Varese is a town in eastern Lombardy best known for the Sacre Monte di Varese (the Sacred Hill of Varese) and imposing villas such as Palazzo Estense and Villa Recalcati. It is situated near the lake of the same name and about 50 kilometres north of Milan, with Lake Maggiore a few kilometres to the west.
Lake Como is one of the largest of the popular 'Lombardy Lakes' of northern Italy, and also one of the most popular with visitors because of its towns and villages, the lake scenery, and the surrounding hills and mountains.
Varenna is one of the prettiest of the small towns on the shores of Lake Como in Lombardy, and also has some very attractive gardens to visit.
Varenna is centrally placed on the eastern shores of the lake, and easily reached by boat from the other towns around the lake shores. It is also one of the few towns that is served by a car ferry (as opposed to the 'people only' ferries that service most towns here) so a common arrival point for visitors staying on the western shore of Lake Como.
Lake Garda is found north-west of Verona, on the border between the Veneto-Friuli region and the Lombardy-lakes region (to the south) and Trentino-Alto Adige (to the north). The lake is usually reached from its southern end, via Desenzano, while another common route arrives from the west at Salò.
The lake - proper name Lago di Garda - is surrounded by attractive scenery, especially to the northern end, and is the most popular of the Italian lakes with visitors.
Garda Lake is referred to tongue-in-cheek as "The greatest of Germanys Lakes", because of the large number of tourists coming from Germany and Austria, ploughing the waves of the Garda Lake with their motor-boats.
Gardone, often also called Gardone Riviera, once had a reputation for being the most sophisticated resort on Lake Garda. While that era might have passed it still continues to have a significant charm as well as a couple of interesting highlights including the magnificent Il Vittoriale which is perhaps the most fascinating historic monument to be found anywhere around the lake.
The resort is also well placed for taking boat trips across Garda to some of the other towns around the shores of the lake.
Cremona is set on the plains of southern Lombardy, to the south-east of Milan and on the left bank of the Po river, between the Adda and Oglio rivers. The land has a rich soil, which has long made the location a first-class agricultural centre.
The town of Crema is situated in the centre of the Lombardy region of northern Italy, about 40 kilometres east of Milan.
The town of Brescia is the second largest city in Lombardy (Milan is the largest) and in an attractive setting. The city contains a great deal of architectural heritage of interest to visitors including Roman ruins, some fine Renaissance architecture, and a touch of Mussolinis excesses and while it lacks te romance of some cities in the region, such as Mantova, there is certainly enough here to merit a visit.
Bergamo is situated in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, to the north-east of Milan. The town is divided into two quite separate parts:
- the Bergamo Alta ["Upper Bergamo"] is the ancient centre, surrounded by walls and rich in beautiful monuments. It is modelled according to the medieval plan of the town, with narrow and winding roads and is the focus of your visit
- The Bergamo Bassa [Lower Bergamo] has evolved where already in the Middle Ages there were some villages outside the walls, and today the modern city is still growing
The old town in Chiavenna has preserved its medieval characteristics, with narrow streets, palaces and squares with fountains, towers and historic churches.
The town and resort of Lecco is in a lovely location at the southern tip of Lake Como, one of the popular Lombardy lakes. The highlight is the waterfront area, with its views along the lake and between the mountains, and the surrounding old town of Lecco.
Lecco is quite a busy commercial town rather than a 'tourist destination' so while a visit is certainly recommended to appreciate the setting and the monuments in the town, it is not a common base for visitors to Lake Como.
The large town of Sorrento is a very popular destination with both Italian and overseas visitors, attracted by its impressive location and as a result it is a lively regional centre and resort.
You should be aware that although Sorrento is established as a resort it does not have a beach that is easy to reach in the town itself.
With a history stretching back to the Etruscans and the Samnites, at which time Santa Maria Capua Vetere was one of the most important cities in Italy, and later becoming an important centre for the Ancient Romans, the town attracts visitors because of its impressive ancient Roman monuments.
The town and port of Carloforte is on the east coast of Saint Peter's Island close to the island of Sant'Antioco. Saint Peter's Island is a small island a few kilometres off the south-west coast of Sardinia. The island and town combine the dual roles of fishing port and tourist destination.
Carloforte itself is an attractive small town and there are several scenic highlights close by as well as easy access to small beaches and coastline which together ensure the resort is popular and quite active in summer.
A popular coastal and beach resort on Sardini's north coast, Alghero also has a lively harbour, a well preserved old town has a good number of interesting historical monuments and plenty of cafes and shops to distract you. It is also still an active fishing town.
The history of the town, which was settled by people from Spain who 'evicted' most of the local population in the 14th century, means there is a significant Catalan influence to the architecture. See also history of Alghero.
The Sardinian village of Castelsardo retains its ancient medieval layout, with the ramparts still surrounding the oldest part of Castelsardo - known as Pianedda this part of the town is an ancient fishing village.
The town is on and around a large rocky promontory that juts into the Mediterranean Sea. Although there is rather too much modern development on the slopes below ancient Castelsardo, the historic centre is rewarding to visit and pedestrianised.
The town of Caserta is situated about 25 kilometres north of Naples, in south-western Italy, well known for the Royal Palace.
Elea (Italian name Velia, so the town is also known as Elea Velia) is situated south of Posidonia (better known by its more recent name, Paestum), on the Tyrrhenian coast of the Lucania (hence in the Campania region of south-west Italy).
The ruins of Elea are found near the current location of Castellammare of Bruca overlooking the mouth of the Alento river. To reach ancient Elea by car follow the road 447 to Palinuro, and turn right on a road that leads to the Acropolis
Herculaneum (known in Italy as Ercolano) is an ancient Roman town situated on the outskirts of Naples - it was buried by ash falling and subsequent lava flows after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Less well known than Pompeii, Herculaneum is another important Roman town destroyed by the same eruption of Mount Vesuvius that has also been extensively excavated and is very revealing of the town 'frozen in time' 2000 years ago (although substantially smaller than the excavations at Pompeii).
Benevento was an important trading station for Ancient Rome (at that time called Beneventum) that developed along the Via Appia trade route between Rome and Brindisi. It later becoming a regional centre for southern Italy, a position it still holds today.
The town is in an attractive location surrounded by the Apennine hills, and although damage during World War 2 had a very detrimental effect on Benevento and the town is not a major tourist destination there are several interesting Ancient Roman monuments and reconstructed later monuments to be seen here (although the majority of buildings in the centre are more recent).
Ravello is a little way east of Amalfi, in the eastern half of the spectacular Amalfi Coast which runs along the southern edge of the Sorrento peninsula). Because of its historical importance and natural beauty Ravello is now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Positano is a stunningly situated town at the western end of the scenic Amalfi Coast and just south of Sorrento. Dating from the middle ages, the original role of Positano as a quiet fishing village struggling to make a living from the sea has been completely transformed by the impact of tourism.
The city of Naples is found on the coast of south-western Italy, at the northern end of the Bay of Naples, where it is located in a natural amphitheater in the hills and along the coast.
Naples has many places of interest to visit, both within the city and in the surrounding region, but is also an active modern town with a great deal of more recent development, noise and activity.
The Italian village of Roccagloriosa that we visit today is on a hill around the ruins of an ancient castle built by Narseh during the Gothic-Byzantine war in the 6th century, although the earliest settlement here dates back to ancient times.
Ischia is an attractive and popular island situated just off the western coast of Italy in the Bay of Naples. The traditional town and harbour, lovely scenery both around the coast and on the slopes of Mount Epomeo, pretty gardens and stunning beaches, and the traces left by history all come together to make Ischia a very pleasant island to visit.
There are more than 40000 residents on Ischia island. The main town is divided into the old part, Ischia Ponte, and the harbour and newer town, called Ischia Porto.
Note: you might think that Ischia is less well known than Capri, its famous neighbour, and perhaps it is - but its many attractions and ease of access from mainland Italy mean it does get very busy in the summer!
Paestum was an important Greek, then later a Roman, city to the south-east of Naples in Capaccio. It is now best known for the temples at the site and the site is one of the highlights of your visit to the region.
Below we talk about the temples, museum and what you can expect to see when you visit Capaccio - Paestum.
The town has an interesting history - from the 6th until the the 14th century Amalfi was a very large and important Italian port town. The decline began in the 12th century when the town was besieged and changed hands a couple of times - firstly by King Roger of Naples in 1131 - and its fate was then sealed by a tsunami that hit Amalfi in 1343 and destroyed much of the lower town.
The town was never to regain its earlier importance, and has remained a quiet harbour town since that date - until the arrival of tourism in the 20th century.
The coastal village of Atrani is squeezed between the sea and high cliffs, at the entrance of Dragon Valley on the Amalfi coast. Close to Amalfi itself - so close it is almost a part of that town - it has been classified as one of the 'most beautiful villages in Italy'.
With its medieval centre, its landscape and its beach Atrani offers many attractions to tourists. Although Atrani is a small village there are lots of places to visit, in part because at the time of the Republic in Italy it was the favourite residence of the most noble families of Amalfi. See also history of Atrani.
When you think of Tuscany with its rolling grassy landscapes, exposed white ravines, traditional Tuscan farmhouses and long driveways lined by tall cypress trees all set under the Tuscany sunshine, it is quite possible you are thinking of the Crete Senesi region to the south of Siena.
The most picturesque part of the region, along the Val d'Orcia has now been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
Asciano is a small Tuscan town about 25 kilometres to the south-east of Siena and in the Ombrone River valley. You are likely to come across the town as you explore the Crete Senesi region of southern Tuscany.
Buonconvento is a Tuscan town in the Crete Senesi region of Tuscany, about 30 kilometres south of Siena. The town is now a reasonable size, but the medieval quarter which is of interest to visitors is quite compact.
The small village of Vinci, in the rolling landscape of vineyards and olive groves between Pistoia and Empoli in northern Tuscany, might go unremarked among many similar villages in the region if it was not for its unique claim to fame: Leonardo da Vinci was born here in 1452 and lived here until 1469 when he left for Florence.
You can now see his birthplace and a museum dedicated to his ideas in and near the village, and absorb the atmosphere that influenced one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.
The Maremma is a natural region along the western coast of central Italy that includes part of southern Tuscany and also part of northern Lazio region to the south. Here we are concerned with the area that falls within the Maremma Natural Park, west of Grosseto and along the coast of south-west Tuscany.
The park offers visitors a remarkable opportunity to discover a different side of Tuscany, relatively unexplored yet with beautiful scenery, wildlife and beaches.
The almost unknown region in northern Tuscany called the Garfagnana is a steep forested region that follows along the valley of the river Serchio with lovely quiet traditional villages and stunning scenery to enjoy. The Apuan Alps are to the west and the Apennines to the north.
The Garfagnana region is one of the least visited areas of Tuscany but offers some of the loveliest scenery and most attractive villages in the region - although the scenery is much steeper and more forested than you might expect among the rolling hills we usually associate with Tuscany! A perfect place to explore the outdoors and to relax away from the crowds in many parts of Tuscany...
Barga is a small town on the Serchio river, in the Garfagnana region about 30 kilometres north of Lucca. It is well placed as a base for walking in and exploring the surrounding Apuan Alps.
There was a time not so long ago that Elba was best known as the island where Napoleon went into exile. Those times have gone and the island of Elba is now best known as a very popular summer destination with picturesque towns and villages, numerous attractive beaches and lovely scenery - and rightly so because it has a great deal of charm and interest.
Bagni di Lucca is now quite a quiet town in the countryside north of Lucca in northern Tuscany but 150 years it was one of the most popular and most visited destinations in Italy.
From the first half of the 19th century, royalty and nobles from across Europe flocked to the town, not just because of the therapeutic powers of the spa waters but also because it had one of the very first casinos to open in Europe. It also attracted many of the great literary and artistic figures of the 19th century such as Shelley, Byron, Puccini and Browning.
The small village of Artimino, on a small hilltop about 25 kilometres west of Florence, makes an attractive detour from the better known destinations nearby to see the two historic monuments and the etruscan museum in the village
The large town of Prato in Tuscany is best known for its textile and leather industries, but also has a substantial historic centre with several places of interest and museums and makes an interesting trip when you are visiting nearby Florence, just half an hour journey by train or a 25 kilometre drive.
The proximity to Florence and the industrial surroundings mean that Prato receives less visitors than it might otherwise have, but pass an afternoon here and you will also fall under the town's authentic charm...
Near the coast to the north-west of Tuscany, the town of Carrara is best known for its proximity to the famous marble quarries that have supplied marble for many great works of art for the last 2000 years, including by the Romans and the Renaissance artists.
Marrara itself also has a pleasant town centre and there are a couple of beach resorts within easy reach on the coast to the west of here.
The town of Fiesole is on a hill just a few kilometres north of Florence, yet retains its own personality and charm and has several interesting monuments, as well as lovely views across Florence making it a very popular day trip with visitors to that city.
It is remarkable how close to Florence you are when you visit Fiesole, since it feels like a separate town set in the wooded hills and olive groves of Tuscany although it is really just a short bus ride away - catch the bus number 7 from the train station or from Piazza San Marco in Florence centre.
The Chianti region of Tuscany is between the beautiful cities of Florence and Siena. It is famous around the world because of the very popular wines produced in the vineyards here - and because photos of Chianti are often used on calendars and travel brochures as being typical scenic Tuscany landscapes!
The word chianti is said to come from the Latin 'clango-ere' (to screech or to play) and 'Clangor-oris' (barking dogs), perhaps in memory of the noisy baronial hunts in the woods once held around Certaldo to the west of the region.
It is also a very enjoyable region to visit, with a rolling landscape of rolling hills covered with vineyards and olive groves and lots of small ancient villages and castles, and quiet roads that have less tourists than many regions of Tuscany.
The city of Siena, in the heart of Tuscany, is the most beautiful medieval town in Italy. There are numerous highlights and places of interest in the city and we recommend you allow two days for a visit if possible so that you also have time to relax and take in the atmosphere.
Staying in Siena overnight will also allow you the chance to wander around the historic centre after dark and when there are much fewer visitors - another treat!
Pratovecchio is a typical small Italian medieval village with narrow cobbled streets. The village, along with the hamlets nearby, offers varied attractions to visitors whether you are a history lover, an artist or a nature lover, as does much of the Casentino region of Tuscany.
The town of Sansepolcro is best known for its historic center and for the important artworks in the museum. In particular there are two very well known paintings by Piero della Francesca, an early and influention renaissance artist who was born and spent much of his life in the town, which are the principal attraction for visitors.
We suggest that as well as rushing to see the famous paintings you also take the time to have a look at some of the other buildings and artworks elsewhere in Sansepolcro!
Volterra, sited on the confluence of the Cecina and Era Valle, is a very ancient city of Etruscan origin. It is now an attractive Tuscan medieval hilltop town with a great deal of interest to discover and enjoy, in an impressive setting with far-reaching views across the plains of Tuscany.
Italy This Way comment: the combination of the Etruscan Museum, the Roman theatre site and the historic town around the lovely medieval square called Piazza dei Priori make Volterra an interesting and varied town to visit. The town has also received the Italian Orange Flag award for sustainable tourism.
