Italy is famous for its cities, full of stunning architecture, fascinating history, and great food. Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Milan, certainly represent a must see for those who visit Italy for the first time. It is mandatory to come to Italy and visit Colosseum, Vatican Museums or the Dome of Florence, St. Mark's Square in Venice, but Italy has also even more to offer, such as wonderful small villages.
However, sometimes you need to get away from the hustle and bustle to find somewhere to relax and enjoy at a slower pace. Italy is plenty of villages, where time seem to be "frozen in time", where you will probably find the authentic soul of Italians.
Here are ten of the best small villages in Italy that we’re pretty sure you don’t know about. After reading about them, you’ll be sure to find ways to try and fit them in to your next trip!
1. Bagno Vignoni (Tuscany)
You might recognise Bagno Vignoni – it is after all one of the most popular postcards that you see in Tuscany. Located in the wonderful Val d’Orcia, the village is famous for its spas, once used as healing point for pilgrims travelling to Rome on the via Francigena. Nowadays, tourists can enter – completely free!
There’s another pool in the centre of the village, but that you’ll just have to be content with taking photos of that one.
Bagno Vignoni is 120km south of Florence and can be reached in around 2 hours and half both from Florence and from Rome. If you wish to discover the beatiful Val d'Orcia, check our full day tour to Montalcino, Montepulciano and Val d'Orcia wine roads or, if you prefer a more intimate experience, a tour of Val d'Orcia with private guide.
2. Città della Pieve (Umbria)
The perfect spot for history lovers, Città della Pieve is located on the spot thought to be where Etruscan and Roman settlements lay long before its construction. The town is perched on a hill and overlooks the countryside where Umbria merges into Tuscany.
Its location means that you can try the best of both regions’ cuisines in this charming little village.
The best time to come is during the Palio dei Terzieri, where the 3 districts of the village face off with an archery competition.
Città della Pieve is in the province of Perugia. It’s 132km south of Florence, and 154km North of Rome. For those interested in discovering more of Umbria region, the so called "green heart of Italy", we suggest our day trip from Florence to Umbria (Assisi and Perugia) or, if you depart from Rome, the semiprivate tour to Assisi and Orvieto.
3. Bosa (Sardinia)
Want to visit a beach town with a difference? Bosa, in Sardinia is the village for you. Although it’s surrounded by 4 stunning beaches, this medieval town on the Costa Smeralda is just as famous for the pastel coloured houses and narrow alleys of its old town.
Don’t miss the delicious and renowned Malvasia wine when visiting. Look out for the D.O.C mark for the highest quality bottles.
Bosa is 45km south of Alghero, and you can reach the town by bus. To visit the most beautiful beaches of Sardinia, do not miss our Excursion from Cagliari to the South East of Sardinia. To discover the wild part of Sardinia, check our day trip across Barbagia mountain areas from Cagliari.
4. Orta San Giulio
Let's go North, on the borders between Lombardia and Piedment region. On the Eastern shores sloping down into Lago di Orta, you’ll find the romantic village of Orta San Giulio. Take in the spectacular views of Isla San Giulio and the lake from Piazza Motta, or wander the pretty, narrow lanes.
The cobbled streets lead up to Sacro Monte di Orta, a UNESCO World heritage site once described by Nietzsche as one of the most evocative places in the world. Perfect.
Orta San Giulio is easily reachable both from Milan and from Turin, in about 1 hour and half. To discover the Lake areas in the North of Italy, have a look at our half day trip to the Lake Maggiore from Milan or live an exclusive experience on Lake Como with a private tour from Milan, with a minicruise on the Lake.
5. Calcata (Lazio)
A town that is somewhere between hippie commune and medieval ghost town, Calcata is well worth a visit from the capital Rome.
Built atop a rocky crag, the village was condemned in the 30s due to concerns about structural integrity, but many artists moved in the years after the original residents left. Nowadays, the former ruins have been restored and revitalised, and it’s a great place to see an alternative side of Italy.
Calcata is part of the province of Viterbo and is 47km north of Rome by car. Check out our private transfer services from Rome or ask us a custom quotation for a day in Clacata or any other village in Lazio region.
6. Sant'Agata de'Goti (Campania)
We are in Campania region now, which does not mean only Naples, Pompeii and Amalfi Coast, but also nice little villages. Cross over the bridge spanning a river gorge into Sant’Agata dei Goti and feel yourself stepping back in time.
A plethora of history, with churches dating back to the 13th century, and a castle complete with frescoes from the 1100s, this often overlooked village should definitely be under consideration on your next trip to Campania.
The village is famous for its fruit, and when here you should try the mela annurca – a small apple typical of the region.
Sant’Agata dei Goti is in Benevento province and located 44km North East of Naples by car.
7. Castelmezzano (Basilicata)
There is a club dedicated to the most beautiful villages in Italy. Unsurprisingly, Castelmezzano, set against a backdrop of Lucania's Dolomite mountains, makes that list. It's especially beautiful during the night, when the whole village is eerily lit.
For the adrenaline junkies visiting Castelmezzano, don't miss il Volo dell'angelo (The angel's flight), a zipwire across the valley which reaches speeds of 70mph.
Castelmezzano is a little more than 1 hour by car from Matera, the beautiful city built in stone, famous all over the world, also for being set for international movies like "The Passion of the Christ".
To discover also this part of Italy, we have an amazing 9 days escorted tour of Sicily, Apulia and Matera.
8. Bressanone (Trentino Alto Adige)
Bressanone, also known is Brixen, is said to be the most beautiful town in all of Tyrol. It is most famous for the stunning baroque cathedral and its marble interior, and also the Chiostro de Bressanone – a Romanesque cloister complete with beautiful medieval frescoes.
As well as the town’s fine historic centre, it’s also a great destination for adventurers – Mount Plose is 7km from Bressanone, which has excellent skiing in the winter, and a range of hiking and biking routes in Summer.
Bressanone is one hour from Bolzano by car, or an hour and a half on public transport.
9. Scanno (Abruzzo)
Not only is the village beautiful, the drive in through the Sagittarius Gorge and past the Lago di Scanno will take your breath away, crossing the beautiful region of Abruzzo.
Then you reach the Scanno itself. Perched on a hill and surrounded by the forests of the Apennine mountains, it's beautiful year-round.
The historic centre has a number of beautiful small churches, narrow alleys and streets, and of course great restaurants. Looks out for some of the older residents wearing traditional clothing too.
Scanno is directly east of Rome. The drive is 154km and takes around 2 hours.
10. Petralia Soprana (Sicily)
Sicily could not miss of that list. The highest village in the Madonie mountain range, Petralia Soprana is a natural balcony where three viewpoints offer a sublime view of Mount Etna.
However, there’s more to the village than just the spectacular views of the mountain – the piazzas, palazzos, and narrow streets of the old town are steeped in history. For something a little different, head to the Raffo neighbourhood where you can visit the Salt Museum, complete with salt sculptures made by several different artists.
Petralia Soprana is 70km south east of Palermo. You can driver the in an hour and a half. Discover the best of Sicily with a 8 days tour of Sicily departing from Palermo or the 5 days escorted tour from Palermo to Catania.