44 Small Towns in Italy That Are Worth a DetourItaly
While Italy’s big cities are an absolute delight to travel in, there’s something incredibly special about all of the often-overlooked small towns in Italy.
From fishing villages to farming communities to hilltop towns, Italy’s small villages often come with postcard-worthy views, delicious food, and endless quiet corners to explore.
We asked the travel blogging community for their favorite small villages in Italy and received an avalanche of responses, ranging from sun-soaked beach towns in Sicily to quiet mountain communities in the Valle d’Aosta, with dozens of suggestions in between.
For at least a small portion of your trip to Italy, leave the crowds of the Colosseum and the Ponte Vecchio behind in order to discover some of these magnificent small towns in Italy.
Table of Contents
From Erin of Curiously Erin
Cheneil is a picturesque village in the Aosta Valley of the Italian Alps with a total population of just 8 people, making it one of the tiniest small towns in Italy around. While this number seems miniscule, Cheneil is only 2km from Valtournenche which has a much larger population.
The best time to visit is during the summer months when the snow has melted. An hourly bus from Valtournenche takes you to the base of the village which is then accessed by a 24-hour lift on the side of a cliff.
Upon exiting the lift a short walk will take you to the village center which is bustling in summer months considering the population size. There is a hotel here that offers views of the Matterhorn and a large deck perfect for enjoying an Aperol Spritz in the summer sun. On the other side of the lift exit is a chapel which is worth a visit for its views and well-maintained artworks.
However, the best thing to do when visiting Cheneil is to take a short walk or longer hike around the unspoiled mountainous landscape. You will pass by flowing rivers, marmots dashing between burrows and hopefully catch a glimpse of an ibex or chamois. The landscape changes from open meadows and plains to rocky outcrops and shaded forests.
Cheneil is the perfect place to visit to get outside and reconnect with nature, disconnect and enjoy the peace only a tiny alpine village can offer.
From Allison of Eternal Arrival
One of the oldest continually occupied towns in the world (and certainly the oldest inhabited city in Italy), Matera has an endlessly fascinating history.
Inhabited since the Neolithic era, when people lived in caves on the banks of the canyon, Matera has had several periods of growth – and some serious decline, as well. Matera is known for its “sassi”, an old town filled with cave dwellings that were utilized by the poorest people in the region until recently. In a peculiar turn of events, these cave dwellings which once hosted such poverty are often now pricy boutique hotels.
Matera is somewhat of a phoenix rising from the ashes, once called “Italy’s shame” for its terrible living conditions.
An exposé done on the cave dwellings in Matera showed horrific living conditions that were borderline uninhabitable, and as a result, the sassi were evacuated and people were re-settled in a new, modern city in the 1950s. However, after renovations of the sassi were done, people slowly started returning to the sassi. Little by little, Matera and the sassi were given new economic opportunity: namely, as the backdrops for films as well as for tourism.
Matera’s story of rebirth continues to develop positively, with the city celebrating its selection as one of two European Capital of Culture in 2019.
From Kristen and Jeff of Our Passion for Travel
Nestled in Italy’s southern Puglia region, you’ll find the small town of Alberobello. Puglia is filled with unique and beautiful towns along the coast. This inland town, however, looks nothing like its Pugliese cousins.
Upon entering the city, you’ll see trulli homes scattered everywhere. These white, conically shaped homes are native to the region. Alberobello however, is the gold mine for trulli homes.
The best thing to do in Alberobello is to wander through the fairytale Rione Monti district. Set on a hilltop, this area has over one thousand trulli lining the quaint streets. A pedestrianized area, it’s the perfect place to spend a few hours exploring and taking photos. Many of the trulli have been turned into shops and restaurants. You can even stay overnight in one if your heart desires. Whilst you’re exploring, don’t miss Trullo Sovrano, a 2 story trullo that now houses a museum.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the small Italian village of Alberobello deserves a spot on any Puglia itinerary.
Most travelers will arrive in Puglia via Bari Airport which has good services including from many low-cost airlines around Europe. Train services run directly from Bari to Alberobello taking around 1 hour 40 minutes to complete. Car hire in the region is a popular option to aid with town hopping. For those with a vehicle, Alberobello may also serve as a convenient pit stop on the way to Basilicata’s amazing old town of Matera.
From Wendy of The Nomadic Vegan
Filled with ornate Baroque architecture, Lecce is perhaps the most beautiful town in all of southern Italy. It’s often called “the Florence of the South”, although the two towns look very different from each other. While Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance, the Baroque style popular in Lecce was developed a century or two later and is much more lavish.
Lecce has given its own twist to Baroque, which is distinctive enough to have been dubbed “barocco leccese”, or Lecce Baroque, by experts in art and architecture. A couple of features to look out for are twisted columns and the undulating wrought-iron balconies that line streets like Via Palmieri.
The building material used to build Lecce’s ornate palaces is also unique, and is called “Lecce stone”. This stone is quite soft when it’s first quarried but later hardens. It’s still very susceptible to erosion, though, so the buildings have to be restored every 25 to 30 years. The Church of Santa Croce has one of the most beautiful Baroque façades in the city, dominated by an intricate rose window. It was just recently restored so is looking better than it has in years.
But Lecce’s history dates back much further than the Baroque period. Remains of the ancient Roman empire are also scattered throughout the town, including a Roman theater and amphitheater. If you’re visiting Italy’s southern region of Puglia, the heel of Italy’s boot, then Lecce is a jewel that’s not to be missed.
Be sure to try some of Puglia’s local specialty dishes that you won’t find elsewhere. Many of them feature fresh pasta and local vegetables so are vegetarian and vegan-friendly. Lecce is well-connected by train to other cities throughout the country, so getting here is a breeze.
Polignano al Mare
From Nadine of Le Long Weekend
Located on the heel of Italy’s stiletto, the small town of Polignano a Mare hugs the Adriatic Coast and is one of the loveliest small towns in Italy.
Jutting out to sea on craggy cliffs, the old town is a real head-turner. Whitewashed houses clamber for the best sea views, while haphazard balconies rest in the most unlikely of places. In between the old town and the newer part, you’ll find one of the most beautiful beaches in Puglia.
A deep but narrow sheath of sand, surrounded by pockmarked cliffs – it’s truly spectacular. Take a dip to appreciate the scene from below, swim around the coast to discover hidden caves, and don your snorkel to explore the underwater world too.
