One of the most famously beautiful countries in the world, Italy has thousands of kilometres of coastline and countless areas of stunning natural beauty. Although tourists flocks to its main beauty spots especially during the summer, it’s still possible to discover quiet resorts or just ones where the locals go if you look hard enough. Here are the most beautiful, unspoiled, under-the-tourist radar and quiet resorts to holiday in Italy for travel snobs everywhere…
1. San Fruttuoso – a tranquil and authentic holiday destination in Italy
Far away from the typical chaos and hectic life, San Fruttuoso is a tranquil holiday destination for the family. Located between the towns of Camogli and Portofino, San Fruttuoso is a place to relax, rejuvenate and enjoy the natural beauty. Renowned for its Romanesque San Fruttuoso Abbey and museum located on the bayside, the abbey is accessible only by sea or hiking trails.
Dive in to catch a glimpse of the Christ of the Abyss, a submerged bronze statue off the San Fruttuoso coast. Explore the nearby town of Portofino with historic Castello Brown and the protected coastal area of Parco naturale regionale di Portofino.
2. Elba Island – an enchanting paradise for your non-touristy holiday
A magnificent island nestled in the Tuscan archipelago, Elba is a lesser-known gem that will take you off the beaten path and throw you into the heart of the Italian wilderness.
Elba is not your typical touristy island, but if you want to swim in unspoiled turquoise waters without being overwhelmed by the crowds, it will reward you beyond belief.
Elba Island is a treasure trove of natural beauty and tranquillity and one of the most secluded Mediterranean islands on the Italian coast. It’s one of the best regions to sample Italian renditions of freshly caught fish, and we strongly suggest feasting on the local speciality, calamari alla griglia.
3. Gallipoli, Puglia – an alluring and under-the-radar southern coastal town in Italy
A delightful coastal town in the southwest corner of Puglia, the island town of Gallipoli a favorite summer escape destination for Italians. Nicknamed as “the beautiful city”, the town is accessible via sea or a 16th Century Bridge.
The key attraction of the town is the Centro Storico filled with narrow streets, winding alleys and beautiful Roman architecture.
Step back in time by visiting the 13th century Castello Angioino di Gallipoli, the Corte Gallo, or visit the lovely Gallipoli Cathedral with its intricate façade. Laze on the Spiaggia della Purita or the Spiaggia di Pescoluse beach for a perfect day by the waters.
4. Capo Vaticano, Calabria – a gorgeous hidden gem to discover in Italy
A mystical seaside resort along the Tyrrhenian coast in the town of Ricadi, Capo Vaticano is one of the best beaches in Southern Italy. Known for its grey white granite, dramatic cliffs, crystal clear waters and untouched beauty, the cape has long been considered a sacred place.
Some of the remarkable beaches include Groticelle beach and Focu Beach which have white sand beaches, caves, limestone hills and coves. Take a dip on the cool waters, go snorkeling or explore the secluded caves, this alluring region makes it a delight for beach lovers and as well as nature lovers.
5. Lipari – a pretty and tranquil Aeolian island off the coast of Sicily
Representing the essence of Italy, the charming island of Lipari is a true treasure to explore. From the cobbled alleys, white houses with flat roofs to the white and black beaches and magnificent cathedrals, Lipari has plenty of things to offer.
Check out some ancient archaeology at the Museo Archeologico Luigi Bernabo Brea and the Lipari Castle or admire the fascinating architecture of Lipari Cathedral. Explore the natural grandeur of the volcanic nature reserve of Isola di Vulcano and Acquacalda or soak up some sun at the Spiaggia Valle i Mura and Coral Beach, you’ll be rewarded with some spectacular views of the island at Quattropani.
6. Ischia – a striking volcanic island on the Gulf of Naples
One of the most picturesque islands in southern Italy, Ischia forms the northern end of the Gulf of Naples. Apart from its exotic scenery, manicured gardens, rolling hills and rocky beaches, Ischia is also known for thermal spas and natural springs.
