From the canals in Venice to the Colosseum in Rome, Italy has a varied landscape and rich history just waiting to be explored. However, you may be looking for some hidden gems away from the hustle and bustle of popular tourist destinations.
Going off the beaten track in Italy really does pay off, giving visitors access to quaint villages, colorful buildings, and traditional places to eat.
One of Puglia’s most charming towns, Locorotondo is filled with tiny streets that you’ll likely spend many hours exploring. The white-washed walls in the town are illuminated by the presence of pink and purple flowers, and small family-run restaurants line the streets, allowing for alfresco dining.
While there isn’t much in terms of landmarks, lots to do still await tourists. Locorotondo is the ideal place to survey the countryside, so we recommend heading to Lungomare for some panoramic views of the valley, including olive groves and vineyards. Additionally, there are some impressive Catholic churches to explore, such as Santuario di San Rocco and Chiesa Madre di San Giorgio.
As far from a concrete jungle as you can get, Trento is perfect for a city break, offering food, art, and culture within a relaxed environment. While less exhausting than destinations like Rome, Trento still provides plenty of opportunities, including the impressive Buonconsiglio Castle, multiple art galleries, and clean cobbled streets.
Here you can walk the streets without feeling rushed, enjoying the local cuisine alongside friendly locals. To truly appreciate the setting, you must get the cable car that takes you to Trento Alta, a minute mountaintop village with unbelievable views of the city.
Lake Orta, Piedmont
By the foothills of the Alps not far from the Swiss border is the charming Lago di Orta. It is one of the lesser-known lakes in Italy but is still just as impressive. The highlights here include the town of Orta San Giulio, which features historic Medieval and Baroque architecture and cobbled streets.
The main square, Piazza Motta, is where you’ll find the majority of the bars and restaurants, as well as a tree-lined waterfront. Orta is home to two-starred Michelin restaurant Villa Crespi as well as local food vendors – one of the most popular delicacies is tapulone (sausage meat made from donkey meat).
The mysterious island in the center of the lake, Isola San Giulio, is home to the Mater Ecclesiae Benedictine abbey. The resident nuns who live here do welcome visitors for some quiet contemplation, just remember to do so in silence throughout your visit out of respect. There is a regular small ferry service by the waterfront at Piazza Motta should you decide to take a visit to the island.
Yet to be touched by tourism, Serdiana is a beautiful secret location just a short drive from Cagliari. The best way to visit the commune is on a road trip as this will allow you to explore the surroundings at your own pace.
One of the first places you’ll want to stop at is Su Stani Saliu, a salted lake populated by countless pink flamingoes. Nearby, you’ll find the Romanesque church of Santa Maria di Sibiola.
Originally constructed in the 10th century, it is still used for special events, celebrations, and ceremonies. It’s so secretive that you’ll need to contact the municipality for someone to let you into the church.
You should always finish your day here by visiting one of the many wineries. Serdiana has an impressive number of five wineries, considering the population size is only 3,000!
The majority of these offer wine-tasting tours. One of the best tours is at Argiolas, where the tours usually start with a visit to the cellar and then the vineyards, should the weather be pleasant.
Italy is a country that never fails to surprise and discovering its less-traveled destinations is an excellent means to uncover its clandestine riches. Locorotondo, Lake Orta, and Serdiana are among the myriad idiosyncratic haunts eagerly awaiting exploration.
Thus, if one desires a bona fide Italian encounter, eschew the popular tourist spots and instead venture towards one of these covert gems. Rest assured, you won’t be disappointed.