Murgia Materana archeological park

Italy off the beaten path – Best places to explore it like a local

Are you looking to explore Italy off the beaten path and get to know it like a local? Discovering a new culture and uncovering secret gems is truly one of the most special experiences you can have while traveling. 

While many visitors flock to Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, and the Amalfi Coast, there are many other hidden gems that are worth exploring. 

Come with me on this journey, as I share centuries of history, delicious food, unique attractions, and all-around Italian charm tucked away in some of the country’s most unlikely places.

Let’s explore Italy’s most spectacular hidden gems together! 

Northern Italy

Northern Italy is often overlooked due to the abundance of famous and beloved tourist destinations in its south. 

While there are a plethora of things to do in the south, from visiting archaeological sites to sunbathing on Italian beaches, northern Italy is home to an equally impressive blend of idyllic places. 

Thanks to less tourist traffic, exploring Northern Italy lets travellers really get an authentic feel for the region.


Italy Hidden gems: Ponte delle Università Treviso

Venice isn’t the only place you can visit in Northern Italy if you’re interested in checking out grand architecture or waterways.

Treviso is a city near Venice, that is full of charming canals, medieval architecture, and picturesque streets. 

It is often overshadowed by its more famous neighbor but offers a more relaxed and authentic experience.

Treviso has a well-preserved medieval center with many beautiful churches, palaces, and frescoes, such as the Palazzo dei Trecento, the Loggia dei Cavalieri, and the Cathedral of San Pietro.

One of the best things to do in Treviso is to take a stroll along the banks of the Sile River. This peaceful river is lined with cobblestone paths and stone bridges that offer breathtaking views of the city. 

Additionally, it is located in the heart of the Prosecco wine region and is known for its delicious local cuisine, including dishes like bigoli (thick spaghetti-like pasta), radicchio (a type of chicory), and sopressa (a type of salami).

If you’re looking for a charming and less crowded alternative to Venice or a great place to explore the beautiful Veneto region, Treviso is definitely worth a visit.

Where to stay in Treviso

Ai Bastioni Boutique Hotel is an excellent base for exploring Treviso and is recommended for its warm atmosphere and convenient location near major attractions and excellent restaurants.

Aosta Valley

Woman hiking in Ferret Valley with Mont Blanc massif on background, Aosta Valley - Italy hidden gems
Hiking in Ferret Valley

Aosta Valley is a great destination for you if you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or looking for a unique and authentic experience in the Italian Alps.

It’s a combination valley/mountainous region in the northwest of Italy, that provides excellent hiking routes alongside picturesque views during almost any season – summer being especially spectacular due to blooming flowers alongside snowcapped hillsides.

Aosta Valley is home to many beautiful mountain ranges, including the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, and the Gran Paradiso

It’s also home to several nature reserves, including the Gran Paradiso National Park, which is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including ibex, chamois, and marmots.

It’s a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities such as hiking, skiing, climbing, and paragliding. 

It also offers several bike paths, which allows you to explore the valley at your own pace.

The best way to explore the Aosta Valley is to take a cable car ride up to the summit of Mont Blanc. This cable car ride is an experience like no other, offering breathtaking views of the valley below. 

Once you reach the summit, you can explore the mountain’s many trails, caves, and glaciers.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try one of the many paragliding tours offered near the Aosta Valley in Chamonix, on the French side of Mont Blanc.

These tours take you high above the valley, offering spectacular views of the Alps and the surrounding area.

Aosta Valley is also known for its charming medieval villages, such as Aosta, which is the capital of the region, and Saint-Vincent, known for its thermal baths.

And last but not least, it’s known for its delicious local cuisine, including dishes like fondue, polenta, and lard d’Arnad (cured pork fat), and its wines like Torrette, Fumin, Nus Rouge and Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle.

Lake Orta

Italy off the beaten path: Lake Orta and Orta San Giulio Island, Piedmont - Italy
Orta San Giulio Island

Another popular place for off-the-beaten-path exploration in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy is Lake Orta.

This stunning body of water is located in the foothills of the Alps and provides immense beauty with its mountain backdrop and peaceful surroundings.

It’s the least well-known of the Italian lakes, making it a perfect destination if you’re looking for a more secluded and peaceful experience.

