Italy is home to some of the most well-known cities in the world, but if you look past the ones that come to mind first, you’ll find lovely small towns throughout the country. Add some to your itinerary to escape the crowds and lose yourself in everyday Italy.

Alberobello

Closest major city: Bari

This small town in Southern Italy is known for its UNESCO-designated buildings called trulli. These white, conical-roofed buildings are traditional to the Itria Valley, and Alberobello features a large number of the intriguing structures. Alberobello itself is walkable and easily reached from nearby cities. It also plays host to many summer music festivals.

Photo by Sam Flanagan.

The towns of the Amalfi Coast

Closest major cities: Naples, Salerno

The towns of the Amalfi Coast stretch along the southern coastline of the Salerno Gulf. Each town is different — a visit to Ravello will be similar, but not the same as a visit to Positano. A bus service is available between the towns, and you can even catch a ferry to Capri from several of the ports. The region that encompasses the Amalfi Coast is known for its lemons and limoncello liqueur, and attracts thousands of sun-seeking vacationers every year.

Photo by Davide Oricchio.

Anghiari

Closest major cities: Arezzo, Florence

Set on a hill of stone near the border of Tuscany and Umbria, Anghiari is a quaint medieval Italian town. Once the site of a famous battle between Florence and Milan, Anghiari’s ancient atmosphere survived, thanks to the 13th century walls that surround the town’s narrow streets.  

 

 

 

Photo by Paolo Villani.

Assisi

Closest major city: Rome

Known as the birthplace of St. Francis and St. Clare, Assisi has attracted pilgrims and travelers for centuries. The entire town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its art and historical buildings, with the Basilica of St. Francis as its crown jewel. Wander this lovely town and lose yourself in medieval history, art, and architecture.

 

Bergamo

Closest major city: Milan

Though most only know Bergamo for its international airport, those who take the time to explore the town itself will be pleasantly surprised. Nicknamed La Città dei Mille (the city of the thousand), this scenic town boasts a medieval atmosphere with a wealth of art and history. Ride the funicular from the Lower City to the Upper City and marvel at the enchanting buildings of this small town.

Photo by Ennio Puglisi.
Photo by Ennio Puglisi.
Photo by Roberto Povero.

Burano

Closest major city: Venice

Only a boat ride away from Venice, you’ll find Burano: a colorful island town. The four islands of Burano are connected by bridge and each of the town’s buildings is a different color (residents actually need governmental approval to paint their houses!). While Murano, another island in the Venetian Lagoon, is popular because of its glassmakers, Burano is known for lace production.

Photo by Simone Bramante.

Castelluccio

Closest major city: Rome

This mountainous village overlooks the “Great Plain” near Monti Sibillini National Park. Nearly 60 percent of Castelluccio was destroyed in the earthquakes of 2016 and 2017, but some of the roads were reopened in July 2017. The best time to visit is in May and July, when the plains are covered in color, thanks to blooming flowers.

 

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Photo by Alessandro Lago.

The towns of the Cinque Terre

Closest major cities: Genoa, Florence

Five towns comprise the Cinque Terre: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coastal, cliffside towns are connected by hiking trails, ferry routes, and a local train line. Thousands of travelers flock to the Cinque Terre every year, where they find colorful villages full of personality and photo potential.

Photo by Paolo Villani.

Gubbio

Closest major city: Florence

The ancient town of Gubbio is located in the Umbria region (Perugia province), on the lowest slope of Monte Ingino. The nearby hills have been occupied since the Bronze Age and the city features the second-largest surviving Roman theater in the world. Today, Gubbio’s narrow, stone streets are perfect for travelers hoping to get away from the crowds.

 

 

Photo by Thai Hoang.

Lucca

Closest major cities: Florence, Pisa

Some say Lucca is one of the most overlooked towns in Tuscany. With its famous Renaissance-era walls still intact, this beloved town is ideal for day trips from Florence or Pisa, or for a slightly longer stay. Be sure to walk its walls, which are now a pedestrian promenade that encircles the town.

 

 

Matera

Closest major city: Bari

On a rocky outcrop in southern Italy, you’ll find Matera — a town that has made a wonderful underdog comeback. Less than a century ago, Matera was one of the most poverty-stricken towns in Italy. But because of an evacuation of the area in the 1950s, the town is now an AirBnB haven and set to be the European Capital of Culture in 2019.

Photo by Peppe Addeo.
Photo by Pier Luigi.

Orvieto

Closest major cities: Rome, Florence

This small town packs a punch. Situated almost equidistant from both Rome and Florence, Orvieto features a gorgeous cathedral, an underground cave network, museums full of Etruscan-era artifacts, and a Pietà sculpture. Wander through the medieval town or head down its steep cliffs to the countryside below, which is full of olive and cypress trees.

Photo by Omar Cordovani.

Ravenna

Closest major city: Bologna

Featuring eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Ravenna is a town that draws history, architecture, and art lovers. It was the capital city of the Western Roman Empire for nearly 75 years during the 400s, and the seat of the Kingdom of the Lombards in later centuries, too. The main attraction is the intricate mosaic pattern that can be found in its basilicas and central buildings. The small-town atmosphere and Gothic architecture make for a lovely stay.

Urbino

Closest major city: Florence

Upon a visit to the Le Marche region of Italy, most head straight to Urbino. This walled city actually had its own independent Renaissance scene, completely separate from the rest of the country, in the 1400s. Home to a burgeoning university, this town will delight all kinds of travelers.

Header image by Christine Juette.

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