Rome, Florence and Venice are – and should be – on everyone’s must-see and must-experience list. But, there’s SO much more of Italy that deserves to be seen and discovered. Here are six such places that offer travelers a new view of Italy:
San Gimignano – Just a short day trip from Florence, this well-preserved, walled city is surrounded by rolling vineyards and bright sunflowers, offering an idyllic representation of Tuscany. San Gimignano is known for its surviving tower houses. Once built by aristocratic families who inhabited the town, these homes were structurally designed to protect their residents and to display the wealth and power of the families who constructed them. Remarkably, 14 of these towers survived Florentine rule and today, they shape San Gimignano’s skyline and offer travelers a unique look into what life looked like here in the 14th century.
Taormina – From the Cliffside villages of Cinque Terre to the winding Amalfi Coast, Italy’s spectacular coastlines are no secret. But with travelers flocking to these areas, these stunning escapes are becoming more crowded, more expensive and less authentic. The solution? Say ‘hello’ to Sicily! For centuries, this island has been fought over by the world’s greatest empires, creating an exquisite melting pot that is still evident today, both culturally and architecturally. Taormina, the hilltop town near Mount Etna, is no exception. Taormina boasts striking, contrasting views – the cool, inviting waters of the Mediterranean lapping against the intimidating backdrop of Europe’s largest active volcano. It’s a charming town with sunny, outdoor cafes, and restored ancient ruins including the Teatro Greco, the Roman theater that is undoubtedly Taormina’s most popular attraction (and once you see it, you won’t question why). This town offers a true taste of Italian La Dolce Vita with fewer crowds than other must-see Italian coastal towns.
Caltagirone – Another of Sicily’s spectacular cities, Caltagirone is a city known and loved for its ceramics – a tradition that has sustained the people here for more than 1,000 years. Ceramics adorn the buildings throughout the town – from the stairs of Santa Maria del Monte, which are inlaid with terracotta tiles painted with vibrant and swirling patterns, to public relics and streets lined with hand-painted ceramic vases overflowing with flowers. Caltagirone lies in central Sicily, where the pace of life is leisurely and locals enjoy extended meals, long walks and make the most out of life’s simple pleasures.
Castellana Grotte – In the province of Bari, Castellana Grotte is named after its famed feature – the stunning natural caves that extend nearly two miles in length (the Italian word for ‘caves’ is ‘grotte’). This impressive system of caverns is a wonderland of captivating stalacites, stalagmites and crystallized mineral deposits. The size and beauty of the caving system has drawn attention to Castellana Grotte, attracting visitors both to the region and to this otherwise quaint, agricultural town.
Alberobello – Recognized for its distinct conical-roofed trulli houses, Alberobello was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in an effort to restore and protect these iconic structures. Created out of local limestone, these homes could be easily dismantled and moved, and for that reason they once housed peasants who were forbidden from building permanent homes by King Ferdinand I of Aragon. They have since become a popular attraction in the Puglia region, adding to the charm of the town and welcoming travelers on unique and memorable day trips.
Riomaggiore – If you have ever seen a postcard of Cinque Terre, it’s likely the dreamy photo features Riomaggiore, the largest and easternmost town in this chain of five fishing villages. Its peeling, pastel-hued homes built into the cliffside, sparkling blue waters and quaint Main Street make it the picture-perfect place to soak in the Mediterranean sun, sea and views! Unlike its quiet, more secluded neighbors, Riomaggiore is generally bustling with locals, fishermen heading out for the day’s catch, or travelers stopping through to see and experience the magic for themselves. We don’t blame you for wanting to be one of them (we do, too!).