24 Enchanting Villages & Small Towns in Italy to Slow Travel
Are you looking for the most enchanting small towns in Italy to plan your next trip around? These 21 small borgos and villages throughout the country are mostly off the beaten path, in the parts of Italy few tourists go.
When it comes to beautiful places in the world, let’s be real — Italy has more than their share of amazing places. So many in fact, that planning a trip can feel totally overwhelming. Where do you even begin?
Let me help narrow it down for you. Are you a slow traveler or a bucket list achiever? Do you prefer to explore out of the way places no other tourists are hitting, or looking to hit the guidebook highlights?
Italy is the home of slow food and slow travel, so if you quickly knew you’d fall firmly in the slow travel column, please step to the head of the line — because this post is for you!
How Small Are These Small Towns in Italy?
So what are we considering small towns? Are all borgos, small towns, and villages in Italy the same, or different? We were wondering the same thing. The country of Italy loosely defines their towns and cities like this:
Small towns typically have 10,000-25,000 people who call it home
Villages in Italy range in the 1,000-10,000 range
And finally, borgos are the charming Italian towns of up to a few hundred that are generally fortified and date back to the period from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.
With just three exceptions, all of the Italian small towns we cover in this post hover between a few hundred inhabitants and a few thousand inhabitants.
We’ve included the Tuscan town of Volterra (population 10,410), recently made more popular from the Twilight TV series; the colorful southern Italy island of Marina di Corricella on the island of Procida (the entire island has just over 10,000 residents) for its picturesque beauty and walkability; and of course Alberobello in Puglia (population 10,710) with its iconic white-washed trulli houses because well, it’s Alberobello.
Interesting Facts About Italy’s Small Towns
Check out this population distribution in Italy! According to the Athens Center of Ekistics in their study of Italy’s population settlements, one third of the Italian population lives in just 1% of all of Italy’s communes (84 large communes with 65,000+ inhabitants). Another third lives in smaller cities with 10,000 - 65,000 inhabitants. The remaining third live in over 7,000 small to very small small towns with several hundred to several thousand people.
Sadly, rural life in Italy is in decline with younger residents choosing to live in more urban areas. To spur population growth, many small towns in Italy have begun selling dilapidated homes for 1€. That’s $1.16 cents for us Americans! Maybe you’ll find one and start living your dream life in Italy as you explore these small Italian villages and towns!
Like any country, rural vs. urban life gives you a very different experience of a place. That’s one aspect of traveling slowly that we love — it’s not always about visiting rural communities, but we generally find that traditional food and other long-standing cultural traditions are more readily seen and experienced this way.
Some of these small Italian towns receive few visitors. You may even find that few people or no one speaks any language other than Italian. Check out this guide for help with basic Italian phrases, and this guide on Italian food phrases to help you with ordering in restaurants.
24 Enchanting Italy Small Towns From North to South
If you’re looking for the small town of Grizzana Morandi in the rural towns outside Bologna, you might miss this place if you’re going too fast. Many of the riches of this small town in Emilia Romagna lie scattered around the bucolic countryside, and road tripping through them can feel like piecing together clues on a treasure map — and what a treasure you’ll find!
The town itself was the home of Bologna Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, who died in 1964. His landscape paintings depict the natural beauty of the local landscape. You can visit the Centro di Documentazione Giorgio Morandi which offers detailed information on his life and local history.
The Center is across the street from his home, and next door to one of the most charming B&Bs in the area, Locanda dei Fienili del Campiaro — perfect for those looking for peace and quiet. The owner Guiseppe will make the most wonderful dinner and the rooms are comfy and cozy.
Nearby is one of the tiniest borgos in the region and worth a side trip. Borgo La Scola is a true hidden gem — so hidden in fact that when we couldn’t find it and finally stopped to ask for directions from the local men on the corner, they had no idea what we were talking about. We eventually found it, less than a mile away from where the men continued playing cards, and saw not a soul in sight as we tip-toed around the cobblestone streets taking pictures.
But without a doubt, the main reason to visit Grizzana Morandi is to visit the stunning Rochetta Mattei, a truly unexpected find in the middle of the Bologna countryside and one of the most unusual castles you’ll ever see. Originally built in the 19th century by Count Cesare Mattei, founder of an alternative therapy known as Electro-Homeopathy, a tour of the castle is an absolute must.
Where to stay in grizzana
Comfortable Hotel Il Crinale is close to sites, has mountain views, and serves a wonderful included breakfast.