There are many charming towns and villages around Lake Orta that will enchant you with their traditional architecture, as well as one impressive island, the Island of San Giulio, a haven of beauty located just opposite the picturesque Piedmontese village of Orta San Giulio, making it an ideal location for an out-of-town excursion.

Lake Orta’s delicious local cuisine is heavily influenced by the Piedmont region, and local specialties include dishes such as bagna cauda and the traditional “reginette di Omegna,” a round-shaped biscuit made of two crispy, thin hazelnut wafers paired with dark chocolate.

Lake Orta is also a great destination for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and boating.

You can enjoy the beautiful scenery while doing these activities and also experience the local culture and traditions.

One of the best things to do at Lake Orta is to take a boat tour of the lake. This tour takes you to some of the lake’s most beautiful spots, including the Isola San Giulio

This tiny island is home to a stunning monastery that sits atop a hill.

If you’re looking for a unique experience, you can also try one of the lake’s many guided hikes

These hikes take you to some of the lake’s most spectacular spots, offering stunning views of the lake and the surrounding hills.

Tourism is still relatively light here, making Lake Orta an ideal hidden gem for those looking for peace and quiet while exploring nature.


View of the coast of Camogli in Liguria, Italy hidden gems
Camogli coast

Camogli is a charming and picturesque town that offers a unique and authentic experience on the Italian Riviera, just south of Genoa in the region of Liguria and 15 km from Portofino.

It’s a great destination for nature lovers, history buffs, and if you’re looking for a relaxing and laid-back holiday.

It has traditionally been known as a refuge for fishermen due to its perfect setup, located between two steep cliffs with colourful buildings lining the port itself.

It’s characterised by a charming small harbor, filled with colourful boats and surrounded by traditional houses with pastel-coloured facades.

It offers a great spot to take a stroll, admire the view, and enjoy the sea breeze.

Camogli also has small pebble beaches that are ideal for relaxing and soaking up the sun.

San Fruttuoso Beach is one of the most popular. Located halfway between Camogli and Portofino, it boasts crystal-clear, pristine water.

As a traditional fishing village, Camogli has managed to preserve its local culture and traditions.

The town hosts a famous festival, Sagra del Pesce, a celebration of the town’s fishing heritage, which takes place every second Sunday in May and attracts visitors from all over Europe.

Here you can taste delicious seafood cuisine, including fish like anchovies, sardines, and shrimp.


Italy Hidden Gems: historic building in Bergamo Alta, Lombardy - Italy
Bergamo Alta view

Bergamo is another pearl in Lombardy, Italy, known for its mediaeval architecture.

The city is split into two parts: 

the upper town, known as Città Alta, which is home to many of the town’s historic buildings, including the surrounding walls, the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, and the Colleoni Chapel; 

and the lower town, known as Città Bassa, which is a more modern area with a variety of shops, restaurants, and cafes. 

They are both linked by the funicular railway that has been crossing the walls of Bergamo for 120 years.

You can also enjoy the town’s many parks and gardens, as well as the scenic views from the 5 km surrounding walls, known as Mura Venete, a Unesco heritage site.

You can see Milan through the telescopes you’ll come across along the way!Furthermore, the town is known for its rich cultural heritage, with many museums and art galleries showcasing the region’s art and history.


Italy Off the beaten path: Medieval Castle of Brescia, Lombardy - Italy
Medieval Castle of Brescia

Brescia, a city located in the Lombardy region, with its rich history and cultural heritage, is another example of hidden Italy that will delight history lovers.

It’s the perfect destination for art lovers, history buffs, and anyone interested in learning more about the history and culture of Northern Italy.

Brescia has a long and rich history, dating back to Roman times.

The city has many historical sites and monuments, such as the Capitolium (Capitoline Temple), the Roman Forum, and the ancient city walls.

Brescia also has several mediaeval and Renaissance buildings, such as Piazza Paolo VI (also known as Piazza dei due Duomi), which is unique in that it houses two domes, one new (the Summer Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta) and one old (the Winter Co-cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta). Piazza della Loggia, a magnificent Venetian-style square with its Palazzo della Loggia built between 1492 and 1570, is just a few steps away from Piazza Paolo VI.

