Italy is a land of ancient history and marvelous beauty famous for wine, food, art, and fashion. It’s the country that introduced Europe to the Renaissance and even today continues to be at the forefront of design innovation. Today, Italy is home to some of the world’s most famous tourist sites but there are also a lot of hidden gems in Italy that don’t make it to most tourist guides.
Sure, there are a lot of marvelous historic sites, sun-kissed sandy beaches, and Instagrammable towns that attract millions of tourists every year and make millions more daydream about this country’s iconic places; about the Grand Canal in Venice (although Venice has a few of its own hidden gems), the Colosseum in Rome, the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, or perhaps the divine Amalfi Coast.
All of these iconic places are certainly worth visiting but almost always overcrowded. However, there are certainly many other hidden gems in Italy you didn’t know existed and that’s what we’ll focus on in this article.
But first things first…
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Have you ever visited some of these places? Perhaps you think there are some other hidden gems in Italy that deserve to a spot in this list? Let me know in the comments! Also, if you like hidden gems, you should also check out my post about hidden gems in Florence and hidden gems in Sicily.
Lake Orta, Piedmont
Lake Orta is a hidden gem tucked away in the Piedmont region of Italy. Known as the “Cinderella” of the Italian lakes, it’s often overlooked by its more famous neighbors, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore. But Lake Orta has its own charms, including the charming town of Orta San Giulio with its narrow streets and colorful buildings.
Take a boat to the island of San Giulio to see its stunning basilica and soak in the peaceful surroundings. The lake is also surrounded by beautiful hills, perfect for hiking or cycling. And with fewer crowds than other Italian lakes, Lake Orta is one of the best hidden gems in Italy to escape and relax.
If you’re enjoying this article, make sure to check out my article about hidden gems in Austria as well.
Monte Isola, Lombardy
If you never heard of Lake Iseo, you’re not the only one. Situated in the northern part of Italy, close to Brescia, Lake Iseo is one of the ultimate unsung hidden gems in Italy. Lake Iseo is probably the least known Italian lake, even though it’s home to Europe’s largest lake island. Monte Isola has 2,000 residents and no cars or traffic. Its quiet and calm atmosphere makes it a great choice if you want to experience Italy while getting away from the tourist hordes.
If you’re looking for an interesting tour that helps you discover the natural beauties of the area but also learning about the region’s history, I recommend this sailing cruise of the three islands.
Even though it’s a big city, after visiting Bergamo a few times, we had to include it in this list of hidden gems in Italy. Largely ignored by travelers, despite its proximity to Milan, Bergamo is the most beautiful hill town in Lombardy, while its Piazza Vecchia is one of the most charming squares in Italy. Bergamo is a charming walled city with captivating tiny streets where you can start experiencing Lombardy’s divine countryside and the amazing Italian lakes. To put it simply, the city and the surrounding countryside are a perfect destination for a romantic getaway, especially in the spring.
If you’re looking to learn more about Bergamo’s culture and history, this customizable private tour is a great option. The guides are very knowledgeable and you can choose which places you want to add to your itinerary.
Val Di Funes, Trentino-Alto Adige
Val di Funes, nestled in the heart of the Dolomites in Italy, is one of the country’s best-kept secrets. Known as a hidden gem among Italian destinations, this stunning valley is home to breathtaking mountain views, quaint villages, and vibrant meadows dotted with wildflowers. The valley is also home to some of the best hiking trails in the Dolomites, offering opportunities to explore its natural beauty up close.
With fewer crowds than other popular destinations in Italy, Val di Funes offers a peaceful and authentic Italian experience. And if you’re a foodie, be sure to try the valley’s traditional dishes, which include hearty soups, delicious pasta dishes, and of course, plenty of cheese. Overall, Val di Funes is a must-visit destination for those seeking hidden gems in Italy.
Misurina, nestled in the heart of the Italian Dolomites, is a true gem that sparkles with natural beauty and charm. This picturesque village boasts a stunning lake, surrounded by majestic peaks that reflect in its crystal-clear waters. It’s no wonder that Misurina is known as the “Pearl of the Dolomites.” With its breathtaking scenery and outdoor activities, this hidden Italian treasure is perfect for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike.
From skiing and snowshoeing in the winter to hiking and cycling in the summer, Misurina offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. So, whether you’re looking to soak up the scenery or get your adrenaline pumping, Misurina is a must-visit destination that’s sure to impress.
Castell’Arquato, Emilia Romagna
Castell’Arquato, a charming hilltop town in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, is a true gem that shines with beauty and history. This medieval town boasts stunning views of the surrounding countryside and is full of quaint cobbled streets, historic buildings, and hidden courtyards. Known as the “Gem of Italy,” Castell’Arquato is rich in culture and traditions, with numerous festivals and events throughout the year.
From the annual medieval fair to the famous Porcini mushroom festival, there is always something to see and do. And with its proximity to the famous foodie destination of Parma, Castell’Arquato is a must-visit for food lovers too.
San Gimigniano, Tuscany
San Gimignano, located in the heart of Tuscany, is a hidden gem among the many stunning destinations in Italy. This enchanting town boasts stunning medieval architecture, including the iconic tower houses that give it its distinctive skyline. San Gimignano is a place where time seems to stand still, with its historic buildings, narrow streets, and charming piazzas.