Vallombrosa, in the countryside south of Florence at Reggelo (Tuscany) is best known for the ancient monastery that stands here - often referred to as Vallombrosa Abbey, which contains many intersting works of art. The abbey-monastery is on the edge of a beautiful forest that also takes the name of the of the abbey.
Historically a fishing village, Talamone stands in an imposing raised position overlooking the coast of Tuscany in western Italy. Although Talamone is best known as being an access town to the scenic Maremma Natural Park to the north of here, it has its own places of interest to discover when you visit.
The historic town is surrounded by medieval walls and dominated by a fortress built of gray stone, and Talamone also has a small harbour, a beach and coastal cliffs and several other attractive beaches can be found close by - hence it is now a popular summer destination.
An ancient settlement, Sovana is originally of Etruscan origin and developed in the seventh century BC. It is now listed as one of the 'most beautiful villages of Italy' and is a very picturesque village - certainly among the loveliest in southern Tuscany - with an attractive medieval centre and several ancient and medieval monuments of interest to discover.
The popular Tuscan coastal resort of Porto Ercole is on the eastern side of the Monte Argentario peninsula to the south of the Tuscany region. It is dominated by the fortress on a hill above the town and is in the shadow of Monte Argentario itself.
Note: Monte Argentario was an island until the 1700s, at which time two ridges of silt connected it to the mainland and formed the Orbetello lagoon. The Orbotello Lagoon east of the Monte Argentario peninsula is now a protected nature reserve.
As well as its popularity as a summer seaside resort Porto Ercole also has an interesting historic centre and harbour to explore.
Sorano is a picturesque hill village in the southern part of Tuscany, Italy that is part of a group of ancient villages that also includes Sovana and Pitigliano. It is really quite astonishing how well preserved the village is and how unchanged over the last few hundred years..
Squeezed along the top of a rocky ridge it is when seen from the east that Sorano shows itself at its best giving the appearance of a medieval village that is literally dug into the tufa and almost indistinguishable from the hillside. Above the village is the Orsini Fortress, built in the 14th century and then rebuilt in the 16th century.
Saturnia, best known as a natural springs and spa destination, is to the south of the Tuscany region of Italy where it is part of the municipality of Manciano. The town is situated on a hill overlooking the famous hot springs - the principal attraction for visitors - between Mount Amiata and the hills of the rivers Albegna and Fiora.
Poppi old town, situated on the flat ridge of a hill, is small but the arcaded main street and the Castle of Poppi which overlooks the town mean that it merits a visit when you are exploring the Casentino.
Poggio a Caiano is most visited for its highly renowned Medici Villa but the town itself also deserves to be explored when you visit: as well as the famous villa Poggio a Caiano has a large number of historic buildings of interest.
Pisa, a town on the coast in the west of Tuscany, is of course best known for its famous 'leaning tower of Pisa' - but there is much more to Pisa than just a leaning tower!
In the area immediately next to the tower you can see the cathedral and the baptistry which are also very impressive monuments, and then in the medieval town centre, often overlooked by visitors who leave as soon as they have seen these three principal monuments, there are several other buildings of interest, various museums and an attractive medieval town centre.
If it was anywhere else but Tuscany Pistoia would undoubtedly get many more visitors than it does, but because Florence is to the east and Pisa and Lucca are to the west, and because there is quite a lot of industrial development around the edges of the town, it gets rather overlooked by a lot of visitors to the region.
But persist and you wil find that Pistoia is particularly rich in important Romanesque and Renaissance monuments, and a visit to explore the historic centre is recommended.
It is said that the pistol was invented here in the 16th century, and took its name from the town.
Montepulciano is in south-east of Tuscany region, where it stands high on a rocky ridge overlooking the picturesque landscapes of the Crete Senesi area - it is one of the highest hill towns in the region. It is a charming town with numerous interesting monuments and renaissance era palazzos and ancient streets and alleys to explore as well a couple of important churches.
The town has been granted the Italian Orange Flag award for its programme of sustainable tourism.
The centre of Pienza in south-east Tuscany is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site - and set in the Val d'Orcia which is also listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Landscape.
More importantly for visitors perhaps - Pienza is a very scenic medieval village which also has lovely views across the countryside!
The town of Pietrasanta has its origins in the Middle Ages, in the year 1255 when it started to develop around the foot of a Lombard castle. Over the centuries it has developed to be a town which now has more than 20,000 inhabitants.
The town took its name from its founder, the 'Podestà' of Lucca - called Guiscardo from Pietrasanta - and was once the capital of the historical Versilia region (see history of Pietrasanta for details).
The medieval hill town of Pitigliano is situated in a dramatic position 300 metres high above a plain, in a natural defensive position that is further enhanced by the presence of fortified walls, and the view as you approach of the village high on a rocky spur is among the highlights of a visit. It is within the Grosseto Province in the southern part of Tuscany.
Massa Marittima, the 'City of Museums', is a very attractive town situated on a hill in south-west Tuscany. The town is very interesting to tourists because of its unique artistic and historical heritage, as seen in the buildings and numerous museums.
Not surprisingly given the geographical position of Massa Marittima it also has lovely views across the beautiful landscape of the Maremma region of Tuscany. The town has received the Italian Orange Flag award for sustainable tourism.
From 1225 until 1335 Massa was an independent republic and amassed great wealth from mining activities, and almost all the important monuments in the centre of the town date from this period.
Peschici is a small town on the top of a cliff-promontory that rises to more than 100 meters above the Adriatic Sea, overlooking the bay below. It is both a seaside resort town and a place of great historical interest.
For those who love the sea, Peschici has famous beaches, with the “fine sand” to which the small medieval town owes its name. Elsewhere in and around the town there is also much to discover.
The monastery at San Marco in Lamis is part of the ancient pilgrim path that crosses Gargano from San Severo to Monte Sant'Angelo, being connected to the wide valleys through which the pilgrims in the Middle Ages reached the grotto of San Michele Arcangelo, along the 'Via Sacra Langobardorum'.
The monastery is by far the most important monument here and the main reason that both pilgrims and tourists are attracted here, but allow some time to also explore the rest of the historic town centre.
San Giovanni Rotondo is a large town to the west of the Gargano (and the Gargano peninsula and national park) that is especially well known for its important religious monuments.
The town is part of the pilgrimage route across Gargano, and attracts millions of pilgrims each year because of the tomb of Padre Pio (1887-1968), a miracle worker who was made a saint in 2002.
Trani is an elegant seaside town with a thriving marina and a quaint historic centre. It is on the Adriatic coast in the Puglia region of southern Italy. It is a popular seaside destination for chic Italians who like to promenade along the marina and lunch at the waterfront restaurants.
Troia is a small town set on the top of a small hill and surrounded by fields of wheat and grape vines; Puglia is after all one of Italy's main wine producers. The town is not a key tourist destination but it is home to one of Puglia's finest cathedrals and possibly the best Rose Window in all of Italy.
Troia is inland in the Puglia region of Southern Italy, not far from Foggia.
Vieste is a lovely fishing town of whitewashed houses which hugs the white cliffs of the Gargano peninsula as they jut out into the Adriatic Sea. It is also home to one of the best beaches of Puglia.
Manfredonia is a town with medieval origins in the southern part of the Gargano region of Apulia in south-east Italy, near the Adriatic coast. It is the "daughter" town of the ancient Greek - Roman city of 'Sipontum'.
While it is true that Manfredonia itself isn't a major tourist destination, the nearby beaches and the resort of Siponto attract many holidaymakers each year, and a trip to Manfredonia is an interesting excursion.
Ostuni is a beautiful city in southern Italy. Its charming white houses spread out over the top of three hills and offer great views over the sea below.
Lucera is a small city with a mixed history reflected in its architecture. Key sites to visit are the Roman ampitheatre and the medieval castle. Lucera is in the Puglia region of southern Italy.
Situated in the Puglia (Apulia) region of south-east Italy, Locorotondo is on a 400 meters high hill on the plateau called "Murgia dei Trulli” . Locorotondo is a delightful village of whitewashed houses set on a hill-top. It is classed as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy - "Borghi più belli d'Italia".
Lecce is one of the highlights of Southern Italy. It is found in the 'heel' of Italy and is a flamboyant city packed with wonderful Baroque architecture. It is one of the main tourist destinations of the Puglia region.
The village of Ischitella is situated on a hill dominated by olive trees and Mediterranean bushes about 300 meters above sea level where it forms part of the Gargano National Park.
The ancient village is also called "Earth", and separate from the newer part, called the "Bridge". The 'Earth' is characterized by houses with balconies overlooking the winding narrow streets leading to the main monuments of the city.
Bari is a large coastal city with a thriving port and both a historic and a modern centre. It is the capital of the Puglia region of Southern Italy. It has an attractive old town known as the Bari Vecchia.
Cagnano Varano is a hilltop villages situated close to the shores of Lake Varano in a region of lush vegetation on the north edge of the Gargano peninsula, in the Puglia region of south-east Italy.
Alberona sits on the slopes of Mount Stylus with commanding views over the Puglia countryside, and, on a clear day, across the sea to the Tremiti islands. It is one of Italy's most beautiful villages. It has also been awarded the Orange Flag (a national tourist award).
Alberobello is a fascinating place to visit, above all because of the trulli, the traditional dome shaped buildings made from the local stone. The town is surrounded by the olive groves and vineyards typical of the Pugli region.
Trulli is a word that derives from the Greek "tholos" (trans: "dome"), the typical shape of the buildings. Each whitewashed “trullo” is built without an lime or cement, and has a conical roof on the outside, which is dome shaped inside, and consists of a square central compartment that communicates through arcades with the kitchen and other rooms.
You will see trulli throughout the countryside of the region but there are more in Alberobeloo than anywhere else (more than 1000) and because of this the town is now a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The hill town of Cortona has very ancient origins, dating from Etruscan times, and is now one of the most attractive medieval hill towns in Tuscany. It also has lovely views across the surrounding olive groves and two interesting museums adding further to the interest of the town, and a visit is highly recommended.
Cortona is situated in the east of the Tuscany region of Italy and south-east of the town of Arezzo.
Arezzo is a large town in the Tiber Valley in eastern Tuscany, north of Cortona and south-west of Sansepolcro. Despite large scale damage in the Second World War Arezzo retains (or has reconstructed) many sights and artworks of great interest.
Renaissance artist Vasari was a native of Arezzo (you can visit the house where he was born) and Piero della Francesca was another very important renaissance artist who worked here - these two renowned artists contributed greatly to the artistic heritage of Arezzo.
A picturesque small town with an interesting historic center, Anghiari contains narrow streets that pass through the medieval center and numerous characterful houses as well as several churches of interest.
Bibbiena is an ancient town in the Casentino region to the east of Tuscany, situated on a hill overlooking the river Archiano which is a tributary of the Arno river. The town has very ancient roots in the etruscan period (pre Ancient Roman).
The ancient medieval town in the upper part of Bibbiena is well preserved, while the modern part of the town stretches along the slopes and below the old town, and has developed because of the town's expansion since the 19th century.
The quiet village of Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena is in the hills about 15 kilometres north-west of Albenga in the western part of Liguria. Although it is small, the village is interesting to explore because of its very well preserved medieval centre, and the castle that overlooks the village from the hill behind.
Albenga is a town near the coast of Liguria in north-west Italy. The highlights for visitors are the interesting medieval centre with the baptistry and cathedral, and the museum that contains the remains of a 1st century ship.
Interesting to note, in Roman times Albenga was a busy port town called Albium Ingaunum. The coast receded over the centuries and the modern town is no longer on the coast.
Albenga is unique in Liguria in that it has preserved the town's ancient Roman structure, with the two main streets, the “cardo” and “decumanus” intersecting at the center, and a series of medieval towers perfectly integrated in the layout - hence Albenga is also known as the 'city of a hundred towers'.
Bussana Vecchia is situated near Sanremo, in the south-west of the Liguria region and about 20 kilometres east of the border between Italy and France. After being a 'ghost village' for much of the 20th century it has developed over the last 50 years to be the centre of an active community of artists.
In 1887 the village of Bussana Vecchia was destroyed by an earthquake that hit the region. At the time most people in the village were in the church, which collapsed during the earthquake, and about 2000 people died during the tragedy.
For several hundred years Camogli was an important base for shipping in the region and once described as 'the city of a thousand sailing ships'. It has rather diminished in naval importance over the centuries and is now a small, pretty fishing town surrounded by the forested slopes of the Portofino Regional Natural Park.
Although only an hour or so drive from the extremely popular villages of the Cinque Terre, Camogli is much less visited than those villages and much more relaxing to visit, while losing little in terms of charm to its more famous neighbours - the area around the small beach and harbour is especially attractive.
Cervo is a pretty village south of Albenga and north-east of Imperia, on the Italian Riviera coast of Liguria in north-west Italy - known here as the Riviera di Ponente.
The village has a very long history: more than 2000 years ago, in the second century BC, the Romans established a stopping place here on the Via Aurelia, an important trade route leading to France and Spain. Cervo then acted as a shelter for pilgrims in the middle ages and is now a popular destination among 21st century travellers.
Chiavari is situated on the Gulf of Tigullio, an area between the promontory of Portofino and Moneglia. It is best known as one of the busy resorts on the Liguria coast, with the seafront and pebble beach attracting lots of summer visitors.
Away from the beach Chiavari has a fascinating mix of architecture (note the three different architectural styles in the photo of Chiavari above) and is well known for its medieval streets known as the 'carrugi'.
Dolceacqua village is a few kilometres inland from the Mediterranean coast, in the Nervia valley at the western end of Liguria (north-west Italy) and a short distance north of coastal Ventimiglia - so very close to the border with France.
With ancient stone houses on narrow paved alleys, an attractive humpback bridge over a scenic river and a castle overlooking the village Dolceacqua makes an enjoyable excursion from the Riviera di Ponente and the busy Ligurian coast.
Dolceacqua is also known for the olives which are grown in abundance in the region, the locally grown flowers, and a decent red wine called Rossese produced from grapes grown in the surrounding hills.
The city of Genoa, in north-west Italy, is an active commercial port and the busiest city in Liguria. It has a very interesting historic centre with numerous palaces, religious monuments and artworks to see and a substantial old town - it is said that Genoa has the largest medieval centre in Europe!
Despite all the art, history and culture in Genoa it is still very much a lived in city rather than a 'tourist town' and the kind of town you will love or hate - typically hate when you first arrive then grow to love as you explore!
Genoa is also well known as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and you can see the house where he is thought to have been born.
Lerici is an attractive harbour town to the south-east of La Spezia, on a natural inlet on the Liguria coast (known here as the Riviera di Levante) of north-west Italy and across the gulf from the Portovenere peninsula, with an attractive backdrop of rolling green hills.
Although popular with Italian visitors, Lerici is usually much less crowded than the (exceptionally busy) villages of the nearby Cinque Terre.
Portofino is a very lovely village and harbour on the coast near Rapallo and to the north-west of the Cinque Terre coastal region of picturesque villages. The town is set in an attractive natural inlet and surrounded by steep valley sides covered with olive trees.
