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Laura Teso has lived in and explored Italy her entire life, and she told Insider she loves to discover the country’s under-the-radar destinations.
The blogger, who records her adventures on her Instagram account My Corner of Italy, is currently based in Padova, a city sandwiched between Venice and Verona in the Veneto region of the country.
When she’s not exploring her city’s 800-year-old covered market or the oldest botanical garden in the world, she’s traveling across the country and exploring small villages and towns.
“It’s where the true Italian atmosphere is,” she told Insider. “It’s a place where time stops and where I feel joy. I can breathe. I can relax.”
With the EU’s plan to welcome vaccinated US tourists this summer, Americans may have the chance to visit Teso’s favorite lesser-known destinations.
As Insider previously reported, some restrictions may still be in place when countries reopen, so check each destination’s COVID-19 precautions before booking a trip. You can also see our guide to international travel here.
Here are 14 destinations where Teso said visitors can expect fewer tourists and authentic experiences.
Teso outlined an array of destinations that range in experiences, landscapes, and food.
Discover Pitigliano in the southern tip of Tuscany.
After a solo trip to Tuscany, Teso made friends with a man who had planned to visit Pitigliano — a village Teso had never heard of.
The thrill of learning about an unfamiliar place sparked Teso’s blog. She began documenting her trips and sharing itineraries from lesser-known destinations with the world.
Eventually, she made it to Pitigliano.
Pitigliano is rich in culture and history. The entire town is carved out of volcanic rock and visitors will discover remains from the Bronze Age, Neolithic times, and Copper Age. The ancient town is also known as Italy’s Little Jersulasum because of its once-large Jewish community. The city is close to Rome, and escaping Jews often fled to find safety in Pitigliano.
Throughout the winding alleys and cobbled streets, visitors can discover the village’s aqueduct, archaeological sites, like Etruscan Hollow Ways and Necropolis, and a fortified palace.
Take a trip through Prosecco Road, which sits between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.
Beyond drinking across the region, visitors can explore beautiful landscapes and wineries.
Teso suggested stopping in Valdobbiadene for its neoclassical buildings or to discover rock statues in San Pietro di Barbozza.
Instead of walking around the packed city of Venice, take a trip to Burano.
Burano was the first trip Teso made post-lockdown.
“It’s a world apart from Venice,” Teso said.
Burano is an island in the Venetian lagoon, and it’s well known for its artists and lace makers. Shops are sprinkled along the town’s canals, where women are embroidering everything from tablecloths to wedding dresses.
But the island is also popular for its colorful buildings. The streets are filled with bright pinks, blues, yellows, and purples — there’s even a law that requires residents to paint their homes with bold colors.
Teso said that the city can get crowded during the day, with tourists visiting from Venice. But at night, the entire town is calm.
That’s because Burano is often seen as a day-trip destination for visitors, and they typically leave before sunset.
Teso recommends taking a boat tour, eating delicious seafood, and exploring the island’s lace museum.
Teso said the Civita di Bagnoregio, also known as the dying town, is really full of life.
The dying town earned its name because it sits atop a hill that is slowly eroding. The town and its buildings will eventually fall apart. A majority of its residents have deserted the village, leaving behind only 10 or so permanent inhabitants.
So, it truly is an isolated spot. Teso said that she and her husband had the city to themselves when they visited in the off-season.
More recently, the village has become popular on Instagram, which has attracted more tourists. But Teso said people will likely only come for an afternoon, so the evening provides a peaceful respite.
Civita is home to a museum, a piazza, two gardens, a cathedral, and a few cafes, restaurants, and hotels.
In the Umbria region of Italy, you’ll find many isolated villages, like Spello.
One of the most popular cities in the Italian region of Umbria is Assisi. While this spot can draw crowds, Teso urged travelers to explore the surrounding villages and towns.
Spello is one that stands out. The village still feels historic and is teeming with flowers and plants.
Spello is most known for its Infiorate di Spello, an event where the city is covered in 15 million flowers from 65 different species.
“You really feel like you’re in a fairy tale,” Teso said.
The event happens every year in June on the Catholic feast of Corpus Domini. Italians across the city carpet streets with flowers, creating beautiful murals. They work all night and into the morning. When the images are finalized, the local bishop and a procession parades across the carpets.
You’ll find more crowds in the city during the event, but it still won’t compare to crowds in places like Venice or Florence.