But even if it’s not beach weather when you visit, there’s still plenty to do and see. Wander the lanes of the old town to soak in the atmosphere and delight in the sights and smells that surround you, and be sure to call into a cosy trattoria for a plate of the local Orecchiette pasta with turnip tops! Or, if you’re up for a unique experience, book a table at Grotta Palazzese to dine inside a limestone grotto overlooking the sea.
To get to Polignano a Mare, you can fly into either Bari Airport which is 30 minutes north, or Brindisi Airport which is roughly an hour south of Polignano a Mare.
Corina from Another Milestone
Not as popular as its white brother Polignano a mare, Monopoli is a small fortified town on the shore of Adriatic Sea, in the Puglia region. To explore its historic center, you can park the car on the streets outside the fortified walls and walk until the citadel’s entrance next to Spiagia Cala Porta Vecchia beach.
You can first lay down on the golden sand, enter the blue waters of Adriatic Sea and admire the amazing Monopoli from this beach. The view is the most important reason to stop here, even though Monopoli has other beaches along the shore. You can enjoy the morning sun, swim in the crystal-clear waters and explore the old town in the afternoon, when it is too hot to stay in the sun. Here is also one of the best places to take photos.
Once you enter the citadel, you can only smell and hear the sea, but once you get lost on the street maze, you will not see it. That, until you reach the Lungo Mare Santa Maria, the seafront connecting Bastion di Babula with Castello di Carlo V a Monopoli and the old port of Monopoli. Inside the citadel, narrow streets will guide you to reach the gigantic cathedral known as Duomo di Monopoli. The small town is not crowded and so touristic as its neighbors and that offers it a special charm!
From Dani of Diapers in Paradise
If you happen to be visiting Alberobello for it’s beautiful and historic trulli (the round stone houses unique to the region), consider making a stop about 10 minutes south in Locorotondo first.
Locorotondo is a small city with a population of 14,000 in the Puglia region. With its beautiful whitewashed buildings and overflowing flowers down every alley, you will love getting lost in the circular historic center that gives the town its name: Locorotondo means “round place”.
While there are not a lot of specific attractions in Locorotondo, it has earned the coveted official title as one of the most beautiful cities in Italy (and yes, that’s a real thing in Italy!). As such, it is the perfect place to spend an afternoon wandering the labyrinth of the city center, stopping into the adorable cafes to sample the sparkling white wine the city is famous for, and snapping photos of the picture-perfect alleyways.
There are three main churches to pop into and admire during your visit, the centerpiece being the church of Santa Maria della Graecia. If you’re looking for a stunning view, wander until you’re reached the outside of the city center, and you’ll look out from the hilltop to a landscape of vineyards and olive groves dotted with shining white trulli.
Locorotondo is an easy (and lovely) drive from Bari airport, and part of a perfect day if you’re sightseeing the much more touristy Alberobello, as well. Parking is easy outside of the city center, and the stroll through Locorotondo is sure to be one of the highlights of your time in Puglia, whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or exploring Italy with kids.
From Michelle of That Texas Couple
Anacapri, one of the two towns that make up the island of Capri, Italy. Often overshadowed by the seaside town of Capri, visitors are missing out if they overlook the town at the higher elevation of the island, Anacapri.
While Capri is known for its beaches and clubs, Anacapri allows visitors to have a more authentic, peaceful experience during their time on the island. Even if you only have 24 hours in Capri, I recommend visiting and staying in Anacapri.
Getting to the island is actually very easy. There are ferries that leave from Naples and the Amalfi Coast that will take you straight to the island. Once you arrive at Capri, you will disembark from the ferry and then grab a shuttle bus that will take you up the mountainside to the charming town of Anacapri. The shuttle bus picks up just outside the entrance to the ferry dock.
Anacapri is exactly what I imagine when I think of a seaside Italian town. Beautiful whitewash houses with pink and purple bougainvillea climbing up their walls stand next to each other with pride.
Peek in between the houses to find small vegetable gardens, grapevines, and lush tropical plants. The town itself is comprised of artisan shoemakers, tailors, and family restaurants, all of which welcome tourists but do not change because the tourists are there. A relaxed, welcoming feeling envelopes you and welcomes you to Anacapri.
In addition to the charm of the town, the majority of the major attractions on the island of Capri are located in Anacapri. The Villa San Michele, the Blue Grotto, and the amazing chairlift up Mount Solaro are all accessible from Anacapri.
While the daylight hours bring many tourists to Anacapri, they all disappear in the evening hours and it feels like you have the town to yourself (well, you and the locals). Combine all of this with the amazing smell of lemons that wafts through the air, and you can easily see why Anacapri is one of the prettiest villages in Italy.
From Dhara of It’s Not About the Miles
If you are looking for beautiful little towns to visit in southern Italy, consider Ravello on the stunning Amalfi Coast! With beautiful views and a lovely ambiance, Ravello will captivate you. While most people spend one day in Ravello as part of a visit to the Amalfi Coast or the Sorrentine peninsula, Ravello makes for a lovely longer retreat as well, or a romantic honeymoon destination.
You won’t find many sights to check off in Ravello. Instead, expect heart-stopping views of the gorgeous Amalfi Coast from the little town’s mountaintop location, plus a little main square where you can linger with a drink or over a meal. There are two famous villas in town you must tour: the Villa Cimbrone, and the Villa Rufolo. Each villa offers gorgeous gardens and terraces from which to savor the views of the Mediterranean Sea, plus beautiful plantings, sculptures, and architectural details to enjoy.
Ravello is known as the City of Music, because of its famous music festival, held each year from April until November. If you visit during that time, be sure to attend one (or more!) performances for a unique experience.
Ravello is generally included as a destination on guided tours of the Amalfi Coast from Naples or Sorrento. Of course you can drive to Ravello if you have a car, or arrive by public transport, using buses, or a combination of ferry plus bus.
San Cipriano Picentino
From Allie of WOC Travel
The Amalfi coast is a very popular vacation destination in Italy due to all of the iconic picturesque views of the Italian coastline. However, the province of Salerno which is termed by some as a gateway to the Amalfi Coast, due to its major train station should not be overlooked.
