Who doesn’t love quaint towns?? If you are in Italy or traveling there anytime soon, this list is a keeper. You will feel blessed to be in a country with so many varied choices of charming towns. Although this list is not exhaustive, it certainly includes many of my favorites. I will keep adding more to this list as and when I can. If you have any favorites, feel free to share more small towns in Italy.
10 Charming Small Towns in Italy
Now I now that Perugia is not really a small town but it isn’t a big city as Rome either. I love the cosiness this town brings with it’s annual chocolate and jazz festivals. Perugia is still quite unknown to a first time Italy traveler so take a chance next time you are in Italy and visit it. This town has a medieval piazza that will give Game of Thrones a run for it’s money. I hope it never gets run down by mass tourism and selfie sellers.
Deep in the green heart of Italy and quite close to Perugia is Montegiove-another small town with an ancient castle, a single Bar and a historic convent of La Scarzuola. Need I say more?? For more details check this. The small towns in Italy list gets more interesting no??
Gubbio is a strange and charming town that belongs to the Pre Roman era. It has gothic architecture and a beautifully preserved Roman theatre at the entrance. Although slightly difficult to access as other towns in Umbria, there are regular buses to reach Gubbio from Perugia and the region of Marche. There is no train station.
Tuscany has a special magic to it and there are countless towns in the region. Monteriggioni is one such town, off the beaten track from the usual towns of Pisa, Siena, Montepulciano, Volterra that most travelers visit. This Tuscan town is walled and has an old world feel with its small piazza.
Liguria is filled with colored houses and a stunning expanse of the Ligurian sea. Now I know it is getting extremely popular because of the Cinque Terre, but travelers often overlook it’s neighbor Portovenere. This gem of a town is close to easy to reach by bus. It has a stupendous sea view, an old castle and history from the times of Lord Byron. Check here to know more.
This town deserves attention! Seriously! Only 30 minutes from the under appreciated city of Trieste, Muggia is precious. It has small yatches and Venetian architecture. The boats that clung to the harbor gave me an inkling of an Enid Blyton adventure.
A town every chocolate lover must visit! Situated in the diverse region of Sicily that puts the rest of the country’s diversity into perspective, Modica is almost tourist free (as of May 2015). The locals are usually home by 8 p.m. so it’s fun to wander the streets by yourself.
Another small town in Italy that needs attention from is Scicli. It is so quaint and forlorn that you could cry! It has ancient cave dwellings and crude cliffs and you might not see women at all! Men hang out at the piazza as women stay confined to their homes to gossip and cook (so I am told).
Probably everyone’s favorite because of its colorful vibe, Burano is only half an hour from Venice. It is famous for handmade lace and bussola (a kind of a biscuit). According to legend, the island was colored since many centuries for fishermen to find their way in the fog.
Perched on a hill top and filled with white lanes and maze like streets, Locorotondo will outsmart every other town you visit in Puglia. Make sure you have its local wine and visit the nearby olive groves and trulli homes in Alberobello. This small town in Italy will charm you!
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In my past posts you would have read about Gio and Francesco from Green Italy Tours who very happily showed me around Puglia. One of the places I visited with them was the adorable little town of Alberobello.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since the year 1996, Alberobello is in the Itria Valley of Puglia. The entire town is dotted with little cone shaped homes called “Trullo” (plural: Trulli) which makes it a popular tourist destination. Imagine thousands of trulli together!
You might ask, but what is there to do in Alberobello?? Well nothing really and everything at the same time. The town itself is so unique that taking a walk is what I would suggest. The locals are warm and welcoming to help you for any query!
WHAT TO DO IN ALBEROBELLO:
- See the Hobbit type homes and the many shops around.
- Visit the Museo del Territorio to know about 16th century Alberobello.
- See the Church of Sant Antonio.
- Stop for a lunch at Ristorante La Cantina and enjoy the Pugliese spread of burrata and fresh olives! Book in advance.
- Buy yourself a postcard of i trulli.
Alberobello is an enchanting town. Imagine this is where people live and go about their normal life! I heard a couple fighting about the way lunch was made from inside a trullo. It wasn’t pleasant to the ears!! 😉 Have you been to Alberobello??
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I have always believed 24 hours does not do justice to any town/city. Especially if one has time at their disposal, it is best to spend knowing a place better. This is what I had in mind for Polignano a mare– a gorgeous seaside town in Puglia. I stayed in B&B Grottone, a quaint B&B in the heart of the town, which turned out to be a mere 5 minutes from the main piazza.
