From the rolling hills of Tuscany to the pastel turrets of the Amalfi Coast, each of Italy’s regions are as unique as they are beautiful. Whether you visit for the food, culture or gorgeous scenery, there’s plenty to see wherever you fly into.
And while you probably already know your Venice from your Verona, what about the unsung heroes of il bel paese? The truth is, there are over 7,000 municipalities to be found across the country, and a good few fabulous finds that aren’t so well known. So, we’ve compiled our list of three underrated Italian destinations that we think you need to know about. Come with us and let’s take a trip.
Found on the northernmost border of western Italy, Piedmont is the country’s second-largest region — home to wide open pastoral landscapes, the cultural centre of Turin, and miniature villages that buzz with personality. There’s plenty to entertain the whole family in Piedmont, whether you choose to hike the summits of the Val Grande National Park or watch a Juventus game on their home turf.
Next, let’s talk food. Much like the locals of any other Italian region, the people of Piedmont are passionate about pasta and they of course have their own iconic dish to flaunt — agnolotti del plin. The chefs over at Pasta Evangelists explain that “the name for this specialty comes from the regional dialect where plin literally translates to ‘pinch’, describing the technique used to make this pasta. The sheets of pasta are pinched together to form small pouches of agnolotti.”
And there you have it — Piedmont is just the place for an authentic getaway, offering a taste of Italian country life and an even tastier regional dish.
Situated right on the toe of Italy’s iconic boot is Calabria, somehow one of the country’s least visited regions. But to us, that sounds like all the more reason to visit — what sparkling gems does it hide away? Well, at the very least, you’ll find hundreds of miles of untouched powder-white coastline, dramatic mountain ranges, and orchards of citrus trees that stretch as far as the eye can see.
For all of its scenery and sleepy village excursions, Calabria also boasts a rich history. Local museums offer a look back at its dynamic past, having once been a Greek colony and later subject to Spanish, Norman and even Arabic influences. Or, if you’re looking for a little lightheartedness, there’s also a museum dedicated entirely to licorice at the Giorgio Amarelli house in Cosenza.
Once evening falls, Calabria’s ristorantes and trattorias spring to life, firing up pizza ovens and hand-shaping arancini to feed hungry mouths. One trademark of the region that isn’t to be missed is its ‘nduja sausage — though considered a staple of Italian cuisine, the locals advise that few destinations get it right like Calabria. So, seek out a bowl of fileja ‘nduja pasta or a calabrese pizza and see where the night takes you, down the cobbled streets of cities like Catanzaro and Crotone.
Abruzzo is a region perched on the Adriatic Sea, with its identity keenly debated — does it belong to central or southern Italy? Geographically, you’d think it’s the former — the region encircles some of the highest peaks of the central Apennines. Culturally, however, it is considered a part of the south thanks to its historic links with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
But enough about location, what is there to do? Well, a quick drive — that’s how you’ll get around its dramatic landscapes — will soon show you. Abruzzo is home to a varied assortment of stunning natural reserves, including deep lakes, imposing mountains and spectacular alpine ski trails. For the latter reason, the area comes alive with tourists in the winter — but is otherwise an idyllic summer spot to appreciate some of Italy’s finest vineyards and medieval towns, such as Pacentro and Abbateggio.
Abruzzo prides itself on flavorsome coastal seafood and flame-grilled inland meat dishes. Its crown jewel is the arrosticini, which are skewers of lamb or pork meat prepared over fire. They originate from the migrating Abruzzi shepherds of the 19th century, who ate the non-productive animals, cutting the meat into chunks and using the stems of plants found along the rivers as skewers. And while restaurant iterations of arrosticini might not feel quite so authentic, they’re still pretty delicious. Buon appetito!