Nowadays, Italy seems to be high on almost everyone’s bucket list, and it’s easy to see why.
Delectable cuisine, beautiful coastline, lively cities and a rich history combine to make Italy one of the world’s most diverse destinations.
With so much popularity comes many tourists though, so to help you enjoy Italy without the crowds, we’ve rounded up our favourite alternative places to visit in Italy.
A fantastic alternative to the Amalfi Coast, Puglia is 400 kilometres worth of endless coastline, whitewashed towns filled with iconic Trulli houses and hidden villages. It’s great for those looking to get off the beaten track, as the whole region feels distinctly local. Puglia is a beach lover’s dream, surrounded on one side by the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian on the other – with everything from pebble ridden beaches to sandy enclaves, there’s a slice of coastline here for everyone.
Beyond its idyllic beaches, Puglia is awash with pretty coastal towns, olive groves, vineyards and stunning national parks. In the Valle d’Itria, travellers can explore the olive groves and vineyards on two wheels. In Lecce, the baroque churches and palaces offer a fascinating insight into the region’s history. Across the region, the Italian cuisine that is so famous delights both locals and travellers alike. Fresh burrata, incredible seafood and heart-warming local dishes all wonderfully complement the region’s coastline.
Once one of Italy’s poorest regions, the Matera of today is one visited by well seasoned travellers in search of cuisine, culture and history. At first glance, Matera seems somewhat unassuming – the town is an amalgamation of stone houses and churches perched precariously atop hills. There’s a deeper story behind the landscape though; thousands of years ago, people settled in caves that were dug into the walls of canyons and a web of underground grottoes still stand strong today. Nowadays, they’re used as luxury boutique hotels, restaurants and bars rather than hideouts.
The best way to explore this ancient town is by wandering through its winding streets, exploring the region’s many caves or taking a quick respite in one of the town’s many cobbled squares. As with many places in Italy, Matera also provides an interesting window into the culture of the past – many original churches carved into the rocks during the Byzantine Empire have been beautifully preserved. Whatever it is you’re visiting Matera in search of, you’re sure not to be disappointed.
Islands like Italy’s Capri have become a hugely popular destination for both international holidaymakers and day-trippers from the mainland. Whilst some of Italy’s outcrops have become slightly overrun by mass tourism, there are still a few hidden gems that are delightfully undiscovered.
One such island is Ischia, a volcanic island situated just off the Gulf of Naples. First discovered during the 8th century BC, the Ischia of today is famous for its thermal spas, pristine gardens and beautiful beaches. A refreshing antidote to the crowds of Capri, Ischia is lazy beaches, verdant forests and volcanic landscapes at their best.
Nestled in Italy’s northern foothills, Piedmont seamlessly blends the mountains of France and Switzerland with Italy’s distinctive culture. Like much of Italy, it’s a region that is synonymous with food and drink, with the region’s wineries and chocolate shops enough to satisfy any visitor. Piedmont is a truly varied destination, with things on offer for active travellers, city-dwellers and history buffs.
During the winter season, internationally renowned ski resorts span the national parks of Gran Paradiso and Val Grande. For those not too keen on the slopes, groups of chapels dating from the 16th and 17th centuries are dotted amongst the hills. City slickers can spend their time here exploring Turin, Piedmont’s most elegant city. Whilst there, travellers can dip in and out of high end cafes, explore world-class museums or marvel at magnificent palaces.
An equally romantic city, Verona is a wonderful substitute for overcrowded Venice. Inextricably linked with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona is a wonderfully historic city seemingly stuck in a bygone era. The city has a generally relaxed feel to it, with grand piazzas, quaint cafes and tucked away artisan shops all existing in perfect harmony with one another.
For an insight into the city’s history, travellers can peruse the ancient ruins of the Roman Arena amphitheatre and Porta Borsari gate amongst the UNESCO designated ruins scattered across the city. Verona is a must-visit for art lovers too, with rich collections displayed in atmospheric 12th-century churches and art museums.