The Middle Ages in Italy paved the path for the renaissance, arguably the most significant period of discovery and growth of science in the entire history of mankind. Art, literature, and architecture all blossomed in this era and new Medieval towns in Italy emerged with their beautiful castles, cathedrals, and fortresses. If you’re a history lover and are planning a trip to Italy, you’ll surely enjoy this article because here we cover some of the most beautiful medieval towns in Italy you should consider visiting on your upcoming trip to the boot of Europe.
But first things first…
Helpful Resources For Visiting Italy
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With that being said, let’s see which are some of the most famous medieval towns in Italy.
Located in the region of Piedmont in northern Italy, not far from Turin, Candelo is a beautiful small town famous for its medieval architecture, cobbled streets, and a handful of historical sites. Some of the town’s highlights include the Ricetto, a fascinating medieval structure surrounded by walls with cylindrical towers in the corners, the 12th-century church of Santa Maria Maggiore, and Ysangarda, one of the most important medieval archaeological sites in the region.
If this sounds fun and you’re thinking of visiting, here are some affordable accommodation options in Candelo.
Palmanova, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Palmanova is another beautiful medieval town in Northeastern Italy located an hour away from Venice. Many refer to Palmanova as the Perfect City because of its flawless urban planning that can even be seen from the sky. The town is also widely accepted as an icon of Renaissance society because the city drew a lot of intellectuals during the dark ages and flourished when many other cities across Italy haven’t even heard of the renaissance. Some of Palmanova’s most interesting attractions include the Duomo di Palmanova, the City Fortress, the Historical Civic Museum, the Venetian Aqueduct, and Porta Aquileia.
If this sounds fun and you’re thinking of visiting Palmanova, here are some affordable accommodation options.
Enjoying this article? Then you may also like our list of hidden gems in Venice.
Montagnana is the perfect place to start exploring Veneto’s rich history and culture. The town is surrounded by its imposing medieval walls but Montagnana has been inhabited for much longer. First traces of organized human life in Montagnana date back to the 3rd century AD, making it one of the oldest cities in Europe. While you’re around, you should check out Museo Civicio, the Magnavin Foratti Palace, and the medieval Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
If you’re thinking of visiting, here are some affordable accommodation options in Montagnana.
The town of Cittadella in the Padua province is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Italy. Cittadella has a perfect circular shape and symmetrically designed streets that can be noticed from above which makes it look like a real fairytale town. Some of the most interesting activities you can indulge in Cittadella include the city walls, Porta Padova, the Malta Tower, Pretorio Palace, and of course, the town’s Duomo.
If you’re thinking of visiting, here are some affordable accommodation options in Cittadella.
Located halfway between Milan and Cremona, Soncino is a gorgeous historical town famous for being home to one of the most beautiful castles in Italy (Rocca Sforzesca built in 1473). The town is also home to a handful of interesting museums and galleries, which was just another reason for Soncino receiving the honorary title of city with a presidential decree in 2004. Some of the town’s other interesting sights feature The church of San Giacomo, the Santa Maria Assunta Church from the 12th century, The Civic Tower, and the Town Hall.
If you’re thinking of visiting, here are some affordable accommodation options in Soncino.
Even though with its slightly larger population, it’s technically closer to being a city than a town, we felt Ferrara deserves a mention on this list of the most beautiful medieval towns in Italy because it’s one of the most important Renaissance cities in the country. Ferrara has historically been an intellectual hub during the Middle Ages. The city was ruled by the House of Este which was largely responsible for the unique renaissance-style architecture the city has today.
A few other things Ferrara is famous for include Este Castle, Diamanti Castle, Via delle Volte (one of the oldest streets in Italy), and the famous “capellaci di zucca” pasta.
Looking for some fun tours in Ferrara? Here are a few suggestions.
If you’re thinking of visiting, here are some affordable accommodation options in Ferrara.
San Gimignano, Tuscany
Sitting atop a gorgeous hill in the heart of Tuscany, San Gimignano is one of the medieval towns in Italy with one of the coolest nicknames; many refer to it as “the Medieval Manhattan” because, during its heyday, the (then) city had more than 60 towers dominating its skyline, an impressive feat for the 16th century. Today, San Gimignano is a town of 8,000 residents but most of its impressive sights are still around. The list includes the impressive Old Town, the beautiful squares, Grossa Tower, and the Sao Geovani Gate, just to name a few.