The hill town of Varese Ligure is in a quiet location in the Vara Valley, in the hills of north-east Liguria, to the east of Chiavari. and north of the villages of the Cinque Terre. The town is interesting because of the unusual circular layout of the town - hence the name Borgo Rotondo - the attractive medieval houses and the small fortress.
The seaside town and resort of Sori is situated on the Ligurian coast of north-west Italy, about 20 kilometres to the south-east of Genoa and a similar distance west of Portofino and Rapallo.
There are several resorts along this section of the Riviera di Levante (the eastern Italian Riviera) including Sori and also Bogliasco, Camogli, Pieve Ligure and Recco. Together they are called the Paradise Gulf, an area very popular with Italian holidaymakers.
The attractive hill town of Montalcino is one of several interesting medieval towns and villages in the Val d'Orcia to the south of the picturesque Crete Senesi region of central Tuscany, to the south of Siena and one of the most popular destinations with visitors to the region.
In western Liguria and just a few kilometers from the border with France, Ventimiglia is in an enviable natural position between the Italian Riviera and the Cote d'Azur, and has long been a popular tourist destination.
Although it is not the most visited of the Riviera towns, Ventimiglia is charming because of its pastel coloured houses, and there are several places of interest in the old town as well as easy access to several interesting local highlights.
Being 'next door' to Menton, one of the most beautiful towns in France and just a few kilometres to the west, would leave almost anywhere else looking a bit run down! I suspect that Ventimiglia is visited more by those who are staying on the French Riviera and want an 'Italian experience' than those travelling around Italy.
The coast resort of San Remo was an important social centre around the end of the 19th century, and a popular resort until the middle of the 20th century, and many of the the grand houses and hotels that you can see in the town date from that period.
Triora is a picturesque village in a lovely setting of wooded valleys well into the Ligurian hills of north-west Italy. Triora is officially classified among the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Triora is well known in Italy because in the 16th century it was the place where trials and executions of witches took place - still 'commemorated' in the town museum!
Rapallo was a traditional harbour town on the Gulf of Tigullio to the north-east of the Portofino peninsula in the Liguria region, that is now the largest and most important seaside resort on the Mediterranean coast in north-west Italy.
The town as a resort has a fame dating back to the 1920s when Rapallo became an important centre for writers, including Ezra Pound and D.H. Lawrence among others.
The pretty port town of Portovenere, on a peninsula on the coast of north-west Italy, is a very picturesque village set on a slope behind a traditional harbour, with lots of beautiful tall and colourful houses and some quaint streets to explore. Portovenere also includes the villages of Fezzano and Le Grazie on the coast a little way to the north of here, and forms part of the UNESCO listed coastline of the region.
It is a town with three histories: originally the town was a Roman staging post on the route to France and Spain, then later became a fishing village, then in the early 20th century Portovenere started to attract the artistic community, and is well known for its association with Byron and Shelley.
The seaside resort at Alassio is best known for having one of the longest sandy beaches in the eastern Liguria region on the Riviera di Ponente, but also has a lively town centre and several historic monuments of interest. It is especially popular with Italian holidaymakers.
Unlike the French riviera a short distance to the west, most visitors will tell you that Alassio and the other resorts nearby on the Italian riviera are very welcoming but much less 'posh' (and less expensive) than their French counterparts so a good choice for families on a budget.
The resort of Sestri Levante, about halfway along the Riviera di Levante coast in eastern Liguria (north-west Italy) is one of those places that the Italians have managed to keep to themselves and is not well known by overseas visitors.
This lack of fame is presumably because of the famous cinque terre villages and Portovenere being on the same coast as Sestri Levante, and attracting every visitor and coach party that comes to this part of Italy...so other destinations get rather overlooked
The Tuscan village of Monteriggioni near Siena is one of the most intact medieval fortified villages in Italy, enhanced further by the lack of more recent development in the surrounding area which still consists of rolling countryside and vineyards - so you get the impression that very little despite the passing of several centuries since the fortress walls were built.
The Abbey of San Galgano near Siena is generally considered to be one of the most important religious monuments in Tuscany and certainly among the greatest of the gothic style monasteries in Italy. This is despite the essentially ruined state of the abbey - it has no roof and many internal walls and original buildings from the abbey complex can nolonger be seen.
The abbey and the associated Chapel of Monte Siepi are in a very quiet and picturesque area of countryside, that adds significantly to its appeal and also helps us appreciate why the location was chosen for the purposes of reflection.
The seaside resort at Levanto is a short distance west of the famous Cinque Terre villages and a good base if you are exploring this beautiful region, as well as having a good quality beach and an interesting historic centre of its own to discover.
Once one of the most glamorous seaside resorts in Italy, Viareggio is still very popular and retains a good deal of the Art Nouveau architecture for which it is well known. It is situated north of Pisa and west of Lucca in northern Tuscany on the Versilia Coast.
Unfortunately Viareggio is also expensive, reasonably priced accommodation can be hard to find in high season, and free access to the beaches is pretty much non-existent...
The resort of Santa Margherita Ligure is one of the most attractive and charming in the centre of the Riviera di Levante - the eastern half of the Ligurian coast in north-west Italy - and also well placed to explore local highlights such as Portofino.
The small fishing village of Tellaro would be a major attraction almost anywhere in Italy - or indeed Europe - with its colourful harbour and historic centre to explore, but being so close to Portovenere and the more famous villages of the Cinque Terre, all of them stunning, means Tellaro gets rather overlooked by visitors and guide books...
...so take advantage and you will find a lovely village without the tourist crowds of the other villages here!
The beach resort of Finale Ligure is among the most popular resorts on the western Ligurian coast, with the added advantage that the town itself is also lively and interesting. It is midway along the Riviera di Ponente, about halfway between Albenga and Savona.
Noli is a small resort, but one of the more attractive to visit along the Riviera di Ponente due to its setting, the sandy beaches, the castle and defensive walls on the hill above the town, and the medieval towers that dominate the historic centre.
One of the closest coastal towns in Luguria to the French border, Bordighera is best known for its old town and exotic gardens, and for the neighbouring villages of Sasso and Borghetto San Nicolò that preserve their own historic centres but are now part of Bordighera itself.
The small town of San Miniato is spread along a hill about halfway between Florence and Pisa in central Tuscany has several interesting historic monuments and makes a very interesting detour when travelling between these two popular cities - and a pleasant change from much of the route, which is rather overdeveloped.
Venice is a city in north-eastern Italy and has good transport connections by both air and road (last part to Venice city itself is usually by boat!). The city has been described by Time Magazine as 'undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man'. An opinion I would be inclined to share.
Taranto is situated in the Apulia province of Puglia, in south-eastern Italy. It is the chief town of the province and an important maritime base and industrial port, located at the northern end of the vast gulf from which it takes its name.
The oldest part of the city lies on an island with the more recent development on a peninsula (which separates the drainage areas of 'Great Sea' and 'Little Sea'). The two parts are connected by two bridges.
The Cinque Terre is a group of five villages set in scenic splendour on the cliffy coast of Liguria between La Spezia and Levanto. The scenery and the picturesque ancient villages together combine to make this one of the most lovely (and popular!) stretches of coast in Italy.
The villages are called Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, and together they are now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Specchia is a charming village set on a small hill and surrounded by olive groves. The village is inland in the Lecce province of the 'heel' of Italy and is halfway between the Adriatic and Ionian sea.
Villa Hanbury, in western Liguria near the Italian border with France, is a villa well known for its splendid botanical gardens - officially the Giardini Botanici Hanbury - dating from the 1860s.
The gardens were originally established by an English gentleman called Sir Thomas Hanbury with the goal of establishing and integrating plants from around the world and are now managed by Genoa University.
Sarzana is a town near La Spezia in the valley of the Magra River on the popular Ligurian coast of north-west Italy. It is close to the villages of the Cinque Terre.
Its position on one of the most important Roman trade roads to France, the famous “Via Francigena”, made Sarzana a town that has been coveted across the centuries by the Florentines, Genoese, and Pisans.
Terracina is found on the coast in the southern part of the Lazio region in central Italy. It is a fascinating town with a history stretching back at least 2500 years, and each period has left its mark on the city we visit today.
Italy This Way comment: although we describe Terracina old town below, visitors should also know that the town is about 15 minutes walk from a popular beach - one of only a few in Italy that are long, sandy and largely free to access. This beach attracts visitors from far and wide to Terracina!
Altamura is an important historical town situated in the heart of the Puglia (Apulia) region of south-east Italy best known for its cathedral and Museum of Archaeology.
On the Adriatic coast in southern Italy, the large town of Barletta has several interesting historic monuments including the largest known bronze statue from Ancient Roman times.
The small town of Carpino in the Gargano region of Italy has a characterful Old Town in with houses 'stacked' on the streets and small alleys connected by stairways to explore, and although it doesn't always feature highly on tourist routes a visit is pleasant when you are exploring this region.
The hilltop position of Carpino also means that there are nice views from many places in the town.
The town of Monte Sant'Angelo, with its attractive whitewashed houses running down the side of a hill and overlooking the Ardiatic Sea, is at an altitude of about 800 metres. It is known throughout the Christian world for its shrine dedicated to the Archangel Michael but also has other monuments and an interesting historic centre to explore.
Approximately 200 of the most beautiful villages and small towns across Italy have been listed by the Borgh Italia association, in an effort to help preserve them, to highlight the range and diversity of Italian rural and historical culture and tradition, and to help preserve their unique environments that each of these italian villlages and towns has to offer.
The Orange flag is an eco-tourist award to small towns and villages across Italy. It is awarded by the Italian Touring Club to towns and villages with a population of less than 15,000 people that make particular efforts towards welcoming tourism in an carefully maintained environment, and promote local industry and crafts - ie 'sustainable tourism'. Approximately 160 towns have so far received this award.
The town and resort of Mattinata are situated at the foot of the “Monte Sacro”, a hill known in antiquity as 'Dodoneo' and on which there is an ancient temple.
Mattinata includes a popular seaside resort with a nice sandy beach as well as the original village, a short distance from the sea and with small narrow streets, old stone steps and historic buildings to explore. Be sure to drag yourself away from the coast for a while because Mattinata has a great deal of historical interest to discover.
Rodi Garganico is located between the towns of Ischitella and San Menaio on the north coast of the Garganico, in the Puglia department of south-east Italy below the mountains of the Gargano National Park..
Rodi Garganico is a small town with an interesting past and there is much to discover as well as its impressive coastal location.
San Nicandro Garganico is an ancient town to the north of the Gargano peninsula in Puglia in south-east Italy, situated between Lake Lesina and Lake Varano and a few kilometres from the Adriatic coast.
The town name is also sometimes abbreviated to Sannicandro.
Valfabbrica is a small town in north-east Umbria, near Perugia, on the “Franciscan Path of Peace" route that traces the journey of Saint Francis (1182-1226) when he abandoned his father's house in Assisi and took refuge in Gubbio.
Sabbioneta is a very interesting town and perhaps nothing more unique is to be found in northern Italy. The town was designed in the 16th century by Vespasiano I Gonzaga to be a perfect example of how a renaissance period fortified town should be laid out, and retains many of the palazzos and buildings, and also the town layout from that time.
The town of Mazara del Vallo has been very important throughout the history of Sicily - it began life as an important supply centre for Selinunte, and since antiquity it has been a safe port for boats. Given its strategic geographical position it was conquered many times by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, Arabs, Normans and Swabians, each of whom left an indelible mark on its territory.
It is now a pleasant place to visit both for the seafront and for the old town which contains several sites of historic interest, an of course for its proximity to a good number of beaches, both sandy and rocky. The beaches offer a wide range of activities and the seafront area is ideal for your evening promenade!
San Gimignano is situated on one of the most fertile hills of the Val d'Elsa in Tuscany, where it developed between the ancient Roman roads of Via Romea and the famous Via Francigena (so called because it led to France).
The ancient castle and village of San Niccolò is located on a hill overlooking the valley of the Solano torrent, crossed by a stone bridge and surrounded by forested slopes. It falls within the Casentino district of Tuscany to the east of Florence.
The historic centre of Castel San Niccolo is small but very picturesque, with traditional stone buildings nestled in the surrounding woods. More recent development of the village has taken place in the valley below.
The Italian town of Gallipoli is situated towards the southern tip of Puglia (Apulia) in south-east Italy.
Note: this town has no connection with Gallipoli in Turkey, well known for an extensive battle in the First World War.
Cetica is a small village on the slopes of the mountains of the Casentino, and one of several villages located in the Pratomagno region that includes the three old towns of St. Michael (or St. Angelo), St. Mary and St. Pancrazio, surrounded by small villages scattered among terraced fields.
It falls within the same district as Castel San Niccolo.
Situated in the Val di Chiana at about 400 metres above sea level, it is also among the most ancient Italian cities as evidenced by the Etruscan labyrinth and Roman era catacombs in Chiusi.
Pelago covers an area of the Casentino east of Florence in Tuscany, a region rich in castles and works of art. The small town is situated at the foot of the castle and its historic center is characterized by the so-called "mercatale" [marketplace] and a series of palaces which once belonged to the members of the local aristocracy.
Empoli is a town in Tuscany, in the plain of the River Arno Valley, north of Arno and west from the river Elsa. While often overlooked by tourists, there is an interesting medieval central square and old town to explore here.
Chianciano is a small town in the rolling coutryside of south-east Tuscany. It is divided into a medieval town of narrow streets surrounded by ancient walls and a modern part, which extends to the periphery of the town and the spa area.
Lucca is a city in Tuscany with a rich artistic and architectural heritage that still follows the town layout much as it was in the Roman era and with the historic centre surrounded by defensive walls built in the 16th century.
Camoldoli is a village close to Poppi in the Casentino region of eastern Tuscany, visited for the historic Holy Hermitage and Monastery of Camoldoli. To reach Camoldoli you have a very scenic drive through the Casentino forests.
The town of Capolona and the surrounding Casentino region of Tuscany has an ancient history that is very interesting to visitors. Although other historic monuments including castles can be seen here the history is best seen in the parish churches and a small knowledge of the history of these churches makes a visit even more enjoyable.
Certaldo is a small Tuscany town of medieval origin, which developed in the Val d'Elsa in a location that has been settled since ancient times. Today Certaldo is a popular tourist destination both for its historical buildings, perfectly preserved in the upper part of the city, and for the landscapes around the town.
The name comes from the Latin "Cerrus Altus", a reminder that at the time the town was founded the area was surounded by woodland.
The town of Lesina is situated on a small peninsula on the southern side of Lesina Lake and to the north of the Puglia region of south-east Italy. Lesina is an attractive tourist resort that is best known for the lagoons of the Lesina and Varano Lakes.
It is above all a place for visitors who want to discover nature, with the presence of the lake, sea and lush vegetation, and also a large Mediterranean maquis, with woods, pine forests and dunes where you can admire a wide variety of birds and other animals, including the the buffalo.
Colle di Val d'Elsa is a hill town in the Siena province of central Tuscany. There are lots of places of interest and historical buildings to discover in the small historical center and Colle di Val d'Elsa is in a scenic location, so a visit is recommended.
