Non-touristy, amazing Italian cities

Old Mar 18th, 2014, 09:06 PM
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Non-touristy, amazing Italian cities

Hi! My husband and I are travelling to Italy for only 13 days (from June 27). We will first be in Rome for 4/5 days. Then, we would like to see some main cities, like Florence/tuscany and Venice, but also want to see some other cities (hidden secrets). A city that has been recommended to us is Cittadela, Padua. I have La Spezia and Verona and Bologna on my list, but would love some suggestions of the best places to go that not everyone knows about. We love food, authentic culture and pretty things

Thanks in advance! Leah
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Old Mar 18th, 2014, 09:15 PM
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Get yourself a Rick Steves Italy book.

Look for cities that aren't mentioned in it! These cities/towns are less likely to be as touristy or at least have fewer American tourists. (Padua and Verona are certainly in his book. Both are nice towns by the way, though.)

I found Parma to be a really nice town - not too touristy at all.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 12:26 AM
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Italy has been hosting tourists for hundreds of years. All the 'amazing' places are well known.

The strategy in the first post is not a bad one - though you may find it hard to find somewhere as all the good places will be in a good guidebook (I prefer Lonely Planet or the Rough Guide rather than Rick Steves, based on what I've heard about him). But some of the places not in guidebooks will be dreary industrial suburbs.

Find somewhere that you like the sound of rather than this imaginary 'hidden gem' which won't exist.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 12:29 AM
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I have some friends who decide where to stay using this method: they know the area they want to visit (so. Tuscany) Then they get a detailed map& pick a couple very small towns nearby that they have never heard of! After checking a bit about those towns & lodging, they pick one.

Theyhave had many fabulous trips.

If you want a hidden town you have to go somewhere you (and no one you know) has ever heard of. In Italy, that takes some doing!

Buon viaggio
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 12:34 AM
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Also Leah if you plan on visiting Rome, Florence, and Venice in just 2 weeks , all you will have time for is 1 other destination (enroute) for maybe 1 day.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 01:26 AM
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Unless you are an art lover, you may want to skip Florence. If you are an art lover, it is a must for at least 3 days, but otherwise it is just a city with a lot of people and some iconic street scenes and you can "do" it in a day.

I am a great fan of Verona, I like Vicenza a lot even though I got an expensive ticket there, and I can't wait to go back to Padua. Venice is wonderful, amazing, really, and you could spend a lot of time there, really all your time except for Rome, making day trips to the cities I mentioned above. They are all easy train rides.

If you haven't bought your tickets yet, there are a lot of advantages to flying into Venice and out of Rome.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 04:03 AM
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Thank you for your replies. This has helped me a lot. I really appreciated the guidance. I'm sure I will have more questions down the track.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 06:21 AM
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With only 13 days, the big 3 will fill your dance card.

Plan your next trip to see the off-the-path small gems--there are dozens.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 06:25 AM
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Parma was a delight as was Mantua and its big lake.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 07:12 AM
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Time seems to be an issue. You could skip Venice and explore Tuscany's less known towns instead, for a balance with Rome. It all comes down to priorities--I have not seen any of the "big three" yet after three trips to Italy. I am sure I will rectify that one day, but when I have been trip planning it has always been smaller towns that captivated me.
In late June, even if there are not mobs of Americans anywhere you go, it will not really be undiscovered, but if you prefer to be surrounded by Italians then that is certainly doable.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 07:49 AM
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Amazing and non-touristy cancel each other out. You have only 13 days; you're not going to find amazing and non-touristy unless you venture out into the hinterland to tiny little towns where no one speaks a word of English.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 08:44 AM
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Two of my favorite small cities are Ferrara and Urbino. Both have a fair amount of tourism, but nothing on the order of Florence.

For a larger city, Torino would be a good choice. If you're interested in small towns (smaller than a city) there are dozens of them in every region of Italy, that are just as beautiful, and often more so, than the iconic towns of Tuscany.

If you go to a place with absolutely no tourism, you usually find a lack of other services and conveniences. For example, you might find a lack of places to eat and inadequate hotels, There may be no shops except grocers, dry cleaners, and hairdressers. The towns may close up completely for several hours each afternoon and all day Sunday. In theory visiting a small undiscovered medieval town sounds wonderful, but in reality, you may find that after you've walked up and down the main street and snapped some photos, there's absolutely nothing else to do. For some people that's plenty, but if you want wine tastings and culinary experiences, you should be aware that these activities go where there are tourists.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 11:33 AM
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I would suggest the purchase of a Michelin Green guide for Italy. You should get a great amount of replies from this forum. Somehow, you need to filter these out. I have always had good luck with the GG's.

