If you’re looking for the best hidden gems in Italy, then you’ve definitely reached the right page!

When I first landed in Italy, I must confess that I was initially quite overwhelmed by everything that was going on: ancient buildings interspaced between some of the most glamorous spots in Europe, the constant throngs of eager tourists pushing their way around, the traffic, and the kind of food that made me wish I’d packed bigger pants!

It was a lot to take in. But then again, anyone who’s ever been to Italy can tell you that this boot-shaped country definitely doesn’t do things halfway!

Here’s the good news though: as insanely popular as some areas of Italy are, the country does have plenty of cleverly concealed treasures. I’m talking unexplored fishing communes, medieval villages, natural swimming holes, high-altitude Alpine roads… the works!

But enough talking and let’s check out some of the most magical places in Italy!

Piedmont vineyard Italy
Be warned: Italia is addictive.

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    What’s Italy Like?

    Oh Italy. The history, captivating pageantry, the rolling hills of Toscana and the allure of Cinque Terre. It’s a country that always ensures you know exactly where you are. From the colors of your fresh Margherita pizza, green, white, and red, to the mythical Coliseum.

    The Italian cuisine has spread throughout the globe. But it leaves a lot to be said for those charming moments in small-town cafes.

    Here, old folks with wispy white hair sip tiny cups of espresso and indulge on small plates. All knowing back home, the morning whipping up handmade ravioli is about the pay off.

    Two women making pasta and italian food in Rome, Italy.
    Maria, la ravioli.
    Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

    Exploring Italy is a lot like this small moment. As you uncover the many regions, from Sicily to Pisa, you’ll learn there’s nothing quite like the real deal. Famous locations arrive in droves. But it’s the layers – dare I say – hidden gems that show you why Italy is special.

    In the quaint towns, surrounded by wheat fields, kids play football until the late hours. The community mingles and the days stretch on. In the big cities, age-old traditions infuse the culture with endless authenticity, allowing you to not just see but be a part of it.

    15 of the Best Hidden Spots in Italia

    Italy’s got that magnetic charm that draws travelers from far and wide. The culture, the aesthetics, the history – all part of that Italian experience.

    If you’re a travel ninja, you know that Italy is way more than just the tourist hubs. You can create an off-the-beaten-track itinerary that takes you through Italy’s hidden gems, each more enchanting than the last. We’re doing it here, right now!

    1. Visit the Unspoiled Coastal Town of Camogli

    The Coastal Town of Camogli
    Camogli is an Italian treasure.

    The hardest decision you’ll have to make when exploring Italy is deciding what to see first!

    In my opinion, there’s truly no better destination than Camogli! And if you’ve never heard of this coastal town before, that’s because it’s said to be one of the best-kept secrets in the country!

    Located just a 30-minute drive from Portofino, this coastal town is easily recognizable by its brightly-hued buildings. Legend has it that the buildings were deliberately painted in vivid colors to help the fishermen navigate their way back home when visibility was poor.

    In summer, you can always treat yourself to a warm piece of Focaccia bread from one of the many bakeries to enjoy on the pebble beach.

    As lovely as this fishing town is, I do have to warn you that it’s got quite a steep terrain since it was built on a hill – so be sure to wear your best hiking shoes.

    • Rating: 10/10 – Bucket List Essential         
    • Cost: $
    • Personal Opinion: Don’t miss it! A must-visit gem of excellence.

    2. Stroll Through Portovenere

    Portovenere's harbor and colorful buildings Italy
    Vibrant, yet so profoundly tranquil!

    Here’s one that totally takes the cake as far as hidden gems in Italy are concerned!

    One of my favorite Italian destinations, Portovenere is a medieval fishing village that’s as quaint as you can get! Located in the Liguria area, this village is commonly overshadowed by the insanely popular Cinque Terre. It’s perfect for travelers who want to head off the beaten track and avoid the crowds.

    To enter the village, you’ll need to cross through Porta del Borgo, an ancient city gate that dates back to medieval times.

    Narrow alleys and winding cobblestone streets beckon, punctuated by historical sites like Doria Castle, which offers splendid views of the Ligurian Sea and the Bay of Poets.

    Be sure to stop by Portovenere’s harbor, a super colorful area where you can simply relax on a bench overlooking the sea or treat yourself to a scrumptious pasta dish at one of the locally owned restaurants.