Close to Rochetta Mattei, Angolo di Paradiso B&B is rustic and charming, and they serve a generous country breakfast.
When you think of Italy’s small towns, you don’t want to miss the dreamy small Italian town of Dozza, especially if you love whimsical art and street murals. Located just 40 minutes south of Bologna on your way to Faenza, this is one of our favorite day trips from Bologna and a great stop if you’re exploring the small towns between Bologna and Florence.
This charming town is riddled with artwork resulting from the bi-annual event known as Biennale del Muro Dipinto, where artists are invited to paint the streets, buildings, and other objects throughout the town. Once the art festival is over, the town wears the permanent remains along its streets. The signature art festival is held the third week of September during odd-numbered years.
Dozza is one of Italy’s Borghi piu Belli d’Italia, an association of the best-preserved and most beautiful Italian villages.
Where to stay in Dozza
Locanda Dolcevita is located in the heart of the village and has a very good onsite restaurant and bar and comfortable rooms.
How you been thinking of a holiday in Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake? The small Italian town of Malcesine (pronounced mal-CHIZ-eh-nay) on Lake Garda’s eastern shore makes the perfect base for exploring the entire lake.
Malcesine may be small, but there’s plenty to see and do, from tasting the local Bardolino wines produced nearby, checking out the local farmer’s market, or lounging by the lake in between slightly-chilly dips. It is an alpine lake after all!
But one of the things you have to do in Malcesine is taking the cable car to the summit of Mount Baldo, where you can take in the view or pick up any number of trailheads for some of the best hiking in northern Italy.
Where to stay in malcesine
Stay in the heart of town and close to all the main sites, the Hotel Lago Di Garda is one of the best places to stay on Lake Garda.
With a great location on the outskirts of town, Guesthouse B&B Casa Benamati by Kelly is one of our favorites. The breakfast is generous and is just steps from the bike path that runs along the Lake.
Burano is one of the most colorful small coastal towns in Italy, and a wonderful village to visit. Most visitors come to Burano on a day trip from Venice, and this tiny island in the Venice lagoon is a completely different experience compared to its more famous neighbor.
Once a fishing village, Burano has now become popular in its own right for the colorful houses which the fishermen would paint so they could easily spot their homes when returning from the sea. The streets are filled with a rainbow of color and every house is a different shade. Some of the best viewpoints are from the bridges across the canals but don’t neglect the quieter corners where you can find a spot to enjoy all by yourself.
Burano also has a tradition of lace-making, and you can visit the lace museum and see a demonstration of the delicate art in the museum or at one of the lace shops nearby. Spend enough time in Burano to have a meal, the seafood is unsurprisingly excellent here and in most cases, the prices are less than in Venice itself.
You could book a tour to take in Burano, the neighboring islands of Murano and Torcello, or even a slow travel tour to Sant’Erasmo, the rural garden of the Doges. Or, you can always visit independently by hopping on a Vaporetto water bus from Venice. The journey can take over an hour, depending on where you are traveling from in Venice, so be sure to leave Venice early enough to have plenty of time to explore.
Recommended by Claire from Tales of a Backpacker
Where to stay in Burano
Its excellent location is just one, though you’ll find a long list of reasons to stay at Casa Burano Experience by Venissa.
Tiffany Home is an exceptional place to stay with a central location and amazing views of the sea.
The Italian lake district is home to some of the prettiest small towns in Italy, and Cannobio, which sits on Lake Maggiore close to the border with Switzerland, is an unmissable one. The lakeside town was first documented in the 10th century, but the area is thought to be inhabited since the rule of the Roman emperor Augustus.
Although Cannobio is not an ideal place for sightseeing, you can visit a few landmarks, including the 18th-century Collegiate Church of San Vittore, the 16th-century Sanctuary della Pieta, and the 13th-century Palazzo Parasi.
Foodies will enjoy the town's Sunday market and everyone will love soaking up the sun on its beach, Lido di Cannobio. But the highlight here is to explore freely, stroll alongside the promenade, and lose yourself in its enchanting streets, packed with colorful houses, restaurants, cafes, and shops. To enjoy a wonderful gourmet meal on the waterfront, reserve your table at Lo Scalo.
The easiest way to get to Cannobio is by car as it makes a fantastic stop on a northern Italy road trip, but you can also take a boat ride from other towns around Lake Maggiore. Late spring and early fall are the ideal times to visit Cannobio to enjoy fewer crowds and perfect weather.
