Italy might be one of the most popular summer destinations, with its fantastic beaches and delicious cuisine. But there’s even more to this country than its most famous spots. Let me show you some of my favorite ones!
To get to Italy, you can take advantage of one of the many cheap flight deals Flytrippers spots. Flights to Europe are often as low as the $400s roundtrip from Toronto and Montréal for example, so you can try the self-transfer tip to fly to Italy for less.
I’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time in this country and visit several destinations.
Here are my top 5 places I traveled to in this beautiful country and an honorable mention I just couldn’t help myself from including. While most of these destinations can be explored in just 1 day if you’re short on time, I’ll highlight the two that, in my opinion, deserve at least a 3-day visit.
Perugia is the capital of the Umbria region, renowned for its old town and well-preserved walls; it dates back to the Etruscan period, making it nearly 2300 years old!
I was there back in 2019 and had little expectation — so I was surprised by how fascinating this place turned out to be.
The city’s structure is split into levels, the Old Town center covering a high hilltop at 482 meters height.
Fun fact, because of that unusual place of settlement, to reach the city’s main square you need to take an elevator or escalators.
Once you reach the Old Town, you’ll see the Rocca Paolina, a Renaissance fortress built in 1543. Its construction destroyed a large number of Etruscan, Roman, and medieval buildings and turned the former streets of the historic city center into underground passageways.
Yes, believe it or not, there’s a whole underground city beneath Perugia’s main square open to the public — even more escalators!
It’s genuinely fascinating.
It’s the only place I have known with such a surprising architectural scheme.
Perugia is also known for its delightful local chocolate. So much so that the city is nicknamed affectionately “The Town of Chocolate”.
Alongside indulging in these sweet treats, you can visit gorgeous landmarks such as the Chapel of San Severo, the Fontana Maggiore, the Palazzo dei Priori, and of course the University of Perugia (which dates back to 1308!).
Matera is located in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy. It’s well renowned for its historic urban areas known as the Sassi, which were carved into the mountainside.
It’s hard to explain the Sassi — the occupation of the region dates back to the 10th millennium BC. In the beginning, it was a complex of cave habitations spanning around 12 levels and reaching a height of 380 m, all connected by a network of paths, stairways, and courtyards.
It’s huge and it barely looks real; I can’t compare it to any other landscapes I’ve seen before.
Arguably the most popular destination on this list, I just couldn’t not mention Florence. I would recommend a minimum of 3 days to visit!
Few destinations in the world live up to its hype, but in my personal opinion, Florence is one of them.
Florence is the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region. It is most commonly known for its relevance in the history of art, being home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture, such as Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture.
And maybe its importance in the world of art is exactly what makes the city so enchanting. I mean, it’s practically a piece of art in itself; its Historic Centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.
And as for food you just have to try the gnocchi at Osteria Santo Spirito.
This one might be a bit of a cheat since Cinque Terre, in the Liguria region, is actually 5 villages in one destination — that’s where the name comes from, Cinque Terre means “Five Lands” in Italian.
Vernazza and Manarola might have the most known sceneries, with their colorful houses piling up at the edge of the coast. Perched high up, Corniglia is the most unusual one since it is the only village in the area not directly adjacent to the sea.
Still, they all follow the same architectural pattern and are gorgeous to visit. There’s a train that links all the Cinque Terre cities, but you can also hike your way through most of them.
Unfortunately, when I visited it the footpaths were closed for maintenance, but I’ve been told by several travelers how much walking between those villages enriched their experience. All the hikes are known for offering stunning views and being very well-maintained.
Only 2 of the hikes have an entrance fee: Monterosso-Vernazza and Vernazza-Corniglia, each €7.50/day (∼ $11).
Also, the hike that links Manarola and Riomaggiore is especially popular, locally called Via dell’Amore, or Lover’s Lane. It’s also the shortest distance hike, taking only 30 minutes to be completed.
You can find all the details about these footpaths on the Cinque Terre official website.
It’s located very near an active volcano at Mount Etna. I would also recommend staying there for at least 3 days. Interesting fact for television lovers, it’s also where the latest season of the hit show The White Lotus took place (at the San Domenico Palace, Taormina, a Four Seasons Hotel).
The old town stands about 250 meters above the Ionian Sea, making the view from all its edges spectacular.
You can also visit the ancient theater of Taormina, where, to this day, you can watch several performances. And if lucky, you can also sit through a movie during the world-famous Taormina Film Fest which usually takes place at the end of June.
And when it comes to food, the local specialty is arancini, delicious deep-fried stuffed rice balls.
Bonus: Honorable mention to Pompei (Naples, Italy)
At Flytrippers, we like giving you more bang for your buck so we like to add bonuses to lists.
But I couldn’t help myself, this is the most shocking place I’ve ever been to. There’s nowhere else like Pompeii.
Located near Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii used to be an ancient Roman city, but was buried in ashes at the eruption of the volcano in AD 79.
The disaster made the entire area somewhat preserved and you can now get a glimpse of ancient life by walking through its ruins.
I’ve been to many archeological sites before, but nothing compares to Pompeii — from arenas to stores and entire neighborhoods, you can see it all as if traveling through time.
The ash preserved old paintings, murals, graffiti, and even a house entrance mosaic that says “Beware of the dog” in ancient Roman.
It’s shocking to see how much and how little society has changed since then.
Tickets vary from €22-€75, depending on what options you choose.
You can also visit Herculaneum, another city affected by the eruption but a bit smaller than Pompeii.
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Featured image: Isola Bella (photo credit: Indira R Oliveira)