Florence, Rome, Venice. Beautiful cities to be sure, not to mention some of the planet’s most visited travel destinations. Yet this popularity means that, for many, Italy’s premier hotspots are too expensive and overcrowded to warrant a visit. If you want to enjoy a true taste of Italy without the tourists, read our list of secret Italian towns you need to visit before they’re overrun by tourists.
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 charming piazzas, whilst 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.
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.
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.
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.
This bilingual town in Alto Adige, or South Tyrol, is a nice surprise. Bolzano (known as Bozen to the German-speaking population) sits near the Dolomite Mountains and is surrounded by medieval castles and vineyards.
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, which in summer hosts regular opera performances.
Castelluccio is the highest village in the Apennine Mountains at 1,452m (4,764ft) above sea level. It is a charming hamlet with lovely squares that offer spectacular views over the mountains and 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.
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.
Tired of the crowds in Rome? Well, forget the capital and head to Sperlonga, one of the prettiest seaside villages in the country. Spend some time admiring old palaces, the archaeological museum, gardens redolent with flowers and of course the pristine beaches.
Le Marche, east of Umbria, is one of the most underrated Italian regions. Home to spectacular landscapes, pretty hamlets and turquoise waters, Ascoli Piceno is one of the most important towns of the region and sits close to the spectacular Monti Sibillini National Park.
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 charming old town full of picturesque buildings and excellent restaurants that is also surrounded by sandy beaches.
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, ad it’s perfect for a romantic weekend. Monteriggioni is incredibly well preserved – as if time had never moved on.