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The Best Hidden Gems In Italy – Venture Off The Beaten Path In Italy

by Chloe Gunning
Stand up paddle boarding in Sicily
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The best hidden gems in Italy include secret islands, magical mountain towns and medieval villages that will take your breath away.

Italy is a country filled with stunning places to visit, yet some are visited over and over again. While Venice, the Amalfi Coast and the Italian Riviera (particularly Cinque Terre) are overrun with tourists in the summer months, there are plenty of beautiful alternatives which are totally overlooked.

For me, the best way to get off the beaten track in Italy is to hire a car and get lost! Italian road trips tend to be full of surprises. One wrong turn and you’re in a charming village watching locals dry tomatoes in the sun, make fresh pasta on the street and catch up over an espresso.

There are plenty of non-touristy places in Italy, but unless someone recommends one of them to you personally, how do you discover these secret spots on your own?

Lake Nembia

Lake Nembia, Italy

That’s where I come in! I’ve called on an amazing bunch of Italy experts to share their favourite hidden gems in Italy. From ski resorts and charming villages, to hidden beaches and picturesque islands, these travel bloggers have recommended a handful of places that you won’t find in your Lonely Planet Italy guide book! 

There’s a selection of places dotted across the country, from the Dolomites right down to Sicily and Puglia, so no matter where in Italy you’re visiting, there should be somewhere not too far away to add to your list. I’ve added in a few favourites of my own too!

Comano region of Trentino

Enjoying the Comano region of Trentino

While the global pandemic will hopefully relieve some of the problems of over tourism, at least in the short term, I figure I have a role to play too. If I can recommend you skip the obvious and visit a lesser-known destination, it’ll help disperse the crowds, support communities in other areas and improve tourism around the world. Well, that’s the dream!

So, it’s time to go off the beaten path in Italy. You definitely won’t regret it when you see some of these beautiful spots. 

The Best Hidden Gems In Italy

Ostuni

Recommended by me!

Ostuni is a must-see for anyone visiting Puglia in southern Italy. It’s known as the white city, and from afar has the appearance of lots of white houses stacked up on top of each other. I’d recommend you park somewhere outside the old city and wander up the hill, taking in the magic of the white washed buildings, cute pizzerias and architectural wonders.

Ostuni, Puglia, Italy

Ostuni, Puglia, Italy

Ostuni, Puglia, Italy

Ostuni, Puglia, Italy

As it’s SO beautiful, it’s not totally free of tourists, but compared to nearby Polignano a Mare (one of Puglia’s most famous beach towns) and Alberobello (famous for its white trulli houses), Ostuni is quieter and more sedate. Take a stroll through the old town, snap photos of the white buildings, tuck into a bowl of pasta, then work it off climbing to the top of the city.

Castelmezzano

Recommended by Rob from Roam Yonder

The first sight of Castelmezzano is one you will never forget. This small town looks like it has been carved directly out of the stone of Dolomiti Lucane. It’s a scene you’d expect near the Dolomites in northern Italy. However, Castelmazzano is located in the hills above the Basento River in the south of the country.

Castelmezzano, Italy

Looking for non touristy places in Italy? How about Castelmezzano

Castelmezzano is one of the best hidden gems in southern Italy. The town itself is mostly pedestrian and you will have to leave your car outside of the historic centre of the town. That’s no bad thing though because walking through the alleys and up and down the staircase streets is a treat. It’s got that rustic Italian feel.

Aside from enjoying the beauty of your surroundings, there is still plenty to enjoy during your visit. If you’re okay with heights then the ‘Angel Flight’ is a must. It’s a zip line that connects Castelmezzano to Pietrapertosa. This unique experience offers spectacular views of the two beautiful towns.

When it comes to Italian food, Castelmezzano will not let you down. The area is best known for it’s sun-dried and then fried peppers and local sausages. The local cuisine is best enjoyed on the outside tables, enjoying the view as the sun goes down.