Specifically, some of the beautiful smaller towns located in the province that are a part of the mountainous terrain. These towns can serve as a relaxing break and contrast to the heavily populated towns on the Amalfi Coast.
San Cipriano Picentino is one of those beautiful small towns located in the mountains that has a peaceful ambiance. There are several olive, wine and hazelnut vineyards/orchards sprinkled throughout the town, and frequently, there are beautiful hotels, resorts, and bed and breakfasts located on the same property.
If the beautiful views and relaxing pace are not enough to convince you to visit San Cipriano Picentino affordability could also be a factor. Typically, the hotels in San Cipriano Picentino are between 20-50 euros less than the Amalfi Coast hotels, and for a couple of euros, you can take a taxi to the Salerno city center and ride a bus or ferry to the Amalfi Coast and spend the day.
From Helen of Helen On Her Holidays
Sant’Angelo is a beautiful village on the gorgeous island of Ischia in the bay of Naples. Sitting at the bottom of a steep hill, Sant’Angelo’s streets are so narrow that no cars or buses are allowed, which gives the place a quaint, old-fashioned atmosphere. Walking into the village from the bus stop or car park is no chore – the winding road has some of the most beautiful views anywhere in Ischia.
Sant’Angelo’s most prominent feature is the giant rock which is connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. The little village is full of restaurants, bars and interesting shops, while the beaches either side of the village boast some of the best things to do in Ischia.
Ischia has over 100 hot springs, and this part of the island is particularly active. Maronti Beach is the longest beach in Ischia, but it has much more to offer. There are patches of sand here which are hot enough to cook food on, while a little further along, nestled in a valley, you’ll find the Cavascura Thermal Baths, which were used by Ancient Romans. On the other side of the village is Sorgeto Beach, where hot springs bubble up into the waves and you can relax in a natural thermal bath for free while enjoying aperitivo served on a floating tray.
Sant’Angelo is a beautiful and fascinating place and absolutely deserves its place among the prettiest villages in Italy.
From Noel of Travel Photo Discovery
There are so many amazing and atmospheric little towns in Italy that really give you a sense of place.
If you find yourself traveling through the Emilia Romagna area (the breadbasket of Italy), try to make a detour to beautiful Faenza a picturesque with a medieval past. Faenza has a gorgeous medieval historic district and a nice walking promenade that cuts directly through town into the old city center which is also a pedestrian square and walking areas only. This really adds to the appeal of visiting the historic district with open areas, no parking, and cars to disturb the views and enjoyment of the area.
Faenza is quite scenic with lots of beautiful architecture, fabulous shops, and galleries and eating venues, there is also a daily market behind the cathedral with lots of produce, finished goods and take away foods that you can try and are made locally. It really gives a sense of place of the heartland of Italy and a small-town vibe that is real and authentic but still old and beautiful.
This is definitely a place to also eat good food with outdoor markets, food vendors, food trucks and wonderful restaurants to enjoy the bounty of amazing cuisine and produce grown or made in the Emilia Romagna district.
From Ben of Driftwood Journals
You’ve probably heard of Modena before. As well as producing the world’s favorite vinegar (aceto balsamico di Modena), it’s also responsible for giving birth to Italian icons like Luciano Pavarotti, Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini and Ducati motorcycles.
And then there’s the hearty food. The sweet and smokey prosciutto, the rich parmigiano-reggiano cheese, and there’s plenty of local vino to wash it all down with.
But, despite its many claims to fame, you’ve probably never thought of visiting. And you’re not the only one. This tiny medieval town is typically overlooked as travelers head en masse to nearby Bologna, a similar but far larger and more touristy city located less than 30 minutes away.
But this is a good thing. A very good thing. Modena offers everything that Bologna offers, including the colorful colonnades and gastronomy-obsessed way of life, but in a smaller, more affordable and manageable package – simply because it has yet to be overwhelmed by tourism.
Start your day off with fresh pastries and strong espresso at Pasticceria Remondini, followed by a lazy stroll through Piazza Grande to see the wonky Duomo di Modena. Hang with the locals in Piazza XX Settembre for vermouth, Italian craft beer and pasta at lunchtime, and end the day at one of the many authentic pizzerias that seem to line every piazza and via. Modena is, in more ways than one, the epitome of ‘la dolce vita’.
From Annalisa of Travel Connect Experience
The majority of local and foreign travelers usually choose the coast as a quick getaway from the crowded Italian cities. This is the reason why the villages overlooking picturesque Lake Bracciano are quiet and relaxing at any time of the year.
Lake Bracciano is the second biggest lake in Lazio, the region where Rome is located.
This lake is special compared to the other lakes: since its waters supply the aqueducts that serve Rome’s population, motorboats aren’t allowed on the lake, and therefore the water is crystal-clear and a paradise to swim, sail, and paddleboard during the torrid Italian summer.
Bracciano is the most attractive of the 3 villages with access to Lake Bracciano, and part of its charm is ascribable to the fascinating castle, which hosted the wedding between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.
The Bracciano Castle was erected on the ruins of an Early Medieval fortress by the Orsini family and has had the appearance it has today since 1470. The new owner, the Odescalchi family, opened the castle to the public declaring it a museum.
You can visit more than 20 rooms decorated with Renaissance frescoes, ancient furniture, and offering breathtaking views of the lake. Besides exploring the castle, you can stroll around the tiny alleys and square that shape the historical center of Bracciano. You’ll find many little local restaurants where to try the delicious dish “Tonnarelli di Lago”, a kind of hand-made pasta with fresh tomatoes and lake fish.
Bracciano is one of the best day-trips from Rome and one of the prettiest small towns in Italy, and you can reach it by train in 40 minutes from Valle Aurelia subway station.
From Breanna from Chalkie and the Chippy
Manarola is one of the prettiest villages in Italy. Located on the northern Italian coast, Manarola is the second smallest town of the five famous Cinque Terre villages. As a small town, Manarola sure lives up to the bigger towns. With picturesque ocean views and colorful homes built into the side of the mountains, this is a perfect stop on any Italian road trip.
There is no airport in Manarola or the Cinque Terre, but the closest airports are in Florence, Pisa or Genoa. However, you can easily access any of the towns in the Cinque Terre by train. From the nearest airport, you can take a train to La Spezia Centrale. From La Spezia, it is only an 11-minute train ride to Manarola, and there are many trains leaving each day.
