From north to south, here’s a look at ten of the most beautiful, lesser-known Italian villages that you must visit.
Rome, Florence, Milan, Turin, Naples, Palermo and other big cities are wonderful, but every Italian region boasts beautiful off-the-beaten-path small towns that have yet to be known to many. Here’s a list of ten villages across Italy that you should add to your itinerary.
1. Montagnana, a medieval fortress in Veneto
Montagnana is a treasure in the heart of Padua where history and art merge. This beautiful village’s distinct imposing walls date back to the mid-fourteenth century, whereas the houses and monuments in the historic center were built during the Renaissance. The city’s Cathedral houses important artworks such as Paolo Veronese’s Transfiguration and Giorgione’s Giuditta and David.
2. Canale di Tenno, between fairytale and nature
A medieval village with a population of just 50, Canale di Tenno is still connected to its local artisan and peasant traditions. Located on a hill overlooking the turquoise Lake Tenno, this picturesque village is studded with small stone houses and wooden roofs. Ride horseback along the shore to immerse yourself in a magical atmosphere suitable for the Lord of the Rings.
3. Crema, even beautiful after Call Me by Your Name
Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name has put Crema in the spotlight. The locations seen in this critically acclaimed, Oscar-nominated film have quickly become cinema pilgrimage sites. It seems like time stopped a few decades ago in this Lombard town, giving you the opportunity to immerse yourself in an atmosphere that is simultaneously ancient and modern. Piazza del Duomo, with its iconic Torrazzo arch, is a must-visit, but it’s also rewarding to wander through the town’s streets in search of ancient palaces and nooks to photograph.
4. Triora, the Italian Salem
A town of 355 inhabitants in Liguria, Triora consists of a handful of stone houses perched on a hilltop. Besides its picturesque sights, Trioria–known as the village of the witches–is also mysterious and fascinating. Following a terrible famine in 1587, approximately 30 women were accused of witchcraft, and then subsequently tortured and killed. In Trioria’s Ethnographic and Witchcraft Museum you can learn everything about this sad episode. The village’s narrow streets, tunnels and wooded areas create a slightly disturbing yet perfectly appropriate backdrop for a full-moon or sabbath gathering.
5. Fosdinovo, amongst marquises and ghosts
The houses of this small town in the Massa Carrara province are dominated by Malaspina Castle, a magnificent medieval structure that’s currently a museum and venue for literary conferences and cultural events. Would you expect anything less from the castle that hosted Dante Alighieri in 1306? Parts of the castle are still inhabited by the Malaspina family and – as it should be – by a ghost: The spirit of Bianca Maria Aloisia, tortured and walled up alive in the castle for refusing a prearranged marriage.
6. Pitigliano, the suspended city
Pitigliano, a small town in Tuscany, is dug into tuff rock. An ancient and mysterious city, Pitigliano’s origins are uncertain, but they are believed to precede the Etruscans. The visually stunning town also boasts an important antiquarian tradition and winemaking pedigree. An antique market is held every August while in September, visitors can go inside the tuff cellars.
7. Furore, the fjord of the South
Furore is a precious gem located on the stretch of coast that leads from Amalfi to the island of Capri. However, it’s much more lowkey than its glamorous neighbors. Although this spectacular seafaring village overhanging a fjord doesn’t need movie stars to shine, Roberto Rossellini chose it for his film L’Amore and for his home with Anna Magnani. In fact, the town has a small museum dedicated to the famous couple.
8. Monopoli, between land and sea
This ancient fishing village in Puglia has managed to reinvent itself over the years without losing its soul. Monopoli’s musical events, cultural activities and restaurants are modern yet deeply rooted in local traditions. Visit the stunning baroque Basilica della Madia and explore the rock caves and centuries-old olive trees further inland.
9. Manduria, the unknown side of Salento
Located in Upper Salento, Manduria shows a side of Puglia that is far from the destinations swarmed by the mid-August crowds. Manduria couples the baroque beauty of Lecce with the rusticity of a country village, replete with precious monuments and archaeological finds. Don’t miss Chiesa Madre, the medieval Jewish ghetto, the clock tower, and the ancient Messapian walls. And Manduria is the home of Primitivo, a full-bodied fragrant red wine that’s considered among the best in Italy.
10. Torre Faro, the wonder on the Strait of Messina
The coast of Reggio Calabria may seem reachable from Torre Faro beach, but it is better not to attempt the swim across the Strait of Messina: Charybdis, the sea monster from Homer’s Odyssey, is always lurking there. Torre Faro is the farthest point northeast of Trinacria, and after 6.00 pm, when the sea is calm, you can see the currents intertwine between Sicily and Calabria.