Explore the beautiful medieval castle of Aragonese standing tall on the islet of Ischia’s east coast or visit the idyllic coastal village of Sant’Angelo with its charming boutiques and local pottery. Bask on the sand, get a tan at the unique Fumarole Beach or explore the blooming garden and charming water features in the hills of Forio, Ischia is a refreshing retreat.
7. Lake Orta – Italy’s best-kept secret!
The moment you reach the lake Orta in northern Italy, you’ll be drawn to the beautiful burgh of Orta San Guilio. Featuring fine townhouses, beautiful gardens, magnificent mansions, and lush mountains, Orta San Guilio will take you back to the Renaissance era.
At the heart of the lake is the Island of San Guilio dominated by Romanesque basilica, the bishop’s palace, and the Benedictine abbey which is beautiful to look out across at all hours. Wander through the pretty streets or venture up the hill, the morning mist makes Orta seem almost magical.
8. Gabicce Mare – a family retreat on the Adriatic Coast where the locals go and not many tourists
A lively little town on the eastern coast of the country, Gabicce Mare is famous for its scenic beauty, exceptional beaches and clean sea. Perched on the hill are the Gabicce Monte is known for its fortified village and sandstone cliffs.
Take your pick from the popular Bagni Zona 26, Zen Beach, Spiaggia Bagni beach and the secluded coves of Fiorenzzula di Focara and Casteldimezzo. Swim along the clear waters, bike along the trails, or explore the Natural Park of San Bartolo, there are a plethora of things to do and see in this seaside town.
9. Procida Island – a secret gem on the Bay of Naples
Noted as Italy’s Capital of Culture, the small island of Procida is nestled between Cape Miseno and the island of Ischia. Savor the Italian authenticity with its scenic landscape, pastel-colored houses, winding alleys, several beaches and rustic charm. Travel back in time at the Abbazia di San Michele, the most renowned church of South Italy with deep religious and cultural history.
Explore the fortified town of Casale Vascello with beautifully terraced houses of the 15th century. Moving further up the hill, the village of Terra Murata offers some of the most enjoyable views of the island.
10. Rapallo – a sublime under-the-radar town on the Italian Riviera coastline
A fascinating town in the province of Genoa, Rapallo has a relaxed seaside holiday vibe. The symbol of the town is the Rapallo Castle, a 16th-century fort sitting right on the waterfront. Known for its hilltop Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro, a religious site with a sea view, Rapallo has a bustling historic center with a beautiful promenade, excellent beaches, and shops.
Visit the Basilica of St. Gervasius and Protasius with a unique dome and leaning bell tower. Nature lovers can hike, bike, or picnic on the Parco natural Regionale di Portofino or explore the coast by train.
11. Calabria and Basilicata – Italy’s undiscovered and unspoiled south
An old Italy with quaint villages, incredible landscapes, turquoise coastline and Gothic churches, Calabria is bordered by Basilicata and nestled between the Ionian and Tyrrhenian seas. Some of the famous towns of Calabria include Stilo, Gerace, Crotone, Pentedatillo and Calabro Morano.
Some of the noted coastlines include the Violet Coast and the Coast of the Gods. Rich in cultural heritage, the town of Tropea has some of the cleanest white beaches and the medieval Benedictine Sanctuary nestled on the rock. The artistic towns of Scilla and Diamante are known for their imposing castle and enticing waters.
12. Cala Pulcino, Sicily – a peaceful paradise on Sicily’s southern coast
Away from the packed Rabbit Island, Cala Pulcino makes for a secluded beach wonderful view. The turquoise waters, sandy shores, rugged rock formations make for a soothing day on the beach with its Caribbean flavor.
