Most travelers headed to Italy choose famous historic destinations like Rome, Venice or Florence when planning their itineraries. For beach lovers, the islands of Sicily and Naples are more appealing thanks to the clear blue water of the Mediterranean and pristine white beaches offering the culture of Italy along with quintessential views of paradise. Because each city in Italy has its own regional specialties and cultural charm, it can be hard to see it all in just one or two weeks of vacation. Luckily, I have outlined three often overlooked cities to add to your bucket list to ensure your next trip to bell' Italia is a well-rounded one.
Located in the north of Italy in the Piemonte Region, Turin is nestled in the foothills of the French-Italian alps, making for breathtaking alpine views on a clear day in the city. Because Turin, or Torino, is bordered by France, there is plenty of French influence decorating the city, from the wrought-iron intricacies adorning the architecture, to the delicate pastries and petit-fours enticing patisserie passers-by.
Turin, the fourth largest city in Italy and arguably one of the most beautiful, is not a well-known tourist destination, despite its rich history. Not only does Turin house the famous Shroud of Turin, but it is also home to the awe-inspiring Basilica di Superga and the architectural phenomenon the Mole Antonelliana, which provides an entire view of the city. And if site-seeing is not your jam, there is great skiing nearby and plenty of small neighboring mountain towns to explore, like Pecetto Torinese and Chieri. Be sure to order a plate of plein – Piemonte's regional dish, chicken-stuffed ravioli – wherever you go in order to complete your northern Italian adventure.
A little further south is the hilly region of Umbria. Known for its Perugina chocolate, mid-century castles, and its music scene, Umbria is home to the popular study-abroad destination Perugia. While Perugia offers an eclectic urban scene in the centuries-old cobbled hill-town, Spoleto, Perugia's neighbor, is the nature lover's paradise.
If you can stomach heights, hike over the fifteenth century bridge Il Ponte di Torri on your way over to Montelucco mountain for a crisp-weather hike. Once you reach the top, enjoy a midday pranzo at one of the mountain-top restaurants before leisurely strolling back down to the quaint village. And add Spoleto to your destination if you like Jazz Music (Spoleto hosts the international Jazz Festival each year). While dining in Spoleto, do not be surprised if your waiter surprises you with un-ordered courses – Umbrian chefs take particular pride in their cuisine – and enjoy pane comune, the regional bread made characteristically without salt, emphasizing the fine fresh flavor of the regional olive oil you'll be dipping it into!
Do you love the beach and the mountains? Are you looking to fully immerse yourself in Italian culture? Do you consider yourself a foodie and wine-enthusiast? Then Pescara may be the hidden treasure for you. The largest city in the Abruzzo region, Pescara is a beach-town on the Adriatic coast of Italy. Unlike the Mediterranean beaches, the Adriatic coast boasts rocky yellow sand and surfer-worthy waves.
If you choose to visit Pescara in the colder months, you can enjoy skiing on neighboring Mama Rosa by day and a stroll along the beach by night. The Abruzzo region is known for its grape vineyards, so enjoy the famous regional wine wherever you choose to dine while visiting Pescara. And since you are dining by the beach, indulge in some fresh mussels for your appetizer as well!
Virtually every city in Italy is a history-lover's heaven. But if you want to experience Italy like a local, consider incorporating some lesser-known destinations when planning your trip. You may be surprised how much more enriching and educational your Italian experience will be if you dare to do so.