The city celebrates itself as the city of Arnolfo and the surrounding territory as Terre di Arnolfo - Arnolfo di Cambio is a celebrated 13th century sculptor and architect.
Historically Colle included three different villages: Piano - the newer (but still now very old) part in the valley and Borgo di Santa Caterina and Castello di Piticciano on the ridge of the hill above.
Ruvo di Puglia is part of the National park of Alta Murgia in the Puglia region of southern Italy. It is surrounded by olive groves, vineyards and woods of downy oak trees.
Isole Tremiti is a stunning archipelago just north of the Gargano peninsula in the Adriatic sea. It is part of the Gargano national park. The group of islands is so named because of its regular seismic activity - tremiti means tremours!
Galatina is a small town to the south of Lecce in the Puglia region of southern Italy. It is home to some attractive Baroque architecture.
Otranto is a lovely seaside town with plenty of character and is one of the highlights of the Puglia region. With sandy beaches and an historic centre surrounded by defensive walls it makes a lovely holiday destination.
Castel del Monte is an unusual castle with an octaganol shape and towers at each point of the octagon. It is located in the Puglia region in the 'heel' of Italy.
Montemigniaio is a small village on a hilltop in the attractive setting of the wood covered hills of the Casentino region of eastern Tuscany.
The Italian village of Stia is situated at the foot of Mount Falterona and at the confluence of the Arno river (near its source) with the Staggia torrent, in the Casentino district to the east of Tuscany.
The Gargano peninsula is one of the most attractive coastal regions in southern Italy.
It is a region of south-east Italy that forms a promontory into the Adriatic Sea, to the north of the Puglia (Apulia) region. The centre of the Gargano is an isolated region of hills and mountains, much of which is now designated as the Gargano National Park, while the coastal region is a mix of impressive scenery, with cliffs plunging to the shore and interspersed with beaches and resorts.
For many centuries the region was only visited by pilgrims on their way to the shrine at Monte Sant'Angelo and there is still little important development within the higher regions of Gargano, but below the hills and around the coast there are several towns of historical interest and it is now the many popular resorts based along the beaches of the promontory that attracts most visitors to Gargano.
The Casentino area of Tuscany to the east of Florence is a very pleasant region of countryside scattered with monasteries and castles. This quiet region, largely undiscovered and neglected by visitors to Tuscany, also has an interesting history - see history of Casentino.
Kamarina is an ancient site at the Sicilian resort town of Santa Croce Camerina. For most visitors the nearby beaches and coast will be the priority of a visit but take time to also discover the historic site of Kamarina.
Kaukana, to use the ancient name for Kamarina, is a very important example of a settlement from late antiquity, and was an active town over various periods between 600 BC and 280 BC, then under the Romans until the 9th century AD. Although the remains here are rather sparse, the age and history of the settlement makes it an interesting site to visit.
The village of Bard is situated to the south-east of the Aosta Valley region of Italy. Although most visited for the Fortress, in an imposing position and with a history dating back to the 4th century, take the time to also explore the village of Bard, which is officially listed as one of the most beautiful in Italy.
In our guide to Bard Fortress and town below, we start with a brief introduction then continue with a quite detailed account of the founding and history of the fort, which we hope will add to the pleasure of your visit!
The Fortress of Bard, located at the entrance to the region of the Valle d'Aosta, has a long and glorious history. It is situated in a strategic setting which originally served as a control point of the Alpine routes leading from France to Italy. The military reinforcement of these Alpine crossings or "chiuse" [from 'locks' = 'fortifications used to block roads'] began in the early 4th century AD and continued for many centuries after that.
The fortress we see today is a perfect example of military architecture of the 19th century with a powerful artillery (guns, mortars, howitzers and cannons) housed in bunkers placed on different levels. It could accommodate about 400 soldiers and had stocks to resist a siege of three months. The fortress was never the scene of clashes and as a result it is virtually intact.
San Cataldo is a town situated on a hill in northern Sicily. Although it arose in an area of ancient settlement, as evidenced by archaeological remains found in the area, it is not an ancient city, and the town you visit today dates largely from the early 17th century.
The town of Cefalà Diana has always had a focus on agriculture but recently, thanks to a better appreciation of its artistic and architectural heritage, it has become an attractive tourist destination. It is set in a landscape of considerable charm which is now part of the "Natural Reserve of Cefalà Diana", created in 1997.
Sellano is a small Umbrian town with a history that has been substantially shaped by the earthquakes that have affected the region across the centuries. The village we see today is in an attractive location surrounded by wooded hills.
The attractive walled town of Asolo is in a picturesque setting in the lower forested foothills of the dolomite mountains and listed as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy.
The surrounding countryside is never far away, and the varied glimpses of the hills that you get as you explore have led the town to be nicknamed the 'city of a hundred horizons'.
Bolzano, an important regional town in north-east Italy, is in an attractive valley location surrounded by mountains and at the confluence of two rivers, and is a very pleasant town to explore.
While lacking important historical monuments you will find a vibrant atmosphere and you can pass many an hour enjoying the ambiance in the street-side cafes and bars.
Citta di Castello is a town that is rich in history and art and has a small historic centre that is pleasant to explore. Much of the artistic heritage in the town dates from the rule of the Vitelli in the 15th century, with the palaces and churches having a Tuscan influence, a result of the close bonds between the Vitelli family and the Medici of Florence.
Great artists of the 15th-16th century such as Signorelli, Raffaello, Rosso Fiorentino and Raffaellino del Colle have enriched the city with prestigious works of art and it is these that are the highlight of your visit.
The town of Carini is in north-east Sicily and located on a hill about 170 meters above sea level, within the chain of the Mounts Ericini and just a few kilometers from Palermo, with a territory that extends to the sea.
Monte Rosa is Italy's second highest mountain and is located about 10 kilometres south-east of the Matterhorn in the Alps of north-west Italy. Although the summit of Monte Rosa itself, at 4634 metres above sea-level, is in Switzerland most of the Monte Rosa Massif is within Italy.
It is a great mass of a mountain at the head of the Valsesia, Gressoney and Ayas valleys, and its size and bulk provides a stark contrast to the elegant simplicity of its near neighbour, the Matterhorn. Monte Rosa can be seen from many places in north-western Italy and from near the western Lombardy lakes such as Lake Maggiore.
Note: the name of the mountain comes from 'glacier mountain' not 'pink mountain' as you might have guessed, with 'rosa' coming from 'rouése' which is a local word for glacier.
Bevagna is a village in the Umbria region of central Italy, close to Spello and in the Vale of Spoleto, that has been a settlement since at least the time of the Ancient Romans.
The highlight of your visit to the pretty village is the medieval square called Piazza Silvestri with its two ancient churches and other 13th century buildings, but there are other sites of interest in the town so be sure to explore.
Although not usually considered to be a 'tourist town' you will find an interesting mix of monuments to explore in Umbertide, including an ancient fort and other historic buildings spanning the period from the middle ages to the 18th century.
The Basilica di Superga is found just east of Turin, on the hill of the same name - it dominates the skyline of the hill and can be reached by car, or by tram and cable-car from Turin.
The Basilica is an impressive baroque building constructed in the early part of the 18th century - it was Vittorio Amadeos way of thanking the Virgin Mary for saving Turin from an invading French army.
Pavia is most visited because of the exceptional Charterhouse of Pavia just outside the town and one of the finest examples of renaissance architecture in Italy, but Pavia itself also has a rich artistic heritage. It is a challenge to see all the interesting buldings in a short visit but by careful planning you have the chance to visit the best art and architecture of the city.
In medieval times Pavia was known as the 'city of a hundred towers'. Although not many of these towers now remain there is still a great deal to enjoy as you explore the narrow streets of the historic centre, including numerous churches and pretty small piazas, the castle and the cathedral.
Ispica is a town on a hill in the south-eastern corner of the island of Sicily, at about 200 meters above sea level and six kilometers from the coast. The immediate region around Ispica is most visited for its prehistoric caves, or of course the nearby coastal resorts such as Santa Maria del Focallo and Ciriga.
Correggio is a small town in Emilia Romagna with about 20,000 inhabitants and located between two streams, the Crostolo and the Tresinaro.
The origins of the name of the town are interesting. At one time Correggio was surrounded by marshes and canals and the only areas that could be explored on foot were the upper parts of the banks of these canals and ponds. These raised strips were called 'corrigiae', from the Latin 'corrigium' which means 'a strip of leather', - so 'Correggio' refers to 'strips of land in the midst of the waters'.
The Oropa Sanctuary (Italian: Santuaria d'Oropa) is found near Biella in the northern part of Piedmont, about 80 kilometres north-east of Turin.
It is a very important Italian pilgrimage destination with a reputation for providing relief to the sick and also now a UNESCO listed heritage site. More than 800,000 pilgrims visit Oropa each year.
Butera is a town with a growing tourism industry and with many points of interest in and around the town, from religious buildings to the Necropolis, from the Castle of Falconara to the “Marina di Butera”. The route here from Gela is also very scenic.
Avigliana originally developed in the 15th century when several of the princes of Savoy established their homes here. The town is also overlooked by the ruins of a 10th century castle, the ruins of which can be reached by a short walk from Avigliana centre.
Both the town itself and the surrounding countryside - Avigliana is surrounded by lakes and mountains and is part of the scenic Susa Valley - are very pleasant to visit, while the most important monument for visitors is the Abbey Sacra di San Michelle a few kilometres from the town.
Spello is a medieval village on the slopes of a hill that has retained a great deal of its original aspect and many important monuments and is a pleasure to explore. Still surrounded by the ruins of ancient Roman walls and others built more recently during the Papal domain to create the 'Fortress', Spello is officially classified as one of the most 'beautiful villages in Italy'.
As well as the village itself and the Roman and medieval monuments there are also several important artworks of interest, including a fresco cycle by Pinturicchio in the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore which is the most important sight in the village.
The substantial town of Alcamo is on the slopes of Mount Bonifato, near the coast and at 256 meters above sea level in north-west Sicily. The long sandy beach at the resort of Alcamo Marina, a few kilometres from the town, is the reason that most visitors find themselves here, but the old town of Alcamo itself is also well worth exploring.
The Sicilian island of Favignana is the largest of the 'Isole Egadi' group of islands to the west of Sicily, and has more facilities and accommodation than the other islands in the group, so makes a good base for exploring. Most visitors are on day trips from Trapani, so the island is much quieter in the evening than during the day time in summer.
Faenza is a fascinating town and a city of art of extraordinary value that we suggest should be visited slowly and carefully to best enjoy all it has to offer.
The town is best known as the centre for production of faience, a type of ceramic pottery that has been made here for hundreds of years and exported worldwide and is still produced and sold extensively in the town.
Corleone is a small town situated on a hill about 500 meters above sea level in the province of Palermo in western Sicily. The town is best known for its churches and for its connection with some of the most powerful families of the mafia.
This mafia asociation explains why the name Corleone was used by the lead character in the 'Godfather' film.
The town of Vipiteno is more Austrian in feel than Italian, not surprisingly given its location so close to the border, and is listed as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy.
Glorenza is a charming fortified medieval town surrounded by the hills of the South Tyrol, and officially classed as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy. Glorenza is often called Glurns by those outside Italy.
The Conero peninsula is on the coast to the south-east of Ancona, in the Le Marche region of Italy, and consists of attractive coastline and beaches on the Adriatic Sea set around the Natural Park of Mount Conero and the mountain itself as well as beaches and resorts.
The coastal region here is sometimes referred to as the Conero Riviera. Not surprisingly given the beaches, scenery and resorts it can be rather busy in summer!
Parma is a wealthy, bustling town in northern Italy with a long history: it was an Etruscan settlement first, then a Roman colony; then an important regional centre throughout the Middle Ages.
The international fame of the town rests perhaps on its two great food products - parmesan cheese and parma ham - that are both highly reputed around the world, but of course it is the city itself that is the main attraction for visitors and includes some of the finest buildings, artworks and monuments in northern Italy as well as a renowned opera house and numerous bars, restaurants and upmarket shops.
The historic Italian town of Tolentino is situated on a round hill above the Chienti River. Although best known and usually visited for its basilica, Tolentino also has an interesting old town and some highly regarded museums, and is also in close proximity to the popular abbey of Chiaravalle de Fiastra.
The town of Bastia Umbra is situated in the heart of the Umbria region of central Italy and close to Perugia, the region capital.
Lugnano in Teverina not only has a very ancient past, but also a history of art that is worthy of special consideration. The town is still surrounded by its medieval walls, largely rebuilt by Pope Pius II, while the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta is the most important monument in the town.
The town of Nocera Umbra is still surrounded by parts of the original castle walls and dominated by the large tower called the "Campanaccio", which is all that remains of the original fortress around which the original town developed.
Rignano Garganico is a small town in the province of Foggia, and is the smallest centre of the Gargano Promontory. It is situated on a ridge along the top of a hill, high above the surrounding countryside - which is why Rignano is sometimes called the 'Balcony of Puglia'.
Vigevano is the most important town in the fertile Italian rice producing region called Lomellina (also called the Holland of Lombardy), an immense plain containing many paddy fields and crossed by numerous watercourses.
Although we suggest you start your visit in Vigevano itself, to fully appreciate the arts and architecture of the Lomellina region it is necessary to leave Vigevano and explore other towns nearby such as Lomello and Mortara.
This area has been settled for at least 2000 years and the ancient Roman Villa of Cerqua reminds us that there were many settlements along the Flaminia Road (Via Flaminia) in this region in Roman times, as confirmed by archaeological excavations.
Raggiolo, in the Casentino area of eastern Tuscany, is a village on the mountain side between the Teggina and Barbozzaia torrents, at a height of about 600 meters and east of Pratomagno. The village is linked with Ortignano, thereby forming the small town of "Ortignano-Raggiolo", with its own distinctive traditions.
Sprawling down the slopes of a wooded hill, the village is small but the centre is picturesque with traditional houses and steep narrow streets to explore.
The Sicilian town of Castroreale is best known for the important works of art to be seen in the Civic Museum and the Pinacoteca, the churches in the town and the surrounding countryside.
The town itself extends along the brow of a hill so has far-reaching views across the surrounding landscape.
Filicudi is one of the scenic group of Aeolian islands off the north-eastern coast of Sicily, well known in particular for the scuba diving that is popular along the coast here. A large part of the island is now designated as the 'Natural Reserve of Filicudi Island'.
The town of Castrovillari has a remarkable artistic heritage, highlighted in particular by the imposing Aragonese Castle, located in the city centre. It is also on the edge of the Pollino National Park with its mountains, gorges and scenic landscapes.
The historic center of Vaglio Basilicata, a town on the ridge of a hill in the Basilicata region of southern Italy, still retains its clear medieval structure despite various transformations over the centuries.
As well as the historic centre with its cobbled streets, the churches and local archaeological sites and the museum are the principal sites of interest in the town.
Ustica is an island located off the Sicily coast about 70 km northwest of Palermo, and falls to the west of the group of islands known as the Aeolian Islands. The island occupies an area of about nine square kilometers and is best known as a 'paradise for skin-divers', although it also has a small town, a natural environment and prehistoric monuments of interest.
