When visiting Italy, most travellers make a beeline for famous cities like Rome, Venice, Florence, and Milan.
But some of the country’s dreamiest holiday destinations are tiny, little-known towns and villages off the beaten tourist track. From sleepy Sicilian seaside escapes to postcard-perfect Tuscan hamlets.
While this triumvirate of tourist destinations is a must-do for any first-time visitor to Italy, many of the country’s greatest charms can only be experienced in small Italian villages —places where you can slip away from the crowds, wander down deserted cobblestone lanes, and get a first-hand look at how the locals live.
When Italy shuttered for the lockdown, the obscure village of Campli, in the central region of Abruzzo, got to work. Its mission was simple: to put itself on tourists’ maps.
It is not short of attractions, with churches frescoed by students of Giotto and Raphael, acres of lush woodland and Abruzzo’s oldest Sagra della Porchetta, a traditional festival in which locals feast on succulent, slow-cooked pork.
And when Italy reopened regional borders on 3 June, Campli was ready to cash in. “BorGO!”, a new package of initiatives, runs on Saturday evenings through June: the pedestrianised historic centre will be given over to restaurateurs; the cathedral and Santa Scala shrine will stay open until 11 pm, and there will be free guided tours of landmarks such as the Palazzo Farnese, also until 11 pm.
Villages like Alberobello is a lovely town near Bari. It is home to the trulli, cone-shaped white buildings that look like houses straight out of fairy tales.
Bergamo, a town often ignored by travellers attracted by the fame of the region’s capital city, an anticipated boom in domestic holidays this year has galvanised Italy’s Borghi (villages).
While the block on international travel has ravaged tourism – the industry, which usually generates 13% of Italy’s GDP, could take a hit of €20bn this summer from reduced foreign visits alone – the government has asked locals to plug the gap.
Half of a €4bn tourism rescue package announced last month will fund a tax credit of up to €500 for Italian families who holiday domestically. “Take your vacations in Italy,” implored prime minister Giuseppe Conte in parliament. “We will discover the beauties we do not yet know.
There’s no better place to rediscover the simple pleasures of vacation than in a laid-back village in Italy.
Move at the pace of the locals, indulge in local foods, and explore the surrounding areas, and you just may find a new home-away-from-home.