12 Secret Towns in Italy You Need To Visit Before They're Overrun by Tourists

The postcard-worthy medieval houses on La Rocca Hill in Sicily
The postcard-worthy medieval houses on La Rocca Hill in Sicily | © Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Francesca Masotti
8 September 2020

Florence, Rome and Venice are all obvious travel destinations. They’re beautiful, sure, but they’re also expensive and crowded. If you want to enjoy la dolce vita without tourists, read our list of 12 secret Italian towns worth a look.

Alberobello, Puglia

Architectural Landmark
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View of Trulli houses in Alberobello, Italy
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Alberobello is a lovely town near Bari. It is home to the trulli, cone-shaped white buildings that look like houses straight out of a fairytale. The village is a labyrinth of narrow streets and nice piazzas, and it also has a beautiful belvedere that offers fabulous views of the town. Thanks to its beauty, Alberobello has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you want to get the full Alberobello experience, then you have to stay in one of the town’s iconic trulli buildings. Don’t be scared of their ancient looks – the interiors have been adapted to modern life, and they have all the amenities you’d expect in a studio flat. This one holds three guests, but there are a variety of options spread across town.

Bergamo, Lombardy

Architectural Landmark
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Italy, Bergamo, Lombardy: overview on the upper city from the Castle of San Vigilio
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Forget Milan – the real star of Lombardy is Bergamo, a town often ignored by travellers attracted by the fame of the region’s capital city. This romantic walled city is one of the most beautiful in Italy and is filled with cobblestone streets and old palaces. If artsy is what you’re looking for, then look no further than Art Gallery Suite, an apartment that holds up to four guests in old town Bergamo. Artwork can be found everywhere in this stylish flat found in magical 16th-century Palazzo Agliardi.

Treviso, Veneto

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Picturesque canal in Treviso, Veneto, Italy. Italian cityscape
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Treviso is like a small Venice with fewer tourists and crowds. Its historical walled centre is dotted with medieval churches, cobblestone streets, red-brick palaces and tiny old canals that connect buildings, gardens and piazzas. This classy four-person apartment less than a kilometre from the town centre is popular for its modern feel. It’s spacious, gets a lot of light and has a lovely balcony overlooking the river.

Bologna, Emilia-Romagna

Architectural Landmark
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Bologna emilia romagna italy city europe street
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Bologna is one of the coolest towns in Italy. It is mostly frequented by students (Bologna is home to the oldest university in Europe) and gastronomy fans, as it is known to be the Italian food capital. Once you arrive, don’t forget to taste the delicacies of the area, such as lasagne and tortellini. Imagine an apartment that doubles up as a spa retreat. Now check out this couple-friendly flat in the heart of Bologna. It has a chromotherapy shower, luxury jacuzzi and an actual sauna, all to be enjoyed exclusively by its two guests. Perfect for a romantic retreat.

Bolzano, Alto Adige

Architectural Landmark
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Bolzano, Italy. Piazza Walther. Walther Square.
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This bilingual town in Alto Adige, or South Tyrol, is a nice surprise. Bolzano (known as Bozen to the German-speaking population) is near the Dolomite Mountains and is surrounded by medieval castles and vineyards. There’s no better way of watching the beating heart of a town than from the comforts of your own roof terrace. That’s exactly what you get with this stylish two-person Art Nouveau apartment in the centre of Bolzano.

Verona, Veneto

Architectural Landmark
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Verona at sunrise, Europe, Italy, Veneto, Verona

Verona is known as the most romantic town in Italy. Why? It’s where Shakespeare’s tragic love story Romeo and Juliet takes place. For those who are fans, there is nothing better than visiting the 14th-century palace with the famous balcony. If you have extra time, don’t miss the marvelous Roman amphitheatre, where in summer months they have opera performances. This two-person flat, in a 13th-century building called Domus Nova, still has notes of its genteel past as the seat of the Council of Judges of the Venetian Republic. Right in the heart of Verona, it’s hard to escape the historic atmosphere in this sophisticated apartment.

Castelluccio, Umbria

Architectural Landmark
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Castelluccio di Norcia (Umbria)
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Castelluccio is the highest village in the Apennine Mountains at 1,452 metres (4,764ft) above sea level. It is a charming hamlet with lovely squares that offer spectacular views over the mountains and coloured fields that blossom with violets and red poppies. The best time of the year to visit Castelluccio is in spring, from late May to early June. There are very few places to stay in Castelluccio. It’s so small, in fact, that this delightful three-person room is simultaneously on a farm and only 50 metres (165ft) from the main square of the village. Make the most of this location by having breakfast in-house, made with the freshest produce in town.

Cefalù, Sicily

Architectural Landmark
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Aerial view of the city and red rooftops of Cefalu, Sicily, Italy, Europe
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Sicily is one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean, and Cefalù is perhaps the prettiest town of them all. This medieval city is a true jewel with picturesque piazzas, lovely churches and a nice promenade just in front of the sea. Larger groups can enjoy this stunning hillside villa overlooking Cefalù and the sea beyond. An open-plan design, with a private pool, barbecue and outdoor lounge area make this a dream house for any group of nine people or less.

Sperlonga, Lazio

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Sea landscape with Sperlonga, Lazio, Italy
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Tired of the crowds in Rome? Well, forget the capital and head to Sperlonga, one of the nicest villages in the country. Spend some time admiring old palaces, the archaeological museum, gardens with plenty of flowers and the pristine beaches. For large groups and families, Minerva Holiday House is a fantastic choice. This huge house hosts up to seven guests and, thanks to its garden space and extremely close proximity to the sea, is the perfect Sperlonga villa for kids.

Ascoli Piceno, Le Marche

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The colorful beautifully costumed annual medieval Quintana  parade at  Ascoli Piceno,Le Marche ,Italy. Image shot 2006. Exact date unknown.
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Le Marche, east of Umbria, is one of the most underrated Italian regions. Home to spectacular landscapes, nice hamlets and turquoise waters, Ascoli Piceno is one of the most important towns of the region and is near the spectacular Monti Sibillini National Park. This pretty six-person flat has a simple, open-plan design and a huge terrace that loops around the entire apartment. Covered in flowers and overlooking the picturesque Ascoli Piceno, this is a peaceful space for any weary traveller.

Tropea, Calabria

Architectural Landmark
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Church Santa Maria dell Isola on Isola Bella, Tropea, Calabria, Italy
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Often avoided by tourists, Calabria is a hidden gem in the South of Italy that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. The city of Tropea is a nice old town full of picturesque buildings and excellent restaurants. It is also surrounded by sandy beaches. Convenience is the word for this simple two-person apartment in the centre of Tropea. Set in a beautiful old building, this flat is five minutes on foot from the beach, 10 minutes from the train station and surrounded by shops, restaurants and bars.

Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Architectural Landmark
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The medieval walls of Monteriggioni, Tuscany, Italy.
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Monteriggioni is one of the loveliest walled hamlets of Italy, located in Tuscany in the province of Siena. It is an elegant village surrounded by a stunning landscape, and it’s perfect for a romantic weekend. Monteriggioni is incredibly well preserved. It’s as if time had never moved on. Sat just outside the walls of Monteriggioni, this three-person barn-house dating back to 1836 is surrounded by forestry and provides views of Siena in the distance, as tranquil as the old hamlet it neighbours.

Gethin Morgan contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on September 8, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.