Castelmezzano, Italy

Castelmezzano, Italy

If you can time your visit for September then you can enjoy the “du’ Masc'” festival of Castelmezzano. The festival celebrates the ancestral tree ritual consisting of a real “marriage” between plants: a trunk and a tree-top. This quirky festival coupled with the beauty of the hillside location makes Castelmezzano a very unique Italian experience.

If you’re visiting Italy as a big group or would like the option to self-cater some of your trip, I’d recommend taking a look at Airbnb. Usually the properties are owned by locals so you can enjoy an authentic experience and ask for lots of expert tips for the area. 

 

 

Ponza

Recommended by Linda from La Dolce Fit Vita

When people think of Italian islands, they immediately think of Capri just off the Amalfi Coast. Well as much as Capri is a beautiful island to discover, it is swarming with tourists and prices are double, if not triple what they should be. But don’t despair! Italy is filled with little island escapes. Around two hours from Rome (ferry ride included) you can reach Ponza and Palmarola, two unbelievably gorgeous islands.

Ponza, Italy

Go off the beaten track in Italy and you might end up somewhere as beautiful as Ponza

Aside from their jaw-dropping turquoise waters, the islands are untouched by international tourism. They’re mainly visited by Italians from Rome and Naples. As such, the overall experience is very authentic. Although you don’t get Capri’s blue grotto you can visit the Grotte di Pilato, a fantastic excursion. Ponza is also a diver’s paradise. Close to Cala dell’Acqua you can dive down to the ruins of a sunken World War Two American ship.

Renting a boat is affordable and super simple too. I definitely suggest dedicating a day to exploring Ponza via sea and trying your hand as a captain. (Trust me, motor boats are so easy- if I did it, a monkey could do it.) There are many coves to explore and the water is so clear.

Ponza, Italy

Ponza, Italy

Back on land there are also lots of panoramic viewpoints to discover. You’ll never forget the sunset at Chiaia Luna. Sip on a cocktail and enjoy as beautiful colours paint the sky and sea down below. This is the place to go if you’re looking for a true hidden gem!

Modena

Recommended by Roma from Roaming Required

Modena in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna is truly one of Italy’s hidden gems. Despite being sandwiched between two of the nation’s great gastronomic centres; Bologna synonymous for ragù, and Parma famed for its ham, Modena can hold her own in the kitchen.

View over Modena, Italy

View over Modena, Italy

Foodies will know the name Modena – it’s home to Osteria Francescana, taking first place on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list more than once.  

However, you don’t need an unlimited budget to enjoy fabulous food in Modena. A stroll through the cobblestone backstreets of this small city will lead you to some of the best restaurants no one’s ever heard of, where passionate chefs serve up regional classics like Tortellini en Brodo washed down with the region’s most recent comeback-kid, sparkling Lambrusco wine.

Modena isn’t just known for food. It’s synonymous with fast cars too, and the city of Modena is represented by the canary-yellow background, in the iconic cavallino rampante logo of Ferrari. Car enthusiasts should visit the futuristic Enzo Ferrari museum which tells the story of the founder and Modena-local Enzo Ferrari with displays of engines, complete cars and historical artefacts.

Ferrari Museum, Modena

Ferrari Museum, Modena

In the centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Piazza Grande. Dominated by Duomo di Modena, a beautiful 12th-century Romanesque Roman Catholic cathedral and a majestic 89m bell tower which awards those fit enough to climb to the top, a stunning birds eye view over the city.

Modena has a distinct lack of big name hotel chains in the old town. Instead, book yourself into one of the quaint family-run boutique guesthouses and B&Bs for an authentic local experience. 

Taormina

Recommended by Derek and Mike from Robe Trotting

One of the best hidden gems in Italy is the cozy hilltop town of Taormina. It lies on the east coast of Sicily, not far from Mount Etna. The beautiful Italian town boasts medieval walls with dramatic gates and hillside views. The closest airport is Catania and it’s easy to reach Taormina from the airport or other large cities including Palermo.