It is also home to several museums and art galleries, including the Pinacoteca Martinengo, which features an archaeological underground route as well as an exhibition route where temporary exhibitions are held, and the Museo di Santa Giulia, which showcases the history and art of Brescia and the surrounding region.

Brescia is also home to the Luigi Marzoli Weapons Museum, which showcases the history of arms from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Brescia’s delicious local cuisine includes dishes like casonsèi (stuffed pasta), polenta taragna, and traditional sweets such as bussolà, a round cake made with butter, and persicata, a delicious peach and caramel jelly.

The area is also well-known for its wines, such as Invernenga and Lugana, as well as its sparkling wine, Franciacorta DOCG, which is produced here.

Emilia Romagna

Tigelle typical Emilia Romagna bread usually served with cold cuts, cheese or pesto - Italy off the beaten path
Tigelle typical Emilia Romagna bread usually served with cold cuts, cheese or pesto.

Finally, if you’re looking to experience Northern Italy’s world of culinary delights, the region of Emilia-Romagna is the perfect destination. 

This region is known for its rich culinary heritage, featuring traditional dishes such as tortellini, lasagne, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. 

The city of Bologna is a great place to start, known as the culinary capital of Italy, featuring excellent restaurants and food markets.

With all these options up North plus more offered around Cinque Terre down South as well, there’s no shortage of adventure while getting away from massive crowds when exploring Italy like a local!

Central Italy

Central Italy’s historically rich region sees millions of visitors from around the world each year, many of whom focus on the larger cities such as Florence, Siena and Rome. 

While these are truly great places to visit, Central Italy is also home to countless smaller villages that offer an authentic peek into Italian life. 

Explore like a local and take time to experience the many captivating towns located in this beautiful area of the country.


Italy hidden gems: the Devil's Bridge in
The Devil’s Bridge

For those interested in Italy’s rich history, the region of Tuscany is home to many hidden gems. 

Garfagnana in Northern Tuscany is a hidden gem overlooked by most tourists. 

It’s located in the province of Lucca and is known for its beautiful landscapes, charming villages, and rich cultural heritage. 

Rolling hills covered in olive groves dot the horizon, while rugged mountain peaks create a captivating skyline.

Garfagnana is particularly famous for its Apuan Alps, which are known for their marble quarries, and for its ancient castles and villages such as Castelnuovo di Garfagnana, Bagni di Lucca, and Barga with the famous Devil’s Bridge, located in Borgo a Mozzano about 20 minutes from the centre of Barga.

Hiking, biking, and rafting are just a few of the outdoor activities available in the area.

A real must-do is the itinerary that takes you through the Garfagnana mountains and the Orecchiella Park. The best time to visit is from May to September. 

The area also has a rich tradition of hand-weaving and the production of handmade ceramics. 

The combination of natural beauty and cultural heritage make Garfagnana the ideal destination if you’re interested in outdoor activities and culture.


Italy off the beaten path: Roman theatre in Volterra, Tuscany
Roman Ruins in Volterra

The medieval hill town of Volterra, located in the heart of Tuscany, still bears clear traces of its Etruscan and Roman pasts.

It’s known for its Etruscan walls and well-preserved Etruscan and Roman ruins, as well as its beautiful architecture and charming atmosphere, which you can admire during your visit.

You shouldn’t miss the ancient city walls, the Roman Theater, and the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum.

Additionally, Volterra is also famous for its alabaster crafts, which can be found in many of the local shops.

San Gimignano

Italy hidden gems: the medieval Skyline of San Gimignano, Siena, Tuscany
San Gimignano

The nearby town of San Gimignano is also worth visiting, known for its medieval towers and charming cobblestone streets.

San Gimignano is not exactly a hidden gem; many foreign tourists flock to this city on tours organised by Florence tourist agencies.

However, I highly recommend you make it more than a day trip and venture beyond the main tourist attractions.

When the crowds thin out in the evening, San Gimignano becomes truly enchanting, and a stroll through its historic centre will fill you with other emotions; you will fall in love with the fairy-tale atmosphere.

San Gimignano’s attractions are all contained within the small historical centre, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s also called the Manhattan of the Middle Ages due to the ancient towers that still define its skyline. 