As a small town, Manarola still boasts plenty of fun things to do. The famous hiking trail Via Dell’ Amore (Lovers’ Lane) covers the stretch of coastline between Riomaggiore and Manarola. It is only 1 km long, but still a steep climb. After the hike, it is well worth cooling off in the ocean waters by cliff jumping off the rocks along the shorefront. Finish the day off enjoying what this area is famous for – pesto! There is plenty of pesto pasta and pizza options around the town.
From Arzo of Arzo Travels
One of the most beautiful but lesser-known places in all of Italy is a little town named Porto Venere – it might be not as famous as the towns in Cinque Terre but it is as pretty.
So, whenever you are in the north of Italy, make sure to visit for a day (minimum) to see Liguria´s pearl.
In one day, you get to see the town’s attractions because it is not a big place to explore.
Stroll the harbor, and admire the many colorful houses lined up, get lost in the old town and its narrow streets, then head to the San Pietro Church (for the church and the views) before heading to the Doria Castle. The small entrance fee is worth it – the views are spectacular.
Even the cemetery here is beautiful–is located right of the shores and everything is so bright and it comes with gorgeous views.
If you are a hiker, then Porto Venere also offers some pretty hiking trails, and then one day is probably not enough.
Porto Venere is located about 15 km from La Spezia (near Cinque Terre) – take a bus from La Spezia and it will get you directly to Porto Venere. You can also drive there from La Spezia (or any other place) yourself or you take a boat from La Spezia or any of the Cinque Terre towns (except Corniglia).
Alternatively, you can also hike from Riomaggiore (the village closest to Porto Venere). At least for one way, this could be an option (takes about 5+ hours).
From Stephanie of The World As I See It
The villages of Cinque Terre are some of the most charming places to visit in Italy.
One of the prettiest villages is Vernazza with its colorful buildings perched atop cliffs, cobbled main street, and nestled into the hills of Cinque Terre National Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are endless reasons to visit Vernazza, enjoy a causal escape from big-city travel and wander quaint alleyways, soak in the Mediterranean, and explore the many flavors of gelato while taking in the best sunsets in Europe.
Whether you’re staying for a few days or just on a day trip, there are numerous things to do in Vernazza. Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the region and offers the best view of Vernazza when hiking from Monterosso al Mare. But there are also charming shops, cafes, and historic buildings to explore. Like the enchanting Santa Margherita di Antiochia Church built in 1318. Be sure to visit Doria Castle too, a medieval structure with a tower to climb that rewards you with 360-degree views.
Traveling to Vernazza is quite easy. The best route is flying into Milan and taking the train to the Cinque Terre region, which is about three hours. You can take the train between villages or hike, and there’s also a ferry.
From Theresa of Fueled by Wanderlust
Of the five villages in Cinque Terre, Corniglia is the smallest and hardest to reach. However, this could be the perfect place for you to visit if you are looking to escape the craziness of the other Cinque Terre towns.
If you do wish to visit the hilltop town of Corniglia, you will first need to get to its train station. As with the other five villages, you can connect to Corniglia via La Spezia in the south or Levanto in the north. As it’s the middle town, the train will stop at two of the other villages before you arrive.
Once you are in Corniglia, you will need to ascend a steep hill into town. You could either take upwards of 300 steps to do this, or ride the shuttle bus that comes three times an hour.
Once you reach the town center, you’ll be rewarded with colorful little shops and enotecas worth exploring. Grab a fried seafood cone or enjoy something on the sweeter side from Alberto Gelateria. For a little aperitivo, Terra Rossa or Bar La Terza Terra both have excellent views from their outdoor seating. If staying in town for dinner, visit A Cantina de Mananan for some of the freshest seafood dishes you’ll find in Cinque Terre.
With great food and breathtaking views, you definitely won’t regret making the trek to tiny Corniglia.
From Emily of Wander-Lush
Pretty villages are a dime a dozen in the Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands), a volcanic archipelago off the coast of northern Sicily. Not to be missed, Malfa is a quaint town located on the island of Salina.
Known as the ‘green island’, Salina is particularly verdant and productive on account of its rich volcanic soils. Capers, figs and stone fruit grow in abundance. The island also supports several small communities, some settled in the craters of extinct volcanoes, others perched on hills that soar above the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Santa Marina Salina is the island’s main port and biggest village. Malfa, by contrast, is smaller in size and largely the domain of locals. A few boutique hotels cater to visitors who are invited to spend their days wandering between bottegas, munching on local delicacies such as pane cunzato and sipping on Malvasia, a sweet wine made from local grapes. Malfa’s charming streets are dotted with workshops where artisans paint ceramic tiles in the same style as those that line the floors of the local church.
Other things to do include swimming on the black sand beaches around Malfa, or taking a boat trip out to the other six Aeolian Islands – each of which has more than a few pretty villages of its own.
Salina can be reached by hydrofoil from Sicily or mainland Italy. There are daily year-round services from Milazzo, and hydrofoils from Messina and Naples in the summer months.
From Katy of Untold Italy
Sicily has pretty historic villages around every corner it seems, but none so charming as Marzamemi. This tiny fishing hamlet in the south of the island is one of those places you go for a long afternoon lunch and wish you had booked a stay there for longer.
The town’s history dates to the 10th century and the establishment of an Arab tonnara – tuna processing plant. It’s no longer in operation but the traditions of artisanal fish products remain. You can try the delicious locally made tuna roe and marinated anchovies in restaurants and boutiques throughout the village.
The tonnara itself is close to the main square – Piazza Regina Margherita – where cafe chairs spill out under the Sicilian sun. Here the hardest decision is where to eat. Unsurprisingly, seafood dishes dominate menus in this part of the world but you should also try granita in unusual local flavors – gelsi (mulberry) and almond. After lunch, take a stroll around the harbor and watch the neighborhood cats free fish in the Ionian Sea.
You’ll need a car to reach Marzamemi. Head south from Siracusa along the Strada Statale 115 and watch for the signs for the turnoff to Marzamemi near Rosoloni. It’s not the best-made road but worth the journey.
From Mar of Once in a Lifetime Journey
Many people believe that Don Corleone from the Godfather traveled to the city where he was born (and his namesake) in the movie. Yet if you visit Corleone in Sicily, you won’t recognise any of the sites from the film. This is because Francis Ford Coppola actually shot the epic elsewhere in Sicily, specifically Savoca and Forza d’Agrò.