And while it may not be as well-known as other Tuscan destinations, it has a wealth of cultural and gastronomic treasures to offer. From its famous white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, to its delicious saffron-infused dishes, this town is a foodie’s paradise. So, whether you’re interested in history, culture, or just indulging in Italian cuisine, San Gimignano is a must-visit destination among the hidden gems in Italy.
Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Tucked–inside the Slovenian border, this captivating Italian port has a fascinating history and probably the finest coffee in the country. Trieste has always been a frontier city, occupied in multiple occasions by the Romans, Habsburgs, Hitler’s forces, the Allied Forces, to finally be returned to Italy in 1954. The consequence of this is the glorious mash of architectural and even ethnic influences. In a short 10-minute walk, you will find remnants of Roman architecture, Habsburg architecture, Orthodox and Evangelistic churches, as well as cathedrals, and one of the largest synagogues in Europe.
If you’re looking to see more of Trieste, this walking tour is a great choice, in my humble opinion.
Noli, a quaint coastal town in the Liguria region of Italy, is a hidden gem that rivals its more popular counterparts. With a beautiful beach and charming medieval center, Noli offers the perfect balance of relaxation and history. The town’s narrow streets are lined with colorful buildings, and the castle tower offers stunning views of the coastline.
Noli is also a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with a range of activities including hiking, cycling, and water sports. And let’s not forget about the food – Noli is known for its delicious Ligurian cuisine, particularly its seafood dishes. So skip the crowds and head to Noli for a hidden Italian gem that’s sure to impress.
San Fruttuoso, Liguria
Sun Fruttuosa is one name that isn’t brought up really often when it comes to visiting the Italian Riviera. It’s one of the tiniest beaches I’ve ever seen and you can literally walk from one end to the other in less than 3 minutes! Why aren’t there more visitors? San Fruttuosa is divided from the main road by a small tunnel walkway and a set of narrow stairs. This means that you will need at least 2-3 hours of hiking in order to reach this beach on foot. You cannot reach San Fruttuosa by car and the only other alternative is taking a ferry from Portofino.
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Sitting at 5,000 feet above sea level, Castelluccio is the highest village in the Apennines. Castelluccio is one of the oldest villages on the peninsula and it has remained relatively unchanged for over 1,000 years. At least until the severe earthquake of 2016. The village still has a red zone that’s not safe to visit but the mountainesque landscapes surrounding the village are definitely worth visiting. The best time to visit is spring when the colored fields blossom with violet poppies on the hill.
Cascata Delle Marmore, Umbria
If you like getting off the beaten track in Italy and discovering new hidden gems, you simply cannot miss the Marmore Waterfalls. El Cascatte Delle Marmore gives the phrase off-the-beaten-track a new meaning. Located between thick forests and lush grasslands of Umbria, the Marmore Waterfalls have served as a muse for some of the greatest Italian poets throughout the years.
The waterfall is actually a human creation but dates back to the Roman ages. The waterfall flows into the valley formed below the river Nera. The flow is turned on and off based on a schedule and most visitors try to be there when the gates are opened to see the powerful rush of water.
If you don’t like to make your own way to the waterfall, there aren’t that many tours that cover this hidden gems but I managed to find one during my last visit and I warmly recommend.
Campo Imperatore, Abruzzo
Commonly known as the Little Tibet of Europe, Campo Imperatore is a surprisingly unfrequented place. This alpine meadow is one of the most beautiful ones in Italy that apparently is yet-to-be-discovered by tourists. The trek is 25 km long which also offers a lot of hiking possibilities for mountain lovers. Another interesting thing about Campo Imperatore is that if you visit this place during different seasons, you probably won’t be able to recognize it.
During winters, the meadow puts on its white winter dress. During spring, the hills become a kaleidoscope of shimmering green hues. During the summertime, everything turns yellow, while the autumn will make you feel like starring in an old, black-and-white movie.
Sulmona & Monti Della Laga, Abruzzo
The whole region of Abruzzo is waiting to be discovered, especially places like Sulmona and Monti Della Laga. The region combines lush forests, immense peaks, and areas of wilderness, with old-world unspoiled towns. One such town is Sulmona, a mountain-ringed town with a magnificent piazza that comes into its own on market days. Monti Della Laga the other hand, is a remote group of peaks close to the Umbria border. This divine place is visited by only a few people and it’s largely unknown, even to most Italians.
Civita di Bagnoregio, Lazio
Civita di Bagnoregio is one of the most remote towns in Italy. The small village managed to keep its identity and remain relatively intact throughout the years and visiting will make you feel like traveling back in time. Today, Civita di Bagnoregio has only 14 year-round residents and they live in isolation from the rest of the country. The only way to reach the village is by taking a 30-minutes hike up to the hill.
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Speaking of hidden gems in Italy, we just have to mention Procida. Procida is a small hidden island in the Gulf of Naples that’s often overshadowed by its more popular neighbor, Capri. However, once you visit this charming fisherman village, you’ll feel like in a fairytale. Unlike its more touristy counterparts, Procida is one of the rare islands that has an authentic vibe.
