The first thing you need to know about Italy is that it’s split into 20 distinct regions. Each region of Italy is unique. Italians treat each region like small foreign countries. The regions also encompass specific foods, practices and even dialects. Every visit can reveal something new about Italy.
While many travel guides offer hugely popular Rome and Venice, I urge you to take a look at some other magnificent places in the country. Though not as well advertised, they are worth your time.
This region’s wild spaces will leave you enamored. Valle d’Aosta is the smallest region in all of Italy but it offers big adventures in its serene mountains and lush valleys. Aosta, the capital of the region, is small but comfortable. Visiting the Gran Paradiso national park (Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso) is one of the quickest ways to get familiar with the vast wilderness. In case that’s not enough for you, there’s also another national park called Mont Avic (Parco naturale Mont Avic). Both grant the opportunity to get closer to nature.
Situated by the banks of the Ligurian Sea, Liguria is a medium-sized region in the northern part of the country. It’s the perfect place for exploring small towns and laying out at the beach. Fishing and boating are popular activities and the Ligurian architecture is a must-see. Vivid houses built in numerous port towns such as Porto Venere, Portofino, Cinque Terre, and many others exemplify Ligurian architecture.
Visit Sanremo during the annual National Music Festival (Festival della canzone italiana di Sanremo) in February for the best Italian music in the country and the chance to see all of Italy’s best musicians gathered in one place.
Lastly, visit Genoa, the capital, where Christopher Columbus was born and raised. There are many museums, monuments, and fountains in the area.
The most famous city in this region is Naples with its eye-catchingly bright houses. Outside the city of Naples is Pompeii. You can visit the ruins of the ancient city and view the sleeping volcano, Mt. Vesuvius.
For a taste of classical music, visit Teatro di San Carlo, an opera house with a plain facade but an astounding interior. Teatro di San Carlo is a key piece of the Italian opera scene.
For all of the pizza-lovers in the world, Naples is the destination for authentic Neapolitan pizza. Neapolitan pizza is distinguished by two distinct ingredients: San Marzano tomatoes and mozzarella cheese made from the milk of water buffalos. These ingredients combine on tender crunchy crust to create an absolute treat.
Outside the city of Naples is Pompeii. You can visit the ruins of the ancient city and view the sleeping volcano, Mt. Vesuvius.
One of the wealthiest regions in Europe, let alone Italy, Emilia-Romagna is home to some of the world’s best known luxury-class automobile manufacturers, Ferrari and Lamborghini, as well as famous motorcycle manufacturer, Ducati.
Bologna, the capital, is where bolognese sauce comes from. It is a hearty sauce served over broad flat pastas.
The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is the oldest university in continuous operation. The main courtyard is truly stunning and if you get the chance to peek inside, you’ll see an enchanting mix of new and old.
Other interesting locations in the region include the small cities of Parma, Modena and Ferrara that were built during the Renaissance epoch and haven’t changed much since then. Also, make sure to check out Rimini – one of the finest and not overly crowded seaside resorts in Europe.
Sardinia is not as famous as Sicily but definitely deserves attention. Three national parks fill this warm island: Asinara, Arcipelago di La Maddalena, and Gennargentu. The first national park, Asinara is itself a separate island.
Along with the national parks, there are ten regional parks. If, somehow, you get a bit tired of wild nature and are eager to have some rest at the beach, visit Castelsardo, a beautiful small town that’s right on the coast.
Sardinia is fairly far south however you can engage in typical winer activities on Mt. Brunch Spina. Cagliari is the capital and is brimming with beautiful houses, ports, beaches, and churches.
These lesser known regions of Italy offer enough to keep anyone busy. Enjoy the food and culture with less of the crowds.