Black and white illustration of Melania Siriu's headshot
Written by
Melania Siriu

Published on: October 8th, 2019

Last modified: April 11th, 2024

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.

Hidden gems in Sardinia


With exquisite beaches lapped by crystal-clear waters, stunning scenery and its own unique identity – Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean. The people who call it home are fiercely proud of their idyllic slice of paradise.

The Emerald Coast is the playground of the rich and famous and undeniably beautiful, but Sardinia boasts everything from rocky coves and secluded bays to long stretches of white sand.

If you can drag yourself away from the coast, the island’s rugged interior is also well worth exploring. Hike through thick forests and mountain ranges and explore karst springs, valleys, caves and canyons. Sardinia’s three national parks – Gennargentu, Asinara and the Maddalena Archipelago – are ripe for exploring.

Luxury accommodation in Italy

There are many incredible places to stay in Italy. Here are some of our favourite hidden gems, handpicked by our travel designers:

Feeling inspired? Our expert travel designers are always on hand to help you get off the beaten track in Italy.