We love going off the tourist path, to the cities and sites that have fewer people! Those are the places where you can truly get to know a culture. Here are our favorite lesser known places in Italy 🙂 Click the links to open up a map view!
We lived in Caserta, and there are so many things to do! You can take the train from Rome or Naples right to Caserta, and everything is within walking distance.
First, go to the Reggia di Caserta which was started in 1752 as a royal residence for the king of Naples. It is modeled after Versailles, has 3.3 km park (see title pic!), with beautiful English gardens near the main fountain. The Reggia is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the largest royal residence in the world. During WWII it was the Allies headquarters and the site for the signing of the German surrender in Italy. It has also been a film site for Star Wars and Mission Impossible (cue music!!)
The Reggia is just a few blocks away from downtown Caserta, which has awesome shopping! There are cobblestoned streets, local shops, and larger brands like H&M. Stay out late to view the nighttime decorations and to eat at a local Italian restaurant. Caserta is a city you don’t want to miss!
About 5 miles northwest of Caserta, Santa Maria Capua Vetere is the site of the 2nd largest Roman amphitheater after Rome’s Coliseum. It was built by Augustus and was the site of the School of Gladiators. It’s totally the site where SPARTACUS led the slave revolt!! Yes, we totally took some Spartacus pictures 🙂
This amphitheater has amazing underground tunnels. There is actually more to explore underground than above. And the kids love it! You literally get to walk in the footsteps of the gladiators. Super cool! It costs about 2.50 Euro for a ticket, and kids under 18 are free. We never had an issue with parking, and you can walk to the amphitheater from the train station. Be sure to see this amphitheater before leaving southern Italy!
Bellagio is a gorgeous Italian town right in the middle of Lake Como. Walk through their flower gardens, go shopping in local shops, and take a boat tour to one of the amazing villas. Just think- you could run into George Clooney!! This is a great escape from the busy towns of Como and Milan but is still close enough if you need a big city day.
We visited Bellagio right at the same time as the Giro di Lombardia, a famous classic cycling race. We stayed at Il Perlo Panorama, a cycling hotel, and the race went right by us! Keith even rode with a professional cyclist and got a pass to see the end of the race. Dream come true! 🙂
Termoli is located on Italy’s Adriatic Sea coast. Keith cycled from Naples across to Termoli in a single day, so we drove behind him as his support wagon 🙂 The scenery during the drive was inspiring and made Tuscany look boring! Keith beat me to Termoli because I totally got lost in its old city and was driving down streets that were for pedestrians only…oops!! I even backed up one of those streets while an Italian grandma swept her porch, and gave me the “crazy American” stare!
Termoli has a beach, an old downtown to explore, and great food. Stay in a hotel located in the ancient part of town, because it is awesome! Be sure to take a drive out to the countryside and take in the wonderful scenery that is south central Italy 🙂
In the hills, just north of Caserta, this older Italian village is the Italy you see in movies! Explore the cobblestone streets, old churches and take in the views of Mt. Vesuvius. Stop at one of the local bars for an espresso and see who can drink it without the sugar! Drive up to this town from Caserta, and spend a couple of hours just taking in the scenery.
Take a plane or a ferry to Sardinia during the summertime, and just spend a week relaxing at the beaches! We went in August, which is the Italian traveling month, but the beaches weren’t crowded. Yay! We found a place on Airbnb, outside of town and went to the local beaches every day. FYI: northern Sardinia has the clearest blue water I’ve ever seen!! You will need a car because the beaches are spread out but it’s worth it. Sardinians (don’t call them Italians!!) are friendly, fun and love summer 🙂
Located near the Swiss border, Bormio is in the middle of the Italian Alps. It’s popular with cyclists who want to ride the famous stages in the Giro di Italia. They have a walking path, playgrounds and several places to hike! Rent a car and drive up to Stelvio Pass, the view of it’s “spaghetti road” is remarkable. Be sure to go after June, because the roads can still be closed to due snow 🙂
What is your favorite place to go off the tourist path? Leave a comment and let us know!