12 Best Hidden Gems in Italy: Off-the-Beaten Path Italian Destinations

by Flora
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Are you looking for hidden gems in Italy? Here are twelve underrated places to go in Italy. Prepare to be amazed by these underrated Italian destinations!

Ahh Italy! A land steeped in romance, history, and a culinary tradition that’s the envy of the world. Most travelers are drawn to its famed cities: the romantic canals of Venice, the historic ruins of Rome, and the art-rich streets of Florence. But beyond these iconic destinations lies a world of lesser-known locales, each brimming with its unique charm.

Venture further into the Italian landscape, and you’ll find places untouched by the usual tourist hustle. There’s Matera, with its ancient cave dwellings echoing tales of old; the Aeolian Islands, where volcanic landscapes command attention; and Procida, an island bursting with color at every turn. Then there are regions like Basilicata and Molise, where you can experience Italy in its purest form, away from the crowds and deeply rooted in tradition.

These hidden gems in Italy offer more than just picturesque views. They provide authentic experiences. From local delicacies to age-old customs, travelers get a genuine taste of Italy, far from the usual tourist spots. It’s an Italy that’s rich in culture and tradition, waiting for those eager to explore.

Are you ready to embark on an unforgettable Italian adventure? This guide will lead you away from the well-trodden paths, offering travel insights and a glimpse into Italy’s best-kept secrets. Here are 12 of Italy’s hidden gems which you should know about.

The best hidden gems in Italy right now
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Hidden Gems in Italy: 12 Secret Places to Go in Italy

Ready to explore some of the best hidden gems in Italy? As previously mentioned, Italy is home to a plethora of off-the-radar destinations that cater to every traveler’s desires. Whether it’s a location just a short train ride away for a spontaneous getaway or a place that immerses you in Italy’s stunning landscapes, there’s a hidden gem waiting for every explorer. Dive in to discover the must-visit hidden vacation spots in Italy.

Intrigued by the ancient allure of Matera’s cave dwellings? Or perhaps you’re captivated by the untouched charm of a village nestled in the Apennine Mountains? From historical sites to tranquil retreats, Italy’s hidden gems cater to a wide array of experiences for all preferences and budgets. Here are the best hidden gems in Italy that you absolutely must experience.

1. Civita di Bagnoregio

Located in the Lazio region, not far from Rome, Civita di Bagnoregio is a captivating destination that showcases Italy’s enduring charm. Perched on a hill and surrounded by deep valleys, it’s often called “The Dying City” due to the constant erosion threatening its existence. Established by the Etruscans over 2,500 years ago, Civita’s isolation, reachable only by a pedestrian bridge, has helped preserve its character.

The town’s streets are a maze of stone houses, leading to a central square anchored by a 13th-century Romanesque church. From Civita, visitors will enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding valleys, a sight that’s especially magical during sunrise or sunset.

Civita di Bagnoregio presents a precious chance to embrace Italy's heritage, far from the usual tourist hubs.
Civita di Bagnoregio presents a precious chance to embrace Italy’s heritage, far from the usual tourist hubs.

For those seeking unique places in Italy, Civita di Bagnoregio is a must. It’s an easy day trip from Rome, with buses and trains connecting to nearby towns, followed by a short taxi or bus ride to the pedestrian bridge. Once there, the town is compact, making it perfect for a few hours of exploration. If you’re up for it, the surrounding area offers hiking opportunities, and local eateries provide a chance to savor regional dishes.

Civita di Bagnoregio offers a rare opportunity to experience a piece of Italy’s heritage, away from the typical tourist spots. It’s a serene escape, inviting visitors to immerse themselves in a world that feels both timeless and magical.

2. Valle d’Itria

Deep in the region of Puglia, southern Italy, lies the enchanting Valle d’Itria, renowned for its iconic “trulli” – whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs. These unique structures, which dot the landscape, are a symbol of the region and have earned Alberobello, one of the valley’s towns, a UNESCO World Heritage designation.