Recommended by Or from My Path in the World
Where to stay in cannobio
For a wonderful charming stay with breakfast included consider staying at B&B Magnolia.
If you’re looking for a beachfront stay, B&B Spiaggia Amore is the place for you and they a great included breakfast.
Bellagio, Italy, also known as the Pearl of Lake Como, definitely deserves a mention among the most beautiful villages in Italy. Set on the shores of one of the prettiest lakes in the world, Bellagio is surrounded by such picturesque landscapes that it feels like you stepped into a real-life postcard.
Stroll the picturesque waterfront promenade and the colorful streets of Bellagio, check out fashion boutiques and food stores selling local specialties, and admire the world-famous silk from Lake Como.
You can also spend a day at the beach, go swimming, kayaking, or take a scenic cruise on the lake. Bellagio also has some really good restaurants where you can try risotto with fried perch, a regional specialty.
If you have more time in the area, be sure to visit the famous Villas of Lake Como and so many other pretty little towns nearby…
And if you think that the scenery looks familiar, it’s probably because Lake Como is a popular setting for so many movies. In fact, you might even run into some Hollywood stars who love to spend their summer holidays here.
You can see Bellagio and explore some of the best areas of Lake Como in just a day, so many tourists simply visit here on a day trip from Milan. The easiest way to get to Bellagio is by taking a train to Varenna, from where it’s just a short boat ride to Bellagio.
The best time to visit is in the late spring - early summer, when all the gardens are in full bloom and it’s not as busy yet. September through October can be really nice too, with pleasant weather and lower crowds than in the peak summer season. In winter, most restaurants and hotels close, and Bellagio feels quite deserted.
Recommended by Jurga of Full Suitcase
Where to stay in Bellagio
With stunning views of Lake Como, Hotel Bellagio is a bit pricey but we think a great value all things considered. There’s also an exceptional breakfast.
Right on Lake Como in the heart of Bellagio, Hotel Suisse is close to everything.
Anterselva de Mezzo (Antholz Mittertal)
Northern Italy is unique compared to the Italy some travelers know. To start with, many of the towns and valleys have two or even three different names, in German, Italian, and sometimes English. Since this part of Italy is culturally more Germanic, you’ll find locals speaking German, dressing in dirndls and lederhosen, and referring to themselves as German-speaking Italians.
If this sounds like someplace you’d like to visit, the quaint alpine town of Anterselva di Mezzo (Italian) or Antholz Mittertal in German, both refer to the middle town of the Antholz Valley or Anterselva located just 9 miles from the Austrian border.
We discovered this charming place on a road trip from south Austria via Slovenia, and quickly fell in love with its unique charms. Here, you’ll find the stunning scenery of the Dolomites (though the National Park is an hour away), a vibrant winter sports destination, and the friendliest German-Italians we’ve ever met!
Where to stay in Anterselva de Mezzo
Hotel Antholzerhof is not far from the village center and features an indoor pool, spa, and included breakfast and dinner.
Surrounded by the Dolomites, an excellent buffet style breakfast is included at Vierbrunnenhof along with an indoor pool and spa.
Mezzocorona sits at the foot of the Dolomites in the Trentino region in Northern Italy. High mountains rise around the small town, dwarfing the houses and even the belltower of the church. Given its location, most people who visit the town are interested in outdoor activities, spending their time up in the mountains.
In winter, there is skiing, of course, while summer is the time for exploring the nearby hiking trails and marveling at the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
For those after less strenuous outdoor activities, Mezzocorona is also one of Italy’s best wine regions, sometimes called “most beautiful wine garden of Europe”. There are numerous wineries in the Mezzocorona Valley, and they produce sweet, fragrant wine which is well worth trying.
The town itself is small, but charming, with grape vines, pastel-colored buildings and a beautiful church. There is also a nearby cable car, allowing visitors to experience some of the local views without an onerous hike.
Being so far north, the culture in Mezzocorona is so different from elsewhere in Italy (even taking into account the many visitors to Mezzocorona who come from Austria and Germany). German is spoken by many locals and English is scarce, so visitors should be prepared to practice either their Italian or German when visiting.
Mezzocorona is easily accessible from the northern train line which runs between Verona and Bolzano and makes a good base for exploring more of the region.
Recommended by Roxanne of Faraway Worlds
Where to stay in mezzocorona
Peaceful and surrounded by vineyards Antico Fienile Agritur is only a short walk to town and breakfast is included.