Teso said the event was worth the crowds, but a trip to the city at any time of year is magical.
Take your time discovering all that Matera has to offer.
“I saw a hundred pictures before going there, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect,” Teso said about Matera.
Matera sits on two giant hills sprinkled with caves and stone buildings. The town is filled with winding staircases, leading up to Civita, the village’s city center.
When wandering through the empty streets, visitors can explore the city’s rock churches, explore a traditional Sassi cave home, and discover the shops, cafes, and restaurants surrounding Piazza del Sedile, the city’s square.
Teso described her trip to the city as slow. The stairs and bountiful churches encourage travelers to take their time discovering the city.
“It’s one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been,” she said.
Travel to the village of ancient mills: Borghetto sul Mincio.
Borghetto sul Mincio runs along the Mincio river in the Lombardy region of northern Italy.
Visitors enter the village by walking across the Ponto Visconteo, or Visconti Bridge.
Once inside, enjoy the peaceful scenery and romantic feel to the village.
The village is also home to the Festival of Love Knots, where thousands of people sit at two long tables and enjoy Tortellini di Valeggio, called the Love Knot.
If you’re trying to avoid crowds, the cuisine is served year-round for visitors. The village is also home to lovely nature trails, the Scaligero Castle, a tortellini factory, and, of course, ancient mills to explore.
Discover Asolo, also known as the city of a hundred horizons.
Asolo got its name for its spectacular views, and it’s one of Teso’s favorite villages in the Veneto region.
“It’s a small, small village in the wine area with beautiful panoramas,” she said.
A fortress sits at the top of the mountain. On a clear day, visitors can see Venice, surrounding mountains, forests, and the village below.
“It’s very elegant,” she said. “It was a retreat for noble people and rich tourists once.”
Asolo has also been named one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
Beyond exploring the fortress, visitors can discover shops, restaurants, and cathedrals.
Discover the medieval village of Corinaldo.
Corinaldo has also been named one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
The town is a small medieval village in central Italy. The entire city is surrounded by walls and is considered one of the best-preserved villages across the country.
The village has some quirky history, and it’s known as the town of polenta after a villager accidentally dropped a bag of cornflour into a well.
The village is also home to a few fun festivals, which celebrate the polenta incident, witches, and music.
Disconnect from the world and explore Calcata.
Built on a boulder in the Treja river valley, the small village of Calcata has a lot to offer — except cell phone service.
It’s the perfect place to disconnect from the outside world and explore the small village’s church, castle, restaurants, and surrounding forests.
Calcata is also known as the city of artists. In the 1930s, the city was abandoned, but it was repopulated 30 years later when artists, intellectuals, creatives, and writers discovered the village.
Now, it’s home to about 75 people.
Teso described it as a popular day-trip destination.
Enjoy a delicious meal in Montemerano.
If you visit the springs, a stop at this small town is a must. Teso said that visitors should explore the springs during the fall or winter to avoid tourists and enjoy the refreshing water.
Once the visitors make it to Montemerano, they’ll find cafes and restaurants, including Da Caino, a Michelin-star restaurant serving the village’s specialty — tortelli. The entire village is surrounded by medieval walls, and on the other side, visitors can explore the wilderness.
Explore black sand beaches in Bolsena.
The town sits on the shore of Lake Bolsena in the Lazio region of Italy.
It’s the perfect place to take a dip in the water and explore the famous fortress of the Monaldeschi. The lake is the largest volcanic lake in Europe, and the shoreline is filled with beautiful black sand beaches.
The small town is perfect for a day trip, or travelers can combine it with nearby towns, like Orvieto.
Meet the kind people living in Sarteano.
While Teso emphasized the awe-inspiring views of a majority of villages, Sarteano stood out in her mind for the incredible people.
“I love it so much because the people were so nice,” she said.
The village sits between two popular Italian cities: Florence and Siena.
Immediately, visitors notice the giant castle sitting on the hill of the village, which offers the best view of the city. Inside the city, you’ll discover a theater, archaeological museum, shops, and restaurants.
Roam through the medieval and renaissance buildings in Torre di Palme.
Finally, Torre di Palme is a charming town that offers stunning views of the Adriatic Sea. The village is also home to ornate churches and lush nature.
Today, it’s the ideal destination for visitors to immersive themselves in history and travel back in time.