Hike the beach, admire the canyons, wade through the coves and ravines, or relax on the white-sand shoreline, Cala Pulcino in Vallone della Forbice is a real gem of Lampedusa. Hike on or reach the beach by boat, Cala Pulcino offers clear waters to swim, snorkel and discover superb marine life.
13. Lido di Volano – a very unspoilt spot on the Po delta
A beautiful seaside resort in the province of Ferrara, Lido di Volano is the topmost shore amongst the seven coastal resorts in the municipality of Comacchio. Located along the Adriatic Coast, Lido di Volano is known for its secluded beaches, pine forests, natural reserve & boardwalk.
Take a tour of the Po di Volano Nature Reserve, home to diverse fauna and flora including Pochard, Tufted Duck, egrets & many more. Explore the town with ancient houses dating back to the 15th century, birdwatch or enjoy the magical sunsets by the sea, this serene town has an abundance of untouched natural areas.
14. Noli, Liguria – a small traditional fishing village in Liguria with a nice beach
A charming little resort tucked in the heart of the Riviera di Ponente, Noli beckons beach lovers with its heartbreakingly romantic island beauty. Its old-world medieval charm accentuates Noli’s coastal beauty, white sandy beaches, and turquoise waters. The sandy beaches look pristine against the stunning backdrop of a medieval castle and towers perched atop a verdant hill.
Noli ranks among the most beautiful Italian villages to explore, and history buffs and architecture enthusiasts will find the historical heritage endlessly fascinating. If you’re looking for a break from the crowdedness and pretentiousness of the Riviera, head over to Noli to bask in its medieval charm and breathtaking coastal beauty.
15. Forte Dei Marmi – a local’s seaside town in Tuscany, Italy, known for its beaches
One of the most spectacular luxury destinations to experience the glory of the Italian coast, Forte Dei Marmi is popular amongst European jet-setters, yachters, and the opulence-seeking elite. It’s the ultimate Italian town to party at exclusive beachside clubs, dine in Michelin-starred restaurants and shop at high-end Italian boutiques.
Aside from its appeal as a town of opulence and extravagance, Forte Dei Marmi is famous for some of the most spellbinding views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, set against a stunning backdrop of the snow-covered Apuan Alps. The natural beauty is accentuated by the cultural, artistic, and historical heritage of the town, adorned with magnificent architectural masterpieces and prized sculptures.
16. Isola del Giglio – a perfect place to spend your holiday by the sea where you will have close contact with nature
Tucked off the golden coast of Tuscany, Isola del Giglio is one of the seven breathtaking islands that make up the treasure trove known as the Tuscan Archipelago. This destination is a paradise for nature lovers, beach bummers, adventurers, and hikers, for it is laden with unfiltered beauty and adrenaline-pumping adventures.
The Isola del Giglio falls within the scenic expanse of the Arcipelago Toscano National Park, known for mesmerizing views of the Tyrrhenian Sea, verdant Mediterranean foliage, and rich marine life. You can lounge around on the picturesque sandy beaches, swim in the crystal clear sea, feast on freshly-caught fish, and unravel ancient paths in the medieval village of Giglio Castello.
17. Scilla, Calabria – a stunningly-located fishing village in the Calabria region
The Italian region of Calabria is a lesser-known gem that remains unknown to most foreign tourists, making it one of the best destinations to escape the summer crowds and revel in the tranquillity of the breathtaking backroads. Scilla, a sleepy little town, is one of the best destinations to witness Calabria at its finest, most spellbinding glory.
Famous for the legend of the sea monster Scylla, enshrined in Greek mythology, Scilla is endlessly fascinating and heartbreakingly beautiful. It’s perched in front of the Strait of Messina, and the beaches will transport you into an otherworldly abode with their pristine, unfiltered beauty. Scilla also boasts a spectacular architectural heritage, like the Marina di Scilla and the Ruffo Castle.
