The Best Luxury Hidden Gems in Italy
Whether for a honeymoon, romantic getaway, family vacation or solo adventure, Italy has long been one of the most sought-after destinations in Europe. It’s a country brimming with culture, history and natural beauty – not to mention the universally beloved Italian cuisine.
This country is packed with a seemingly endless array of places to go, from the iconic landmarks of Rome and the rolling hills of Tuscany to the ornate architecture of Florence and the idyllic Amalfi Coast. But although these popular destinations are certainly worth seeing, Italy has much more to offer if you’re willing to step off the beaten track.
We’ve rounded up some of the best spots that don’t make it onto most itineraries. These hidden gems promise just as much character, charm and luxury as their more famous counterparts – minus the crowds. Ready to discover them for yourself?
Hidden Gems in Northern Italy
The northern part of Italy is best known for the iconic canals of Venice, the elegant villas of Lake Como and the atmospheric towns and stunning peaks of the Dolomites. That said, the entire region is bursting with local culture and outstanding cuisine. Here are a few of our favourite lesser-known places to get an authentic taste of northern Italy.
You might recognise the name of this town thanks to one of its most popular products: balsamic vinegar. Modena is part of the Emilia-Romagna region, which is nothing short of paradise for foodies. In addition to vinegar, it’s the birthplace of Parma ham (prosciutto di Parma) and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Modena itself isn’t the region’s most popular destination – and that’s precisely why we love it. This gorgeous yet unassuming town serves up some of the country’s best seafood. It’s also home to many of the most famous Italian sports car brands, including Ferrari and Maserati. Auto aficionados can visit the Ferrari Museum and the Autodromo, or even take a test drive.
Piedmont means ‘at the foot of the mountains’ – a fitting description of this picturesque region in northwestern Italy. The snowy peaks and steep slopes of the Alps serve as a backdrop to its valleys and villages, where you’ll find plenty of history to explore. Turin is the region’s most famous and elegant city, but smaller towns like Alba are also well worth visiting.
Piedmont is renowned for local products like chocolate, truffles, hazelnuts and legendary red wines. The best time to visit this part of Italy depends on your interests; winter is ideal for snow sports, while spring and summer are great for hiking and vineyard visits. It’s also easy to combine Piedmont with a trip to France or Switzerland, which both border it to the north.
Hidden Gems in Central Italy
The heart of Italy is home to a few of its most famous destinations. Every traveller should experience Rome at least once, and Florence is a must-visit for anyone who appreciates art. But these cities often overshadow the region’s smaller towns, which are replete with history, fantastic food and excellent wine – making them ideal for a luxury holiday in Italy.
Just a short drive north of Rome, the central region of Umbria is a land of hills and history. Its capital and largest city, Perugia, is a treasure trove of historic buildings and monuments. It’s also where you’ll find the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, a lovely art museum housed in a Gothic palace.
Like many of the best destinations in Italy, Perugia has a thriving culinary scene. Its biggest claim to fame is Baci Perugina, little chocolate ‘kisses’ with a hazelnut centre. The city even hosts a chocolate festival every October, which is among the largest of its kind in Europe. Beyond its sweet treats, Perugia is also famous for truffles, cheeses and cured meats.
Tuscany is known around the world for its beautiful vineyards, olive groves and fields of sunflowers. But most travellers don’t make it to Montepulciano – and if you ask us, that’s a shame. This southern Tuscan town is perched on a hilltop and surrounded by vineyards, making for some pretty incredible views.
Montepulciano is full of medieval and Renaissance buildings, including the famous Torre di Pulcinella bell tower. Make sure to explore its many palazzos and pedestrian-only streets, and sample the local specialty: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, a classic red wine produced in the surrounding area.
Hidden Gems in Southern Italy
The southern part of Italy is primarily known for its coastline, from the glamorous Amalfi Coast to the colourful towns of Cinque Terre. Places like Capri and Portofino are among its quintessential beach destinations. But less popular spots offer precious opportunities to avoid the crowds and discover the region’s fascinating culture, along with its undeniable beauty.
