The ancient streets of Rome and the winding canals of Venice will always be amazing. You’ll never tire of the hills of Tuscany and the cliffs of the Amalfi Coast. But there are hidden gems of Italy that are equally as moving and worth the experience.
But maybe there’s that part of you that’s looking for unique things to do in Italy. Maybe you want to go somewhere most people don’t know about. If you’ve ever wanted to experience Italy off the beaten path, keep reading for my list of the 25 best places to visit.
Saturnia Hot Springs
The Saturnia Hot Spring is definitely off the beaten path! It’s basically a rugged hot springs park outside the tiny village of Saturnia in the middle of the Tuscan countryside.
These stunning cascading pools are fed by sulfurous underground springs, resulting in sky-blue pools that culminate in waterfalls at the bottom! Year-round, the water is a cozy 37.5 degrees Celsius and it’s glorious to soak in one of the little pools. It’s free to visit and popular with locals.
Another hidden gem of Italy is the city of Bologna in Northern Italy. It’s a fascinating city full of rich culture and a long history. People come for Bologna’s iconic food scene and beautiful Renaissance-era architecture.
A must-see, while you’re in the city, is the University of Bologna. This is the oldest university in the Western World, established in the 11th century! And the city’s medieval center is another popular attraction, with fine structures like the Two Towers. I also suggest exploring Bologna’s squares, like the Piazza Maggiore and the Piazza Maggiore.
Located in Liguria on the northwestern coast of Italy is a seaside village. This is Portovenere, and it might remind you of the popular Cinque Terre nearby. But this gorgeous medieval town is much less well-known and just as beautiful!
Over the centuries, Portovenere’s dramatic oceanside cliffs have been coveted by military leaders and beloved by English poets. And much like Cinque Terre, the village is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site with different medieval ruins. You could spend your days exploring the winding narrow streets, eating at local restaurants, and swimming in the Gulf of La Spezia.
Another hidden gem of Italy is the island of Sardinia, one of the largest of Italy’s islands. It’s a rather diverse place with all kinds of natural areas, and gorgeous undeveloped beaches that make for the perfect summer getaway. You can explore the gorgeous, sleepy villages filled with painted buildings and ancient ruins.
Or take a dip in the unbelievably turquoise water of the Mediterranean with a visit to Cala Goloritze. This small beach is surrounded by towering rock formations. Or you can visit the Costa Verde on the western side of the island with miles of half a dozen expansive, untouched sandy beaches!
If you’re planning a trip to Italy in the fall, consider a stay in Bogliasco near Genoa. This Feels exclusive and glamorous, known mainly by Italians as the ultimate gulf-side getaway that feels frozen in the last century.
Travel along cobblestone streets and you’ll find yourself among levels of cliffside terraces painted in shades of blush pink, cream, goldenrod, and burgundy. Check off your days visiting medieval churches, exploring art museums and galleries, and eating yummy pasta at outdoor restaurants.
Nestled in the vibrant, lush Po Valley, the city of Cremona has a fascinating heritage. First of all, it contains a lot of fascinating Romanesque-Gothic architecture with archways and cathedrals. The Civic Museum Ala Ponzone is also worth a visit with different artifacts from Cremona. You’ll see fine art, musical instruments, and practical objects from Cremona representing the 1400s through today.
But the city of Cremona is most well-known for its music history. Many famous Italian composers have either been from here or trained here. It’s also known for producing some of the world’s best violins, being the birthplace of the original Stradivarius Violins. Cremona continues to be a center for violin craftsmanship to this day.
If your dream vacation in Europe is a quiet medieval village off the beaten path in Italy, check out Brisighella. It’s the picture-perfect place where you can enjoy a quiet moment with an espresso at a café, and you’ll be required to speak Italian.
Brisighella is one of those destinations in Northeastern Italy with plenty to do, but it’s still off the radar of most international tourists. Take in cobblestone streets winding through romantic, earth-toned city squares. Or explore the 14th-century castle crowning hills lush with olive orchards and vineyards.
On the north side of the little town is a beautiful wildlife park with walking trails and really neat ruins of a 10th-century castle! And locals love Brisighella for the area’s thermal springs, as well as its prized olive oil.
Bassano del Grappa
History lovers will want to explore Bassano del Grappa, a beautiful old town in Veneto at the foot of the Italian Alps. It’s like something out of a fairytale, with the River Brenta winding through it, terra cotta shingled structures curling over the hills, and a medieval castle in the background!
Bassano is only an hour’s train ride or car ride from Venice, but it’s not a well-known tourist destination. Still, there are plenty of beautiful historic structures, many of which date back to the 1200s. There are gorgeous churches that you can tour, one of which dates back to the year 1000!
There are art museums, a small grappa museum, and a war museum, the Museo del Ponte degli Alpini. It contains artifacts from both world wars and tells the tragic involvement that Bassano had during World War I and II, as well as the impact on life afterward.
A treasured secret of Italy’s southern region of Calabria is the coastal town of Tropea. Summer is an ideal time to visit with breathtaking cliffside views of the peninsula’s rocky western coast. Spend your days sunning on the white sand beaches framed by bleached cliffs topped with medieval castles and cathedrals!
