Off the Beaten Path in Italy: Top 10 Hidden Gems in Italy

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With its glorious coastline, wealth of scenic cities and oh-so-beautiful countryside, Italy is one of the best places to holiday in the world. Rome, Venice and Florence are some of the best places to visit in Italy as they are densely packed with astounding architecture, rich history and art. The only problem is that everyone knows it and hence, Italy can get crowded with tourists. These destinations are an absolute must-visit, no doubt — but Italy is also dotted with other astounding but lesser-known destinations that offer amazing views, delicious local food and a chance to get along with the locals, all without the worries of crowds, queues or dreaded tourist menus. If you're looking for an authentic Italian expeience, go beyond the well-known destinations of Italy and opt for off the beaten path in Italy. Here are some of the under-rated but equally beautiful places in Italy that you should explore on your next trip to Italy!






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1. Portofino: Off the beaten path in Genoa

Portofino is a fishing village and is a picture perfect location in Italy.
The iconic U-shaped port in Portofino

Despite being located right next to Cinque Terre, Portofino is overlooked by the majority of visitors and can be a pleasant surprise for anyone, as the village is as beautiful as its famous neighbor. Without the crowds that Manarola and Riomaggiore suffer from, Portofino is a delight to explore as brightly colored buildings line its glittering waterfront and forest-covered hills rise up steeply behind.

  • Why we love it: Portofino has all the beauty and charm of Cinque Terre without any of the crowds. Sipping on wine or coffee at one of its waterfront cafes while taking in all of the amazing scenery is simply divine.
  • Best time to visit: As June to August are the hottest months, Portofino is best visited on either side of this period.

2. Erice: Off the beaten path in Sicily

Located in Erice, Giovanni di Erice is a renowned church.
Enjoy the view of the glistening waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea from the atop the church of St. Giovanni

Perched atop a mountain overlooking the Port of Trapani and the beautiful Sicilian coastline, the medieval town of Erice is the place to go if you want to discover Sicily off the beaten track. Dating back to the twelfth century, Erice barely features on most tourists' radar as they instead head to Sicily's beaches and lively cities. It is undoubtedly a very charming place to visit as lovely stone-paved streets wind their way between centuries-old buildings and small tavernas.

  • Why we love it: There are two Norman castles that protrude out from the mountainside of Erice and are impressive to gaze upon. In addition to this, taking the cable car up to Erice is an amazing and unique experience  as you get to enjoy fantastic views of the coast and valleys below you and it only gets better the higher you go. A must visit a your trip to Sicily.
  • Best time to visit: Erice is best visited during summer as it is cooler up in the mountains than down on the Sicilian coast.

3. Tiber Island: Off the beaten path in Rome

The tiber island in the south bend of Tiber river is 270 long in length.
Resembling the shape of a boat, this island was built as a river crossing during the early Roman era

Located just a stone's throw away from the Colosseum, Tiber Island is often overlooked by visitors on a tour to Rome who instead flock to see more famous sights. Myths and legends swirl around the island and it is remarkably the smallest inhabited island in the world! Lying in the middle of the Tiber river, it has long been connected to the art of healing. And while the ancient temple of Aesculapius once stood here, now a group of delightful old buildings is clustered together on the island. It makes for a peaceful stop after any visit to one of Rome's teeming tourist attractions or if you are looking to explore Rome’s off the beaten path.

  • Why we love it: Tiber Island feels a world away from Rome's busy sights. With some lovely old architecture on show such as the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew and leafy trees lining the buildings; it really is a peaceful paradise right in the heart of the city.
  • Best time to visit: Spring or autumn, as you can witness the foliage on the trees change its color during these seasons.

4. Collodi: Off the beaten path in Tuscany

The medieval town of Collodi is named after a famous writer Carlo Collodi.
The historic town of Collodi is home to beautiful villas perched on the steep hills leading up to Villa Garzoni
Pinocchio park is an ideal place for a family visit in Italy.
The classic children's tale of Pinocchio was dreamed up by Carlo in Collodi. Photo by Adrian Michael [CC BY-SA 3.0] 

As it lies between Cinque Terre and Florence, it should come as no surprise to learn that Collodi receives relatively few tourists in comparison to its more famous neighbors. The twelfth-century medieval village is definitely worth visiting however if you're after a Tuscany off the beaten path experience. Old buildings cascade down its mountainside, which is dotted with an ancient fortress, lavish gardens and some elegant villas for you to check out. 

  • Why we love it: There is a Pinocchio Park in Collodi where you can step back into your childhood. It is here that the author spent his youth dreaming up fantastical stories and tales. Lovely sculptures of his creations dot the leafy park and the highlight is undoubtedly the huge whale that swallows up Pinocchio in the story.
  • Best time to visit: The last week of August is the best time to visit as this is when Collodi holds its lively local festival that is dedicated to Saint Bartholomew, the town's patron saint.

5. Laglio: Off the beaten path in Lombardy

Laglio is a n Italian commune in Lombardy and is 653 ft above sea level.
Admire the panoramic view of the lake before as you explore the sloped village of Laglio

If you're looking for underrated places in Italy then be sure to check out the lovely town of Laglio which lies on the shores of Lake Como. Coupled with the fact that it is almost completely unknown to most visitors who instead head to the towns of Bellagio and Como, Laglio's scenic setting with the lake and the mountain makes it the perfect place to explore all of Lombardy’s many sights. Despite the laidback look and feel, Laglio is actually linked to Hollywood royalty as George Clooney owns one of its lavish villas.