Melfi is a quiet town but the castle and medieval old town have a great deal of character and it is a pleasant town to visit. Already established before the time of the Ancient Romans, Melfi acquired importance in the Middle Ages as the capital of the Normans and it is this era that sets the character of the town we visit today.
Lisciano Niccone is a small village and not traditionally part of the 'tourist trail', with agriculture the most important industry here, but if you are exploring the region you can visit to see the ruins of the castle in Lisciano Niccone.
The village is also part of the region designated as the Archaeological Park of Cortona.
The ancient settlement of Gualdo Tadino was established on Sant'Angelo Hill and followed the layout of the land, developed with overlapping terracings, and this layout still gives the city its typical medieval appearance.
Although it is not the most interesting town in the region the small historic centre merits a visit when you are exploring the natural environment of the nearby Regional Park of Monte Cucco. Gualdo Tadino is also reputed for its mineral waters which are well-known for their therapeutic properties.
The Pelagian Islands are a group of three islands in the Mediterranean Sea. Belonging to Italy, and officially falling within the Sicily region (they are 200 km off the southern coast of Sicily), the islands are actually situated between Africa and Malta (and closer to these countries than to Italy).
Their remoteness means the Pelagian Islands avoid large scale tourism, but they are still a popular tourist destination due to the coast, beaches and scenery and the chance to go scuba diving in some of the clearest water you have ever seen.
Covering just six square kilometers, Levanzo is a popular destination for both its cultural and natural highlights.
Although not many tourists seem to find the town, Tricarico is interesting to explore with several historic palazzos and churches to discover in the 'old town' which is among the best preserved medieval centres in the region.
The current town layout of Tricarico still shows the presence of the narrow streets of the ancient Arab neighbourhoods that alternate with more 'recent' Norman districts.
Archaeology enthusiasts visiting Sicily should certainly be tempted to visit the ancient Greek city of Morgantina which is one of the most interesting archaeological sites in the hinterland of Sicily.
Although essentially Greek in origins, the excavations at Morgantina have demonstrated that the site was actually occupied from the Bronze Age onwards. See history and etymology of Morgantina to learn more about the rise and fall of this once important town.
Centuripe is an ancient town in eastern Sicily with a history that goes back to at least the 5th century BC. The town is spread out across the ridges of several hills so the town has a 'starfish' shape - or if viewed from the air, the shape of a man with outstretched arms and legs.
The town has avoided mass tourism but visitors can still find several notable highlights including the parts of the original defensive walls that still surround the town, several churches, an interesting archaeological museum and views across to Mount Etna which is only about 20 kilometres from here.
The archipelago of the Aeolian Islands is in the Tyrrhenian Sea to the north of Sicily and includes seven islands, of which the largest are Lipari, Vulcano and Salina. Others include Filicudi, Stromboli, Panarea and Ustica. All the Aeolian islands are of volcanic origin.
San Severino is a town set in the rolling wooded hills of the Marches region, on the so-called Black Mountain. As you arrive you can see the castle and the ancient seat of the medieval city dominating the hilltop. The historic centre of San Severino is pleasant to explore with several monuments and buildings of particular interest to visitors.
The full name of the town is actually San Severino Marche.
The town of Fabriano is rather ignored by the tourist guides, but actually has quite a few places of interest and buildings of interest to see in its historic centre and is very pleasant to visit. Certainly if you are visiting the fascinating Frasassi caves nearby we suggest you take the time to explore Fabriano while you are here.
The surrounding region is also rich in natural beauty, with highlights including the gorges of the Gola di Rossa.
Linosa is one of the Pelagian islands, a group of islands a long way south of Sicily. Linosa (and the other Pelagian islands) are above all visited for the beautiful coastline and the exceptional diving opportunities offered by the clear waters.
The island is only about five square kilometres in size, so won't take you very long to explore, with much of the island scenery away from the shore dominated by the extinct volcanoes and the areas of volcanic rock.
The ancient town of Cuma was situated close to the current city of Naples, and traces of this earlier city can still be seen nearby. The setlement was founded by the ancient Greeks in a location that had been occupied since prehistoric times, and is notable as being the first Greek settlement in Italy.
The families and descendants from the original settlement at Cuma went on to create further towns and villages, including the one that was later to become Naples.
For years people talked about the opportunity to visit an “Underground Naples,” with evidence of Naples in its first period when it was founded by people from Cuma - in fact, there is an “Underground Naples”, which today can be visited by tourists interested in antiquities. The brief historical notes below may be useful to those who would like to explore Naples as it was "in the time of Cuma".
Burano occupies one of the lagoon islands off Venice. It is often visited as a popular tour from Venice, from which it is easily reached by ferry - the seven kilometre trip takes about 40 minutes.
Piazza Armerina is a lively local town surrounded by forested slopes in the heart of Sicily. The town still follows its original medieval design although many of the buildings date from the 17th to 19th centuries and are in the baroque style.
Anagni is an important historical town in central Italy with several interesting buildings to be seen from the period around the 13th century when many popes and important families lived here and constructed their impressive buildings, and an impressive cathedral and crypt.
Anagni was also a favourite residence of Emperor Frederick II of Swabia (1194-1250) and illustrious princely families such as the Borgias, Cajetani, Colonna, Orsini among others.
Tthe Abbey of Staffard is a cistercian monastery and one of the most complete medieval monastic complexes to be found in Italy. It is in an attractive position with the Alps providing a dramatic backdrop.
The historic town of Narni is in an imposing hilltop position overlooking the Nera Valley. Quite a quiet regional town, the historic old town is pleasant to explore and has several notable monuments. There is also a more sprawling newer town in Narni further down the hill but this is of less interest to visitors.
You are likely to visit Avio Castle and the Adige river as an excursion during a visit to Lake Garda.
The strategic importance of the Adige River, the second longest river in Italy, dates back to before the ancient Romans and extends through to medieval times. The river flows from the central Alps, continues south until Lake Garda, then continues east towards Venice.
Because of this strategic importance there are numerous castles along the central part of the valley of the Adige River to the east of Lake Garda, dating from the time when the valley played an important defensive role and was also an important transit route.
Syracuse is a very important historical center and now also a substantial modern town to the south-east of Sicily. It has an almost unbroken history that stretches back 2500 years, with artefacts to be seen in the town from each historical era.
The town is now one of the most visited on Sicily, and because of its monuments and historical importance Syracuse is now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Brenta 'canal' is a scenic waterway inland from Venice towards Padua, best known for its scenery and grand villas and popular with those taking a river cruise in north-west Italy. Although man-made, the Brenta is better described as a river than a canal.
The 'River' Brenta, which is 174 kilometres long, was originally constructed to divert the flow of water that was causing too much silting of the lagoon around Venice, threatening to damage transport links.
In a location that it has occupied for at least 3,000 years, Macerata is a lively town, if slightly off the main 'tourist trail' for the region, with plenty to distract you if you are passing your visit on the nearby coast or enjoying the countryside of the Marches.
The hilltop town of Chiaramonte Gulfi has faced considerable challenges over the centuries - most notably the terrible earthquake that struck this part of Sicily in 1693 - but is still well preserved and today you can appreciate the typical medieval town centre, characterized by its steep staircases.
The local economy in Trabia is based largely on fishing and agriculture, and although the town has not until now been considered an important destination for visitors tourism has started to play a larger part in recent years, based around the castle and churches in the town and the coastline.
The Sicilian town of Monreale is most visited because of its extensive cathedral complex. The extraordinary buildings of the abbey and monastery contain numerous highlights with more than a hectare (2.5 acres) of mosaics, numerous other artworks and an exceptional cloisters, and is an unmsissable highlight of your visit to north-east Sicily.
We give quite extensive details below about the cathedral and its fascinating history, because knowing this history makes your visit to Monreale much more rewarding.
Mirandola is not a very large town, having about 20,000 inhabitants, but it has played an important role across the centuries because of its position between Mantua and Veneto, to the north-east of Modena and north-west of Bologna.
Lodi is a substantial town that originally developed 2000 years ago as an important town on the Roman transport routes in the region. It is now an attractive medieval town to explore with a great deal of character.
Lampedusa is a small island, just 13 kilometres long from east to west and with an average width of 3 kilometres situated about 200 km to the south-east of Sicily and 110 kilometres from Africa. It forms part of the Pelagian Islands. The natural environment of Lampedusa, that is the main attraction of Lampedusa, is as African in character as Italian.
Perhaps not surprisingly given its location, there are not too many tourists who come to enjoy the scenery and beautiful beaches on Lampedusa. The island is very popular with scuba divers, due to the exceptionally clear water and the diversity of fish and sealife to be found here.
Lake Maggiore is one of the popular 'Lombardy lakes' of northern Italy. The 65 kilometre long lake nestles in a valley surrounded by forested slopes and mountains and with numerous attractive towns and sections of coastline which make it very scenic and a very popular summer destination with visitors.
Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy, after Lake Garda.
Along the shores and in the gardens of the villas you will also see many flowers, trees and plants that make Maggiore so popular - indeed for many visitors it is the very beautiful gardens on the shores and around the villas of the Borromean islands that are the highlight of a visit to Maggiore.
The town of Rende is now quite extensive, but it is the historical part of the town along the top of the hill that is of interest to visitors.
During the medieval and renaissance periods Ferrara attracted many of the leading artists and intellectuals of the period - in particular because of the influential and powerful Este family - and it was during this period that much of the heart of the town as we see it today was established.
The Este family were typical of the leading dynasties in Italy from the 13th to the 16th century, maintaining their position of power with force and brutality while also being great supporters of the leading artists and architects of the period and attracting them to create great works of art in the city.
Ferrara is now is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its very well preserved centre and important monuments and buildings, with several of them among exceptionally attractive.
Novara is an important regional town in Piedmont with an interesting historic centre to explore and several important historic monuments and artworks to enjoy. In the city you will find buildings from the medieval and renaissance periods as well as from the 19th century expansion of Novara.
The peculiarity - and attraction - of Scicli is largely due to its setting and the surrounding natural environment. As well as several beaches and resorts on the coast to the south-west the town is also at the intersection of the valleys of San Bartolomeo and Santa Maria La Nova, known as the "Cave" with the rocky hills of San Matteo, Rosario and of the Croce nearby.
As one of the towns in the area severely damaged by an earthquake in 1693 and rebuilt in baroque style, it also forms part of the Val di Noto World Heritage Site.
Compared with many in the region Realmonte is a "young" town, only dating from the mid 17th century, but the same thing can not be said of the area in which it is located, with traces of prehistoric settlment and an important roman villa. The combination of beaches, beautiful coast and historic sights make Realmonte an interesting destination for visitors to Sicily.
The caves at Bossea are slightly off the tourist trails that visit the Ligurian coast to the south or the more mountainous regions of Piedmont to the north, but if you are in this region a visit is highly recommended because the Bosea caves are among the most impressive in Italy.
They were also one of the very first caves to be explored and opened to the public: the first detailed exploration took place in 1850 and the caves were opened to the public in 1874.
Mantua (aka Mantova) is an important town to the south-east of the Lombardy region surrounded by three lakes: Lago Superiore, Lago di Mezzo, Lago Inferiore. The town has a fascinating and impressive historic centre with many renaissance style builings and palaces, along with many examples from other historical periods.
Aldous Huxley famously described the city as 'the most romantic city in the world' and while that is perhaps open to debate (with Paris, Rome and Venice among those cities that might disagree!) it is true that Mantua is a very lovely city with a great deal to discover and enjoy among its attractive squares, its historic monuments, and its picturesque setting.
San Gemini is a medieval town towards the south of the Umbria region of central Italy, and although the town is not commonly thought of as a tourist destination there are several interesting historical buildings and artworks to enjoy during a visit, in particular among the churches.
Cefalu is a leading Sicilian seaside resort, and one of the major centres of art, culture and history on the island. It also has daily connections with the Aeolian Islands and together these two factors make Cefalu a very popular destination in Sicily.
The combination of an interesting old town and harbour and easy access to beaches have ensured that Cefalu is now one of the most important travel destinations on Sicily.
Montalbano Elicona is a small town on a hilltop in the region known as Nebrodi to the north-east of Sicily. It is officially recognised as being one of the 'most beautiful villages in Italy', although it still remains a quiet and quite undiscovered village by most visitors.
Rimini is a very lively and popular coastal town and seaside resort on the Adriatic sea to the east of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy.
Lipari is the name of an island and also the only major town in the archipelago of the Aeolian Islands, off the north coast of Sicily.
It is also the liveliest place, and its attractive harbour area and wide choice of cafes and bars make it a popular base for exploring the islands. Boats between the islands and from Milazzo on north-east Sicily also almost all pass through Lipari harbour (larger boats at Marina Lunga, smaller boats at Marina Corta) so it is easy to reach the other islands if you are based here.
The 'Serene Republic of San Marino' to give San Marino its official title, is an independent republic on the northern border of the Marche region of Italy covering about 60 square kilometres and having the city of San Marino as its capital (also known as Borgomaggiore).
Despite its small size the Serene Republic has its own army and is a separate member of the Council of Europe (the organisation that defines and protects laws, human rights etc throughout Europe).
Riva del Garda is situated at the northern end of Lake Garda in northern Italy. Known as "Benacus" by the Romans, the town is on a small plain formed by the alluvial deposits of the River Varone and has mountains rising up behind the town.
Lake Garda is one of the most popular of the lakes in northern Italy, and Rive del Garda is among the highlights of a visit to the lake with a fortress dominating the lakefront area and an interesting old town to explore of narrow cobbled streest ad pretty shady squares.
Sirmione is a town situated on a narrow peninsula at the southern end of Lake Garda, in a scenic location that has attracted visitors since ancient Roman times. The peninsula is only about 100 metres wide and almost 4 kilometres long.
The historical center of the town is in a very picturesque setting, although the outlying parts of Sirmione have not benefitted from the large amount of tourist development..
The town of Arco is located to the northern end of Lake Garda in Lombardy (northern Italy), in an attractive setting with sheer cliffs to one side and overlooked by a castle.
It stands at the southern end of the Sarca River valley which flows on into Garda Lake, and the position- protected by the mountains - allows the area to maintain a mild climate, so the city has been a holiday resort for several centuries.
The small town of Bettona is situated on a hill in central Umbria, a short distance south-east of Perugia. Elliptical in shape, Bettona is still surrounded by medieval walls and it has also preserved some parts of the ancient Etruscan walls.
Although Bettona seems rather overlooked by most guidebooks we found it to be very pleasant to explore with an interesting historic centre and a pleasant main square where you will find most of the important historic monuments.
Oliveri was originally the name of both of the castle and the hamlet (the hamlet no doubt originally developed around the castle) that are situated on a low hill not far from the beaches of the Tyrrhenian Sea and dominated by the promontory of Tindari.
The village, which was quite a centre of activity 1000 years ago, is now very quiet - but not non-existent as most guide books for Sicily or Italy might have you believe and there are a few sites of interest in Oliveri and nearby!
Capua, a small town on the river Volturno, has been an active local centre for more than 2000 years, as can be seen in the monuments and buildings in and near the town. It is now a quiet regional centre, visited for its important museum but also having several churches and other places of interest.
