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The best small towns and villages to visit in Italy

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Escape the hustle and bustle of Italy's large cities by retreating to charming small towns and villages. And nothing goes better with small towns than small groups. Exploring Italy on foot or on a cycling tour of Italy with a small group, far away from crowds of tourists, you'll connect with Italian culture on a more intimate, personal level.

One-of-a-kind experiences await in destinations from dreamy coastal villages of colourful houses to walled towns with medieval watchtowers overlooking the surrounding countryside. While some are famous destinations, others are hidden gems where you can sample local specialties and visit underappreciated cultural treasures.

 

The top small towns in Italy to visit

Whether you want to wander the cobbled streets of a medieval village, or sip local wines in the central plaza of a hilltop town, here is our selection of the best villages and small towns in Italy in which to do so.

 

Barbaresco, Piedmont

Perched at the top of a steep hill overlooking the surrounding rolling vineyards, this  charming town of red-tiled roofs and historic buildings in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, shares its name with the aromatic barbaresco wines for which it is famous. Panoramic views provide the perfect accompaniment to a glass or two of the locally produced, full-bodied reds.

Brisighella, Emilia-Romagna

Spread across three hills overlooking the River Lamone Valley in the Emilia-Romagna region, the little-known town of Brisighella receives few visitors. Those that do arrive can take in sweeping views from the towering Rocca Manfrediana castle, before sampling the highly esteemed, emerald-hued local olive oil in one of the town’s many cafes or restaurants. Active travellers can hike the trails in nearby Carne Park or explore the forest and rocky terrain of the Vena del Gesso Romagnola nature reserve. Visit Brisighella on our Emilia Romagna walking tour.

Cala Gonone, Sardinia

Travelling to the remote coastal town of Cala Gonone on the island of Sardinia is  an adventure in and of itself, involving either a ferry boat ride from Olbia or Arbatax, or a white-knuckle drive down hairpin turns on mountain roads. But once here, you'll discover white sand beaches overlooking sparkling turquoise waters, great seafood restaurants, and a rugged coastline of coves, inlets and lagoons waiting to be explored.

Cinque Terre, Liguria

You've undoubtedly seen photos of the colourful cliffside houses of Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera. But what you may not know is that Cinque Terre is actually a string of five villages connected by trails. Each of the Cinque Terre villages – Corniglia, Riomaggiore, Manarola, Monterosso al Mare, and Vernazza – has its own character and offerings. But what they all have in common are spectacular sea views and narrow winding streets lined with vibrantly-painted houses and seafood trattorias.

Comacchio, Emilia Romagna

Experience Venice without the crowds in the small town of Comacchio, south down the coast in the region of Emilia-Romagna. Known as Little Venice, this former naval port town is similarly built over water on small islands, in a coastal lagoon where the Po River meets the Adriatic Sea. Discover the town as you stroll alongside canals, cross spectacular bridges and visit historic buildings, such as the Bellini Palace and San Cassiano Cathedral.

Erice, Sicily

Sitting atop the ruins of an ancient city, this mountaintop medieval village in  western Sicily displays cultural influences from the Greeks to the Spanish. Notable for its stone streets, and medieval churches and palaces, it is also home to two castles: the 12th-century Castello di Venere and the fortified Castello del Balio o Pepoli, both of which offer breathtaking views of the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Positano, Campania

A must-visit on the Amalfi Coast and one of the most beautiful villages in Southern Italy, the town of Positano is known for its tiers of colourful houses along coastal cliffs, pretty beaches and spectacular sea views. An iconic getaway destination for Italians and visitors alike, it can get crowded during high season.

Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Encircled by a fortified wall, the well-preserved small Italian town of Monteriggioni in Tuscany offers sweeping views of the surrounding Chianti region from its medieval watchtowers. Just an hour from Florence by car, making it an easy day trip, the town is known for its annual Medieval Festival held each July.

Menaggio, Lombardy

The towns on the shores of Lake Como are perfect spots for truly experiencing la dolce vita, and Menaggio is one of the most beautiful towns in the area. With a historic center, lovely lakefront promenade and abundant shopping and dining opportunities, this pretty town exudes class and style. Other popular lakeside towns including Varenna are just a short boat ride away. 

Gallipoli, Puglia

The coastal medieval town of Gallipoli is home to a wealth of history, from its 14th-century city walls to the island-bound old town centre which is connected to the mainland by a bridge. Attractions include the imposing 13th-century castle and Rivellino tower, and St Agatha’s Cathedral housing impressive frescoes and paintings.

 

Experience a different side of Italy in her small towns and villages

While Italy's grand capitals of art, culture, and fashion are some of the country's star attractions, travellers won't want to miss visiting some of the beautiful small towns and villages around the country.

 

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