Saracens to other enemies of Naples. Today it offers some scenic sights and quite a few architectural wonders. Have a look at the town’s castle and cathedrals, all juxtaposed with jaw-dropping rock formations.
Among them, you’ll find the most famous one – the Pizzomunno, which is a 25 meter-long vertical monolith that rises from the intensely blue waters surrounding the town. Walk along the beautiful beach called Spiaggia del Castello and enjoy the night-lit skyline of Vieste on a charming evening.
Between Florence and Venice you’ll find a wide stretch of land called Emilia Romagna – if you look closely, you might encounter one of Italy’s finest hidden gems – the marvelous city of Ferrara. Developed under the rule of d’Este family, Ferrara has grown into a beautiful city, full of narrow streets and beautiful piazzas.
What sets Ferrara apart are its picturesque red brick houses, so very untypical for Italian Renaissance cities. What to look for? The impressive Estense castle, St. Anthony monastery, the magnificent Via delle Volte and the basilica of San Giorgio Martire. For some stunning architecture and captivating art exhibitions, head straight to Palazzo Diamante – it won’t disappoint you.
photo credit: wikipedia
Often called the Versailles of Italy, Caserta makes a great impression on visitors. The town is mostly known for its majestic 18th-century Royal Palace, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasting around 1200 rooms – each decorated in completely different styles!
If you’re a nature lover, you’ll adore the park surrounding the palace. With its fountains, waterfalls, lakes, and an English garden, walking around this estate will be a feast for the eyes. After visiting Reggia di Caserta, make sure to spot the picturesque Aqueduct by Vanvitelli and the nearby Palazzo Vecchio, which once served as a residence for the royal court.
photo credit: apicaserta
You’ll find the town of Volterra when moving along the traditional tract between Florence and Siena. During the last few years Volterra attracted many fans of a certain famous vampire-themed trilogy – let’s just hope no tourists disappeared in the process and became the meal of the bloodthirsty Volturi clan.
Still, the town has maintained its quiet atmosphere and today serves as Tuscany’s prime example of a medieval town. Visit its central piazza to admire the beautiful Palazzo dei Priori, which is incidentally also the oldest town hall in Tuscany. Have a walk on the stunning Balze cliffs and visit Volterra’s historical Duomo. Don’t forget to try one of the typical sweets of the region, such as castagnaccio or salame di cioccolato.
Now, this is a real treat. Called the Subterranean City, Matera’s unique architecture recognized by the UNESCO might in fact be familiar to anyone who’s seen certain cult movies. Remember the ancient city of Jerusalem from Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ or John Moore’s The Omen? That was in fact Matera.
Its oldest district is called the Sassi and it’s considered one of the first human settlements in Italy. Have a look at the amazing volcanic rocks used to build Matera’s most important sights and don’t forget to visit the beautiful Cattedrale di Matera, which offers a wealth of frescoes and a 52 meter tall bell tower that you can see rising above the city’s characteristic skyline.
Moving towards the south of Italy, you’ll be tempted to visit a small town on the coast of Puglia. Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its iconic white beehive-shaped houses. You’ll find them in Zona dei Trulli – a district that boasts 1500 of them!
Named after an oak forest Arboris Belli that used to surround the area, Alberobello will simply take your breath away. You can even sleep in one of those little houses and take a stroll through the city to visit its towering sanctuary of the Parrocchia Santuario Basilica S.S. Cosma e Damiano.
It’s safe to say that Italy isn’t just about Rome, Florence, Milan or Venice. Small villages and towns are just as worth a visit – and you won’t get trampled by a swarm of tourists trying to make the most from their time in Italy. Leaving the crowded and noisy streets in favor of beautiful Italian countryside is a great idea – who knows, maybe you’ll discover a true hidden gem yourself?
The article was written by Isabel Wiliams of http://www.bizdb.co.uk/