Italy is one of the places that everyone wants to go and falls in love with. The country is full of major attractions, world-class cuisine, and cities including Rome, Florence, Naples, and Venice. They are worth visiting of course, with their art, architecture, and history, but Italy has a lot more to offer outside of the major city attractions. Italy is in fact one of the best places in Europe for a road trip. Rolling hills full of wineries, medieval stone houses, small alleys, and blue skies, the scenery cannot be more welcoming. This summer, I hope to rent a car in Italy to visit some of these small towns.
Vernazza is perhaps the most picturesque of the five towns of Cinque Terre in Italy. The view of colorful antique homes on the cliffs is hard to beat. It’s known as one of the most authentic fishing villages of the Italian Riviera. Vernazza was hit by terrible rains in 2012 that caused massive flooding and mudslides. The town was evacuated and restoration took many months. It has now recovered and is open to travelers once again.
Enjoy a stroll on the main street and merge into the slower pace of life in Vernazza. For different but more dramatic scenery, hike northwest from Vernazza to Monterosso for views of cliffs and seascape. The hike takes about 90 minutes each way. Another popular hiking trail is southeast from Vernazza to Cornigilia. On the first part of the hike, enjoy perfect views worthy of a postcard.
Bosa is a historic town in the Sardinia region. Bosa is situated about two-thirds of the way up the west coast of Sardinia. There is a good mix of old and new, a population of around 8,000 people. The main street of the old town is lined with brightly colored buildings, palm trees, and wrought iron balconies. Because of the Temo River that runs through Bosa, agriculture and fishing are still big part in the economy.
Bosa has a lot to offer visitors. As it is a real working city, you’ll have the chance to witness an authentic piece of traditional Italian life. Local people are welcoming and friendly. There are many beaches nearby. The largest beach, Bosa Marina, has been voted the cleanest beach in Italy many times. For wine lovers, pay a visit just south of Bosa, where Malvasia di Bosa is produced.
Vasto is a town in the Abruzzo region of Italy, on the Adriatic coast. According to legend, the town as founded by Diomedes, the Greek hero. The earliest archaeological relics date back to 1300 BC.
The best way to explore Vasto is on foot. The walk to Vasto Marina only takes 45 minutes from the town center. Vasto Marina is the main attraction of this town because of its spectacular beach. The gold sandy beach and calm waves under the Mediterranean sun create a relaxing setting.
Gubbio is a lovely little city in Umbria. It is located to the northeast of Perugia on the slopes of Mt. Ignino. The city’s origins are very ancient. The hills above the town were already occupied in the Bronze Age.
The historical center of Gubbio takes you back to medieval times. The town has lots of dark grey stones, narrow streets and Gothic architecture. Many buildings in Gubbio date back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Check out the Roman Theater, built in the 1st century BC. The Gothic 14th century Cathedral was built in the late 12th century. The rose window in the façade is the most striking feature. Take the funivia—cablecar—to the Basilica of St. Ubaldo, who is the patron saint of Gubbio. His ashes are preserved in the alter.
Lecce is known as “the Florence of the south”, with its rich baroque architectural monuments. The city also has a long relationship with Greek culture going back to its foundation. To this day, Griko (modern Greek dialect) is still spoken in a group of towns not to far from Lecce .
The Roman amphitheater, built in the 2nd century, is situated near Sant’Orenzo Square. It was able to hold 25,000 people but it is half-buried now. The Park Tower, Torre del Parco, is one of the medieval symbols of Lecce. It is more than 23 meters high, erected in the 15th century. The church of Santa Chiara’s ceiling is worth visiting. Lecce is also known for its various local and traditional restaurants.
Alberobello is known for its trulli architecture. The trullo is an interesting architectural feature of this area of Puglia. The buildings have a conical roof made without mortar. The trulli are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Some of the trulli are now turned into shops, restaurants, and hotels, but many are still as homes of the locals. Alberobello hosts a number of festivals in summer including an international folk festival. It is popular for music, dance, and theater events. All the attractions in town are within walking distance, and there are a few interesting towns easily reachable by car.
Atrani is a town on the Amalfi Coast in the Campania region of south-western Italy, less than a kilometer away from more famous Amalfi. Atrani is well known for its dramatic scenery. The town is located between the Civita Hill and Audreo Hill. The legend says once there was a dragon himself here and breathed fire. It has been used as the set for films and commercials over the years. The town is a place of beautiful gardens, squares, buildings, stairs, and atmosphere. Atranti is the only town along the coast that still retains its traditional character.