Italy is the country of pizza, pasta, wine, architecture and some might even say that it is also the country of secret places. After all, it is no secret, that Italy is full of wonderful cities and areas. In fact, there are so many hidden gems in Italy, that no list would be able to include all of them. Therefore this compilation only lists some of the best ones that can act as your guiding line while you set out to explore the country and stumble upon amazing places that even extensive travel guides do not include.
When people plan a trip to Italy most stick to popular places like Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence, Pisa, or Positano. And while all of these cities have their own charm and are worth exploring, visiting them does not give you a glimpse of the real Italy away from all the popular places. To see the essence of the country, you have to venture off the beaten track and explore the many hidden gems in Italy.
Hopefully, you will find at least a few towns and places that you want to visit during your trip to Italy. I promise you, that all of them are worth your while.
Discovering Hidden Gems of Italy
There are few things I love more while traveling than discovering hidden gems, and I am inclined to believe that it was Italy that inspired me to start venturing off-the-beaten-path wherever I go. After all, it the country in which I found my first real hidden gem when I more or less stumbled upon the great town of Bergamo when I stayed there for a night so I would be closer to the airport after exploring Milan.
I had never heard of the town before but immediately fell in love with its charm and old buildings. There was this instant feeling that I had found a secret place in Italy. This discovery made me plan a multi-day trip to Bergamo and it was even better than expected. So how could I not start looking for further hidden gems in Italy? And while I myself have yet to visit all of these incredibly secret spots on this list, I cannot wait to explore them now that I was made aware of them.
Off the Beaten Path Places in Northeast Italy
Monte Lussari, Friuli Venezia Giulia
Monte Lussari is one of those hidden Italian gems, it is the typical village of fairy tales located on the top of the mountain. It is an interesting place especially for lovers of trekking and skiing. It is located between the Julian Alps in Tarvisio on the border between Italy, Austria, and Slovenia, today it is a place of encounter and friendship between the Latin Slavic and Germanic world that in the past have long disputed these territories.
You can reach Mount Lussari on foot by a walk of over two hours through the path of Pellegrino or with the comfortable cable car from Camporosso that in 15 minutes reaches the top from where you have a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains.
In winter there are ski slopes, several times it has been the seat of the Ski World Cup races while in summer it is a good starting point for lovers of trekking and walks in the middle of nature. If you are planning a trip to Italy, I recommend you also insert this wonderful place.
Recommended by Miriam from Miry Giramondo
Bassano del Grappa, Veneto
Bassano del Grappa is one of the most beautiful cities in the Italian north. It is a perfect blend between nature and architecture. On one side there is a well preserved medieval old town, on the other fantastic views over the Alps. Nevertheless, Bassano is famous for something else, the pomace brandy called Grappa!
Bassano del Grappa may be a small city, but it offers an abundance of things to do. You should not miss the museum dedicated to Grappa. If you are into the views, go to the new bridge on Viale Armando Diaz or to Viale Dei Martiri. Book lovers should go straight to the historic Libreria Palazzo Roberti. End the day by having a cocktail in a palace. The Palazzo delle Misture offers an impressive number of cocktails and other mixed drinks.
The most convenient way to reach Bassano del Grappa is by train. Direct trains from Venice depart every half an hour, and the journey takes just over an hour. If you are coming from Milan, you have to change trains in Padova or Mestre.
Explored by Milos Mitrovic from Happy Frog Travels
Lago Dobbiacco, Trentino-Alto Adige
Lago Dobbiacio is one of the most underrated lakes in the dolomites, partially due to its vicinity (15 min drive) from the insta-famous Lago di Braies but mostly because it has not been promoted by the region as a tourist hotspot. Herein lies the beauty of this untouched and unspoiled lake, it is unaffected by the droves of adventure-seeking tourists and instead is reserved for those looking for a more quiet spot to be at one with nature.
Like many of the lakes in the Dolomites, Lago Dobbiacio is the perfect spot for a hike or a swim in the crystal clear water. A loop hike runs around the lake is 4,5 km and will take around 2 hours to complete. Be sure to stop and read the information panels dotted around the lake to get an idea of the indigenous fauna and flora of the region. The hike can be done in a comfortable pair of sneakers.
The lake is about 3,5 meters deep and has a small boathouse on the shore which rents our rowboats by the hour. If you happen to come in winter, the chances are high the lake will be frozen over offering you the perfect surface for ice skating or even curling!
The lake is right next to road SS51, there is ample parking right in from of the lake (parking will set you back € 1 / hour). The nearest city is Cortina d’Ampezzo, where you can rent a car for the day to drive around the region.