A must-see is the Cattedrale di Maria Santissima di Romania, built in the 1100s. Inside, you can see the famous painting, The Virgin Mary of Romania. There are so many stories from the following centuries of the Virgin Mary visiting the bishop to protect the town from coming dangers, such as bombs during World War II that failed to detonate!
During a trip to Pisa, take a day trip to Lucca. The village’s 16th-century architecture is what makes it one of the hidden gems of Italy. Lucca is famous for the Renaissance-era city walls that encircle the town center. You can walk or cycle the paved paths through parkland along sections of the wall and visit 11 different historic bastions. There’s also a lovely botanical garden located between 2 bastions of the wall.
Lucca is called the “city of a hundred churches,” each with its own personality and unique design. It’s a beautiful town to wander, especially the historic town center with its walkable cobblestone streets. Make sure to check out the elliptical Piazza dell Anfiteatro, once a Roman amphitheater. Today you can patron one of the restaurants or cafes in this square for a memorable experience! Discover more about Lucca.
Locorotondo is one of the magical, white-washed villages in the coastal region of Puglia. This quiet agricultural village is a bit of a way from the eastern coast of Italy. Still, Locorotondo has all that classic Mediterranean charm, set to the backdrop of a lush, green valley.
It’s the perfect place to enjoy shopping for artisan goods and designer clothes. You’ll find ancient, winding streets packed with shops, cafes, and restaurants. Spend the afternoon outside of cafes decorated with vines, potted flowers, and string lights. Or visit one of the many wineries in town, since the region is known for its still and sparkling white wine!
Come to the ancient hillside town of Sorano in the heart of Tuscany for the beautiful, weathered structures and amazing food culture. Sorano is filled with stone buildings with tile roofs, cobblestone passageways, and steep staircases.
It’s fun to walk the fortified structures built into the rocky hills of Sorano, including the impressive Masso Leopoldino. Or there are the ruins of the 14th-century Orsini Fortress that tower over the city.
Besides its appealing architecture, Sorano is mostly known for its dairy and meat production. You’ll find shops carrying local sheep’s milk and cheeses, especially ricotta.
And you have to visit Sorano’s salumerias for local Sorano ham!
Plus, you have more medieval hillside villages that are just as enchanting. And you’ll find plenty of places to stay in the countryside surrounding Sorano with many affordable hotels and B&Bs.
Vicenza is one of those hidden gems of Italy that you’ll want to enjoy with someone. Plus, it’s the birthplace of Luigi da Porto, who wrote Romeo and Juliet! Why not enjoy a romantic getaway in this romantic Venetian village?
It’s a bustling city full of museums, art galleries, and piazzas with stunning sculptures and fountains. There are intricately decorated archways and baroque churches. Walk arched bridges across canals lined with flowering bushes and weeping trees. Or you can spend every meal at a different restaurant or bar!
For the full Vicenza experience, visit the Palazzo Leoni Montanari, a baroque-style palace from the 1600s that doubles as an art museum. Or see what’s playing at the historic Teatro Olimpico, the first indoor theater in Europe.
Orta San Giulio
Enjoy a beautiful Italian vacation in Orta San Giulio along the eastern bank of Lake Orta in northern Italy. You’ll fall in love with this picture-perfect lakeside town! Set before a sparkling lake, you’ll find colorful houses, ornate mansions, and romantic churches framed by the Italian Alps.
Walk cobblestone streets and find secret courtyards, lush gardens, and stairways descending to docks along the water. You can enjoy all of the popular bars, restaurants, and retail shops along Via Olina or visit one of the lakeside eateries for a nice view while you eat. There are hiking trails to peaks for amazing views of the lake, or you can explore out a bit for swim beaches and boat charters.
Just 120 kilometers north of Rome, the town of Bagnoregio offers a few attractions like local museums and restaurants. But the big draw here is the setting of local life. Book a hotel or B&B and enjoy local life among the hills and sandy canyons. There are hiking trails and a few local historic sites, as well.
The big attraction is the Civita di Bagnoregio. You can only reach this “dying city,” by a pedestrian walking bridge, and you have to pay an entrance fee to get in. It’s fascinating to see the few residents who remain in this crumbling town, and the views are amazing. It’s definitely one of the most unique places to visit in Italy!
If you’ve always imagined living the charmed life on the Italian Riviera but can’t justify the prices or deal with the crowds, Rapallo might be for you. It’s nestled into a cove north of the more popular Portofino.
You’ll have no regrets visiting this stunning port city, with its fascinating historic towers and castles. Stroll down narrow cobblestone streets and you’ll enjoy Rapallo’s brightly painted buildings. Or enjoy one of the restaurants and cafes with fresh pasta, gelato, and more.
In the summer you can enjoy private and public beaches and boat tours. Use Rapallo as a base to take day trips to other parts of the Riviera, or spend your days enjoying this beautiful, relaxing city.
If you love to get outdoors, visit Vieste, inside Gargano National Park. It’s the perfect beachside getaway, but also a great home base to explore the surrounding Gargano Peninsula, with its old-growth forests and medieval villages. Then you can just come back to your quiet stay near the beach!