    • Rating: 7/10 – Off the Beaten Track
    • Cost: $
    • Personal Opinion:  Portovenere is pretty wonderful and definitely one of the best places in Italy.

    3. Step Back in Time in Canale di Tenno

    Mediaval buildings in el Canale di Tenno
    Canale di Tenno is a 13th-century treasure.

    Not only is this one of the most beautiful Italian hideaways, but Canale di Tenno is an absolute dream come true for travelers in Europe with a penchant for history!

    While most tourists don’t know about this historic medieval village, it actually lies less than 10 miles from the popular Lake Garda.

    You’ll find plenty of 13th-century treasures, since the village still has its original layout. As such, you’ll be able to explore Canale di Tenno’s main streets, which merge to form the original village square that was established way back in the early 1200s.

    Old stone houses, cobbled lanes, and arches only serve to complete this image of medieval perfection. This village is so picturesque that it inspired various artists, such as Giacomo Vittone. If you’re staying in this area, don’t look any further for other accommodations. Le Terre Di Gu, a sustainable farm stay set in Tenno, is a unique experience you won’t want to miss out on.

    • Rating: 7/10 – Genuine Delight
    • Cost: $
    • Personal Opinion: Kodak moments guaranteed!

    4. Uncover Florence’s Dark History

    Friends partying at Florence, Italy

    Florence usually evokes images of art, culture, architecture, and fashion, but did you know that the city also has quite a dark past?

    Travelers who want to explore secret spots in Italy may wish to consider this activity that’ll show them Florence from a whole new perspective.

    Don’t worry, though: it’s not all gloom and doom! You’ll also get to experience the vibrant Florentine nightlife alongside a local guide who’ll take you on an epic pub crawl in between tales about the city’s scandalous history.

    Best of all, you’ll get to wander those cobblestone streets after dark while exploring the areas where famous characters, popes, and kings once roamed. It’s one the best hidden gems in Florence for sure.

    • Rating: 8/10 – Hidden Gem Alert
    • Cost: $20.26
    • Personal Opinion: An epic evening awaits!

    5. Circumnavigate the Delightful Ponza Coastline

    Ponza Coastline Italy
    Ponza’s iconic views.

    If you ask me, there’s no better way to uncover some seriously lush Italian hideaways than with a full-day boat tour around Ponza!

    It’s not just any ol’ boring boat excursion, either: you’ll circumnavigate the entire 42 miles of stunning coastline, perfect for soaking up the sights that most tourists usually miss out on.

    Remember to bring your camera along, because we’re talking hidden coves, sea caves, rocky beaches, volcanic rock formations, and even blue grottos!

    You’ll get to explore those secret spots alongside a local guide, who will provide plenty of interesting titbits about the island’s history. You’ll also be able to see evidence of Neanderthals who once inhabited the area.

    Oh, and did I mention that you’ll be treated to a scrumptious lunch onboard?

    • Rating: 10/10 – Bucket List Essential         
    • Cost: $63.97
    • Personal Opinion: Don’t miss it! A must-visit gem of excellence.
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    6. See Saint Mark’s Basilica After Hours

    Saint Mark’s Basilica

    History buffs, rejoice!

    Now, I know that Saint Mark’s Basilica isn’t exactly some big secret spot in Italy, but this activity will show you a whole other side to this popular landmark.

    Not only will you get to explore the place after hours (and away from those loud gaggles of overly-hyped-up tourists, might I add), but you’ll also enjoy a VIP experience alongside a professional guide.

    A unique experience awaits as thousands of square feet of golden mosaics light up in a spectacular show. You’ll also be able to explore the mysterious underground crypt and see the iconic Pala d’Ora up close.

    Bear in mind that Saint Mark’s Basilica is a religious venue, so you may wish to keep your knees and shoulders covered during the tour.

    • Rating: 6/10 – Worth a Deeper Look                       
    • Cost: $201.50
    • Personal Opinion: Well worth a stop if you’re in the area.

    7. See the Far-Flung Sights Around Rome

    Far-Flung Sights Around Rome, Italy
    This is not a painting. This is REAL!

    Rome may be a ridiculously popular city, but I promise it’s full of hidden treasures!

    Travelers looking for hidden gems in Rome can check out this activity that’ll take them off the beaten track in and around the Eternal City. One of my favorite things about this activity is that it features unique venues that are rarely seen by travelers.

