BEST UNUSUAL AND UNIQUE PLACES TO VISIT IN ITALY: 11 Hidden Gems!
Italy has much to offer, from beautiful landscapes to dramatic coastline and romantic towns. With so much to see and do it’s no surprise that thousands of tourists travel to Italy every year. Culture, food and wine, history, lakes and mountains, ancient towns… we can go on and on!
Indeed you’ve heard of the most popular spots such as Rome, Florence, and Venice, or perhaps the beautiful Amalfi Coast and the colorful Cinque Terre, but Italy has a lot more to offer, each region is different, with unique attractions and cuisines.
If you are looking to discover Italy off-the-beaten-track, then this list of unusual and unique places to visit in Italy will come in handy. 11 Hidden Gems you need to discover.
Unusual and unique places to visit in Italy
Lake Reschen and the submerged village
This beautiful area is characterized by natural trails and historical towns, but Lake Reschen has a sad story. In 1950, despite the resistance of locals, an energy company decided to create an artificial lake – with the purpose to unify more natural lakes – and submerge the town of Graun.
Today all that’s left is the bell tower, visible above the waterline, while the remaining underwater town has become mostly sediment. When the lake freezes in winter, you can walk out to the bell tower in the middle of the lake – Legend says you can still hear the bell ringing on cold nights.
Balestrino Ghost Village
Balestrino might be Italy’s most famous ghost town. Today we have very little information on the town’s history, but it’s believed that a series of earthquakes caused the population to flee in 1950.
Now Balestrino is an abandoned town with a beautiful castle on the hilltop. The village clearly hasn’t lost its charm as it’s becoming a very popular destination after being used as a cinema set for the film “Inkheart”.
Currently, there are plans to redevelop this ghost town!
Bussana Vecchia has a fascinating story. In 1887, after been destroyed by an earthquake, the town became abandoned, and for many centuries this village was no more than a ghost town.
This was until a group of international artists decided to make it their own bohemian oasis.
Nowadays Bussana Vecchia is an open-air art laboratory as many of the empty properties are now occupied by artist’s studios. You can wander around narrow streets and admire this magical town and beautiful stone buildings. These artists have transformed an abandoned ghost town into a beautiful place to live, despite many attempts to evict them by the Italian government. This is certainly one of the most unique places to visit in Italy.
Via cave of Tuscany
These are mysterious 2500-year-old paths entrenched in the rock. Dating back to the Etruscan civilization, these are unique Italian sights still unknown by many tourists.
They connect various settlements and necropolises, but their main purpose is still unclear. Vie Cave continued to be used long after the Etruscans’ time, presumably by the Romans. These old routes are in the Maremma area in Tuscany, where you can enjoy hills dotted with vineyards and castles, a beautiful coastline with sandy beaches, and you will come across traditional picturesque villages on the way. Via Cave can be done walking or horseback riding, some paths are flat with plenty of greenery, while others are rocky and more difficult.
The Monsters of Bomarzo
This place was never meant to be pretty! Built-in 1552, this garden holds many unique and mythological sculptures as an expression of grief.
This place, also known as the “Sacred Wood”, it’s a real hidden treasure to be discovered.
These woods are full of intricate roads that invite you into a world of mythology and fantasy.
Sculptures of sea monsters, dragons, and war elephants are fully immersed in the green valley, giving a sense of confusion and admiration. These mythical beasts and monsters often have a tortured and hunted expression on their face.
If you are in Rome, you must include a day trip to the Park of Monsters in your itinerary.
The Garden of Ninfa
The garden of Ninfa was built on the ruins of the medieval town and it’s one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Plants and flowers grow on the ruins of towers and walls, creating a romantic atmosphere.
The sea is a few miles away and the mountains are just behind it, this creates a perfect environment. This territory is almost a natural greenhouse with 1300 botanical species.
The medieval walls make this garden a unique place to visit, you will instantly fall in love.
Unfortunately, the Garden of Ninfa only opens certain days and you must join a guided tour in order to visit.
Valley of the Mills
Where: Amalfi Coast
The Valle dei Mulini, or “Valley of the Mills” is an outstanding picturesque sight not far away from Naples. Therefore, if you need a break from the Mediterranean beach life, you should consider taking a short walk into this exceptional green valley. You can start the hike from the center of Amalfi and return on the same path.
You’ll be surrounded by rocky mountains, and beautiful flour-mills ruins that have been slowly taken over by the aggressive greenery. Many of these mills stayed active until the 1800s, today they provide an incredible and fascinating site.
The buildings hidden in the valley are definitely worth a spot as one of the best unique places to visit in Italy, a hidden gem not many people are aware of.
The Sunken City of Baia
Baia was an ancient Roman city in the Gulf of Naples. From 100 BC to 500 AD this city was a place for self-indulgence, full of luxury villas and mosaic-tiled pools.
But the city of Baia did have a downfall, it was built in the proximity of a volcano: The constant raising and lowering of the land due to volcanic activity completely submerge the city.
Luckily, the seawater preserved most of this luxurious town leaving a perfect example of the Roman Empire.
Today the sunken city of Baia lies in shallow water (average depth of 6m) and can be visited by a glass-bottomed boat, snorkeling, or diving.
This underwater archaeological site is now a marine protected area.
In the south of Italy lies the strange little town of Alberobello.
Small dome-shaped white buildings with conical roofs, called Trulli, stick out between olive groves, vineyards and picturesque landscape. There is just no other place like it!
The main reason to visit Alberobello is to wander in this fantasy-looking town and enjoy some delicious food and wine with the locals.
Thanks to the unique architectural characteristics of the Trulli houses, Alberobello is now a Unesco World Heritage site and it’s definitely worth a spot as one of the best unique places to visit in Italy.
Sassi di Matera
Matera is a town in the south of Italy where people used to live in cave-dwelling. For this reason, it used to be considered a place of poverty and sickness, as people lived without running water or electricity!
Today Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage site and an incredible spot for visitors who enjoy strange but beautiful places.
During your visit you can stay in a cave and enjoy visiting this ancient neighborhood, it will feel like you traveled back in time.
This cave is home to an ancient little-known village that has remained untouched for many years. iI’s named after the Mangiapane family, who had settled in the cave and lived there until the 1950s. Today a group of volunteers takes care of the abandoned village and preserves the site precisely as it was. A small open-air museum allows visitors to go back in time, you can wander around this beautiful frozen in time village and learn about local traditions.
These are some of the best unique places to visit in Italy, a country full of surprises and hidden gems ready to be discovered. If you found this article helpful please let me know in the comments below.