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Most underrated places in Italy

Most underrated places in Italy

Italy seems to ignite excitement in just about everyone. It glows with gorgeousness, from Tuscany to Amalfi, Verona to Roma. Foodies can get almost feverish about its culinary heritage and we all get excitable about their exquisite style and culture. It’s not surprising, therefore, that it can become a bit full to the brim in places. However, there are some Italian idylls that sneak under the radar. Indeed, you can explore secret Italy quite easily if you know how, and we have made this easier for you with our list of most underrated places in Italy. 

Via Francigena

The Via Francigena is an ancient pilgrimage route that opens up the sacred heart of Italy’s much worshipped interior. Originally, it was a route taken by the ecclesiastical elite between Canterbury, Rome and the sacred town of Santa Maria di Leuca. Today, it’s broken into various segments within Italy, and can be walked or cycled, the longest being between the magnificent walled city of Lucca and Rome, walkable over 22 days. Follow a soulful southern section between Rome and Terracina in the province of Latina, or seek out its northern nirvanas between Pontremoli, in the heart of the Lunigiana and Lucca. There is also a segment on Sicily

Monte Linas range, Sardinia

The beaches of North Sardinia are blissful but busy, but hiking on the eastern Supramonte range is supreme and cycling on the Costa Verde wins green and gold. However, it’s the western Monte Linas range that remains Sardinia’s best kept secret where, although hiking trails are easy to moderate, they are also epic and magnifico. This range is covered with dense oak forests that slope down towards the sea, with traditional villages connected by mule paths, and no shortage of coastal trails either. The trip culminates in walks on the islands of ​​Sant’Antioco and Carloforte, staying on the former for two nights, as well as some wonderful agriturismo homes earlier in the week. 

most underrated places in Italy
Hiking on the island of Carloforte, just one of Sardinia’s sublime secrets.

Alpe-Adria Trail, Cividale del Friuli to Trieste

The Alpe-Adria Trail is an adventurous artery created for hikers and cyclists, covering 750km of the Austrian Alps, Slovenia’s Triglav National Park and Italy’s Alpine foothills, then finally the Adriatic. Spend a week walking the final section of the Alpe-Adria Trail between the UNESCO Cividale del Friuli in the foothills of the eastern Alps and finishing in the elegant port city of Trieste, and historical hub of the Habsburg Empire. You even get to pop into Slovenia en route, with views of the beautiful Brda region as you go. This holiday is also accessible by train at Manzano (14.5km from Cividale del Friuli) and Trieste stations. 

A great adventure. We enjoyed the challenging (at times) but beautiful terrain along the Alpe-Adria. The trails were varied and the views spectacular. Our hill town stopovers were fantastic, and all of the hotels were beyond expectations. It was a great introduction to Slovenia (Smartno) as well as a chance to see a less-visited part of Italy.” – Donna, from Maine USA. 

Val Maira, Piedmont

Already well known to gastronomy go-getters, as Piedmont is the home of Slow Food, and so there is no better region to celebrate traditional, artisanal foods. However, one of the region’s most delicious natural ingredients is the remote and rugged Val Maira, with a walking trail that takes you through the southern Alps, close to the French border. Your journey starts at San Michele Prazzo, at an altitude of 1,370m, with some spectacular cols to tackle on this eight day walking holiday, such as Colle Greguri (2,309m) and Colle Oserot (2,640m). With veritable feasts provided at the beautiful agriturismo accommodations en route, you will have plenty of Piedmont propellant to keep you going.  

most underrated places in Italy
Hiking Val Maira in Piedmont is the place to combine the joys of slow travel and slow food.

Cycling the Dolomites, the easy way

The Dolomites are a bit like the godfathers of Italy’s natural heritage, watching over the country from a craggy, majestic northern throne. Walking tours of the Dolomites vary from elevated trekking along the Alta Via 1 to leisurely-paced walks through lower valleys and pastures. However, cycling in the Dolomites doesn’t have to be a scary notion, especially on our easy to moderate journey from the Dolomites to none other than Venice. Cycle through some dramatic Dolomites scenery including Val di Landro (also known as Höhlenstein Valley), the famous peaks of Tre Cime di Lavaredo and follow a converted railway track to Pieve di Cadore, Titian’s birthplace. After that, it’s pretty as a picture all the way to Venice.  

Walking on the Island of Elba

Although the Island of Elba might be famous for harbouring Napoleon in 1814 during his exile, not many people think of escaping there after city breaks in Siena, Florence or Pisa, just a few hours away by train to the port town of Piombino. The largest island in the National Park of the Tuscan Archipelago, it’s a walker’s empire. Hike in the shadow of Monte Capanne (1,019m) or along its ridge, and follow ancient trails inland to traditional villages such as San Piero in Campo, passing traditional stone shepherds’ huts, or caprili along the way. There’s a fitting finale along Monte Fonza ridge, at 804m, with superb panoramic views of the island and beyond. And of course, there are no shortage of beaches to self-exile at. 

The island of Elba, famous for harbouring Napoleon, is now a walker’s empire.

We hope you have enjoyed our secret Italy suggestions. Of course, there are many other ways to enjoy Italy without the crowds, and travelling out of peak season is one. Try winter walking in the Dolomites, the Cinque Terre in spring or Amalfi in autumn. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more Italy information.