I enjoyed my mornings in the huge terrace and had coffee at the local Bar. The B&B owner Gianni, had a tie up with the Bar so it was fun spending 3 days of this town frequenting the same bar every day. A short guide on how to spend 3 days (72 hours) in this gorgeous town follows below:
Polignano is a town made of a limestone cliff. So on the first day, see the rock that makes it so famous and walk towards the statue of the famous singer Domenico Mudugno. You might remember him from the famous song- VOLARE! It continues in my head as I write…..Polignano is his home town so make sure to see the commemoration the town gave to him, with a great view of the sea.
Go to the beach and laze around in the sun. Afterwards, take a stroll around the town in the afternoon and have lunch at the main Piazza. Pick any place! All are fabulous (list below). In the evening have an aperitivo (drinks+snacks) at Bar Millenium. Next to it is a store selling jewellery and the owner Rosanna is adorable. She and I befriended each other even though I was not as well versed with my Italian that time. It is a good shopping spot!
On the second day, enjoy another fabulous sunrise on the terrace and the view of the sea. For breakfast, go to Bar Millennium and enjoyed the local vibe in the backdrop of the clink of glasses and smell of fresh coffee.
Polignano’s beach is breathtaking and it is lovely basking in the sun yet again. Relish La dolce vita! If you are tired, have fresh fruit from Joya Canti di Stagione.
Have lunch in any of the places of the historic centre, like I did. My lunch consisted of blue cheese pizza with a glass of Puglian Negroamaro.
Spend the evening shopping, gelato tasting and more people watching.
Polignano is really a trip of relaxation if you ask. Unless you are the sort of traveller that goes to new towns every day, I’d say just take it easy. End your third day with breakfast at Bar Millenium and take a stroll on the other side of the town. You can either hop and catch a train to Monopoli or sit at a local Bar.
I chanced upon a vintage car exhibition when I was there and ate fresh calamari and later octopus from a famous Pescheria. This was followed by more wine and another round of pizza. Enjoy your last evening by visiting MINT for fresh salads and cheese platters.
Where to Stay:
-B&B Grottone: € 50 depending on the time and season with breakfast.
-Joya Canti di Stagione: fresh shakes and salads.
-Bar Millennium: coffee and aperitivo.
-MINT: cheese, wine and salads. Don’t miss their cheesecakes!
-Monaco: fresh seafood.
-La Terazza: Wide variety of pizza.
-Super Mago el Gelo: Gelato and Caffè Speciale.
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Disclaimer: I was offered a discount by B&B Grottone, but as always the views here are my own.
If you are in Puglia and looking for day tours or travel planning options, consider booking throuhg “Green Italy Tours“. The owner- Giovanni Fasano is my friend and is a very thorough and professional man, not to mention exceptionally kind. He took me to a lot of places in Puglia, Ostuni being another great town!
Ostuni: La Città Bianca
Known as The White City or La Città Bianca, Ostuni is a an amalgamation of white houses on a hill top. It is quite a sight from afar and on a clear day, Ostuni shines! The white washed houses give a sense of calm and summery Greek vibes.
Ostuni has a buzzing piazza full of souvenir shops. You could start with the town’s main cathedral-Santa Maria Assunta and then take a walk elsewhere. Everything is so near and easily walk able. A stop at a Bar helps as it gives opportunity to talk to the locals. Then after your are energized with a quick cappuccino, keep walking and stop to click more pictures of those insanely white streets. Say Buongiorno to everyone and they will return it back!
How to Reach:
Ostuni has a train station but it is a little far from town. I would recommend hiring a car or taking a tour with a local agency. I found this Masseria (countryhome) to be very pretty in Ostuni. Worth a glance!
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Its convenient to base yourself at one place and take day trips from there. In Lecce one such day trip that I took was to the town of Gallipoli. Initially I was a little doubtful using the local train service of Puglia, (not the national service which is Trenitalia), I took a chance and hopped on to a toy train to reach Gallipoli! Boy oh boy what a train it was!
The train looked as if it was never polished or painted in years. But what mattered that it was on time and took me to Gallipoli safely. It was only an hour’s journey from Lecce and I so enjoyed a taste of the Puglian countryside with the olive groves and semi barren land abound.
WHAT TO DO IN GALLIPOLI:
- Take a walk in the historic centre.
- Visit the many churches the town has to offer. I lost count!
- Head down to Spiaggia della purita (the beach).
- Buy olive oil from La Bottega del Salento.
