The most beautiful places in Friuli Venezia Giulia, north & centre

The extreme north-east of Italy is one of the newest national territories. Friuli and the remaining part of Venezia Giulia were incorporated comparatively late and retained many a special status. As an autonomous region, it enjoys special rights that preserve, among other things, the Friulian language and culture. In addition, the centuries-long influence of the Republic of Venice and the Austrian-Slovenian borderland can be seen and felt here. Fascinating nature and a wide coastal strip also underline the magical charm of this region, which is also evident in some of the most beautiful places in the country. The private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia” skilfully highlights these, and no less than five of them can be found in the north as well as in the centre of Friuli Venezia Giulia.

 

©Bigstock.com/bepsimage

©Bigstock.com/bepsimage

Fagagna

Over the centuries, seven ancient hamlets grew together and formed a common village centre, from which Fagagna (approx. 6,000 inhabitants) emerged. Although the first documentary evidence dates back to 983, the roots of the borgo are probably Roman. We walk through Fagagna on old cobblestones, passing all kinds of quiet places and illustrious buildings. Some of them, such as the castle with the patriarchal palace as well as the former castle village, are now only ruins. The other great fortification of the region, the imposing Castello di Villalta, is privately owned and can only be visited from the outside. But even beyond these monumental buildings, one of the most beautiful places in Italy has a lot to offer. In the Cjase Cocèl Museum, a well-preserved farmhouse from the 17th century, you can wonderfully experience the rural life of days long gone. Several palaces, such as the Palazzo della Comunità and Palazzo Pecile, are dedicated to fascinating architecture through the ages. A short tour of the seven local churches more than rounds off your visit.

 

Poffabro

Poffabro (approx. 200 inhabitants), a district of Frisanco in Val Colvera ever since a Napoleonic decree in 1810, now stands where once a Roman road crossed the Alps. What at first glance appears rather plain and unadorned, unfolds its very own, special aura over time. Poffabro’s rather minimalist architecture with exceedingly rough-cut stone buildings and wooden balconies even survived severe earthquakes. It is precisely this rather sober honesty of the townscape that will enchant you. Exactly the same applies to the Chiesa di San Nicolò Vescovo, which has been renovated and rebuilt many times over the centuries, with its shining white façade – relatively unspectacular and yet captivating. The interior is also modest, with only a 17th century wooden altar and a few wooden sculptures by Giacomo Marizza. The neoclassical sanctuary Beata Vergine della Salute on the outskirts of the village also concentrates on the essentials and underlines the image of a borgo that is in inspiring harmony with its nature.

 

Sappada Vecchia-Plodn

There are many linguistic enclaves, especially in the Italian north. Sappada Vecchia, the highest-located village in Friuli Venezia Giulia, is also called Plodn in German (approx. 1,340 inhabitants), after the river Piave. Here, people speak a South Bavarian dialect, the so-called Plodarisch or Sappardino, which has a special status even among comparable German linguistic enclaves. The folk culture is also reflected in the appearance of the village, for example in the log architecture. Most of the buildings are made of wood, topped with shingles. Even newer houses rely on this construction method. Numerous old structures lead you through the different parts of the village. In Cottern, for example, you will find s’Krumpm, a house built at the end of the 17th century, while Spanglar’s house in Cima Sappada, at an altitude of 1,300 m above sea level, has also managed to retain its original charm and can even be visited today. The baroque churches are also worth checking out. Elaborate, beautiful ceiling frescoes await you in both the parish church of St. Margherita as well as in the church of St. Oswald.

 

Toppo

This part of Travesio, also called Tòp or Tuppaz in local dialects, has been divided into two parts since the 13th century. The river Gleria divides Toppo (approx. 400 inhabitants) into a western section around Pino and an eastern section with numerous Masi – building structures partly of medieval origin that roughly correspond to large old farm settlements. In the lush, diverse nature of Toppo, agriculture still plays a rather important role. This is demonstrated by excellent products such as the creamy, salty cheese Val Cosa, which is a must in omelettes from this region. Many of the Masi are furnished with small churches, frescoes and old wells and take you back to days long gone. Your walk through the western and eastern parts will take you to two palaces, that were once built from such farm settlements. The Palazzo dei Conti Toppo was once the result of a merger of several Masi – exactly how many and how many there actually were in total throughout Toppo is unknown today. The magnificent Palazzo Toppo-Wassermann with its 17th century frescoes is certainly worth a visit.

