Of all of the countries in the world, Italy is the place we could really see ourselves living in long term one day. Almost everything about this Southern European country appeals to us, and we have made so many incredible memories here over the years. Together, we have explored nearly every one of Italy’s regions, and we have a pretty good idea of some of the top places to visit in Italy. While I already wrote a post on the best cities to visit in Italy, I thought it would also be worth writing a post about some of the best hidden gems in Italy that most visitors never get to. From medieval walled cities to pieces of Mediterranean paradise, this list of under the radar cities in Italy should inspire some serious wanderlust for your next trip.
10. Trieste, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Trieste is a city located in the far northeast corner of Italy, very close to the border with Slovenia. This city, which is one of the biggest places on this list, used to be one of the most important ports in all of Italy and was a hub of music and literature for centuries.
Trieste is also the home of Illy, which is one of Italy’s premier coffee producers. Trieste is a great day trip from Venice, which is only about 2 hours away by car or train.
9. Sirmione, Lombardy
Located on a peninsula jutting out into Lake Garda, Sirmione is a place that you don’t want to miss if you are in Northern Italy. This charming city has a majestic castle, quaint streets, an amusement park, and a long stretch of beach along the coast of Italy’s largest lake. Lake Garda is often overshadowed by its western counterpart of Lake Como, but it really is a place that you don’t want to overlook. Located just a couple of hours by train from both Milan and Venice, Sirmione is incredibly accessible and is a fantastic place to spend a relaxing weekend in Italy.
8. Riccione, Emilia-Romagna
Italy’s western and southern coasts get a lot of hype, but most people tend to overlook the hidden gems in Italy’s eastern coast. The Adriatic coast is home to some of the best under the radar places in Italy, including the charming city of Riccione. Located in Italy’s massive Emilia-Romagna region, Riccione is filled with adorable streets, clean beaches, elegant architecture, and incredible food. Emilia-Romagna is the most important region for Italian cuisine, and while Riccione is pretty far from the major agricultural parts of the region, the food here is still outstanding.
7. Matera, Basilicata
If you have heard about Italy’s famous white cities, you have likely heard of Matera. While there are many incredible white cities to visit in Southern Italy, Matera is one of the oldest. In fact, it is one of the oldest cities in all of Italy. Matera is famous for its Sassi area, which is filled with cave houses that are carved out of the mountainside. As a devout Catholic, one of my favorite parts of Matera is the number of stunning old churches that date back to the 13th century. Matera is best accessed via the city of Bari, which is only about an hour away by bus.
6. Verona, Veneto
Known as the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona is one of the most charming under the radar cities in all of Italy. This northern Italian city is famous for its stunning 1st-century Roman amphitheater, gorgeous streets and cafes, Juliet’s House, and its proximity to Italy’s gorgeous Lake Garda. Verona is one of the biggest cities on this list, but it remains relatively undervisited by tourists. Verona is accessible in less than two hours by train from both Milan and Venice, making it an incredibly easy to visit place that you should not miss. It even cracked my list of the best day trips from Milan.
5. Genoa, Liguria
Located not too far from Milan and Italy’s renowned riviera, Genoa is a coastal city that doesn’t get nearly the attention that it should. This city is the capital of the Liguria region, and despite its size it feels quite off the beaten path in Italy. This under the radar city has some incredible seafood, Christopher Columbus’ childhood home, some breathtaking architecture and churches, and is the home and origin of pesto. If you are thinking about visiting Genoa, make sure you read my Genoa Travel Guide, which has everything you could possibly want to know before you go.
4. Urbino, Marche
Up in the rolling hills of Italy’s Marche region, Urbino is an under the radar city that you definitely don’t want to miss while visiting Italy. This city is one of the most tranquil, relaxing places in Italy. Just about everything in Urbino is a family-owned business, and its medieval walls and Ducal Palace make it quite the unique place to explore. I actually lived here for a few months and they were some of the most restorative, enriching months of my life. If you are thinking about visiting this hilly Italian hidden gem, make sure you read my detailed Urbino Travel Guide.
3. Modena, Emilia-Romagna
Emilia-Romagna is the most important region in all of Italy when it comes to food. While every region has its specialties, Emilia-Romagna is home to some of Italy’s most globally renowned foods, including balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, ragu, parmigiano reggiano, gnocchi, tortellini, and mortadella, as I mention in my Bologna Travel Guide. Modena, located just a short drive outside of Bologna, is home to one of Italy’s most important culinary exports: balsamic vinegar. All of the top grade balsamic vinegar in the world is legally required to come from this little city. The province of Modena is also the home to one of the most luxurious brands in the world: Ferrari. If you are looking for a hidden gem in Italy that is filled with incredible food and things to do, Modena fits the description.
2. Lecce, Apulia
Located way down in the southeastern corner of Italy, Lecce is a famous limestone city just off the water that you may not have heard much about before. While it is a fairly big city and is loaded with incredible things to do, this city often doesn’t get the credit or tourism that it deserves due to its remote location. Lecce is fully stocked with stunning baroque churches, including the Basilica of Santa Croce and the Duomo di Lecce, and it is also just a 20-minute drive from the beach.
1. Siena, Tuscany
Hands down, there is one hidden gem in Italy that is above all the rest, and it is Siena. Siena is a stunning city in the heart of Tuscany, and it is easily one of the best places to visit in Italy. While Tuscany is not a very under the radar region in Italy, Siena doesn’t see nearly the traffic of tourists that is could. With stunning buildings, fantastic museums, and one of the most breathtaking cathedrals in all of Italy, Siena is a city that every traveler should make a point of seeing while they explore Italy. I go into much more detail in my Siena Travel Guide, but this city is very easily accessible from both Florence and Rome, making it an easy day trip or weekend trip from either of these tourist favorites.
Thanks for reading our post on the best hidden gems in Italy. Hopefully this post helps you to plan an exciting itinerary for your next trip to Italy! Most of the places on this list are towns and small cities, and I highly recommend reading my post with tips on how to enjoy a small European town if you plan to visit any of these places. Other than that, if you have any questions about visiting and of these under the radar cities in Italy, don’t hesitate to reach out – we’ve got you covered.