Unfortunately, only 14 of the 72 mediaeval towers and turreted houses still stand today, but the scenery is still breathtaking. 

Here you shouldn’t miss the town’s medieval towers, Palazzo del Popolo, Piazza della Cisterna, and the Church of Santa Maria Assunta. 

And, of course, don’t forget to enjoy a glass of the local wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a white wine with DOCG status.

Porto Ercole

Porto Ercole
Porto Ercole

Porto Ercole is one of Tuscany’s most famous seaside villages. It has been listed among the most beautiful villages in Italy since January 2014 and is located on the southern coast of Monte Argentario in Tuscany.

The village is dominated by the majestic Rocca, built between the medieval and Renaissance periods.

The Sienese built the walls that surround Porto Ercole in the second half of the 15th century, and they can still be seen today.

Not to be missed are the charming and picturesque old town and its fortifications, the Forte Filippo and the Forte Stella.

The town is also known for its marina and yachting facilities; it’s a popular spot for boating enthusiasts, and it’s also a great destination for water sports.

It’s surrounded by lush Mediterranean vegetation and crystal-clear waters, making it a perfect destination for those who enjoy nature and outdoor activities.

Ascoli Piceno

Ascoli Piceno is a town located in the Marche region of Italy, known for its well-preserved mediaeval and Renaissance architecture, charming atmosphere, and rich cultural heritage.

It is home to one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, Piazza del Popolo, which is surrounded by several important landmarks such as the Palazzo dei Capitani and the Church of San Francesco with its iconic Loggia dei Mercanti that look out over the bustling square.

A must-see in Piazza del Popolo is Caffè Meletti. With its refined Art Nouveau furnishings, it’s one of Italy’s 150 historic cafés.

It has always been a gathering place for painters, writers, and historical figures.

If you are in the area during the summer, between July and early August, you cannot miss the Quintana, Ascoli’s most representative and historically accurate re-enactment, which has a centuries-long tradition.

And don’t forget to taste its “olive all’ascolana” (stuffed fried olives), which are a local delicacy.


Italy hidden gems: Piazza Giordano Bruno in Gubbio

If you’re seeking a mediaeval feel, Gubbio, with its enchanting buildings, provides an unforgettable backdrop.

It’s located in the Umbria region of Italy and is known for its well-preserved mediaeval architecture and rich cultural heritage.

Must-sees here are the town’s main square, Piazza Grande, a suspended square built on a series of arches; the Palazzo dei Consoli, which houses Gubbio’s civic museum and was the first Italian palace to have running water; and the Cathedral.

If you want to avoid all of the climbs during your visit, take the lifts; they are free and take you to the most famous spots in the village.

Gubbio has a lovely setting with the Apennine mountains in the background, which makes it ideal for Christmas lights and decorations.

In fact, the most magical time to visit Gubbio is during the Christmas season, when a magnificent light tree can be seen on Colle Eletto.


A visit to nearby Spello is also worth your while – it’s small but very unique in character with winding cobbled streets illuminated by street lamps come nightfall.

It’s known for its well-preserved Roman and medieval architecture, charming atmosphere, and beautiful views of the surrounding hills. 

You shouldn’t miss the city gate, the frescoed churches, the twisting mediaeval streets, Roman villa, and Villa Fidelia Park, as well as the bars and restaurants surrounding Piazza della Repubblica.

The town is also famous for its flower festival, “Infiorata“, which takes place every year on the last weekend of May where the streets are decorated with spectacular floral mosaics.


Last but not least, there’s Perugia, known for its vast hilltop castles, incredible art galleries, and vibrant cultural center!

From religious festivals to mediaeval-style processions, this city has something for everyone!

Not to be missed is the city’s main square, Piazza IV Novembre, which is home to several important landmarks such as the Fontana Maggiore, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, and the Palazzo dei Priori.

Perugia is also known for its Etruscan ruins, such as the well-preserved Etruscan well located underneath Palazzo Sorbello, an ancient palace dating back to the 17th century, and, of course, for its chocolate, particularly the annual “Eurochocolate” festival in October.

The city is also home to the University for Foreigners, which attracts many students and academics from around the world, making the city lively and culturally diverse.

