So, I feel ridiculous even saying out loud that Italy’s a must for any aspiring Euro traveler. While most suggestions for what to in this fascinating country are much of the same ol’ “visit the Colosseum,” “eat pasta & gelato in Rome,” “ride a gondola in Venice,” “see David in Florence” or “be dazzled by Cinque Terre,” there’s far more to do & see in Italy than its most obvious attractions.
Peel back your most obvious perceptions of Italy and soon you’ll find yourself lost along lesser-packed coasts and marveling at lesser-known cities & towns where the old and the new recombine beautifully to create remarkable scenes that can’t help but astonish you.
Ready to dig deeper into Italy? Try spicing up your itinerary with some of these offbeat Italy experiences…
Trade an afternoon in Tuscany for a sunset in Umbria
Nearly ever Italy itinerary includes a trip to Tuscany, one of the most popular regions in the country. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Tuscany belongs there rightfully. For scenery, culture, and cuisine, it’s hard to beat. Anywhere in the world.
With all of that fame, however, also comes Tuscany’s biggest downfall: The crowds. Fortunately, there’s an easy alternative.
Umbria, Tuscany’s gorgeous & less developed neighbor, is a fantastic way to escape the dense crowds of Tuscan cities like Florence, Siena and Pisa for (literally) greener pastures.
Enjoy frolicking in enchanting Umbrian cities & towns like Perugia, Orvieto, and Assisi before losing yourself in the slow cadence of tiny villages where age-old traditions remain completely intact. Enjoy a sunset over the green rolling hills for the ultimate rural Italian experience.
Listen to fairytales at Lake Carezza
The South Tyrol region, situated in Italy’s northernmost expanses bordering Austria, is a unique corner of the country. South Tyrol is home to the Ladin people who like many villagers around Italy, have their own culture & cuisine—and even their own language!
Of course, with that distinctive culture comes of a whole lot of myth & legend. And in the South Tyrol region there’s perhaps no better place to get your first taste of Ladin folklore than at the shimmering waters of Lake Carreza.
Rumor has it that the multi-hued appearance of Lake Carezza involved an obsession of a sorcerer with a nymph and a smashed rainbow. If it sounds wildly weird, it’s only because it is. (I’ll save the juicy details for you to discover the tale firsthand on your trip to South Tyrol.)
Even if the folklore seems a little too far fetched, there’s no denying that this lesser-known & beautiful part of Italy begs to be discovered.
Get a bird’s-eye view from Mount Vesuvius
Famous for an eruption that completely buried Pompeii in a sea of brimstone and ash in 79 AD, Mount Vesuvius is one of Europe’s most well-known volcanoes. Most travelers stop at Pompeii without realizing they can take their trip to the next level with a trek up the mighty mountain.
If you dare make the trek (actually it’s quite safe, quick & easy!), you’ll get to see its amazing crater, which (I could only imagine) looks something like the surface of a distant planet like Neptune. Along with sucking in breathtaking views of Pompeii and the area, the quick hike up Vesuvius is well worth the effort.
Escape the crowds at Lake Iseo
With celebrities invading places like Lake Como and Lake Garda, it’s hardly a surprise that Italy’s got some incredible natural scenery. But you don’t need to jostle for elbow room among the George Clooneys or Sir Richard Bransons of the world to see just how beautiful Italy’s lakes can be.
A brilliant alternative to Italy’s more popular bodies of water is Lake Iseo. If peace is what you’re after, this picturesque lake is the perfect place to escape the crowds and find your own slice of nature. Around the lake you’ll find plenty of hiking trails offering superb views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
Pay a visit to the finest hill town in Italy
Scrolling through pictures of Italy, there’s no doubt that this country isn’t short on beautiful hill town. Perhaps one of the most breathtaking & underrated is Bergamo.
Although it’s easily accessible, Bergamo is overshadowed by its more popular and “classier” neighbor Milan. As much as Milan’s a worthwhile visit, most would appreciate the simpler delights of Bergamo over the complicated buzz of one of Europe’s fashion capitals and Italy’s second biggest city. (Unless, of course, you’re a Kardashian.)
Even if you choose not to stay the night in Bergamo, it makes for a lovely day trip from Milan. Spend your time enjoying Bergamo’s sights starting with the ancient Città Alta, the beautiful walled old town where the city’s top sights dwell.