A long list of amenities, a great location, and an excellent available breakfast make Albergo Caffe Centrale a great choice.
Marina Di Corricella
Population 10,261 (island of Procida)
The village of Marina Di Corricella is on the tiny island of Procida, in the Bay of Naples. It’s a gorgeous fishing village, set on a steep hill which curves around a glittering blue bay. The village houses tumble down the hill and are painted in ice cream colors - mint green, strawberry pink and deep apricot, while the domed church of S. Maria delle Grazie Incoronata is a pretty lemon yellow.
The narrow streets down to the quayside are ridiculously photogenic; it’s not surprising that they’ve featured as a location in films like The Talented Mr Ripley. Pots of flowers complement the houses’ pastel-colored walls, and since the lanes are too narrow for cars, the only thing you need to be careful of is not being run over by a local on an electric bike.
Marina Di Corricella is still a working fishing village so if you eat fish or seafood you can eat that day’s catch at one of the restaurants on the quay.
Things to do in and around Marina Di Corricella include visiting Terra Murata, a fortified medieval village at the highest point on the island. Procida also has a surprising number of beaches. The island is on a ferry route to Naples so is well-placed for day trips to other islands like Capri or Ischia and to sights on the mainland.
Recommended by Helen of Helen on Her Holidays
where to stay in marina di corricella
La Casa di Titina, a couples favorite, overlooks the small town and is just steps to the beach.
B&B Mediterraneo offers quiet surroundings, a great location, and an included breakfast.
One of the prettiest places along Italy’s famed Amalfi Coast, Ravello makes the bucket list of many travelers to the country. Which isn’t surprising, given Ravello’s stunning location high above the Tyrrhenian Sea and its charming ambience.
If you have one day in Ravello, you can see all the major sights and soak in the beauty of your surroundings at your leisure. Many visitors come to Ravello on a day trip from Positano or as part of an Amalfi Coast drive, and spend just an hour or two. This may be a little rushed, but it’s better than not visiting at all.
Ravello is small, but it boasts two beautiful villas: Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrone, which offer panoramic views over the water and the coastline. Both are must-visits! Villa Rufulo has colorful gardens and picturesque ruins, perfect for photography. Villa Cimbrone is famous for its sculpture terrace and its gardens.
Ravello’s duomo has a simple facade, and the plaza is a great place to relax and do some people-watching. Strolling the pretty streets of the town is also fun, as is the walk down to the Annunziata Church to view the famous twin towers of Ravello.
If you have a car, you can drive to Ravello. It is located a ways up a hill off the Amalfi Coast Road. You can also take the SITA bus to the town of Amalfi, and then the local bus, open air tourist bus, or taxi up to Ravello.
You can visit Ravello any time from spring to fall. Summers tend to be busy along the Amalfi Coast, so spring or fall is ideal.
Recommended by Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
where to stay in ravello
Hotel Graal is only 300 feet from the center of town with great views of the sea and an included breakfast.
Enjoy incredible sea views from the terrace and an incredible included breakfast at Gala Residence Villa Giovanna.
Portofino is a picture-perfect fishing village in the Italian Riviera. Pastel painted houses hug the tiny cove, and the cobbled main square lies at the end of the bay.
These days, there are more luxury yachts than fishing boats, and Portofino has come to epitomize the "Dolce Vita", as the rich and famous are drawn to its beauty and fun lifestyle.
For a casual traveler, there are plenty of things to do. You can hang out by the main square, the Piazzetta, enjoy a gelato or cappuccino (or glass of wine), and watch the world go by. Or head to the many stores that you’ll find scattered along the narrow, cobbled streets.
For more traditional tourist activities, visit Brown Castle, a former military fortress. Wander its terraced gardens and take the perfect Instagram pictures. San Martino Church is the main church in town and is another picturesque stop.
If you are feeling more energetic, you can hike up the hill to an ancient lighthouse, or do a 2-hour hike along the cliffs to the hidden cove of San Fruttuoso. Accessible only on foot or by boat, the bay is home to a tenth century abbey and a tiny beach that is the perfect place to cool off after your hike. You can take a late afternoon ferry back to Portofino. Another (sandy) beach near Portofino is Paraggi Beach.
The best time to visit Portofino is May-June and September, when the weather is lovely, and it is less busy. However, the most popular time is July and August, at the peak summer vacation period.
