The poetic charms of Italy are hard to resist, especially during the spring and summer seasons when the cold temperatures and snow-covered structures are replaced with golden sunshine and stunning views.
Now when you think of Italy, it’s almost impossible not to think of magical cities like Rome, Venice and Florence. And while these are beautiful cities to visit, they are also some of the most crowded destinations during summer. Think herds of tourists, chaotic streets and an indefinite rush wherever you go. But the picturesque offerings of Italy hardly end at the likes of Rome and Venice. The country is filled with several other stunning locations, many of which remain hidden and unexplored. So if you’re looking for a quieter, crowd-free holiday in Italy, this is the itinerary you need!
Puglia is known for its stunning trulli houses, but what many people don’t know is that it was the quaint town of Alberolbello that popularised trulli houses in the region. Alberobello which is located in Apulia, is filled with limestone buildings built with distinguishable conical roofs dating all the way back to the 19th and 20th centuries. The town which is also known as the City of Trulli was marked as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.
Where to stay
You cannot really visit Alberobello and not stay in a Trulli. Even if it is just one night, sleeping in a Trulli has been described as one of the most fascinating experiences. Chiancole Trulli Experience has been voted one of the best and most popular accommodations in Alberobello. The two-bedroom apartment comes with a fully equipped kitchen and a patio with a view of the garden.
If you’re looking for a more luxurious stay, La Mandorla is an ideal setting. The Trulli is an air-conditioned bed and breakfast which comes with a fully equipped kitchen, a seating area, and a dining area along with add-ons like a satellite flat-screen TV and a hot tub.
Things to do
While walking around exploring the many trulli of Alberobello is pretty much what you’d expect to do in the town, there are a few structures that are unmissable. Like the enormous Trullo Sovrano. One of the most important and iconic stops in Alberobello, Trullo Sovrano is located in the northern part of the town behind the Church of Santi Medici Cosma e Damiano. One of the most ancient structures, Trullo Sovrano is the only two-storey Trulli in Alberobello. It was originally built with two bedrooms, two kitchens, a main hall, a dining room and a garden area. The building now serves as a heritage museum showcasing historical exhibits of Alberobello, with tickets priced at €2 per person.
Apart from Trullo Sovrano, Alberoblello has a number of settlements to explore including Trullo Siamese – a Trullo which has two centrally joined domes, and Il Trullo Pia Piccolo di Alberobello which literally means “The smallest Trulli of Alberobello”. Casa D’amore is a historical monument and a rather important one for the town. The Trullo was the former home of Antonio Francesco D’Amore, the man who led an uprising which brought the feudal period in Alberobello to an end. It was also the very first Trullo to be built using lime and mortar, materials which were forbidden for construction back then.
Moving away from the Trulli, the town of Alberobello has much to offer including the majestic church, Basilica dei Santi Cosma e Damiano. An architectural wonder, the Basilica steps away from the town’s typical Apulian architectural style, displaying a neo-classical design.
While most hidden gems in Italy sooner or later become popular spots, Bologna to this day remains one of the lesser-known gems of Itali. Located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northeast Italy, Bologna is a culturally rich destination defined by its Renaissance-era architecture with buildings displaying hues of terracotta reds, burnt oranges, and warm yellows. The city’s University is among the oldest in the Western world having produced accomplished personalities including scientists like Luigi Galvani and Guglielmo Marconi, and artists like Giorgio Morandi, Guido Reni, Guercino, the Carraccis, and Leonardo da Vinci.
Where to stay
Bologna has quite a few accommodations to choose from including boutique hotels, Airbnbs and luxury stay hotels. Hotel Corona D’oro is a centrally located four-star hotel with contemporary interiors to match the essence of the city.
Another fine luxury hotel, the Grand Hotel Majestic già Baglioni is as opulent as it gets! Marble interiors, gleaming chandeliers, carpeted floors and antique furniture define this 18th-century palace hotel.
Things to do
Given the beauty of Bologna’s architecture, a view from the very top is a special treat for all visitors. The Asinelli Tower which is one of the highest points gives you a splendid 360-degree view of the whole city, and it only takes 498 steps to get to the top!
A special treat for art and history students, the Palazzo Poggi Museum is home to some of the most interesting collections including exhibits relating to geography, nautical science, chemistry, physics, anatomy, military architecture, natural history and obstetrics, etc. The museum which dates back to the 16th century, initially served as the headquarters for the Institute of Sciences and Arts in Bologna housing scientific laboratories, a library and an observatory until 1799 when the museum was restored to its original condition and converted into the museum it is today.
Bologna is known for its food endeavours and it goes without saying that all the food here is worth trying, be it local street food or restaurants. For a fun food-themed activity, be sure to visit the infamous Gelato Museum Carpigiani in Anzola dell’Emilia.
