Lesser Known Parts of Italy to Discover This Year

Reckon you’ve “done” Italy? We say it’s time to break free from the overcrowded tourist mainstays and turn your attention to these under-appreciated towns, beaches and mountains

There's nothing wrong with joining the hordes to shuffle past Michelangelo's statue of David or pushing past the selfie sticks to fling a coin into the Trevi Fountain - it's got to be done and there's a reason these spots are so popular. But there's a delightful satisfaction that comes from discovering somewhere a little bit different.

We've sought out the kind of rough diamonds that will transport you back a few decades, to a world without A/C and English menus. And what you lose in reliability in these places, you make up for in a sense of adventure and, dare we say it, authenticity. Travel out of season and make time for secret walled cities, quiet lagoons, mountain villages and beaches - they're closer than you think.



The secret cliff town that should be on every Italian beach Itinerary, Tropea is perched high above the Tyrrhenian Sea on the toe of Italy's boot. Bluer-than-blue waters, white beaches and a pretty historical centre rival those found in Puglia or on the Amalfi Coast, and at a fraction of the price. While far from luxurious, the village has bags of old-fashioned-charm. As well as fresh seafood, Calabria is known for its sun-drenched Mediterranean vegetables, and for being the only place where the perfumed citrus fruit bergamot is grown. Tropea has a mythical status in the region, with the story going that it was founded by Hercules after he freed Calabria from the giants. Watch the evening sun sink into the sea beyond Stromboli, or take a boat trip out to the island to enjoy its unearthly black beaches punctuated by traditional white houses.

Stay: Villa D'Aquino

Alta Badia

The Dolomites

With its cluster of villages and wild countryside perched high in the Unesco-listed Dolomites, Alta Badia is home to only around 6,000 people, making it one of Italy's most secluded and least populated holiday spots. Love Italian wine? From July to September an open-air festival called Vins Alaleria hosts tastings in meadows and on dramatic mountainsides at the bottom of the Pisciadú waterfalls. In Autumn, walking holidays and Michelin-starred-chef residencies provide the perfect escape; while in winter the region hosts the 'Taste for Skiing' gourmet ski safari, where acclaimed chefs partner with mountain huts to create a signature slope-side dish available all season.

Stay: Villa Trieste



Viticulture has ancient origins in this region of northern Italy, but it's only in the last few decades that Franciacorta's reputation has started to get any serious air time on the world stage. Thanks to the hard work of independent wineries and the DOCG certification, Franciacorta's classically made sparkling wines are making a name for themselves. The area has a similar terroir to the French wine regions, which is dotted with medieval castles and hilltop cities that make ideal stop-off points during wine-tasting road trips.

Stay: L'Albereta Relais & Chateaux



Home to some of the finest wines, white truffles and culinary know-how in the world, Piedmont is a wealthy and successful region with a lifestyle to match. Bra is the global epicentre of the Slow Food movement, where students spend time learning how to discern between the various grades of Parmigiano-Reggiano and how to produce top-notch olive oil. Alba is nearby, with its famed annual truffle fair and, since Turin hosted the Winter Olympics in 2006, neighbouring ski villages such as Limone and La Val di Susa have improved infrastructure, meaning decent Italian ski holidays without the international crowds.

Stay: Casa di Langa



Deep in the heel of Italy, the southern extremities of Salento are remote even by Puglian standards. The dry region is peppered with small, slow-paced villages and baroque towns such as Nardò, where wide-open piazzas and storied churches are largely devoid of visitors. In the rolling countryside surrounding the town, acre upon acre of olive trees stretch down towards the Ionian Sea. Enjoy peaceful walks and picnics in the protected pine forest of Porto Selvaggio, or long lunches of freshly caught fish in rustic local dining rooms. Don't miss the inland Grottaglie commune, renowned for its vineyards and ceramics.

Stay: Further Afield



Tuscany's little brother and the only landlocked region of Italy not to border another country, Umbria is less expensive and more rugged than its sibling, yet arguably just as beautiful. Decamp to the national park around Lake Trasimeno, or while away lazy days in characterful castles and farmhouses. The Umbrian capital, Perugia, is a walled medieval city, not dissimilar to Siena. There's a swinging jazz festival here every summer, and a buzzy student vibe throughout the year. Umbria also happens to be Italy's largest producer of truffles, which make their way into many of the region's traditional pasta dishes.

Stay: Reschio


Friuli Venezia Giulia

Trieste is the cultural heart of Mitteleuropa, a key international trade route with close links to Slovenia, Croatia and Austria. It only became a part of Italy in 1954, and has been strongly influenced by the Balkans, Venetians, Austrians, Greeks and Jews throughout its history. Many of the neoclassical buildings date back to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while the old city is medieval. The imperial splendour of the port is unexpected for such a strategically important city: think grand canals, well-structured waterways and seafront piazzas. Enjoy traditional Italian cuisine and seafood alongside wiener schnitzel accompanied by paprika potatoes.

Stay: Savoia Excelsior Palace

Abruzzo National Park


Golden eagles, wolves, otters, chamois and the last 100 Marsican brown bears in the world have found refuge in this vast national park in the Apennine mountains. Besides being the oldest national park in Italy, it also has the greatest diversity of flora and fauna. The surrounding area is home to 25 remote towns and villages, including the medieval hilltop town of Casoli, with its cobblestone streets and ninth-century castle.

Stay: Castello di Semivicoli


Aeolian Islands

A small volcanic island off the coast of Sicily, Lipari has a lot going for it: think black-sand beaches, ancient fort ruins and crystal-clear coves to explore by boat. The island has an impressive archaeological museum, volcanic craters and beautiful forests beloved by hikers, and plenty of challenging roads leading to picturesque fishing communities that will keep mountain bikers happy. Neighbouring island Vulcano makes for an easy day trip, with the main attractions being its natural mud springs and volcano walking trail. Despite all this activity, the little island retains a relatively untouched feel. Stroll around the historic harbour town, taking in its elegant pastel houses trellised with flowers and a charming market selling local capers and Malvasia wine.

Stay: La Settima Luna Hotel

Discover More
The Best Wellness Retreats Across Italy