Italy is home to some of the most famous cities and towns in the world—Rome, Florence, and Pisa. But the Mediterranean country has much more to offer tourists in terms of towns to visit that few people know about. Sure, you could stick to the major sites and cities, but if you want to truly experience Italy, its history, and its rich culture, you will need to get away from the rest of the tourists and visit the countryside and coasts where the authentic Italy resides.
Presented herein are 27 little-known Italian towns and villages that few people have heard of, much less experienced. Many of these towns boast similar art, architecture, and history as Rome and Florence, but the impact has been magnified by the fact that you will not be sharing the view with thousands of other people all vying for the same photo opportunity.
So, if you are ready to get out and explore all that Italy really has to offer in terms of people and culture, art and architecture, and life and beauty, continue reading as you put together your itinerary. You will surely not be disappointed if you visit at least a handful of these 27 towns and villages in Italy that few people know about, but which deserve to be on every world traveler's list of places to visit.
Gubbio is considered to be the ceramics capital of Italy, which makes it a great destination for people looking to pick up an Italian artisan vase or bowl. However,
there is more to this town than just ceramics.
This medieval town is a beautiful place to visit in the spring when the window boxes are full of blooms. And throughout the year, the hospitality of the people of Gubbio provides for an authentic Italian experience. For those looking to explore a little-known part of Italy's religious history, the Basilica of St. Ubaldo houses the relic remains of the town's patron. Gubbio will provide the tourist an eye-opening visit to the true Italy.
Overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea is what many consider to be the Amalfi Coast's best-kept secret—the picturesque town of Atrani. This little town has a little of all that Italy has to offer, all in a neat little package that is difficult to find anywhere else in the country. From culinary wonders pulled fresh from the sea to art and architecture, Atrani has played a pivotal role in the shaping of the region, but it is still one of the least traveled places in Italy, making it a great place to see off-the-beaten-path, so to speak. If the small towns are key to understanding the true Italy, then this small town is key to understanding how the culture of Italy has been formed over millennia.
25 Polignano A Mare
If you are looking for a piece of ancient Italian history, which is a history that has evolved as much as it has shaped the history of Europe in general, then the town of Polignano a Mare should be on your list of places to visit. Another town situated on the coast of the country,
Polignano a Mare is home to some of Italy's best cliff diving.
You will be treated to beautiful views of the Adriatic Sea as you wind through the narrow streets of this small town with a big perspective on Italian culture. Be sure to visit Polignano a Mare soon before word gets out about this hidden gem of Italy's coast.
Populonia, in Tuscany, was once one of the most important settlements in Italy, yet is relatively unknown today. This coastal location was ideally situated to see enemy ships attacking from a distance but now serves as a place for tourists to relax by the sea. Because of its rich history and importance as a fortress, the castle in Populonia has become a tourist destination for those that know about the town. But, like all of the Italian towns on this list,
Populonia is not so visited that it has become "touristy."
Enjoy the panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea as you relax and unwind, dreaming of a time gone by when the people of Tuscany were establishing themselves to rule the region.
The draw of Lecce is a unique architecture. This town is often considered to be the "Florence of the south of Italy," which is a unique distinction among the many beautiful towns of Italy. The history of Lecce dates back thousands of years and is evident in the Roman amphitheater at the center of town. The climate of the region is so inviting that you will want to spend all of your time outdoors, exploring the streets and alleys of this wonderful little town that has so much to offer to those that are looking for an Italian experience that is truly off the beaten path.
With a backdrop of the Italian Alps, you will be hard-pressed to find a more breathtaking and picturesque town than Saluzzo. From its red tile roofs to the towers and spires, this medieval town is only an hour from Turin but seems to be a world away from the hubbub of mainstream Italian tourism. Another opportunity for the savvy traveler to step back in time to a bygone era when Italy was the center of the world,
Saluzzo will give you a sense of what life is like outside of the world of constant connection,
without completely removing you from that world, of course.
21 Santo Stefano
High in the mountains is the town of Santo Stefano, home to quaint houses that press close against the winding streets and a hotel, providing modern luxury, looking down from above. Do not let the fact that the luxury hotel is located in this village fool you, Santo Stefano is still one of Italy's secrets. Whether you look to stroll up and down the lanes, peeking into shops and sampling the local food, or you are just passing through, you are sure to find yourself welcome in this town that seems all but forgotten by time and the rest of the world.
Urbino is probably the most recognized name on this list, but it certainly makes the cut as a place to visit in Italy. Despite the fact that many people know the name, only a few will actually venture to visit Urbino, which is tucked away from the rest of the world.
This hill town is considered to be a romantic place to visit and idealizes what Italian romance is all about.
Like much of the rest of Italy, there is plenty to do in and around Urbino that will let you escape from life's troubles. Take in the Renaissance art collection or sip an espresso at a cafe. The choice is yours, although you are certain to want to explore as much as possible.
