The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Italy might be the winding canals of Venice or the ancient sights in Rome, but the most beautiful parts can be found in the villages and small towns in Italy. There you can see the authentic Italian culture that might be missing in the bigger cities. Here are seven small towns in Italy you must visit!
Lucca is located in the heart of Tuscany, just a short distance from tourist hot spots like Florence and Pisa. With its old world charm, Lucca is my favorite of the picturesque small towns in Italy. It is often called “the city of 100 churches” for its many beautiful religious buildings. Any art & architecture lover will enjoy strolling into the many churches and basilicas.
My favorite way to spend a day in Lucca is to grab some friends and bike along the 16th century walls that surround the city. The views from on top of the walls are amazing!
Portovenere- Flo from Yoga, Wine & Travel
Portovenere is often overshadowed by its neighboring towns along the Ligurian coast of Italy, but is an amazing destination in its own right (and a whole lot less crowded than Cinque Terre). It can be easily reached by ferry from La Spezia and houses the stunning Castle Doria, Byron’s Grotto, The Church of San Pietro and a number of fun little swimming spots.
The first thing you’ll see as you enter Portovenere is a row of brightly colored houses lining the harbor; these houses are not just beautiful, but functional too as they used to be a part of the town’s medieval defense system. This town is not to be missed if you’re visiting Liguria!
Orvieto- JaMeka from Got The Travel Bug Too
The town of Orvieto sits 1000 meters high on a tufa cliff in the Umbria region of Italy. Starting with the Etruscans and those centuries after, caves and passages were dug into the soft tufa beneath the city.
Orvieto has over 1,000 caves and passages underground, but we only toured six of them! Some are still used privately by the locals underneath their homes. This amazing labyrinth of caves were used to store wine, olive oil and functioned as water cisterns. It was also used for pigeon breeding. Pigeons were a food staple to the Etruscan and still a main dish in Orvieto. You can get your ticket for a guided tour of Orvieto Underground at the Orvieto Tourist Office located in Piazza del Duomo – the town’s square.
This quiet town makes a great day trip from Rome, as it’s only an hour away by train.
San Gimignano- Danielle from WorldSmith
Tuscany is one of those quintessentially Italian regions that everyone imagines when they dream of a trip to Italy. It’s filled with tiny charming towns, but it can be tricky to pick which ones to visit. San Gimignano fit the bill for my first Italian adventure. It’s within easy day trip distance from Florence, if you’re not keen on changing accommodations every other night. It can be quite touristy in peak season, but in the springtime, it has a decidedly quiet pace, perfect for pleasant morning walks punctuated by window-shopping.
While there, I picked up a gorgeous hand-painted ceramic olive oil dispenser for my mom. But the town’s major draw for me was its wine history. Tuscany may be best known for Chianti – and believe you me, I drank my fair share of that too – but San Gimignano specifically is home to its own wine: Vernaccia. It’s a simple white grape, completely unique not just to the region, but to this specific village. So grab a glass and practice your slow travel skills – it’s the perfect introduction to Tuscany.
Sirmione- Nam from Laugh Travel Eat
While it comes to Italian lakes, most people are familiar with Lake Como but many overlook its bigger cousin Lake Garda only an hour or so north by train. And perched at the very tip of a peninsula that juts out in the middle of its southern shoreline is Sirmione.
A town that dates back to the Roman times, it has both the charming essence of a medieval small village as well as gorgeous natural sceneries. It was a strategic stronghold back in the days, with one of the world’s only castle that is surrounded by water on both sides guarding its entrance. But the real gem of the day is its beaches of white, smooth rocks stretching into the clear lake water. Traffic is severely restricted in this town and it feels like you are taking a step back into history as you hobble along its cobbled stone street or enjoy an Aperol Spritz in one of the many restaurants.
If you want to explore more of the Lake Garda area, check out this amazing Lake Garda itinerary.
See Also: Ultimate Packing List for Italy
Varenna- Erika from Erika’s Travels
The village of Varenna is a sleepy cluster of houses on the shores of Lake Como. Nestled among the mountains and sitting on the shores of Italy’s beautiful Y-shaped lake, the town is bursting with colors.
While there isn’t much to do in Varenna per se, its beauty lies in its proximity to the lake, its picturesque alleyways and its laid-back charm. Eateries serving classic Italian fare line the lakefront and allow visitors to dine while taking in the views of their breathtaking surroundings. Varenna is only a short ferry hop away from Bellagio—another idyllic town sitting on the shores of the lake. The fifteen minute ferry ride is not only a convenient way of traveling between the two picturesque towns, but it is also offers fantastic views and is a must-do attraction in itself.
Varenna lies an hour North of Milan. There are hourly trains to and from Milan’s Central Station, making Varenna the ideal day trip on a beautiful summer day.
Burano- Christina from Happy to Wander
There’s no place in the world quite like the fishing village of Burano. The first time I visited, I think I giggled for the entirety of my stay. Found only 40 minutes away from Venice, this rainbow oasis is well known for its wonderfully vibrant houses, which make it an absolute dream to photograph.
Walking through this tiny island is like entering a real life rainbow road (minus the red shells and banana peels), with bright colorful houses lining beautiful, narrow canals. Originally, these bright colors were meant to guide fishermen home through thick fog, but today they act more as a beacon for zealous, snap-happy tourists! Despite the crowds, this is an island you can’t miss.
There is more to Italy than gelato and the Colosseum. I hope this post has proven that the true beauty of the country can be found in the small towns in Italy. If you get outside the main cities you will be rewarded by kind people, beautiful views and delicious food! Hopefully you’ve been inspired to add some of these small towns in Italy to your bucket list!
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