Taormina, Sicily

Taormina in Sicly is a favourite hidden gem of Italy

There’s no shortage things to do in Taormina. Many visitors enjoy day trips to Mount Etna by bus or on all-terrain vehicles. There are many trails leading to the summit of the active volcano and excursions of both types are led daily.

Another popular attraction in Taormina is the Teatro Antico di Taormina. It’s an ancient Greco-Roman theatre near a cliff in the city. From the theatre, which is still in use today, you’ll find gorgeous views of the coves and beaches below.

Views of Etna from Taormina, Sicily

Views of Etna from Taormina, Sicily

If you’re a sun-worshipping traveller, definitely head to one of the most beautiful beaches in Sicily, Isola Bella. You can hike down a footpath, take a bus or buy a ticket for the funicular to the shoreline.

Isola Bella, Taormina, Sicily

Travel tips don’t come much better than this! Look at the beautiful Isola Bella in Sicily

Isola Bella is the tiny island and a quaint nature reserve just off of the coast. During low tide you can walk to the island itself, and many visitors do, but you may have to wade back depending how long you stay!

Alcantara Gorge Park near Taormina, Sicily

Go off the beaten track in Italy and visit Alcantara Gorge Park near Taormina, Sicily

Lastly, spend some time exploring the gorges of Alcantara. It’s a 20km trek from Taormina and a natural marvel. The canyons were carved into black lava walls and are 50m tall at their steepest. The formations of the rock walls, the clear, cold waters running through them and the beauty of the lava caves is stunning. 

Serdiana

Recommended by Claudia Tavani of Strictly Sardinia

Located around 20 minutes drive from Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, Serdiana is a beautiful secret place in Italy! The kind of place that has yet to be touched by tourism. At the heart of the Parteolla region, which is famous for the production of olive oil and wine, Serdiana has a whopping number of wineries (there are 5 at the moment). Considering there are only around 3,000 inhabitants, that’s quite a lot! 

The best way to explore Serdina is on a road trip. This will give you the flexibility to explore the beautiful surroundings. First up, head to Su Stani Saliu – a salted lake which is a nesting place for pink flamingos.

Su Stani Saliu, Serdiana, Italy

Su Stani Saliu, Serdiana – one of many non touristy places in Italy

Not far from it is the small romanesque church of Santa Maria di Sibiola. Built in the 10th century, it’s still used for ceremonies, special occasions and events. If you want to go inside you’ll need to get in touch with the municipality, who will send a representative with the keys to the church – that’s how much of a secret place this is!

Serdiana, Italy

Serdiana, Italy

Finish your day visiting one of the many wineries. Most of them offer wine tasting tours, with the best being those at Argiolas, a well established winery that makes some of the best wines in Sardinia. Tours start with a visit of the cellar and,  depending on the season, also the vineyards.

Certaldo

Recommended by Joanna from The World In My Pocket

Certaldo is a small off the beaten path town in Tuscany, often overlooked in favour of Siena and Sam Gimigniano. It’s a medieval town, divided into an old and the new town. The old town is located on top of a hill and reachable by an old funicular, which leaves from the main parking lot in the new part of Certaldo.

Certaldo, Italy

Certaldo, Italy

Not many people know that Certaldo is the birthplace of Giovanni Boccaccio, the famous Italian writer, author of the Decameron. He lived in a small palazzo which has now been transformed in a memorial museum.

Despite its size, there are plenty of things to do in Certaldo. Firstly, no cars are allowed in Certaldo Alto, which makes the town even more atmospheric. The buildings with exposed bricks, wooden window shades and flowerpots underneath them are the same as they used to be hundreds of years ago.

Certaldo, Italy

Stunning architecture in Certaldo, Italy

At the end of the main road in town, Via Boccaccio, stands Palazzo Pretorio, an imposing building decorated with the coats of arms of the past vicars sent from Florence to live here. Over 700 vicars lived in this palace!

