Everyone should experience Rome, Venice, and Florence, but if that is the only part of Italy you are exploring, you are missing out! There are so many other areas of Italy, each with its own personality and charm, that you would be amiss to overlook.
Knowing where to find these hidden gems can be difficult, which prompted me to create this list. I have visited Italy numerous times and continually seek new regions to explore and discover. Throughout my visits, Italy has never disappointed me! From enchanting small towns to stunning coastal landscapes, these are the hidden gems in Italy not to miss!
1. Saturnia Hot Springs
Located in the heart of Tuscany, the Saturnia Hot Springs comprises numerous turquoise-colored hillside pools. This picturesque spot occurs thanks to the naturally warm water that flows into the travertine stone pools on the hillside. The 37-degree-Celsius water (98.6 degrees Fahrenheit) consistently flows through the pools, keeping them at a temperature perfect for relaxing.
To access the hot springs, you can easily rent a car and make a quick day-trip from Florence or Rome, as they are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The hot springs are free to visit, and plenty of parking is nearby. Just be sure to bring water shoes, a towel, drinking water, and snacks since the only facilities on the property are a restroom/changing room.
Pro Tip: Visit the hot springs early in the morning or late in the evening to avoid the crowds!
2. Aosta Valley
Italy’s Aosta Valley is a dreamy region located near the borders of Switzerland and France. While the area is most popular during ski season, it’s also lovely to visit in the summer. I just love how the castles, which are perched upon rocky outcroppings, are bordered by the gorgeous mountain scenery that surrounds the area. The area is a popular destination thanks to the region’s many hiking and cycling trails, perfect for exploring on a summer day.
You can explore the small town of Courmayeur, which offers excellent skiing, hiking, and the rotating Skyway Monte Bianco Cable Car. Or you can tour the many castles in the Aosta Valley. The castles in the area can be easily seen while on road trips, but they are best viewed up close with a guided tour. During the summer and winter seasons, numerous small shops and restaurants are also available to ensure a great experience in this remote region of Italy.
The colorful town of Camogli sits on the beautiful Italian Riviera but is often overlooked because of its famous neighbor, Portofino. Stretches of the beach are accentuated by the tall, colorful houses that dot the coastline, drawing visitors from all over the world.
Once a quiet fishing village, Camogli is now a culinary lover’s delight. The town bakeries ensure you can find the perfect treat or snack, while the quaint restaurants and cafés serve up some of the best fresh seafood and pesto sauce you will ever taste! When you are ready to work off some of that delicious food, walk around and explore Camogli’s attractions, like the Camogli Lighthouse and the Castle of Dragonara.
4. Scaligero Castle
A visit to Scaligero Castle makes you feel as if you have been transported back to the Middle Ages. This well-preserved medieval castle sits on the banks of Lake Garda and is one of the many hidden gems in Italy. The castle, built in the 13th century, is a fantastic place to explore.
Scaligero Castle has everything from a remarkable drawbridge to a tremendous fortified harbor and moat! If you climb to the top of the castle, you are rewarded with extraordinary views of Lake Garda. No matter what, don’t miss an opportunity to visit Scaligero Castle and the Lake Garda area. You won’t regret it!
Cornaiano is a small Italian town along the South Tyrolean Wine Route near the foothills of the Dolomite Mountains. This small village is surrounded by miles of hiking and biking trails that wind through the Italian countryside. The area’s many wineries and vineyards are another reason to visit Cornaiano. Combining all this with the great food and spectacular views of Cornaiano, you can easily see why it is one of the best hidden places in Italy.
Another fabulous, lesser-known place in Italy is the coastal town of Bogliasco. Thanks to its location on the western coast of Italy, Bogliasco boasts impressive seaside views. As you wander through town, you are surrounded by colorful Italian houses and charming cafés. Enjoy some fresh Mediterranean food with a view by dining al fresco while in Bogliasco before enjoying a glass of wine by the ocean. You will quickly see why this town hosts such a fabulous little community.
Trieste is a hidden gem in Italy with a unique style. One such aspect that illustrates the uniqueness of Trieste is the town’s dialect, which combines Greek, Croatian, Austrian-German, and Italian. This unique dialect is attributed to the fact that numerous cultures have influenced the region throughout its history.
Located on a slip of land that borders Slovenia, Trieste is a beautiful mix of historic buildings, excellent museums, and fabulous seaside views. The harbor is filled with beautiful yachts, and the Piazza Unita Italia hugs the sea’s edge. History lovers will want to visit the many historic sites throughout town, including the Roman Amphitheatre, the Trieste Cathedral, and the Castle of Saint Giusto. After exploring Trieste’s beaches and surrounding vineyards, you will surely fall in love with this Italian gem.
8. The Trulli Houses
The central-southern area of Puglia, Italy, is home to a unique style of home called the trullo (or Trulli in the plural tense). These homes, made of limestone with conical roofs, are generally painted white and constructed using dry-stone masonry, meaning they do not contain any mortar. Head to the town of Alberobello to see a grouping of over 1,500 of these homes. The city is so unique that it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site!
Be sure to visit Trullo Sovrano during your visit. Trullo Sovrano is the only trullo with two stories. Once inside, you can tour the trullo and visit the small museum. After your tour, grab a gelato from Arte Fredda Gelateria before checking out the Sant’Antonio Church.
9. Ostia Antica
When we visited Ostia Antica during the busy summer tourist season, I was surprised to see how few people made the 45-minute trip from Rome to this ancient seaport town. The city, full of incredible ruins that allow your imagination to run wild, is a must-see gem in Italy. Walk along the ancient streets to see Ostia’s incredible theater (still used for concerts today) before touring the small museum to view some of the statues at the site.
Of course, like most ancient Roman towns, there is evidence of a grand Forum and a large bathhouse. The remaining mosaic at the bathhouse illustrates Neptune riding four horses along the ocean’s waves and is in remarkable shape, given its age. As you wander through the streets of Ostia Antica, keep your eyes peeled for hidden clues as to the purpose of the different buildings. Some have mosaics outside that serve as ancient signs illustrating their purpose. Ostia Antica is a little hidden gem in Italy that makes for an easy day trip from Rome. Visiting is like stepping back in time.
Please visit the Ostia Antica website for ticket prices and opening hours information.
10. Antholz Valley
In the northern section of Italy, close to the border of Austria, lies a breathtaking, storybook-like destination known as the Antholz Valley. The valley, most famous for its Biathlon Center, is an authentic Italian hidden gem for any outdoor enthusiast. During the winter months, the Antholz Valley is packed with skiers enjoying the tremendous mountainous terrain, and in the summer, the hills come alive with hikers and nature lovers.
One of the most popular places to enjoy hiking and skiing is the Rieserferner-Ahrn Nature Park. This vast park encompasses over 31,000 hectares (well over 76,500 acres) and contains many glaciers. If you want a more relaxing hike, you should visit the flat terrain surrounding the beautiful Lake Antholz, located next door to the Biathlon Center. Take time to explore the region’s delicious cuisine and taste some homemade Grappa to round out your experience in this pristine valley.
Pro Tip: Ask A Local
To explore the lesser-known regions of Italy is to truly experience the authentic charm associated with the country’s different regions. While visiting the larger cities, I often ask the locals what hidden gems they recommend. Specifically, I ask them to tell me where they like to escape when they want a few days away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. This question has opened so many doors to discovering the many hidden gems that Italy has to offer.