The country of Italy has plenty of famous staples, bucket list worthy travel destinations, and a history that spans over centuries, but there’s more to it than pasta, the Colosseum and gondola rides. With a diverse geography, and a wealth of cultural influences, travelling from the top to the bottom of the boot can feel like crossing through numerous different countries. Italy is well worth exploring, and that means going way off the beaten tourist path and checking out some of these hidden sights.
This place looks like a town was plucked from a valley at the base of the Swiss Alps and planted in Italy. With one of the largest glacial lakes in the country (formed at the end of the last Ice Age), and the largest collection of Roman ruins in Northern Italy, Lake Garda is a great alternative to the main cities in Italy. Huge mountains lie on one side of the lake and a flat green plain sits on the other side where the town is located. The lake is bordered by green gardens, a small castle, forests, and hot springs. It’s popular for outdoor sports such as swimming, kayaking, windsurfing and sailing in the summer.
Only 30 minutes away from Genoa, this small picturesque beach city has gorgeous blue water, colourful buildings lining the shore, and an annual seafood festival every summer. What more could you ask for? Lie on the beach and soak up the sun in this small town with its nautical charm.
This town has been continuously ranked as having the best quality of life in all of Italy. Not only will you truly enjoy la dolce vita, but you’ll also get a taste of ancient Roman history, plenty of art, beautiful architecture and some fictional Shakespeare history. A modern city with old world charm, Mantova is well worth the trip.
Castelrotto, Trentino-Alto Adige
This quaint little Italian town makes you feel like you’ve been teleported to the German countryside. Predominantly German speaking, with colourful buildings, vibrant flowers, and the smell of apple strudel in the air, Castelrotto, or Kastelruth as the locals call it, is a breath of fresh air — quite literally, as the city is just south of the Dolomite Mountains with plentiful fresh mountain air.
This little beach town has both gorgeous beaches, and a quaint little classic Italian town on the hill. If you want to slow down and have the best of both worlds, the less traveled town of Sperlonga is a great choice. The beaches are perfect for lounging, and the town beckons to be explored.
This place is Instagram worthy with its characteristic trulli constructions: white drystone huts with cone shaped rooftops. Some rooftops even bear symbols, making them an attraction. Puglia is the heel of the boot shape of Italy, and therefore more similar in climate to Greece and its Mediterranean beach life. Get there while it’s still lesser known because it has recently been gaining popularity.
Monte Isola, Lombardy
This gorgeous little island sits in the middle of a lake in Northern Italy and is only five square miles total. From the photos, it could be easily mistaken for Hallstatt, Austria, surrounded by water and green and snowcapped mountains in the distance. Don’t miss the floating piers during the summer that let people walk from one island of the lake to another.
Colletta di Castelbianco, Liguria
Deep green valleys wedged between flat topped cliffs surround this ancient village built entirely of stone. It was believed to be established as a defence in the 13th century in a battle against Saracens. The town is now a tranquil place where many of the residents have painted their doors bright blue or red, an even more charming contrast against the stone architecture.
Calling all artists: this little town near Bologna is famous for its Festival of The Painted Wall. Every two years, artists from all over the world flock to this town to flex their creative muscles and decorate the walls. Arrange your next trip to Italy during the festival and leave your mark on the old Italian town. Then, stop in Bologna for the best food you’ve ever eaten.
Polignano di Mare, Puglia
This southern Italian town is famous for its gorgeous beaches on the Adriatic Sea. The town itself looks as if it was carved from the cliff it sits atop, with its monochromatic color scheme of natural stone. There’s even a fancy hotel with a gorgeous cavernous restaurant where guests can dine inside a grotto.
This little town is on the eastern edge of Lake Garda and about 75 miles from Venice. Green mountains, a gorgeous lake, and picturesque scenery make this place a must visit.
Corinaldo, Le Marche
Warning: this town is on a hill and has lots of stairs, so if you’re not a fan of hiking don’t say we didn’t warn you. The view from the top is well worth it, however. The town is known for its well preserved city walls from the 14th century and gorgeous views. There is also an epic Halloween festival every October, too, which is noteworthy since Italians don’t really celebrate Halloween as a rule.
This little town is on top of a hill, on an island. The colourful houses, palm trees, and only 8,000 residents makes it feel more like a tropical getaway than an Italian town. Everywhere you look there’s gorgeous blue water and plenty of island vibes.
This city still has the medieval walls around the heart of the original town, which makes it just as charming as it is beautiful. A well-kept city and modern lifestyle with a historic backdrop gives you both plenty of comforts and plenty to see. The city hosts a few events a year such as a cosplay event and summer concert series. Lucca is famous for the tree growing on top of a clock tower, which you must hike and see for yourself.
San Gimignano, Tuscany
Known as the city of towers, this extremely well preserved medieval town still sits inside its 13th-century walls. The city sits atop a hill where 14 of the city’s original towers still stand tall and can be seen as you approach the mountain. The area is known for its white wine, Vernaccia, and breathtaking views of rolling green hills that almost seem like a Hollywood movie set backdrop.