    For instance, you’ll mosey around the Jewish Ghetto, a fascinating yet often underexplored neighborhood in Rome.

    Dating back to the mid-16th century, the Jewish Ghetto is home to some pretty incredible landmarks, like the Jewish Colosseum. You’ll also wander outside the city to explore Tiber Island, the Park of the Aqueducts, and the Appian Way which still features many of its original paving stones.

    • Rating: 9/10 – Genuine Delight                                 
    • Cost: $64
    • Personal Opinion: An impressive find you’ll tell friends about!
    Hidden Gems in Italy
    Best HotelBest HostelBest Private Stay
    Italia Hotel RomaYellowSquare RomeLe Case Di Anna

    8. Learn the Secrets of Doge’s Palace

    Doges Palace Italy
    I’d stare at this masterpiece for hours!

    Okay, I know that Doge Palace isn’t exactly some kind of secret place in Italy, but did you know that the site holds plenty of hidden treasures?

    Located in Venice, this iconic landmark is mainly known for its Venetian Gothic architecture and ornate hallways.

    This activity takes you behind the scenes, where you’ll get to see areas of the palace that most tourists don’t usually know about. I’m talking secret archives, ancient torture chambers, prison cells, and even the palace’s attic!

    During your exclusive tour, you’ll also learn more about the dukes who ruled the Venetian empire before walking in the footsteps of legendary Italians like Casanova. This VIP guided tour will also take you through secret meeting halls.

    • Rating: 7/10 – Unforgettable Experience
    • Cost: $79.77
    • Personal Opinion: The kind of adventure you’ll be telling friends about!

    9. Make Your Own Tuscan Jewelry

    Make Your Own Tuscan Jewelry
    Italian savoir-faire transmitted!

    Tuscany may be best known for its Renaissance art, but did you know that the city also specializes in handmade jewelry?

    If you’re looking for unique things to do in Italy, I can totally vouch for this activity that’ll have you crafting your very own Italian jewelry in no time at all.

    Your craft instructor will show you how to make a one-of-a-kind piece of silver jewelry from scratch- and yes, that includes melting the metal and polishing the final product as well! Talk about crafting a unique souvenir to bring back home, right?

    If you’re traveling with children, rest assured that the workshop can be tailored to the age and level of your group. Complimentary tea, coffee, and snacks are served during the break.

    • Rating: 6/10 – Worth a Deeper Look                       
    • Cost: $173.44
    • Personal Opinion: Well worth a stop if you’re in the area.  

    10. Bike Through Milan’s Hidden Gems

    Biking group in Italy

    Is there a better way to soak up those glorious Mediterranean rays than to simply bike your way through the neighborhoods of Milan? I think not!

    Not only will you uncover some of the best places in Milan, but you’ll also be able to avoid that notorious Milan traffic. With this activity, travelers will see a quieter, more laid-back side of Milan as they amble through lesser-visited neighborhoods.

    Your guide will take you through the historic workers’ area, where you’ll learn more about Milan’s industrial heritage, before cycling past some of the city’s most upscale neighborhoods.

    You can fuel up your Milan trip with a traditional Italian café to savor some tasty homemade gelatos and cocktails.

    • Rating: 7/10- Unforgettable Experience 
    • Cost: $37.32
    • Personal Opinion: The kind of adventure you’ll be telling friends about.

    11. Discover Authentic Italian Eats in Modena

    A plate presenting an Italian dish
    Italy has a delicious food scene!

    Foodies, this one’s for you!

    Speckled with hidden gem cafes, Modena is a charming Italian town located smack in the center of Emilia Romagna. Now, I do have to point out that Modena is a pretty tiny commune, but what it lacks in size, it definitely makes up for in sights!

    You’ll find scrumptious offerings at virtually every turn, but I can personally vouch for Trattoria Aldina, a non-pretentious restaurant located on the first floor of a nondescript apartment building. Head to the Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini area, where you’ll find small shops selling traditional prosciutto and balsamic vinegar.

    If you’re into fast cars, you’ll be glad to learn that Modena is actually home to some of the biggest names in the automotive industry. I’m talking Maserati, Lamborghini, Ferrari, and the like!

    • Rating: 7/10 – Unforgettable Experience 
    • Cost: $$
    • Personal Opinion: A scrumptious culinary experience away from those tourist traps!