It takes less than an hour by car from Genoa. You can also reach Portofino by ferry from Rapallo, Santa Margherita Ligure and Camogli.
Recommended by James Ian from Travel Collecting
where to stay in portofino
ALTIDO Portofino Privilege in the heart of town is beautifully appointed and just a short walk to the beach.
Located in the heart of town and within walking distance to the beach, Civico 3 is close to restaurants, shopping, and ferry boats.
One of the prettiest small towns in Italy is the colorful Manarola. Located in the heart of Cinque Terre, the colorful houses line the Mediterranean Sea, creating wonderful photo opportunities. There are more things to do in Manarola than just take pretty pictures!
It’s easy to get to Manarola from Pisa or Florence by train. Take the train to La Spezia station, then transfer to the local train toward Sestri Levante for two stops. All of the villages of Cinque Terre are connected by a quick train ride, so it’s easy to explore more if you have more time.
Get lost wandering the small, winding roads of Manarola while your nose is delighted by the smells of fresh homemade pasta! Along the outside of town are hiking trails near the vineyards which have wonderful viewpoints of the town. The grapes of the vineyards are used by the local winemakers.
Manarola is home to the Cinque Terre wine cooperative, so most of the wines in restaurants are made locally. Try a glass of Sciacchetra, a sweet dessert wine, that is famous in the area.
About an hour before sunset, head to Nessun Dorma, to capture the iconic Manarola photo. If you want to eat at the restaurant, be sure to call a few days in advance for reservations. Since Manarola is on the Mediterranean Sea, the seafood is quite delicious.
Recommended by Pam from The Directionally Challenged Traveler
Where to stay in Manarola
Vela Azzurra is a spacious accommodation in the heart of the town. Well appointed and walk anywhere in town.
With a great location and an amazing terrace with sea views Il Sogno di Manarola by The First is highly recommended.
Ferentillo is a small town in the Valnerina area, a few kilometers from Terni, in the Umbria region. Umbria, the smaller and less famous sister of Tuscany, is equally rich in picturesque villages full of history. The ideal is to rent a car, challenge yourself amongst the Italian drivers, and explore all the fascinating corners. Ferentillo is an excellent base to start from.
The town has a medieval layout with the remains of the ancient defense walls and two castles still visible. Ferentillo is divided by the Nera river that flows through the middle, and in addition to the traditional and expected church and palace, you will find an unusual museum of mummies. This museum is where, more by chance due to atmospheric conditions than vanity to emulate the Egyptians, common people are mummified and give us a different view of past generations.
Just outside the main area is the old Abbey of San Pietro in Valle. The Abbey has been transformed into a charming hotel of about twenty rooms with a breathtaking view of the valley below. The Abbey church is not normally open for visits, but if you pass by during a wedding, then enter and admire the thirteenth-century frescoes and the beautiful structure of an extraordinary raw beauty.
If you decide to stop in Ferentillo, the main activities to indulge in will be tasting excellent food, hiking in the countryside, and exploring the countless attractions just a few kilometers away starting with famous places such as Orvieto, Spoleto, or Assisi, up to the lesser known such as Foligno or Todi.
Recommended by Clotilde from A Princess Traveling with Twins
where to stay in Ferentillo
The views are amazing at Guesthouse Runcini is located in a small medieval hamlet close to town.
Drive into the Tuscan countryside to discover Panzano, a charming hilltop village located in the Chianti Classico wine region. The pretty town may be small, but it has prominent restaurants and wineries that have put it on the map. Since Panzano is only an hour drive from Florence, it’s easy to add it to your Italy itinerary for a scenic escape.
The best way to unwind in the area is by staying at an agriturismo, an authentic farmhouse that hosts guests. Podere Felceto ticks off all the boxes for a quintessential Tuscan experience. The family-owned olive oil farm sleeps guests in its traditional stone villa and features an outdoor pool overlooking the hillside. Grab a bottle of Chianti Classico from the local grocery store and have a glass poolside.
For dinner, you don’t want to miss Dario Cecchini’s restaurant, Officina Della Bistecca. The world-famous butcher hosts guests in his unique restaurant located in the back of his butcher shop.
Arrive early for aperitivos in the butcher shop where you will be greeted by the butcher himself. You will then be invited into the communal dining room where you will be served five delectable courses of steak. Make sure to reserve your spot far in advance.
The best time to visit Panzano is May-June and September-October. The weather is still pleasant and you will avoid the touristy heavy season of summer.