  • Why we love it: Laglio is home to a karst cave known as the Bear Hole where wonderful stalagmites and stalactites protrude out at all angles from the cave's wall. Deep below the ground, there are three amazing underground lakes waiting to be explored too.
  • Best time to visit: As Laglio never gets too crowded, it is not a bad option if you want to visit Laglio in summer. However, if the heat is too much, then visit during spring or autumn as the cooler temperature makes sightseeing more manageable.

6. The Venetian Ghetto: Off the beaten path in Venice

The Venetian Ghetto was an area where the Jews were to forced to live.
Don't miss out on a meal from a Kosher restaurant in the Venetian Ghetto. Photo by: Ethan Doyle White [CC BY-SA 4.0 ]

The Venetian Ghetto is delightfully undervisited in comparison to the city's other astounding sights such as Piazza San Marco or the Bridge of Sighs. Established in 1516 when the Jewish population was segregated from the rest of the city, it was the first ghetto created in the world and it still retains a strong Jewish presence as synagogues and Jewish bakeries lie next to such sights as the Jewish Museum of Venice. As such, it really does make for the perfect off the beaten path experience in Venice.

  • Why we love it: The small streets and bridges that pass alongside or over canals are wonderful to get lost in and on the way you may stumble across a delicious Kosher restaurant or two! 
  • Best time to visit: Either spring or autumn is the best time to visit as Venice can get very hot and crowded during summer.

7. Nocelle: Off the beaten path in Amalfi Coast

The path of the gods is a 7 km path that bridges Nocelle to Bomera.
Hike the scenic trails of the Path of the Gods when in Nocelle
Resting at 400 meters above the sea, Nocelle is a beautiful town in Italy.
Get away from the crowds and take advantage of the lovely town and coast of Nocelle

Tucked away high up in the mountains that overlook Positano and the stunning Amalfi Coast, the small village of Nocelle is seldom visited by tourists and so it really does offer an off the beaten path experience in Amalfi Coast. A world away from the busy roads and towns down below, Nocelle is a very laid back place where nothing much happens and is perfect for a quiet getaway. With some of the most beautiful views of the Amalfi Coast imaginable, Nocelle is a delightful spot to stop by and offers up a much more authentic side of Italy than the touristy Positano.

  • Why we love it: The glorious 'Sentiero degli Dei' trail in Nocelle offers breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coast and its charming little towns below. Its English translation, 'the Path of the Gods', is a fitting description of the majestic scenery surrounding it.
  • Best time to visit: Either spring or autumn is the optimum time to visit Nocelle, especially if you plan on doing the hike as the summer heat can get oppressive.

8. Oltrarno: Off the beaten path in Florence

Oltrarno is a quarter part of Florence and holds many important sites.
Neighboring Florence, Oltrarno is a beautiful destination which shows another side of Florence

Lying across the Ponte Vecchio on the other side of the Arno river, it is remarkable how few visitors realize that Oltrarno and all of its amazing sights even exist. The renaissance city is renowned for its magnificent museums and monuments. Home to the beautiful Palazzo Pitti, the imposing Forte Belvedere and the elegant Boboli Gardens, Oltrarno is a hidden gem in Italy that you shouldn’t miss out on!

  • Why we love it:  You can really enjoy all of its wonders in peace and quiet and the view of Florence from atop of Piazzale Michelangelo is simply divine!
  • Best time to visit: Spring or autumn is the best time to visit for the cooler climate and quieter times.
Matera is located in Basilicata and lies on a small canyon of Gravina river
As you explore the narrow alleys of Matera, don't forget to check out the cave dwellings

While the beautiful Matera can still just about claim to be an off the beaten path in Italy experience, the fact that it was named 2019 European Capital of Culture means that more and more people are starting to visit as word of its beauty spreads. One of the oldest continuously inhabited towns in the world, Matera has a wealth of fascinating historical sites for you to explore and almost everything about it dates back centuries if not millennia. While its ancient cave dwellings are particularly interesting to visit, simply wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere is a wonderful way to spend your time.

  • Why we love it: Whether it's the gorgeous location perched on the side of a gorge, the uniform look of its ancient buildings clustered together in a beautiful mess or its winding alleys that weaves its way between lovely old churches; just getting lost amongst all of its amazing history is a pleasure as you stumble across hidden parts to the town wherever you go.
  • Best time to visit: Either spring or autumn when the weather is slightly cooler.

10. Wild Harbor: Off the beaten path in Puglia

Located in a natural park, the scenery on show is beautiful and unspoilt.
Wild Harbour has a variety of water activities to offer, making it a perfect place to put your water sport skills to test

Known in Italian as Porto Selvaggio, the delightfully named Wild Harbor is exactly that as the craggy cliffs and gnarled olive trees surrounding the beach and give it a wild and remote feel. As it is located in a natural park, the scenery is untouched and unspoiled, and the sea positively sparkles before you. Indeed it is Wild Harbor's secluded setting that has protected it from being overrun by tourists who instead prefer to head to more popular beaches or cities like Lecce and Gallipoli.

  • Why we love it: Not only is it ideal for a relaxing day on the beach but it is also perfect for a more active holiday as lots of trails and paths snake their way through the wonderful nature on show in the natural park.
  • Best time to visit: If you can brave high temperatures and strong sun then summer is the perfect tanning season. Otherwise both late spring and early autumn are great times to visit.

Take a Tailored-trip to Italy

As you can see, there are plenty of off the beaten path destinations in Italy, allowing one to take a unique trip to Italy. Since most of these secret locations are not very far from Italy's most famous cities, you don’t have to worry about missing out on much either. However, since these destinations are not frequented, it will be difficult to find a group tour. If you’d like to create an off the beaten path in Italy itinerary, connect with our travel experts in Italy and make a tailor-made tour to these destinations today!

For more information, please read our travel article on how many days to spend in Italy or the best time to visit Italy.

Published by Lisa Hopp, updated on August 11, 2022

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