Explored by Caroline from Veggie Wayfarer
If you’re looking for a hidden food gem that’s just being discovered in Italy, you’ll fall in love with Modena. Located in the Emilia Romagna region just under an hour northwest of Bologna, Modena is a culinary giant with plenty to see, eat, and enjoy. Think of it as a small Bologna without the seasonal crowds.
A tour will show you historic sites. In 1997 the beautiful Duomo di Modena with the Ghirlandina Tower and its Piazza Grande became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Schedule your visit far enough in advance to score a reservation at one of the most famous restaurants in the world, the famed Michelin Three-Star restaurant, Osteria Francescana.
Getting to Modena is quite easy. For most visitors, the best option is to fly into the Bologna Airport. From there a shuttle bus can be taken, but an even better option is the train to Modena. If you plan to base yourself in Bologna, take the train from Bologna Centrale. With 29 trains/day it’s a relaxing 35 minutes to Modena.
Hidden Gem in Italy explored by Lori Sorrentino from Travlinmad
Secret Places in Italy: Lombardy
Bergamo is one of the best hidden gems in Italy. Located less than an hour away from Milan, this medieval town allows visitors to explore Italy off the beaten path. It is an incredibly idyllic city and strolling through the winding cobblestone streets of the old town is amazing.
This hidden gem in Italy is split into the upper Citta Alta and the lower Citta Bassa. And while it is possible to drive from one part to another, the best way to get up the hill is to take the funicular. After all, catching a ride in this uphill train is one of the best things to do in the city.
The city is full of churches and buildings with great architectural features of different centuries, so you get to see parts of the Italian history with your own eyes. Some of the most impressive buildings are the Bergamo Cathedral, the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and the 12th-century Campanone tower at Piazza Vecchia. In addition to that, visitor can also explore the old Venetian defence wall with its impressive gates like Porta San Giacomo.
If you want an epic view over the city, you have to take a second funicular up to Rocca di San Vigilio. Aside from being the location of the hilltop castle ruins of Torre Castello San Vigilio, it is also where you can find the best viewpoint of the city. Be sure to visit the balcony-like area called Panorama da S. Vigilio during sunrise or sunset if you want to best possible view.
Getting to Bergamo is quite easy. After all, the town is really close to Milan-Bergamo airport, which is frequented by European budget airlines. If you are already in Milan and want to visit Bergamo, you can take one of the hourly buses to Bergamo City or to Bergamo airport. Most buses take you to the airport, but several local bus lines departing the airport will take you to the city center of Bergamo.
Read More about this hidden gem in Italy: Two Amazing Days in Bergamo
Chiavenna (pronounced key-VENN-ah) snuggles into the crisp white mountains near the Swiss border with all the style you’d expect of northern Italy. It’s a must-see on the list of day trips from Milan but few make the effort to stay a few days and explore the highlights of Chiavenna herself.
Most notably, there are the caves, or crotti. Wipe away thoughts of dank, dark, bat-filled holes. These crotti belong to Chiavenna’s gentry, passed down through generations as an asset before refrigerators became widespread. Now they’re used as wine cellars and bars, serving aperitivos and some freshly made bresaola from the nearby Valtellina. Chiavenna is small. But has over one thousand crotti.
On the outskirts, in Chiuro, make sure to visit Palazzo Vertemate. Once a stately home ripe with vineyards, orchards and its own chapel, today it hosts orchestras and guided tours that give an insight into everyday life during the renaissance.
Chiavenna’s medieval town centre mixes cheese shops with history and the San Lorenzo Monastery provides a place for quiet contemplation.
Explored by Abigail King from Inside the Travel Lab
Hidden Gems in Apulia, Italy
Locorotondo is one of the prettiest small towns of Valle d’Itria, in Puglia (Southern Italy). Close to the more famous Alberobello – the Trulli town – Locorotondo has its very own trulli to its name. In fact, this is where the oldest registered trullo in the region (Trullo Marziolla) is found. But that’s not its only charm!
This small town is a series of very narrow cobbled alleys and whitewashed buildings where you will appreciate getting lost. The historical center has a circular plant – hence its name, Locorotondo, which comes from the Latin “locus rotondus”: literally rounded place. There you will find the main church, Chiesa Madre di San Giorgio. Not far from it there is the Romanesque church of the Madonna della Greca and the San Rocco Church.
Suggested by Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World
Secret Spots in Lazio
The town of about 5000 inhabitants of Trevignano Romano is a hidden treasure in central Italy, underrated by both local and international travelers. The town overlooks the beautiful Lake Bracciano, one of the cleanest lakes near Rome, where motorboats are banned and bathing is extremely pleasant from June to early October.
Among the features that make Trevignano Romano stand out among the other towns that rise on the shores of the lake there is, first of all, a long and well-kept lakeside promenade, which covers the entire length of the town. Along this promenade, you will find cafes, restaurants, and bathing establishments. Stop for breakfast at the historic pastry shop and café “Da Ermete”, in the main square of the town, while you can dine at the “Casina Bianca” to try the typical dishes of the lake area, such as fried lake fish and pasta with lake fish.