 

©Bigstock.com/ChiccoDodiFC

©Bigstock.com/ChiccoDodiFC

Venzone

A devastating earthquake hit large parts of Friuli on 6 May 1976. Together with an aftershock about four months later, large parts of Venzone (approx. 2,200 inhabitants) were destroyed. While the municipality planned on having the village rebuilt with prefabricated building components, a citizens’ committee’s idea eventually prevailed: the rubble was put back together the way it had been before the natural disaster. Thus, you not only experience Venzone as it once was, but also marvel at the will, the diligence and the dedication of a population that simply did not want to give up its home. Large parts of the Duomo di Sant’Andrea Aposolo (Cathedral of St. Andrew the Apostle), construction of which began as early as 1300, could also be reconstructed in this way. The magnificent building with its numerous frescoes and wooden statues is one of the undisputed highlights of the borgo. Historical mummies await you in the Cappella di San Michele, accompanied by Friulian frescoes. The imposing palace on the main square with its loggia and frescoes is now home to the town hall.

 

Particularly beautiful places await you in the north and in the heart of the region, and they could hardly be more different. Old agricultural structures, block construction, relentlessness, massive fortifications and charming minimalism furnish the beautiful, extremely diverse Friuli Venezia Giulia. The most beautiful places in this region in Italy’s northeast are an experience in their own it, and you can be right in the middle of it all!

Evaporitic Karst and Caves of Northern Apennines

©Piero Lucci, www.venadelgesso.it

©Piero Lucci, www.venadelgesso.it

Summer, sun, beach – three words that are synonymous with Italy for many holidaymakers. And then, of course, there is the rich cultural and historical heritage, accompanied by excellent cuisine. As if those weren’t enough reasons to visit countless towns and villages, there’s also … fascinating geology? A new UNESCO World Heritage Site is dedicated to precisely this field of research and presents a slightly different side of Emilia Romagna. The evaporitic karst and the caves in the Northern Apennines are dedicated to one of the best-researched karst regions in the world with particularly deep gypsum caves that lead far below the earth’s surface.

 

Evapo-what, kar-who?

Stone and rock dominate this World Heritage Site – so far, so good. But what is it actually all about? And what makes this region so special? There is, for example, the so-called evaporite, from the Latin “evaporo” (“to evaporate”). It is formed by a chemical reaction in sea and lake basins, in which an evaporation-induced supersaturation of dissolved minerals occurs in the dry climate. Among the most common evaporites or evaporite minerals are halite, anhydrite and gypsum.

 

Karst, on the other hand, describes a type of terrain that can occur underground (mostly as caves) as well as above ground. It is formed by the precipitation and weathering of various sediments with a mostly underground water supply. Karst landscapes are particularly common in the Mediterranean region, although those in Mediterranean areas, in contrast to comparable areas in Southeast Asia and southern China, have been used for agriculture since ancient times, e.g. for herding cattle. Unsurprisingly, the evaporitic karst of the Northern Apennines with its caves has always carried great intrigue and has been the subject of scientific research since the 16th century.

 

The geological Northern Apennines

The new World Heritage Site combines quality and quantity, as it covers a total area of 3,600 hectares, spread over seven areas or components. Well over 900 caves over a length of more than 100 kilometres run through this area, which stretches from the south-east to the north-west of Emilia Romagna and includes the provinces of Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Rimini and Ravenna. Large cities as well as natural parks fall under this enormous site, which is also characterised by its scattered, fragmented structure. If you want to visit the entire karst of the Northern Apennines, you will need time and patience. Numerous caves, which lie up to 265 metres below the earth’s surface, are only accessible to geologists and speleologists, others offer guided tours. And yet this area is worth a closer look due to its diversity, importance and outstanding beauty.

 

©Piero Lucci, www.venadelgesso.it

©Piero Lucci, www.venadelgesso.it

Seven components, one World Heritage Site

The almost monumental expanse of the Apennines naturally provides the perfect backdrop for imposing rock formations and hidden caves. In the northern part of the mountain range, there are seven areas or components that together make up a World Heritage Site and reveal many a beautiful spot.

 