Recommended by Cecily from Groovy Mashed Potatoes
where to stay in panzano
Located right on the piazza in the heart of town, Casa Volpini is spacious, modern, and comfortable.
You’ll love Agriturismo Podere la Casa for it’s great location and wonderful appointments.
This bucolic Pieve Fosciana commune located in Northern Tuscany is wrapped in the surrounding Italian mountains’ embrace. This Garfagnana region is famous for its castles and medieval fortresses and is a magnet for hikers.
The historic town is home to the 16th century Pieve (rural) church. Its population is 2,500. This is a mountainous region so it gets cold by early October. Winters offer cross-country skiing in Api Apuane and Apennine ranges mountains.
Head for Casone, a small ski town for al fresco drinks after a hike. The best accommodations are an agriturismo if you want to go local with food as well as wake to crowing roosters, eat fresh-laid eggs and snuggle with farm cats and dogs. Agriturismo is agriculture tourism (family-run farm lodging). By law, these enterprises cannot compete with commercial hotels. So the typical Agriturismo serves its own olive oil and wine. Meals feature home-grown vegetables and fruits.
Historic Castelnuovo di Garfagnana is an easy hike or short drive.
The town is located 19 miles from Lucca. It is a great base for a vacation in the country yet close enough for easy day trips to Pisa or Florence.
Recommended by Terri from Female Solo Trek
where to stay in pieve fosciana
A great location, pool, and a wonderful included breakfast are all part of your stay at Villa Belvedere.
Casa Vacanze Le Muse has beautiful location close to town and an included breakfast in a rustic setting.
Pitigliano in Tuscany is a real insider tip among the most beautiful small towns in Italy. Its peculiarity is the imposing position on a tuff rock about 300 meters high, surrounded by two deep gorges, which conjures up a particularly impressive panorama. Beautifully and in breathtaking scenery, the townhouses were built close to the rock walls.
One of the highlights of Pitigliano is definitely the historic center. Strolling through the ancient tufa houses, you embark on a journey through time. At almost every corner there is something special to see, and numerous historic churches to marvel at. Among the most important sights are the city walls and the Medici aqueduct, the Fontana delle Sette Cannelle, the Palazzo Orsini, and the Jewish quarter.
Also of interest are the many Etruscan cave passages, called Vie Cave, carved into the stone by man thousands of years ago. They are located right next to the town and can be hiked from there.
Around Pitigliano is also grown white wine, the so-called "Bianco di Pitigliano", which you should definitely try. Very tasty is also Sfratto, a Christmas pastry with an unfortunately sad history.
You can visit Pitigliano all year round, but especially beautiful is autumn, when the leaves of the trees change color.
Recommended by Martina of Places of Juma
where to stay in Pitigliano
The charming Volterra is one of those little places in Italy that constantly remains under the radar. Nonetheless, the little hilltop town is one of the most charming places that you can visit in Tuscany.
Etruscan, Roman, and Medieval architecture blend to tell the story of Volterra, which began as early as the end of the 8th century BC. The Etruscans were the first, leaving behind mystery, and some amazing artifacts. To learn everything about the obscure Etruscan civilization, visit the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum and the Etruscan Acropolis.
Then, it was the Romans who took over the Etruscans somewhere in 250 BC and inhabited the present-day Volterra. Today, we can admire the beautiful Roman theatre which is one of the biggest and best-preserved Roman theatres.
The Middle Ages left us with some amazing piazzas, churches, and palaces. Piazza San Giovanni with the Basilica Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, and Piazza dei Priori with Palazzo dei Priori, Palazzo Pretorio and Palazzo Incontri, are stunning examples of 13th-century medieval architecture.
Volterra can be easily visited on a day trip form Florence, Siena, or Pisa, or can be included on your Tuscan itinerary. If you travel by car, you should know that Volterra is car-free, so you will need to park just outside of the city in one of the designated parking places.
When visiting Volterra you should definitely taste Volterra. Truffles, chestnuts, mushrooms, and wild boar are some of the treats that you can expect to find at this little Tuscan town. Do not forget to wash them down with some local Chianti wine.
An extraordinary dining experience in Volterra is the so-called Cene Galeotte – a dinner behind the bars. At the local prison in Volterra, in the iconic Medici Fortress, there’s a social project for re-integration of inmates which resulted into a restaurant. So, you can eat you dinner prepared by inmates and served by inmates at the prison.
