Italy is a beautiful country resting in the south-central part of Europe. It’s home to some of the most famous cities and architectural landmarks in the world. Shaped like a boot, this warm and picturesque country is also known for the canals in Venice, Vespas, Maserati’s, Wine, Pasta, Pizza, Art, Composers, and Opera to name the most obvious.
I love Italy, there is so much to see and experience. From the tranquil waters of Lake Como to the bustling energy of Rome to the romantic boat rides in Venice, you can encounter Italy on every level. But, if you want to get acquainted with this country, venture through the less-trodden villages and soak in the Mediterranean vibes. Here are a few places most travelers haven’t had the chance to visit and appreciate.
Chioggia is an enchanting seaside town in the Veneto region of Italy. It calls itself “Little Venice” due to classic similarities of busy canals and colorful boats. But this humble village still has lots of outdoor activities to offer tourists. With less traffic, you can relax and enjoy the white sands and warm waters of many of its free beaches, like Bagni Clodia, Bagni Lungomare, and Bangi Smeraldo. Visit their two museums, explore old churches and cathedrals, dine in a shoreline cafe and amble through their narrow alleys. Chioggia is only one hour away from Venice, so it’s a great excursion if you are looking for a quieter location.
Stresa is an engaging resort town that is nestled along the strikingly beautiful Lake Maggiore and surrounded by the breathtaking Alps. The scenic beauty and alpine splendor abound in this area of Northern Italy. If you are on a Trafalgar bus tour, you will almost assuredly stop here. Although it’s been years, we visited Stresa and the Borromean islands twice. We enjoyed the gorgeous balmy weather, opulent villas, lavish gardens, museums, boat excursions, Monte Montarone cable ride (toll road) breezy cafes, and lots of souvenir shops. I have to share that we bought some leather goods, but they were inferior. They fell apart and developed holes within a few months of use. Be wary of unethical shopkeepers who can target trusting tourists easily.
Summer in Umbria means taking in the ambience of Spello. Situated gracefully on a hill in the province of Perugia, this well preserved little village is encompassed by a medieval wall built on Roman foundations. Spello is not well known, so it’s a great place to wander, see, and experience the culture. It’s also an ideal location to make as your base as you travel nearby Assisi and other quaint villages. Its low-key atmosphere, preserved Roman arches, elegant floral adorned stone homes, and alluring narrow cobblestone alleys compel you to saunter and explore. Enjoy the 14th-century frescoes by Italian painter Pinturicchio in the 12th-century Santa Maria Maggiore and the 11th-century Sant’Andrea churches. If you happen to visit in June, you can take in the religious festival L’Infiorata. Spello also offers scenic and panoramic views from various vantage points. It’s simply a must-see if you are in the area.
If you’re looking for a quiet off the beat path location to chill out in, the quaint Moroccan inspired fishing hamlet of Marzamemi will be perfect. The characteristic rustic stone buildings are adorned with turquoise doors and windows, making them utterly striking and inviting. The spacious main square or piazzas is clustered with places to sit, relax, and enjoy food and refreshments. Spend time on the beach, stroll through the narrow streets, visit the Vendicari Nature Reserve or peruse one of their gift shops.
The medieval settlement of Sovana has been deemed one of Italy’s most beautiful villages. Sovana has only one main street where everything happens. Exploring this hamlet means starting with the ancient Aldobrandeschi’s Fortress. It dates back to the 11th century and was restored to its current glory by Cosimo de Medici in 1572. Next, you can explore the historical and prestigious Bourbon Del Monte Palace. Your next stops could be the 14th century Church of Santa Maria which is home to two frescoes and the 12th century Praetorian Palace.
Untouched by tourism, Montefollonico is the ideal place to wander and ponder if you seek serenity and peace. This medieval hamlet is situated high on a hill and surrounded by 13th-century walls. It’s also one of the prettiest hamlets with its characteristic low rustic homes punctuated with beds and pots full of vibrant flowers. The narrow and twisty alleys make exploring an adventure. Visit Ceramica and watch talented artists create one of a kind handcrafted pottery. There are cooking schools in the area and many have made their trip a culinary vacation. Montefollonico is also a great home base. With Florence being only an hour away, so you can take in some sightseeing and return to this undisturbed hidden hideaway.