Posted on 17/07/2021
Move over Florence and Rome, these are Italy's top 13 underrated gems.
Achingly beautiful scenery, a rich cultural heritage and exquisite gastronomy make Italy an unrivalled destination any time of year. From majestic Roman architectural feats to the lofty heights of Florence's Duomo, we're all familiar with the must-see sights.
Although the rolling Tuscan hills and Milan's Łber chic ambiance beckon visitors from far and wide for a reason, there's a lot to be said for lesser-known spots. From otherworldly fishing villages to stunning bucolic hamlets, there's a bounty of little-known hideaways off the beaten track waiting for you to visit. Here are 13 that will have you asking yourself: what Cinque Terre?
Cefalý is downright gorgeous, and just an hour's drive from Palermo. It has served as the setting for multiple films, such as the highly revered "Cinema Paradiso". Explore the town's opulent cathedrals, and embark upon an evening passeggiata along the seafront before catching a terracotta sunset at rocky crag La Rocca.
Crouching in the shadows of nearby Milan, beautiful Bergamo is often overlooked. This beguiling destination steeped in history is a town of dualities; the lofty heights of its hilltop town Citta Alta serving as a fabulous contrast to the more modern Citta Bassa which lies below. Epic architecture, panoramic views and decadent dining await. Fun fact: this is also where San Pellegrino sparkling water comes from.
The pastel hues of the five villages studding the Italian coast, the Cinque Terre, are undeniably beautiful. But to avoid wrestling with the unruly crowds they draw, try Tellaro just one hour south. This quaint fishing village is famed for having inspired Lord Byron, and when you see its winding alleys and hidden beaches, you'll understand why.
Although not as well known as its neighbours Positano and Amalfi, Ravello is an underrated diamond on the Italian coast. The quaint town is entirely walkable, so there's no need to worry about renting a car. Once you've explored Ravello's striking 11th century Duomo, you can head to Amalfi which is just an hour's trek away.
Move over Lake Como, you've got a rival in Iseo. Its shimmering waters in fact make up the Lombardy region's smallest lake, and the region itself is home to just three towns, Lovere, Sarnico and Iseo itself. Melt-in-your-mouth burrata and gelato sound good to us.
Although lesser-known than other majestic Italian metropolises, Padua has a lot to say for itself. A mecca for intellectuals, artists and students alike, Padua is a tapestry of diverse cultures. On a historical level too, Padua's Scrovegni Chapel offers murals which outdate those of Rome's Sistine Chapel by more than a century.
Castellucio is a charming hilltop village, the highest village in the Apennine Mountain range. An impressive 5,000 feet above sea level, the village is fringed by snow-capped mountains on one side, and sprawling green plains carpeted in flowers on the other.
Alberobello is a postcard-perfect town near Bari in Puglia. The town is full of the white-tipped conical rooftops that define the region's signature architecture: the trulli. These distinctive rooftops have earned the town UNESCO World Heritage site status, and the lookout at the top of Piazza del Popolo offers dramatic panoramic views of this seemingly snow-dusted skyline.
This spectacular Italian town is carved into bare rock on the side of a mountain, and if that doesn't tempt you then we're not sure what will. Studded with ancient ruins and a 9th century Saracen castle, the town is beautiful. The most ethereal views can be found from what's allegedly the highest zipline in the world, Il Volo dell'Angelo.
The former hideaway of numerous Roman emperors, Sperlonga is a quaint town hugged by the Tyrrhenian Sea. Just an hour from Rome, you can pop here for the weekend for a taste of dolce farniente with a backdrop of splendid beaches and lush swathes of green. The town also boasts a fantastic museum, the Museo Archeologico di Sperlonga, which has the ancient ruins of Emperor Tiberius' old villa as its setting.
Drive an hour south of Turin, and you'll find the sleepy but spirited town of Saluzzo. Its striking cityscape is peppered with red roof tiles, bell towers and towering spires set against the dramatic backdrop of the Cottian Alps. Must-sees like the regal La Castiglia, and a Renaissance palazzo-museum showcase this medieval town at its best.
Having carved itself into the rolling Tuscan hillside, Collodi lies in between Florence and Pisa. This picturesque medieval village was the home of Pinocchio and his creator, Carlo Collodi. Even if you're not a cartoon aficionado, you must stop by Pinocchio Park, home to the tallest Pinocchio statue in the world. You also mustn't miss the Garzoni Gardens, which are peppered with Renaissance statues, dazzling fountains and bamboo groves.
You'll be awestruck by the lack of crowds in this hidden gem, often bestowed with the nickname "Florence of the South". Breathtaking Baroque architecture, Roman ruins, and a splendid Puglian gastronomic scene are just three of its accolades. As an added bonus, it's just 25 minutes from the Adriatic Sea.