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12 Best Hidden Gems in Italy to Visit on Vacation

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Mantua, Italy

Mantua, Italy

Between the northern countryside, central hills and cities, and southern coastlines and islands, there are marvelous hidden gems in Italy to visit on vacation.

Most travelers planning a trip to Italy think of visiting Rome, Venice, Milan, or Tuscany. These are iconic regions, with highlights like the Colosseum, canals, fashion districts, and wine regions. But Italy’s off-the-beaten-path hidden gems offer plenty for first-time visitors or travelers returning to explore more of the country on vacation.

From islands where crowds are few and far between to towns preserving the secrets of Ancient Rome, the unique places to visit offer different ideas for curious travelers eager to discover special parts of the famous travel destination.

  1. 1. The Aeolian Islands
  2. 2. Castelmezzano
  3. 3. Trento
  4. 4. Sirmione
  5. 5. Mantua
  6. 6. Rapallo
  7. 7. Bagnoregio
  8. 8. Vicenza
  9. 9. Locorotondo
  10. 10. Bassano del Grappa
  11. 11. Urbino
  12. 12. Noto
  13. Explore the Most Unique Places to Visit in Italy

1. The Aeolian Islands

Lipari Island, one of the Aeolian Islands in Italy

Lipari island, Italy

On Sicily’s northeastern coast, you can see the Aeolian archipelago, a collection of seven islands, Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi, and Alicudi. You can travel from the famous Italian island to any of these hidden gems by boat on tours from Sicily.

The Aeolian Islands are a slice of paradise away from the crowds flocking to Italy’s famous coastlines, offering endless fun in the sun for families, retreats for senior travelers, or seclusion for couples escaping on romantic beach vacations.

From hikes along Vulcano’s Gran Cratere to see its steaming fumaroles to soaking in the sunshine on Lipari’s best beaches, endless adventures await on the Aeolian Islands, representing some of the best islands to visit in Italy. You can find more inspiration for your trip with Our 9 Best Italian Island Itineraries.

Highlights: Sunset sailing in Stromboli • Hiking to the Gran Cratere • Beach days in Lipari • Malvasia dessert-wine tasting in Salina • Island hopping between the archipelago

Recommended length of stay: 4-5 days

2. Castelmezzano

Medieval city of Castelmezzano, Italy

Castelmezzano, Italy

In southern Italy, the town and commune of Castelmezzano invite travelers to explore an antique village nestled in the cliffs overlooking the countryside. Views of karst peaks dominate the surroundings and encourage you to hike hills with sweeping mountain backdrops.

With a history that spans centuries and cultural origins traced back to Lombards, Normans, and the Aragonese, Castelmezzano has an old-world atmosphere unlike any other hilltop town in southern Italy.

Castelmezzano offers historical and adventurous experiences for travelers visiting the remote village on southern Italy tours, from ancient castles and churches to lush forests circling the commune.

Highlights: Gradinata Normanna • Le Sette Pietre trail • Castello Normanno • Chiesa Madre di Santa Maria dell'Olmo • Castrum Medianum

Recommended length of stay: 1-2 days

3. Trento

Buonconsiglio Castle gardens in Trento, Italy

Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento, Italy

Italy’s secret northern crown jewel, Trento, sits in the heart of the Trentino-Alto Adige region, a gateway to the Italian Alps bordering Switzerland and Austria. Blessed with rolling green hills and snow-white alpine peaks, Trento’s surrounding scenery is a breathtaking backdrop for tours of northern Italy.

In the city, travelers can visit the ornate architectural marvel that is Buonconsiglio Castle and the Roman Catholic Trento Cathedral. Each architectural wonder in Trento invites visitors to explore the city’s Renaissance influence.

After exploring its historical buildings, museums, and districts, you can head for the greater Trento Province's snowy hills for snowboarding as a family or with your partner. Vacations in Italy in December provide the best conditions for snowboarding or skiing adventures in Trento.

Highlights: Buonconsiglio Castle • Trento Cathedral • Orrido di Ponte Alto • Piazza del Duomo • Snowboarding and skiing

Recommended length of stay: 3-4 days

4. Sirmione

Sirmione on Lake Garde, Italy

Sirmione on Lake Garde, Italy

As one of Lake Garda’s dreamiest towns, Sirmione appeals to couples searching for a quiet place to escape the crowds. The town is a stunning hidden gem of Italy, with a quaint and charming atmosphere pouring from the medieval neighborhoods you can wander with your partner on romantic trips to Italy.