- Admire the baroque architecture.
- Walk in one of the interior alleys and watch the locals go by their business.
- Find a place for lunch by the seaside.
Gallipoli is lovely! I don’t know if I would go back but it certainly is worth one trip.
In Lecce I remember a magical evening spent with Lili and Robert of Espressino Travel– a boutique company that specializes in tours in the region of Puglia.
We started with a walk from Piazza Sant’ Oronzo where after greetings and mutual love for Italy, I was told about Saint Oronzo- the patron saint of Lecce.
We then went to one of the most acclaimed bars of the town – Bar Avio where I was privileged to try the famous “Caffe in Ghiaccio” -coffee with sweet almond iced milk. Absolutely delizio!
It seemed Lili and Robert knew everyone in town as I saw them exchange greetings with so many people around. Every time they would meet someone, they would also share a little anecdote about about how they had known them or who those people were. One such person was a local painter who invited us to visit his studio and see the beautiful maps of the Salento region that he had drawn. More can be seen on his website here.
Walking around in the town we went to see Teatro Romano which I was familiar due to an episode of Italy Unpacked. Teatro Romano holds concerts in the summer and I could only imagine how fun that must be!
Lili and Robert later took me to one of the many bars in the town to try unique flavors of Puglia with its famous Pasticciotto-a crisp pastry filled with the goodness of custard..It was heavenly! There were a hundred other delicious treats and I was oggling like a little child.
We ate so much, actually I did most of it, but thankfully the walking sure made up for it. Robert and Lili showed me around Lecce from its famous piazzas to its hidden corners. We whizzed past quaint bookshops, pretty trattorias and baroque churches.
One of my favorite stops was the Basilica di Santa Croce. It was an incredible sight and the detailing of each and every facade from the rose windows to strange figures to griffins and lions, was amazing. I think I was gaping. Lili told me how every time she comes and sees something new each time.
Towards the end of our 3 hour walk was a HUGE surprise. Food of course! A big slice of pizza from Pizza & Co– one of the highest rate places of Lecce. Owned by two brothers from Napoli, Pizza & Co is where their love for food is poured on the late. I have had a lot of pizzas in Italy and otherwise, but nothing beats this one. I am salivating just thinking about it!
I cannot thank my passionate and enthusiastic tour guides for this evening in Lecce. Those little tips and things to do helped me so much. If you are heading Puglia do book through Espressino and check out their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages. I especially love this podcast by SavoringItaly.
How to Reach Lecce:
Lecce is very well connected by train from all parts of Italy. I took the direct Trenitalia from Rome and was there in exactly 5 hours. There are direct flights from many major cities of Italy and rest of Europe to Bari. From Bari, Lecce is only a train ride away.
Disclosure: There are “ affiliate links” on my blog. If you click on a picture, it will take you to Amazon.in. and if you purchase something through these links, I will receive a small commission (at no cost to you). Thanks for supporting my blog and keep reading Italophilia! 🙂
Believe it or not, a little over a year ago, I had no idea about Puglia.
After reading countless blogs on the region, I felt as if I was mysteriously being called there. Puglia is a region in the south of Italy famous for its white washed towns, stunning coastline, olive trees and trulli houses. The more I read about it, the more I wanted to be there. So in April 2016, I started my journey in Lecce.
I was kindly hosted by Palazzo Rollo, a 17th century palace, which is now converted to a B&B. My room was attached with a huge lobby, a drawing room, a bathroom with a hot tub and a small private kitchen. It was very homely as I could come and go as I wanted, cook and and eat something in the room and make coffee for myself in the morning. Palazzo Rollo was a wonderful start to my Southern Italian soujourns. The Palazzo is owned by Elena Andretta and her family and was her home while growing up. Elena is very passionate about keeping her forefathers legacy alive and her thinking and traditional values impressed me. She along with her staff member Simona were absolutely wonderful hosts and made sure I saw Lecce with their suggestions.
Palazzo Rollo was at a fantastic location as it was only 5 minutes away from all the main attractions. The mornings at the Palazzo were full of fresh Italian cornetti, cold cuts, juices, coffee and fruits. During the day when it was too hot, I came back to take a nap or a shower. One of the days I had a lovely evening on the terrace with a fantastic view of the bell town of the town’s Duomo (cathedral).
I totally recommend staying in Palazzo Rollo for your time in Lecce. It is central, convenient and exceptionally friendly!
Disclaimer: I was a guest at Palazzo Rollo but the opinions don’t change. Everything expressed here is solely my own.