There’s more to Italy than the touristy cities of Rome and Venice. The picturesque countryside under the Tuscan sun, coastal plains and vast wineries speckled with quaint townships and charming fisherman villages off the Italian riviera make for an equally worthwhile experience. Here’s what makes these unsung alternatives a must visit.
Streaked with vineyards and dotted with a string of bright pastel painted houses, these five townships make Cinque Terre hard to beat. Since cars are not allowed in the region, this slice off the Italian coast is isolated and preserved in all its beauty. The narrow alleys are sandwiched between hills that often open into a sun-trapped piazza. These vintage settlements cling to the rocky coasts, and the unhurried pace of life has barely changed here in the last four centuries.
Take a passeggiata (evening stroll) along the harbour as dusk falls against the rugged Italian riviera.
HOW TO GET THERE: Trains and buses leave at regular intervals, packed with tourists. Once in the region, to go from one town to another the ferry is your best bet.
Unlike its popular cousin Lake Como, Garda, which is Italy’s largest freshwater lake, is curiously unexplored let alone celebrated. Located at the edge of the Dolomites in northern Italy, this treasure trove of unspoilt beauty is a must visit for its incredible weather and camping facilities. Madre Natura has endowed this region with unsurpassed landscapes, making it a sports lover’s paradise. If snorkelling, jet skiing, paragliding amidst towering mountains, castles and crystal clear waters that shine brightly in the temperate Mediterranean climate are not reason enough to visit, then we don’t know what is!
Not in the mood for heart-pumping sports? Then make the historic town of Sirmione your base (it protrudes from the northern tip of Garda) for relaxing thermal baths, spas and panoramic walks.
HOW TO GET THERE: The closest airports are at Milan and Verona, from where you can take a ferry.
These stunning limestone Alps are the stuff wallpapers (if not dreams) and fancy Instagram posts are made of! Flower-freckled meadows dotted with rifugios (wooden mountain huts), lush forests and bubbling rivers – these quaint mountain ranges will remind you of all the enchanting locales seen in fairytales. For the more adventurous, there are hiking trails to an explosive volcano complex with granite spires and furrowing rivers.
Pressed for time and overwhelmed with choices? Then just stop by Cortina d’Ampezzo and Tirolo to partake in the Italian joys of dolce far niente.
HOW TO GET THERE: The Dolomites are well connected by train from Paris, Milan and all major cities in Europe.
Under the Tuscan sun lies two types of Italy. One is the Romanesque splendour and architectural marvels of Florence and Pisa, while the lush vineyards and artfully sited villas make for its humble counterpart. If the former captures your attention then by all means cover the Uffizi gallery and get inspired by the Renaissance art at the Florence Cathedral, but don’t just stop there! Take a day trip to Pisa and admire the ornate 14th century tower that tilts! Want more out of your trip? Then make sure to stop by San Miniato (its midway) and sample the renowned perfumed truffles of the region. If the latter is more suited to your tastes then Delle Belle Torri in San Gimignano is a must visit! This town has managed to preserve 15 medieval towers amidst an undulating landscape and will transport you to a different era. Alpi Apuane, known for its marble quarries and botanical wonders is another place you can sit in the lap of nature.
HOW TO GET THERE: Tuscany has two international airports – one in Pisa and the other in Florence. Both are well-connected.
Capri & Amalfi Coast
Hemmed by lofty mountains, the Amalfi Coast is extremely unadulterated. And Italy’s Sorrentine peninsula with its jagged coasts and shimmering waters that look up to a piercing blue skyline is a traveller’s delight! Sorrento, Positano and Naples are just few of the townships to explore. However, it is the magical Capri that steals hearts and makes for an ideal vacation destination! Take a ferry from Sorrento and be sure to explore this otherworldly island of southern Italy. While you’re at it, be sure to stop by the Blue Grotto – an underwater sea cavity that illuminates the cavern with a spell-binding blue reflection. It is a bus ride away from Anacapri and certainly worth a visit!
HOW TO GET THERE: Rent a car. The roads may be winding with tight curves along a craggy and plunging coastline but the dramatic views make it worthwhile!
Steeped in rich Italian charm, Genoa overlooks the Ligurian Sea. And with a largely unadulterated Mediterranean coastline, Genoa is la superba in its own right. The cobblestone alleyways flanked by expansive and graffiti laden walls lead to the main piazza – the Ferrari Square. From here take a segway tour or an e-rickshaw to explore the labyrinthine alleys of the old city. Porta Soprana and Forte Begato are two places that offer great insights into the historical relevance of the city.
Genoa may be eclipsed by the bright lights of Milan and other neighbouring cities but that doesn’t make it dull!
HOW TO GET THERE: Genoa has its own airport. Inter-city transport is highly advanced.