So don’t forget that Central Italy has more than just Florence and Rome to offer! Enjoy exploring these off-the-beaten-path places like a local!

Southern Italy

Start your exploration of Southern Italy by exploring the sunny southern coastal towns. 

Trabocchi Coast

Trabucco, typical construction built from wood consisting of a platform anchored to the rock by large logs of Aleppo pine, jutting out into the sea. Used as fishing cabin in Abruzzo, Italy
Trabucco, typical wooden cabin in Termoli

The Trabocchi Coast is a stretch of coastline in the region of Abruzzo between Ortona and Vasto that is known for its beautiful beaches and clear waters.

It is home to the trabocchi, traditional fishing structures that are unique to this area. The trabocchi are large wooden platforms that extend out into the sea and are used for fishing.

They are often built on rocks or cliffs.

You should visit the Trabocchi coast for its beautiful natural scenery, clear waters, and beaches, and for the opportunity to experience the traditional fishing culture of the region.

The coast is also home to a number of small towns and villages that offer a glimpse into traditional Italian life.

Additionally, the area boasts an impressive range of attractions, such as skiing resorts, abundant vineyards and wineries, and a wide variety of outdoor activities like hiking trails and beach excursions.

It’s known for its traditional cuisine and wines too, such as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, and traditional dishes like arrosticini (skewers of grilled meat) and pasta alla chitarra.


View over Manfredonia bay from Monte Sant'Angelo, a little village on the Gargano hinterland
View from Monte Sant’Angelo

The region of Puglia, located in the heel of Italy’s “boot,” is home to a charming peninsula, Gargano, often referred to as the “Sperone d’Italia” (the Spur of Italy).

Gargano is an area with an incredibly diverse landscape, from its rugged coastline to sunny beaches and rolling hills, with plenty of little towns full of old-world charm.

There are two Unesco sites in the area: Monte Sant’Angelo, which is part of the serial site “The Longobards in Italy,” and Foresta Umbra, which is part of the Vetuste beech forests.

The area falls under the name Gargano National Park, and it includes the Tremiti Islands archipelago, both of which are ideal if you’re looking for a peaceful escape surrounded by nature.

If you’re a beach lover, there is plenty to explore along the Gargano Coast, from seaside towns such as Vieste, Peschici, and Rodi Garganico to more remote beaches located inside the national park such as Baia delle Zagare, Cala della Pergola, and Pugnochiuso.

Each beach offers something different: some are peppered with pretty pebbles, while others have crystal-clear turquoise waters and white sand.

If you want to explore quaint Italian towns, then head inland to discover Puglia’s hidden cities.

Explore Italy’s most beautiful villages, such as Vico del Gargano, to be visited especially on the occasion of St. Valentine’s Day, the town’s patron saint, or Monte Sant’Angelo with its mystical San Michele Sanctuary dug into the rock, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been a pilgrimage destination since the 5th century.

San Giovanni Rotondo, whose ties to the Padre Pio cult are now inextricably linked, is also worth a visit.

You should add the Gargano area to your list if you want to visit off Italy’s beaten path and discover hidden gems dotted all around that newbie tourists would never find alone!


Bombette in Monopoli near Bari
Typical Bombette with vegetables a side dish

Continue your exploration of Southern Italy by taking a journey down the Adriatic coast to Monopoli.

Monopoli is a town located in the region of Puglia and is renowned for its charming old town, beautiful beaches, and clear waters.

The main attraction is its charming old town, which is filled with narrow streets, white-washed houses, and beautiful churches.

The town is also home to a number of historic buildings, including the 16th-century castle, the Baroque Cathedral of Maria Santissima della Madia, and Palazzo Martinelli Meo-Evoli.

Another major attraction is the town’s proximity to the sea, with a beautiful old port and a number of beautiful beaches along the coast, such as Cala Porta Vecchia, Cala Paradiso, and Porto Ghiacciolo.

The crystal-clear waters and picturesque coastline make it a popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports.

Additionally, Monopoli is also renowned for its delicious traditional cuisine; must-tries are the rice with potatoes and mussels, orecchiette with turnip tops, and bombette, which are delicious meat rolls.