Trevignano Romano is also a quiet place to move for a while, retreat, and enjoy beautiful sunsets, away from the chaos of nearby Rome.
How to get there to Trevignano Romano
Take a city train from Valle Aurelia or Ostiense stations in Rome and get off at Anguillara Sabazia. From there, take a local bus directed to Trevignano.
By Lisa of Travel Connect Experience
Soriano nel Cimino
If you are thinking about visiting Rome, make sure to factor in enough time to get out of town and explore the surrounding regions. While many travelers prefer staying on the tourist track and explore well-known places such as Ostia Antica and Civita di Bagnoregio, you should make it a point to discover one of Italy’s hidden gems – Soriano nel Cimino.
Located about 1.5 drive from Rome on the Cimini Mountains, in the region of Tuscia, between Lazio, Tuscany, and Umbria, this small town is one of the famous “rupi villages” – small hilltop settlements that almost look like falling off the edge of a cliff.
Finally, for a respite from the summer heat, make sure to head to the Faggeta Forest, a UNESCO site where you’ll also find a nice restaurant where you and have a scrumptious lunch of local food (try the lombrichetti pasta!).
Explored by Claudia Tavani from Strictly Rome
Hidden Gems in Italy: Liguria
The Italian Riviera is full of cities, towns, and villages boasting colorful houses and pristine waters, yet the five villages of the Cinque Terre mostly steal the show. While they certainly are stunning, visiting any one of them means overpriced meals, tourists galore, and no chance at any peace and quiet. Luckily, there’s a hidden gem not too far away called Santa Margherita Ligure.
Santa Margherita Ligure, also referred to as simply Santa Margherita, sits right by Portofino, just south of Genoa, and not far north from the Cinque Terre. Like its more popular neighbors, colorful Santa Margherita sits on the Ligurian Sea and is surrounded by lush mountains. But unlike the others, Santa Margherita has retained the look and feel of a normal Italian town.
How to Get to Santa Margherita
Getting to Santa Margherita is pretty easy, as it sits right on the train line between the cruise-stop city of Genoa and the villages of the Cinque Terre. It is also reachable by bus, private car, or even by boat ride from nearby Rapello.
Recommended by Em from That Travelista
Italy off the Beaten Path: Tuscany
One of the most hidden gems in Italy to visit in Tuscany is definitely Pienza. For many, this tiny historic village and the beautiful landscapes around are a highlight of any round trip. Here you will find pure, magical romantic-like out of a movie scene: The old town knowns as the “perfect city of the Renaissance” and the endless rolling fields, dreamlike viewpoints, and picturesque cypress avenues are breathtaking.
Interesting is, that since 1996, Pienza with all its historic center is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. During a walk through the city, you will discover countless pretty squares, historical buildings, and different museums.
Fantastic are also the many good restaurants, inviting visitors to take a sightseeing break. You will find them directly at the main square Piazzo Pio II but also inside the hidden romantic side streets! Especially famous is Pienza for its delicious Pecorino cheese.
Explored by Martina & Jürgen from Places of Juma
The Best Hidden Gems on Italy’s Islands: Sardinia & Sicily
Carloforte is one of Sardinia’s best-kept secrets. This small town is the only settlement on San Pietro island; founded at the end of the 18th century by a community of merchants and fishermen of Genoese origins that arrived from Tabarka, a small island off the coast of Tunisia. To date, though the official languages remain Italian and Sardinian (one of the minority languages of Italy), most people in Carloforte speak Tabarkine, which is in fact more similar to Genoese!
Recommended by Claudia Tavani, Strictly Sardinia
The tiny volcanic island Ustica definitely is a hidden gem not too far located from Sicily’s capital city, Palermo. The island is surrounded by a nature reserve (under sea level), and is, therefore, a perfect spot to go scuba diving! Moreover, the history of the island dates back to Roman times and you can still see some remains of this rich past.
The best and only way to get to the island is to take a ferry from Palermo to Ustica. The ferries depart several times a day and it will take you about one hour and a half if you take the fast ferry or three hours if you take the normal ferry to reach the island. In Ustica, you’ll immediately arrive in the center of the village.
Explored by Emma Verhaeghe from Emma’s Roadmap
When listing hidden gems in Italy, Catania on Sicily has to be mentioned. While less off-the-beaten-track than many other places on this list, Catania is overlooked by many. Due to the city’s proximity to the volcano Mt. Etna, it often remains a mere gateway to the volcano.
However, Catania has more to offer than a great view of the volcano. After all, it is Sicily’s second biggest city and has many fantastic historic buildings and structures.