Lake Orta is a quiet lake, 15 kilometres long and two kilometres wide, in the southern Alps just west of Lake Maggiore in the Piedmont region if Italy. To the west of the 'important' Lombardy lakes such as Maggiore, Iseo and Como, it is smaller than these other lakes - and less visited, although even Lake Orta can become quite busy in the summer.
The lake is in a picturesque setting surrounded by woods and hills, and it is often said that the Italians who know about Lago d'Orta prefer to keep it a secret to avoid it becoming as commercialised as the larger lakes. In any case both the town of Orta San Giulio and the lake are extremely pretty and a visit is highly recommended.
Civitavecchia is an important port town on the coast of western Italy to the north-west of Rome. The town is best known as a departure point for ferries to destinations in the Mediterranean including Sicily, Sardinia and Barcelona, and a stopping point for cruise ships so their passengers can visit Rome.
While not considered to be a tourist destination itself, Civitavecchia does have some sights of interest if you find yourself with an hour or two to spare before catching your ferry.
The town of Gerace is situated at the southern end of Italy a few kilometres inland from the ancient Greek settlement of Locri on the Ionian coast - the two are usually explored as part of the same visit.
Scanno is a town situated in the Abruzzo region of central Italy. Part of the town falls within the boundaries of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park, the big attraction to the south of Scanno.
As a traditional Italian hill town in a very scenic location - surrounded by the forest covered hills of the Apennines - Scanno is becoming quite established on the tourist trail in the region and is a popular destination in both summer and winter. The town is also a classified most beautiful village of Italy.
Dozza is a small town of very ancient origins located on a hill near Imola and Bologna, between the village of Toscanella (which is rich in ancient remains) and the Sillaro river.
The principal historic monument in Dozza is the fortress. According to many scholars the Fortress of Dozza dates back to 1250, was destroyed by Bologna and then restored by Romeo Pepoli in 1310 at the behest of the same Bologna (11).
In Roman times Akrai belonged to the so-called "stipendiariae civitates" [=tribute-paying communities], i.e. it was forced to pay taxes to Rome, which could mean that it was always opposed to the Romans, taking the side of Syracuse.
However, Akrai continued to be inhabited even after the fall of the Roman Empire, becoming one of the most important seat of Christianity. Its end came in the ninth century AD, when the city was destroyed by the Arabs.
Palazzolo Acreide and the ancient site of Akrai are situated in south-east Sicily, inland and to the west of Syracuse.
While it is the nearby ruins at Akrai that attract the most attention from visitors, the town of Palazzolo-Acreide itself deserves exploring, above all for the churches it contains. The Old Town of Palazzolo Acreide stands out above all for its typical Baroque style.
Eloro, also known nowadays as Helorus, is situated in south-east Sicily. It is closely related to the historic town of Noto and is found in the territory of that town.
It is for the archaeologic site and history that visitors come here - so bear with us if the Eloro guide is rather more historically detailed than most, but it will make your visit more interesting!
The remains of ancient Sybaris are situated to the east of the Calabria-Basilicata region and north of Rossano - hence at the top of the 'toe' of Italy. The locations of the excavations are easily accessible by car along the main road 106 - Ionica, which connects Reggio Calabria to Taranto.
Cassano allo Ionio is a medium sized town - now best known as a coastal resort - in the Calabria region of southern Italy near the ancient city of Sybaris.
In recent years Cassano Ionio has attracted the attention of historians and scholars. The town has an urban plan that is crossed by roads that intersect at right angles and branch out into narrow alleys, enclosed by walls that are ancient and of which virtually nothing remains.
The old town of Crotone is situated on a hill, where the ancient acropolis once stood, surrounded by walls built in the mid-16th century by Don Pedro de Toledo (1484-1553), who undertook the works of fortification with the rebuilding of the city walls and part of the castle. The new walls are in polygonal form, consist of five bastions and two ramparts on the sides of the castle and creating a very admirable example of a fortress.
The town of Reggio Calabria is situated in the far south of the country, close to the crossing to Sicily. It is the most important town in the Calabria region, and has a significant historic and architectural heritage to discover.
Castiglione Cosentino is a small town in the countryside of the Calabria region of southern Italy.
We have to recall when visiting Castiglione Cosentino that it was subject to several severe earthquakes during the 18th - 20th centuries, so a substantial part of the architectural heritage has been lost. However, this heritage is still well represented by the religious buildings in the town.
San Leo is in the heart of the Montefeltro countryside to the south-west of Rimini, and on a hilltop 600 metres above sea level that has been occupied since Roman times. San Leo is listed as one of the 'most beautiful villages in Italy' and also has the Orange Flag award for sustainable tourism.
Vibo Valentia is located on a fertile plain at the northern side of the promontory of Tropea, a few kilometers from the Tyrrhenian Sea, which overlooks the town of “Vibo Valentia Marina.” The old urban center is in the upper part of the town, at the foot of the castle, while below is the modern town.
The town and region is usually visited as an excursion from the popular coastal resort of Tropea
Policastro Bussentino is a seaside resort in Campania (southern Italy), and has all the facilities of a popular summer destination.
However, although the town is nowadays best known as a resort and for the coastline of the Policastro Gulf it also has a long and interesting history and several monuments of interest to explore.
Nocera Terinese is a town in the Calabria region of southern Italy that is devoted to tourism, with an old Town full of interesting monuments. It is close to the very ancient town of Temesa, a site that can also be visited.
The town of Santa Maria del Cedro is situated in the Calabria region to the south of Italy. It is also associated with the very ancient town of Laos that existed here in ancient Greek times.
The ancient Umbrian town of Amelia is located in a hilly area about 400 meters above sea level, towards the south of the Umbria region of central italy between the Tiber and the Nera River, on a hill on the right side of the stream called “Fosso Grande". It is one of the most interesting old towns in southern Umbria.
In the town, which is surrounded by massive 'polygonal' walls, many styles are combined from the Middle Ages until the 18th century. The churches and palaces demonstrate the importance that Amelia had in the 16th and 18th centuries from the artistic point of view.
Tusa is situated on the coast of northern Sicily, east of Cefalu, where it is a popular and developed seaside resort. Our visit concentrates on the town itself rather than the resort...
Rivello is a medieval village with great charm, in a very scenic position overlooking a valley situated in the Basilicata region of southern Italy.
The town of Alatri is spread across the side of a hill towards the east of the Lazio region of central Italy with an ancient history.
Aci Trezza is situated near Catania on the east coast of Sicily. It is also on the extension of the beach that runs from Catania to Messina. Both the town and surrounding countryside and coast have a great deal of interesting sights.
In front of the beach there are some islands that catch the visitor's attention with their bizarre forms - this group of rocks is known by local inhabitants as the “Faraglioni of Trezza”, or more romantically as as the “Island of the Cyclops".
Although Aci Trezza is a prestigious seaside resort we suggest you find time to appreciate some of the local monuments, towns and villages, and scenic highlights.
Acireale is situated on the coast of eastern Sicily, north of Catania and was a well established medieval town here before the 16th century (described as being similar to many muslim cities).
Adrano is a substantial town to the east of Sicily, inland from the coast and north-west of Paterno, immersed in a landscape that winds through mountains and fields of orange groves in the valley of the river Simeto, and to the south of the Regional park of Mount Etna.
Agrigento is one of the most important cities in Sicily, and is situated on the southern coast of the island. It is particularly well known and visited because of the ancient temple complex of Agrigento.
Aidone is a small town situated in central-southern Sicily a lttle way north-east of Piazza Armerina. Like many towns in the region, the architecture in Aidone was very affected by the earthquake of 1693 and the subsequent baroque style rebuilding of many monuments in the town.
The town of Alba is in the Piedmont region of north-east Italy, south-east of Turin and south-west of Milan. Although the city has its origins in Ancient Roman times, most of the monuments of interest today date from the 13th - 15th centuries.
The Amalfi Coast is a spectacular 50 km section of coastline that follows along the southern edge of the Sorrento Peninsula from Positano to Vietri sul Mare (just west of Salerno). Along the route there are several small towns that are very worthy of visiting, divided by dramatic cliffs and rocks plunging into the Mediterranean, and very attractive coastal scenery.
Many places get described in travel guides as 'awesome', 'stunning', 'spectacular' and so on. In this case believe them - the Amalfi Coast is one of the great coast roads of Europe, perhaps the world.
Ancona is established on the hills around a natural harbour on the Adriatic coast of to the west of the Le Marche region of Italy. The town dates back to the 5th century BC, when Greek exiles from Syracuse (now part of Sicily) first established a settlement here.
It is a popular arrival point from the UK with flights to the nearby Falconara airport acting as a popular entry point for the Marches region of Italy, and is also used as a ferry port for passengers to Greece and Croatia.
Belluno is in the northern part of the Veneto-Venezia region, just where the flat plains of the south meet the dolomites and mountains to the north - north of Conegliano and south of Cortina d'Ampezzo. Venice is less than an hour to the south.
Bassano del Grappa is located to the north-east of the Veneto region of north-east Italy, in the province of Vicenza. The town is best known for its medieval bridge.
Bagheria is located a few kilometers from Palermo, in north-west Sicily. The town is best known for its imposing villas, but there are also other monuments of interest to discover.
Atri is one of several pretty hill villages in this part of the Abruzzi region of central Italy. Atri preserves some important signs of its historical importance as the ancient Duchy of the Acquaviva from the end of the 14th to the second half of the 18th century, .
Assisi, in the Umbria region of central Italy, is best known as being the birthplace of Saint Francis of Assisi, but as you will discover there is much else to discover in a visit to the town.
Ascoli-Piceno is located at the southern end of the Marches region of Italy, in an attractive setting surrounded by mountains and designated natural parcs.
With origins dating back well before the ancient Romans, the name of the town comes from the Piceni tribe who once occupied this spot.
Aquileia is found to the south-east of the Veneto-Friuli region, between Gorizia and Trieste. 2000 years ago, Aquileia was a large and thriving Roman town - it is now a much quieter place, but contains important ruins and monuments that remain from its heyday.
Unfortunately much of the city was destroyed by Attila in the 5th century then pillaged and used for building materials during later centuries, and there are fewer Roman ruins to be seen than you would expect.
Caltavuturo is a small town to the north of Sicily. The Old Town of Caltavuturo developed around the end of the 16th century, after the abandonment of the site called Terravecchia, where the medieval town was located.
Caltabellotta, in the Agrigento district of western Sicily, is set on Mount "Kratas", to the south of the Sicanian Mountains in an almost impregnable position surrounded by three peaks: Monte Pellegrino, Monte Castello and the Gogala cliff.
Cagli is an interesting historical town to the west of the center of the Marche region of Italy, rebuilt in the Middle Ages, after its earlier destruction in 1286.
The urban layout of Cagli was designed according to the rules of the Roman urban tradition, that is with a rectangular layout.This layout was designed according to a plan by Ascoli Piceno, and in honour of Pope Nicholas IV, a native of the city.
Some scholars believed that Cagli was of Roman origin, but modern research has confirmed the hypothesis of Mochi: "The Roman orthogonal layout of Cagli is due to the fact that it was inspired by the Roman plan of Ascoli Piceno, the town in which Nicholas IV was born".
Buscemi is a town in the south-east of Sicily to the west of Syracuse - as such it is in the region that was devastated by an earthquake in 1693, and by which the historic town was completely destroyed.
The current town layout at Buscemi is regular and as laid out in the years following the earthquake, with many of the buildings, especially the churches, rebuilt in the Baroque style of the period.
Bruneck (Brunico) is found to the north-east of the Tentino-Alto Adige region, to the north of the dolomites and in a valley overlooked by wooded slopes and the Kronplatz mountain and ski resort.
Bitonto is a town in the Puglia (Apulia) region of south-east Italy, a little way in from the Adriatic coast, and well known for the cultivation of olives and related production of the excellent olive oil from the many olive trees that surround the town.
The well preserved medieval town of Castell'Arquato is situated on a hilltop among the hills of the Val d'Arda about 15 kilometres west of Fidenza and to the west of Parma, in the western Emilia-Romagna region of north-central Italy. Piacenza is north-west of here.
Set on a hilltop with views over the Arda valley, Castell'Arquato is a very lovely and carefully restored town, with its roots in Roman times. the town was very prosperous between the 10th and 13th centuries and much of what you see dates from this period. It is also listed as one of the most beautiful villages of Italy.
Cassibile (together with Avola) is now a populous suburb of Syracuse in south-east Sicily.
Best known as a small seaside town and popular resort, Cassibile has an excellent beach at “Fontane Bianche” [White Fountains]; one of the most important prehistoric settlements in Sicily; and places of great scenic interest such as the Natural Reserve of Cavagrande del Cassibile.
Cascia is a small town about 20 kilometres from Norcia in the south-east of the Umbria region of central Italy.
Casale Monferrato is a substantial town, located on the plain between the extreme eastern slopes of the hills of the Po and the right bank of the river, in the Piedmont region of north-east Italy.
Despite more recent development the historic area of Casale Monferrato has kept the polygonal perimeter established by the town's ancient fortified walls.
The origins of Carpi, an important and beautiful town of Romagna (central Italy) with about 70,000 inhabitants, date back to the 6th century AD.
It is very probable that the name Carpi derives from Carpinus, a type of tree, which suggests that in ancient times, the area was wooded with this type of tree.
Caronia is a medieval hill town standing below a Norman castle near the coast of north-eastern Sicily, .
The structure of the medieval town is clearly visible even today in the old town of Caronia which, in spite of the inevitable modernization over the centuries, still retains the original layout in some small alleys and narrow winding streets.
Caprarola is a small town in the lazio region of central Italy, north-west of Rome.
Canazei is a town and holiday-ski resort in the eastern part of Trentino-Alto Adige. Well placed for exploring the dolomites in the region, Canazei is in a great setting surrounded by high mountains. As a result is a popular destination in both summer and winter.
Campofelice di Roccella is on the northern coast of Sicily, between Termini Imerese and Cefalu. Because of its proximity to the sea and a very long beach, it has many amenities for tourists and is a popular summer destination.
Camerino is a small town in the centre of the Marche region of central Italy, south-west of San Severino. An extraordinary city of art, Camerino is still surrounded by walls that show the military role of its origins, built by Berengar of Lvrea.
The town was originally entered through three gates: Porta Malatestiana, Porta Caterina Cibo and Porta Boncompagni. The city was also divided into three "Terzieri" ("quarters") called Sossanto, Di Mezzo and Muralto.
The first was around the cathedral at Borgo San Venanzio; the second included the centre, and the third was the south and west of the city. Even today, the anniversary of the so-called Corsa della Spada ('Race of the Sword') and 'Palio' recalls the rivalries that once divided the terzieri of Camerino.
Chioggia is located in the Po River Delta, close to Padua and about 25 kilometres by boat from Venice. Chioggia is located on two islands about 900 metres long and 200 metres wide, separated by the so-called 'Channel Vena'.
Chioggia retains its traditional role as a fishing and port city, with tourism now also an important part of the local economy.
