When people think of traveling Italy, they typically think of well-known regions like Rome, Venice, Florence, or the Tuscan wine country. However, why not explore some lesser know cities and sites that can give you insight into a side of Italy many other travelers miss?
1. Piazzale Garibaldi
This often skipped area of Rome offers some of the most incredible views down into the city. Piazzale Garibaldi is located on Janiculum Hill and gives visitors a chance to see the historic layout of the city complemented with recognizable structures like churches and domes. One recommendation is to go up and watch the sunrise from here.
2. Cinque Terre
This is a hot spot for some hikers and a few tourists, but its remote location and the tough hikes keep a majority of travelers away. Tucked away on the cliffside of the Italian Riviera, Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” and is comprised of five villages — Monterosso, Vernazza, Cornigilia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
The entire trail takes about five hours to hike and there is a stretch with over 300 stairs, but the views back down into the Bay are worth it. The beaches are not the best here as they are small and typically made up of pebbles or small rocks. Avoid the summer months when most Europeans are on holiday and descend on the villages.
Matera is a small town located in southern Italy and has a Middle Eastern feel. It has been settled since the Paleolithic era. Thousands of years ago, locals carved their homes into limestone rock, giving the city a unique look. Sassi di Matera is the ancient town and the houses dug there dated back to prehistoric times. Until as recently as the 1950’s people lived in these homes — many dating back over 9,000 years! If this location sounds familiar at all, it was the setting for Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ.
Welcome to the Amalfi Coast without the swarms of tourists. Maratea has 19 miles of pebble beaches and secluded coves that provide the perfect getaway. One of the notable beaches in the region is Spiaggia Nera, a black lava pebble beach with an island that you can swim to. A few miles north lies Acquafredda, which has natural swimming pools that are created from the natural rocky coastline.
Maratea is quite close to Matera so you can combine a trip to enjoy the Amalfi Coast beaches and still pay a visit to Sassi.
5. Bergamo and Padua
If you are interested in the art scene, but want to ditch the tourists swarming in Florence, consider Bergamo and Padua. Bergamo is in Lombardy, only 40km to the northeast of Milan and is the starting point of the foothills of the Alps. Padua is located in northern Italy, about 40km west of Venice. Although lesser known to many tourists, several notable figures have ties to Padua. Galileo was one of the lecturers at the University of Padua, which is nearly 800 years old. Shakespeare also had a fondness for Padua and used it as the setting for most of The Taming of the Shrew.
Verona is located in northern Italy and has a Shakespeare tie-in as well. The city of Verona was the setting for Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. The few tourists that do visit Verona usually are there to see the site for Shakespeare’s great tragedy. However, there is more to Verona that just Shakespeare.
The city’s unique architecture helped earn the city UNESCO World Heritage status. During the Roman Empire, Verona was a center of power and today, it is recognized as one of the best-preserved places in Italy. Verona offers a number of attractions, including the Roman Amphitheater (Arena), Palazzo Barbieri, Piazza delle Erbe, and Madonna Verona, to name a few.