As you travel between Florence and Pisa, you are sure to come across a number of smaller, lesser-known towns. Collodi is one such that is really worth stopping to visit. The town is nestled among the hills that roll across the landscape, and this has created a unique layout of the village. But what really makes Collodi a special place is that the creator of the story Pinocchio is from here, and one can only imagine that part of the story is based here. For the kid in all of us, a visit to this town is sure to bring back fond memories as new ones are formed.
While more a town than a village, Cagliari is home to a beautiful port and is the capital of the island of Sardinia. Because of its importance throughout the Roman and Italian story,
this town is full of ruins and a rich history unlike many other places.
As an island state, you will be arriving by sea, and the view of the town as your boat approaches will leave you breathless, especially if you arrive at a time when the sun is painting everything with a reddish-gold hue. From its ancient history to its more modern amenities, the town of Cagliari will delight visitors with varying intentions of travelling to this beautiful Italian locale.
One will be hard-pressed to find a town in Italy as beautiful as Maratea, with its churches and cobblestones. But because of the fact that few tourists know of this town, you will find yourself with little company aside from the locals as you tour up and down the narrow streets. The varying terrain surrounding Maratea will leave you feeling like you are getting the authentic Italian coastal experience, but as a result of this area being less touristy, you will not be charged tourist prices to enjoy things like a fishing boat ride along the coast. Feel free to take in your surroundings before heading to the converted nunnery to turn in for the night.
Although Ravenna is home to eight UNESCO World Heritage sites and several museums, making it one of the most visited villages in Italy, there are plenty of opportunities for the tourist seeking an "off-the-beaten-path" adventure in this charming town. Although more expensive than other towns, due to its popularity, Ravenna is home to some of Italy's most beautiful hidden treasures. By taking the time to plan your visit in advance, you will be sure to find that even tourist-filled towns have a lot to offer when it comes to seeking out the marvels that have made the castle town of Ravena a piece of Italian history for centuries.
High on a hill overlooking fields of flowers sits the town of Castelluccio, the highest village in the Appenine Mountains at over 5,000 feet above sea level. Backed up against the mountains on one side and with fields of poppies at the base of the hill,
this is truly one of the most picturesque places in all of Italy.
And for those looking to get away from the hubbub of the major cities in Italy, Castelluccio provides an ideal place to simply unwind and relax as you plot your next adventure in the Italian countryside. The simplicity of the village is evident in its church and many plazas.
14 Santa Cesarea Terme
The town of Santa Cesarea Terme demonstrates the evolution of Italian architecture with its clearly-defined early-20th-century look. Located at the heel of Italy's famous boot in the south of the country, this village is probably best known for the thermal hot springs that are found within the caves in the cliff face that the town is nestled against. Santa Cesarea Tereme is a favorite location for Italians to visit, but is still relatively unknown to foreign tourists, which makes it more "Italian" than many other towns and villages on this list. Take a hike through the forest that surrounds the village and you will be presented with breathtaking views all up and down the coast.
13 Marina Di Pisciotta
Marina di Pisciotta, or the marina of Pisciotta, is still relatively unknown to tourists around the world, which makes it the perfect place to escape the tourist traps that dot the Italian countryside. Have you ever dreamed of experiencing the Italy of the past? Then this is the coastal town that you are going to want to visit, especially if you can visit during the "off-season" when the few travelers who have discovered this gem are less likely to be around.
From narrow streets to painted houses, Pisciotta is home to the authentic Italian travel experience,
without the need to share that experience with the rest of the world.
Surely, you have heard of Venice, which means you know how famous it is. But what if there was a place like Venice that was not as popular. Enter the little town of Treviso. If you have visited Venice, you have visited Treviso, but you probably did not actually take the time to get to know this charming little town that you flew into to get to Venice. The town of Treviso has a lot to offer the traveler that is looking for a way to enjoy the slow-going life that Venice has to offer, without the crowds of tourists.
11 San Cassiano
San Cassiano is another Italian alpine village that is virtually untouched by the world of Italian tourism. Famous for its hospitality, this town has been likened to an 1880's snow globe.
If you are a foodie, you will certainly enjoy the veritable feasts that you can enjoy at the number of small huts
that offer more than just a meal to weary travelers. The town of San Cassiano allows tourists the opportunity to experience the Italian Alps, without the need to fight through the crowds of skiers who tend to focus their attention on the resort towns hundreds of miles away from this town.
10 Lake Iseo
If you like to hike and the idea of adventuring out into the Italian wilderness surrounding a little-known lake excites you, then the town of Iseo should be on your list of places to visit that will not be full of tourists. Situated in northern Italy, Iseo has all that you would expect a lake town to offer, minus the crowds of beach goers. Also,
the largest island lake in Italy is located on Lake Iseo, which provides for another relaxing yet secluded spot for you to visit.
And, the fact that there are no cars anywhere in sight makes it even more attractive to those travelers looking to escape from it all. What more could you hope for in a travel location?
