One of the most visited countries in Europe, Italy, might be known for its iconic museums, prehistoric ruins and landmarks in the likes of places like Rome, Florence and Venice. Still, not many are aware of the most beautiful hidden gems in Italy.
If you are looking to experience Italy off the beaten path, go beyond these crowd pullers, then the other sides of this enigmatic country will make you fall in love all over.
Beautiful fishing villages, unspoilt coastal lines, secluded towns and villages atop rocky hills around mountains, stunning lakes and unique settlements in history – These are just some of the best-kept secrets of Italy.
These hidden gems in Italy must be on your bucket list. Go ahead and get to know about the secret spots, which are some of the best unknown places in Italy.
WHAT’S SPECIAL ABOUT THESE HIDDEN GEMS IN ITALY
Italy deserves more than a single visit for sure. This epic list of hidden gems in Italy is for people like you and me that want to go off the beaten path to experience an alternative Italy minus the crowds, a lot of better places and prices.
Above all, Italy that most tourists don’t know and those things of Italy you want to uncover slowly. So grab a cuppa and let’s dive into the beautiful hidden places in Italy.
HIDDEN GEMS IN ITALY
CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO, LAZIO
How does a secluded medieval village atop a rocky volcanic hill sound to you? Civita di Bagnoregio, one of the tiny remote towns in Lazio in Central Italy, is one of the real hidden gems in Italy.
This well-preserved medieval village is home to less than three thousand inhabitants, which means you will experience a peaceful, quiet holiday here amidst the stunning beauty of the mountains and views that will make you fall in love with Italy all over again.
The Porta Santa Maria gateway, a pedestrian bridge built in the 7th century by the Etruscans is the entry point to this isolated village. There is the 7th century Romanesque San Donato Church, one of the many ancient ruins.
Did you know? Civita di Bagnoregio has only 14 year-round residents today that live in complete isolation.
You can walk through the streets in the village which transports you back in time. You can explore Civita di Bagnoregio in one day on foot, stopping by at the many viewpoints for beautiful avenues.
The show-stopper among all the destinations in the Lazio region might be Rome, but many places are worth checking out beyond the city, and among them is the coastal town of Sperlonga.
One of the fantastic hidden gems in Italy, this relaxed town is located close to both Rome and Naples. So from either of the cities, you can easily add to one of your day trips, or even better, spend a few days.
Sperlonga is best known for the ancient Roman sea grotto. Many magnificent sculptures are housed in the Villa of Tiberius.
Whether you are into museums or not, you can still hit one of the beautiful beaches when in Sperlonga.
Stroll through the narrow streets lined with white buildings adorned with vibrant flower pots to arrive at the heart of the town, Sperlonga Centro Storico.
For some splendid views of the coast and a good walk, head to Torre Truglia and go further to also stop at the Sperlonga Boat Harbor.
When you think of the hidden gems in Italy, you can’t miss thinking about the stunning Amalfi Coast.
This surreal stretch of land overlooking the Mediterranean sea boasts of many popular towns, but there are many hidden Italian gems that you can find if you look further and away.
One such town is Ravello, one of the most charming cities in Italy known for its colourful spinneys, vineyards and beaches. This cliffside town above the Tyrrhenian Sea is every bit Italian that you can imagine. The streets lining the hills will beckon you with magical panoramic views of the Salerno Bay.
If you are here in summer, plan your trip to participate in the Ravello Festival, during which there will be many music concerts held in this resort town.
As you explore further, the cobbled maze streets lined with beautiful, vibrant medieval buildings decorated with flowers, olive trees and pretty patios will enchant you with their ethereal beauty.
You can enjoy the stunning views from many places, but the noted church at the edge of the cliff offers some of the most astounding views.
You can’t travel to Italy and not fall in love with the delicious Mediterranean cuisines or some of the best wines in the world.
Enjoy wine tours, dine at some of the best restaurants, hit the beaches or soak in the gorgeousness of this town.
But whether you are just planning a day trip to Ravello or want to spend a few days(highly recommended), make sure you add this town to your itinerary.