Savoca is the idyllic Sicilian backdrop that brings all the images of the Mediterranean island to fruition. It’s a quaint medieval town that has basically been left untouched over the years and where the pace is slow compared to busy Taormina.
The most popular thing to do in this tiny pedestrian-only town is by far visiting the Godfather-famous Bar Vitelli where you get to recreate some scenes.
There are also photos and memorabilia surrounding the interior brick walls to peruse. Coppola is a local hero and as such there is a statue of him with a film camera overlooking the green hills. There are two beautiful if a little worn, churches to explore. The Church of Sant Nicolo is from the 15th century and Chiesa Madre is from the 13th.
And if you don’t mind being a little spooked then head to the crypt of the Capuchin Convent to see 19th-century mummies.
From Sandra of Greece Travel Secrets
Randazzo is a quaint Sicilian village nestled in the foothills of Mt Etna. It is, in fact, the nearest town to the summit of the active Volcano and as a result is a fascinating place to spend some time, particularly when Etna produces one of its regular lava shows. The town is home to around 11,000 people and was originally founded by the Greeks and subsequently occupied by the Romans and the Ottomans.
Despite the many eruptions by Etna over the years, Randazzo has remained unscathed but much of it was damaged during the Second World War. Local folklore tells of an apparition of the Virgin Mary and her prophecy that Randazzo will always be safe from the volcano’s lava.
Today it is a picturesque town that includes three protected areas; Nebrodi Park, Alcantara Riverside Park and Pacro Regionale dell’Etna, which includes one of Etna’s many craters. There are a number of things to see in the town including the Swabian Church of Santa Maria, the ancient Church of San Nicolo, The Castle and the Abbey of Maniace. You can also see the remains of the medieval town walls of which one tower and four gates remain. Further to this Randazzo is surrounded by the Etna wine region which is home to some of the best wineries in Italy. The unique ‘terroir’ of the soil with the lava as well as the climate has helped winemakers produce many award-winning wines and other produce.
It’s a town that is perfect to visit in conjunction with exploring the wine region but is also a great place to base yourself for a few days.
From Derek of Robe Trotting
One of the most beautiful villages in Italy is located on the eastern coast of Sicily. Taormina is a gorgeous hilltop town with ancient ruins and stunning beaches. There are luxury hotels and a range of delicious Italian dining options in this most-charming city. There are so many things to do in Taormina, Italy. You won’t be bored for one minute.
Taormina has sweeping views in every direction. You can see the Ionian Sea and Mount Etna from most points in Taormina. That’s probably one reason why the ancient Greeks and Romans who once inhabited the city built a theatre overlooking the sea. You can easily reach the ruins from the main square in Taormina. You’ve also got easy access to the unspoiled beaches like Isola Bella. It’s a nature preserve that is popular for beach-goers and sun-worshippers visiting Taormina. You can get there from a cable car in Taormina or by hiking down the hillside.
Taormina has well-preserved ancient walls and you enter and exit the town from beautiful gates. The cozy hilltop town has some amazing Sicilian restaurants where you can sample local cuisine, fresh seafood and of course, homemade pasta and gelato.
From Taormina, you can book a number of amazing tours in the town itself and the surrounding region. The Godfather movie was filmed in nearby villages and tours to the shooting locations are very popular. If you enjoy hiking, day trips to Mount Etna and the Alcantara Canyons are perfect for you. They’re a gorgeous backdrop and a reminder of the power of nature that shaped the landscape around Taormina.
Taormina is most easily reached by flying into Catania, Italy and seeking out an airport transfer–that makes getting from Catania to Taormina fairly simple. However you get there, you’re guaranteed a wonderful visit – and you won’t want to leave any time soon.
From Ana of Merry Go Round Slowly
Pilzone is a tiny and very quiet village on the shore of Lake Iseo in the region of Lombardy, northern Italy. It has a dozen of houses, a couple of holiday houses for rent and a tiny train station–it’s the perfect quiet getaway for someone interested in visiting small towns in Italy.
Pilzone is also the starting point of Via Valeriana – an ancient Roman road, which is now turned into a scenic hiking path of 24 km along the shore of Lake Iseo. It goes from Pilzone all the way to the town of Pisogne and crosses the villages of Sulzano, Sale Marasino, Marone and Zone.
There are not many options for food or even shops in Pilzone itself, and even less so off-season, but it is conveniently located within some half an hour walking distance from the more touristic town of Iseo. There you will find many cafes and restaurants, small boutiques and larger grocery stores.
Pilzone would be the perfect place for those who want to escape the crowds and experience a slow way of living in Lombardy, but still stay close to the attractions. The town is easily reachable by train from main airports in the area, such as Bergamo and Milan. Keep in mind that not all of the trains stop in Pilzone, so make sure you get on the right one.
From Teresa of Brogan Abroad
Peschiera Maraglio is a small village located on an island in the middle of Lake Iseo in Lombardy. Monte Isola is the largest lake island in Europe and it’s famous for its wine-flavored salami and its dried fish. But a lot of people visit Monte Isola to visit one of the most beautiful villages in Italy according to ‘I Borghi piu belli d’Italia’, an association that translates as that, ‘the most beautiful villages in Italy’, and that aims to preserve the beauty and heritage of such villages.
Visiting Peschiera Maraglio is one of the best things to do in Lombardy, and when you do, you will be transported back to a time when tradition and craftsmanship were part of everyday life. Here, it still is. Step into the fishing shop and learn how the nets are crafted and repaired, or stop for a scoop of homemade ice cream.
Wander around its narrow streets admiring the beautiful facades that give the village that typical romantic Italian feel. But look out for scooters! The whole island may be free of cars, but people still need to move around, so scooters and bikes are the way to do it. You can hire your own too if you want to explore more of the island.
From Annabel of Smudged Postcard
The tiny walled village of Montedinove is set high on a hilltop between the Sibillini Mountains and Italy’s Adriatic coast. Incredibly well preserved, this medieval village consists of a warren of narrow streets, many only accessible on foot, which weave their way up to a broad terrace offering impressive views over the rooftops, rolling hills, and distant mountains. It is a landscape which changes constantly before the eyes as the sun affects the many colors of the patchwork fields below.
