Do you want to experience Italy without crowds, tourist traps, and wasted time? To get an authentic Italian experience, you’ll need to venture off the beaten paths of Rome, Venice, Tuscany, and Florence to discover the best hidden gems in Italy.
But that can be difficult to do if you’ve never been to Italy or don’t have the guidance of a local who can translate the Italian experience for you. This is why so many of us take the seemingly “easier” path instead of venturing out to experience the real Italy and leaving disappointed that you didn’t have the Italy trip of a lifetime you have dreamed about for years.
Experiencing the real Italy starts with choosing the perfect home base to immerse yourself in the local culture, and that’s why we’ve put together our top five off-the-beaten-path locations in Italy to escape the crowds!
#1: Ascoli Piceno
We may be slightly biased with this location as it’s our hometown, but it’s absolutely justified! Ascoli Piceno is known for its beautiful travertine Renaissance piazzas, walkability, and rich culinary and cultural history (which predates Rome!).
Transport yourself just three hours east of The Eternal City by car, and you’ll be in Ascoli Piceno, the capital of Le Marche’s southernmost province. This region of Central Italy is revered as “all of Italy wrapped up into one region,” and it certainly earns its title! From award-winning wineries, blue-flag beaches, hill top towns, olive groves, and mountainous truffle country, you can experience it all when you join us on tour.
Ascoli Piceno remains under the radar, offering all the charms of Italy’s well-known regions without the crowds. This up-and-coming status lends Ascoli to still being a city where you can meet the locals and truly experience genuine Italian hospitality.
Unlike the many towns of Tuscany that have been surrendered to tourism, the heart of Ascoli still beats to the rhythm of its 50,000 residents, making it a truly immersive cultural experience. Ascoli is big enough to support a booming local shopping and dining scene but small enough to maintain its authenticity and rich cultural heritage that you’ll experience when you join us on select tours.
Some cultural highlights you won’t want to miss include La Quintana, the second-largest medieval reenactment in Italy, and two festivals for the famous Olive all’Ascolana, lightly fried and stuffed olives made with the Olivia Tenera Ascolana. These famous Olives are the perfect companion for your evening Aperitivo in the piazza at One of Italy’s 150 Historical cafes – Cafe Meletti, a favorite of Ernst Hemingway!
We’re incredibly proud to call Ascoli home, which is why we’re passionate about helping travelers like you experience Italy’s hidden regions like a local with our exclusive Italy itineraries that are a perfect blend of interesting towns, great food and wine, and just the right amount of free time!
#2: Castelfranco Veneto
If you’ve dreamed of mythical castles and magical walled cities, Castelfranco Veneto is the place for you! Situated just 40km outside Venice, just one hour away by train from Venice, this small historic walled medieval city serves as the perfect home base for your trip to Veneto with us!
The city is surrounded by medieval walls and towers constructed by the Treviso people in 1211. With these walls and a surrounding moat, Castelfranco is a sight to see when lit up at night! And a favorite meeting place for the locals enjoying an evening passeggiata on the pathway that encompasses this stunning off-the-beaten path location in Italy.
Besides its rich history, Castelfranco also boasts many fabulous shops, quaint cafes, top Michelin-starred restaurants, bars, and artisan gelaterias (a guest favorite!) frequented by locals that’ll give you an immediate sense of the rhythm of La Dolce Vita!
Click here to discover the itineraries we offer to help you experience the “Real Italy” on your next trip to Veneto.
Located just a 2.5-hour car trip from Rome, Fabriano is a fascinating location off the tourist trail near the border of Umbria and Le Marche. If you love handmade paper and visiting local artisans, this is the city for you!
That’s right! Fabriano is famous for its longtime production of handmade paper and its invention of the watermark in the 1200s. Don’t miss the Paper and Watermark Museum covering over 700 years of the tradition of papermaking, where you can see the entire process of hand papermaking.
With its papermaking tradition, Fabriano, along with Bologna, is one of only two UNESCO Cities of Creativity in the category of Folk Arts.
Fabriano is also closely located to the two regions of Verdicchio wine country and the caves of Grotte di Frasassi, which you’ll visit when you join us on select tours. The enchanting 650-foot cathedral-like ceilings of Europe’s largest karst cave system are a sight to be seen!
#4: Coast of Conero
The beautiful beaches of the Coast of Conero are Le Marche’s answer to the famous and Instagrammable seaside villages of the Cinque Terre (without mass tourism).
If you’re looking for a secluded place to relax, the Coast of Conero fits the bill! This national park is lined with numerous hiking trails, picturesque secluded beaches and bordered by Rosso Conero wine country. Many beaches are only accessible with a hike or a boat ride! But don’t let these barriers prevent you from experiencing these beautiful secluded beaches. You can always hire a boating service if you can’t access a beach by a short hike.
The Coast of Conero is also lined with Blue Flag Beaches, which are beaches that meet quality criteria for the cleanliness of the water and shores. Think the UNESCO of beaches.
Learn more about the best beaches in Italy HERE!
Pro-tip: If you’re planning a beach vacation in the summer, choose one of the hotels located directly on the beach, as parking is a nightmare during peak season. Or better yet, skip the hassle of planning all the logistics, stop worrying about getting from point A to B and instead sit back & relax on your next Italian vacation by joining us on one of our tours that takes you to eat in the heart of Conero’s national park right on the beach.
#5: Piceno Wine Country
Wine lovers, this location is for you! The Piceno Wine Country of the Le Marche Region is known for Pecorino, Rosso Piceno, Passerina, and Offida Rosso, producing some of the top wines in the world.
This underrated location is the definition of “off the beaten path,” as it can only be explored by vehicle! The Italian On Tour offers guests exclusive dining experiences at award-winning wineries in this area. Read more on our Italian Epicurean Journey here, which includes a full day in the Pecino Wine Country, including an exclusive tasting menu paired with 5 top wines that allow you to taste each type of DOC and DOCG wines produced in the Piceno!
Now that you’ve uncovered the top off-the-beaten path locations in Italy, you probably want to know how you can experience Italy as a local without the stress of planning every detail. Whether you’re ready to sip your way through the Piceno Wine Country or soak up the local atmosphere inside the historic medieval town of Castelfranco Veneto, you’ve come to the right place! With our exclusive multi-day tours for food and wine lovers, you’ll immerse yourself in local culture without having to worry about if you’ve chosen the best places to visit, eat at, and if you’re spending the right amount of time in each location. Instead leave the planning to us! Take the guesswork out of your next Italian vacation & get started today by choosing your perfect Italian Itinerary HERE!
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