Aside from the trulli, Valle d’Itria offers rolling countryside, olive groves, and vineyards. This makes it a haven for nature lovers and those seeking a peaceful retreat. The valley is also home to charming towns like Locorotondo. It is known for its circular structure and panoramic views, and Martina Franca, with its baroque architecture and lively festivals.

Valle d’Itria seamlessly combines Italy's diverse landscapes and architectural marvels into a unique and captivating destination.
Valle d’Itria seamlessly combines Italy’s diverse landscapes and architectural marvels into a unique and captivating destination.

If you’re wondering where to go in Italy for a blend of history, nature, and culture, Valle d’Itria is a top contender. It’s easily accessible by train from major cities like Bari and Brindisi. Renting a car is a great way to explore the valley at your own pace and discover its many hidden corners. Local wineries offer tours and tastings, giving visitors a chance to sample the region’s renowned wines.

Valle d’Itria offers a unique blend of Italy’s diverse landscapes and architectural marvels. This destination seamlessly merges the simplicity of rural life with rich cultural experiences. This makes it an ideal choice for travelers eager to explore Italy beyond its renowned cities.

3. Castelluccio di Norcia

Nestled in the heart of the Umbria region, Castelluccio di Norcia is a picturesque village that sits atop a hill, surrounded by the expansive plains of the Sibillini Mountains. What truly makes this village one of the best places in Italy is its annual natural spectacle: “La Fioritura”. Every summer, the plains around Castelluccio burst into a vibrant tapestry of flowers, creating a unique display of colors.

For nature enthusiasts, photographers, and those seeking tranquility, Castelluccio di Norcia is a dream come true. The ever-changing hues of poppies, lentils, and other wildflowers offer a visual feast, making it a prime location for landscape photography. Hikers will also find a variety of trails that weave through the plains and up the mountain slopes, offering panoramic views of the blooming fields below.

Castelluccio di Norcia is a haven for nature enthusiasts and those craving off-the-beaten-path destinations free from mass tourism.
Castelluccio di Norcia is a haven for nature enthusiasts and those craving off-the-beaten-path destinations free from mass tourism.

For travelers searching for hidden vacation spots in Italy that provide a serene escape and a connection with nature, Castelluccio di Norcia should be on your radar. The best time to visit is between late June and early July when “La Fioritura” is in full swing. While the village is somewhat remote, it’s worth the journey for the incredible scenery and peaceful ambiance.

Castelluccio di Norcia is a haven for those who appreciate nature’s beauty and seek destinations untouched by mass tourism. Its annual floral display and serene landscapes make it an incredible destination in Italy, perfect for rejuvenation and photography.

4. The Ghost Town of Balestrino

Time seems to stand still in Balestrino, a mysterious ghost town in the Liguria region. Abandoned due to geological instabilities, the town’s empty streets and silent buildings tell tales of a bygone era. Stone houses, ancient churches, and a once-majestic castle now stand as silent witnesses to the passage of time.

Adventure seekers and history lovers will find Balestrino intriguing. The town offers a unique opportunity to explore an untouched piece of Italian history. This makes it feel like stepping into a real-life historical narrative. The eerie atmosphere, combined with the surrounding natural beauty, creates a contrasting experience that’s both haunting and captivating.

Balestrino invites you on a historical journey off the beaten tourist path, promising an authentic exploration of the past.
Balestrino invites you on a historical journey off the beaten tourist path, promising an authentic exploration of the past.

Those on the hunt for unique things to do in Italy should consider a day trip to Balestrino. While parts of the town are restricted due to safety concerns, guided tours are available. They offer insights into its rich past and the reasons behind its abandonment. It’s a short drive from the Ligurian coast, so you can easily combine a visit with a trip to the beach.

For a journey off the typical tourist track and into the pages of history, Balestrino awaits. Its silent streets and the stories they hold make it a memorable destination for those looking to experience a different side of Italy.

5. Porticciolo

Tucked away on the rugged coast of Sardinia, Porticciolo remains one of Italy’s hidden gems. Far from the bustling resorts and crowded beaches, this tranquil bay offers pristine sands, crystal-clear waters, and a backdrop of dramatic cliffs.

