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10 Beautiful Underrated Places in Italy

Ditch crowded cities for these lesser-visited locales.

U.S. News & World Report

10 Beautiful Underrated Places in Italy

Porta Palazzo is the square of Turin (Piedmont Italy) the largest market in Europe
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(Getty Images)

Forgo famous cities to explore off-the-beaten track spots.

Italy may conjure images of iconic ruins, enchanting canals, Renaissance paintings, rolling vineyards and remarkable cuisine, but there's much more to include on your itinerary than world-renowned cities such as Rome, Florence and Venice. With flourishing food, fashion and art scenes and alluring tucked-away coastal retreats and hamlets, Italy's diverse destinations appeal to a wide range of traveler types and interests. And since many of the country's most legendary destinations are filled with a crush of tourists at this time of year, there's no better time to spend the remaining days of summer than in these 10 underrated Italian cities.
Picturesque old port town of Stintino, Sardinia, Italy.
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(Getty Images)

Sardinia

Set along the Mediterranean Sea, this rugged Italian isle is most famous for its clear waters, verdant mountains and sunny coastlines. In particular, the Emerald Coast is a hub for international jet-setters, as is Porto Corvo, so prepare yourself for a glamorous getaway. Relax on one of the area's pristine beaches, explore nearby coastal towns or unwind at a luxury hotel like Hotel Pitrizza, which features private villas with an infinity pool overlooking the Mediterranean and mouthwatering cuisine.
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Forgo famous cities to explore off-the-beaten track spots.

Italy may conjure images of iconic ruins, enchanting canals, Renaissance paintings, rolling vineyards and remarkable cuisine, but there's much more to include on your itinerary than world-renowned cities such as Rome, Florence and Venice. With flourishing food, fashion and art scenes and alluring tucked-away coastal retreats and hamlets, Italy's diverse destinations appeal to a wide range of traveler types and interests. And since many of the country's most legendary destinations are filled with a crush of tourists at this time of year, there's no better time to spend the remaining days of summer than in these 10 underrated Italian cities.

Sardinia

Set along the Mediterranean Sea, this rugged Italian isle is most famous for its clear waters, verdant mountains and sunny coastlines. In particular, the Emerald Coast is a hub for international jet-setters, as is Porto Corvo, so prepare yourself for a glamorous getaway. Relax on one of the area's pristine beaches, explore nearby coastal towns or unwind at a luxury hotel like Hotel Pitrizza, which features private villas with an infinity pool overlooking the Mediterranean and mouthwatering cuisine.

Bologna

Home to the University of Bologna – the oldest university in the world, with a history that dates back to 1088 – this charming Italian destination is as culture-fueled as it is beautiful. Walk around the Piazza Maggiore, Bologna's sprawling plaza, which brims with arched colonnades, cafes and Renaissance structures, such as the Fountain of Neptune and the Basilica of San Petronio. And aside from the city's historical and cultural gems, Bologna is renowned for its food and wine – from tortellini to Parmigiano-Reggiano – so don't miss savoring leisurely meals at authentic trattorias.

Ravello

Peering over the picturesque hills of the Amalfi Coast, Ravello is a refined resort town. Cliffside gardens welcome visitors on the winding drive above the Bay of Salerno. Unwind and soak in the scenery from a high-end hotel like Villa Cimbrone, which was built in the 11th century. After taking in striking architecture and strolling through charming piazzas, enjoy a memorable meal at the Michelin-starred Il Flauto di Pan at Villa Cimbrone.

Matera

Located in southern Italy, this unique city features a historic city center, Sassi. The Sassi di Matera (meaning "stones of Matera") originated as a prehistoric settlement, and its cave dwellings are thought to be among the first human settlements in Italy. Many of them are tucked-away caverns, and some have been converted into dining establishments and hotels. Across the city, you'll also find intriguing piazzas and Baroque churches.

Parma

Set in Italy's Emilia-Romagna region, Parma is most renowned for its gastronomic contributions as the birthplace of Parmesan cheese and Parma ham. Enjoy a memorable meal at La Greppia restaurant, where you can indulge in homemade pastas, or Ristorante Cocchi, where dishes include Parmesan- and risotto-filled ham topped with veal polpettini and porcini ragu. Afterward, stroll through the city's impeccable piazzas and admire Baroque art at the National Gallery before continuing on to explore the surrounding countryside.

Abruzzo

Located in the Apennine Mountains, central Italy's Abruzzo region is rich in natural splendors. Filled with a variety of natural reserves, including the National Park of Abruzzo and Mount Majella, the area offers picturesque views of the Adriatic coast. Small villages also populate the area, and there are verdant vineyards, monasteries and castles worth exploring. Best of all, Abruzzo's hilly landscapes are less-traveled, so you won't have to worry about battling crowds as you soak in the surroundings and savor top-tier wine from the Montepulciano d'Abruzzo region.

Padua

Best known as a romantic setting for Shakespearean plays, Padua enchants visitors with its Cappella degli Scrovegni, a picturesque chapel that houses impressive Renaissance masterpieces and striking frescoes. Legendary masters Dante, Leonardo da Vinci and Vasari pay homage to Giotto with paintings drawn inside the Cappella degi Scrovegni between 1303 and 1305. After taking in the dazzling art on display, make your way to the lush Orto Botanico, which features a Renaissance-inspired garden.

Assisi

Located in central Italy, Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi, who is renowned for founding the Franciscan order in 1208. In Assisi, you'll find striking architecture and iconic religious sites. You can't skip visiting the Basilica di San Francesco or the Santo Stefano, one of the oldest churches of Assisi. After taking in town's sights and religious shrines, carve out some time to explore the greater Umbria, which boasts top-notch wine-producing areas and divine truffles.

Trieste

Set in northeastern Italy along the Adriatic Sea, Trieste features a melting pot of German, Latin and Slavic cultural influences. The roots of Trieste's vibrancy can be felt in its majestic square of Piazza Unità d'Italia. Other must-sees include the medieval city of Città Vecchia (the Old City), the Austrian quarter and the Trieste Cathedral. After taking in the sights, sit down for a meal at a traditional trattoria before taking in impressive art at the Museo Sartorio.

Turin

About 200 years ago, Turin (also known as Torino) was home to Italy's royal family. Remnants of the city's former regal glory are reflected in its unique monuments and sites, such as the graceful archways over its sidewalks, the elegant Piazza San Carlo and Baroque, Rococo and neoclassical style architecture. Set in Piedmont, to the west of Milan, Turin is also known for its burgeoning coffee culture, top-tier Nebbiolo wine varieties and sleek Lingotto car district. Whatever you do, don’t pass up the opportunity to take in the Piazza Castello, the residence of the Palazzo Reale.
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