Small is not always bad, especially when it comes to small Italian towns and villages. Italy is a country full of history, culture, and natural beauty. And while many tourists flock to large cities like Rome and Florence, there are plenty of charming small Italian villages and towns worth visiting.
This travel guide will look at some of the prettiest small Italian towns and villages worth a trip. We will tell you where they are located, a brief history, and what makes them worth a visit.
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What Makes Small Towns In Italy Worth It?
Italy’s small towns and villages may lack the amenities and the numerous historical sites that big cities have. However, they make up for it with their spectacular views, more authentic local experiences, colorful medieval villages, and truly mouth-watering local cuisine.
Small towns and villages form a significant part of beautiful Italy. With their centuries-old buildings, meandering vineyards, and winding streets, these places provide experiences that you will find nowhere else.
Furthermore, big Italy towns and cities attract a lot of tourists who make a beeline. But if you are looking for a dream getaway with few locals and even fewer tourists, small Italian villages are the places for you. The quintessential Italian charm will be yours without the crowds.
After traveling to Italy for over 20 years, sure we started with some of the largest cities and most popular Italian attractions. But one of our top Italy travel tips is to explore these small towns and villages, either by staying overnight, or doing a day trip with a lovely lunch. You won’t regret it.
How To Book Hotels In Italy
In the 20+ years of traveling to Italy, we’ve learned a thing or two about booking a hotel in Italy. We’ve stayed at some stunning hotels like the Westin Excelsior Rome and St. Regis in Florence. And we’ve stayed at some not-so-great hotels mainly around train stations in Italy. Do yourself a favor and avoid hotels near train stations at all costs.
When planning a trip to Italy, we use Booking.com for our accommodations. In addition to booking hotels, we’ve used them for booking apartments for longer stays or booking villas in Italy when we want something special. We’ve even found some charming and less expensive guest houses in Italy on Booking.com.
Our Favorite List Of Small Towns In Italy
When it comes to small Italian towns and villages, small is great. Some of these villages offer experiences and tastes you will not find in towns with big Italian city names.
If you are a fan of medieval villages, it is time to visit any one place in our list of the prettiest small towns in Italy. When wondering when the best time is to visit Italy, these Italian villages can often be visited year-round because they are less touristy. This also means some of them are home to the best food in Italy because you don’t need to avoid the touristy restaurants.
Planning A Trip To A Small Italian Town? Check out our Italian Packing List and Guide for tips.
Dozza In Emilia Romagna
Dozza is a local administrative division in Bologna Province, Emilia Romagna. We love the food in Bologna, but it is a big city and sometimes it’s nice to escape. The adorable town of Dozza is the perfect day trip from Bologna.
The village was initially called Castrum Dutie, the Latin for ‘shower.’ Lorenzo Campeggio, an Italian politician and cardinal, was given the castle of Dozza when he was handling the Kings Great Matter.
It is a medieval village well known for converting itself into an artist’s canvas. It hosts its festival of the Painted Wall after two years in the third week of September. During the event, famous international and national artists paint permanent works on building walls, streets, and squares.
This small Italian village is famous for its summer wine festival, and the Dozza Castle is its landmark. We visited Dozza for the Enoteca Regionale, a shop and educational center for all of the amazing wines of Emilia Romagna. It’s also a great place to visit some of the local Romanga wineries that sprinkle the countryside around the village.
Brisighella In Emilia Romagna
Brisighella is one of the small Italian towns in Ravenna Province, the region of Emilia Romagna. It is located between the Renaissance cities of Florence and Ravenna. It is among the mountain villages in Italy and is commonly called the ‘Village on Three Hills”.
The town originated from the Rocca Castle, ordered by Maghinardo Pagani, an Italian statesman. Francesco Manfredi, the lord of Faenza, later expanded the castle.
The first hill hosts la Rocca, a 14th-century castle; the second has the Monticino, an 18th-century church sanctuary; and the third has a 19th-century clock tower. Look for the ancient Donkey’s Road, or Via degli Asine. It’s a small, hidden raised walkway from Medieval times with views over the city.