The combination of charming towns, beautiful beaches, and delicious food makes it a perfect destination if you’re looking for a holiday that combines relaxation and culture.


Salento is located on the country’s southern tip and is known for its stunning beaches and unique cuisine.

It’s home to charming towns such as Lecce and Ostuni, known for their baroque architecture.

One of the best things to do in Salento is to explore its many beaches. 

From the stunning white sand beaches of Lecce to the rugged cliffs of Gallipoli, Salento has something for everyone. 

Make sure to check out the beach at Torre dell’Orso, which is one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy.


The nearby town of Alberobello is also a must-see, known for its picturesque trulli houses and UNESCO World Heritage status.

Trulli are traditional conical-roofed houses made of limestone and are unique to the area around Alberobello.

The main attraction in Alberobello is the Rione Monti neighborhood, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This area is home to the highest concentration of trulli houses in the town and is a fascinating place to explore.

You can wander through the narrow streets and admire the unique architecture of the houses.

Another popular attraction is the Museo del Territorio, which is dedicated to the history and culture of the area and is housed in Casa Pezzolla, a complex of 15 communicating towers.

You can learn about the history of the trulli houses and the traditional way of life of the people who live in them.

Additionally, you can also take a guided tour of the town, which will take you to some of the most interesting and picturesque areas, such as the Aia Piccola district, which is exclusively residential.

If you’re a foodie like me, Alberobello is a great destination to try traditional Puglian cuisine, with a wide variety of delicious local specialties such as orecchiette pasta, “panzerotti,” and “focaccia barese,”  as well as the famous local wines.

If you’re looking for a unique experience, you can also try one of the region’s many wine tours. These tours take you to some of the best wineries in the region, offering you a chance to sample some of the best Italian wines.


Italy hidden gems: Pizzo Calabro, Calabria
Pizzo Calabro

Continue your slower pace in Calabria as you explore some of Italy’s least visited spots: mountain villages lost in time on rugged cliffs, Romanesque abbeys tucked into hilltop forests, and rolling vineyards bathed in soft light.

Calabria is located at the toe of Italy’s boot and is also known for its stunning beaches and delicious cuisine, which features local cured meats and cheeses but also particular fruits and vegetables grown here that have become famous throughout Italy.

A must-try is the “nduja,” a soft sausage with an intense, spicy flavour that can be spread on bread, perhaps even with cheese, and is also an excellent ingredient in sauces and stir-fries.

Reggio Calabria is the largest city in the region and is home to the Archaeological Museum of Reggio Calabria.

The museum houses exhibits from prehistoric times to the Roman conquest, as well as the world-famous Bronzi di Riace statues.

These are two bronze warrior statues, nearly 2 metres tall, discovered on the Calabrian seabed in 1972 and beautifully preserved.

While you’re there, make sure to check out the beach at Bovalino Marina, which I believe is one of the most beautiful beaches in Italy.

If, on the other hand, you enjoy small seaside villages, Calabria has plenty of them.

The town of Tropea is a popular destination, called the “pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea” thanks to its stunning beaches and its historic town center, which features churches from various eras and charming aristocratic palaces that house priceless treasures and valuable urban furnishings in excellent condition.

It’s built on a terrace overlooking the sea, from which you can see the Aeolian Islands, with Stromboli and Vulcano clearly visible, and Sicily, with Mount Etna.

Tropea also has a modern tourist port that is well-equipped and conveniently located near the historic center. 

From here, you can embark on a journey to discover the most beautiful places along the coast, such as Capo Vaticano, a scenic, cliff-lined peninsula known for its breathtaking views and pristine beaches.

The small village of Scilla, which is one of the most beautiful on the Costa Viola, and the village of Chianalea, both suspended above a cliff between the blue of the sea and the sky, are two small centres full of history, legends, and landscapes that will enchant you with their timeless beauty. 

Gerace is another ancient town with well-preserved mediaeval architecture listed among Italy’s Most Beautiful Villages and an excellent starting point for exploring the Aspromonte National Park and relaxing on the white beaches of Locri.

Catanzaro is the capital city of Calabria, with notable historical sites like the Norman-Swabian Castle and the Gothic-style Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Parco Nazionale del Pollino, a national park that spans much of the region, provides opportunities for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing.