If you’re looking for a nice tour exploring the area of central Tuscany, check out this tour of Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano, and Chianti.
If you’re considering visiting the town, here are some affordable accommodation options in San Gimignano.
Carved into a rock in southern Tuscany, Pitigliano is a beautiful medieval town that’s often called little Jerusalem because of its strong Jewish community. The area surrounding the city has been inhabited since Etruscan times (even before Rome was built) but the city truly flourished in the 13th century under the Aldobrandeschi family when it became the capital of the county.
For years, the city was in the line of battle between the Papal State and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany but throughout the years, the city kept shrinking and losing its power. Today, it’s a town of only 4,000 people but it’s still one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Italy with one of the most impressive castles (Orsini Castle) and one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Tuscany– the Cathedral of Saint Peter and Paul.
Siena is perhaps one of the most underrated cities in Italy. It’s another beautiful walled city in central Tuscany that attracts history buffs and wine lovers from around the world. The city is famous for its beautiful square Piazza del Campo, its Old Town, the Gothic masterpiece that is Il Duomo di Siena, 13th-century Basilica Caterniana San Domenico, Palazzo Publico, the imposing Tower of Mangia, Medicea Fortress, and many others.
If you’re looking to discover more of Siena’s famous sites and hidden gems, I warmly recommend this private walking tour with a local– it covers the city’s highlights and will exponentially increase your knowledge about the city.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Siena, you can use our Booking referral and get up to 15% off on all properties in town.
This list of the most beautiful medieval towns couldn’t be complete without Urbino, a small town of 14,000 residents located in the heart of the Pesaro-Urbino province in the region of Marche. Urbino is famous for its UNESCO-listed old town district which is dotted with monuments and impressive architectural buildings. Even though small by today’s standards, Urbino was one of the most important centers of the Renaissance period that left a strong trace of the town’s appearance, culture, and history.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Urbino, you can use our Booking referral and get up to 15% off on all properties in town.
Corinaldo is another beautiful coastal town in Marche, famous for its 14th-century walls, amazing fine, and its vibrant Halloween festival. In addition to this, Corinaldo is also home to a handful of important historic monuments like the 15th-century Polenta Wall, the 19th-century Municipal Theater, the ancient fig cannon, and a few beautiful medieval cathedrals). If you’re looking for a great tour that covers most of the town’s highlights, we warmly recommend you check out this private tour.
If you’re considering visiting the town, here are some affordable accommodation options in Corinaldo.
If you’re into passionate literature, you’ve surely heard about Dante’s Divine Comedy, a true Italian masterpiece based on the real-life tragic romantic story of Paolo and Francesca which unfolded in the Gradara Castle, the most famous landmark of the beautiful town of Gradara. Many consider this small historic town to be the Medieval Capital of Italy but the town also boasts an Orange Flag of the Touring Club and is frequently mentioned on lists of the most beautiful towns in Italy.
If you would like to learn more about the town’s rich history, seriously consider this Medieval Myths and Legends Walking Tour.
If you’re considering visiting the town, here are some affordable accommodation options in Gradara.
Assisi is a beautiful medieval town sitting atop a hill in central Italy famous for being the birthplace of Saint Francis and a key reference point in the development of Italian art and architecture. Assisi is the ultimate crossing point between the medieval and renaissance eras where both can be seen and experienced in their full glory.
Some of the town’s main sights feature the Basilica of San Francesco, Santa Maria Maggiore, the Cathedral of San Rufino, the ancient amphitheater, and the Assisi Diocesan Museum, founded to preserve the town’s most important works of art.
Looking for some interesting tours in Assisi? Here are a few suggestions.
If you’re considering visiting the town, here are some affordable accommodation options in Assisi.
Civitella del Tronto, Abruzzo
Located within the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, Civitella del Tronto is a beautiful small town known for the untouched surrounding nature and its gorgeous Spanish fortress. Throughout the years, the region saw many wars and invaders which is probably the main reason the entire town was walled in the 10th century.
Aside from the fortress and a few beautiful cathedrals, the town doesn’t have a lot of other noteworthy landmarks but its surroundings and landscapes are truly unique and more than enough of a reason to visit Civitella del Tronto.