While neighbouring Capri bags the attention in the Bay of Naples, not many are aware of nearby Procida, the smallest of the Flegrean Islands off the coast of Naples in southern Italy.
Located between the island is between Cape Miseno and the island of Ischia, Procida is probably one of the best-hidden gems in Italy that are easily accessible. This small fishermen hamlet is everything that you can dream of when thinking of an Italian holiday minus the crowds.
Colourful houses line the maze of streets that open up to beaches, ports and promenades offering brilliant views of the Mediterranean. You can have fun in Lido di Procida and August beaches. Or stroll along the alleys of Corricella and Chiaiolella.
Unlike the neighbouring touristy islands, you will get close peek of the friendly local Italians that greet you with smiles. You can meander the whole village on foot, admiring the landscapes.
Come evening, and you will see the bars and restaurants spring up for a lively nightlife. Procida is an authentic Italian island holiday destination.
One of the hidden places to visit in Italy is on the east coast of the Calabria region in the southern part of the country.
Tropea, known for its spectacular beaches, red onions, rocky cliffs, sweeping views of the Tyrrhenian Sea with a touch of medieval past, is one of the Italian hidden gems that is a must-visit.
While Puglia on the other side of the coast is more known and touristy, Tropea is a version of Puglia, probably more beautiful minus the tourists, except the peak summer months that do see crowds, but mostly locals.
Explore the old area of the town that houses the 12th century Santa Maria dell’Isola Monastery overlooking the beach. Head to the ruins of Tropea castle towers for stunning views.
Dine at one of the many restaurants for excellent Italian seafood. You can spend a few days going beach hopping and soak in the beauty of this town without having to spend a lot of money.
One of the best hidden gems in northern Italy is the fishing village of Camogli, peninsula of Portofino, on the Golfo Paradiso in Liguria region.
Cinque Terre and Portofino are the most famous destinations along the Italian Riveria, whose popularity overshadow the beauty of Camogli.
As such, unlike these touristy towns, Camogli, a town built into a steep rocky hill, retains its charm of a typical traditional Italian fishing village with vibrant buildings and alleyways with medieval ruins dotting the beach line.
If you want to get away from the crowds and enjoy a few of the beautiful places in Italy coast, Camogli will make you happy for sure. Try the local specialities like Focaccia, Seafood delicacies, different wines or unwind in one of the beaches.
Hike from Camogli or take a boat trip from Portofino to San Fruttuoso Abbey on the Italian Riveria, located in the tiny village of San Fruttuoso.
A small tunnel walkway and narrow stairs connect this secluded Abbey to the main road. This medieval monastery overlooks a small stunning beach too. You can explore the nearby streets.
Matera, located atop a rocky cliff in Basilicata province, is one of the most beautiful hidden gems in Italy. It is worth adding to your southern Italy itinerary for a dose of history, architecture, food and views.
Consisting of homes and buildings built entirely of limestones, this city of stones is one of the most unusual towns in Italy that you cannot miss. It is believed to have been settled since the Palaeolithic age, around 10th Millenium BC, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world.
Matera is UNESCO World Heritage Site, well known for the complex of caves, Sassi – Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso, two districts built over centuries-old caves, which used be the places of residences of the locals’ thousands of years ago.
You can spend hours and even days exploring Matera, checking out the medieval cobbled streets lined with churches, castles, monasteries and the stunning views around the edge of the rocky cliffs.
The squares boast of some fantastic restaurants, perfect for trying out the delicious Mediterranean cuisine and wines.
There are plenty of Gothic stone cathedrals, frescoes, museums, a stunning viaduct, and many viewpoints along with the city for admiring the gorgeous views.
Among the best-kept secrets in Italy is another town in the Basilicata region – Maratea. This gorgeous place is the only town on the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is blessed with over 20km of stunning coastline blessed with beaches, wooded buildings, and mountains that lead to rocky cliffs overlooking the sea opening to fabulous views.
No wonder, this beauty is called the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian. You can spend your holiday hopping beaches or dining in one of the roof-top restaurants enjoying the food with soothing views. There are many caves that you can explore too.
Or you could pick a few Gothic churches to visit, including the iconic statue of the Christ.
