Europe & Britain | Destination Guides

Beyond Venice and Rome: Explore these off-the-beaten-track Italian towns with Trafalgar

Recently updated on July 31st, 2023 at 04:59 pm

Italy is a tapestry rich with the colours of history and culture, grand cities and charming Italian towns. While bucket list experiences like seeing the colosseum in Rome and boating on the canals of Venice are essential for any Italian expedition, it’s when you venture deeper that you find the real Italy. 

Feel the magic of Italian towns and small villages when you go beyond Italy’s big cities with Trafalgar. We love giving our guests the best experiences in the boot, combining both the big sights and authentic experiences you can only get when you venture off-the-beaten-track. Here are 6 Italian towns we love, and know you will too.

Marsala, Sicily

You might have heard of the nutty-flavoured Marsala wine, and now you can visit the town where it comes from. On Trafalgar’s Colours of Sicily we wave goodbye to Palermo, pass through the fishing village of Mondello, visit the ancient hilltop town of Erice, and stop by salt pans on the way to beautiful Marsala. More than 80,000 Sicilians call this picture-perfect city home. You’ll be instantly charmed by the marble-lined streets and expansive piazze. Do as the Italians do and set out for an evening passeggiata to people-watch and soak in local life. The evening is yours, so ask a local for their favourite dinner in town.

GET INSPIRED BY: Colours of Sicily

Lake Maggiore, Piedmont

Forget Lake Como or Lake Garda. For the real old-world Italian lakeside charms, we love to take guests to towns on the shores of Lake Maggiore. With the Southern Alps towering behind and two peaceful nights to enjoy the slower pace in the village of Baveno, it’s safe to say you’ll feel relaxed while living la dolce vita on our Northern Italy including Cinque Terre tour. On the second evening, you’ll cross the lake to visit the secluded Isola dei Pescatori to Connect With Locals at a Be My Guest experience. Join the Cinque family and hear all about the intriguing history of Villa Toscanini situated on a tiny romantic island which was the hideaway of the great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini one of the most influential musicians of the 19th century.

GET INSPIRED BY: Northern Italy including Cinque Terre

Parma, Emilia-Romagna

Love prosciutto and cheese? Then you must visit Parma. This small gourmet city is the heartland of all your favourite Italian products. On our Northern Italy including Cinque Terre tour guests Dive Into Culture with a visit to a prosciutto factory. The smell? Fantastic. After tasting the ham and hearing how it’s aged, we’ll skip over to a family-run caseificio where we’ll learn about the world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Finally, you’ll arrive in Parma where you can deepen your foodie knowledge further with an Optional Experience pairing Italian wines with local specialities. Bellissimo!

RELATED BLOG: Northern Italian food vs Southern Italian food: What’s the difference? 

Montecatini, Tuscany

To really live the Tuscan dream, you want to wander off the beaten path – and where better to relax on vacation than a thermal spa town. Enjoy a scenic drive through the Tuscan hills to the thermal resort of Montecatini, Italy’s largest spa town. On our Rome & Tuscan Higlights tour you’ll get to relax here for the next six nights while diving into gorgeous Tuscany on day trips and excursions. Of all the Italian towns why choose Montecatini as our base in Tuscany? With just 20,000 residents and a central location, this small town is the perfect launch pad to enjoy authentic Italian culture and small city life in the heart of Tuscany. Plus, what’s better than a spa day while travelling?

GET INSPIRED BY: Rome & Tuscan Higlights

Vinci, Tuscany

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Olive groves, tall cypress trees and vineyards whiz past the window on the way to Vinci. The birthplace of the greatest genius of the Italian Renaissance, Leonardo looked out at these very views too. Try to imagine what life was like while admiring his machines, models, sketches and handwritten notes at the Museo Leonardiano. After this Dive Into Culture experience on our Rome & Tuscan Highlights tour, you’ll venture to Agriturismo Borgo Vigna Vecchia for an exclusive Be My Guest dinner surrounded by those beautiful vines and olive trees.

RELATED BLOG: Travel Director Letizia, on why she’s proud to share her Italian heritage with guests

Modena, Emilia-Romagna

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You may have heard of Modena after chef Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana topped the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list in 2016. Once you visit the pastel-hued small Italian city you’ll realise why. This is the land of Lambrusco, salty prosciutto and Parmigiano. Modena is a gastronomic hub set in the heart of the Emilia-Romagna region. While here try the local gelato and taste the sweet, sour and intense Moderna balsamic vinegar on a Dive Into Culture experience. Wander past pastel-hued façades and through UNESCO World Heritage Site landmarks with a Local Specialist. Then end the visit at the Enzo Ferrari Museum. Yes, the luxury cars and Italian icon are from charming Modena.

GET INSPIRED BY: Best of the Italian Lakes

Are you planning to visit Italy soon? Let us know which Italian towns and villages you are most excited to visit in the comments….

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