Beyond Positano: This Is Where Italian Locals Go to Escape the Crowds

Updated 07/10/19
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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, and sipping on Apérol spritzes at sunset. Yes, few countries give us the carefree summer yearnings that Italy does. Therein lies the problem: We're far from the only ones who want to travel to Italy for an escape and there are swarms of tourists in places like Venice, Positano, and Lake Como to prove it.

But here's the thing—Italians take vacations too, and they know just where to go to escape the crowds. We asked Matteo Della Grazia, owner of Discover Your Italy, a boutique travel outfitter known for showcasing the "Italian's Italy," to share with us some of the country's lesser-known destinations. Ahead, he gives us the lowdown on six unique places to visit in Italy to experience the country's best sans crowds.

Skip Capri, Try Ischia

Unique Places to Visit in Italy
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Capri has long been the preferred beach destination for 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. The natural spas near Maronti Beach are not to be missed. 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 and 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 a thermal spa or wellness center that uses its own natural underground resources.

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Skip Florence, Try Lecce

Where to Travel in Italy
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Florence is world-famous for being Italy's Renaissance city. However, the lesser-known city of Lecce boasts similarly amazing Baroque buildings and a young and vibrant atmosphere. The surrounding coastal area features charming beach towns, like Gallipoli and Otranto, while the countryside offers many Masseries (typical Puglia farmhouses), producing wine, olives, cheese, and other delights.

Insider's Tip: Travelers can take intimate cooking classes in one of the Masseries or enjoy exclusive food and wine tastings.

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Skip Cinque Terre, Try Santa Margherita Ligure

Best Beaches in Italy
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The Italian Riveria is known for its colorful seaside towns, panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, and stunning beaches. Instead of heading through Cinque Terre, check out hidden gems, 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). It's made by spreading mild creamy cheese (usually crescenza) between two thin slices of yeast-free bread.

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Skip Venice, Try Treviso

Best Cities in Italy
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Similar to Venice, Treviso is a small, beautiful, and romantic destination. 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. It also hosts 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 that produces Prosecco.

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Skip Taormina, Try Siracusa

Where to Visit in Italy
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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, offering 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 boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Sicily.

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Skip Lake Como, Try Lake Maggiore

Where to Travel in Italy
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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 two of the most beautiful towns on the lake, featuring 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 high-quality cheeses are aged until they become truly delicious.

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Next up: Forget Paris—this tiny town is the unofficial food capital of Europe.

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