There are many stunning places to visit when you travel Italy, and it is always hard to choose places that you think are the top or best attractions, because Italy is so lovely that the competition is fierce.
However, we think we have achieved this in our final list of top attractions that we feel are those special places to visit, whether it be a quiet hill-top town or a bustling town.
In no particular order, other than alphabetical we recommend the following:
Left: Alberobello, Italy
The most beautiful towns and villages in Italy: #1. ALBEROBELLO in PUGLIA, ITALY
Alberobello can be found in the Puglia region not far from the coastal town of Bari. Alberobello is a beautiful village famous for its many trulli, 1,500 to be specific, and it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The trullo is the name give to the conical roof structures that are made without mortar.
All trullos are painted glaring white that almost blinds you when you visit during the southern Mediterranean summer heat, and these structures are used both as houses and as shops.
Most of the tourists who visit this area are local Italians as to get to this town is a little off-the-beaten path. However, if you can find your way here, it will be worth the effort and a fantastic photo opportunity.
The most visited part of Alberobello is Rione Monti, a district on a slope facing the modern town center. It consists of several narrow lanes sloping upwards, with others winding along the hillside, and is extremely picturesque both from afar and close up.
The second trulli district is called Aia Piccola. This is very different to Rione Monti and is less visited by tourists. It is still a residential area, with quiet lanes lined with little inhabited trulli
The best way to get to Alberobello is by train. At Bari Centrale station, which is served by Trenitalia, look for signs to the Ferrovie Sud-Est, located within the same station. The trip takes 1h 30min and tickets are sold in the ticket office next to the platform for €4 for a single ticket. (in 2011). There are 15 daily connections (some direct, some via Putignano) from Monday-Saturday and fewer trains run on Sunday. Don't forget to validate your ticket in the green machines on the platform before boarding.
Alberobello can also be reached by car. The trip from the town of Bari will take you just under an hour.
When you get out of the train station, walk to the town center and follow the signs to the Zona Monumentale Trulli. This will take you to the collection of historical trulli within about 15 minutes.
Of course if you wish to stay in a trulli that is possible too. There are many trulli that have been turned into hotels. We haven't stayed in any personally, so if anyone can recommend any in the area, I would be grateful for the info.
Left: Asolo, Italy
beautiful towns and villages in Italy:#2.
ASOLO in VENETIA, ITALY
Asolo is a majestic hill-top hamlet which is beautifully sited among the Cyprus-clad foothills of the Dolomites and which exudes feelings of another lifetime. It is known as the city of 100 horizons due to its lofty elevation. And best of all can be done from a day trip to Venice as it is only 30 miles away. It is a romantic and charming little Italian town that deserves the admiration it gets from visitors everywhere.
It was here that Venetian Doges sent Caterina Cornaro, a native Venetian, who was also the former Queen of Cyprus. Which seemed a little unfair considering that she poisoned her husband so that Venice could gain Cyprus. She was sent here into exile so that she could no longer interfere in Cypriot affairs, where she lived in the castle, which still stands. Later, other rich Venetians built their own villas in the area.
Other than taking in the beautiful scenery of the surrounding hills, the next best thing to do is just to meander around the old center. The old streets are narrow and gorgeous. Gothic arcades, facades decorated with frescoes and beautiful balconies can be found throughout this distinctive Medieval town with its grand villas.
Don't forget to look out for Robert Browning's house, #153 in Via Browning, and also the graves of Freya Stark and Eleonora Duse further down the hill.
Left: Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy
The most beautiful towns and villages in Italy:#3. CINQUE TERRE in LIGURIA, ITALY
Well, if you haven't heard of the previous 2 most beautiful towns and villages in Italy, you would have heard about Cinque Terre. Its charm being that this is a place that is difficult to get to, and the 5 villages that cling to the mountain face can be reached either on foot along the ancient footpath called the Sentiero Azzuro, (Blue Trail), by train, or by boat. There are roads to some of the villages, but there is still no road that links all 5. The other advantage is that all of these little villages in Liguria look as if they have not been touched by modern life.
All 5 villages have now become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Over centuries, people have carefully built terraces on the rugged, steep landscape right up to the cliffs that overlook the sea.
The 5 villages are called Monterosso al Mare, Corniglia, Vernazza, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The largest of the villages is Monterosso al Mare. It has its own sandy beach, overlooks a wide open bay and is accessible by road. The other village accessible by road is Riomaggiore. Both of these, because of their accessibility by road have more hotels and cater for more over-night tourists than the other villages.