Recommended by Daniela of Ipanema Travels
A small charming mountain town Castelmezzano is located in southern Italy in the Basilicata region. It’s also titled as another of Italy’s most beautiful places by I Borghi più belli d'Italia.
A beautiful Castelmezzano is a true hidden gem in Italy with picturesque surrounding nature and a chill Italian vibe. Visitors will find there an old Italian town with narrow streets, colorful buildings, artisan shops, and trails to wander around. The best time to visit Castelmezzano is either before or after the summer months, as it’s still warm and there is less traffic.
The best thing to do there is to just admire the beauty of the town with scenic dolomite mountains as the background. The most famous landmark of Castelmezzano is Gradinata Normanna, which is just a few steps away from the town center. Also, if visitors are looking for more adrenaline, then there is also one of the fastest zip-lines in Europe, Volo Dell'angelo.
Castelmezzano is also blessed with a Michelin star restaurant, Al Becco della Civetta, where you can taste some specialty dishes like Agnello alle erbe and Mousse di ricotta.
As it’s not so well connected with public transport, it’s better to rent a car to visit that magnificent place. A good idea would be to visit it as a day trip from the famous Matera.
Recommended by Erki from Genem Travels
Perched atop a hill, with the single most stunning view over both Sicily and the Aeolian islands lies the medieval village of Erice (not to be confused with modern day Erice which is called Casa Santa and sits safely at the foot of the hill upon which medieval Erice sits).
Many visitors come to Erice to visit the iconic Norman castle which is called the Venus castle. The name for the castle is derived from the temple of Venus that stood here long before the Normans decided to build their castle. Be sure to take a tour of the castle, and if you can, catch sunset with a nice bottle of local wine just outside the gates of the castle.
Wander back down to the centre of the town and pop into one of the stunning churches peppered around. Back in the day this small patch of land contained at least 100 churches. The oldest church in Erice is called the “mother church” and venerates Santa Maria Assunta.
Set aside a bit of time to indulge in the local sweets Mustaccioli, marizipan fruits or my personal favorite genovesi ericini. Despite only having 5000 inhabitants, the little medieval village of Erice has more than a few bakeries dotted around town, any one of which will be more than happy to serve you their traditional sweets.
Getting to Erice is best done by car. There are two options to get the old town Erice: Option one is to park the car at Porta Trapani and walk 5 minutes into town. If you prefer a slightly longer, yet much more scenic route consider dropping the car off at Casa Santa and taking the cable car to Porta Trapani.
Like most of the villages in Sicily, Erice is very small and can easily be visited in a few hours.
Recommended by Caroline of Veggie Wayfarer
One small but very pretty town in Italy that must be on your visit list while exploring Sicily is Borgo Parrini. This small village located on the west side of Sicily and is a neighborhood of the main town of Partinico. It is easiest to visit this location by car, as it is only a 50 minute drive from either the capital Palermo or from Trapani on the West coast.
The village of Parrini is a beautifully decorated and painted village that was designed and renovated by the locals in the 1970's. This was due to lots of buildings being abandoned and they wanted to invite new residents. The Gaudi-stye houses were inspired from Barcelona which now makes this pretty hidden gem in Sicily worth visiting.
For Sicilian bites to eat, follow the small village path made up of the cobblestones and find yourself at one of the local restaurants. The village doesn't have many places to eat being that it's so small, but at each place you can find many pizza choices to choose from, with local toppings and a lovely atmosphere.
Best time to visit is Spring time, simply due to the village being very beautiful will all the flowers, lush green trees and being warm enough to sit outside to enjoy the sunshine. This also allows you to enjoy a cold refreshing drink at one of the terraces of a restaurant too, admiring the colorful buildings while you relax.
Recommended by Zoe of Together in Transit
Santa Maria al Bagno
Situated in the heel of Italy's boot, Santa Maria al Bagno is a small village not far from the better-known towns of Gallipoli and Taranto on the Ionian Coast. With a privileged coastal location, and boasting one of the most beautiful beaches in Puglia, it's well worth taking the time to detour to this local's favorite.
Opposite the serene cove, you'll find the town's main square which is brimming with traditional trattorias. Grab a bite to eat here before wandering the maze of pretty streets that fan out into the village.
Nearby, you'll find the Museum of Memory and Hospitality which was built to commemorate the village's role in helping the holocaust survivors, and the Torre del Fiume — a four-columned tower that was built to protect the coastal settlement during the 16th century.
