8 Gems of Italy to Visit

When it comes to exploring Italy, the big names always win out and get most of the attention… places like Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Lake Como, Venice and the Amalfi Coast. But there is more to Italy than just the main tourist areas – spend the time and dig a bit deeper and you will find an array of authentic places that will blow you away.

The mountains of Cortina D'ampezzo.

The mountains of Cortina D’ampezzo.

Bologna

Bologna is a large city packed full of well-preserved medieval and Renaissance buildings and sights. It gets about half as much tourists as nearby Florence, but is equal in beauty to Florence. You can easily spend a few days in Bologna exploring this ancient city that dates back way before the birth of Christ.

Lake Maggiore

Stunning Lake Maggioro.

Stunning Lake Maggiore.

Almost all tourists go to nearby Lake Como, however only a short distance way is the beautiful Lake Maggiore, with alpine mountains in the background and quaint villages along the lakeside; it’s an incredible place. A visit to beautiful Isola Bella to explore the stunning botanical gardens and grand summer house is a must.

The lovely grounds of Isabello.

The lovely grounds of Isola Bella.

Palermo

Outside Palermo Cathedral.

Outside Palermo Cathedral.

The capital city of Sicily, Palermo is a big grimy city, but it’s a fantastic place to explore as its real and not “put on” for the tourist. It’s a mix of cultures and colours, a real feast for your senses as its been at the cross roads of European empires for thousands of years.

Alberobello

The wonderful Trulli houses in Alberobello.

The wonderful Trulli houses in Alberobello.

The small town Alberobello is located right in the heel of the boot of Italy in the deep-south. Why Alberobello? Modernisation seems to have passed it by, giving you a feel what Italy would have been like the past, plus this white washed town is famous for its buildings called “trulli”, domed type structures that people live in and are very unique.

Taormina

P1000402The small charming tourist town of Taormina is perched on the cliffside of eastern Sicily and offers breathtaking views of the bay below. The main streets are lively, full of great places to eat and shops full of local handicrafts. Make sure you visit the well preserved remains of the ancient Greek theatre on the outskirts of town.

Cortina D’Ampezzo

On the mountain top!

On the mountain top!

High in the Dolomites, Cortina (as its better known) is a small town catering mainly for Europeans wanting to ski in winter and hike/bike in summer. The scenery around Cortina is stunning… high peaks, fast flowing rivers and lots of forests. Take a gondola up one of the mountains and enjoy an alpine walk with breathtaking mountain views.

Taking the gondola up into the mountains.

Taking the gondola up into the mountains.

Lucca

Located in the Tuscany region, the historic walled town of Lucca is a true gem. You won’t find busloads of tourists like in Siena and Florence. Lucca is full of clothing boutiques and restaurants all catering for locals rather than tourists, so the experience you have will be authentically Italian.

Portofino

Beautiful Portofino.

Beautiful Portofino.

Although Portofino is very touristy, it gets less attention and tourists than the Cinque Terre to its immediate south. Portofino is a place to spend a few hours, enjoy a fabulous fresh seafood lunch and delve into the few streets that head inland from the quaint harbour, all of  which are full of shops and cafes. Make sure you bring your camera as Portofino is spectacular.

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