CASTELMEZZANO AND PIETRAPERTOSA, BASILICATA
In the Southern Italian region of Basilicata lie two absolute hidden gems in Italy, steeply hillside towns perched against the backdrop of Dolomiti Lucane Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa. They are a part of the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy, and it is no surprise, given the surreal locations of these towns.
There are around a thousand inhabitants in these towns, which makes it alluring. Especially if you are looking for hidden treasures of Italy with fewer or no tourists, it is a jackpot because although just a two-hour drive from Bari Airport and also Naples Airport, not many are aware of these Italian gems.
Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa are perfect stops for a day or two, especially if you are on a road trip in Southern Italy. Moving between these towns, located on two different mountains, is a serious adventure.
The Angel Flight – a high-speed zip line connects these two off the beaten path Italian towns together. It is one of the longest and highest zip lines in the world.
Get on the adventurous zip line, hike to the top of the ruins of Castello Saraceno, a medieval castle, which is also an excellent spot for some beautiful views of the Dolomite valleys.
With almost no tourists and few residents, these towns offer the best chance to spend time with the locals – whether residing in an adorable Airbnb overlooking the vistas or trying out local food and wine.
Being surrounded by mountains, Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa are splendid for nature lovers as there are plenty of hikes that you can plan in the forests and national parks around.
HIDDEN GEMS IN ITALY – PUGLIA REGION
Alberobello is one of the fantastic hidden gems in Italy hands down. This town in the south of Italy’s Apulia region in Puglia is a UNESCO world heritage site known for the iconic Trulli houses – unique, 18th century whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs.
Located about 2 hours away from Bari, Alberobello is one of the best-hidden places in Italy – thanks to the white houses with cone-like roofs that is a picture-perfect postcard, giving it the tag of a fairytale Italian town.
Of late, Alberobello receives more visitors, which means it won’t be a hidden Italian gem for long – So make sure to hurry up.
With around only eleven thousand inhabitants, Alberobello is one of the best offbeat destinations that will let you know more about the locals – whether it is dining at one of the restaurants for traditional South Italian cuisines or learning about their culture and traditions.
Visit the Trullo Sovrano museum to learn about the history of these unique houses, stroll on the streets of the town that also houses few Gothic churches.
SANT AGATA’DI PUGLIA
One of the hidden gems in Italy is Sant’Agata di Puglia, a town in the southeast part of the country in Apulia.
Its spectacular location on the top of a hill adds to the mystic ambience of this town that’s comprised of stone buildings and castles. If you want a slice of Italy where you can travel back in time and witness the historical medieval times, Sant’Agata di Puglia is where you should head to.
Most people arrive at Bari, one of the famous holiday destinations, but an hour drive away, you will find this Italian gem that’s unlike the touristy towns that we come across,
You can enjoy the 360-degree views from the town squares, with the main market square also adorned with cute cafes and restaurants.
The town is dominated by the imposing Castle of Sant’Agata, the iconic landmark, which has a history dating back to the Roman times. The castle, built on the ruins of a Pagan temple in the 6th century, is one of the best places depicting the long past treasured with legends, artefacts, stone ruins and more.
There are many palaces that you can visit, and also the ancient wine cellars and cathedrals. A drive around the town is equally stunning as you will pass through the rugged Italian countryside.
Otranto, a coastal town in southern Italy’s Apulia region is one of the region’s best destinations not known to many.
Otranto is blessed with a beautiful coast lined with gorgeous beaches, medieval ruins and lakes making it worth visiting if you are looking to plan a trip to one of the beautiful hidden gems in Italy.
It is home to the medieval wonder 15th-century Aragonese Castle, one of the must-visit attractions in the town.
If you venture for a while from the main town, you can reach the easternmost point of the country.
Explore the old quarter, dominated 11th-century Otranto Cathedral known for its frescoes, mosaic tiles flooring and colourful windows.
In the evening you can climb the iconic Torre Matta tower for sweeping views of the Mediterranean. Or head to the popular Alimini Beach.
You can visit the lovely Punta Palascìa lighthouse, which is a part of the national park which can be best reached by a scenic drive along the coast.
