Picture the ultimate summer: Zipping around the Italian coastline on a Vespa, learning to make pasta in the quaint olive grove–lined farmhouses, taking dips in the crisp Mediterranean sea, or sipping on Apérol spritzes at sunset. Yes, few countries give us carefree summer yearnings like Italy does. Therein lies the problem: We're not the only ones who have the brilliant idea to travel to Venice, Positano, or Lake Como in the dead of summer—and the swarms of tourists are scary to brave.
But here's the thing—Italians take vacations too, and they know just where to go to escape the crowds. Curious to know where the quaintest tourist-free Italian locales are? We asked Matteo Della Grazia, owner of Discover Your Italy, a boutique travel outfitter known for showcasing the "Italian's Italy," encouraging travelers to explore some of the country's lesser-known destinations. Ahead, he gave us the lowdown on six unique places to visit in Italy to experience the country's best—just sans crowds.
Skip Capri, Try Ischia
Capri has long been the preferred beach destination for the international jet-setters. However, Ischia is just as beautiful and evokes a truly Mediterranean atmosphere. Ischia is a perfect alternative for travelers who still want the idyllic beach setting but also want an authentic experience. Not to be missed are the natural spas near the Maronti Beach. There are a number of places on the island where travelers can take advantage of this natural phenomenon, including the natural hot springs of Sorgeto or the thermal parks and gardens such as Poseidon or Negombo.
Insider's Tip: If a hotel has the word terme in its name, then it's likely to have its own thermal spa or wellness center, using its own natural underground resources.
Available in sizes 0 to 8.
Skip Florence, Try Lecce
Florence is world-famous for being Italy's Renaissance city. However, the lesser-known city of Lecce boasts amazing Baroque buildings and a young and vibrant atmosphere. The surrounding coastal area has charming beach towns (Gallipoli, Otranto), while the countryside has many Masseries (typical Puglia farmhouses) producing wine, olives, cheese, and more.
Insider's Tip: Travelers can take intimate cooking classes in one of the Masseries or enjoy exclusive food and wine tastings to make their Italian Renaissance escape come to life.
Available in sizes 0 to 4.
Skip Cinque Terre, Try Santa Margherita Ligure
The Italian Riveria is known to have the most beautiful villages in Italy with colorful seaside towns, panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, and stunning beaches. Instead of heading through Cinque Terre, why not opt for some hidden gem towns such as Rapallo, Santa Margherita, Portofino, and Sestri Levante?
Insider's Tip: Don't leave without tasting the delicious Focaccia col Formaggio (also known as Focaccia di Recco): Made by spreading mild creamy cheese (usually crescenza) between two thin slices of bread made without yeast.
Available in sizes 1 to 5.
Skip Venice, Try Treviso
Quite like Venice, Treviso is a small, beautiful, and romantic destination in Italy. Many refer to it as an "airport city", however, the historic center is full of Renaissance squares, palaces, richly frescoed churches, and streets threaded with ancient waterways. Here travelers will find the Palazzo dei Trecento and the Fontana delle Tette, a 16th-century fountain that used to dispense wine.
Insider's Tip: The countryside surrounding Treviso is a major wine production area where the famous Prosecco sparkling wine is produced.
Skip Taormina, Try Siracusa
The city of Siracusa, once described by Cicero as "the largest and most beautiful of all Greek cities," is a great alternative to the popular destination of Taormina and still offers just as much Sicilian heritage and charm. The heart of ancient Siracusa is Ortigia, a small island linked to the modern city by bridges. Here travelers can visit the folkloristic market and the Greek Archaeological Park, which hosts the Greek Theater Festival each spring.
Insider's Tip: The coast surrounding Siracusa also has some of the most beautiful beaches in Sicily.
Available in sizes XS to XL.
Skip Lake Como, Try Lake Maggiore
Framed by soaring Alpine peaks, Lake Maggiore sweeps majestically from Northern Italy into Southern Switzerland and is just as majestic as Lake Como. Stresa and Pallanza, on the Italian Western shore, are recognized as two of the most beautiful towns on the lake, with lush gardens and fine old villas. From these two towns, you can take a boat to visit the Borromeo islands or take the Lago Maggiore Express, a journey by train and ship, to reach the Southern part of Switzerland.
Insider's Tip: The little lake town of Arona is also home to one of Italy's largest cheese refiners where several qualities of cheeses are aged until they become truly delicious.
Available in sizes IT35 to IT41.
Next up: Forget Paris—this tiny town is the unofficial food capital of Europe.