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5 Small but Gorgeous Italian Towns You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

A vacation to Italy is a dream. The crowds, however? A nightmare. These small towns are more under-the-radar.


I’ve been fortunate to travel to Italy several times throughout my life, but it wasn’t until I traveled to some of the country’s smaller, off-the-beaten path towns that I truly fell in love with it. Thanks to the efficient Italian train system, paired with the fact that I would never head to Europe without a Eurail pass, getting from point A to point B is quite easy. Because of this, I’ve seen towns in regions ranging from Basilicata to Emilia-Romagna.

If you’re looking for a quieter Italian getaway, skip the big cities and head to one of these small but gorgeous Italian towns instead.

Credit: Left, Eugene Zhyvchik on Unsplash; right, Photo by Arno Senoner on Unsplash


You don’t have to wait until fall to gorge on some squash in Tialy. Ferrara is known to serve cappellacci di zucca year round, a squash-stuffed pasta that is typically served with either a meaty ragu or a butter and sage sauce. But pasta isn’t the only reason you’ll want to add Ferrara to your bucket list. The entire city is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is deemed the “City of the Renaissance” and has a medieval feel. Stroll the cobblestone streets or bike to get around (Ferrara can make the case as the most bike-friendly city in all of Italy). Here, and anywhere in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, indulge as much as possible in the city’s pastries, like coppia Ferrarese (a funny-shaped crispy bread), pasticcio di maccheroni (a puff pastry filled with a creamy pasta and topped with sugar), and ciambella, a pastry typically served for breakfast. For a centrally located boutique hotel, go for Hotel Nazionale.


The Dolomites are a dreamy destination, and what better way to enjoy the mountains than from an infinity pool overlooking them? At La Roccia Wellness Hotel in Cavalese, you can have your cake and eat it too. As in, you can visit the land of vino and pasta, but also get the ultimate wellness experience in the middle of the mountains. My personal favorite experience was hiking through the Val di Fiemme to the hotel’s winery, Maso, to sip rewarding white wine paired with some housemade speck. If you’re headed here in the winter, Cavalese is an ideal destination for avid skiers. Regardless of what time of year you come, don’t skip out on the city center, which has German influence from when the Trentino region was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Credit: Photo by Kirsten Velghe on Unsplash


Puglia might win the cake for the most underrated region in the entire country, and for a unique gem within, Alberobello is one fascinating town. Nowhere else in the country will you find the signature trulli, a white dry-stone house with a gray coned roof. And you won’t only see one or two of them, you’ll see thousands. The trulli of Alberobello are protected UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and walking amongst them feels like you’re roaming through a fairytale. People still live in the trulli to this day, and for an intimate way to experience one, book an overnight stay in one at Tipico Resort in Trulli. Should you choose to only visit Alberobello as a day trip, nearby Polignano a Mare is another great destination in Puglia that should not be missed, and is a quick 30-minute drive away.

Credit: Right, Photo by Jianxiang Wu on Unsplash; left, Photo by Melanie Vaz on Unsplash

Carrara and Lucca

When one thinks of Tuscany, they likely think of vineyards like those in Chianti, charming historic cities like Florence, maybe even the leaning tower of Pisa. What they likely don’t think of are mountains made entirely of marble, but that’s exactly what you’ll find in Carrara. Proving that Italy truly is a country that has it all, when you first see the mountains of Carrara in the distance, you might be under the impression that they’re simply snow-capped. Instead, what you’re looking at is pure marble. Driving through the mountains is rough terrain, so you’ll want to hire a trusted tour guide, like Toscano Tour Experience. Along the way, make sure to stop at Lardo Giannarelli to try Tuscan lardo, an intensely fatty and savory cut of pork. Carrara is luckily located just a hop skip away from Lucca, another charming city, so it makes for an easy day trip. Go for a long-term stay at Grand Universe La Residenza to live like a true local, or Grand Universe Lucca if you want more of a traditional hotel experience.

Credit: Photo by Mick De Paola on Unsplash


If you’re looking for a real travel dupe in lieu of the notoriously expensive Monaco or Nice, look no further than Bordighera. This small seaside town in Liguria has a fraction of the tourists as its nearby French and Monégasque neighbors, both of which are less than 30 miles away. Perhaps more crucially, Bordighera will be a fraction of the cost. I learned about Bordighera slightly by accident, and further proves the reward of traveling with a Eurail pass. I was in Bologna and needed to get to Marseille, France, with three days of spare time in between. In the peak of summer, almost everything along the way was sold out, so I zoomed in on Google Maps, chose a random town to head to, and landed on Bordighera. I was especially sold when I saw there’s a train station there, making my travels easy as ever.

That sporadic decision came with great reward. I stayed at Hotel Villa Elisa & Spa which had a slightly Victorian feel, and a superb breakfast included. I hung out at Seagull Beach Lounge Bistrot, and sipped a spritz while noshing on pasta vongole all day, and it only cost me about 30 euro. You can kick back and relax in Bordighera, mainly because you won’t have to file for bankruptcy for choosing Italy over France.