But are you also making time for Italy’s villages? The coastal towns, the mountain-top eyries, the rural enclaves? A different sort of magic happens here, with a slower pace of life far removed from the traffic and congestion of the cities. They’re often not as easy to reach by public transport, but a local guide can easily arrange a day-trip to one of them for you, giving you a chance to experience la dolce vita of Italian village life.
Here are six of our favourites villages in Italy (click on the photos above for visuals!)
The villages of the Cinque Terre have become increasingly popular among travelers to Italy’s Ligurian Coast, but not as many people know about their attractive neighbor in the Bay of Poets – Portovenere. This abundantly colourful town spills down the hillside to the water, and boasts all the charm of the Cinque Terre, without the crowds. Dine on the region’s famous pasta with pesto, stroll up and down narrow stone stairs, and go for a swim in the same turquoise waters as Lord Byron famously did, in the 19th century. Portovenere is an easy 20 minute ferry ride from the small city of La Spezia.
Civita di Bagnoregio
Don’t miss visiting at least one of Italy’s hill towns. They’re easy to spot as you wind through the countryside, their medieval walls and spires dotting the tops of hills. One of the most visually evocative is Civita di Bagnoregio, a hamlet perched on a plateau of volcanic rock surrounded by steep ravines in Italy’s Lazio region. The city’s fragile beauty has recently become more assured with a small tourist tax that goes a long way towards helping the town preserve its ancient structures.
Way down at the heel of Italy’s boot lies the region of Puglia/Apulia. And tucked away at the heart of Puglia is little Alberobello, famous for its unusual (and slightly bizarre!) style of houses. The town’s Trulli date back to the 14th century, and are round dwellings made of whitewashed limestone, with a conical, often embellished roof. So unique are they, that the entire village of Alberobello is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You have to see it for yourself!
The spectacular Amalfi Coast is justifiably popular. Ravello and Amalfi are the larger, better known towns, but beautiful little Atrani, Separated from Amalfi by a rocky mountainside dotted with medieval watchtowers, has its own unique charms to discover. Despite being walking distance from Amalfi, Atrani has maintained its own identity, and even a local dialect! The village offers travelers a quieter, more intimate way to experience the beauty of the Amalfi Coast, especially if you access it by our guide's private boat.
Gorgeous sunsets, unpretentious seaside charm and sandy beaches await you in one of Sicily’s loveliest destinations. The medieval town of Cefalu is picture perfect, boasting a 12th century cathedral and narrow stone streets to while away countless hours exploring the Arab, Byzantine, Norman and Spanish influences that shaped the town. If you’re fit, a hike up the craggy “Rocca” will reward you with coastal views and a close-up look at the 5th century Temple of Diana.
Montepulciano and Monticchiello
Montepulciano is popular, so the chances of you being the only one walking its charming streets is low…but this fortified medieval town is one of Tuscany’s most impressive. The city, full of elegant Renaissance palaces, ancient churches, and charming squares, boasts vast panoramas all over the wonderful Val d'Orcia and Val di Chiana valleys that surround it. To escape the crowds, consider a country walk between here and the nearby villages of Monticchiello and Pienza. Our guide Costanza will show you the way.