I like the Piedmont area, Abruzzi area as well as Sicily because of wine and fewer tourists. I am sure that a lot of people have other interests and would recommend something different.

I need some basis for wanting to visit an area prior to the trip. My wife and I have been to Italy 10/12 times but rarely in the same area and have enjoyed each trip immensely. Our next trip is a house rental north of Padua for a week starting early April.

I believe that there are few hidden secrets in Italy at this point.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 11:49 AM
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When people haven't visited a country yet, but ask for "amazing" or "off the beaten path" places that are little known, they care more about bragging that visited little known XXXX "and you should too" than seeing the country.
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 02:10 PM
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Amazing and non-touristy do not cancel each other out. Not only that they are very close to the major tourist destinations. They are not in the hinterlands. People who write things like that are only telling you they haven't traveled very much in Italy and have never been to Apricale or Saluzzo or Massa Marittima or Sant'Angelo in Vado or Brisighella or Pedraces or Modica or -- heck they have never even been to Napoli.

Alas La Spezia is a terribly dull town. I would take it off your list.

Here is a link to a a very long list of towns where you will never find tourists who write things like "amazing and non-touristy cancel each other out." It will never occur to them to get out of their rut -- or if it does occur to them it will be a very long time before they get around to doing anything about it so my advice is to go to these places first. Rome Florence and Venice will always be jammed with tourists. These other places are just a joy to visit and -- yes -- if you like to travel and be out of your comfort zone and get out of the rut of tourism then these are amazing places to go in Italy and find out what Italian culture (not tourist culture) is

http://www.bestsmalltownsitaly.com/

p://www.borghitalia.it/?lang=en
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Old Mar 19th, 2014, 02:36 PM
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Hmm. Yes sounds very familiar.
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 03:34 AM
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I have been to some of the places in Abruzzo that appear on the borghiitalia website (Scanno, Pacentro, Bugnara, etc.) mentioned by Sandralist. They are indeed as stunning visually as some of the well-known hill towns of Tuscany. As noted by bvlenci, though, these small towns take the afternoon closing very seriously, with just about everything shut tight from noon to four. Even churches that had some pieces of art I particularly wanted to see were often closed most of the day (you could contact the person with the keys by phone, though, and request that they be opened).

We loved visiting this area and I chose it because of specific reasons, including family history and some Romanesque art. I am happy to recommend the area to others.

Just don't expect the tourist amenities of Tuscany (tourist offices, English speakers, etc.) when venturing to these "off the beaten track" towns. Does that make them better or worse than more touristy towns? Neither,in my opinion. I enjoyed Montepulciano and Montalcino just as much.

(Not necessarily recommending Abruzzo to the OP since it is not on her route--just giving examples of experience as a tourist (not a local) visiting smaller towns of Italy.)
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 06:50 AM
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the reality is that some cities are "touristy" because of their charm... or their view... or any combination. imho, there are cities that lose that original flavor and become all about the tourists and that is when they've "jumped the shark", so to speak. The balance is to find the cities that have the qualities you are looking for, but yet haven't been overrun by the masses.

For example, Venice is touristy - and many now avoid it. But yet, it is so unique and different, that to miss it is like missing a part of history. I still am enchanted by Venice - no more so than in the early morning light as it wakes up. I took a photo tour on a Sunday morning - we met about 9am. The city was waking up as we wandered up and down canals. The light was magical and because it was a Sunday, there were less delivery boats on the water, so it had more of a serene feeling than other times. Of course, we were also there in November, so no hoards of daytrippers off cruise boats.

One smaller city we loved - and it loved by many, so by no means undiscovered - is Lucca. It is still small enough to be charming, but yet, there are still lots of locals that live there. In fact, we loved watching the kids walking to school in the morning. We rented an apartment and did some day trips around Tuscany while there - it definitely felt like we were "coming home" at the end of the day. We rented bikes and rode around the walls one afternoon. It really is a neat city and centrally placed to allow easy access to other places, but yet, isn't overwhelming (like Florence can be). I know others have had similar success in Lucca, so it may be worth your investigation -

good luck -
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 07:34 AM
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These towns are certainly not 'un-touristy' but they have dramatically less tourist congestion than the big three and are in the general area between Rome and Venice:

Padua, Treviso, Trieste, Vicenza, Mantua, Ferrera, Modena, Bergamo, Ravenna.

I love Verona but it was pretty jammed both the times I was there. Same for Siena. I found Bologna rather uncrowded in July but jammed in November (so more students than tourists).
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Old Mar 20th, 2014, 07:49 AM
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Definitely keep Bologna on your list. It's one of Italy's underrated gems. The Lake Como area is also one of our favorites.
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