Italy: probably my favourite European trek haunt. It’s beautiful, warm, sexy, the food’s great and the wine’s fantastic. Oh, and the women are pretty gorgeous too lol 😉
CN Traveller wises us up on the cutest little towns and villages to explore. – Ned
1. Atrani (Campania)
Tucked between two cliffs overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea, the tiny, picturesque village of Atrani is the Amalfi Coast’s best-kept secret. It’s often bypassed en route to the larger and more famous towns of Amalfi, Positano, and Sorrento, and this is a good thing—you’ll almost always have its beautiful churches, piazzas and charming trattorias (we love A’Paranza for its fresh seafood and smoked mozzarella) all to yourself. Added bonus: it’s an easy 30-minute stroll from Amalfi.
2. Saluzzo (Piedmont)
Just an hour’s drive south of Turin, you’ll find the sleepy medieval town of Saluzzo—a pretty sweep of red-tiled rooftops, bell towers, and ancient spires backed by the snow-capped Cottian Alps. Highlights include La Castiglia, a 14th Century castle, and the Casa Cavassa, a Renaissance palazzo-turned-museum that’s home to some spectacular gold-leaf paintings and frescoes.
3. Collodi (Tuscany)
Carved into the side of a hill in Tuscany between Florence and Pisa, you’ll find Collodi: a gorgeous medieval village famous for being the home of Pinocchio (or more accurately, its creator, Carlo Collodi). Don’t leave without stopping by Pinocchio Park, which boasts the tallest wooden Pinocchio statue in the world, and nearby Garzoni Gardens, filled with Renaissance statues, ornate fountains, and lush bamboo groves.
4. Castelluccio (Umbria)
Located atop a steep hill 5,000 feet above sea level, Castellucio is the highest village in the Appenine Mountain Range—and arguably the most beautiful. On one side, the village is backed by snow-capped mountains, and on the other, lush, fertile plains that blossom with red poppies, violets, and rapeseed in the spring (time your visit to the “Flowering,” from late May to early June). The town itself is charming, with many picturesque piazzas and a simple but lovely church.
5. Monte Isola (Lombardy)
Located on an island of the same name, the town of Monte Isola sits in the middle of one of Italy’s prettiest lakes, Lake Iseo. To get there, you’ll need to drive an hour and a half from Milan, then take a 20-minute ferry ride across the lake from the town of Iseo, but it’s well worth the effort. The quaint town boasts many excellent trattorias, lakeside cafés, cozy B&Bs, and the beautiful Madonna della Ceriola chapel, nestled at the summit of the island.
6. Alberobello (Puglia)
The main draw of Alberobello, a picturesque small town near Bari in Puglia, is its characteristic trulli: cone-shaped, white-tipped houses that look as if they’ve been perpetually dusted by snow. Thanks to this distinctive feature, the town was deemed so unique that it was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. For the best view over Alberobello and its trulli, head up to Piazza del Popolo, where the Belvedere Trulli lookout offers spectacular views of the entire town.
7. Belluno (Veneto)
Perched on high bluffs above the Piave River and backed by the snowcapped Dolomites, Belluno is without question one of Northern Italy’s most scenic small towns. Besides its stunning 360 degree views, you’ll find a charming historical town center packed with Renaissance-era buildings, palazzi, and Romanesque churches. Added bonus: it’s just a little over an hour’s drive from mainland Venice.
8. Pietrapertosa (Basilicata)
Pietrapertosa is one of the most dramatic towns in all of Italy: it’s carved into bare rock on the side of a mountain, and boasts an elevation of 3,500 feet above sea level. The town itself is beautiful, filled with ancient ruins and a ninth century Saracen castle—but the highlight of any visit is a ride on Il Volo dell’Angelo. It’s said to be the world’s highest zipline, and gives you an unbeatable aerial view over the entire town and its surroundings.
9. Cefalù (Sicily)
Located just an hour’s drive from Palermo, the medieval town of Cefalù is so postcard-pretty that many movies have been filmed here, including the much-loved Cinema Paradiso. Highlights include exploring the town’s many mosaic-adorned cathedrals, walking along its picturesque lungomare (seafront promenade), and catching the sunset from the towering La Rocca.
10. Sperlonga (Lazio)
Sperlonga was the former hideaway of many Roman emperors and it’s no wonder: the tiny town’s pristine beaches, lush greenery, and proximity to Rome—just an hour by train—makes it the perfect weekend escape. The town also has an excellent museum, Museo Archeologico di Sperlonga, which is set amongst the ancient ruins of Emperor Tiberius’ old villa. The Torre Truglia, located at the tip of the promontory on which Sperlonga is built, boasts the best views in town.