Manarola is a quieter village that seems to have lots of boats near the shoreline. It also has steps that go from the village down to the beach and there are lots of places where you can swim.
Corniglia can be reached by train and is perched on top of a rocky pinnacle. This is a lovely village that really doesn't look as if it has changed in 100 years.
Vernazza seems a little down-in-the-heel during the day but comes alive at night with some great night-life. You can get to Vernazza from Corniglia along the Blue Trail and with lots of steps going down into the streets from the approach from the top.
The Cinque Terre villages are well connected by rail and each of the villages has a train station. Regular local trains from Genoa and La Spezia run with high frequency. All trains are operated by the state carrier, Trenitalia. When traveling from La Spezia, you can buy your passes for Cinque Terre in a tourism office in a hallway off of platform 1 at the La Spezia station.
Take the 'litoranea' road from La Spezia. It takes approximately 20-30 minutes from La Spezia to drive to Riomaggiore or Manarola. There is a good parking garage in Riomaggiore, up the hill from the train station. The roads to and between the five towns are not for the faint of heart, and why most travelers are encouraged to leave their vehicle in La Spezia and take the train to the Cinque Terre.
The most beautiful towns and villages in Italy:#4. DOBBIACO in the DOLOMITES, ITALY
Dobbiaco is a health resort town that nestle in the Dolomite Mountains, known by the Italians as the Dolomiti. These are a huge chain of mountains quite spectacular in their formation and a sight to behold when they are still covered in snow and the sunsets turns them a dusky pink in the setting sun. The Dolomiti are also a UNESCO World Naturals Heritage Site. Dobbiaco is known as 'Door to the Dolomites'.
This is an area of majestic beauty no matter what the season. In the winter it is a winter playground of skiers, snowboarders, tobboganists and snow fights. People go cross-country skiing, winter hiking, alpine skiing, snowboarding, go on snow-shoe hikes, go ski touring and ice-skating.
In spring the mountains in Dobbiaco give life to thousands of spring flowers, especially lupines. In summer it is a place for those who want to go hiking, cycling, mountain hiking, climbing, and fishing.
the surrounding hills you will find farm fields filled with cows with
bells, small churches with onion-shaped domes, and chalets with wooden
The most convenient rail link is the Brenner line (Innsbruck - Bolzano). However, you have to change in Fortezza and then take a local train through Val Pusteria to Dobbiaco. Coming from Switzerland, the line goes from Zurich to Innsbruck. Also from Vienna the route is via Salzburg to Innsbruck. From there you have to take the Brenner line to Fortezza and then by local train to Dobbiaco. Coming from East Tyrol, the line runs via Lienz to Dobbiaco. If you are coming from the south, take the train via Milan to Bolzano changing in Fortezza and then on by local train to Dobbiaco. From Venice there is a rail link to Calalzo di Cadore. From there you can then take the bus to Val Pusteria.
There is a daily bus service to Dobbiaco via Val Pusteria. From Trieste the "Triestina" leaves daily at 06:45 going via Monfalcone, Udine, Tolmezzo, Sappada to San Candido (arriving at 12:44) and from there you can get a connection to Dobbiaco. To get back, you can again take the bus from Dobbiaco to San Candido and on by bus to Trieste (departure: 15:30 daily - arriving at 21:20).
Dobbiaco lies in the east of South Tyrol (Italy) at an altitude of 1,245 m and only 1.5 hours from the Brenner motorway exit for Bressanone. Accessible from the north, south, east and west, there are many different ways of getting to Dobbiaco.
The most beautiful towns and villages in Italy:#5. ORTA SAN GIULIO in LOMBARDY, ITALY
Orta San Giulio is a town on Lake Orta, Lombardy, which happens to be one of Italy's least visited lakes set among the foothills of the Alps. It can be found at the end of a small peninsula that juts out in the lake. Intricate wrought-iron balustrades and balconies bedeck the 18th century buildings of this charming lakeside town. Across from the town you can see the small island of San Giulio.
From the town you can take a boat to the little island just off-shore. Much of this island is taken up with private villas, but there are areas to explore and so still worth the trip, especially if you pop into the Basilica. For a great photo opportunity, go to the island just before sunset. The view from the island back to the town with Sacro Monte, the sanctuary built from 1591-1770 dedicated to Francis Assisi, and the large mountains dotted with many chapels as a back-drop is quite spectacular in the soft, evening light.