Cesena is an ancient city of Romagna, to the right of the Savio River, in a wide and fertile plain, and which is now an important city of approximately 88,000 inhabitants.
The historical and artistic heart of Cefalù is its Cathedral, founded by Roger II and in the Arab-Norman style.
Castiglione del Lago is located on a peninsula on the western shores of Lake Trasimeno, towards the north-east of the Umbria region of central Italy.
The territory was originally subject to rule by the Etruscans and Romans, then from the 13th century the town had a great strategic importance because it controlled the roads that went from Rome to Florence.
The Gulf of Castellammare ("Castellammare del Golfo") is a wide and deep inlet on the northwest coast of Sicily in the southern Tyrrhenian Sea.
With its long and remarkable coastline, the Gulf of Castellammare is between the peninsula of Cape San Vito to the north and Cape Rama to the east: the coast of the eastern and western regions is characterized by cliffs while the central part has sandy beaches, together forming a lovely part of Sicily.
Cortina dAmpezzo is found to the north of the Veneto-Friuli region, in the valle dAmpezzo region of the dolomites. Like many ski resorts it started life as a cluster if small hamlets, now united by growth of the resort.
The town is renowned as being one of the best - and perhaps the very best - of the skiing resorts in the dolomites if not Italy. Set in fabulous, dramatic scenery surrounded by mountains it attracts the stylish and sophisticated young things from both Italy and elsewhere, and offers great skiing.
Conegliano is a town in the centre of the Veneto-Friuli region, north of Treviso and in north-east Italy.
Comacchio is a beautiful 'town' that has developed across a number of islands in the Po Delta, now joined by bridges, and an attractive place where tourists can admire impresive buildings and numerous churches.
Civita Castellana is located on the slopes of Mount Soratte, in northern Latium in the Lazio region of central Italy to the north of Rome.
Cividale del Friuli is east of Udine, in the east of the Friuli region on the River Natisone and close to the frontier with Slovenia. The town has a long and interesting history, dating from its foundation by Julius Caesar, and was also an important regional town from the 6th to the 11th centuries.
Nowadays it is a quiet town, and Cividale is a pleasant place to visit and also listed as an Orange flag town.
Cittadella stands as a fortified outpost of Padua in the area between the River Brenta and Musone, north of Padua and Vicenza.
The central Italian town of Città della Pieve is situated on a hill to the west of the Umbria region of central Italy and near the border with Tuscany.
Cinisi is a small town and coastal resort located in the eastern Gulf of Castellammare, in the valley of the “Furi” stream, in north-west Sicily near Palermo.
Cingoli is centrally placed in the rolling countryside of the Marche region of eastern Italy, and is classified as one of the 'most beautiful villages in Italy'.
Boasting an artistic heritage of great interest and value, and set on a hill at a height of 600 meters, while also only a short distance from the Adriatic Sea, Cingoli offers history, charming landscapes and easy access to coastal resorts, making it a popular summer destination.
Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany region of western Italy and is easily accessed both by air or land. It is also one of the most fascinating and culturally rich cities in the world and a visit is extremely highly recommended when you are in Italy!
Not surprisingly tourism is now a very important industry for Florence, which attracts a great deal of visitors from all over the world drawn to the architectural beauty, the arts and the museums of the city, especially between the months of April and October.
Fidenza is a small town found towards the western end of the Emilia-Romagna region, between Piacenza and Parma and on the historical trade route known as Via Emilia. The town has its origins in Roman times, and gained importance in the Middle Ages as part of an important pilgrimage route - the via Francigena - that led to Rome.
Fidenza has had an eventful history, including suffering severe damage or destruction on several occasions (by Emperor Constantine in the 5th century; by troops from Parma in the 13th century; by allied planed in 1944).
Ferentino is a city very rich in ancient religious buildings and well worth a visit. It is situated in the eastern part of the Lazio region of central Italy.
Fano is a town and beach resort on the Adriatic Sea at the north of the Le Marche region, south-east of Pesaro.
Unusually for the resorts along this part of the coast, the history of Fano dates back 2,000 years - it was at one time the largest roman settlement on the Adriatic - and there are some interesting Roman and 16th century buildings and monuments to visit in the old part of the town.
Erice is a sizable town found in north-west Sicily near Trapani where it has been an important regional centre for at least 2000 years.
Domodossola is a small town in the Val d'Ossola, surrounded by picturesque mountains in the Alps of north-eastern Piedmont, close to the border with Switzerland.
The dolomites are a very impressive range of mountains in the Italian Alps that cover a large part of southern and eastern Trentino-Alto Adige region and the north of the Veneto region.
Cuneo is a substantial town situated in the southern part of the Piedmont region of northern Italy. As well as exploring the town itself, Cuneo is often used as a base for exploring the picturesque surrounding countryside, in particular along the valleys of the rivers Stura di Demonte and Gesso which meet in the town.
Gubbio is a sizable town situated in the Perugia province of Umbria in central Italy, near the base of Mount Ingino. There is a great deal of historical interest to discover, from Roman monuments such as the Thetare to very impressive renaissance palaces and a fascinating old town.
In terms of town planning and architecture, Gubbio consists of a series of parallel streets, running at different levels, each steep and precipitous, and by monumental buildings and dark stone houses with arched and mullioned windows, jambs and window-sills in a typical medieval style.
The town of Gualdo Cattaneo is situated in central Umbria, and south-east of the region capital, Perugia.
"Grumentum" was an important city of Magna Graecia, in Lucania, towards the Gulf of Taranto, between Abellinum Marsicum and Heracle. Today it is called "Grumento Nova" and falls within the basilicata region of southern Italy.
It is the historical ruins from this early period in the Archaeological Park of Grumentum that are the main attraction for visitors (see below), but first we introduce the other highlights and monuments of interest in Grumento Nova itself.
The Great Saint Bernard Pass - the Colle del San Gran Bernardo - lies on the border between Italy and Switzerland, in the Alps of northern Valle dAosta at a height of 2469 metres above sea level.
As well as being famous for its scenic attractions, the Colle di San Gran Bernardo is the place where the renowned Saint Bernard rescue dogs were trained from the 11th century onwards. Not sure if the dog was named after the pass, or the other way around?
The Gran Paradiso National Park is to the south-west of the Valle dAosta region of north-west Italy. It was the first National Park to be established in Italy, in 1922 and based on a region deignated for the protection of ibex in 1856.
The highest point in the park, at an altitide of 4061 metres, is the summit of Gran Paradiso mountain.
The small town of Grado is situated on a peninsula at the northern end of the Adriatic Sea between Trieste and Venice in north-eastern Italy and has become one of the most popular destinations with visitors to the region.
This popularity began due to the role of Grado as a spa town and has continued due to the pleasant environment and high level of facilities provided.
Gorizia is a town located at the eastern edge of the Veneto-Friuli region, on the border with Slovenia.
The town was divided in two as part of the settlement separating Italy and Yugoslavia at the end of WWII, although with Slovenia joining the EU the division has now become much less formal or restrictive - Nova Gorica is the name of the town on the Slovenian side of the border.
Gela is located east of the river Gela and close to its outlet on the south-west coast of Sicily, island off the south-western part of Italy. The old town of Gela is rich in monuments to remind visitors of its long and ancient history.
Gaeta, as well as being an important art city, is also a popular tourist destination - the most popular in Latium, thanks both to its beaches and landscapes. The town is situated on the coast to the south of the Rome-Lazio region.
The caves at Frasassi (Grotte di Frasassi) are at Genga, 50 kilometres south-west of Ancona, in the Le Marche region.
The picturesque town of Ivrea is in north-west Italy, near Turin and contains several interesting sights - most notably the cathedral and Roman ruins.
Lake Iseo (Italian: Lago d'Iseo) is a popular lake in the heart of the Lombardy region, north-west of Brescia and east of Bergamo and certainly among the most picturesque of the lakes in the region, surrounded by steep wood covered hillsides rising to the mountains.
Lake Garda (to the east) and Lake Como (to the west) are perhaps better known, but be sure to allow time to also explore lake Iseo during your tour of the Lombardy lakes - although smaller than its neighbours Iseo is 25 kilometres long and with plenty of sites of interest - and rather less international tourists.
Lampione is the smallest of the Pelagian islands, situated far off the southern coast of Sicily and closer to Africa than Italy. The ismand is uninhabited, and the only building on the island is a lighthouse.
Lanciano is a substantial (population 35,000) town near the coast to the east of central Italy, in the Abruzzo region, that can trace its history back over 7000 years.
The interesting part of Lanciano for visitors is the historical centre of the town (known as Civitanova), which contains several interesting buildings and historical features among the ancient streets.
Jesi (also known as Iesi) is in the Le Marche region of central Italy, inland from Ancona.
Set among the hills and vineyards of the region, Jesi is best known for it's medieval centre and the sturdy walls and towers that surround the town, with defensive fortifications dating from its 14th century heyday as centre of a small independent state.
The old town, laid out along a raised ridge, is well preserved and the most interesting part of the town for visitors with several interesting palaces and buildings to admire, and it is a very pleasant town to explore when visiting this region of Italy.
Locri is an ancient Greek settlement (and now also a resort and marina) at the far end of southern Italy, near Gerace and overlooking the Ionian Sea, one of the most beautiful and cleanest of the seas that surround Italy.
It is most visited for the important ancient remains from the Greek town of 'Locris'.
Loreto is an important hill town to the south of Ancona, inland from the Adriatic coast and in the Marches region of central Italy.
Madonna di Campiglio is found to the south-west of the Trentino-Alto Adige region, in the Valle Rendena in the Dolomites.
It is one of the major resorts for exploring the dolomite region, to which it provides easy access. The town is also one of the most well known, and largest, ski resorts in Italy and caters to all forms of winter activity.
The town of Magione is situated on Lake Trasimeno to the west of Perugia and towards the west of the Umbria region, in central Italy.
In ancient times Magione didn't have a a city wall but relied instead on a defense system based around the 'Torre dei Lombardi' (Lombardy Tower), located to the north of Magione.
Mals (called Malles Venosta in Italian) is found in the north-west corner of the Trentino-Alto Adige region, close to the Italian borders with Switzerland and Austria.
Marsala, which the Arabs called "Marsa Allah" (i.e. "the port of Allah"), has a very ancient history with its roots in the Phoenician-Punic age.
The town of Mascali is situated to the east of Sicily. In the shadow of Mount Etna, the town has suffered over the centuries from both earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Know in Italy as Monte Cervino, the Matterhorn is instantly recognisable by its pyramid shape - it is perhaps the most recognised mountain peak in the world - you have certainly seen photos of the Matterhorn even if you didn't know what you were seeing!
The mountain is in the form of a four-sided pyramid, with the sides conveniently facing the points of the compass.
The town of Menfi is situated near the coast of south-east Sicily between Selinunte and Sciacca. Menfi has developed to have a tourist industry based on the seaside, such as the beaches of Porto Palo, Capparrina and Lido di Porto Palo, which have beaches with very clean sea and facilities for visitors.
Menfi suffered substantial damage to its monuments during an earthquake in 1968.
Merano is a spa town situated to the north-west of Bolzano, in the northern Trentino-Alto Adige region, located about 350 meters above sea level and among the Venosta, Passiria and Adige Valleys.
The town is more German-Austrian in feel than Italian, and is a pleasant place best known for it spa waters and treatments.
Messina is situated on the north-eastern coast of Sicily, just a short ferry crossing from mainland Italy which lies to the east.
It is important to remember at the outset of your visit to Messina that a significant part of the artistic heritage of Messina was lost during the world wars of the 20th century, and also important damage was caused by the earthquakes of 1783 and 1908.
The most famous monuments have been reconstructed according to old plans, but it is not surprising that several interiors and paintings have been destroyed, and often you will be looking at more recent reconstructions of older buildings.
In ancient times the territory of Metaponto occupied the vast plain that stretched along the Ionian coast between the rivers Lato, to the north, and Cavone, south, reaching into the first foothills, in what is now part of the basilicata region of southern Italy.
The Greek colony originally settled in a region already densely inhabited by indigenous peoples, such as the Enotri and Chones, which was later expanded by the entry of goods and people coming from the Greek-speaking Aegean.
Milan is an important city in the centre of the Lombardy region - and the second largest city in Italy. While it can be a challenge for first-time visitors - Milan is often busy, hot and crowded and not always as clean as it could be - there are rich rewards for those who persist in exploring this vibrant Italian city.
Wealthy Milan means different things to different people - including shopping, art and culture, high fashion, football with AC Milan and Inter Milan, one of the finest cathedrals in the world, the Last Supper, opera at La Scala - and has something to offer all its visitors, although the principal focus of the town is not tourism.
Milazzo is a substantial town on the coast of north-east Sicily, west of Messina, and best known (and most visited) for its beach and historic village.
Modena has a history dating back to Ancient Roman times, and was again a wealthy regional center during much of the 16th-18th centuries. To this day it is one if the more affluent Italian towns.
The town of Modica is situated to the south-east of Sicily, a little to the south-east of Ragusa.
As with many towns in this part of Sicily towns it is the baroque churches that are among the most interesting examples of the local architecture, and because of this Modica falls within the area designatad as a UNESCO world heritage site.
The Italian town of Mondovi is located between the mountains, hills and plain; on the one hand the city overlooks the plain crossed by the Po River, which leads to Turin; from the other, it is situated on a hill that marks the border of the “Langhe”, the land of truffles and wines.
Mondovi is also conveniently placed a short distance from Savona and the Italian Riviera.
Montagnana is south of Vicenza (south-east of Verona), in the Venice-Veneto region of Italy and about 40 kilometres south-east of Verona.
Mont Blanc - or Monte Bianco in Italian - stands on the French-Italian border between Courmayeur and the Val d'Aosta (Italy) and Chamonix (France) and is the tallest mountain in the Alps at 4,810 metres high.
As a casual visitor you are more likely to enjoy the beauty of Mont Blanc from Courmayeur or Chamonix or the surrounding trails than from the summit! Visible from miles around, the mountain dominates its surroundings.
Monza is found about 20 kilometres north-east of Milan, and is now pretty much incorporated as a satellite town of Milan. it is best known for the Monza race track but there are other highlights to discover in the town.
The town of Motta Sant'Anastasia is situated to the east of Sicily, a few kilometres inland from Catania.
Naso is a town on the north-eastern coast of Sicily betwen Cefalu (to the west) and Messina (to the east).
Earthquakes have had a severe effect on the heritage of the town of Naso, including the loss of a 9th century castle in the earthquake of 1786. The castle, along with the village and mother Church, once stood along the ridge that separates Naso from the valley of the river Zappulla.
Norcia is a small town to the south-east of the Umbria region of central Italy.
Noto in Sicily is an international tourist destination, known for both its historical and architectural heritage - in particular baroque architecture of the 17th and 18th centuries - and for the presence of many beaches, such as Noto Marina.
Because of the importance of its baroque architecture Noto is a listed UNESCO world heritage site.
Pesaro is a large town on the Adriatic coast to the north of the Le Marche region of italy.