You will also find forgotten Italian fruits, like the pera Volpina, a farm pear type related to the wild pear variety. We visited Brisighella when Amber wrote her book about Emilia Romagna because it is one of the centers for olive oil production in Italy. We visited an olive grower just at the town’s edge.
Burano In Veneto
Burano is a northeastern suburb in Venice consisting of four islets in the Venice Lagoon. It is an island near Torcello at the lagoon’s northern end.
The settlement was probably founded and settled by Romans and later by the refugees from Altino, an ancient town of the Veneti, in the sixth century. It rose to importance in the 16th century, when the inhabitants began making lace with needles. Cyprus, which was Venetian-ruled, introduced the lace-making trade to the island.
Burano is popular for its brightly colored homes and lace work. The houses’ colors follow a specific pattern that originates from the island’s golden age of its development. The church of San Martino is another attraction with a painting by Giambattista Tiepolo and a leaning campanile.
Portofino In Liguria
Portofino is one of the small Italian towns with the most beautiful European ports. It is a fishing village and holiday resort located in Genoa, Liguria Region, on the Italian Riviera.
The village is mentioned as early as 986 by the Adelaide of Italy and was assigned to the Abbey of San Fruttuso di Capodimonte and was included in Rapallo’s Jurisdiction. It became part of the Genoa Republic in 1229. Charles VI of France sold Portofino to the republic of Florence in 1409.
Portofino is popular for its picturesque harbor and association with artistic and celebrity visitors. The village is clustered around its small harbor and is well known for the colorfully painted houses that line the shore. It’s also the perfect town to eat traditional Ligurian food outside of Genoa.
Camogli in Liguria
Camogli is a fishing town and tourist resort on the west side of the Portofino peninsula on the Italian Riviera, in the city of Genoa, Liguria, northern Italy. It is part of Portifino’s Marine Protected Area. We spent a quiet Christmas in Camogli almost 20 years ago. It was locals only and so full of charm.
The town’s name has an ancient but disputed origin. One theory suggests that it is the short form of Casa de Moglie. Ships captains’ wives, mogli, were housed in a home for them all, casa, when the ship sailed, and the town was famous for this.
Camogli is today famous for focaccia, a classical Italian flatbread with a texture similar to pizza dough. The town is also popular with foodies because of the numerous restaurants that serve inexpensive and authentic local cuisine. This includes some of the best Italian pastries that are common to eat in Liguria.
Learn more about what Italy is famous for, both for food and attractions.
Orvieto In Umbria
Orvieto is a city and administrative division in the province of Terni, southwest Umbria, Italy. It is located on a flat summit of a massive butte of volcanic tuff. This city rises above the near-verticle faces of tuff cliffs, completed by defensive walls called tufa, built of the same stone.
The Etruscans occupied Orvieto until the third century, when the Romans invaded Velzna. The Romans seized the city and forced the Etruscans out, relocating them to Novi Velzna, today is known as Bolsena.
Orvieto is famous for centuries-old buildings such as The Duomo, Papal residence, Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, the Albornoz fortress, and San Giovenale. This city is also a great destination for wine tasting. We’ve been to Orvieto multiple times as it’s an easy day trip or overnight trip from Rome.
Tropea In Calabria
Tropea is a municipality in Vibo Valentina province, Calabria, Italy. It is a seaside resort featuring sandy beaches on the Gulf of Saint Euphemia, Italy’s west coast, part of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Tropea is regarded as one of the most beautiful small Italian towns. According to a legend, Hercules founded the town when returning from his harbors at the Pillars of Hercules, the modern-day Straits of Gibraltar.
Tropea, also referred to as the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea, has much to offer, including pleasant weather, well-equipped beaches, beautiful surroundings, and the crystal clear sea. In addition, it has architecture and cliffside shops. The Sanctuary of Santa Maria dell Isola and Capo Vaticano are also worth visiting.
Barolo In Piedmont
Barolo is a town in the Cuneo Province, Piedmont region, Italy. It is located approximately 25 miles northeast of Cuneo and 31 miles southeast of Turin.