For more active visitors, you'll find plenty of hiking trails to explore in the neighboring Porto Selvaggio nature reserve. Or, if you're just there for some rest & relaxation, you'll find it in style at the Salsedine Beach Bar.
The best time to enjoy this beautiful town is during the warmer months, but avoid July & August if you enjoy a more tranquil atmosphere. To get there, fly into Brindisi and hire a car to drive an hour to the opposite coast. Alternatively, you can take the bus to Lecce, and then connect to Santa Maria al Bagno from there.
Recommended by Nadine from Le Long Weekend
When it comes to the truly gorgeous region of Puglia (or Apulia as it is so-called in English), there truly is no shortage of beautiful towns and villages. Specchia is often touted to be one of the Borghi Più Belli d'Italia (Prettiest Towns of Italy) and visitors will soon see why when touring the town of just under 5000 residents.
Buttery-stone architecture and historic buildings populate this hilltop town on the sunny Salento peninsula. Just a short distance from the Adriatic sea, this quaint Italian town is in the Puglia region of Italy (known as Apulia), i.e. the 'heel' of the boot-shaped country.
Many towns are centred around a 'centro storico,' which is known as 'historical old town centre' in English. These areas are characterised by a largely pedestrianised area of cobblestone lanes and smattering of churches and Specchia is no exception.
Indeed, the centre of Specchia has been largely restored during the past few decades and is widely regarded to be one of the beautiful town centres in all of Italy.
As such, asides from getting lost and snapping photos of the streets of Specchia, one of the best things to do is to enjoy food and local wine in the central Piazza del Popolo or check out some of the local historical buildings, including an olive oil storing cellar.
Recommended by Sophie of Solo Sophie
One of the special places to visit in Italy is Alberobello, a small town in the Puglia region. Alberobello is known for its beautiful, dwarf-like houses called Trulli. The Trulli are stone-made buildings with pointed roofs initially designed as temporary shelters and storehouses or as permanent houses for agricultural labourers. They are specific to this area and they became a UNESCO heritage site in 1996.
Every holiday in Puglia must include Alberobello in the itinerary. You can either visit it for a few hours or you can sleep here and experience a night in a trullo (singular from trulli). Alberobello is accessible from all the big cities in the region. The best way to visit it is to book a day trip either from Bari or from Matera.
Once you get there, you can wander on its narrow streets and enter the trulli that today host small boutiques, restaurants or B&Bs. An interesting place to see here is the Church of Saint Anthony of Padua, built in the shape of a trullo. The best view of the trulli area can be seen from Belvedere Terrazza Balcone Santa Lucia.
Even though there are many beautiful towns in the south of Italy, Alberobello is a special one and it is a pity to miss it.
Recommended by Corina from Another Milestone
When looking for small and pretty towns to visit in Italy, consider Pula, a coastal town on the island of Sardinia that keeps tourists coming back year after year.
With Cagliari being a launchpad for most travelers to the island, exploring Pula becomes one of the top things to do in Cagliari for people looking to get out and about, or closer to one of the many Sardinian beaches.
The best way to arrive to the town is by a direct bus from Cagliari bus station, or taxi if you prefer to travel more privately.
Pula is a vibrant town that gives you the opportunity to explore a piece of Sardinia's rich history but in a more relaxed setting than Cagliari. Think pleasant old-fashioned alleys and cobblestone paths that lead you to some of the best gelato you can imagine. Be sure and look for Gelateria Artigianale situated in Piazza del Popolo which is well known for its colorful yet exquisite ice cream selection.
After a beautiful day at Nora Beach (2.5 kilometers south of the town), you may want to try some of the local seafood specialties for lunch or aperitivo! Check out a restaurant called S’Incontru for freshly caught fish or a well-crafted pizza.
If you find yourself in Pula during the peak season (July/August) you may want to book restaurant tables and accommodation well in advance to avoid disappointment.
To completely avoid the tourist crowds in this pretty Italian town, you could visit during the low season starting in October, especially if you don’t mind the 16-20°C temperatures during the day. All in all, no matter what time of the year you visit Pula, life is simple and with just a stroll around the town, you’ll feel at ease.
Recommended by Daniel of Urban Abroad
Inspired now to visit some of these small towns in Italy? We think they offer a perfect slow travel experience when combined with some city excursions in between. Or plan a self-guided road trip through these small Italian towns.
What could be a better way to experience bella Italia!