When visiting Sirmione, there is no shortage of activities to entertain between days spent meandering the enchanting lanes. You can sail from the harbor across the lake’s glistening waters that shift between emerald, sapphire, and azure shades. You can visit one of Italy’s most well-preserved fortresses, Scaligero Castle, and sip wines, with lakeside views from gourmet restaurants along the esplanade.

Time slows down in Sirmione and as one of the best lake towns in northern Italy, you can combine a stay on Lake Garda with vacations at Lake Como.

Highlights: Scaligero Castle • Grottoes of Catullus • Jamaica Beach • Spa therapies • Lake sailing

Recommended length of stay: 1-2 Days

5. Mantua

Basilica of Sant'Andrea in Mantua, Italy

Basilica of Sant'Andrea in Mantua, Italy

Surrounded by three artificial lakes and preserving the legacy of Renaissance Gonzaga dynasty leaders, Mantua is one of the most unique places to visit in Italy’s northern Lombardy region.

Boasting impressive architecture and hosting evocative European art, it is surprising Mantua is still a secret, but that is essentially the appeal. Here, you can watch the sun kiss the lakes as it sets beyond the Renaissance architecture, explore the Roman interiors of the Basilica of Sant'Andrea, and visit the ancient Rotonda di San Lorenzo’s round church on the site of an old Roman temple honoring the goddess Venus.

You can find out more about northern Italy in preparation for your trip to Mantua in our Northern Italy travel guide, helping you plan a comfortable vacation to the hidden gem.

Highlights: Ducale Palace • Basilica of Sant'Andrea • Rotonda di San Lorenzo • Palazzo Te • Piazza delle Erbe

Recommended length of stay: 1-2 days

6. Rapallo

Rapallo, Italy

Rapallo, Italy

The Italian Riviera’s hidden gem, Rapallo, is a gorgeous pilgrimage site along the sun-kissed coastline, with a vibrant promenade, impressive fortifications memorializing old Italy, and secret relics hidden within the azure waters wrapping around the port.

Rapallo offers something for everyone, from small beaches where families can catch some sun or jump on sailboats for cruises across the riviera, to waterfront restaurants where couples can embrace romance while tucking into authentic Italian seafood dishes.

Around an hour from Cinque Terre, Rapallo is also a fantastic base for tours of the Italian coastline or an excellent day trip during Cinque Terre tours.

Highlights: The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro • Portofino • Ponte di Annibale • Porto Carlo Riva • Coastal cruises

Recommended length of stay: 2-3 days

7. Bagnoregio

Walking tour through medieval alleyways in famous Civita di Bagnoregio in Lazio, Italy

Civita di Bagnoregio in Lazio, Italy

Bagnoregio is a far-flung Italian hilltop town in Lazio where you will find few crowds, enabling you to spend much time connecting with locals who are proud to call this stunning fortress town their home.

Exploring Bagnoregio is lovely, perfect for trips to Italy for seniors, as you can embrace true authenticity in an area that remains as it was centuries ago. With spectacular panoramic views over the Lazio countryside, Bagnoregio is one of the most picturesque country towns, adding to the charms of discovering its traditional appeal.

Highlights: Grotta di San Bonaventura • Porta Santa Maria • Palace tours • Piazza Colesanti • Walking tours

Recommended length of stay: 1-2 days

8. Vicenza

Palladian Basilica in Vicenza, Italy

Palladian Basilica in Vicenza, Italy

Vicenza, though less popular than Venice or Verona, is another must-visit destination in Italy’s Veneto region that remains a hidden gem for travelers choosing to step off the beaten path and experience authentic Italy with fewer crowds.

Sixteenth-century architecture sprawls across the city, much of it envisioned by genius architect Andrea Palladio. From the Palladian Basilica’s Renaissance facade to the emblematic artwork within the Palazzo Chiericati, Vicenza is a reservoir of European creativity and artistry.

Less than an hour from Venice, it is a fantastic addition as a day tour or for multiple days on Venice vacations in Veneto.