Opened in 2012, Anzola dell’Emilia is the ever first museum to illustrate the history and craft of artisanal gelato. A visit to the museum includes an interactive session distributed into three categories, the evolution of gelato, the evolution of technology, and how and when gelato was savoured. The museum has over 20 artisanal machines, multimedia stations with over 10,000 photographs and historic documents, precious period tools and accessories, unpublished video interviews and educational workshops all of which help educate and illustrate the art of gelato.
Adventure enthusiasts will appreciate the hidden village of Castelmezzano. Surrounded by dense forests and hilly mountains calling to be explored, Castelmezzano has a minute population of close to 1000 inhabitants only making it perfect for a tourist-free holiday. The medieval village is a bit of a detour from the city but well worth the trip especially if you’re looking for a fun hiking trip. Even if you’re not much of a hiker, it’s impossible not to appreciate the peaceful, old-world charm that the village displays.
Where to stay
Boutique stays and Airbnbs run by local families are popular accommodations in Castelmezzano. Dimore dell’Olmo, B&B La Casa di Giulietta and Casa Delle Stelle are some of the best boutique accommodations in the village. These not only have a cosy, comfortable setting but also provide some very stunning views to wake up to.
But if you’re looking for a more luxurious stay, then the Hotel Dolomiti is an ideal pick. The hotel is located in South Tirol and has a selection of contemporary-style rooms and chalet suites fitted with chic decor and necessary modern amenities.
Things to do
As mentioned before, Castelmezzano is a hiker’s dream. One of the most popular hikes, Castello di Pietrapertosa also called Castle of Pietrapertosa is one of the oldest fortified structures in Pietrapertosa, dating back to the first decade of the 11th century. Another popular route, more fitting for literary enthusiasts, The Path of the Seven Stones is an excellent hike and the perfect base to explore the stunning Piccolo Dolomiti mountains; it is also the path that connects Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa. While the view is stunning, the path is also connected to one of Italy’s most famous but tragic love stories between a farmer and a witch.
There are a few rousing activities apart from hikes which also make for a thrilling experience in Castelmezzano. The Gradinata Normanna climb includes 54 stairs (with protective gear) to the top from where you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of Castelmezzano.
Il Volo dell’Angelo is for the brave-hearted. A 1.5km long zip line also known as Flight of the Angel, this zip line soars 2,600 – 3,600 feet above the ground, and connects the towns of Pietrapertosa and Castelmezzano. If you’re looking to explore nature, the Gallipoli Cognato Regional Park is a good place to start. Spanning almost 2700 hectares of land, the park is located in the Dolomiti Lucane mountain range and is home to a number of rare species like black stork, Italian hare, wildcat, otter, short-toed snake eagle and more.
There is plenty more to do in Catelmezzano apart from the hikes and excursions like attending a tree wedding which is a fun way to experience the local culture. The ancient ritual takes place every spring on the first Sunday after Easter where the men bring in the largest and tallest oak tree trunk called il Maggio from the forests to the village of Accettura and crown it with holly. After the wedding ritual, the locals make attempts to climb the tree trunk in order to collect gifts hung along the branches.
One of the most colourful islands in Italy, Procida is a tiny island situated in southern Italy in the Campania region, by the Bay of Naples. As vibrant as it is, the island is also one of the quietest islands in the country with fewer tourists compared to Ischia Island which sits close to Procida. With numerous hot springs, black- and white-sand beaches, and a stunning pastel-coloured harbour, Procida is the perfect location for a beachside holiday away from the crowds.
Where to stay
San Michele is a stunning boutique hotel set in the colourful fishing village of Marina Corricella. The hotel offers a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea from each of its 12 contemporary bohemian accommodations. Its sister hotel, La Suite is a similar offering near Ciraccio with 21 modern rooms, an outdoor pool and a garden for an ambient outdoor experience. Providing a complete glamping experience, Procida Camp & Resort offers guests modern and luxurious accommodations ranging from glamping tents, lodges, airstreams, and even suites.
Things to do
Procida’s stunning beaches make it hard not to sit around and relax all day. If you’re looking for some unconventional beaches, Chiaiolella, Pozzo Vecchio and Punto Ottima are all beautiful locations. While Chiaiolella is known for its dark, volcanic sand, the beaches of Pozzo Vecchio and Punto Ottima are popular for their rocky, sheltered cove setting. Lingua is another beach covered in pebbles. Its close proximity to the port makes it a more ideal location. Ciraccio Beach is a more conventional location but is known for being the longest sand stretch on the island. Guests can also take part in watersports mainly boating and paddling along the island.
A climb to Terra Murata is a fun way to spend the day away from the beach. Built high above Marina Grande, Terra Murata is a fortified village with narrow 16th-century streets and traditional homes. Whilst here, you can explore La Casa di Graziella, a civic museum resembling a Terra Murata home from the 1800s. Palazzo D’Avalos is another interesting structure built in the 16th century. It was originally a residence but was converted into a prison in 1830 and later shut down in 1988. Today, the building contains an archaeological museum, a garden, and an art gallery depicting historical tales of the structure.