18. Lake Maggiore – Italy’s second-largest lake with sweeping views
One of the largest pre-Alpine lakes, Lake Maggiore shares its borders with the Ticino region of Switzerland. Take a tour of the Borromean Islands of Isola Bella and Isola Madre with opulent state apartment with artificial caves, sumptuous furnishings and an Italian-style garden.
Stroll along with the medieval Borromeon castle Rocca d’Angera with beautiful 15th-century frescos and Doll Museum. Seep in the breathtaking views from the hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso, walk along with the lovely gardens of Villa Taranto or climb to the top of Sasso del Ferro for stunning views of the Alps, the lake makes for an idyllic Italian vacation.
19. Ostuni, Puglia – one of the most stunning cities in southern Italy known for its whitewashed houses
Ostuni is a land of verdant plateaus and olive-laden fields, making it an astounding sight to behold for travelers exploring the charming region of Puglia. The white-washed houses, lush green hillside, and spectacular Gothic architecture beckon travelers to walk through every nook and cranny of Ostuni, admiring its natural beauty and historical heritage.
Ostuni has a glorious history, and it is home to remnants that tell fascinating tales about the Romans, the Ostrogoths, the Byzantines, the Normans, and the Bourbons. The city’s medieval architecture and the exotic labyrinth of cobblestone streets create a charming backdrop that will transport you back to the 17th century.
20. Tremiti Islands – also known as the “pearls of the Adriatic”
Tremiti Islands is a stunning archipelago of five tiny islands nestled at the Northern tip of Gargano. These islands are Capraia, Cretaccio, Pianosa, St. Domino, and St. Nicholas. This archipelago is also home to the stunning expanse of the Gargano National Park and some of the most magnificent views of the Adriatic Sea.
It’s a treasure trove of sandy beaches, isolated coves, rugged cliffs, and dense pine forests surrounded by deep cobalt waters. Tremiti Islands attract nature lovers and adventurers with the promise of rip-roaring underwater adventures, rewarding hikes, and gastronomic indulgence. It’s one of the few regions where underwater fishing and diving are allowed.
21. Ravello, Amalfi Coast – a pretty treasure trove on the Amalfi Coast
Perched on the top of a hill on the Amalfi Coast, the town of Ravello is known for its vibrant cultural scene, medieval streets, and unique natural beauty. Admire the splendid beauty of the Ravello Cathedral and its museum with beautiful works of 13th-century art.
Wander across the serene gardens of Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo with jaw-dropping views of its heritage coastline. Relax in the main square of Piazza Vescovado, attend a musical concert on the terrace, hike the coast or enjoy fresh Italian delicacies, Ravello makes for an unforgettable affair with Italian culture.
Once here definitely explore the rest of the amazing Amalfi Coast, I took one of the tailor-made Italy tours by Firebird and would definitely recommend.
22. Cannara – a dreamy and quiet medieval town in the heart of Umbria
Nestled in the heart of Umbria along the bubbling Topino River, the quaint agricultural town of Cannara is a hidden gem of Italy. Take a tour of some of the iconic monuments including the Church of the Buona Morte and Church of San Biagio with preserved 13-century façade.
On the outskirts of the town is the Pian d’Arca Shrine, a place where Francis made his famous Sermon to the Birds, and the archaeological site of Collemancio with numerous artifacts of Roman municipium on display. Relish some of the finest Umbrian wines at the Di Filippo winery.
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Scott started his travelling life back in 1999, when he headed off on a solo jaunt to South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia with just a backpack, a camera and a spirit for adventure. After that, the travel bug bit hard and now he is always seeking to head off somewhere new. Over the years he has lived in Italy, Qatar, Ireland and the UK but his spiritual home will always be Rome as this is the city which most satisfies his unrelenting craving for culture, good food and football. Scott loves nothing better than to be behind the camera and has also just started his own blog called Bars and Spas. As well as Rome he also counts Melbourne and Tel Aviv among his favourite places and now permanently resides in Dublin. Follow Scott on Google+ and Twitter