Adjacent to this coastal gem is the expansive Parco Nazionale dell’Asinara, a national park teeming with diverse flora and fauna. The park is a sanctuary for wild albino donkeys and a plethora of marine life. Its trails offer visitors a chance to explore untouched landscapes, from dense Mediterranean scrub to secluded coves.

Porticciolo seamlessly marries coastal beauty and natural exploration with its neighboring national park, creating a harmonious destination.
Porticciolo seamlessly marries coastal beauty and natural exploration with its neighboring national park, creating a harmonious destination.

The nearby fishing village of Porticciolo, with its traditional boats and age-old customs, adds to the charm of the area. Here, life moves at a leisurely pace, with locals mending nets and trading freshly caught fish, seemingly untouched by the modern world.

If secret places to visit in Italy are what you’re after, Porticciolo should be high on your list. The best way to reach this hidden gem is by car. While there, consider renting a boat to explore the coastline or venturing into Parco Nazionale dell’Asinara for a day of hiking and wildlife spotting.

Porticciolo, with its neighboring national park, offers a harmonious blend of coastal beauty and natural exploration. It’s a haven for those looking to escape the usual tourist trails and immerse themselves in Italy’s untouched splendors.

6. Tropea

Imagine a town where historic charm meets pristine beaches, where every alleyway tells a story, and the horizon seems endless. This is Tropea, a true hidden gem in Italy. Nestled on cliffs overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, Tropea remains untouched by the rush of mainstream tourism. Its white sandy shores, turquoise waters, and a tapestry of history dating back to ancient times make it a standout in Calabria.

The heart of Tropea is a labyrinth of narrow streets and age-old buildings, all leading to the Santa Maria dell’Isola monastery. This iconic structure, perched on a rock promontory, grants visitors panoramic views that stretch across the sea.

Tropea combines historic charm, pristine beaches, and endless horizons, with every alleyway telling its own story.
Tropea combines historic charm, pristine beaches, and endless horizons, with every alleyway telling its own story.

Seafood aficionados will delight in Tropea’s culinary offerings. The town’s signature red onions enhance many dishes, and with the sea at its doorstep, restaurants boast some of the region’s freshest catches.

Easily accessible by train from major Calabrian cities, Tropea is a destination waiting to be explored. Beyond its inviting beaches, the historic center offers a journey into the past. And if your visit aligns with summer, the Tropea Red Onion Festival is a culinary event like no other!

7. Procida

While Capri and Ischia often steal the limelight, there’s another island in the Bay of Naples that remains beautifully preserved in its authentic charm: Procida. With pastel-colored houses cascading down to the sea, winding alleyways, and sun-drenched beaches, Procida feels like a painting come to life.

Unlike its more famous neighbors, Procida has managed to stay under the radar. This makes it a haven for travelers seeking a genuine Italian island experience. The Marina di Corricella, a historic fishing village, is the island’s heart and soul. Here, time seems to stand still as fishermen mend their nets, locals chat in sunlit squares, and the aroma of freshly cooked seafood wafts through the air.

Procida offers a unique escape from crowded tourist spots, allowing immersion in local culture and tranquil serenity.
Procida offers a unique escape from crowded tourist spots, allowing immersion in local culture and tranquil serenity.

If you’re looking for unique places to visit in Italy where the essence of Mediterranean life is palpable, Procida is a must-see. Reachable by ferry from Naples, it’s perfect for a day trip or a quiet weekend getaway. Don’t miss the chance to taste the island’s signature dish, “Lingua di Procida,” a delicious lemon-flavored pastry.

Procida offers a refreshing contrast to the often-crowded Italian tourist spots. It’s a hidden gem in Italy where you can immerse yourself in local culture, bask in the warmth of the sun, and let the island’s timeless beauty enchant you.

8. Val Grande National Park

High in the Italian Alps, away from the bustling tourist hubs, lies a realm of untouched wilderness. Val Grande National Park, Italy’s largest wilderness area, is a mosaic of dense forests, alpine meadows, and rugged peaks that beckon adventurers and nature lovers alike.

