In a country so full of culture, delicious food, and beautiful landscapes like Italy, it’s difficult to know where to visit outside of the major cities. There are many small towns located a short drive from larger cities that are worth a side trip on your itinerary. Here are five you might want to check out.
The Amalfi Coast has gained some notoriety with celebrities having houses there. It’s not hard to see why, with the picturesque buildings built into steep cliffs leading down to the sea. Amalfi, a town of about 5,000 near Salerno on the southwest coast was once a maritime trade powerhouse due to its position on the Gulf of Salerno. The town features medieval architecture and brightly colored villas. Notable sights to see include the Amalfi Cathedral and the Museo Arsenale Amalfi, a shipyard-turned-museum. Look out for the locally made Limoncello liquor, produced with lemons grown in the region.
2. San Gimignano
Visit this town in Tuscany, southwest of Florence, for its medieval architecture. Sitting on a hill, you will notice from afar the multiple medieval towers rising like a skyline. The old town square, the Piazza della Cisterna, is also ringed by medieval houses. The town itself is like a fortress, encircled by walls dating back to the 13th century. There is a church dating back to the 12th century, the Duomo di San Gimignano, that is worth visiting to see the impressive fresco paintings within. Do you need other reasons to visit this place with only about 8,000 residents? They are also known for a variety of white wine and locally grown saffron.
You will have to travel to the northern coast of Sicily to visit this town, but you will be rewarded with clear, turquoise waters and a picturesque town. Located just east of Palermo, many people come here for the three beaches in and near the town. Beware, though, that in the summer the sand can get crowded with tourists and visitors trying to cool down. You can also enjoy the architecture and historic buildings, including a cathedral that looks like a fortress and a museum with archaeological exhibits. Hike to the top of La Rocca, the cliff overlooking the city to have a great view of the coast.
If the name of this town sounds familiar, it’s because Assisi was the birthplace of the patron saint St. Francis. Visitors to this hill town in Umbria, with about 28,000 residents, come mostly to see the impressive basilicas, or churches. The most impressive of these is the Basilica of St. Francis, a sprawling church on the outskirts of town that dates to 1253. Other churches include the Santo Stefano, the Cathedral of San Rufino and the Basilica of Santa Chiara. Outside of religious landmarks, you can see the Roman ampitheater and two medieval castles. The town is just a 30-minute drive east from the city of Perugia and 20 minutes from the region’s airport.
Travel to the South Tyrol region of the Italian Alps to visit the town of Merano north of Bolzano. Just to the east of the town is the ski area Merano 2000 where you can go skiing or snowboarding in the winter and hiking in the summer. Many people come here for the spas, and due to its proximity to the Austrian border, you will hear both German and Italian being spoken. On the edge of town is the Trauttmansdorff Castle, known for its gardens. If you are looking for a view of the mountains, head to the Tappeiner Walk, a walkway overlooking the town.