Five crowd-free alternatives to Italy's tourist hotspots

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The island of Ischia. Photo: Andrea/Flickr
11:42 CEST+02:00
Forget Venice, Florence, Capri, the Cinque Terre and Pompeii. These places are much better.

Earlier this week we wrote about how Italy's most famous holiday hotspots were struggling to cope with an ever-increasing number of tourists.

And so we came up with some alternative, less popular places that will make your trip to Italy equally as appealing, but more tranquil... 

Swap Venice for Ravenna

Photo: Roy Luck

Venice is famous for its waterways, but long before it was even built there was Ravenna, which had its own canal network thought to have been built by the Etruscans. The elegant Emilia-Romagna town is connected to the Adriatic sea by the Candiano Canal.

The bicycle-friendly Ravenna is also where Julius Caesar gathered his troops before marching on Rome in AD 49 – but the city only really came into its own during the twilight of the Roman Empire.

It was even the Empire's western capital from AD 402 until its collapse in AD 476. Owing to this the city provides many fantastic examples of late Roman art and early Christian churches.
The Basilica di San Vitale is a unique blend of Roman, Byzantine and Baroque, while the Mausoleum of Roman Queen Galla includes a stunning scene of San Lorenzo in flames, which allegedly inspired poet Dante Alighieri to write The Divine Comedy.

Swap Florence for Ferrara

Photo: Caspar Diederik

Another overlooked gem in the Emilia Romagna region is the Renaissance art city of Ferrara. The city was once ruled by the powerful House of Este, one of the most ancient noble dynasties in Europe and rivals to Florence’s House of Medici.

Florence is full of tourists all-year-round, so much so locals are worried the Tuscan city is losing its special appeal, whereas The Lonely Planet says Ferrara’s “bike-friendly streets and frozen-in-time palazzi” are “relatively unexplored and deliciously tranquil”.

Swap Pompeii for Ostia Antica

Photo: PugGirl/Flickr

Located near Rome, Ostia Antica was once a thriving port town, which handled much of the Eternal City's imports and exports until it was abandoned in AD 476.

The ruins at Ostia Antica are much like those at Pompeii except they don't contain any luxury villas.

They do contain Roman public toilets, homes, warehouses, tombs, shops and bars. If you're staying in Rome it's a much easier day trip than Pompeii and a great way to experience life in a Roman town without having to endure the hordes of tourists who flock to Italy's most-visited cultural site each day.

Swap Cinque Terre for the Cilento region

Photo: Caspar Diederik

Visiting the five villages of the Cinque Terre in Liguria is not how it used to be. Stunning though the romantic coastal towns are, the area has been overwhelmed with tourists, so much so authorities are considering limiting numbers to safeguard the national park’s environment.

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The Amalfi Coast, home to Positano and Ravello, is equally as alluring and well-visited.

But further along the coast, still in Campania, are the mountains and beaches of the Cilento region. Just a couple of hours south of Naples, the remote area is popular among Italians, but little known among foreigners.

With a long stretch of coastline, historic towns and mountains, most of the Cilento and Vallo di Diano area make up Italy’s second largest national park.

Swap Capri for Ischia 

Photo: Andrea/Flickr

Both Capri and Ischia, islands off the Amalfi coast which are easily reachable from Naples, are beautiful. But while Capri is great for a day-trip or overnight stay (best avoided at the height of summer), the less pricey Ischia is more the kind of place where you can have a relaxing holiday away from the tourist hordes. Plus it has far better beaches than Capri.

Thanks to its underground volcanic activity, the island is also home to several natural springs.

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