Sila National Park is a mountainous park offering scenic hikes and winter sports opportunities.

If you’re looking for a unique experience, you can also try one of the region’s many cultural tours. 

These tours take you to some of the region’s most important sites, offering you a chance to learn about Calabria’s rich history and culture.

Paestum and the Cilento Coast

Italy off the beaten path: Archeological site in Paestum, Cilento coast
Greek temples in Paestum

Tucked away on the southern coast of Italy is the lesser-known region of Cilento, an area of pristine foaming shores, enticing beaches and wild nature. 

Among the best things to do in Cilento is to explore its many beaches. From the stunning white-sand beaches of Palinuro to the rugged cliffs of Marina di Camerota, Cilento has something for everyone.

If you’re looking to experience the authentic beauty and culture of Italy, you can explore colourful fishing villages, Roman ruins, mediaeval churches, and the wonderful temple complexes at Paestum.

Paestum, with its famous Greek temples that have been standing since 500 BC, lies just a few miles down the coast from Salerno.

These temples are an archaeological highlight, with their distinctive Doric columns that appear to be bathed in sunlight and time standing still on their stone steps.

Nothing beats a plateful of genuine Italian tastes in this region.

The traditional dishes, which include delicacies such as mozzarella di bufala made with buffalo milk according to age-old recipes or vegetarian-friendly dishes featuring rustic vegetables harvested from nearby farms or gardens, can tantalise your taste buds.

You can also try local wines like Aglianico (red wine) or Fiano (white wine), which are elegant wines made from grapes grown on steep terraces in hills and mountains, as well as on the small coastal plains and the large inland plain of the Vallo di Diano, which was once occupied by a lake.

And then there’s limoncello shot directly from a bottle after dinner!

Behind Paestum hides an unspoiled paradise where you can bask in Italy’s most precious gift: her incredible beauty!

Islands – Sicily and Sardinia

Many travellers know Sicily and Sardinia as picturesque European postcard islands, but there is much, much more to explore if you venture just a little off the beaten path. 

These two Italian islands offer visitors a myriad of natural wonders and historic sites; however, there are several often-missed hidden gems waiting to be discovered by those who take the time to look.

Begin your island adventure in Sicily at Ortigia, on the beautiful island of Syracuse.

There, you can take pleasure in baroque architecture and visit centuries-old archaeological sites such as the temple of Athena and St. Lucy’s Church. Further down the coast, fear not to shy away from lesser-known destinations such as Scicli, where you can enjoy serene walks along its cobbled streets or contemplate the classical artwork contained within its churches.

Bosa, a charming hamlet overlooking clear rivers meeting with white sand beaches, is another hidden gem on Sardinia’s remote western coast, with distinctive hilltop houses hued in blue and yellow that coat its ancient streets.

Neptuno Cave, located within the Porto Conte Park, is one of the largest sea cavities in Italy and one of the most fascinating natural jewels in the Mediterranean. They formed approximately two million years ago. 

Inside, you’ll find halls with incredible karst formations, a white sandy beach, and a massive underground lake.

A must-see at least once in a lifetime! 

These two iconic Mediterranean Islands may be known for their idyllic postcard settings, but they have enough treasures stored away beneath their industrious “surface” to fill your suitcase with memories that cannot be forgotten.

In a nutshell

In conclusion, while Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, and the Amalfi coast are must-see destinations in Italy, there are many other hidden gems that are worth exploring.

These lesser-known destinations offer a unique glimpse into the world of Italian cuisine, history, culture, and scenery.

By venturing a little further off the beaten path, you can discover another side of Italy that is sure to make your trip a truly memorable one.

Thanks for reading and safe travels!


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I'm a freelance travel designer and writer, and I absolutely love what I do. Writing has always been a passion of mine, and traveling is the ultimate source of inspiration for me. In fact, I became particularly drawn to planning travel experiences in Italy back in 2015, and I've been hooked ever since! I'm what you might call a "slow traveler" - someone who likes to take their time exploring new places and soaking up different cultures. And when I started writing about my travels a few years ago, I was blown away by the incredible opportunity it gave me to share my experiences with others and learn from them in turn. It's truly an amazing thing!