Destination Guides

7 places where you can discover Italy's hidden gems

Recently updated on April 4th, 2024 at 04:27 pm

From the north to the south and out to the islands, there are thousands of hidden gems scattered across Italy. Exploring Italy off the beaten path you’ll uncover hidden treasures that often escape the tourist radar. 

Discover the charm of unique trulli houses in southern Italy, or the tranquil beauty of lakes beyond Lake Como. Experience the mesmerizing Blue Grotto in Capri and the sunny landscapes of Sicily, blending UNESCO World Heritage sites and ancient ruins with vibrant markets and coastal towns. Foodies will find themselves in heaven in Emilia Romagna, where Italy’s culinary delights are the stars, while the curious will find gems hiding in plain sight in Florence. 

These lesser-known hidden gems provide a fresh perspective on Italy, offering a break from the must-see tourist spots. 

Alberobello, for charming trulli homes

The surreal village of Alberobello feels like stepping into a storybook. This Puglian town in southern Italy is filled with trulli houses, which are whimsical cone-shaped structures that dot the landscape, creating a surreal fairytale landscape. Visit the small town to stroll through its narrow streets, navigating a charming maze of white-washed trulli houses.

But Alberobello’s unique architecture isn’t just a visual treat – this hidden gem is a peek into the local history of southern Italy. These limestone dwellings, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site, were built in the 17th century to avoid taxes. At the time, local rulers taxed permanent structures, so the locals devised a clever solution with these simple, dry stone structures.

VISIT ALBERBELLO: Grand Italian Experience

Capri’s Blue Grotto, for the curious

Enchanting Capri is on the bucket list of many, but one hidden gem you can’t miss while on this island off the coast of Italy is the Blue Grotto. This natural wonder captivates visitors with its ethereal beauty and can only be accessed by sea. With a free day on Capri you could choose to combine both beach day and adventure with a visit to the legendary sea cave.

Your small boat will glide through the narrow entrance, revealing an otherworldly ambiance within. With sunlight the grotto’s interior transforms into a mesmerizing azure spectacle, illuminated by the iridescent blue reflection that dances on the cave walls. At the same time the clear waters reveal an underwater world teeming with marine life.

Legend has it that the grotto’s bewitching charm even enchanted Roman emperors, and the only way to confirm the spectacle is to visit yourself!


Parma, for food lovers

If you’re a food lover, then it’s likely that you’ve heard of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. This region is famous for its medieval cities and rich gastronomy, and none come together quite as well as in Parma. Famous for ham (obviously) and Parmigiano Reggiano, visitors to this Italian city are in for a tasty treat. 

With Trafalgar you’ll visit both a prosciutto (ham) factory near Langhirano, and a family-run caseificio where you’ll discover the ancient craft of Parmigiano Reggiano. This cheese craft has been perfected over hundreds of years. Learn about the intricate process, from curdling milk to molding wheel, and visit the ageing room where the air is rich with the earthy aroma of Parmigiano Reggiano. Heaven! Naturally, you’ll get to sample the final product and compare ages.

TAKE A TRIP: Northern Italy Including Cinque Terre

Florence, for the lesser-known David statues 

We all know the world-famous David statue by Michelangelo, a beloved statue and piece of perfection carved from a single solid block of white Carrara marble. This expression of Renaissance sculpture and true masterpiece is an unmissable sight while in Florence. But did you know there’s more than one David in the city?

Florence actually has five renditions of David, each with its own tale. The oldest is a bronze masterpiece by Donatello, from circa 1440. Then there’s the David by Verrocchio, mentor to Leonardo da Vinci, crafted in 1475. The youngest of the three –, Michelangelo’s iconic David from 1500 – steals the spotlight. 

FIND THE DAVIDS: Italian Holiday 

RELATED READ: Italy vs Spain: Our team of travel experts have their say

Sicily, for Mediterranean living

Bathed in warm Mediterranean sunshine and located at the toe of Italy’s boot, Sicily is a huge and historic island that still falls off the radar of most travelers. There’s so much to see and do here, from visiting the Valley of the Temples where ancient Greek ruins are backed by breathtaking views, to buzzing markets in the center of Palermo, where vendors peddle fresh produce in the heart of the island capital.

As you travel across Italy you’ll find different foods and specialties in each Italian town. Sicily is no different, and here you can enjoy arancini and cannoli, which reflect the island’s flavors and historical influences. With cool coastal towns and landscapes packed with ancient ruins and olive groves, Sicily is a warm and friendly Medietrranean destination that lives the essence of la dolce vita. 

VISIT SICILY: Colors of Sicily 

Lake Maggiore, the alternative to Lake Como 

The Italian lakes, which touch the border with Switzerland, offer a serene escape. Most famous is Lake Como, known for being an upscale resort area with views of the Alps, and Lake Garda, the largest of the lakes. But a great alternative to the overly popular Como is the unpretentious Lake Maggiore. 

This hidden gem in the north of Italy welcomes those in the know for a quiet stay close to its more famous counterparts. The lake mirrors the surrounding greenery and features charming towns like Stresa and Pallanza. Skip the crowds and explore the simplicity of lakeside living at Maggiore. At the center, you can also visit the Borromean Islands, with their historical architecture and gardens.

VISIT LAKE MAGGIORE: Best of the Italian Lakes 

Cinque Terre, in the quiet of winter

In the calm of winter, Cinque Terre feels like a secret gem. While this popular Italian destination is packed with summer crowds, visiting off-season reveals the colorful cliffside villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore – in a new light. In the cooler months, you’ll still enjoy the serene charm of these small towns set against the Ligurian Sea.

Winter reveals a different palette, with less tourists allowing space for local life to become center stage once more. Cozy seafood trattorias offer regional specialties without the usual queues, and those famous hiking trails are quieter but still offer the same panoramic vistas and breathtaking views over the coast.

TAKE A TRIP: Northern Italy Including Cinque Terre

Those are our top seven hidden gems to explore in Italy. Do you have a spot for our list? Leave a comment…

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