Civita di Bagnoregio, Lazio
If you checked some of our previous articles, you may have come across Civita di Bagnoregio. It was featured in our favorite hidden gems in Italy, the best small towns near Rome, and hidden gems in Europe. Civita di Bagnoregio is one of the most remote towns in Italy. Throughout the years, this ancient small town managed to keep its identity by remaining isolated from the rest of the country which is why visiting it will make you feel like going back in time.
Today, Civita di Bagnoregio has only 14 permanent, year-round residents and the only way to reach it is by taking a 30-minute hike up to the top of the hill. If you’re looking for a great way to experience the spirit of this beautiful small town, we warmly recommend this private tour (we took it on our last trip to Civita and it was amazing).
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Located just 50 kilometers outside of Rome, Calcata is a small medieval town that looks like an impregnable fortress built on top of a large cliff. The settlement has been developed around the Anguillara Castle and with time, it expanded to include the neighboring villages. In the 1930s, the town was abandoned because it was deemed to be unsafe due to the local authorities thinking the town might collapse.
However, that never happened and in the 1960s and 1970s, the town was repopulated by artists from around the world and has since been known as a ‘village of artists’.
Even though larger than most others on this list, Viterbo is one of the most important medieval towns in Italy. Also known as the City of the Popes, Viterbo has an entire quarter (San Pellegrino) that kept most of its Medieval appearance and it’s one of the biggest and most famous medieval quarters in Europe. The quarter has cobbled streets, medieval watchtowers, long stairways, palaces, charming Medieval squares, beautiful courtyards, and thermal baths.
The area in which Viterbo is located is also part of the Tuscia region known for being rich in archaeological sites that date back to the Etruscan era, even before Rome was built.
If you’re visiting Viterbo, it’s probably a good idea to get a Viterbo card which gives you access to most of the city’s attractions.
If you’re considering visiting the town, here are some affordable accommodation options in Viterbo.
An irreplaceable part of the beautiful Amalfi Coast, Atrani is one of the most beautiful medieval towns in Italy, known for its blue waters, natural beauty, narrow streets, and rustic architecture. In addition to enjoying some of the town’s beautiful beaches, in Atrani, you can also discover some real architectural masterpieces like the Spiagia, Il Duomo di Amalfi, and Museo della Carta. If you’re a fan of nature, you’ll love the views from Ziro Tower, as well as the Gardens of Villa Rufolo, and the beautiful Ferrieres Valley.
If you’re considering visiting the town, here are some affordable accommodation options in Atrani.
Positano is another beautiful colorful village situated along the Amalfi Coast. The village has characteristic narrow streets, pebblestone beaches, and plenty of charming clifftop cafes with beautiful views of the coast. Today, the village mainly lives from tourism but back in the day, it was one of the most important port towns in the south of Italy. During the Middle Ages, most of the trade done with the Middle East went through this port and the economic activity contributed to the construction of many baroque buildings and houses which with time made Positano one of the most beautiful coastal towns in Italy.
If you’re considering visiting the town, here are some affordable accommodation options in Positano.
Located in the southern part of Puglia, Ostuni is a beautiful medieval town known for its beautiful beaches, whitewashed houses, olive oil, and wine. The region surrounding the town has been inhabited since the Stone Age but the town got its present form in the 10th century when it became a part of the Norman County of Lecce.
The Normans built the city walls whose protection allowed the city to develop throughout the years and thrive in the renaissance period. Some of the town’s main sights include its Old Town, the Ostuni Cathedral, and the Bishop’s Palace.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Ostuni, you can use our Booking referral and get up to 15% off on all properties in town.
We just can’t complete this list of the best medieval towns in Italy without Matera; a beautiful town on a rocky outcrop in the Basilicata region. The town has been continuously inhabited since the Palaeolithic era but it reached its heydays during the Middle Ages. Today, the town’s most renowned feature is its rock-cut urban core, whose twin cliffside zones are known as the Sassi and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Matera, you can use our Booking referral and get up to 15% off on all properties in town.
Maratea is a beautiful remote town in the commune of Basilica and the only inhabited commune on the Tyrrhenian Coast, hence the nickname, “the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian”. Even though it’s a small town with only 5,000 residents, Maratea is home to 44 churches. The town is also home to six medieval watchtowers, a large statue of Christ sitting atop a mountain, a rustic, charming Old Town, amazing views of the Tyrrhenian coast, and it happens to be one of the best diving destinations in this part of Italy.