Despite its small size (it has a population of around 600), the village boasts several bars including one which serves particularly delicious and generous antipasti and aperitivi. Like many villages in Le Marche, Montedinove holds a sagra (food festival). The village is famous for its red apples so each November it celebrates the harvest with its Grande Festa delle Mele Rosa dei Sibillini.
There is a clutch of interesting buildings to explore in Montedinove including the Church of Santa Maria de Cellis with its travertine marble columns and Gothic portal. The Museum of Tombe Picene houses twenty tombs dating back to the 6th century BC which were discovered close to Montedinove.
Montedinove is around 30 kilometers from Ascoli Piceno and equidistant from both Ancona and Pescara airports (100 kilometers). The village is best reached by car: this allows visitors the chance to stop off at the local vineyard Le Vigne di Clementina Fabi which puts on an excellent buffet to go with its wine-tasting experience.
Le Marche is a great value destination for a family villa holiday. The region is packed with historic hilltop towns and the beaches of the Adriatic coast are perfect for children.
From Maria of Europe Up Close
Rango is one of the most picturesque villages I have ever been to. Located in the Dolomite mountains in Western Trentino, this small mountain village in Italy has not lost its alpine charm.
Since 2011, Rango has been named a Most Beautiful Medieval Villages in Italy – a title that is well deserved by this village. Rango is really tiny. My guess is that less than 100 people live here. There is not too much to do other than strolling through the covered alleyways and narrow cobblestone paths that barely fit a fiat, imagining a time long passed.
Make sure that you also visit the small village just down the hill – maybe 250 yards from Rango – called Balbido. The residents invited artists to paint murals on the buildings, showing the various professions of its residents, and scenes from the rural way of life back in the day.
However, in the area surrounding Rango, you have plenty to do, from hiking in the Dolomite mountains to visiting the nearby castle Castello di Stenico before treating yourself with a relaxing spa day at the Grand Hotel Therme di Comano.
If you are into UNESCO Heritage Sites, you are in luck, there are two nearby that you can visit. First of all, the Dolomite Mountains are considered a Natural UNESCO Site due to its majestic natural habitat. The second site are the Prehistoric Pile Dwellings and I highly recommend the Pile Dwelling Museum in Fiavé. The surrounding area of Comano is perfect if you love historic mountain villages, outdoor activities and a relaxing vacation in nature.
From Gigi Griffis of Vicious Foodie.
Known for being the home of Saint Francis of Assisi—a monk desperately in love with the natural world—this hilltop town is one of the cutest in Italy.
Enjoy strolling through the cobbled streets where the light turns the buildings around you a soft pink. Visit the grand cathedral. Climb uphill to the ruins of a castle overlooking the patchwork farm-dotted countryside. Or wind your way down the hill through shady forests and olive groves, past a small man-made waterfall, and to an old nunnery now converted into a local shop with honey and other special treats.
Back in town, don’t miss the jams and prepared meats at Cacio e Pepe—a small food shop in the center—or the lunch special at Osteria Piazzetta delle Erbe—a tucked-away restaurant with a colorful interior and the best food in town.
From Rome, Assisi is 2.75 hours by bus or 3.5 by train. From Florence, both the train and bus options take just under four hours.
From Michael of Time Travel Turtle
Gubbio is one of those small cities that has escaped the tourist hordes, even though it has so much to offer and is easily accessible. It’s in Umbria and is just 50 kilometers away from the region’s capital, Perugia, and the most popular destination, Assisi. For travelers who come, though, there are lots of things to do in Gubbio.
The most important site in the Palazzo dei Consoli, a palace built in the 1300s that now houses the excellent Civic Museum. The highlight in the museum is the bronze Iguvine Tablet set from the 3rd century BC. Other landmarks worth visiting are the main Cathedral of Gubbio and the Basilica of St Ubaldo.
But it’s the smaller places that give Gubbio its unique character. Like the tiny Church of St France of the Peace which was built on the spot that a wolf was said to have been buried in 1220 after St Francis had tamed it and it had stopped terrorizing the city.
Overall, it’s the authenticity of this city that proves to be the most special thing for visitors. There’s a consistent medieval feel to the streets which comes from the wealthy 14th and 15th centuries. Now it’s more laidback and the perfect place to explore for a day or so.
From Chris of Explore Now or Never
Looking for scenic small towns in Italy? Don’t miss Montepulciano! It’s a quintessentially Tuscan village with winding cobblestone streets, romantic “I-could-live-here” vistas, and plenty of stately Cypress trees to welcome you into town. Montepulciano makes a great day tour or rural base for seeing the Tuscan hill towns as well.
Wander up Il Corso, the steep spine of the old town, where you’ll pass everything from Etruscan artefacts and a statue of the Marcozzo lion to the latest in gelato shops and leather jackets. Then climb the stairs at Palazzo Comunale for views across the gorgeous Val d’Orcia.
Be sure to stop in at the nearby Abazzia di Sant’Antimo for a spiritual experience of the Italian variety. The abbey is just below the medieval hamlet of Catelnuovo just outside of Montepulciano. It’s a wonderful place to hear Gregorian chants and wonder at the beauty of the naked human voice. This monastery was founded by Charlamagne in the ninth century, but just four monks still reside there today.
And last, if you’re a wine lover, be sure to reserve time for appreciating this area’s rich wine history and heritage. This is the famed land of Brunello.
From Toccara of Forget Someday
Montefioralle, located in Tuscany along the Chianti Wine Trail, is arguably one of the prettiest small towns in Italy. It’s certainly one of the oldest, with the first mention of a settlement dating back to 1085. Montefioralle was one of the greatest military and administrative centers in the region during the Middle Ages.
The village is still enclosed in the original defensive walls and some of the houses are located inside the old towers that were part of the original medieval town. Less than 100 residents call Montefioralle home. Several locals have turned their homes into AirBnB rentals, so if you’ve ever wanted to stay inside a medieval village, this is your chance to stay in a true Tuscan home! Visit the home of Stefania in Montefioralle to participate in an authentic Italian cooking class through her personal business Pasta el Pesto.
Montefioralle is just a 20-minute walk from the nearby town of Greve. There is limited parking just outside the village, so unless you’re staying overnight, it is recommended for you to walk from Greve.