The town of Pesaro has a split personality. To many of those who visit the town, especially during the summer months, it is simply a popular family beach resort on the Adriatic. But a few hundred metres inland and behind the hotel strip that lines the beach, the 'other' Pesaro also deserves your attention, above all for the well preserved medieval town.
Peruguia is an important town in central Italy and capital of the Umbria region, situated on a hill dominating the plain of Umbria and the Upper Tiber Valley (to the north of Rome).
Historically it was both a lively and important city due to active agricultural, manufacturing and handicraft industries. No less important is the appearance of the city, which has perhaps the richest artistic heritage to be found in Umbria.
Patti is situated near Tindari and the north-eastern coast of Sicily, and is a well known regional arts centre with an interesting historical town. The town developed, as was typical in the Middle Ages, around its cathedral and castle.
Paternò is a medium sized town in south-eastern Sicily, to the south of Etna and at about 300 meters above sea level.
Partinico is a town to the north-west of Sicily, near Palermo. Although the town is relatively recent compared to some in the region it is rich in religious and civil buildings of historical and artistic interest.
Panarea is the second smallest of the Aeolian islands, a group of volcanic islands off the north-eastern coast of Sicily. Now a popular tourist destination due to its beaches and scenery, Panarea is well equipped with facilities for such a small island.
The landing beach for the island is at San Pietro on the east coast, and is a village with all services. There is also a small port for ships, hydrofoils, fishing boats and pleasure boats.
Palestrina is an important historical town in the Lazio region of Italy, to the east of Rome.
Paceco is a town situated to the west end of Sicily, in the valley of Mazara about three miles from Trapani.
On a hill at 30-40 meters above sea level, Paceco is a farming town that has been inhabited since the Paleolithic and Neolithic era, in a landscape that bears witness to the presence of an ancient civilization and consisting of Mediterranean vegetation in picturesque scenery.
Orvieto, in the southern end of the Umbria region of central Italy, is situated on a tuff cliff with overhanging walls, which dominates the plain below.
An attractive town to visit or in which to base your explorations, Ortisei (along with Saint Christina and Selva Gardena) is found in the Val Gardena and is primarily a winter ski resort destination.
The Po Delta is a predominantly natural area to the east of Ferrara and north of Ravenna, in the north-east of the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, where the River Po divides into several smaller rivers before meeting the Adriatic Sea.
Much of the Po Delta is now protected, either as part of the large Parco del Delta del Po, or by one of the smaller nature reserves that are found in the region, and is also designated as a World Heritage Site.
Pinerolo is a sizable town centrally located in the Piedmont region of north-west Italy about 35km south-west of Turin and in an attractive setting surrounded by hills and valleys.
The small town of Petralunga is north of Perugia, and to the north of the Umbria region of central Italy.
Petralia is a small town in the north of Sicily on the slopes of the Madonie mountains.
The town plan is typical of those that originally developed around a medieval castle - the upper part of Petralia consists of the oldest neighbourhoods, called Pusterna and Carmine, which follow their medieval plan, and below are the more modern parts of the town that were added as the town grew during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The hill town of Recanati is a little way inland from the Adriatic sea, to the west of Italy in the Marches region.
Ravenna is an important town situated close to the Adriatic sea, to the east of the Emilia-Romagna region of central Italy. In many ways Ravenna is a typical Italian town, with the 'usual' range of piazzas and churches, historic buildings and a pleasant historic centre to explore. But Ravenna has something extra to offer...
The town of Randazzo is situated to the north-east of Sicily, just north of Mount Etna.
Apart from the attractions of the town itself Randazzo is also a popular departure point for visitors making an ascent of Etna, being the closest town to the summit.
Ragusa is a town in south-east Sicily, and one of the 'Val di Noto' towns substantially damaged by the 1693 earthquake that were rebuilt in baroque style - these are now listed together as a world heritage site.
The older part of the town is called Ragusa Ibla and the newer part is Ragusa Superiore, the two parts being separated by the Ponti Ravine.
Voghera is a substantial town towards the west of the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Visitors approaching Voghera pass through an extensive region of cultivated countryside and an uninterrupted set of historical villages and castles - the atmosphere that you breathe here today is still medieval.
On arriving at Voghera you find ourselves in a dynamic but fairly quiet city, which offers some artistic and cultural works, with more to discover in the surrounding region and just outside the city - indeed it is the surrounding region that provides much of the attraction.
Vizzini is a city with a rich architectural heritage in the countryside of south-eastern Sicily (west of Syracuse).
The city of Verona, in north-east Italy east of Lake Garda, is perhaps best known as the setting for Romeo and Juliet.
The town contains a very impressive number of historical monuments spanning the era from Ancient Rome and medieval times to the renaissance, despite extensive damage to the roman monuments caused by a large earthquake in 1117.
As a consequence the center of the historical town is now preserved as a UNESCO world heritage site. The town is also sophisticated and the people elegant as they shop in exclusive boutiques - just how you imagine a wealthy Italian town to be.
Varallo is a small town situated to the north-east of the Piedmont region, 50 kilometres north-west of Novara and in the wooded hills of the Sesia Valley to the west of Lake Orta.
Val Camonica (often also referred to as Valcamonica) is the valley of the Oglio river that runs for almost 100 kilometres north-east from Lake Iseo, in central Lombardy (northern Italy).
The valley of Val Camonica is pretty in its own right, particularly in its upper stretches, with the valley attractively set in the low mountains of the region, and with various picturesque towns and villages and historic monuments but it is above all for the prehistoric rock carvings that many visitors visit the area.
Urbino is towards the north of the le Marche region and inland from Pesaro. It is situated nearly 500 metres above sea level, on the top of two hills that are part of the Apennines and between the valleys of the Foglia and Metauro Rivers.
Urbino is a very impressive walled town with a remarkably well preserved medieval and renaissance centre, and the highlight of a visit to this part of Italy, and must not be missed if you are in the vicinity!
The Italian town of Urbania is situated in the north-west of the Marche region, south-west of Urbino.
The town is best known for its attractive medieval centre, and for the Palazzo Ducale. It is also a well known centre for the production of ceramics and the painted earthenware known as majolica.
Tuscania (previously known as Tuscanella) is a picturesque small traditional Italian town situated in northern central Lazio region, and with a history dating from Etruscan times.
The town is best known for its medieval walls and towers, and two imposing churches.
The important Italian city of Turin (Torino in Italian) is centrally situated in the Piedmont region of north-western Italy. It has been a wealthy centre of northern Italy for more than 500 years, a history reflected in the impressive monuments and museums to be seen in the city.
Trevi is a small town on a hillside in the heart of the Umbria region of Italy, and is rich in history and art.
Trevi was originally a province of the Papal States, but as in other cities in Umbria political power was actually exercised by a small number of noble families and it was these families that gave much of the artistic and cultural heritage to the town we see today.
Trento, towards the south of the Trentino-Alto Adige region (between Bolzano and Verona), is the capital of the region and is a medium-large sized town with over 100,000 inhabitants.
In a lovely setting surrounded by mountains, Trento is a glamorous, attractive city, with a great deal to explore both within its important buildings, and within the narrow streets that surround the centre. It is also very much a bustling Italian town, not too given over to tourism.
In the early twentieth century Trapani in western Sicily became the sixth largest port in Italy, based around salt production and tuna fishing. These activities continue today, along with an important local agriculture industry.
In more recent years Trapani has also seen strong growth in tourism.
Todi is a town in the Umbria region of central Italy containing numerous historical and interesting buildings and monuments.
There is also a great deal of art to enjoy - Todi and the surrounding region have a wealth of art among the richest of Italy partly because this Diocese, in the 18th century, controlled more than 500 churches and still today has works of art of inestimable value.
Terrasini is a town in north-west Sicily, just 20 kilometres west of Palermo.
The large town of Terni is situated near the southern border of the Umbria region, in central Italy and to the north of Rome. Terni as a city is deeply rooted in the past, and is a town where new buildings merge perfectly with the old ones.
Termini Imerese is a historically important town on the northern coast of Sicily and south-east of Palermo.
Tarquinia is siuated a little way inland from the Mediterranean coast, north-west of Rome in the Lazio region.
The city of Tarquinia has a major archaeological heritage, and the whole area pays testimony to the civilization that have lived here such as the Etruscan 'Tarchna', the Greek and Roman emporium of 'Gravisca', and the medieval 'Corneto'. (See also history of Tarquinia.)
Susa is located 50 kilometres west of Turin, in the Valle di Susa and on on the main road that heads west from Turin towards France (the French border is only a few kilometers from Susa).
It is a pleasant town, originally established by the celts as they were holding out against the expanding Roman empire, that attracts visitors because Susa contains some important Roman ruins and medieval monuments, and because Susa has easy access to spectacular countryside.
Sulmona is an important local town (population around 25000) in the centre of the L'Aquila province, Abruzzo region of central Italy and overlooked by the Morrone mountains.
Despite a violent earthquake that hit the city in 1706 and several other earthquakes across the centuries there is a great deal to enjoy in Sulmona - both the individual sights and the general atmoshere play equal parts in the pleasure of a visit.
The town of Subiaco is located in the eastern Lazio region of central Italy, at the head of the Aniene valley, close to a hill about 400 meters above sea level, and across the slopes of the Simbruini mountains.
The medieval town, built on a rocky cliff, looks over the entire valley of the Aniene, where we find the Benedictine monasteries of the 'Sacro Speco' and 'St. Scholastica', the principal attractions of a visit.
The hunting lodge at Stupinigi - the Palazzina di Caccia di Stupinigi - is located a few kilometres south of Turin. It is now a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The words hunting lodge perhaps bring to mind something small and humble. In the case of Stupinigi nothing could be further from the truth - in 1729 when Vittorio Amadeo II commanded the lodge be builthe had something altogether more grand in mind.
The Stelvio National Park is a national park in the north-east of Lombardy and north-west of Trento-Alto Adige, in the north of Italy and close to the border with Switzerland.
In the center of the Alps, Stelvio is the largest national park in Italy - and one of the largest in Europe - and has stunning mountain and valley scenery, and many glaciers - the Ortles-cevedale mountains form part of the park.
Spoleto is an important and popular historical town dating back to Roman times that is located in the southern part of the Umbria region of central Italy. The town contains numerous important monuments including a Roman theatre, an imposing fortress, a cathedral and several important churches.
Sperlinga is a historic village to the north-east of Sicily.
The majestic ruins of Selinunte, the westernmost of the ancient Greek colonies, are found on the southern coast of western Sicily (south-east from Marsala) between the present-day counties of Campobello and Menfi.
Segesta is the site of an important temple and other ancient monuments, to the north-west of Sicily. The most significant monuments in Segesta are the temple itself, and also the theatre and the sanctuary, in the “Contrada Mango".
It is interesting to understand how the Greeks arrived at the structure of the temple and other monuments, a knowledge of which greatly enhances a visit, hence we have included quite extensive information about these important monuments.
Sciacca is a large town on the coast of south-western Sicily, near Agrigento, in an attractive setting with the old town running diown the side of the hill to the harbour below.
The town is surrounded by walls; the most recent of which date from the mid-16th century, which were superimposed on older ones from the first half of the 14th century.
San Martino di Castrozza is a village, now essentially a mountain ski resort, at almost 1500 metres altitude and located in the dolomites of north-eastern Italy and to the south-east of the Trentino-Alto Adige region.
It sits in a forested valley below the high plateau and peaks of the dolomite mountains of the Natural park of Paneveggio-Pale di San-Martino.
While the highlight at San Giuseppe Jato is undoubtedly its archaeological park (below), there are also some religious buildings of great historical and artistic interest, including the Mother Church.
With historical roots dating back to Ancient Roman times, Salo gained fame more recently as the capital of Mussolini's republic from 1943-1945. It is now a quiet town in an attractive setting backed by mountain scenery and fronted by the lake.
Rovereto is 20 km south of Trento, in the southern part of the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy. The town is overlooked by a castle, the main highlight of your visit to Rovereto, and also has a pleasant town centre to explore, since Rovereto still retains many parts dating back to the Middle Ages and the 19th century.
Your visit will be enhanced by some background knowledge of Rovereto's long history, which dates back to the time of the Ancient Romans. It was during the Roman Age, in the place where the castle now stands, that a Roman outpost was established to control the road that led to the Brenner and the important trade route from Central Europe to the Mediterranean Sea.
Saluzzo is a small town in the province of Cuneo (Piedmont region of north-west Italy).
The town has kept much of its 15th century old town intact, located on the hill and originally enclosed by a double ring of walls. The historic village includes a whole series of cobbled streets, steep staircases, churches and elegant palaces to explore and admire.
Rome is a mystical, historical, vibrant and absorbing international city that is full of charm, one of the world's truly great cities. Rome is also surely the only city with a separate Country within the city – of which more later.
Cosmopolitan Rome is a city teaming with more than 3.7 million residents and bustling with visitors year round making Rome the 11th most visited city in the world each year, the 3rd most visited in Europe and the number one attraction in Italy. The Colosseum alone receives 4 million annual visitors, the Vatican City 4.2 million visitors each year.
The Sicilian town of Roccamena, near Corleone, is primarily visited because of its proximity to Calatrasi castle and the archaeology site at Mount Maranfusan although the town itself also has some sites of interest while you are here.
Brixen (It: Bressanone ) is in the north-east of the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy, to the south-east of Vipiteno. The town is in a very attractive setting, in a broad valley beneath the mountains.
The highlight of a visit to the medieval quarter of Brixen is around Piazza del Duomo, particularly the cathedral (duomo) itself - and more specifically the parts of the cathedral that date from the 12th and 15th centuries, rather than the more recent 18th century reconstruction.
Bologna is an important city centrally located in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy.
A lively city, in part due to its large student population, Bologna is also one of the most attractive cities in Italy, and has the largest medieval centre of any Italian town except Venice, despite substantial damage during WWII.
Bologna is also less visited than cities such as Florence and Venice, making it rather easier to appreciate than these tourist-packed cities. Bologna's student population also help ensure that the center always has a vibrant atmosphere.
Fermo is a hill town to the east of the Marche region of Italy, near the Adriatic coast, well known for the very impressive views in all directions across the surrounding region.
Taormina is a town on the coast of north-eastern Sicily and to the south-west of Messina. It is located on a sunny 'terrace' on the side of Monte Tauro, in an attractive natural setting which makes it one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Sicily in both summer and winter.
Many visitors pass much of their time on one of the impressive beaches along the coast here, but we recommend you also take the time to explore all that Taormina has to offer - there are many architectural highlights in the town, dating back some 2300 years.
The Trastevere district of Rome is the part of the city to the west of the river Tiber and south-east of the Vatican.
Trastevere is easily reached from central Rome across any of several bridges: Ponte Sisto, Ponte Garibaldi, Ponte Palatine or the two bridges that connect the island in the middle of the river to the river banks.
The Campidoglio district of Rome is the area on the Capitoline Hill, in the center of the city and just to the north-west of the extensive Roman Forum area.
Although small it is one of the most interesting, and most visited, areas of Rome and combines architecture from the renaissance period with the imposing 20th century Vittorio monument, while looking out across monuments covering the last 2000 years of the citiy's history.
Explore the history of Italian towns