Once a year, the main street in Certaldo is laid out like a giant medieval banquet and the town turns back to the 14th century for an evening. Guests and locals dress up in medieval clothes and enjoy a special Middle Ages meal, whilst actors perform among the tables.

Borromean Islands

Recommended by Jasmine from The Life Of A Social Butterfly

Lake Maggiore could be described as one of Italy’s hidden gems, not due to its size, it is after all the second largest of the Italian Lakes, but it is one of the lesser-known lakes to tourists visiting Italy. The lake is a picturesque paradise known as Italy’s Garden of Eden and, to see Lake Maggiore in all its splendour you need to visit the Borromean Islands (Isole Borromee), which is one of the best hidden gems in Italy.

Borromean Islands, Italy

Looking for secret places in Italy? You could take a trip to the Borromean Islands

This small cluster of islands were historically places for aristocrats, evident in their beautifully designed botanical gardens and baroque palaces, where visitors marvel at the pristine white peacocks wandering the grounds. The wealthy Borromeo Family (from which the islands gained their name) enjoyed lavish parties here. Now one of the most popular places to visit in Lake Maggiore, it is believed a flag is ceremonially flown from the gardens of Isola Bella whenever the family returns.

Borromean Islands, Italy

Golden hour on the Borromean Islands, Italy

The enchanting Borromean Islands comprise Isola Madre, Isola Pescatori, Isola Bella and Isolino dei Giovanni. Three of the islands can be visited by boat from Stresa for around 25 Euros, but the fourth Isolino dei Giovanni is closed to the public. 

Isola Madre is the largest island and visitors will want to see the palace (where the boat docks). Affectionately named after Countess Isabella Borromeo, Isola Bella’s picture-perfect gardens with 17th-Century Baroque-style palace are the highlight of visiting The Borromean Islands. If you’re wondering what to do in Lake Maggiore, look no further than The Borromean Islands.

Gardone Riviera 

Recommended by Teresa from Brogan Abroad

Gardone Riviera is a quaint little town located on the southwestern shore of Lake Garda, in northern Italy.

Known as the ‘garden city’ of Lake Garda, it is the ideal base for exploring the area around the lake and the region of Lombardy. It was once one of the most prestigious spots in Lake Garda, and it’s a member of the ‘Borghi Piu Belli D’Italia’ club, an association whose name translates as ‘The Most Beautiful Villages in Italy’.

Gardone Riviera, Lombardy, Italy

Gardone Riviera is one of the best hidden gems in Italy

As soon as you arrive in Gardone Riviera, it’s obvious why this charming village has been included in this exclusive club. Its belle epoque hotels and grand villas along the waterfront tell a story of opulent times.

Grab a gelato and enjoy the lake views as you stroll along the shore. The historic centre of the village is delightful, and the best way to explore it is by getting lost in its alleyways and hidden courtyards.

One of the main attractions in Gardone Riviera is Il Vittoriale degli Italiani, a spectacularly grand Italian villa with extensive landscaped gardens and sweeping views of Lake Garda. Il Vittoriale was the home of eccentric poet and writer Gabriele D’Anunzio, and the interior of the house gives you a great insight into his remarkable lifestyle and obsessive ways.

The gardens are full of surprises too. From a number of breathtaking viewpoints over the lake to formal gardens, and even a battleship in the middle of the grounds! Visiting this impressive property is one of the most popular things to do in Lombardy, and it attracts a lot of visitors to Gardone Riviera.

If you are a foodie, don’t leave before trying the local lake sardines. Head to Locanda Torricella, a lovely family run restaurant with a gorgeous terrace in the centre of the town, only a couple of minutes’ walk from Il Vittoriale. 

Path Of The Gods (Sentiero Degli Dei)

Recommended by Alessia and Toti from Italian Trip Abroad

Ready for a gorgeous part of Italy’s Amalfi Coast that doesn’t rely exclusively on dreamy beaches? One of the best hidden gems on the Amalfi Coast is the Path of Gods. It’s a marvellous route, filled with myths and legends. Prepare to walk across green, rocky hills, on a trail that will take you along narrow streets and lemon groves.

