Five Alternatives to Italy’s Major Cities

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When it comes to Italy, it seems people only focus on a handful of classic cities. Rome, Venice and Florence get visited so often that it’s easy to forget this is actually a pretty big country. Italy has so much more to offer! Outside of the major cities, you can discover Italy off the beaten path. Culture, food, nature, and amazing sights exist all over the country! 

The list of the best cities in Italy is much longer than the handful of popular destinations! Here are five fab alternatives to Italy’s very beaten track. Avoid the tourists and discover a whole new side to the country… 

READ MORE: 18 of the Best Small Towns in Italy

5 Places to Discover Italy Off the Beaten Path

Rome Alternative: Verona

Five Alternatives to Italy's Major Cities

Although it may not boast the kind of Roman ruins that Rome itself is famous for, Verona does have a very well preserved Roman arena. And in theirs, you can actually attend a world-class opera. During the summer, at least! The marble seats of the Verona arena are the same ones that people have been using since the arena was built in 30 AD, so you’ll want to rent a cushion! Shows are somewhat less gory since the days of the gladiators, but they are still mighty impressive.

Nearby, the region of Trentino is full of adventure, and you can easily reach Lake Garda for some R&R on the water if you need it. 

RELATED POST: Lake Garda and Verona with National Holidays

Florence Alternative: Siena

Five Alternatives to Italy's Major Cities

An ideal, and far less overwhelming, alternative to popular Florence is Siena. This beautiful medieval town in the Tuscan countryside was voted Wanderlust Magazine’s favourite European city.

Being a popular town, Siena is still “on the beaten path” a little. But it’s definitely far quieter than Florence. Don’t miss the breathtaking views from the top of the 88 metres high Torre del Mangia overlooking the Piazza del Campo.

Naples Alternative: Fondi

Halfway between Rome and Naples, the walled city of Fondi in the picturesque province of Lazio is a great alternative to either. This is well and truly Italy off the beaten path. A small city with an ancient history, Fondi is also ideally situated for visiting the stunning national park of Monti Aurunci. Experience the countryside this region is famous for!

Pisa Alternative: Lucca

Five Alternatives to Italy's Major Cities

Sara Lieberman at Fodor’s recommends the walled city of Lucca as an alternative to Pisa. “Lucca’s architecture is noteworthy, with the carved stone columns of the Duomo and pastel-coloured stucco buildings with terracotta roofs. Add to that the horse-drawn carriages, and the town takes on this magically charming vibe.”

Less hilly than some of Italy’s other medieval cities, Lucca is mostly pedestrian and is also very bike-friendly – plus it’s a great place to avoid tourists in Italy, of which there are few. It was also the birthplace of opera legend Giacomo Puccini, composer of La Bohème and Madame Butterfly, and fans can drink an espresso in his honour at his regular haunt, the Caffe De Simo.

Venice Alternative: Treviso

Five Alternatives to Italy's Major Cities

Sometimes seen as a little Venice, Treviso is a medieval town just north of it’s better-known cousin, which also features many crisscrossing canals and alleyways with far fewer tourists. Treviso boasts many medieval features, including the moat, walls and town gates – and with such a picturesque town centre this is the ideal place to simply stroll and soak up some of Italy’s history. A perfect way to get off the beaten track in Italy.

Do you have a great recommendation for getting off the beaten track in Italy? Leave a comment

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Award-winning writer and solo female travel blogger on a mission to explore the world through deeper travel. Lover of fun, adventure, food, Harry Potter, hiking, beaches, and chatting about the weather. Can be bought with cake.

18 Comments

  1. I visited a lot of the larger cities in Italy, but also smaller ones like Perugia, Cagliari, etc. And other regions, like Cinque Terre & Liguria, which are on my blog. And I love Sardegna!
    Thanks for your post. Now I have some more Italian places to put on my list!

    • Thanks Denise! I think many people tend to only visit the major cities (it’s the same in most countries), but there are so many lovely smaller cities and towns which can be well worth visiting. And now after a quick Google I’ve added Perugia to my wishlist too, so thanks for that!

  2. These are great! I would love to visit these lesser known cities. Avoiding the massive amounts of tourists and just enjoying the surroundings sounds great to me!

    • Thanks Emily! Glad you enjoyed it – and I so agree with you. The popular places are nice to visit (after all, they’re popular for a reason), but it’s so much nicer to have a place all to yourself – and see a bit more of the “real” side of a country!

  3. Lucca is way more than an alternative to Pisa, for me (but I am very glad its included here)

  4. worldjourneysdiscover

    Italy – a great place for walking. great idea for a post. although I’d say Siena sees more than its fair share of tourists!

  5. I’d love to explore Italy more. I’ve only been to Maratea which is on the coast quite a bit south of Naples. I’d absolutely recommend it, very pretty cobbled streets that lead down to a picture perfect little harbour. There is a big Rio-like Christ the Redeemer on the hillside above town which is pretty cool too!

    • Ooh that does sound lovely! The small towns in Italy appeal to me much more than the big cities – I want to go to places that other people don’t go to, or at least don’t go to as much!

  6. I really like this post. I just spent a month in Italy, and I totally agree with your choices. While I liked Florence immensely, I agree that Rome and Venice are overrated, and I completely fell in love with Verona. I wrote a whole post on it myself. And don’t forget about Cinque Terre, not just as an alternative to the Amalfi Coast, but actually as one of the most beautiful locations in all of Italy.

    • Thanks so much for commenting, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I included Cinque Terre in a post about the best coastal towns in Italy, which came before this one. Definitely a great suggestion as an alternative to Amalfi, which seems to get much more tourism. :)

  7. Love Siena, still treasure memories of a beautiful afternoon in the piazza years later, I’d love to visit the others too :)

  8. Great alternatives! Thanks for sharing this article!

  9. Hi! I am an italian girl, may I suggest you some small places that I think deserv more attention?
    Try to give a look at Bassano del Grappa, Marostica and Cittadella, the last one has a medieval wall that you can visit and walk on.

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