The village is virtually car-free, which makes it quite peaceful to wander the cobblestone alleyways. Take in surrounding views of vineyards and olive groves, sip Chianti wine, and get absorbed in the captivating atmosphere of Tuscany. Whether you visit Montefioralle for an hour, for the day, or for a week, you will fall in love with this medieval Tuscan village.
From Paul of Anywhere We Roam
Volterra is a medieval village perched high on a plateau between Siena and the sea. Like an enchanted inland island, its walled center and imposing position oozes the charm and character of traditional Tuscan life. Despite its dramatic location, Volterra has a relaxed, simple pace that remains relatively untouched by tourism.
A stroll through the beautiful, winding cobbled streets in the historic center will uncover museums nestled behind cicchetti bars and dilapidated façades hiding Renaissance treasures. Palazzo dei Priori – the town hall – is the oldest in Tuscany. Museo d’arte Sacra, the richly-decorated, 4-room collection of religious art, overflows with masterpieces. The ruins of the 1st century Roman Theatre alludes to the power this formidable hilltop position once afforded Volterra.
But it’s not just the town center that gives Volterra its unmissable charm. Through Porta all’Arco – the oldest and most intact of Volterra’s defensive gates – a winding path leads to a vantage point from which to appreciate Volterra’s dramatic location. High above the idyllic Tuscan scene, rolling hillsides are punctured with vineyards and grand manor houses.
Volterra is located 63 km from Pisa and 70 km from Florence. There are bus connections from Pisa and the nearest train station is Volterra Saline – Pomarance, a 10-minute drive away. Volterra works hard to maintain its charm – only locals are allowed to drive in the center – but there are car parks just a few minutes’ walk to the old defensive walls.
From Wendy of Empty Nesters Hit the Road
Located in the Tuscany region of Italy, Siena is best known for its spectacular cathedral and the Palio, a bi-annual horse race through the streets of the town. While nearby Florence is better known by most people outside Italy, Siena is a beautiful Medieval town that makes for a great day trip or even a long weekend.
Any visit to Siena should begin in the Piazza del Campo, a large square built in the 13th century and now ringed by charming cafes. Take a seat and just people-watch, or, to get a great view of the city, climb the Torre de Mangia, located on the piazza. Next up is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta or Siena Cathedral. While the exterior is definitely impressive, it’s the artworks inside that are simply stunning.
But be sure to allow plenty of time just to wander the streets of Siena appreciating the beautiful art, architecture and lovely shops. The heart of the city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the residents have proudly insured its careful preservation.
To get to Siena visitors can either drive or take the train from surrounding cities. Since the walk to the city center is 2 km uphill, a bus from the station is recommended.
From Linn of Brainy Backpackers
Only an hour southwest of Florence you find the medieval town San Gimignano towering on a hilltop surrounded by a Tuscan countryside of rolling green hills spotted with Vernaccia wine yards. The little town is known for its 14 towers raising among the medieval houses. Seven of them are found around the Piazza del Duomo. In ancient times there were originally 72 towers. The tallest of the remaining towers and the only one open to the public is Torre Grossa which stretches 54 meters and promise spectacular views of the picturesque surroundings.
Next to Piazza del Duomo you find Piazza della Cisterna. Home to an ancient city gate and full of quaint shops and authentic restaurants it is the perfect place to sit down and people watch or buy some souvenirs.
In the heart of the village, you find Duomo di San Gimignano, a twelfth-century basilica. You should pay it a visit and admire the incredible architecture and its wall-paintings inside.
There is no direct public transport to San Gimignano from Florence. You can take a bus to Poggibonsi (50 minutes) and continue with another bus from there to San Gimignano (25 minutes).
As San Gimignano is one of the most popular small villages in Tuscany, make sure you are a responsible traveler and respect the locals and the environment on your visit.
Coni from Experiencing the Globe
If you’re a wine lover for sure you’ve heard this name. Brunello di Montalcino is among Italy’s best. What you might not know is that it’s named after the little town where it is produced. In the southeastern part of Tuscany, in the Val d’Orcia, between rolling hills dotted by cypresses and full of vines, in the top of a hill dominating the area, you’ll see it from the distance. A gorgeous medieval town.
In Montalcino you’ll find an enoteca –a wine bar/shop– in an old fortress. Stroll around it before you go in. They have an extensive selection of wine and they offer tastings of the best of the region, so it’s better to pose for photos before venturing in. As for the rest of the town, just get lost in the little narrow cobblestone streets. You’ll get plenty of bars and restaurants offering a pairing of wine and food. Don’t forget to stop to see the clock tower on the Palazzo dei Priori, the city’s town hall, which lies in the main square, known as Piazza del Popolo
Even though the name is popular, the town is not. Here you’ll hear little English and you’ll be treated with the best of Italian hospitality, together with the amazing views and delicious wine.
From Laura of Travelers Universe
Tuscany is famous world over but most of the time, the images shared are pretty stereotypical – a lone road lined by cypresses leading to a villa on top of a hill. Nonetheless, there are many hidden gems in Tuscany and Pontedera is one of them.
Pontedera gave the world the famous Vespa and this alone makes it a reason for pilgrimage. For many, the main attraction remains the Piaggio factory with its great museum where you can learn about the history of this famous brand. When the company was founded, they used to produce trains. Then during WWI and WWII they made airplanes. Finally, they created the most famous scooter in the world – the Vespa. During the one hour and a half long visit you can admire all the models, from the very first ones to the fancy electric models.
Pontedera also has a charming town center with lots of chic shops and cute cafés. You can walk the narrow streets, discover Palazzo Pretorio and Ponte Napoleonico and overall enjoy a lovely time among the welcoming locals.
The Galileo Galilei Airport in Pisa would be your best option to get to Pontedera, as this town is just a short train ride away. The other option is through Florence, though the train ride is a bit longer.
Borghetto sul Mincio
From Or of My Path in the World
Sitting on the Mincio River only a few miles away from Lake Garda’s southern coast, Borghetto sul Mincio is one of the prettiest villages in northern Italy.
When entering the village, the medieval atmosphere is immediately present. The fortified Visconti Bridge, the Scaligero Castle, and the old windmills are a reminder of the village’s rich history. Along with the colorful houses and natural scenery surrounding it, it is easy to understand why Borghetto sul Mincio is one of the most enchanting little hamlets in the area.