Path of the Gods, Italy

How about walking the Path of the Gods in Italy?

The 8km trek follows the ancient mule routes, starting from Agerola (known for its tasty mozzarella) and ending in Nocelle, just uphill from Positano.

The Path of Gods is known in Italian as the “Sentiero Degli Dei”. The trail takes around 4 hours and reaches 300 metres above sea level. It’s a proper trek, so might take longer depending on your fitness. Allow at least 5 to 6 hours, so that you can stop by lemon groves and panoramic terrazas along the way.

You will walk on top of the cliffs, above Positano, the Fjord of Furore, Praiano and the beautiful Arienzo Beach. The landscape is really impressive, with a beautiful views over some of the picturesque towns that make the Amalfi Coast so famous.

Positano, Amalfi Coast

Positano definitely isn’t a hidden gem on the Amalfi Coast, but the Path of the Gods shows the area from a new angle

It is not an easy path, especially with high summer temperatures, which can reach 35 degrees between mid-July to mid-August. For this reason, I’d recommend you do the hike between April and May.

Sentiero degli Dei, Italy

Sentiero degli Dei, Italy

The trail ends at Nocelle, which is just above Positano. The last part of the Path of Gods is the most difficult. You could also choose to go down the cliff using a 1500-step staircase that leads to the awesome Arienzo and the nearby beach. This really is a once in a lifetime adventure.

Bassano del Grappa

Recommended by Marisa from This World Traveled

The quaint, medieval town of Bassano del Grappa is one of northern Italy’s best hidden gems. The vibrant town lies at the foot of Mount Grappa along the banks of the River Brenda in Italy’s Veneto region. Only an hour and a half from popular Venice, Bassano del Grappa is known for its handmade pottery and rich military history.

Bassano Del Grappa, Italy

Looking for surprising destinations in Italy? How about visiting Bassano Del Grappa

Within the heart of the compact city you will find most of Bassano del Grappa’s main sights. For visitors eager to learn more of Italy’s military history, specifically about the Alpini, you can visit the Museo degli Alpini for WWI artefacts. If you are curious to learn more about their handmade ceramics there is a museum for that as well. 

Since Grappa is produced in Bassano del Grappa you might want to visit one of the grappa distilleries in the area for a short tour. A popular place is the Poli Grappa Museum where you can get an insiders look about how Italians produce and distill the grappa.

Bassano Del Grappa, Italy

Pretty views in Bassano Del Grappa, Italy

Castello degli Ezzelini is a must see while visiting Bassano del Grappa. The 12-century castle is mostly used for concerts and events throughout the year, but is also open for tours. The restored castle is located on Piazza Castello Ezzelini within the old town, near most of the other sights.

For one of the best views of Bassano del Grappa visit the 13th-century wooden bridge, Ponte degli Alpine. Here you’ll get a panoramic view of the classic Italian architecture surrounded by the imposing Dolomite mountain range. Be sure to visit for sunset to see the ochre and rust coloured buildings glowing in the golden sun.

Bassano Del Grappa, Italy

Bassano Del Grappa, Italy

Another viewpoint of Bassano del Grappa and the imposing mountains is from Viale dei Martiri. Here you can walk along the mushroom-shaped oak tree lined pathway and admire the views across the park towards the mountains.

Bassano del Grappa is well connected by train and bus to many of Italy’s popular cities and is one of the best hidden gems in northern Italy. 

Vietri Sul Mare

Recommended by me! 

If you thought the Amalfi Coast was all about extortionately priced restaurants and luxury villas, you might be in for a surprise. We discovered the small town of Vietri Sul Mare by chance on holiday a few summers ago, and due to some last minute changes we ended up spending a night there.

