Discover Italy For Members

Nine lesser-visited Italian villages to see over Easter

Giampietro Vianello
Giampietro Vianello - [email protected]
Nine lesser-visited Italian villages to see over Easter
A general view of Atrani, on Campania's Amalfi coast, in October 2022. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Italy’s major cities are set to be crowded over the Easter holidays, but smaller towns and villages offer a picture-perfect weekend getaway far from the tourist crush.


From Venice to Florence to Rome, Italy’s major ‘art cities’ can get extremely crowded over Easter as tens of thousands of national and international tourists take advantage of the holidays to soak in the beauty of world-famous landmarks and breathtaking views.

The Eternal City alone is expected to see over a million tourists over this year’s Pasqua, whereas some 550,000 visitors should travel to Venice according to the latest estimates.

If you don't want to miss out on the pleasures of an Easter getaway but are not a fan of long queues and packed tours, Italy has no shortage of picture-postcard towns and villages (or borghi in Italian) which attract much smaller numbers of visitors but are often just as enjoyable as some of the more popular destinations. 

San Gimignano, Tuscany

Located a 45-minute drive north of Siena (around an hour south of Florence), San Gimignano is a walled hilltop town famous for its perfectly preserved mediaeval architecture.

READ ALSO: Seven ‘secret’ UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy you need to visit

It is often referred to as the ‘Town of Fine Towers’ as some 14 towers overlook its Unesco-protected historic centre, with the tallest one (Torre Grossa) being accessible to the public.

Should you need further reasons to visit, the town is also known for its ‘golden ham’ – dry-cured ham flavoured with locally sourced saffron – as well as Vernaccia di San Gimignano, a white wine made from Vernaccia grapes grown on the area’s sandstone hillsides.

San Gimignano, Tuscany

A view of the village of San Gimignano, Tuscany, in November 2008. Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

Pitigliano, Tuscany

Perched atop a tuff cliff in the southern Tuscan countryside, just over a one-hour drive away from Grosseto, Pitigliano is a quaint mediaeval town known for its maze of narrow alleyways and small squares. 

The 18th-century Pitigliano Cathedral, the monumental Sette Cannelle fountain and the imposing Medici aqueduct are all well worth a visit, but one of the best way to explore the city (and its surroundings) is by walking the 400-metre-long panoramic footbridge between Via Santa Chiara and the central Piazza della Repubblica. 


Civita di Bagnoregio, Lazio

Located on a tuff rock spur between the Tiber river valley and Lake Bolsena, Civita di Bagnoregio is a semi-abandoned mediaeval village (it only has 11 residents) whose foundation dates back to Etruscan times.

Thanks to its evocative geographical position and its mediaeval architecture, the town has been used as a movie set by multiple directors, including Mario Monicelli and Alice Rohrwacher.

READ ALSO: Nine of the best events to attend in Italy in spring 2024

Every year on Good Friday, the town hosts a ‘Holy Crucifix’ procession whose origins date as far back as the mid-17th century.

Orta San Giulio, Piedmont

The town of Orta San Giulio is an oasis of peace and tranquillity which lies on a promontory jutting out from the eastern bank of Piedmont’s Lake Orta, around a one-and-a-half-hour drive away from Turin. 

From the waterfront town square you can hop on a ferry that’ll take you straight to the picturesque San Giulio Island, known for its Romanesque Basilica.

Orta San Giulio is also known for the nearby Sacro Monte (a 13-hectare, Unesco-protected natural reserve that is a site of pilgrimage and worship) and the three-Michelin-star Villa Crespi Restaurant by chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo.


Castell’Arquato, Emilia Romagna

Castell'Arquato is a hilltop town located some 30 kilometres away from Piacenza and 35 kilometres from Parma.

It’s mostly known for its unique mediaeval buildings, including the Podestà Palace, the Visconti Castle and the Collegiate Church, as well as its ancient music archive.

Castell'Arquato is also famous for its local red wines, including Gutturnio and Bonarda, and its coppa cold cut, which is usually served with fried dumplings known as chisolini.

Valeggio sul Mincio, Veneto

Located just east of Verona, Valeggio sul Mincio is a picturesque mediaeval town criss-crossed by bridges and dotted with ancient water mills.

Local attractions include the suggestive Borghetto sul Mincio hamlet, the 14th-century Visconti Bridge and the sumptuous Maffei-Sigurtà Villa.

Crossed by the Mincio river, it is also the ideal starting point for many excursions, especially for cycling enthusiasts.


Vico del Gargano, Puglia

Immersed in the lush greenery of the Gargano national park, Vico del Gargano is famous for its imposing Norman castle, which was once the countryside residence of emperor Frederick II, and the ancient Rione Civita district, known for its fascinating rock-cut architecture.

The town is surrounded by centuries-old olive groves and close to an Iron Age necropolis, located on Mount Tabor.

Atrani, Campania

Atrani is one of the very few locations on Campania’s Amalfi coast that have so far managed to elude large crowds.

Located an hour’s drive south of Naples, it is a sea-facing fishing village perched on the side of a limestone cliff which offers one of the most evocative view of the coastline in the area.

Besides steep alleyways and hidden courtyards, Atrani is famous for its beach and its central square, which is a perfect place to sit down for an espresso while looking out towards the sea.


Erice, Sicily

Erice is a mediaeval mountain town nestled atop Mount Erice (around 750 metres above sea level) and overlooking the city of Trapani, on Sicily’s western coast. 

Though the lower parts of town are more modern, Erice’s ancient nucleus looks today just as it did back in the 12th century, with stone buildings lining the sides of steep cobbled streets.

Climbing all the way up to Venere Castle is well worth the effort as you’ll be able to gaze as far as the Aegadian Islands and, on clear days, the Tunisian coast.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Elliot Grant 2024/03/21 15:52
San Gimignano a "secret": you've got to be joking! During holiday seasons it's probably more packed with tourists per sq metre than Rome

See Also