Today, there aren’t many islands where smiley faces say ‘Buongiorno’ as you walk down the colorful narrow streets. The most surprising thing about Procida is that it’s only 30 minutes away from Naples. This means the island will not be tourist-free much longer, so if you want to visit, hurry up.
Pisciotta is the kind of small, Italian coastal town that we all often imagine in our head but often struggle to match it in the real world. It’s a place of ancient stepped alleys leading to hidden chapels, charming piazzas, and amazing views over a strangely empty but enchanting landscape. Below, between the lower parts of the city and the sea so clean that will make you wonder if this place is real, lie the centuries-old olive groves that give Pisciotta, an even stronger, archaic, Mediterranean feel.
When visiting the Amalfi Coast, most people head to the towns of Positano and Amalfi often missing Ravello, a small charming town, comfortably sitting at the hilltop and offering some of the best views on the Amalfi Coast. Exploring Ravello’s largely traffic-free lanes and elegant gardens that offer some of the best views of the Mediterranean is certainly a blissful experience. I always say that Ravello is probably the most peaceful resort on the Neapolitan Riviera, set like an eagle’s nest above the dizzying landscape of the coast
Lecce is often referred to as Italy’s best-kept secret because it’s a city only a few people decide to visit during their trip to Italy. It’s located in the Puglia region, a region that has been getting an increased number of tourists in the recent years but still many of them skip this charming stash of baroque architecture. I always say that if Puglia was a movie, Lecce would be the charming actor that’s playing the main role.
However, apparently, not many people feel this way (yet). Except for the amazing architecture, Lecce also has homogeneity and completeness: two things that many other southern Italian metropolises lack. If you’re an architecture lover, Lecce is an absolute must! Its distinctive architecture contributed to the city acquiring its own moniker, Barocco Leccese (Lecce Baroque).
If you want to explore the best hidden treasures of the city, the best way to do so is through the Lecce baroque architecture and underground walking tour.
Valle d’Itria, Puglia
Nestled in the heart of Puglia, the Valle d’Itria is a true gem that should not be missed. This stunning valley is known for its charming white-washed villages, rolling hills, and beautiful olive groves. Take a stroll through the picturesque streets of towns like Alberobello, Locorotondo, and Martina Franca, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported back in time.
The traditional architecture, with its conical-roofed trulli houses, is a sight to behold. And with its warm climate and beautiful landscapes, the Valle d’Itria is the perfect place to relax and unwind. Whether you’re exploring the countryside, trying local cuisine, or simply soaking up the sun, the Valle d’Itria is a destination that will leave you feeling rejuvenated and inspired.
Matera is a small village, tucked away along the cliffs of the Basilicata region, recognized as a UNESCO Heritage Site. The first traces of inhabitants in Matera date back to 30,000 years ago. This makes Matera one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in human history. The most spectacular thing about Matera are certainly the ancient settlements in the caves but even without them, Matera is still an unusual and striking place, one which is certainly worth visiting.
The medieval town is a glorious vision of tiny alleys, sweeping views, and sleepy squares with enchanting restaurants that serve traditional food that you won’t find in any other place in Italy. Finally, the 150 churches of Matera, hidden between the caves and the surrounding countryside contain some of Italy’s oldest frescoes outside of the Roman catacombs.
If you want to make up the most of your time in Matera and discover the city’s most noteworthy attractions, taking a customizable private tour is always a great idea.
Nestled on the Tyrrhenian coast of Calabria, Tropea is a hidden gem off the beaten track in Italy that will leave you awestruck. With its turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, beautiful sunsets, and dramatic cliffs, Tropea is a paradise that will make you forget about everything else. This ancient town, perched on top of a rocky promontory, is also known for its charming historic center, with narrow streets, beautiful churches, and traditional buildings.
And if you’re a food lover, Tropea won’t disappoint you with its delicious local cuisine, including fresh seafood, traditional pasta dishes, and local wines. Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, Tropea has it all. So why wait? Visit Tropea, of the most beautiful hidden gems in Italy, and experience the magic for yourself.
This small island is Italy’s southernmost point. It’s also the island that is furthest away from the mainland. Pantelleria is actually closer to Tunisia (25 miles away) than Italy. The rocky caves and unspoiled landscapes of Pantelleria will make you feel like you’re not even in Europe, which wouldn’t be too far from the truth. All this makes the island of Pantelleria a great destination for a restful vacation and multiple opportunities to immerse in Italy’s wild nature.
Last but not least, we round up this list of hidden gems in Italy with Castelbuono. Located in the heart of the Madonie Mountains in Sicily, Castelbuono is a true hidden gem among the many stunning destinations in Italy. This charming town boasts a rich history, with its medieval castle and ancient ruins offering a glimpse into the past. Castelbuono is also known for its delicious food, including the famous manna, a sweet resin harvested from local trees, and the locally produced wines.
And with its picturesque streets, beautiful churches, and stunning mountain views, this town is a photographer’s dream. Plus, it’s the perfect base for exploring the surrounding natural beauty, including the Madonie Regional Natural Park.