Highlights: Palladian Basilica • Palazzo Chiericati • The Teatro Olimpico • The Church of St. Mary of Mount Berico • Piazza dei Signori

Recommended length of stay: 2-3 days

9. Locorotondo

Locorotondo in Puglia, Italy

Locorotondo in Puglia, Italy

Locorotondo is a beautiful Puglia town near the southern coastline and overlooking the Adriatic’s sparkling azure waters. It is incredibly photogenic, with old neighborhoods displaying architecture of bygone eras and sweeping views of the countryside rolling down towards the sea.

Locorotondo’s cinematic aesthetic is a photographer’s dream, and you can capture images of antique Catholic churches and charming alleyways where flowers paint white-washed balconies in pinks and purples.

From the picturesque Church of Saint George Martyr to the sculpted arches of the Palazzo Morelli, few places in Italy are as postcard-perfect as Locorotondo.

Highlights: The Church of Saint George Martyr • The Church of Madonna della Greca • Palazzo Morelli • The Pontifical Basilica of Saint Nicholas • Bike tours

Recommended length of stay: 2-3 days

10. Bassano del Grappa

Ponte degli Alpini in Bassano del Grappa, Italy

Bassano del Grappa in Veneto, Italy

Bassano del Grappa is another Italian hidden gem in the Veneto region, nestled not far from the foothills of the Italian Alps bordering Austria and Switzerland. Travelers may recognize the name grappa as Italy’s famous grape-based brandy, yet few arrive in Bassano del Grappa to try it as produced in authentic grappa distilleries.

Here, you can taste the traditional drink while enjoying a gourmet northern Italian dish, gazing out across the River Brenta and dramatic mountain views. You can cross Bassano del Grappa’s historic wooden bridge, Ponte Vecchio, and explore museums that share the treasures of northern Italy’s Veneto region.

From the great outdoors to sensational northern Italian delicacies, you can experience the top six things to do in Northern Italy and more when visiting Bassano del Grappa.

Highlights: The Ponte Vecchio • The Poli Grappa Museum • Museo del Ponte degli Alpini • Piazza Libertà • Grappa tasting

Recommended length of stay: 1-2 days

11. Urbino

The Ducal Palace in Urbino, Italy

The Ducal Palace in Urbino, Italy

The walled city of Urbino is another historic Italian hilltop city that travelers often overlook when planning a stay in central Italy. Resting among the emerald vegetation of the Marche region, Urbino offers surrounding scenery to snapshot.

Its fairytale architecture is unique, commanding your attention from beneath the Renaissance spires of the Ducal Palace and from the courtyard of the Urbino Cathedral. Beyond admiring storybook architecture, travelers can wander the artisan district for a deeper understanding of authentic Italian trade.

Highlights: The Ducal Palace • National Gallery of the Marche • Urbino Cathedral • Fortezza Albornoz • Casa Natale di Raffaello

Recommended length of stay: 1-2 days

12. Noto

Town of Noto and Cathedral in Sicily, Italy

Town of Noto and Cathedral in Sicily, Italy

Sicily’s stunning city of Noto is famous for its Baroque architecture and 18th-century buildings, culminating in one of the most royal cityscapes of the island’s southeastern provinces.

While Noto exudes character from every corner and architectural marvel, a relaxing and tranquil atmosphere envelops the coastal city. You can spend the morning exploring the historic cathedrals and museums and the afternoon watching the sunset over the Ionian Sea during dinner.

The laidback lifestyle gives Noto plenty of authentic Italian character, encouraging visitors to slow down and appreciate every moment on the Sicilian coastline.

Highlights: Noto Cathedral • Palazzo Ducezio • Nicolaci Palace • Palazzo Castelluccio • Church of Santa Chiara

Recommended length of stay: 2-3 days

Explore the Most Unique Places to Visit in Italy

Scaligero Castle in Sirmione on Lake Garda, Italy

Scaligero Castle in Sirmione on Lake Garda, Italy

Beyond the best places to visit in Italy, the hidden gems offer unique experiences and highlights many travelers miss. Whether planning your first trip to the country or returning for more Italy tours & vacations, these hidden gems can show you new sides of the famous destination.

To learn about Italy, the regions, experiences for your trip, and more, explore our Italy travel guide.

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