For visitors, the park presents a range of activities. Hiking is a favorite, with trails ranging from gentle walks to challenging mountain ascents. Birdwatching, stargazing, and guided nature tours also offer unique ways to experience the park’s diverse ecosystems and stunning vistas.

Val Grande National Park presents a unique chance to fully immerse yourself in the untouched magnificence of nature.
Val Grande National Park presents a unique chance to fully immerse yourself in the untouched magnificence of nature.

What makes Val Grande truly special is its commitment to wildness. There are no roads, no modern facilities, just trails that have been trodden by shepherds and travelers for centuries. The silence here is profound, broken only by the whisper of the wind or the distant call of an eagle.

Those seeking hidden gems in Milan’s vicinity will find Val Grande a refreshing escape. It’s a couple of hours’ drive from the city, making it accessible yet remote. While exploring, ensure you’re well-prepared with maps and supplies, as the park’s beauty comes with a raw, untamed nature.

Val Grande National Park offers a rare opportunity to immerse oneself in nature’s unspoiled grandeur. It’s a sanctuary for reflection, adventure, and a deep appreciation of the wild.

9. Lago di Tovel

Amidst the dense forests and towering peaks of the Adamello-Brenta Nature Park, you’ll find the shimmering waters of Lago di Tovel. Often referred to as the “Red Lake,” this body of water in Trentino once turned a mysterious shade of red during the summer months due to a unique algae bloom.

Today, while the lake no longer turns red, its beauty remains undiminished. The crystal-clear waters reflect the surrounding Dolomite mountains, creating a mesmerizing mirror effect. The lake’s shores offer quaint picnic spots, and the gentle trails around it are perfect for walks or more challenging hikes.

Lago di Tovel is an Italian hidden gem, assuring serenity and stunning natural beauty for those who seek it.
Lago di Tovel is an Italian hidden gem, assuring serenity and stunning natural beauty for those who seek it.

Prefer a more active experience? Kayaking and paddleboarding offer unique perspectives of the lake and its surroundings. The nearby Val di Tovel provides opportunities for mountain biking and exploring local flora and fauna.

Lago di Tovel is one of those hidden gems in Italy that promises tranquility and natural beauty. It’s best to visit during the warmer months when the lake’s activities are in full swing. The area is accessible by car, and there’s ample parking near the lake.

From lazy picnics by the water to paddleboard adventures, this lake is all about soaking in the beauty and having a fantastic time away from the hustle and bustle.

10. Montemerano

Located in the rolling landscapes of Tuscany, Montemerano stands as a hidden gem in Italy and a testament to Italy’s timeless charm. This village, with its cobbled streets and ancient architecture, offers a genuine glimpse into the heart of Tuscan life, away from the usual tourist trails.

Stroll its labyrinthine alleys, and you’ll find surprises at every turn. From the sun-dappled Piazza del Castello to the intricate frescoes adorning the Church of San Giorgio, Montemerano is a feast for the senses. And oh, the aromas! Freshly baked bread, blooming jasmine, and that unmistakable scent of an impending Tuscan rain.

Montemerano embodies Tuscany's charm, each moment a Tuscan dream you'll wish never ends
Montemerano embodies Tuscany’s charm, each moment a Tuscan dream you’ll wish never ends

But there’s more to this village than meets the eye. A short escapade leads you to the Cascate del Mulino, nature’s own spa with cascading hot springs set against a backdrop of verdant hills.

If you’re on the hunt for off-the-beaten-path places in Italy, let Montemerano be your treasure. Wander leisurely, let the village’s rhythm guide you. And if your travels align with April, the “Festa delle Streghe” offers a whimsical dive into local legends and festivities.

In Montemerano, every moment feels like a stolen kiss from Tuscany. It’s a Tuscan dream you’d never want to wake up from!

