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

Cefalu, on Sicily's northern coast, is home to one of Italy's most distinctive seafronts
Cefalu, on Sicily's northern coast, is home to one of Italy's most distinctive seafronts | © Jan Wlodarczyk / Alamy Stock Photo

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, Puglia

Architectural Landmark
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View of Trulli houses in Alberobello, Italy
© Svitlana Belinska / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Bologna, Emilia-Romagna

Architectural Landmark
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Bologna emilia romagna italy city europe street
© Francesco Maltinti / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Verona, Veneto

Architectural Landmark
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Verona at sunrise, Europe, Italy, Veneto, Verona
© STEFANO SPRINGHETTI / Alamy Stock Photo

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, Umbria

Architectural Landmark
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Castelluccio di Norcia (Umbria)
© Marco Saracco / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Sperlonga, Lazio

Natural Feature
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Sperlonga, little harbour and Torre Truglia, Lazio, Italy. Image shot 07/2014. Exact date unknown.
© Mauro Toccaceli / Alamy Stock Photo
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.

Ascoli Piceno, Le Marche

Architectural Landmark
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Piazza del Popolo, Ascoli Piceno district, Marches, Italy
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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.

Tropea, Calabria

Architectural Landmark
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Church Santa Maria dell Isola on Isola Bella, Tropea, Calabria, Italy
© Ivan Vdovin / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Gethin Morgan contributed additional reporting to this article.

These recommendations were updated on May 18, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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