16 Underrated Towns in Italy You Must Visit

Steve Cummings

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Cefalù, Italy

Many great and beautiful Italian coastal towns and small towns inland attract millions of tourists each year. However, if you want to avoid crowds and have more space to get the most out of your trip to the country, you will be interested in the best small towns in Italy.

That is what we are going to look at in the following post. With an emphasis, as ever, on frugal vacations and traveling, we will look at the unsung heroes, the towns that do not get the hype or acclaim they should. So, let’s dive right into it with our first of the most underrated towns. 

1. Bolzano, Alto Adige

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To kick off our guide to the underrated and best small Italian towns to visit, we wanted to highlight the stunning Bolzano. Found in northern Italy in the South Tyrol province, this is a bilingual town. Around 75% of the locals consider Italian their first language, while 25% state that it is German. The Austrian and German influence is not just in language alone, as you will find this in the architecture and many of the key sites around the town.

If you want to explore the Dolomites in the Alps, many see Bolzano as the gateway to the mountain range. Aside from the mountains, there are many medieval castles and hill-based vineyards. Make sure you allow time to explore the Tyrol Museum of Archeology, home to many artifacts, including Otzi, the Neolithic mummy. You should also stop at the Duomo di Bolzano Cathedral and Mareccio Castle, first built in the 13th century. 

2. Calabria

Calabria, Italy
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Moving further down the county to the opposite end, Calabria is one of the best regions to visit in Southern Italy. Surprisingly, the town often referred to as Italy’s boot toe is one of the least popular with tourists. Many locals, however, know better and frequently visit Calabria on vacation. Why? Perhaps the 800 km pristine coastline with an incredible variety of stunning beaches is one of the draws to this part of the county. Aside from the seaside attractions, there are many fantastic buildings from different architectural and cultural eras and many great places to eat local cuisine with fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

3. Ragusa and Cefalù, Sicily

‎Cefalu, Italy
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There is plenty of interest in the island of Sicily off the coast of Italy in the Mediterranean Sea. It is the biggest island and one of the 20 main regions of the country. As spectacular as it is to visit Sicily, many people don’t realize that there are many must-visit towns in Italy that are found on and around Sicily. Take Ragusa, for example, located in the gorgeous Hyblaean Mountains; it is not too busy or exciting but is home to many impressive baroque-style buildings and structures. Not too far away is another must-visit place, known as Cefalù. An island and a town, it is home to many photo-worthy pizzas and an imposing Norman cathedral that dates back to when the Normans occupied the region.

4. Matera, Basilicata

Matera, Italy
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Although it was once considered one of the poorest towns in the county in the past, Matera has transformed into one of the most beautiful Italian towns to visit. The capital of the Province of Matera and located in the geographically stunning region of Basilicata in the south, it has a long and intriguing heritage and history thanks to its continuous occupation there since the Paleolithic era, around the 10th millennium BC. 

The town stands in a very steep canyon, and it is home to an incredible network of cave dwellings, also known locally as Sassi, where people have lived for more than 12,000 years. The caves were excavated during the 1960s due to overcrowding, but they are not home to hotels, restaurants, galleries, or cafes. Film buffs who saw The Passion of Christ, directed by Mel Gibson in 2004, will likely know it was filmed in Matera. 

5. Umbria

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When planning your trip, consider the spellbinding region of Umbria for a genuinely Italian vacation experience if you are looking for towns near Florence. It sits between Florence and Rome and allows you to use it as a base to see those more popular locations while sampling the various regional dishes and visiting towns like Assisi, the birthplace of San Francesco Assisi, Montefalco, a sleepy hill-town famous for its red wine and Castelluccio, a village at the highest point of the Apennine Mountains. 

6. Pisciotta, Campania

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As the country has around 7,900 km of sea-hugging land, Pisciotta is one of the best Italian coastal towns to visit and one that should be more popular. Located within the breathtaking Cilento National Park in the Campania region, the town and surrounding area are covered in beautiful olive groves. 

The town is home to a fully reserved medieval urban plan. It features eye-catching stepped alleyways that date back centuries and lead to a collection of tiny houses, piazzas, hidden chapels, and a castle on top of the hill. Mythology and legends of the town state that it was established by the Trojans, who survived the fall of the ancient city of Troy. 

7. Trieste, Friuli Venezia Giulia

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A port town that was once a center of culture in the region, Trieste is now overlooked in favor of other towns and cities. Despite the decrease in popularity, and perhaps benefitting from that fact, Trieste is the best town to visit in Italy if you want a quiet experience. There is a genuinely fascinating and cosmopolitan atmosphere at the Italian-Slovenian border, close to Croatia. While there, visit Città Vecchia, the old town with twisting and turning cobblestone-clad streets and beautiful medieval homes, the 2,000-year-old Roman Theater, and the intriguing Austrian Quarter. 

8. Turin, Piedmont

Turin, Italy
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Despite being one of the biggest industrial centers in the country, Turin is nevertheless overlooked. It is one of the many small towns in Italy worth visiting. It is home to a rich and diverse history and culture with many intriguing attractions and sites, including theaters, museums, art galleries, castles, and churches. 

One of the key attractions that the town is synonymous with is the Turin Shroud in the Egyptian Museum. At one point, it was the first capital city of the unified Italy and where the Royal House of Savoy was located. 

