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You’ve ticked off the Trevi Fountain, sunbathed in Sorrento and traversed Tuscany’s most famous farmlands. Now it’s time to discover a new side to Italy. We can help you take your Italian adventure off the beaten track – we know the country inside out, from its best-known cities right down to hidden gems – and we’re letting you in on the secret. Whether you’re craving the coast or curious about the islands, make this the holiday you go alternative.  

 

Quieter coastlines

Cilento often gets overlooked in favour of its northern neighbour, the Amalfi Coast – but if you’re looking for uncrowded sandy beaches, rolling countryside and clifftop walks, it’s perfect. Seaside towns tend to be laid-back and edged with wide beaches; go for a walk along the coast and it won’t be long before you stumble across a half-hidden cove to spend an afternoon on.  

Puglia has the longest coastline of any region in Italy, with hundreds of kilometres of sandy beach to play with. Venture to the southern province of Salento for Caribbean-style white sands and turquoise waters, or north to the unspoilt coast of the Gargano National Park. Beaches aside, there are also fantastic little towns like Alberobello and Locorotondo to discover.   

Right down in the far south (the ‘toe’ of the ‘boot’), Calabria is a popular pick with holidaying Italians for its pristine beaches and lively seaside towns. Stay in pretty clifftop Tropea and you’ll have the town’s sandy bay in arm’s reach – and the breathtaking beaches of the Capo Vaticano a short drive or boat ride away.  

Take a look at all of our beach holidays to Italy

 

Lesser-known cities

Parisian flair, world-famous chocolate and one of the best foodie scenes in the country – yet this northern city still manages to fly under most tourists’ radars.  

Genoa is home to the biggest historic centre in all of Italy, plus it puts you in easy reach of Liguria’s colourful coastal towns.  

Syracuse’s UNESCO-listed old town is a maze of picture-perfect lanes – and they lead to one of Italy’s most spectacular squares, Piazza del Duomo.  

Spend a weekend exploring this compact city’s medieval buildings and sipping Aperol spritzes alongside students from one of the world’s oldest universities.  

Take a look at all of our city breaks to Italy

 

Crowd-free countryside

With the exception of Assisi, Umbria’s hilltop towns, rustic hamlets and rolling hills tend to be a lot quieter than Tuscany. Wine lovers should make a beeline for Montefalco to sample this hill town’s signature red, Sagrantino (which pairs very nicely with the region’s famous black truffles).  

The hilltop city of Matera makes the perfect base for discovering the rugged beauty and rocky gorges of the Parco della Murgia Materana. After a day’s exploring, retreat to the city’s sassi – neighbourhoods of ancient cave houses that have been transformed into quirky restaurants and hotels.  

This mountainous region in the north lines up spectacular scenery, spa towns and delicious local cuisine. Spend your days walking and cycling through alpine meadows and botanical gardens, or drive to secluded lakes for an afternoon of wild swimming.   

 

Island escapes

This Bay of Naples beauty attracts far fewer visitors than neighbouring Capri – but why is anyone’s guess. Not only does Ischia have a beautifully sandy coastline, but it also boasts botanical gardens, picture-pretty towns and dozens of bubbling thermal springs and pools.  

Floating just off Sicily’s northern coast are the Aeolian Islands. The largest, Lipari, offers a great mix of relaxation and adventure, with a pretty port town, volcanic beaches and coastal hiking trails. It’s perfectly positioned for exploring the nearby isles of Stromboli, Salina and Panarea, too. 

If a hike up to a smoking volcano crater followed by a soak in natural hot springs appeals, take a look at Vulcano, another Aeolian Island. Spend a morning exploring the spectacular volcanic landscape, then head back down to the coast for a dip in a bubbling thermal spring or therapeutic mud bath.  

Ten miles off the Tuscan coast is the stunning island of Elba. It might not be as chic as Capri or Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda, but what it lacks in glamour it more than makes up for in scenery. The hills are covered in pine forests and chestnut trees and the dramatic cliffs drop down to beautiful white-sand and pebble beaches.  

 

Suggested multi-centre itineraries

This two-week itinerary focuses on the lesser-known regions of Italy’s south. You’ll journey from the quiet beaches of Cilento to the Apulian countryside, via Calabria’s white sands and Basilicata’s ancient cave houses.  

This eight-day walking tour takes you around the spectacular countryside of Piedmont, through vineyards, hazelnut groves and hilltop villages. You’ll start and finish in charming Alba, famous for its delicious white truffles.  

Spend a few days enjoying Bologna’s sights and sounds (as well as its delicious cuisine – don’t miss a plateful of tagliatelle al ragu), before driving into the Tuscan countryside to explore its wineries, market towns and medieval villages. 

Discover a quieter side to the popular Neapolitan Riviera with this twin-centre itinerary. Explore chaotic, historic Naples, before taking the ferry across to Ischia, famous for its botanical gardens, sandy beaches and thermal spas.  

This northern itinerary kicks off with a few days on the shores of Lake Orta, a beautifully unspoiled destination, before continuing on to Genoa, a maritime city with Italy’s biggest centro storico (historic centre).  

Split your time between two of our favourite hidden corners of Italy: Puglia and Basilicata. Start off in Puglia, exploring its beach towns and hilltop villages by car, then head into Basilicata to discover its rugged countryside.   

Find out more about our multi-centre holidays