The two lovely lakes are best for birds spotting and watching turtles are Alimini Grande and Alimini Piccolo.
One of the best hidden gems in Italy that you will absolutely love if you are a lover of architectural ruins is the town of Ginosa in Apulia in southern Italy.
Given its secluded location, it might be hard to believe for you that the earliest history of this town on the river banks date back to the 9th century.
Taking a stroll in the town is walking back in time in Ginosa. The heart of the town is the medieval square Piazza Orologio dominated by the 16th-century Chiese Cathedral adjoining a clock tower.
You should check out the most iconic monument of Ginosa, the Norman Castle and the middle age ruins of Troglodyte villages carved out of rocks.
If you love exploring history even further back in time, check out the Peucetian tombs outside the town.
Puglia or the Apulia region is full of postcard-perfect hill-top towns surrounded by even more magnificent landscapes. One such Apulia hidden gem is the beautiful town of Ostuni.
Nesting atop a hill surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, this white, walled-city is one of the hidden gems in Italy close to the coast, just an hour away from the popular Bari.
Most people explore Ostuni as one of the day trips, but the town deserves a day or two if you have time. Strolling through the cobbled streets and winding alleys will lead you to one of the remaining arched medieval gates.
Then head to the main square Piazza Della Liberta famous for its sandstone Ostuni cathedral – a beautiful blend of Gothic, Romanesque and Byzantine architectural styles.
You can taste the local cuisines and wine at one of the many cafes and restaurants in the square. Also, visit the Civic Museum and Archaeological Park that has remains of a woman from Paleolithic times.
HIDDEN GEMS IN ITALY – TUSCANY REGION
One of the lovely hidden gems in Italy that will entice history and architecture lovers is the beautiful city of Siena, located in the Tuscany region. This walled city, located atop a hill is renowned for its rich Renaissance monuments, including Gothic cathedrals and castles.
If you love the idea of vineyards, castles and cobbled medieval streets – Siena is the Italian hidden gem for you.
The heart of the old quarter, Piazza del Campo is a treasure-trove of medieval history and architecture. This square is the venue for many traditional celebrations and festivals during summer.
Suppose you are here in July or August. In that case, you can participate in the famous Palio horse race – the bi-annual traditional festival where people dressed in medieval attire witness the horse race.
Among the most notable attractions is the iconic Duomo di Siena, the Gothic cathedral. Walkthrough the mazed alleys lined with cute cafes, bars and restaurants. Enjoy stunning views of the town from the top of Torre del Mangia, the 14th-century tower.
RECOMMENDED THINGS TO DO IN SIENA
Take a vineyard and wine tasting tour of Chianti and Brunello.
Sign up for a Tuscan cooking class
Only a few hidden gems in Italy remain in the Tuscany region today, which receives millions of visitors every year thanks to its rolling hills, olive groves, beautiful vineyards and fairytale medieval stone castles.
One such part of undiscovered Italy is Pienza town, an hour away from Siena. It is one of the best places in Tuscany to enjoy the countryside lined with rolling hills, greenery comprising of vineyards and farms.
For the best medieval atmosphere and history, check out the central Piazza Pio II, which is embellished with 15th-century architectural wonders Pienza Cathedral, Piccolomini Palace, and the Pieve di Corsignano, a Romanesque church with a circular bell tower.
You can sign up for wine tasting tours in Pienza, or take a stroll, getting lost amidst the lush landscapes, or if you have more time, go castle hopping as there are plenty of stunning Tuscany castles.
You may have heard of one of the best wines of Italy, Brunello di Montalcino, which is produced in the town of Montalcino, one of the hidden gems in Italy and the pride of Tuscany wine region in the southern part of the region
In the Val d’Orcia valley lies this fairytale hamlet of Montalcino upon a hill, beautifully adorned with the vineyards, farms and rolling hills everywhere you set your eyes.
Attend the wine tasting tour, a must-do when you are in the birth town of world-class wine.
And if you want to stroll around, check out the cobbled alleys in the old area, where you can also find some local cafes and restaurants – your best bet to try authentic Tuscan delicacies.
