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Hidden Villages of Italy: Off the Beaten Path Adventures

Italy is the most popular tourist destination in the world. Beloved by everyone from the United States to mainland China, it has an incredible tourist industry and some of the world's most impressive historical sites. However, this does lead to some problems, such as crowds, price gouging, and fewer authentic eateries in and around the famous sites. Because of this, we believe it's worth seeking out some lesser-known gems generally found in hidden villages.

Italian Villages

1. Cinque Terre

Corniglia is one of many beautiful hidden villages in Italy (photo: Ansgar Scheffold).
Corniglia (photo: Ansgar Scheffold)

Cinque Terre is known for its five core villages, but hidden treasures like Corniglia and Manarola are often overlooked. Corniglia is perched on a hilltop, providing stunning vineyard views and a peaceful atmosphere. Manarola is another option close by, with colorful houses clinging to the cliffs and picturesque scenes all around.

These villages can be cut through when walking on the nearby 8-day trail. Essentially, you needn't plan which ones to visit as you will see so many and can hang around for a few hours longer at the ones you enjoy most. There are many hiking trails in Italy; generally, it's the best way to stumble across villages even we don't know about.

2. Matera, Basilicata

Matera, as seen from a cave at sunset (photo: Luca Micheli).
Cave view of Matera at sunset (photo: Luca Micheli)

Matera is renowned for its ancient cave dwellings, known as Sassi, which date back thousands of years. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a journey through time with its well-preserved structures.  Visitors can explore the winding streets and visit cave churches, gaining insight into the city's history. This highlights that the grand Roman history exists far beyond Rome. Authentic cultural experiences are all around, from sampling local food to learning about traditional crafts.

3. Civita di Bagnoregio, Lazio

Hilltop village of Civita di Bagnoregio (photo: Viviana Couto Sayalero).
Hidden village of Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy (photo: Viviana Couto Sayalero)

Civita di Bagnoregio, often called the “Dying City,” sits atop a hill and is accessible only via a pedestrian bridge. It's a few hours outside Rome and boasts otherworldly medieval architecture and landscape views. The narrow, winding streets and ancient buildings are stunning and an incredible place to come as a photographer. Explore the old stone houses and small museums of Civita di Bagnoregio, which can take you off the beaten path when traveling in Italy.

4. Alberobello, Puglia

Trulli buildings in the hidden village of Alberobello, Italy (photo: Mathilde Ro).
Trulli buildings in Alberobello (photo: Mathilde Ro)

Alberobello is famous for its unique trulli houses with conical roofs. It's yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, but this time, it showcases traditional Apulian architecture. You'll never get bored of walking through its narrow streets and whitewashed stone buildings, with plenty of places to learn about the history. Traditional Apulian food, such as orecchiette pasta and fresh seafood, can be enjoyed in the cozy local restaurants.

5. San Gimignano, Tuscany

Towers of San Gimignano (photo: Mattia Bericchia).
Towers of San Gimignano (photo: Mattia Bericchia)

Visiting San Gimignano, known for its medieval towers, is like stepping back in time. The historic town center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and offers the opportunity to climb some towers for breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding Tuscan countryside. The town is famous for its wine, particularly Vernaccia di San Gimignano, which you can find in almost every eatery.


Exploring Italy's hidden villages is a much different experience from spending the weekend in Rome or Milan. While many of the same world-famous Italian sites are on travelers' bucket lists, these hidden villages and long countryside walks can offer respite. 


This story is published in partnership with Orbis Ways.

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