11. Grotta della Poesia

Picture this: A vast, turquoise pool carved naturally into limestone cliffs, kissed by the sun and caressed by the Adriatic Sea’s gentle waves. Welcome to Grotta della Poesia, or “Cave of Poetry”. It is a hidden gem in Puglia that has inspired poets and travelers for centuries.

Diving into its clear waters is an exhilarating experience. Locals and in-the-know travelers dive from its edges into the clear waters below, while others simply bask on the surrounding rocks, letting the Mediterranean sun work its magic.

Grotta della Poesia in Italy is a hidden gem, merging natural beauty with historical significance for a unique experience.
Grotta della Poesia in Italy is a hidden gem, merging natural beauty with historical significance for a unique experience.

Its beauty aside, Grotta della Poesia holds archaeological significance. The cave’s walls, etched with ancient inscriptions, reveal tales of its revered status in past civilizations.

Crafting a list of secret places to visit in Italy? Grotta della Poesia is a destination that promises enchantment. Situated near the town of Roca Vecchia, an early morning visit or a trip during the shoulder seasons ensures a more intimate experience.

Grotta della Poesia stands as one of the best hidden gems in Italy. It offers visitors a unique blend of natural beauty and historical significance. It’s a must-visit spot for those eager to experience Italy’s lesser-known wonders.

12. Matera

In the heart of Basilicata, perched atop a rocky expanse, you’ll discover Matera. This is definitely a city that whispers tales from millennia past. Renowned for its ancient cave dwellings, or “Sassi,” Matera boasts the title of one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities.

The intricate Sassi of Matera, hewn from limestone, is a maze of homes, churches, and cisterns. Wandering its alleys, you’re treading paths that have been walked for centuries. While these caves echo antiquity, many have been rejuvenated into chic homes, boutique hotels, and cozy eateries. This offers a harmonious blend of the old and new.

Matera truly shines as one of the hidden gems to visit in Italy.
Matera truly shines as one of the hidden gems to visit in Italy.

Situated a few hours from major cities like Bari, Matera is easily accessible by train and bus. This makes it a convenient escape from the urban hustle. It’s a destination that beckons to those who appreciate architecture, crave authentic experiences, and are keen to immerse themselves in a place where time seems to stand still. If you’re planning a visit, consider timing it with the “Festa della Madonna della Bruna” in July. That way, you will witness local traditions come alive.

Matera truly shines as one of the underrated places to visit in Italy. With its blend of ancient charm and modern flair, it’s the kind of place that makes you want to snap endless photos and tell all your friends about it. Dive into its captivating streets, and you might just find yourself planning a return trip before you even leave!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Italy’s Hidden Gems

Are you looking for more information about where to go in Italy for an authentic experience? Here are some frequently asked questions (and answers) I get asked a lot about Italy’s best hidden gems.

What is the most underrated city in Italy?

While Italy is home to many renowned cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice, one of the most underrated gems is Lecce. Located in the Puglia region, Lecce is the “Florence of the South” for its stunning Baroque architecture. Its historic center is a maze of narrow streets, dotted with ancient churches, palaces, and a Roman amphitheater. Plus, it’s a stone’s throw away from some of the most pristine beaches on the Adriatic coast.

Where are the best hidden vacation spots in Italy?

Italy is brimming with lesser-known destinations that promise unforgettable experiences. From the serene waters of Lago di Tovel in Trentino to the ancient cave dwellings of Matera in Basilicata, there’s a hidden spot for every type of traveler. For beach lovers, the untouched shores of Polignano a Mare in Puglia are a dream. While history enthusiasts might find the Etruscan tombs in Tarquinia fascinating.

What are some unique things to do in Italy that most tourists miss?

Beyond the usual tourist trails, Italy offers a plethora of unique experiences. You can explore the ghost town of Craco, abandoned due to natural disasters. Or, you can take a dip in the natural hot springs of Cascate del Mulino near Montemerano. For a blend of nature and history, the Valley of the Temples in Sicily offers ancient Greek ruins set against a backdrop of almond trees and sea views.

Are there any secret places to visit in Italy that aren’t crowded?

