Eight Italian Destinations that Slip under the Radar
Italy is a country that the world is pretty familiar with. From the fashion houses of Milan to the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel, there are certain things that just fit when you think of the nation known as The Boot. But away from the main protagonists such as Rome, Venice, and Florence, there's a story to be told.
With mountainous Europe to the north and the Mediterranean Sea in the south, the Italian landscape is a tapestry of diverse regions. Yet it's the small towns and communes that thread and bind this beautiful country. With long summers and flight times of less than two hours, Italy is accessible, sunny, and still surprisingly undiscovered.
Here are eight places you may not have visited yet:
1. Castellabate, Campania
Two hours' drive south of Naples is a remote destination where Italians love to holiday. Castellabate is a small hill-side town in the Salerno province, only 10 minutes' drive away from the Cilento Coast (an unspoiled stretch that is truly off the tourist radar). Castles, beaches, basilicas, and not many people — what's not to love?
2. Lecce, Puglia
My nana always told me to look up when walking through a city. In the southeast of Italy — the heel of the boot — there's a display of Baroque architecture that proves how good her advice was. Lecce is full of beautifully designed churches and buildings that sit in perfectly symmetrical piazzas. And, if that wasn’t enough, there are even Roman ruins (including an amphitheatre) to see.
3. Bologna, Emilia-Romagna
With one of the world's largest churches, the world's oldest university, and some of the greatest contributions to Italian cuisine, Bologna doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves. Speaking of cuisine, did you know that spaghetti Bolognese isn’t supposed to be eaten with spaghetti at all? The sauce isn’t even called Bolognese! Head to Bologna for a taste of tagliatelle ragù — the true form of the city's famous dish.
4. Greve, Tuscany
Chianti, made infamous by Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of the Lambs", is celebrated around the world and is one of Tuscany's best-loved exports. Greve is a small village that sits between Florence and Siena, and is the perfect base from which to explore the wineries of the Chianti region. Spend a couple of days visiting cellar doors and taste a variety of grapes, including Chianti Classico.
5. Genoa, Liguria
The port city of Genoa is the capital of the Liguria region and a gateway to the Italian Riviera. Often overlooked in favour of the majestic coastline of Cinque Terre, Genoa can offer a more serene view of Ligurian life — we recommend strolling past the pastel-coloured houses of Proloco Maris Boccadasse with a gelato in hand.
6. Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini, Marche
There are some places in the world that have it all. The national park around the Sibillini Mountains is one of them. From rock pools halfway up the mountains to flourishing, multi-coloured meadows, the landscape changes with every hiking trail. You could spend weeks at a time exploring this national park, so make sure you plan well in advance.
7. Sulmona, Abruzzo
If you're looking for rustic Italy, then you’ll find it in the city of Sulmona (pictured above). Surrounded by mountains, sandwiched by national parks and less than an hour's drive from the beaches of the Adriatic coast, Sulmona is an idyllic base from which to explore Abruzzo. And let's not forget the Medieval character that's packed into every street.
8. Maratea, Basilicata
This hilltop town provides our list with a bit of glamour. The rich and famous descend on Maratea once a year in July for its International Film Festival, and it's no wonder the festival is hosted here. Looking out over the Tyrrhenian coast, Maratea is full of picturesque coves and its harbour bears comparison with Cannes's. Explore the town's historic streets and take a walk up to its very own Christ the Redeemer statue.