Italy is one of the most sought-after destination spots in the world. From the food to the architecture to the beaches to the shopping to the friendly people, Italy promises magical experiences and lifelong memories.
However, due to its popularity as a vacation destination, the top cities of Rome, Florence and Venice can be overrun with tourists. It’s hard to get the authentic feel of a city if you are just surrounded by people from Wisconsin or North Carolina — not to mention, that means that you will be waiting in long lines and paying high prices!
Luckily, there are many Italian cities, towns and villages which offer beauty and culture along with fewer tourists and lower travel costs. Check these hidden gems out before they get too popular:
Located in Northern Italy, Turin (or as Italians call it, Torino) is the capital city of Piedmont. This bustling urban center is home to some of the most beautiful architecture and delicious cuisine you will find in Italy, yet it remains low on many Americans’ radar. All the better for you, as it means you will have unfettered access to Turin’s many offerings, including stunning piazzas, historic cafes (where famous thinkers like Frederich Nietzsche dined), art museums, world-famous cuisine, and a bustling nightlife.
This resort town looms over Italy’s famous Amalfi Coast. It boasts Moorish architecture, cliffside gardens, breathtaking hiking trails, and famous former visitors. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, writer D.H. Lawrence and artist Salvador Dali all spent time in this beautiful area. Make sure to stop and visit Pompeii, the ancient city that was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius, which is only 17 miles from Ravello.
If you want to take a step back in time, head to this province in central Italy, which also has a city named Perugia. The New York Times calls Perugia “one of Italy’s most underrated destinations,” and for good reason. The hilltop villages offer panoramic views of the breathtaking region, including Lake Trasimeno, which is the largest lake in Italy. Here, you will find the perfect combination of art, nature and history. Don’t forget to enjoy a thermal bath at one of the hot springs, as well as enjoy a dish with black truffles (commonly found in this area).
4. Conca dei Marini
Do you want to vacation where Italians vacation? If so, head to Conca dei Marini. Here you will find beaches that are less frequented by tourists, as well as gorgeous views and a laid-back atmosphere courtesy of the locals. Don’t miss a trip to La Grotta Dello Smeraldo, a partly-underwater cave which is filled stalagmites and stalactites. (It translates to “Emerald Cave,” because the water in the grotto gives off a glowing green hue). To make the experience even more magical and surreal, there is actually an underwater nativity scene at the bottom of the cave which can be seen from rowboats.
This coastal region in northwest Italy, also known as the Italian Riviera, boasts soaring mountains and rolling hills rich with olive vineyards. It overlooks the Ligurian Sea, and is speckled with small coves and beaches with fine golden sand. From whale-watching to snorkeling, you won’t run out of things to do in this chic yet nature-rich region. And don’t forget to try their famous pesto —Ligurian cuisine is known for its pesto, and of course, seafood!
Located on the “heel” of Italy’s “boot,” Bari is a port city on the Adriatic Sea. It is a large urban center which has a rich history. Here you will find ancient architecture, stunning basilicas, modern museums, and a rich nightlife. Bari is also home to a beautiful coastline and wonderful beaches, so you can soak up the sun and enjoy the warm waves. In addition, Bari is a great spot for shopping and simply soaking in the Italian culture.
Matera is situated in a rocky area in southern Italy. The city is remote, which makes it a less likely spot for tourists to travel, but that doesn’t mean Matera has nothing to offer. The stunning spot has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it truly has something for everyone. Whether you want to wander through Baroque churches and palaces, or spend time in nature exploring Matera’s many caves, this is a place that truly feels magical. It has even been nicknamed the “underground city,” or Citta Sotterranea, for its many underground structures. Make sure to enjoy fresh pasta made with local dried chilies, along with their famous bread.
There’s so much to see, do, and eat in Italy that you’ll never be able to take in everything. Go ahead and explore and happy travels!