    12. Drive the Stelvio Pass

    Drive the Stelvio Pass
    Formula 1 fans, this one is for you!

    Here’s a real doozy as far as magical places in Italy are concerned!

    Bordered by Switzerland, the Stelvio Pass is a seriously underrated place that stands at nearly 9,000 feet, making it the highest road in the Alps.

    Just a quick note of caution before we venture into that one, though: while this scenic drive delivers a memorable experience, it’s riddled with challenging hairpins – 75 of them, to be exact! If you don’t have a lot of experience navigating sharp turns, I would strongly urge you to hire a professional guide.

    Thrill-seekers will no doubt relish the serpentine turns punctuated by glorious views of the surrounding mountains and Stelvio National Park, one of the most beautiful parks in Italy.

    • Rating: 10/10 – Bucket list essential
    • Cost: $
    • Personal Opinion: Kodak moments guaranteed!
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    13. Head to the Island of Burano

    The Island of Burano
    It’s like if a rainbow exploded in here!

    If you’re a fan of the great outdoors like me, then you should add Burano to your Italy itinerary.

    One of the rare few Italian communes that are still relatively untouched by mass tourism, Burano is a small, secret spot that’s found right in the middle of the Venice Lagoon.

    Brace yourself for a place of unparalleled beauty, complete with quirky, multi-hued houses and soothing ocean views.

    Be sure to check out the Leaning Tower of Burano which is admittedly not as popular as the Leaning Tower of Pisa but still provides quite a fun experience. Burano is also known for its lace production, so here’s your chance to stock up on various types of lace souvenirs to bring back home!

    14. Venture Off the Beaten Track in Ravenna

    Venture Off the Beaten Track in Ravenna
    Ravenna is soo Italian!

    No list of secret places in Italy would be complete without mentioning Ravenna. It’s another little town located in the Emilia-Romagna area between Florence and Venice.

    In my opinion, one of the best places in Ravenna is the piazza, which is found smack in the town center. Delightfully peppered with cafes and bars, the piazza also offers easy access to historic buildings, including the Comune di Ravenna.

    You can also check out the Neonian Baptistery, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that also happens to be the oldest building in town. While it’s quite a sight to behold from the outside, the interior is even more lush with intricate sculptures and mosaics.

    If you’re backpacking with a group of friends and you’re looking for a unique stay, why not check out the Palazzo Bezzi Hotel.

    • Rating: 8/10 – Hidden Gem Alert
    • Cost: $
    • Personal Opinion: Well worth the detour for a unique experience.

    15. Plunge in the Grotta Della Poesia

    Grotta Della Poesia, an italian hidden gem.
    This is what I meant when I said “hidden gem”.

    Let’s wrap up our list with one of my absolute favorite things to do in Italy!

    Located in Roca, Puglia, this magical place is on the list of the world’s most beautiful natural pools! It’s mostly frequented by the locals, making it an ideal destination for travelers who want to escape those notoriously touristy areas.

    Originally discovered in the 1980s, this natural swimming hole used to house an impressive set of Mycenaean pottery that was unearthed there.

    While this spot does lie away from the main tourist track, it does get pretty crowded in spring and summer owing to the many locals who usually flock there for the day.

    If you’d like to enjoy some peace, I would advise you to head there earlier in the morning. If you plan it just right, you’ll even be able to enjoy a dazzling sunrise over the gorgeous Italian coastline!

    • Rating: 10/10- Worth Bragging About
    • Cost: $
    • Personal Opinion: Definitely don’t skip that one!

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      FAQs about Hidden Gems in Italy

      I can talk all day about these magical places in Italy. Here are some common questions:

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      Final Thoughts on Hidden Germs in Italy

      Italy is famed for many reasons. Maybe you plan to relax on the shoreline, or perhaps you’d like to take in Milan’s glitz and glamor before marveling at the historic sites in Rome. After all, the possibilities are endless!

      There’s no denying that this is one of the most visited destinations in Europe, but I’m sure by now you’ve realized that there are heaps (and I do mean heaps) of hidden gems in Italy that are just waiting to be explored!

      Whatever your itinerary holds, though, believe me when I say that you’re in for one heck of an epic vacation!

      A person looks out over the colosseum in Rome
      Italy is calling!
      Image: Nic Hilditch-Short
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