Another landmark worth visiting is the Church of San Marco Evangelista, a parish church dating back to the 18th-century that was built upon the remains of a Romanesque church from the 11th century.
Last but not least, one of the top must-have experiences in Borghetto sul Mincio is eating tortellini, which is the local cuisine’s biggest symbol. Not surprisingly, it is connected to an old legend (comparable to Romeo and Juliet) and even has a special festival dedicated to it called Nodo d’Amore (The Love Knot), which is the local name for the tortellini. The festival is celebrated in the village every year in June and includes a big themed dinner, medieval costumes, fireworks, and more.
From Lori of Travlinmad
The medieval village of Malcesine, on the northeastern shore of Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, is an unexpected gem and one of the prettiest small towns in Italy. It’s surprisingly laid-back with medieval architecture, Italianate villas lining the shoreline, and a castle in the middle of it all. Malcesine has a quieter, more local feel and none of the glamour that’s sometimes associated with the Italian Lake District.
Malcesine sits at the base of the Monte Baldo mountain range in the Italian Alps, and is well known for its cable car that takes visitors to the top of the mountain for stunning views over Lake Garda. Because of the quick mountain access, the town is more of an outdoor lovers paradise, where visitors can hike the mountain’s ridgeline at nearly 8,000 feet, enjoy paragliding over the Lake in the high altitude thermals, rock climb, or Nordic walk the range of trails.
On the water, kitesurfing and kayaking are the popular things to do in Malcesine, but you’re just as likely to see visitors sunbathing on the rocks and enjoying a dip in the cool mountain water.
If you’re looking for an Italian vacation with unique history and culture, delicious food and wine, stunning scenic views, and a coastal feel, Malcesine has all of that and more — a perfect choice in northern Italy.
From Ioana of The World is My Playground
Made famous by the acclaimed Murano glass, the charming island of Murano is a must-visit during your vacation in Italy.
Located 40 minutes north of Venice by vaporetto, Murano is usually visited by most as a day trip or a quick stopover. However, while it’s great for a few hours, it’s even better as an overnight destination especially since you’ll enjoy the authentic way of life once all the tourists return to Venice.
Murano is home to 5,000 people, many of which have direct ties to the famous glass-making families. The best way to get acquainted with the island’s history and learn about the history of Murano glass is to take a tour and hit the best spots. You can also visit a glassmaking factory but be aware that most of them are closed during the month of August.
There are also glassblowing demonstrations close to Colonna station, and a pretty terrific Glass Museum near Museo station.
Walk around Murano and explore the seven individual islands linked by bridges and separated by the Grand Canal. The ancient beautiful buildings tell the rich story of Murano while you explore its nooks and crannies.
Stop by Murano’s beautiful clock tower, and by Palazzo de Mula. Built in the 13th century, the palace is one of the last remaining buildings boasting Venetian Gothic architecture. The Duomo di Murano Santi Marie e Donato is also worth a visit. Also built in the early 1300s and recently renovated, the duomo is one of the last 4 remaining churches in Murano since the rest were replaced with glass factories.
From Claudia of My Adventures Across the World
Bosa is one of the nicest small towns in Sardinia. Located on the west coast of the island, it can be easily reached from Alghero (well connected to the rest of Italy and Europe via budget flights), from which it is a 45-minute drive.
The main attraction in Bosa is Malaspina Castle. Located on top of a hill and visible from a distance, it’s a nice place to visit not so much for the castle in and of itself (there isn’t much left to see other than the towers and the chapel inside), but for the incredible views of the coast and the river below.
For a long time, the main economic revenue in Bosa were the tanneries scattered along the Temo river. Nowadays these are used as exhibition centers. The old town is a pleasant place for a walk, with narrow cobbled streets and colorful buildings, and a couple of nice churches.
When in Bosa, make sure to head to the nearby beaches and to try Malvasia, a local dessert wine.
From Chris of More Life in Your Days
Situated on the west coast of Sardinia, Cala Gonone is a beautiful place to stay. You will find it hidden behind towering peaks and nestled against the shore, the town has a spectacular setting that has only recently become easy to access thanks to the tunnels through the surrounding mountains.
You will find a seaside promenade and a nice little harbor, but it is the natural setting that makes it one of the prettiest places in Italy.
The town is one the edge of the spectacular Supramonte where you will find stunning beaches, enormous caves, deep gorges, and towering cliffs. People who love the outdoors will love spending time in Cala Gonone.
Adventure seekers can try their hand at numerous sports including hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, or rock climbing. While those looking for more leisurely pursuits will also find lots to do here with activities like boat cruises, spending time on the beach and visiting caves.
We recommend hiring a car to visit Cala Gonone. There isn’t that much public transport around and it gives you the flexibility to properly explore the area. Sardinia has a lot to offer so why not make it a road trip and explore all the best places in Sardinia?
From Angela of Chasing the Unexpected
Fordongianus is a tiny, sleepy village in central Sardinia located close to the towns of Ghilarza, Abbasanta, and Paulilatino and is one of the loveliest small towns in Italy.
At first sight, it’s only quaint alleys lined up with the typical stone-built houses, but the town hides much more. When created, the town was named Forum Traiani by the Romans as they built their settlement there under emperor Trajan rule.
In its origins, Fordongianus was a thriving trading hub for the local community and the population of all the area and gulf of Oristano. Today, it’s a small, ghost-like village that remained famous for its thermal springs.
Not far from the center and easy to reach on foot are large Roman baths, the ancient Aquae Ypsitanae, open for the public to visit. They are laid out in several layers and consist of two main areas, one to use the 54-degree spring waters through a large pool and one for the changing rooms. The whole system included an elaborate network of wells and cisterns to ensure an efficient water channeling.
If you want to spoil yourself, close to the ancient baths are the modern ones in a hotel that uses the same therapeutic waters.
In the same Fordongianus, you can also visit the Aragonese house called Casa Madeddu. Built between the 16th and the 17th centuries, the house is one f the best-kept examples of local Gothic architecture. It’s open to the public and a tour guide is available to explain the history and the different areas and rooms of the building.
Not far from Fordongianus are also two important archaeological sites first-time visitors shouldn’t miss, Saint Christine sacred well and the Nuraghe Losa Bronze-age stone tower.
In Sardinia, small towns are not well-served by public transport so the best way to go around is by renting your own car.
Map of Beautiful Small Towns in Italy