Italy is full of small towns that are famous for their natural beauty and historic centres. The towns perch imperfectly on hilltops or are sheltered by cliffs or are hidden in valleys. If you seek out these attractive and interesting towns, your reward will be an abundance of historic buildings and splendid views. You’ll also find pretty palazzi and al-fresco cafés where you can sip espresso as you drink in the picturesque surroundings. For a little destination inspiration, here are some of the most charming small towns in Italy.
7 of the Most Charming Small Towns in Italy
1. Belluno, Veneto
Some 100km (62 miles) north of Venice you’ll find the pretty hilltop town of Belluno in the Veneto region of northern Italy. Surrounded by the snowcapped Dolomites, Belluno is famous for its natural beauty. Its historical centre is full of beautiful, colourful Renaissance-era buildings and Romanesque churches. People-watching in the palazzi is a favourite pastime of both locals and visitors.
2. Pietrasanta, Tuscany
On the coast of northern Tuscany, in the province of Lucca, you’ll find the laidback town of Pietrasanta. A hub for artists, its bronze foundries and marble studios are world-famous. The town has plenty of art galleries and independent boutiques to browse and there is nothing more refreshing on a summers day than enjoying an aperitivo in the lovely Piazza del Duomo.
This impossibly pretty town in Puglia is straight off the pages of a fairytale. It is famous for its trulli: cone-shaped, white-tipped houses that dazzle in the summer sunshine. These characteristic houses are so unique that the town is a UNESCO world heritage site. For the best views of the town, walk up to the Piazza del Popolo to the Belvedere. Go up through the stairs and the lookout has a spectacular panorama.
4. Cefalu, Sicily
Cefalu is a picturesque historic coastal town in Northern Sicily. With its beautiful beaches and places of historical importance, Cefalus is not only pretty but it is pretty interesting too. Spend some time uncovering the town’s fascinating past with a visit to the mosaic-decorated cathedrals and the Mandralisca Museum. Follow this with a stroll along the promenade before heading to La Rocca, the towering rocky crag, to watch the sunset.
5. Portofino, Liguria
The glistening Italian Riviera is home to some noteworthy towns but we think that Portofino is one of the most charming small towns along the coastline. This postcard-pretty town has arresting views and photo ops seemingly at every turn. The colourful buildings are like a set piece especially surrounded by the perpetually blue sea and sky. One of the best places to hang out is the piazzetta, the iconic main square that overlooks the harbour.
6. Orta San Giulio, Piedmont
Many consider Orta San Giulio to be one of the best medieval villages in Italy, and we agree. With its tangle of cobblestone streets and squares lined with ancient stone buildings, there is an old-world look and feel to this town. The town is located on the eastern shores of Lake Orta in northern Italy. For the best views, head up to the Sacro Monte di Orta (Sacred Mountain of Orta), a UNESCO world heritage site devoted to the life of Saint Francis of Assisi.
7. Montefalco, Umbria
Located in the heart of Umbria, Montefalco is called the ‘balcony of Umbria’ due to its seemingly neverending views. If you visit, you’ll find some interesting attractions, for instance, ancient walls, medieval architecture and beautiful churches. Five entrance gates lead to the central piazza where you can enjoy a glass of Sagrantino, the full-bodied wine synonymous with this hilltop town.