When one thinks of Italy, iconic cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice often take center stage. However, beneath the spotlight lies a tapestry of enchanting small towns that capture the heart and soul of this diverse country. From historic villages perched on hilltops to coastal gems exuding Mediterranean charm, Italy’s best small towns offer a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. In this article, we’ll embark on a journey to discover some of these hidden treasures that deserve a spot on your travel itinerary.
Italy’s best small towns hold an allure that’s distinct from their more famous counterparts. These hidden gems offer an intimate encounter with history, culture, and the warmth of Italian hospitality. Whether you’re captivated by the coastal beauty of Positano, the medieval enchantment of San Gimignano, the ancient charm of Matera, the glamour of Portofino, or the artistic allure of Orvieto, each town promises a unique and unforgettable experience. So, step off the beaten path and allow these small towns to weave their magic on your Italian sojourn.
Positano, Amalfi Coast
Nestled along the picturesque Amalfi Coast, Positano is a pastel-colored paradise that tumbles down the cliffs towards the cerulean waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Its narrow alleys, vibrant bougainvillaea, and stunning coastal views make it a favorite among romantics and artists alike. Whether you’re wandering through its labyrinthine streets, lounging on its pebbled beaches, or savoring fresh seafood at local trattorias, Positano’s undeniable charm is sure to leave you spellbound.
San Gimignano, Tuscany
Known as the “Medieval Manhattan” due to its iconic skyline of medieval towers, San Gimignano offers a glimpse into Italy’s medieval past. Located in the heart of Tuscany, this UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts well-preserved architecture, including churches adorned with Renaissance art and quaint squares where you can indulge in gelato while taking in the view. Don’t miss the chance to sample the town’s prized saffron-infused dishes and Vernaccia wine.
Carved into the rock of the southern Italian region of Basilicata, Matera is a city unlike any other. Its ancient Sassi districts are a maze of cave dwellings and stone-carved churches, transporting you back in time. Once considered one of Italy’s poorest towns, Matera has undergone a renaissance and is now a UNESCO-listed cultural hub. Wander through its narrow streets, explore its underground chambers, and witness the captivating interplay of history and modernity.
Portofino, Italian Riviera
Portofino, a fishing village turned celebrity hotspot on the Italian Riviera, is a symphony of colorful buildings, luxury yachts, and stunning landscapes. Nestled in a protected bay, this small town offers a taste of la dolce vita. Stroll along the harbor, browse chic boutiques, and indulge in delectable seafood dishes at waterfront restaurants. For a breathtaking view of Portofino and its surroundings, hike up to Castello Brown.
Perched atop a volcanic plateau in the Umbrian countryside, Orvieto boasts a captivating blend of history, art, and architecture. Its crowning jewel is the stunning Orvieto Cathedral, adorned with intricate carvings and vibrant frescoes. Explore the town’s subterranean tunnels, which were used for various purposes throughout history, and sample the local white wine, Orvieto Classico, in charming enotecas.