Absolutely! If you’re looking to escape the crowds, consider visiting places like the town of Bosa in Sardinia, known for its colorful houses and medieval castle. Another hidden gem is the village of Civita di Bagnoregio in Lazio, accessible only by a pedestrian bridge and offering panoramic views of the surrounding valleys.

Italy is teeming with hidden gems, eager to be unearthed.
Italy is teeming with hidden gems, eager to be unearthed.

Which hidden gems in Rome are worth exploring?

Rome has its fair share of hidden gems. Beyond the Colosseum and the Vatican, explore the lesser-known Quartiere Coppedè, an architectural wonderland with whimsical buildings. The Basilica of San Clemente offers a journey through layers of history, from a Roman house to a Christian Basilica. For a peaceful retreat, the rose garden on Aventine Hill provides stunning views and a variety of rose species.

Where can I find hidden gems in Milan away from the usual tourist spots?

Milan, known globally for its fashion and design, also harbors some delightful secrets. Venture to the Brera District, where art and bohemian vibes merge, offering a plethora of quaint cafes and art studios. The San Bernardino alle Ossa is a unique chapel adorned with human skulls and bones, providing a different perspective on Milan’s history. For a green escape, the Parco Sempione, behind the Sforza Castle, is a peaceful retreat amidst the city hustle.

What is the best kept secret city of Italy?

One of Italy’s best-kept secret cities is Matera. Nestled in the southern region of Basilicata, Matera is unlike any other city in Italy or, for that matter, the world. Here’s why:

  1. Ancient Cave Dwellings: Matera is renowned for its “Sassi,” ancient cave dwellings that have been continuously inhabited for over 9,000 years, making it one of the world’s oldest living cities. These caves were once considered a national shame due to the extreme poverty and harsh living conditions. However, in recent decades, many of the caves are now cozy accommodations, chic restaurants, and unique shops.
  2. UNESCO World Heritage Site: Recognizing its historical significance and unique architecture, UNESCO designated the Sassi of Matera as a World Heritage Site in 1993.
  3. European Capital of Culture: In 2019, Matera was named the European Capital of Culture, bringing it further into the spotlight and sparking interest among travelers seeking off-the-beaten-path destinations.
  4. Natural Beauty: The city’s rugged landscape, with its deep canyons and gorges, offers a dramatic backdrop that has attracted filmmakers from around the world. Matera has been the setting for several films, including Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”
  5. Rich History: Beyond the Sassi, Matera boasts beautiful churches, some of which are carved directly into the rock. The museums tell the story of the city’s rich history and evolution.

While Matera is gaining popularity, it still remains less frequented than Italy’s major tourist hubs, offering an authentic and unique Italian experience.

Are there any underrated activities in Italy that offer a true local experience?

For a genuine taste of Italy, consider attending a traditional cooking class in Tuscany, where you can learn to make pasta from scratch. In regions like Piedmont, truffle hunting with local experts is a unique experience that allows you to explore the countryside. For those seeking a spiritual journey, the Cammino di San Benedetto, a pilgrimage route connecting Norcia to Subiaco, offers a blend of nature, history, and spirituality.

Final Thoughts on Italy’s Hidden Gems

Italy has always been a top destination for travelers worldwide. While cities like Rome, Venice, and Florence often steal the limelight, the true essence of Italy lies in its hidden gems. From the ancient cave dwellings of Matera to the serene waters of Lago di Tovel, each destination offers a unique glimpse into the country’s diverse landscape and heritage.

For those willing to venture off the beaten path, Italy promises experiences that are both authentic and unforgettable. Whether it’s exploring a secluded beach in Polignano a Mare, diving into the mysteries of the “Cave of Poetry,” or wandering through the timeless streets of Montemerano, there’s always something new to discover.

As you plan your next Italian adventure, consider including some of these lesser-known spots in Italy in your itinerary. Not only will you escape the usual tourist crowds, but you’ll also gain a deeper appreciation for Italy’s multifaceted charm. After all, the beauty of travel lies in exploration, and Italy, with its endless treasures, is waiting to be explored.

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