Of all Italy’s hidden gems, Puglia may just be the most spectacular. This coastal region on the country’s ‘boot’ is essentially one long strip of picture-perfect coastline, complete with golden sand and whitewashed towns. A bit further inland you’ll find olive groves, vineyards and valleys that can be explored on foot or by bicycle.
Puglia’s culinary culture is centred on seafood, but it’s also famous for fresh burrata and hearty local dishes. The restored gem of Masseria San Domenico is a wonderfully scenic and peaceful place to stay, with a restaurant that serves exceptional Pugliese cuisine.
Undoubtedly one of the most interesting destinations in Italy, Matera is an essential stop on any tour of the south. Part of the interior Basilicata region, it’s an intricate jumble of buildings that seem to be stacked on top of each other. Steep canyon walls stretch down on both sides, riddled with ancient caves where people once lived.
Today, many of the stone dwellings of Matera’s historic Sassi districts have been converted into luxury hotels, shops, restaurants and bars. Wander through its serpentine streets to discover abandoned caves and ancient churches carved into the rock, then stop for a meal; Matera is known for homemade bread, pasta and deceptively simple yet delicious cuisine.
Luxury accommodation in Italy
Sextantio Le Grotte della CivitaBuried deep into the oldest part of the Sassi is the Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita, an ancient cave dwelling that has been turned into a wonderfully atmospheric boutique hotel. Little was changed during the renovation of the caves and the original shape and materials remain intact. All 18 rooms feature stone floors and walls, each one a different shape depending on the natural curves of the rock. Underfloor heating keeps them cosy in winter while the thick walls ensure they are cool in the hot Italian summers. Decor is simple so as not to detract from the natural features of the cave; crisp white linen, hand-made pottery and the flicker of candles is all they need to shine. Some of the rooms feature freestanding bath tubs and old troughs that have been turned into sinks. Breakfast is served in a de-consecrated church from the 13th century and the room is available for private dinners. A chef will prepare a selection of local dishes in this magical setting lit solely by candles. Food all over Italy is a matter of national pride, and produce is sourced from local organic farms. There is an outdoor courtyard and guests can enjoy a coffee or glass of wine while looking out over the dramatic gorge. When you want to simply relax and unwind, enjoy a spa treatment in the privacy of your own room. You are ideally placed to explore the city, with the Murgia Park and its rock-hewn churches just opposite the hotel.
Palazzo Bozzi CorsoA luxurious boutique hotel, set in the heart of the Lecce old town, Palazzo Bozzi Corso is a splendid converted, historical property. Constructed in 1775, many of the impressive original features remain. A hotel that’s dedicated to the arts and wellness, the experience is so much more than simply a hotel stay. An elegant hotel with extremely high ceilings, original coving, marble bathrooms and epic polished wooden floors that span the cavernous rooms. The hotel offers ten suites, each with a story to tell. The carefully curated interiors are decorated with individual style, there’s the Fernand Léger room and even a room subtly devoted to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Each suite displays the perfect combination of classical and contemporary design, with bespoke furniture alongside notable pieces by Sottsass, Gio Ponti, Mackintosh and Le Corbusier. Some suites boast a private sauna or chromotherapy shower. Two of the Suites share a terrace, while two have direct access to the rooftop. The Palazzo boasts an elegant rooftop terrace with a plunge pool and beautiful views over the rooftops of Lecce, a city filled with picturesque, cobbled winding lanes and plenty of atmospheric bars and restaurants. The city skyline is a cacophony of bell towers, terracotta tiles, picturesque buildings all framed with crimson sunsets. The hotel’s indoor wellness area features a natural stone hydromassage pool, a ‘relaxarium’ and a massage room where personalised treatments and wellness activities are arranged with guests. The property also comes with a beautiful private garden perfect for breakfast or a glass of wine in the evening.
Casa di LangaWith breathtaking views of the beautiful countryside, Casa di Langa is a place of perfect tranquillity. Located in a hamlet between the Barolo, Barbaresco and Alta Langa wine-making regions, this is not only a luxury hotel, but the perfect spot to discover the region's exceptional wines.