Here is a brief list of beautiful places in Italy that usually remain outside the circuit of international tourism.
Marina di Pisciotta, Campania
A medieval hamlet in the municipality of Pisciotta, Marina di Pisciotta (about 7 km from Palinuro) is inhabited by fewer than 300 people. Described as a typical coastal village of southern Italy, with narrow alleys and pastel-colored houses, the historical center is on a hill that descends to the sea. Here you can meet older people with hats on their heads who play cards or simply watch the world go by.
Tourists who visit northern Italy surely stop in Milan, Venice, and the lake region, but rarely come to gorgeous Bergamo, considered the most beautiful hill town of Lombardy. It is a fascinating site, surrounded by tall walls and with narrow, curvy streets. The surrounding area is so romantic and seems made for a short spring break.
A sleepy hill town, Montefalco is renowned for his splendid panoramas, for Sagrantino, a rare red wine, for a sizeable number of Renaissance frescoes, and for other important works of art in the Museum of San Francesco.
Gabbice Mare, Marche
A municipality of almost 6,000 inhabitants in the province of Pesaro and Urbino, Gabbice Mare is a wonderful exception to the tourist areas on the Adriatic, the play-park of Italian families on holiday. The more adventurous can find remote beaches beyond the areas of huge umbrellas and can discover creeks in the surrounding districts of Fioenzuola di Focara and Casteldimezzo.
Cinque Terre are literally besieged by vacationers in the summer so much so that this year it is assumed that it will accommodate a maximum number of tourists. And yet Portovenere, a gorgeous ligurian coastal town not far from Cinque Terre is ideally the sixth village of the famous tourist spot and practically unknown to foreigners.
Treviso is located a little more than 35 chilometers from Venice and its center is a small city surrounded by walls with medieval gateways, and narrow cobblestone streets. Those who visit this Venetian city will not regret the stop.
The hamlet of Sovana, in the province of Grosseto, is known as an important Etruscan center, and a medieval and Renaissance village. It is little more than a single road, but boasts of terrific hotels and restaurants, an ancient parish church, and other splendid medieval buildings.
It is the least famous of the splendid lakes that bathe northern Italy, however it is very much appreciated by hikers and is the home of Monte Isola, the largest lake island of Europe. Lago d’Iseo is smaller than Lake Como, but it is notably quieter and more enchanting. It has a small number of tourists and is situated north of the cities of Brescia and Bergamo. It is the unknown gem of northern Italy.
Porto Selvaggio, Puglia
Up until 30 years ago the Salento area of Puglia was unknown to tourists. In the last decade, however, even foreigners have ventured into the “California of Italy” that can boast of a crystalline and spectacular sea. Porto Selvaggio, a few chilometers west of the city of Nardò, is an enchanting and unspoiled coastal enclave that benefits from its status as a protected area since 1980.
Sulmona & Monti della Laga, Abruzzo
Abruzzo is a region to discover. It combines a beautiful sea with splendid mountains and natural parks where bears and wolves roam. Sulmona is the birthplace of the poet Ovid and takes you back in time to the ‘50s. The Monti della Laga are a group of peaks near the border of Umbria, unknown even to the majority of Italians.
Until 50 years ago, Matera was one of the poorest cities in Italy with about 20,000 people crammed into its famous rock houses. In the 60s the place was practically abandoned and only recently, thanks to tourism and development, about 2,000 people have returned to live among the stones. New cafés, galleries, restaurants, and especially hotels have inspired the rebiryh of the fortunes of Matera.
Many tourists that swarm the Amalfi coast, visit Amalfi and Positano, but neglect Ravello, an eagle’s nest at the top of a steep passage from the coast. It is the most tranquil and enchanting places along the coast, that in the past has hosted famous people like Greta Garbo, Jackie Kennedy and Tennessee Williams.
Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Even the central European Trieste is not on the tourist circuit of foreigners who visit Italy. And yet this splendid city near the sea boasts of the best cafés and is the seat of a glorious mixture of ethnic and architectural influences. The citizens here embrace life with a passion that is both palpable and contagious.
Gargano is a national park, with long sandy beaches, great pine forests, and a geographic position that tempers the summer heat with breezes that blow from the sea on three sides. The area is little known outside of Italy.
Ragusa e Cafalù, Sicilia
Unlike Taormina, Ragusa and Cefalù are two historical cities in Sicily not know by the influx of tourists as they should be. Explore Le Madonie, a series of wild mountains along the northern coast.
Some foreigners visit Piedmont only for the splendid ski slopes. And yet this is a region that can claim to be the best gastronomic center of Italy, the birthplace of the Slow Food movement, with its splendid hills called Langhe.
Ravenna is one of the most beautiful capitals of Italian medieval art, with its precious byzantine mosaics. And it is off the beaten track of tourists. In the summer, Ravenna holds concerts, banquettes, fireworks and other spectacles of sound and light.
This small island in the archipelago of the Egadi islands, in Sicily, is an authentic jewel that its residents jealously guard. In general, they do not want either visitors or tourists. Along the western coast of Sicily this is a place for the usual clients that travel there for long periods, not for “hit and run” vacationers.
Ercolano e Oplontis, Campania
Pompei is one of the most visited ancient cities in the world and is always full of tourists. The excavations of Ercolano and Oplontis, a few chilometers away, are perfectly preserved, but don’t attract the same numbers of admirers. And yet those who really want to enjoy a glimpse of ancient Roman life in relative peace and quiet and without a lot of shoving, should plan a visit to these two sites at the base of Vesuvius.
Genoa was one of the most important Italian Renaissance cities rich in antique treasures and with a magnificent revitalized port (see my post on Renzo Piano). And yet even this city is outside the international tourist circuit.