If you’re considering visiting the town, here are some affordable accommodation options in Maratea.
Stilo is a beautiful, quaint town in Calbria standing at 400 meters above sea level, overlooking the Ionian Sea, surrounded by deep, lush forests. The town was founded in the early Middle Ages and is known for its distinctive Byzantine architecture with its most prominent landmarks being the 9th-century Byzantine cathedral, Cattolica di Stilo, and the 11th-century Castle of Stilo, also known as the Norman Castle.
If you’re considering visiting the town, here are some affordable accommodation options in Stilo.
Comfortably situated at the foot of Polino National Park, Altomonte is one of the most underrated medieval towns in Italy. The town/village is known for its breathtaking landscapes, beautiful medieval architecture, and rustic charm. It’s also known as the “village of weddings” because many couples from across the country and even abroad come to celebrate their weddings in Altomonte.
Even though now, it’s a declining town of only 4,000 people, Altomonte was a real cultural hub between the 15th and 17th centuries. hosting intellectuals of the likes of Campanella who wrote the famous “City of the sun” while staying in Altomonte. Today, the only thing remaining from these glorious times are the town’s landmarks like the 11th-century Norman Castle, the gorgeous Pallotta Tower, the Byzantine church of St. James the Apostle, and the Monastery Complex of San Francesco di Paola.
If you’re considering visiting the town, here are some affordable accommodation options in Altomonte.
As you can see by now, there are many beautiful medieval towns in Italy but they’re not limited to the mainland. The islands have a few beautiful medieval towns as well and Castelsardo in Sardinia is one of the most prominent ones. Lying at the east end of the Gulf of Asinara, Castelsardo is a town that has been inhabited since pre-Nuragic and Nuragic times. I
n ancient times, the city was conquered by the Romans and it remained a part of the empire for centuries to come. Some of the town’s highlights include Elephant’s Rock, one of Sardinia’s most famous symbols, the Megalithic Walls dating back to pre-Nuragic times, the 11th-century Doria Castle sitting atop the hill, the beautiful La Loggia Palace, and of course, the town’s sea walls.
If you’re looking for a fun tour that will help you explore Castelsardo, you may like the Castelsardo Medieval Village Walking Tour with Aperitif. Alternatively, if you’d like to explore more of this part of Italy, you may want to check out the Sardinian Pyramide Private Tour.
To save on accommodation in Castelsardo, you can try using our Booking affiliate referral to get up to 15% off on all properties in town.
How could we complete this list of the most beautiful medieval towns in Italy without mentioning one of our favorite Sicily hidden gems, the beautiful historic town of Erice? Erice was originally a Phoenician colony that was destroyed during the Punic Wars. It was later rebuilt by the Aghlabids who ruled the island between the 9th and 12th centuries until the Norman conquests. That’s why the town has beautiful and distinguishable architecture that combines Arabic, Norman, and Italian influences.
The town is home to a gorgeous old town, many medieval churches, cathedrals, historic buildings, and castles, but the two main jewels in its crown are the two castles; Peopli Castle and Venus Castle (the latter one sits at the highest point of Mount Erice giving amazing views of the village and the beautiful coast.
If you’re looking for a nice tour of the town, consider this private walking tour with a local that covers most of Erice’s noteworthy attractions.
To save on accommodation in Erice, you can try using our Booking affiliate referral to get up to 15% off on all properties in town.
Last but certainly not least, we round up this list of the best medieval towns in Italy with beautiful Cefalu; a small town built on a small promontory on the northern coast of Sicily. Throughout the years, Cefalu was absorbed by the growing metropolitan city of Palermo but the area surrounding the town has been inhabited since the fourth century BC, according to the findings at La Rocca Archaeological Park, one of the town’s main attractions.
However, this is not the town’s only attraction. Even though a small town, Cefalu is home to dozens of churches and cathedrals with the most famous one being the Cathedral of Cefalu. Cefalu is also home to dozens of historic buildings, including the Bishops Palace, The Atenasio Martino Palace, the Osterio Magno mansion, Ancient Roman baths, and many others. Last but not least, Cefalu is one of the main culinary hubs in Sicily and a trip to the town isn’t complete without sampling some of the finest local food.
How did you like our list of medieval towns in Italy? Did you have any favorites? Do you have a few other towns that you think should be a part of this list? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
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