Italian #travel: 4 Overlooked Italian Destinations by John Gower

Castello di Gorizia in autumn from Wikimedia commons, contributed by Enrico Cian
Castello di Gorizia in autumn from Wikimedia commons, contributed by Enrico Cian

When tourists head to Italy, they typically flock towards large, well-known haunts like Venice, Rome, Florence, Sicily, and Milan. While these cities are beautiful, brimming with culture, history, and stunning architecture, they’re also filled with tourists.

People looking for a quiet, authentic Italian vacation often opt for the road less traveled. They seek out hidden gem destinations that haven’t been discovered by hoards of other travelers, allowing them to take in the sites in a peaceful manner, at their own pace.

The Puglia Region

Known as the heel to Italy’s boot, the Puglia region is located in the southern part of the country. The area is home to bright blue seas and filled with unique art and architecture everywhere you look. The delicious peasant cuisine is like nothing guests have tasted before and the locals are a warm and welcoming bunch.

Some of the most popular destinations in Puglia include Bari, Lecce, Gallipoli, Ostuni, and Vieste. Sites to see include the Basilica di Santa Croce, Museo Faggiano Lecce and the Duomo di Lucce, in Lucce; the Trani and Cattedrale di San Sabino, in Bari; and the Grotte Marine di Vieste, in Vieste.

Gorizia

Located on at the northeast edge of Italy, on the border of Slovenia, Gorizia was where the Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies fought the dozen Battles of Isonzo in World War I. History buffs can actually embark on a tour to the battlefield grounds, to see the site firsthand.

Visitors can also explore the Gorizia Castle and accompanying museum, take in nature at the Riserva naturale della Foce dell’Isonzo, explore the Ricordi della Grande Guerra museum and Museo sul Confine, head to the Piazza della Transalpina to see the Stazione Transalpina, and take in the beautiful architecture of the Duomo di Gorizia.

Many restaurants in Gorizia serve the Friulian regional fare in addition to Slovenian dishes.

Pisa

Nestled into the Tuscany region, Pisa is known for its aptly named, Leaning Tower of Pisa. While this is certainly a site not to be missed, the area has much more to offer. Home to many elite universities and research schools, Pisa has a large student population, making the town centre both a lively and affordable place to spend time.

Filled with stunning architecture, the area is home to a number of Romanesque buildings, Gothic churches, and Renaissance piazzas. Some of the top places to visit include the Piazza dei Miracoli landmark, the Duomo Pisa, the Battistero, the Camposanto cemetery, and enjoying the natural habitat of the Ente Parco Regionale Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli.

Lucca

A hidden gem of the Tuscany region, Lucca is famous for its Renaissance era imposing walls surrounding the city center. Step past the walls to find spectacular medieval towers, cobblestone streets, gorgeous piazzas, and buildings with the most amazing architecture.

A very pedestrian and bike-friendly city, visitors are able to get up close to Lucca’s famous walls. Very close, in fact. The top of the wall is a park, where people are able to walk or bike around its four-kilometer perimeter. Taking a trip to the top of sites like Guinigi Tower and Torree delle Ore allows one to take in picturesque views of the city. Other noteworthy sites include Duomo San Martino, home of the Volto Santo; the Casa di Puccini; the Palazzo Pfanner; and breathtaking places of worship including San Michele in Foro Church, San Martino Cathedral, San Frediano Church, and the Church and Baptistery of San Giovanni.

Taking your travel plans off the beaten path can open your world up to amazing new things you wouldn’t get to experience in the more popular tourist destinations. Opting to visit some of the more overlooked spots, allows you to immerse yourself in Italian culture and get a very authentic experience from your visit.

John Gower is a writer for NerdWallet , a site dedicated to helping consumers with end of life healthcare costs.

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