9 Castel Rigione
Looking for an idea of a place to visit in the Umbrian region of Italy that is little known but still packs a huge punch when it comes to the picturesque Italian life? Look no further than the town of Castel Rigione. This town, on lake Trasimeno, provides spectacular views from the hills, plenty of architectural examples going back centuries, but none of the big-time crowds that so often are found in this region of Italy. The winding Medieval streets of Castel Rigione are sure to delight you as you look for your next opportunity to experience authentic Italy. If you are travelling in December, be sure to take a gander at the Christmas market.
Matera is an example of the possibility for a town to go from one of the poorest places in Western Europe to an up-and-coming travel destination. Originally known for the honeycomb of caves in the cliff sides,
Matera began its revitalization in the 1960's when the caves were cleared and people returned to the town.
Now, as the hotels, cafes, and art galleries return, so do the tourists. However, the town is still relatively unknown, and so now is the perfect opportunity to travel to this town with its restaurants serving foods that are unlike any food you will have anywhere else in the world. For a unique travel experience, put Matera on your list.
7 Serralunga d’Alba
One of the biggest reasons why anyone travels to Italy is to try the wine, something the Italians have been producing for millennia. However, the fact that Italy is so well-known for its wine means that most of the wine-producing regions and towns are well-visited. That is not true for the town of Serralunga d’Alba, though.
The town is surrounded by vineyards and the estates of families that have been producing some of the best Barolo in the region.
Plus, there is a 12th-century castle for visitors to explore before sampling the wine. If you are looking for a chance to sample some of Italy's finest wine without having to share the experience with thousands of strangers, then a visit to Serralunga d’Alba is for you.
Located in Sicily, Ragusa offers as much charm and experience as the larger cities, but because it is less well-known, it does not offer the large number of tourists. Whether you are looking for an outstanding Sicilian dining experience or an opportunity to explore baroque architecture, you are sure to be delighted by a visit to Ragusa. And if you are looking for landscape, you will not be disappointed by what Ragusa has to offer even the most casual of explorers. Many tourists want to travel to Sicily, but those looking for an authentic Italian experience would do well to avoid the packed places and instead, visit a place like Ragusa.
5 Monte Isola
Do you really want to get away? How about a visit to the town of Monte Isola, located just after a 20-minute ferry ride away from the rest of the world on an island in the middle of a large lake in Lomardy. The fact that this town is in the middle of a lake means that
it's full of water-side cafes and paths, perfect for the traveler who wants a unique experience with their morning cappuccino.
If you have traveled to Italy for the religious structures, as so many people do, then the Ceriola chapel will provide you with a special look at the impact that religion has had on this country and this region.
Trieste is a port town, something that is not very unique in the peninsula-nation of Italy. However, the town is unique because it has a reputation for having the best coffee in the country. Throughout the storied history of Trieste, which includes Romans, Austrian royalty, and Mussolini, to name a few, one thing has remained a constant, and that is the special lifestyle that can only come with a town nestled at the crossroads of the ocean, Western, and Eastern Europe. Because of that, the savvy tourist will find the influence of these and other ethnic groups sprinkled throughout the village.
The unique thing about Alberobello is the buildings. There is a lot of different architecture throughout Italy, but the homes of Alberobello may take the prize as the most interesting.
With their white walls and conical roofs, the trulli stand out against the azure sky of the Italian countryside.
For a complete view of this quaint village, the Belvedere Trulli lookout will give you a view of the entire town with its winding streets and pointy buildings. The town of Alberobello provides a glimpse at just how varied Italian towns can be and will delight visitors who are looking to find a special and lasting memory of their trip.
2 Martina Franca
Martina Franca will give you a glimpse at the crossing of cultures, baroque and Moor, that may be found across southern Europe but is clearly exemplified in this small town that is not a large draw for tourists. Surrounded by olive groves that make an ideal place to get out of the town and wander the countryside,
this village is home to a Wednesday market boasting some of the best olives, fruit, and salami in the region.
If you seek to have the opportunity to experience what it is that makes Italy unique in the world, from beautiful architecture to great food, then you should definitely visit Marina Franca.
1 Montecatini Val Di Cecina
Montecatini val di Cecina offers the best that Tuscany has to offer in a place to visit, no doubt about it. Located near Pisa and Florence, it is a welcome respite from these tourist attractions, while still being close enough to easily access them at will. From the number of rental apartments perfect for families, to the guest houses, restaurants, and shops, you will find everything you need in Montecatini val di Cecina.
Whether you are passing through to visit or staying for a week or longer, you will not be disappointed by the hospitality of this virtually-unknown village.
And even if you leave with nothing more than memories and pictures, you are sure to acknowledge that this place was the best unknown place you visited in Italy.
So, there you have it. 27 new and unique places for you to visit throughout Italy. From ports to islands, hill towns to villages nestled in the mountains, Italy has a lot of virtually undiscovered places to visit that are from from the tourist towns and cities like Pisa, Rome, and Florence. So, if you are ready to get out and explore the true Italy, then take another look at this list and prepare to set out for a number of new adventures and travel experiences.