As “overtourism” becomes a buzzword and residents in areas from Venice to the Cinque Terre protest hordes of visitors making their towns unliveable, you may be thinking twice before you travel.
Whether you want to be a more responsible traveller, or just get off the usual Italian tourist trail (or both) here are a few suggestions for lesser-visited – but no less beautiful – Italian holiday destinations.
Swap Venice for Ravenna
Photo: Roy Luck
Venice is famous for its waterways – and now for overcrowding, too.
But long before the famous lagoon city 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
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 what it used to be. Stunning though the romantic coastal towns are, the area has been overwhelmed with tourists, so much so authorities are rerouting tourists and considering limiting numbers to safeguard the national park’s environment.
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
Both Capri and Ischia, islands off the Amalfi coast which are easily reachable from Naples, are stunning and atmospheric. But Capri is so pricey that most people only visit for a day trip – which is nowhere near enough time to really enjoy this magical island.
But Ischia is more the kind of place where you can have a relaxing (and more affordable) holiday away from the tourist hordes. And unlike Capri, it actually has beaches, as well as several natural hot springs.
If you'd still like to visit the island of Capri, we suggest staying on the quieter Anacapri side of the islan,d away from the main tourist drag – and visiting outside of peak season.
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