Vietri Sul Mare - Amalfi Coast, Italy

Vietri Sul Mare – a less touristy spot along the Amalfi Coast in Italy

It’s the first town you’ll reach from Salerno at the opposite end of the Amalfi Coast from Positano, but it’s still absolutely stunning. It’s also a LOT cheaper, so perfect for those on a budget.

Vietri Sul Mare, Italy

Vietri Sul Mare, Italy

We stayed at Hotel La Lucertola – a dated but decent enough hotel right on the water. It was very reasonable for the region and our room had the most mesmerising sea views! I still remember opening the curtains and looking out – wow! From the hotel it was just a short walk to the beach, restaurants and the heart of the action.

Vietri Sul Mare - Amalfi Coast, Italy

Vietri Sul Mare on the Amalfi Coast- a discovery as we went off the beaten path in Italy

The town has the Amalfi Coast vibes without the hefty price tag. Houses and hotels are stacked up on the edge of the mountainous scenery, the beach umbrellas are laid out in perfect lines and the restaurants are lit by candles and full of romance. 

Massafra

Recommended by Chrysoula from Travel Passionate

When planning your next trip to Italy (or more specifically Puglia), you should check out the town of Massafra near Mottola. It’s a fascinating gorge town with architectural gems carved into the rocks.

Cut in two by the San Marco ravine, Massafra is a stunning settlement that features churches and crypts with detailed frescoes gracing the walls. This was where monks lived in rural hermitages up until the 15th Century and a tour of the crypts can give you an interesting insight into their monastic way of life.

Massafra, Italy

Massafra – a favourite of all the hidden gems of Italy

In addition to the medieval cave churches, Massafra also features a large domed cathedral (il Duomo di San Lorenzo), the San Benedetto church and convent, an old clock tower, and a 10th century Castello that was built by the Normans. There is also the New Town section of Massafra that lies across the Ponte Vecchio with the grand Piazza Vittorio Emanuele and the Corso Roma shopping street.

San Leonardo, Massafra

San Leonardo, Massafra

The ravine that cuts the town in two is now forested, but if you get the chance you should try to visit both sides of the gorge, taking in the beautiful sights from each angle.

Despite being relatively unknown, Massafra is a wonderful stop on a southern Italy road trip for those wanting to experience old and new Italy in one place, seeing everything from ancient cave dwellings to modern high street shops.

Bormio

Recommended by Kristie from Mamma Prada

Bormio is a stunning ancient mountain village three hours north of Milan. It’s pretty unknown to outside tourism and is mainly visited by the Milanese who use it as a base for skiing in winter and hiking in Summer.

Bormio town, Italy

Bormio town, Italy

The village centre is a maze of 17th century cobbled streets and grand stone facades and is nestled beneath the famous Stelvio piste. The main ski slope ‘The Stelvio’ is part of the Alpine World Cup Downhill Skiing Challenge and can be seen from the village by day and is illuminated by night.

Bormio ski slopes

Looking for non touristy places in Italy to ski? Try Bormio

If you love to ski there are 27 miles of pistes, with black, red and blue runs. There are also ski schools speaking various languages and catering to all ages. If not everyone in your group likes to ski there is ice skating, ice sculpture competitions and Roman mountain spas. Bagni Vecchi the most famous spa, is open all year round, with hot open-air swimming pools to view the snowy mountains.

Bormio - Old Town

Bormio Old Town is full of charm

The list of delicious local foods to try is endless. Pizzoccheri is a buckwheat pasta with melted cheese, sage, butter and garlic. Sciatt, is made with lumps of mountain cheese dipped in batter and fried.

Restaurant ‘Chalet La Rocca is a wonderful spot, accessed by driving up to Bormio, then being transported by snowcat to the restaurant. After a long list of different wonderful dishes, there’s music, dancing and a descent by Snowcat or torches to ski down the mountain with. It’s magical watching the little line of lights as people ski down to the village below!

Borghetto sul Mincio

Recommended by Or from My Path in the World

Lake Garda is a highly popular destination in Italy, and there are plenty of beautiful towns to visit around it, but one charming place that is often overlooked is the village of Borghetto sul Mincio. It is located only a few miles away from the lake’s southern coast and is perched on the Mincio river.