Picture of San Gimignano, Italy Photographer: Basilio Speziari
The most beautiful towns and villages in Italy:#6. SAN GIMIGNANO in TUSCANY, ITALY
San Gimignano is a a beautifully walled, Medieval Italian town in Tuscany. However, it becomes overrun with tourists in the summer by the thousands, every day, and is a town that is best enjoyed when the tourists have gone home and you share it just with the locals.
There are 13 towers still standing, although there used to be about 70 such towers. And although the towers are great for photographs, they were built for defense and aggression against noble families within the same neighborhood.
If you are looking for some well-preserved Medieval architecture head on down Via San Giovanni and Via San Matteo. Both these roads, which wind through the town, are lined with 13th century houses.
While you are there, don't forget to pop into the many excellent restaurants in this town for boar stew, a local specialty dish. There is also a great little gellato shop outside the main gate that sells wonderful Italian ice-cream.
the fortified walls of the town you can see fields of vineyards,
sunflowers, and cypress tress. This is a well-known grape area and if
you like white wine the delicious Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
The most beautiful towns and villages in Italy:#7. POSITANO in CAMPANIA, ITALY
Positano is one of those places that you can really only appreciate when you are off-shore looking back at it. This is because you really don't get to appreciate just how the town clings precariously to the cliff face and how there are just layers and layers of buildings in an upwards sprawl, rather than laterally that is usually found when towns grow in size.
Positano can be found on that heart-stopping strip called the Amalfi Coast and is the largest of the towns. I say heart-stopping because if you are not an accomplished driver, or even a brave driver, rather take a tour bus if you are traveling during the summer season.
The roads are narrow and single track, but that doesn't seem to prove a challenge for the Italian vesper drivers who defy traffic rules and gravity by trying to put the whole family onto something that is only built for 2. However, it doesn't stop there, they then frighten the life out of unsuspecting drivers as they weave in and out of the traffic defying oncoming traffic and death itself.
Then of course there are the tour buses who are too wide for the narrow road, take the corners wide and swing around with no worries for either the vesper drivers or the cars. Then too, you have to worry about the Mario Andretti wannabes who love their alphas and take the hills at top speed, and at full-throttle and compete with the vespers and buses. On second thoughts - don't take the bus. Take a boat! We made the fatal error of taking the car - never again!
However, despite the perils of the Italian drivers, Positano and the Amalfi Coast in general, is a magical part of Italy to visit. Explore the town with its mostly white Moorish-style houses looking down into the bay. You can only get from the top of the town to the bottom of the green-blue bay by stairs. Some of them so steep that they are like ladders. There is only one narrow street and it does not go down to the sea.
The 10th century Duomo fronted by the richly colored 13th century facade is spectacular. However, it is just as famous for its little boutique shops that sell handmade clothes sought after by international buyers, leather goods and majolica.
See our Free
as there is a video there on Positano.
The most beautiful towns and villages in Italy:#8. TAORMINA in SICILY, ITALY
On the other side of Mt. Etna lies the medieval mountaintop town of Taormina. The town has a natural beauty which it still retains, despite modern development. It is from here that you can see Mt. Etna puffing away on a clear day and at the bottom of this town lies a lovely sandy beach.
The beach around Isola Bella, meaning beautiful island - and it is - is not really an island as it is joined to the mainland with a small causeway. It is a bit stony and families often complain that it is not a great beach for families because of this. This is fair comment, because there are lots of submerged rocks that one has to maneuver around, but one has to remember that this is an area of volcanic action both past and present. The volcanic rock had to go somewhere! However it is one of the best places to go snorkeling with an amazing collection of fish & sea creatures and a pleasant place to swim if you have boat shoes on.
One cultural site not to miss for its spectacular position is the Greek Theater that was built overlooking the cliffs and sea of Taormina. It was built during the 3rd century B.C. and rebuilt by the Romans during the 2nd century A.D. Its acoustics are phenomenal and even a stage whisper on stage can be heard at the very back rows!
Take a walk down Corso Umberto, the main street lined with smart boutiques and antique shops. While you are in the town stop off for a Prosecco or a Cappuccino and enjoy the view from Piazza 9 Aprile. Or have Limoncello - a sweet lemon alcoholic drink served chilled after a meal that is refreshing and sold widely. In fact we are constantly buying Limoncello as we love having it over ice cream!
You won't be disappointed in the restaurants found in this town. They are plentiful, and the standard is good. However, this little town has now become very popular with tourists, in fact, it is Sicily's most visited town, and hotels and restaurants can be fairly upmarket and their prices reflect this accordingly.