9. Herculaneum, Campania

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If you want to learn more about Pompeii, the site of the Mount Vesuvius eruption in 79AD that destroyed the town, one of the best Italian coastal towns to visit is Herculaneum. While Pompeii welcomes thousands of visitors yearly, Herculeum is less prevalent. You may already see the more significant, popular site and want a quieter place. Herculeum is around 10 miles north of Pompeii. 

10. Verona, Veneto

Verona Italy
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Surprisingly, the setting for the famous Shakespearean tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, Verona, must be appreciated more. That being said, it is one of the best small towns in Northern Italy. It is home to beautiful architecture, such as the Juliet balcony and the town’s spectacular amphitheater that has been there since Ancient Roman times. While in Verona, you are suitably placed for exploring Treviso and its famous walled center, which is seen as being Venice in small, without the overcrowding and necessary. 

11. Ravello, Amalfi Coast, Campania

Amalfi Coast, Italy

Many towns around the Amalfi Coast are popular with tourists, like Positano, Capri, and Amalfi, which overlook Ravello. Interestingly, though, only a few people go to Ravello. Located on the top of a stunning hill, looking out over the coast, it is perhaps the best town to visit in Italy on a budget, especially if you are looking to experience eye-catching terraces and gardens without having to deal with the traffic and crowding that the other towns in the region. 

So, if you want to enjoy a frugal trip to Italy, Ravello is a great place to work into your itinerary. 

12. Genoa, Liguria 

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The atmospheric and spectacular Cinque Terre dominates the Liguria region. However, one of the best Italian towns to visit in winter is Genoa. Genoa is the region's capital, though, and it is fantastic. It offers a truly authentic tourist atmosphere, has remained a busy trading center, and is known as the birthplace of the explorer Christopher Columbus. 

Many beautiful galleries are around the town, like the Raccolte Frugone and Palazzo Rosso and the biggest aquarium in Italy, the Acquario di Genoa. You will also find lots of delicious food there, like focaccia bread and pesto. 

13. Castelmezzano, Basilicata

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Castelmezzano in Basilicata is one of the best small Italian towns to visit, even though you may never have heard of it. The town has an old-world charm, which is unsurprising as it was first established in the 10th century. With the Dolomiti Lucane as its backdrop, the city is spectacular, whether viewed from within the town or from a distance from the neighboring town of Pietrapertosa, which can be accessed in high-speed fashion taking the Flight of the Angel, a specially designed, zip-line between the two towns. 

14. Locorotondo, Puglia

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One of the most beautiful Italians to visit that you may not have heard of is Locorotondo in Puglia. Its curious name comes from the shape the two were built in, though you would be hard-pushed to notice this from the ground level. That aside, this town is gorgeous and has an almost dream-like atmosphere and overall aesthetic, with white-washed walls bordered and brightened by the pink and purple flowers blossoming from pots. 

While here, dine in one of the many quaint little restaurants to try local Italian cuisine and gelato. The cost of the food and accommodation there makes it ideal for anyone looking into frugal options. 

15. Mantua, Lombardy

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Among the many small towns in Italy worth visiting, Mantua in the Lombardy region is underrated not just within the country but also on the continent of Europe. This is even more surprising when you consider it is home to the biggest residential building in continental Europe outside of the Vatican and is full of architectural and art-loving gems. 

That’s not all, as three astonishing artificial lakes surround the town, one covered in lily pads. However, the most impressive thing about this town is the grand interior of the buildings found throughout the town. This is primarily a thank you to the Gonzaga rulers who oversaw the construction of these structures and headed up their design. The Ducal Palace, sprawling and intimidating but beautiful and ornate, has around 600 rooms. Okay, so only a few are open for members of the public, but those few are filled with some awe-inspiring art and grandiose frescos. 

While there, you should also visit the Te Palace, which has many grand halls, and the Teatro Bibiena. 

16. Trento, Trentino

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Finally, to close out our guide, one of the small towns in Italy worth visiting is Trento, the capital of the stunning Trentino region. If you want a quieter and more relaxed Italian break, it is perfect as it is just the right size. There is still plenty to see and do, including many cultural spots of interest, great places to check out local and national art, and an exceptional range of eateries where you can sample some of the finest food in the region. 

If you want a bit of quiet and more space to explore easily, you will like the lack of tourists and the general cleanliness of the town. Make time to check out the spectacular Bunoconsiglio Castle. 

Small Towns in Italy To Enjoy

Turin, Italy
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There you have it – some of the best small towns to visit in Italy if you want to avoid the tourist-heavy places or have already visited towns and cities like Pompeii, Rome, and Venice. Italy is rich in heritage and history and benefits from a culturally diverse population. 

Wherever you go, whether along the coast, in the north, south, east, or west, you are bound to have an unforgettable experience. This is especially true if you take them to the sensory delights of the fascinating, underrated towns listed above.

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1 thought on “16 Underrated Towns in Italy You Must Visit”

  1. I’ve been to some of these towns and each have their beautiful history and architecture, my companion and I love Trieste and last year we went on a day trip to Trento. There is no dearth of pretty villages in any part of Italy. There are many ways to save Euros on day trips.


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