Borghetto sul Mincio, Italy

One of the most colourful secret places in Italy – Borghetto sul Mincio

Two of its most distinctive landmarks are the Visconti Bridge, dating back to the 14th century (though it was severely damaged during WW2), and the Scaligero Castle, which dates back to the 10th century. 

These historical monuments, the village’s colourful houses, the stunning landscapes around it, and the tranquility it exudes are exactly what make it one of my favourite secret places in Italy.

You probably wouldn’t expect this from such a tiny village, but Borghetto sul Mincio also hosts quite a big annual event called Nodo d’Amore (‘The Love Knot’). This is the name of the local tortellini, which comes from an old legend about an impossible love story.

Borghetto sul Mincio, Italy

Stunning views in Borghetto sul Mincio, Italy

The festival is dedicated to this local delicacy and includes a themed dinner, medieval costumes, and more. But even if you don’t get the chance to attend this unique event, be sure to feast on some delicious tortellini in one of the village’s restaurants like La Vecchia Bottega and Osteria Il Borgo Dei Templari. You could even take a tortellini cooking class.

Terme Di Comano, Trentino, Italy

Recommended by me!

The area of Terme di Comano in northern Italy is famed for its healing thermal waters, which are rich in minerals and known to relieve skin disorders and allergies. I included it on my guide to the best hidden gems in Europe, and couldn’t resist popping into this travel blog too! 

It’s a beautiful area of Trentino, filled with epic mountains, bright green and blue lakes and a wonderfully hearty cuisine.

Comano region of Trentino

Comano region of Trentino – one of the best hidden gems in  northern Italy

It’s a completely different destination from summer to winter, as hiking and cycling are replaced with winter sports. There are also some magical Christmas Markets in the towns here in winter.

I’d recommend late spring or early autumn as lovely times to visit if you want to experience the region’s nature at its best. During my trip at the start of October we enjoyed warm sunshine, blues skies and fresh mountain air.

Pretty views on a hike in Comano

Pretty views on a hike in Comano

San Lorenzo in Banale

San Lorenzo in Banale in  the Comano region of northern Italy

Highlights for me in Comano include the sentiero della ciuìga hike – a 7.5km route which starts in San Lorenzo and takes you through the region’s prettiest villages and out to some stunning remote scenery. Lake Molveno is also a stunning place to see for yourself. Its rich blue waters draw you in, while the backdrop of the epic Brenta Dolomites is guaranteed to make you feel tiny. It’s a special part of Italy, that’s for sure!

If you go off the beaten track in Europe you might find beautiful spots like Lake Molveno

If you go off the beaten track in Italy you might find beautiful spots like Lake Molveno

READ MORE: Terme Di Comano Travel Guide

Tropea and Capo Vaticano

Recommended by Chontelle from Mum’s Little Explorers

Looking to go off the beaten track on Italy’s coast? Tropea is a fairy tale town tucked away in Calabria in southern Italy, and is home to one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy. This stunning medieval town will blow you away with its amazing view of the coastline, and the famous Santa Maria Della Isola, a church perched up on an island in the sea.

Tropea, Italy

Stunning views of the beach in Tropea, Italy

The cute little seaside town comes alive during the summer (June – August) when you can find various bars and restaurants serving up fresh seafood, pasta, pizza, and of course the famous red onions and chilli peppers that Tropea is known for.

Further along the Calabrian Coast are the breath-taking crystal waters of Capo Vaticano. If you can, rent a car, and beach hop along this stunning coastline for a few days. You won’t regret it!

Capo Vaticano, Italy

Go off the beaten track in Italy and you’ll be rewarded with views like this in Capo Vaticano

If you want to avoid the crowds, Tropea and the Capo Vaticano area are a fantastic alternative to the busier beaches of the Almalfi Coast. It’s a little more effort to get to, but well worth the trip.