Barolo is a historical region of the Langhe, which fascinates visitors with the majestic castle that stands out. We saw Depeche Mode play in the Barolo town square one summer while learning about the unique Piedmont food.
This town is an important wine-producing area, famous for its Barolo wine and many local wineries, including Poderi Colla, have vineyards in the town. Barolo is home to The Chapel of Barolo, a multi-colored art project created in 1999 by David Tremlett, an English artist, and Sol LeWitt, an American artist.
Cortona In Tuscany
Cortona is one of Italy’s small towns in southern Tuscany Valdichiana, Arezzo province. It sits about 1,968 feet above sea level on a hill and is enclosed by stone walls dating back to the Roman and Etruscan times. It was also the setting for the book and movie Under The Tuscan Sun.
The Etruscans conquered and enlarged this small Italian town that was originally an Umbrian city. It joined the Etruscan League during the seventh century and eventually became a Romon colony named Corito.
Its dominant position offers spectacular views of the surrounding valley and Lake Trasimeno. The town offers numerous exciting places to visit, including the Diocesan Museum, where you can view the stunning panel painting of the Ascension by Beato Angelico.
Assissi In Umbria
Assissi is a town in Italy located in Perugia Province, Umbria region, on monte Subasio’s western flank. It is regarded as the birthplace of Sextus Propertius, a Latin elegiac poet who lived during the Augustan age.
This Italian town dates back to 1000 BC, when immigrants occupied the upper Tiber valley and the neighborhood of Assissi. They were Umbrians living in fortified settlements on the high ground.
In 2000, UNESCO designated Assissi’s Franciscan structures as a World Heritage Site. Other famous attractions include the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assissi, which began construction in 1228, Santa Maria Maggiore, the earliest church in Assissi, and the Cathedral of San Rufino.
We visited Assissi during a very hot summer for our anniversary. The Cathedral and historic landmarks made it worthwhile, even in the heat. There are also additional even smaller Italian towns to visit near by.
Monopoli In Puglia
Monopoli is a town located in the Metropolitan City of Bari, Apulia region. It lies on the Adriatic Sea, approximately 25 miles southeast of Bari, and is roughly 60 square miles.
This town was first occupied around 500 BC and was a fortified Messapian city. Emperor Trajan, about 108 and 110 AD, ordered the construction of the Via Publica to improve communication with the east. It is the city with the longest stretch of the Via Traiana, an ancient Roman road, in Apulia.
Monopoli is famous mostly as a tourist destination, as well as an agricultural and industrial center. Other famous tourist attractions include the Castle of Charles V, completed in 1525, the Coastal Castle of St. Stephen, constructed in 1086, and Jerusalem Hospital.
Learn more in our Puglia food guide about what to eat in the Puglia region.
Small Italian towns have colorful houses, centuries-old buildings, and authentic cultures and cuisine, making them great tourist destinations. This guide has listed for you the prettiest small towns in Italy.
FAQs – Visiting Small Towns In Italy
I recommend avoiding travel to Italy in August when most of the country goes on holiday. I also recommend avoiding trying to do too much in one trip. Italy is meant to be savored, in particular when exploring small towns and villages. Take your time, enjoy a long lunch and drink a cappuccino in an outdoor cafe.
Many people focus on Rome, Venice, and Florence during their first trip to Italy, and I understand that. But, there is so much to visit outside of these big Italian cities. I would recommend visiting Bologna first as it’s a happy compromise between large city and accessible for travelers, plus it has some of the best food in Italy.
Absolutely, 100% yes! Not only does it help to spread the tourist dollars to the countryside, but the small towns and villages in Italy are charming and can provide more authentic travel experiences.
Culinary Travel To Italy
Our Italy Travel Experience
Check out Food & Drink Destinations original founder Amber Hoffman’s book, the Food Traveler’s Guide To Emilia Romagna, which is available on Amazon. In addition to being a culinary travel guide to the region, it walks through how many of the typical Italian food products are made, like mortadella, prosciutto, and Parmigiano Reggiano.