10 Spots To Go Off The Beaten Path in Italy

Rome, Florence, and Venice make up the Italian trifecta that we all include on our Italian travel itinerary, but getting off the beaten path during your trip is where you’ll experience true local flavor. From scenic hill towns and rural landscapes to seaside beaches and picturesque lakes, Italy has something to offer for every type of traveler. If you have the luxury of time and are feeling adventurous, consider renting a car to really explore towns across the countryside. Our list is just the beginning!

1. Siena

Source: Jessica Burke for Style Me Pretty

This 13th century town is nestled in the Tuscan hills, surrounded by olive groves and Chianti vineyards. Piazza del Campo, the city’s main square, is one of the biggest in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site. Siena is known for its traditional dishes such as wild boar, pappardelle pasta, and grilled meat, as well as their local wines: Chianti, Montepulciano and Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

Take at least a night to stay in a local agriturismo, a tradition that started in 1950 to allow farmers to make additional income by hosting guests on their property to save on taxes. Today, these beautiful farm houses are Italy’s best kept secret and some of the most picturesque accommodations in the country. Most even serve farm to table meals made from produce, eggs, meat, and wine fresh from the farm.

2. Orvieto

Source: Al Morrison

Orvieto is the definition of an Italian hill town. Just 90 minutes outside of Rome, the town sits on top of a hill of volcanic stone that overlooks the Umbria countryside. Orvieto’s cathedral is a masterpiece, a stunning Gothic structure covered in mosaic tiles on the outside and stained glass on the inside. It’s worth the visit alone.

3. Rimini

Source: Exposure Guide

If you’re visiting in the summertime, head to local favorite coastal Rimini for packed beaches and boisterous nightclubs. The town’s nine miles of beachfront are divided into sections, identified with their own number and personality. Marina Centro and Lungomare Augusto are the two most famous beaches on the Adriatic Sea, but take some time to stroll the coast’s promenade to explore the rest of the coast, popping into restaurants and discos as the sun goes down.

4. Civita di Bagnoregio

Source: Hither and Thither

Civita and Bagnoregio were once one town, connected by a donkey path that linked the two communities. Today, the land is eroded away, and only a footbridge connects the mainland Bagnoregio with Civita, perched on top of the valley’s peak. The town is almost completely deserted, with just 10 official residents, and has become the perfect place for urbanites to retreat.

Bruschetta (pronounced as a the true Italian “broo-sket-tuh”) is their specialty: bread toasted on an open fire, drizzled with olive oil made with a 1500-year-old press, rubbed with garlic, and topped with diced tomatoes. It’s as delicious as it sounds!

5. Parma

Who wouldn’t want to visit the home of prosciutto di parma meat and parmigiana reggiano cheese? So admittedly, most visitors in Parma are there to eat. The town’s Parmigiano Reggiano Association even offers daily group tours to show you the region’s various master cheese-makers at work. If you’re interested, book ahead online because tours require 20 days advance reservation.

6. Arezzo

Source: Bagni di Lucca and Beyond

Located just a one-hour train ride from Florence, Arezzo is the home of a monthly antique market that’s known across the region. On the first Saturday and Sunday of every month, 500 vendors assemble across the historic center, selling everything from Italian lace to cookware. Shop with over 30,000 other customers, taking in the scene and browsing local wares.

7. Puglia

Source: Travel Republic

This seaside region is much quieter than the famous Amalfi Coast and known for its unique trulli (cone shaped stone huts in the town of Alberobello dating back to the 14th century). According to legend, the locals developed removable roofs that could be dismantled when collectors came by to save money on home taxes. Now, they are expensive properties to buy—some are even upscale hotels were you can stay for a unique experience.

Added bonus? The area is also known for their burrata, fresh mozzarella-like, milky, rich cheese that is meant to be paired with locally grown olives and crusty bread. For a decadent meal, book a table at Grotta Palazzese where you’ll dine inside a limestone cave with a breathtaking view of the sea.

8. Lake Maggiore

Source: Country Club

Lake Maggiore is one of Italy’s largest lakes, formed from a glacier on the south side of the Alps. If you’re visiting in the summer, the Alpine Botanical Gardens that overlook the water or the Santa Caterina del Sasso Church are two popular destinations. During the winter, Lake Maggiore is known for its skiing resorts—the Torino Winter Olympic Games were held here in 2006.

9. Portofino

Source: Top Inspired

The Italian Riviera coastline, dotted with pastel-colored houses and cobblestone streets, is pretty as a postcard. Portofino, a fishing village just southeast of Genoa, attracts sailors and boaters, giving it a ritzy vibe known for its high-end boutiques and seafood restaurants. Make sure to take time from shopping to explore the Castello Brown Fortress for romantic, sweeping views.

10. Lampedusa Island

Source: Crazy Tourist

Lampedusa Island’s white beaches and wild landscapes make it a Mediterranean favorite just off of Sicily. The heart-shaped Rabbit Beach is one of the most famous in the world and home to an amazing number of loggerhead sea turtles.