In Vieste, you can enjoy museums and dockside restaurants. And all around are expansive beaches, both public and private, with golden sand, grottos, and rock formations. A must is Spiaggia del Castello, where you can see a massive limestone sea stack that has its own local legend!
Procida offers so much to visitors, from great beachside experiences to rich local culture. The island is part of the Flegrean Islands off the coast of Naples.
When you see the historic old town from the water, you’ll begin to understand why it’s one of the hidden gems of Italy. The entire coastline is filled with houses, villas, and churches all competing for attention in an array of bright colors.
You can snorkel at the marine reserve nearby, and there are amazing white-sand beaches around the entire island. And this small, isolated island has a fascinating culture with local festivals and traditions that you won’t experience anywhere else.
A trip to Stresa on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy wouldn’t be complete without seeing Isola Bella. This is one of 3 islands that have been owned by a wealthy family since the 1600s. Over generations, it’s been built up to include a stunning, ornate mansion and Italian gardens.
Today it’s a popular destination with locals. You can take tours of the grounds and enjoy stunning views of the lake with the Alps all around. Or take tours of the mansion to see room after room of gorgeous décor and original artwork.
Explore the best lakes in Italy.
Plan a vacation to Mantua if you are really into architecture! It’s a beautiful, ancient city in the crook of 3 artificial lakes in the northern region of Lombardy. It’s no surprise that Mantua is known for its fascinating history since it’s been around for 4,000 years! But it’s best known for its striking Renaissance-era architecture.
This city is packed full of architectural beauty, including museums, historic palazzos, and churches. The Ducal Palace and Te Palace are each gorgeous in their own ways with fresco paintings on every surface. The Bibiena Theater makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. And the unique Rotonda di San Lorenzo is unlike any church you’ve ever been in!
On my list of hidden gems of Italy, Sirmione isn’t as quaint and unknown as others, but it might not be on your radar, and it should be! Especially if you’re looking for a different experience on your next trip to Italy, Sirmione hits all the notes, with stunning blue waters, historical sites, amazing food, and rich local culture.
Sirmione is a tiny peninsula that juts out into Lake Garda in the Italian Alps. And for such a small place, there’s so much to do! You’ll find everything, from ancient castles and thermal spas to glamorous resorts and white sand beaches. And the dining options in Sirmione are endless!
If you’re looking for a unique stay that’s very much unknown, there’s Trento! It’s a medieval city located in the Trentino-Alto/Südtirol region near the Austria/Switzerland border. Trento is beautiful, cradled in between the Dolomite Mountains, along the Adige River. And just 2-hours from Venice, it’s a popular getaway for Italians all year round.
Enjoy your off-the-beaten-path adventure and spend days taking in this old city with layers of history. Make sure to visit the Piazza Duomo where you can see the baroque Trento Cathedral, and tons of fresco paintings, and enjoy a table outside a café.
Castelmezzano is a dreamy mountain village in the Dolomiti Lucane Mountains of southern Italy. Set among the breathtaking peaks are the village’s beautifully painted houses topped with red tile roofs.
It’s just a lovely place to spend a quiet Italian vacation. There are wonderful vacation rentals, hotels, and B&Bs to choose from. Spend your days learning about the rich, long history of these little villages.
You can also enjoy a thrill by climbing the historic Gradinata Normanna, 54 stairs carved into one of the mountain spires! Or ride the zipline, Vollo Dell’Angelo to the neighboring village of Pietrapertosa. It’s beautiful, but it’s not for the faint of heart!
Once again, a less frequented destination along the Italian Riviera can be found with some creativity! Camogli is one of those hidden gems of Italy along Italy’s popular southern coast that just takes some searching to find.
Sitting on the western side of the Portofino Peninsula, it has all the colorful charm of the Italian Riviera without the international crowd. Go shopping, visit local restaurants, and enjoy local hiking trails with stunning ocean views.
Make sure to enjoy some water activities and sun on one of the swim beaches. Just do it with a more local crowd!
An hour’s drive south of Florence is San Gimignano, a beautifully preserved medieval village surrounded by the original 13th-century wall. The entire village centers around a triangular Piazza della Cisterna with stunning medieval houses around it!
It’s also quite a sight to come upon in the bright green Tuscan countryside with its tall sand-colored 13th-century towers. A visit to San Gimignano offers many different lovely places to stay in town, great restaurants, and fun places to shop. And it’s all set inside this sleepy historic village.
Visit One of Italy’s Hidden Gems
If you’re willing to go off the beaten path, you’ll find the most beautiful hidden gems of Italy. You’ve read about some of the lesser-known places in Italy to international visitors. These places are still very visitor friendly and have surprisingly affordable places to stay, but there’s a catch!
You may need to drive, and you might need to stop and ask for directions. Often with these places, you’ll find a village where no one speaks English but that’s part of the charm! Finding the hidden gems of Italy is a wonderful way to experience Italy in a new way and perhaps learn something about this beautiful country that you weren’t aware of before.
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