Italy is a country that is world-famous for its stunning landmarks, delicious food, and fascinating history. Millions of tourists flock to the country every year to visit popular destinations like Rome, Venice, and Florence.
However, Italy has many hidden gems that are often overlooked by visitors. If you’re looking to explore Italy off the beaten path, here are some destinations that you should consider adding to your itinerary.
1. Matera – The City of Caves
Matera, also known as “The City of Caves,” is a unique and fascinating destination located in the southern region of Basilicata in Italy. This beautiful destination is a must when you travel to Italy. Matera is known for its Sassi, which are ancient cave dwellings that were inhabited for thousands of years.
In 1993, Matera was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of its cultural and historical significance.
History and Culture
The Sassi of Matera are believed to be some of the oldest inhabited dwellings in the world. The caves were carved into the rock by hand, and many of them were used as homes, churches, and even monasteries. The Sassi were inhabited until the 1950s when the Italian government relocated the residents to new housing due to poor living conditions.
Since then, many of the caves have been restored and transformed into unique hotels, restaurants, and museums. Visitors can explore the Sassi and learn about the history and culture of Matera.
One of the main attractions in Matera is the Civita, which is the oldest part of the Sassi. It is a maze of narrow streets and alleyways that are lined with white-washed houses and cave dwellings. The Civita is also home to the Cathedral of Matera, which is a beautiful example of Baroque architecture.
Another popular attraction is the Palombaro Lungo, which is an underground cistern that was used to collect rainwater. Visitors can explore the cistern and learn about the ingenious water management systems used in Matera.
Food and Wine
Matera is also known for its delicious cuisine, which includes local specialties like orecchiette pasta, lamb, and cheeses. Visitors can enjoy traditional meals at local restaurants and try local wines like Aglianico and Primitivo.
2. Sperlonga – A Picturesque Seaside Village
Sperlonga is a small village located on the coast between Rome and Naples. It is known for its picturesque streets, white-washed houses, and stunning beaches. The village is also home to a Roman villa that was built in the 1st century BC. The villa was discovered in the 1950s, and it contains beautiful mosaics and frescoes that are well-preserved.
3. Orvieto – A Medieval Hilltop Town
Orvieto is a charming and picturesque town located in the Umbria region of Italy. The town is situated on a volcanic rock and is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves. Orvieto is known for its stunning Gothic cathedral, which dominates the skyline, as well as its underground network of tunnels and caves that were used for storage and defense in medieval times.
History and Culture
Orvieto has a rich history that dates back to Etruscan times. The town was an important center of trade and commerce in medieval times, and its strategic location on top of a hill made it an important stronghold for many centuries.
Today, visitors can explore the town’s many historical sites and learn about its fascinating history and culture. One of the main attractions is the Gothic cathedral, which was built in the 13th century and is known for its stunning façade and intricate mosaics.
In addition to the cathedral, Orvieto has many other attractions that are worth a visit. Visitors can explore the town’s many medieval buildings and narrow streets, including the Palazzo del Popolo and the Palazzo dei Sette.
One of the most unique attractions in Orvieto is the underground network of tunnels and caves. The tunnels were used for storage and defense in medieval times and are now open to visitors. The tunnels provide a fascinating glimpse into the town’s history and offer a unique and unforgettable experience.
Food and Wine
Orvieto is also known for its delicious food and wine. The town is located in a region that is famous for its white wine, which is also called Orvieto. Visitors can enjoy local specialties like truffles, wild boar, and handmade pasta dishes at local restaurants and trattorias.
4. Civita di Bagnoregio – The Dying City
Civita di Bagnoregio is a small town located in the Lazio region. It is known as the “dying city” because it is perched on top of a cliff and is slowly eroding away. The town can only be reached by footbridge, and there are only a few permanent residents. Despite its precarious location, Civita di Bagnoregio is a charming and picturesque town that is worth a visit.
5. Puglia – The Heel of Italy
Puglia is a beautiful and unique region located in the southeastern part of Italy. Known as “The Heel of Italy,” Puglia is characterized by its stunning coastline, ancient olive groves, and unique architecture. The region is also home to some of the best food in Italy, including fresh seafood and delicious pasta dishes.
Culture and History
Puglia has a rich history and culture that dates back thousands of years. The region was inhabited by Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines, and its architecture and cuisine reflect this diverse heritage.
One of the main attractions in Puglia is the town of Alberobello, which is famous for its unique trulli houses. Trulli are cone-shaped houses that were traditionally built using dry stone techniques. Visitors can explore the town and learn about the history and construction of these unique houses.
Beaches and Nature
Puglia is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Italy, including the stunning Polignano a Mare and the white-sand beach of Pescoluse. Visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and water sports at these beautiful beaches.
The region is also home to some beautiful nature reserves and national parks. One of the most popular is the Gargano National Park, which is known for its beautiful beaches, rocky cliffs, and stunning landscapes.
Food and Wine
Puglia is known for its delicious food and wine. The region is famous for its fresh seafood, including octopus, sea urchins, and anchovies. Visitors can also enjoy delicious pasta dishes like orecchiette with broccoli rabe and cavatelli with tomato sauce.
Puglia is also home to some of the best wines in Italy, including the red wines Primitivo and Negroamaro and the white wine Verdeca.
In conclusion, Italy has much more to offer than its famous landmarks and tourist destinations. By exploring the off-the-beaten path, you can discover hidden gems that are full of history, culture, and natural beauty. Matera, Sperlonga, Orvieto, Civita di Bagnoregio, and Puglia are just a few examples of the many hidden treasures that Italy has to offer.