Have you been to Italy? If yes, share your recommendations with us!

  • Melissa

    Your photo of Portofino is actually of one of the towns that make up Cinque Terre…google it.

    • Kylie Grader

      It’s Manarola— equally beautiful, but yes, not Portofino! Whoops!

      • Jenna Laedtke

        Updated!

        • nana

          did you change the image? i found the place in the portofino image in portofino.. im confused as to why they are saying its not portofino..

          https://www.google.com/maps/@44.3048921,9.2113614,3a,60y,22.43h,86.63t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1st2vO_a9nCMMaP0JbzFOLlA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

  • Leslie Herring

    I studied in Itay, specifically Arezzo. Friendly people, a cute shopping area, a festival in the summer, and not too far away are some world-famous wineries. There are a good amount of english-speaking italians in that area.

    You can take a ferry ride from Cinque Terre to Portofino…WORTH THE TRIP!

    Thanks for the article! I’m going again in September and cannot wait!

  • Leslie Herring

    I studied in Itay, specifically Arezzo. Friendly people, a cute shopping area, a festival in the summer, and not too far away are some world-famous wineries. There are a good amount of english-speaking italians in that area.

    You can take a ferry ride from Cinque Terre to Portofino…WORTH THE TRIP!

    Thanks for the article! I’m going again in September and cannot wait!

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Thanks for reading! Where are you headed?!

      • Leslie Herring

        Not quite sure, but definitely the cost. Any places in Tuscany you recommend?

        • Jenna Laedtke

          Yes! My favorite thing to do in Tuscany is to stay at an agritourismo – these are farms that host guests B&B style. Many serve breakfast and wine that is made on their property nestled in the hills. Montepulciano and Montalcino are the two best areas for wine tasting.

          • Rachel Matheny

            where would you recommend, as far as the agriturismo. My sister and I are looking to visit next May (2018). We want an authentic experience! Any other recommendations (traveling etc.) would be greatly appreciated

  • You caught three of our favorites in Italy in this post! Orvieto, Siena and Portofino are sublime. I will add Todi to the list, as well as Luca. This summer we will explore the Amalfi Coast, Siena, Lake Como (and Paris). I’ll keep you posted on any new favorites!
    Heather @ Style*Mind*Chic Life
    http://stylemindchiclife.com

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Would love to hear more about your travels! It was hard to narrow down to just 10. Follow me on IG @jklaedtke to share – thanks for reading! xo

  • Mai

    I would add that if you’re going to Arezzo, Castiglion Fiorentino is one short train stop away! It’s the most adorable little town with a delicious pizza place–Ristorante Roggi.

    • Jenna Laedtke

      I haven’t been! Will add to the list! Thanks for reading – follow me on IG @jklaedtke to share more tips!

  • I actually just went to Arezzo’s antique market this weekend. It’s a blast! We came away with 5 new, funky chairs. I haven’t been to most of the other places you mentioned, but I’m excited to check them out. Thanks 🙂

    http://www.thebusinessofblooming.com

    • Jenna Laedtke

      What a coincidence! It’s one of my favorites, but I’m always just visiting, so cannot buy large items! Follow me @jklaedtke for more tips 🙂

  • Lauren

    I’m going to Cinque Terre, Genoa and Portofino on Tuesday!

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Have a blast! Make sure when you are in Cinque Terre that you do the hike between the five towns – one of my favorites. Follow me @jklaedtke for more tips!

  • Nam

    I think I need to go back to Italy now 🙂

    • Jenna Laedtke

      Same! When is your next trip? Follow along @jklaedtke

  • Mia

    I saw it was mentioned below as well, but I just wanted to say again that my favorite city in Italy so far has been Lucca!
    It is just as gorgeous as you would expect an Italian city to be, with a beautiful church and to this date THE BEST Gelato I’ve ever had! (And I’ve been to the trifacta 😉 )
    Now I’ll still have to check out some of your suggestions! Thank you for those 🙂

    • Jenna Laedtke

      I can’t say no to gelato 🙂 When are you heading back to Italy? I’d love to share more of my favorites – follow along @jklaedtke

  • Victoria Boyd

    While these places are all stunning and well worth a visit, many of the spots you listed are not “off the beaten path” at all, but extremely popular tourist destinations (ie. Portofino, Lago Maggiore, Alberobello)

  • Jaye

    If people like you gals are going there it’s not far enough of the beaten path for me. Wow. And you can’t even get your photos correct? Give the Italians a break and go somewhere else.

  • Jaye

    Oh wait! Looks like you have been everywhere else. I’ve never seen such a boring, self-centered, “I’m such a cool gal” website in my life. Try a little harder, apparently some folks will fall for anything.

    • BK

      Oh Jaye you are so so sad.

  • Off the beaten path, Portofino, seriously? I would like to mention the wine region Oltrepo Pavese, south of Milan.