To visit Tropea and Capo Vaticano, you can fly into the nearest airport which is Lamezia Terme, just under an hour away. Or take a 5-hour train from Rome.

Piacenza

Recommended by Helga from ShegoWandering

A local told me about this beautiful hidden gem in Italy. Piacenza is located near the Po river, in the region of Emilia-Romagna. It’s a small Italian town, with all the beauty and charm that an Italian town can have, plus a magic that you won’t find anywhere else.

Piacenza, Italy

Piacenza is a great option if you’re looking for non touristy places in Italy

People in Piacenza are extremely welcoming and helpful, which is lovely as a first-time visitor. You can get lost in the charming streets of the Centro Storico for hours. Each street has a hidden gem. A beautiful church, a nice café, or a museum that you weren’t expecting.

Piacenza, Italy

Piacenza, Italy

The most famous sight in Piacenza is the main square, Piazza Cavalli, which is home to the Palazzo Gotico – the town’s most iconic monument. It’s surrounded by colourful buildings and cafes with outdoor tables – a perfect spot to enjoy the view. Don’t miss Piazza Duomo, where the main church, the Duomo di Piacenza is located. While here, check out the immense building of Palazzo Farnese and the Basilica di Sant Antonino.

Piacenza, Italy

Beautiful views in Piacenza, Italy

For great aperitivos and coffees, visit the Battisti bar, or the Grida café. For traditional local and regional food (Emilia-Romagna has a great food reputation) visit the Osteria del Trentino.

If you’re looking for somewhere that’s truly off the beaten path in Italy, Piacenza is the perfect spot!

Aeolian Islands, Italy

Recommended by me! 

While everyone knows Sicily, many haven’t heard of the archipelago to its north known as the Aeolian Islands. I was lucky enough to go on a sailing trip here a few years ago and visited several islands throughout the trip. 

Views of the Aeolian Islands in Sicily

The Aeolian Islands in Sicily are one of my favourite hidden gems in Italy

Our route took us to 6 of the Aeolian Islands – Vulcano, Isola Filicudi, Salina, Stromboli, Panarea, and Lipari. Each one is different and offers specific activities. There’s Salina with its beautiful colourful buildings and lush vineyards, epic volcano Stromboli – complete with lava eruptions, and Panarea – the poshest of the islands, known for smart restaurants and a yachtie elite!

Stand up paddle boarding in Sicily

Stand up paddle boarding in Sicily

Stromboli, Sicily

It’s rare to spend time relaxing amongst such fiercely active volcanoes (remember there’s Etna on mainland Sicily too!) but it really was a wonderful trip. If you fancy visiting, I’d recommend the hike up Stromboli. The steepness was challenging at times, but seeing a lava eruption with my own eyes is something I’ll never forget. You can read about the Stromboli hike here.

READ MORE: Sailing In Sicily’s Aeolian Islands

Hiking Stromboli Volcano, Sicily

Hiking Stromboli Volcano, Sicily – one of my fave ‘secret’ places in Italy


When Is The Best Time To Visit Italy?

Italy has a Mediterranean climate and is a lovely destination to visit all year round.

Temperatures vary by region, but as a quick example, you can expect average temperatures of around 0°C in around Cortina (a ski resort in the mountains) in January, and as high as 37°C in July in cities such as Milan and Venice. Temperatures in the south remain mild in winter, making destinations like Puglia and Sicily great options for a winter holiday.

If you’re wondering when is the best time to visit Italy, I’d suggest planning a trip between April and June, or in September or October, just after the peak summer season.

The weather tends to be consistent in these months, but isn’t too hot. Plus, as you’re missing peak season, you should benefit from lower prices and fewer people.


I hope you’ve enjoyed discovering some beautiful secret places in Italy. Now it’s time to plan your adventure, away from the crowds. A big thanks to my Italy experts who contributed their amazing travel tips and photos to this post too. 

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Best Hidden Gems In Italy


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