About 40 km away from Montalcino lies another of the hidden places in Italy waiting to be explored – the wine town of Montepulciano, renowned for the famous red wine Vino Nobile.
It is the best town to base yourself to explore the gorgeous Val d’Orcia valley, and the natural reserve Riserva naturale Lucciola Bella, which is known for the rolling pastures dotted with vineyards and olives.
You can join wine tasting tours organized by families that have been running wineries for decades. You will get to know about the underground wine cellars and the process of winemaking, along with trying a few types.
Also, explore Palazzo Comunale, and certainly take the walk of the old town that houses the clock tower, 10th-century San Biagio Catherdral and other medieval monuments at the main square Piazza Grande of Montepulciano.
Outside the town, there are a few viewpoints that you should check out to witness the stunning views of the valleys.
HIDDEN GEMS IN ITALY – LOMBARDY
Halfway between the cities of Venice, Milan and Bologna lie one of the beautiful hidden gems in Italy – Mantua (Mantova). Built on a peninsula, Mantua is renowned for its history, architecture and three beautiful lakes formed by the Mincio River.
The heart of the old quarter is a treasure trove of medieval monuments lined along the stone alleyways that also boasts of some of the boutique cafes and bars.
Watch the sunset while taking a stroll on one of the promenades along the lakes, which is a famous hangout spot for the locals. You can also take a romantic cruise at the time of sunset.
Among the noted historical monuments of Mantua, the iconic Ducale Palace is among the top attractions.
This mammoth palace, built-in neo-Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic styles, is home to at least 500 spacious rooms with beautiful frescoes, botanical gardens, ballrooms and courtyards.
Admire the panoramic views of Mantua from the top of the towers.
Explore another impressive castle Palazzo Te or the Te Palace, known for its wonderful frescoes, columns, royal rooms and courtyards.
One of the best regions of Northern Italy for travelers is Lombardy. And one of the best northern Italy hidden gems in the city of Bergamo. Despite its proximity to Milan(a 30-minutes train ride), not many are aware of this beautiful hill town.
If you are looking best places to visit the Italian countryside, Bergamo is a good base as the region around is blessed with glacial lakes, forests and the spectacular Bergamo Alps.
The walled city of Bergamo, divided into two levels Città Alta and Città Bassa, the older upper town and the medieval lower town is characterized by cobbled alleyways, enclosed within Venetian walls.
The funicular ride to these towns will give you some amazing bird views of Bergamo. The heart of the town is the main square Piazza Vecchia, one of the best in Europe.
Meander through the streets lined with medieval buildings. Explore the Gothic city cathedrals and the museums. Try the best Italian food and wine in one of the restaurants near the square – There are plenty of things to do in Bergamo for you.
HIDDEN GEMS IN ITALY – ISLANDS
TOP TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES
Booking Flights: To score flight deals, search on Jet Radar, Kiwi, or 12go.Asia (for Asia planning). Book and fly mid-week, taking red-eyes flights or those in the early mornings for better deals and lower prices. Avoid check-in bags on a budget airline.
Booking Trains: The best websites for booking trains anywhere in Europe are Rail Europe and TrainLine. Both are easy to manage online and track your journeys.
Booking Cars: For the best prices and easy handling of renting a car for road trips and day trips, I’d recommend Discover Cars or Rental Cars, available throughout the world.
Accommodations: I typically use HotelsCombined or Booking.com to book hotels. There are special getaway deals with amazing discounts(over 50%!) for this year on Booking.com, and you can find them here.
I use Hostelworld and Agoda to book hostels as the deposit is low, easy change/cancellation is available and reviews are excellent on both. Depending on the destination, I love staying in VRBOs/homestays.
Travel Insurance: No matter whether it is a short trip or longer trips abroad, I strongly recommend buying travel insurance for international trips. I recommend either World Nomads or SafetyWing for international travel insurance.
Tours: Being a solo traveler, one of the best ways to optimize my time, budget, and super importantly, meet amazing people from all over the world is by joining tours, especially food tours, walking tours, day trips, culture, and history tours.
You will get a local’s perspective, the best opportunities to experience places and people closely. I book using GetYourGuide, Klook, Viator, and Voyagin.