Sipping on a chianti in the Tuscan sun or throwing a coin in Rome’s Fontana di Trevi often make for a traveler’s dream of Italy. Throw in an exchange with hunky Giovanni and you have a well-rounded Italian experience, well, not quite.
After living a great deal of time throughout the country, I did some hunting around for the Italy that doesn’t get grazed as much as the big tourist pasturelands do of Florence and Rome. While those cities are all fine and well, the out there Italy dresses with beautiful beaches, a 5,000 year old Iceman, ruins rivaling Rome, and little towns you might never have heard of before.
Don’t worry. I’m sure they have plenty of Giovanni’s and Fabio’s to go around too.
Sardinia’s Costa Verde: Situated on Sardinia’s southwestern coast, Costa Verde, otherwise known as the “green coast”, predictably glistens in hues of emeralds, from the olive speckled shrubbery on the side on the road covering up old mines to the jade waters lapping up beaches that don’t seem real. The true highlight of Sardinia remains its undiscovered nature. In summer, Italians come to vacation on the island, but any other time of the year, you just may have Sardinia and its surreal beaches to yourself.
Siracusa, Sicily: While one of Sicily’s most visited cities, Siracusa can’t seem to muster up the crowds of Rome, despite holding all of the capable elements. From the Teatro Greco to the Duomo in the old town area of Ortigia, Siracusa is Sicily personified beautifully in all forms, from history to architecture. Amid markets in the morning with screaming vendors and old men perched on benches playing scople, a traditional Sicilian card game, Siracusa may be on some traveler’s paths, but not nearly enough.
Otranto: Just before Italy’s pointy stiletto in the region of Puglia, the town of Otranto modestly springs up on the coastline. A main port to the Orient for over 1,000 years, Otranto peppers in white buildings welcomingly waving with blue shutters. The streets resemble that of a sleepy town, almost more Grecian than Italian. Complete with a castle and Byzantine churches, Otranto is often missed due to its location on Italy’s heel.
Maratea: Most only make it to the winding coastal road of the Amalfi Coast. Head a little further south and you will find a road narrower and even more nail biting with tumbling cliffs below. Just after Campania ends, a tiny strip of Basilicata presents just before meeting Calabria, as the town of Maratea tucks away from it all for the day and night. From the brightly tiled cupola of the town’s church to the Rio imposter of Christ The Redeemer watching from above, Maratea gazes at cobalt blue waters relatively untouched by boats or foreign eyes.
Bolzano: Biergartens sit dangerously close to pizzerias. Menus and signs mix between Italian and German. Feelings of “wait, where am I?” present. Home to Ötzi, the 5,000-year-old Iceman found in the area relatively intact in the 1990s, Bolzano rests in the Trentino-Alto region of Italy. Part of Austria until the 1920s, the city makes for a culturally confusing, wonderful headache of Italy and Austria combined. The orderly Italian town features a number of cable cars you can take up to small Dolomite villages where the hills truly do seem to be alive with the sound of music.
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