8 Off-the-Beaten Path Destinations to Visit in Italy

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8 Off-the-Beaten Path Destinations to Visit in Italy
Tourists visiting Italy tend to flock to spots like Rome, Florence, and the Amalfi Coast, seeking the Italian experience touted in movies, books, and by travel guides. And it’s not difficult to see why—these stunning destinations are filled with historical landmarks, authentic restaurants, and old-world hotels.

But if you’re looking for an Italian experience worthy of your nonna’s approval, you may want to skip the most popular cities and, instead, opt for a destination off-the-beaten path. These hidden gems offer stunning views, memorable meals, and an opportunity to rub elbows with the locals—all without dealing with crowds, lines, open-air busses, or the dreaded tourist menu.

If you want to immerse yourself in an authentic experience, look no further than the sparkling waters of Corsica, rolling hills of Montepulciano, or cobbled streets of Orvieto. Time to start practicing your Italian hand gestures.
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    LUCCA
    Set among the rolling hills of Tuscany, Lucca is best known for its intact ancient city walls, which still encircle the city center. On the exterior of the defensive structure is a greenbelt, ideal for picnicking, walking, running, or just taking in views of the historic town. Sights within the city walls include the Museo Nazionale di Palazzo Mansi, a city-own art and cultural center, San Michele in Foro church, a breathtakingly designed basilica, and Guinigi Tower, which offers sprawling views across the landscape. For an afternoon sipping espresso or eating gelato, head to the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, an oval-shaped central square.

    Photo by Neiljs/Flickr
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    LEVANTO
    Known as the sixth “terre” of Cinque Terre, Levanto is a small town in La Spezia. Though Levanto boasts the same sandy beaches, quaint streets, and clear waters that draw crowds to the adjacent tourist destination, it’s calmer and quieter than the official five towns—truly a local vacation destination. Levanto’s piazzas, gelaterias, and beaches—including one with cliff-jumping—will keep you entertained, but this town is also an ideal location to stay while visiting Cinque Terre, as it’s just a short train ride away.

    Photo by Bill_Anderson/Flickr
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    SARDINIA
    When you think of a Mediterranean getaway, Sardinia is likely the destination of your dreams—crystal blue waters, sandy beaches, and cities tucked into cliffs. Though an autonomous region, Sardinia remains distinctly Italian, and is accessible via short flights from the mainland. Tourists can explore the island’s many cities, beaches, ports, and landmarks, as well as the smaller archipelago islands. A paradise uniquely rooted in history and tradition, Sardinia offers a tropical getaway just off of the boot.

    Photo by Tommie Hansen/Flickr
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    ORVIETO
    The quintessential hilltop town, Orvieto is located in Terni, Umbria—less than a 90-minute drive from Rome. The town sits on a slab of tufo volcanic rock, and boasts world-class wines, pedestrian streets, and unparalleled views of central Italy. The medieval portion of the town, located on the hilltop, is accessible via a funicular which traverses the almost-vertical cliff to deposit tourists and locals in the stunning town. While the location and views are enough to write home about, Orvieto is also home to what we’d argue is one of Italy’s best cathedrals, known for its colorful, gothic-style facade overlooking one of the main piazzas.

    Photo by Barry Peters/Flickr
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    ALBEROBELLO
    A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alberobello is a small village located in Puglia, in Southeast Italy. Alberobello is best known for it’s authentic trulli buildings, a traditional Apulian hut made of a dry stone base and conical roof native to this region. Tourists can stroll through the city and take in the whimsical-looking structures, or—for the most immersive experience—stay in a trulli at one of the local hotels. Picturesque and truly unlike anything else you’ve ever seen, stepping into Alberobello feels like writing your very own fairy tale.

    Photo by Alfonso Minervino/Flickr
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    MATERA
    The capital of Southern Italy’s Basilicata region, Matera’s city center (The Sassi) and Park of the Rupestrian Churches make this town a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Sassi represents the most intact preservation of cave settlements in the Mediterranean region, and dates back to the Palaeolithic era. Some of the caves, which dot Matera’s mountainside like a honeycomb, have been converted into hotels, and offer one of the most memorable and unique tourism experiences in the country. Both the caves and the ancient churches have been restored to reflect their former glory, and stand as the foundation for the town.

    Photo by Robbie Shade/Flickr
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    LAKE GARDA
    Less popular with international tourists than the bougie Lake Como, Lake Garda is actually the largest lake in Italy. Located in the North, a variety of towns—including Simione and Garda—line the shore, and offer locals an idyllic waterfront getaway. Due to the lake’s size and the three distinct regions (Trentino, Veneto, and Lombardy) that surround it, the destination draws a diverse demographic of vacationers and offers a range of activities and experiences. Tourists can stay in luxury hotels, quaint B&Bs, or apartment-style residences, and participate in outdoor activities, embark on wine tasting, or retreat to wellness and spa centers.

    Photo by Tony Hisgett/Flickr
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    SYRACUSE
    If you ask us, Sicily as a whole is too often overlooked—especially when it comes to the city of Syracuse. A waterfront paradise noted for being the hometown of mathematician and engineer Archimedes, Syracuse blends Italian and Greek cultures across its architecture and history. The city was in fact established by Ancient Greeks, and was a powerful political center described by Cicero as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all.” The city boasts gorgeous Mediterranean beaches and a city center located on the small island of Ortygia, as well as landmarks including The Ear of Dionysius, a carved limestone cave.  

    Photo by Linoagosta/Flickr
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