The Cathedral of Sant’Angala is an impressive Baroque structure that has some Roman elements. Inside you will find stunning frescos and the tomb of Bellini. The fountain in the center of the piazza known as Fontana dell’Elefante. Topped by a sculpture of a smiling elephant that is carrying an obelisc, it is a must-see for everyone that visits Catania.
Other places to see in Catania include the Municipio (town hall) that dates back to 1741 and Porta Uzeda which was built in 1696. Also, visit the Roman Amphitheater and Castello Ursino that now houses the Civic Museum. Giardino Bellini, also known as Villa Bellini, is the perfect place for some relaxed time. After all, it is the oldest Urban garden of Catania and dates back to the 18th century. It used to be the private garden of a prince, but today everyone can enjoy the great area full of colorful flowers and trees, as well as the busts of famous Italians and Catanians.
The easiest way to get there is flying into Catania International Airport. The ferries from Naples and from Malta are another option.
Cefalù (pronounced shef-a-loo) is a coastal beach city on the island of Sicily. The closest big city to this hidden gem is Palermo, which is just a one-hour drive or train ride away. Cefalù is small and easy to get around. This makes it the perfect place to relax and hang out for just a day, or several!
After an adventurous climb, head into Cefalù for a plate of pasta, and then drop by Cefalù Beach to watch the sunset.
Explored by Erin from Pina Travels
Best Unknown Places in Italy’s Southwest: Campania & Basilicata
You could be forgiven in thinking that none of the Amalfi Coast remains undiscovered, but thankfully, that is not so. Nestled along the cliffs beneath the illustrious town of Ravello is the charming little village of Minori, unassuming and a little weathered around the edges, for it does not attract the glitzy, glamorous crowds that flock to the likes of Positano and Capri.
Minori remains relatively under the radar, as it is just that little bit further south along the coast from Amalfi – the end of the line for most people who travel by boat along the coast from Positano – and also as it is, for the most part, largely passed by when traveling by ferry from Salerno to Positano or Amalfi. While these people, unfortunately, miss out, it does mean that Minori still retains a distinctly Italian feel and has a level of authenticity that has been stripped from some of its more famous cousins along the Amalfi Coast.
You can also take the Lemon Walk to the nearby town of Maoiri, which – you guessed it- features a meandering walk through lemon groves (and a fair amount of uneven steps, so be prepared)!
The best way of getting around the Amalfi Coast is by boat, which is uninterrupted by the copious traffic jams that plague the roads between towns. Due to Minori’s position on the coast, the best way to reach the town is by boat. Regular ferries depart from all the main towns along the Amalfi Coast, including Salerno, Amalfi, and Positano and you will even be able to reach Minori by ferry from Naples, too. Make sure to check the ferry schedule in advance, however, as this can change due to both the seasons and the weather.
Suggested by Isabelle from Issy Escapades
Castelmezzano is a hidden gem in the Basilicata region. Picturesque southern Italian town is listed as one of the most beautiful places in Italy. Medieval Castelmezzano is surrounded by scenic Dolomiti Lucane mountains.
Even though it’s a small place, Castelmezzano has many things to do. Starting with the medieval town itself. It’s a charming little mountain town with narrow streets, colorful stoned buildings, and several authentic shops and restaurants. The most prominent building in the town is the Mother Church of Santa Maria dell’Olmo. It’s right in the center of the town, where it’s also a viewpoint to the whole Castelmezzano and surrounding dolomite hills.
Around the Castelmezzano are also several hiking trails. The most popular walk is Gradinata Normanna. It starts from the village and rises to one of the dolomite hills. Castelmezzano has the same-looking neighboring town called Pietrapertosa. A town built on bare rocks can be visited by a 9km car ride, or by walking through a shorter hike trail.
The town is also known for the high-speed zip line Volo’dell Angelo. It’s one of the fastest zip lines in the whole of Europe. It starts from Castelmezzano, takes over the valley of Basento to Pietrapertosa, and then back to the starting town.
Castelmezzano is a bit off track. Due to that, it’s not an overcrowded destination. It would be the perfect day trip option from historical Matera. The distance between them is about 80 km.
Suggested by Erki from Genem Travels
Planning a trip soon? Check out these useful websites and resources that I use to plan my own adventures
Hidden gems in Italy to visit: How many have you already seen?
Which of these hidden gems in Italy will you add to your Italy itinerary?
If you plan to visit several of them, I highly recommend a road trip through Italy. After all, it is the perfect way to explore all the amazing places in Italy while also seeing the countryside. If you do not know how to plan the trip, you can use the ultimate road trip planner.
Do you know any other amazing hidden gems in Italy? Or have you already visited some of the ones on this list? Let everyone know in the comments down below!
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