  • Alta Valle Secchia: Probably the largest part of this new World Heritage Site is located in the Appennino Tosco-Emiliano National Park in the far northwest of Romagna and has the largest karst expanse in the region. Here, the rock creates some bizarre and breathtakingly beautiful formations, for example around the so-called “Fontana Salsa.” This spring not far from the Secchia river is characterised by its high salt content and similarly impressive flow rate. The karst system of Monte Caldina, on the other hand, is home to the deepest evaporite cave in the world, which reaches hundreds of metres below the earth’s surface. Due to the porous gypsum rock, sinkholes are increasingly appearing in the Alta Valle Secchia – a development that is likely to continue.
  • Bassa Collina Reggiana: Gypsum stucco from the Bassa Collina Reggina has been regarded as an inexpensive and attractive alternative to conventional gemstones and has been used for architectural and artistic purposes since the 17th Numerous church altars thus bear elements of this karst landscape. This area in the north of Romagna, a little closer to Modena, hides its karst treasures mainly beneath the frequently wooded surface. A mighty cave system awaits around Borzano, topped by a similarly impressive castle.
  • Gessi di Zola Predosa: We continue our geological journey southwards and approach Bologna. The smallest karst region in terms of surface area is characterised by astonishing diversity. Various surface forms, such as blind valleys and sinkholes with diameters of up to one kilometre, seemingly alternative with spectacular caves. However, human intervention, primarily in the mining sector, has permanently altered the karst landscape, including the enormous Michele Gortani Cave. Numerous churches, monasteries and medieval settlements are a common thread running through the area.
  • Gessi Bolognesi: In the nature park of (almost) the same name, just a few kilometres from Bologna, you will find this relatively temperate hilly area with many forests and fields as well as a few striking rock formations. Numerous caves and karst formations are hidden in Gessi Bolognesi – over 160 to be precise, with a combined total length of around 20 kilometres. Rare wall karst formations, which were scientifically documented as early as 1876, are hidden beneath the surface. However, the Gessi Bolognesi are primarily known for their natural beauty combining grassland and gypsum rock in an astonishingly harmonious way. Idyllic churches and partly abandoned monasteries highlight the almost mystical aura of the nature park.
  • Vena del Gesso Romagnola: The second largest karst area of the UNESCO World Heritage Site is located in the nature park of the same name and expands west of Imola and Faenza for over 40 kilometres. Spectacular shades of grey and silver characterise the gypsum-rich rock creating an often almost unreal shimmer that contrasts with the evergreen nature and provides the backdrop for countless hikes along narrow paths. Numerous ruins of ancient religious and military structures line your path, as do the various caves (more than 200!) and hydrogeological tunnels. Some of the oldest cave minerals in the country were found not far from the Banditi Cave, probably formed around 580,000 years ago. Various river terraces within the grottoes and caves give an approximate idea of the force of the water that forged its way through the gypsum over thousands of years.
  • Evaporiti di San Leo: There are two other components of this World Heritage Site not far from San Marino. There is also a lot of gypsum rock around San Leo with a huge cave, its origins probably going back many millions of years. Globally unique crystalline shapes give the cave walls a special lustre, in the truest sense of the word. Incidentally, the village of San Leo itself, situated on a huge rock, is well worth a visit and was even mentioned by Dante Aligheri in his “Divine Comedy.”
  • Gessi di Onferno: This last cave system is situated south of San Marino, just a few kilometres from the Rimini Riviera. A veritable network of caves with impressive alabaster stone , best admired on a guided tour, is hidden away in the Onferno nature reserve. Bizarre formations of rock and gypsum accompany numerous underground caves and tunnels. Among other things, a huge colony of bats has gathered here, which you can also find out more about. A short detour to the visitor centre with its exciting museums rounds off the tour perfectly.

 

This newest World Heritage Site in Italy is not only exciting for speleologists. The fascinating rock formations alone make a visit to the karst landscapes and caves of Emilia Romagna essential, not to mention the many small villages nearby, the hikes and the underground tours. With the evaporitic karst and the caves in the Northern Apennines, you will gain completely new insights into a highly exciting region – and that’s something definitely worth checking out.

The most beautiful places in Treviso & Verona

©Bigstock.com/Maugli-l

©Bigstock.com/Maugli-l

The Veneto region is home to some of Italy’s largest cities, is highly populous and more than just a tourist hub. At the same there, there are plenty of smaller, lesser known gems that managed to retain most of their naturalness, that whisk you away to days long gone, that capture the magically alluring gist of the Italian north at the same time. The private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia” has made it its business to give these small treasures a platform. Four of the most beautiful places in Italy await you in the Province of Treviso, another two in the Province of Verona – the ideal way to experience a slightly different Veneto.

Province of Treviso

Originally populated by the Celts, the Province of Treviso is very flat with a few hills in the north. You can find plenty of winegrowing areas here, some of which are home to the geographically protected sparkling wine prosecco and were declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. Additionally, you get to enjoy four particularly beautiful places combining viniculture with fascinating history.

Asolo

Asolo Prosecco is among the finest wines of the classic Prosecco region. The hilly scenery of this municipality (approx. 8,900 inhabitants) lends itself to growing various kinds of wine. The first settlers came here in pre-Christian times. You can even see ruins of the later Roman town Acelum, e.g. in Villa Freya. Furthermore, there are plenty of amazing buildings, such as the imposing Cathedral Santa Maria Assunta, its current appearance dating back to the 16th century, or the Villa Scotti-Pasini with its hanging garden. 276 steps lead you to the medieval Rocca, enthroned high above the village on the summit of Monte Ricco since the 13th century.

Cison di Valmarino

Find another bastion of Prosecco growing in Cison di Valmarino (approx. 2,400 inhabitants), first populated during the Stone Age. Situated on an important transportation route across the Alps in Roman times, it later became a defensive stronghold against barbaric attacks during the European Migration Period. Stunning forests and nature sanctuaries highlight the scenic beauty. However, a hotel serves as the de facto landmark of this place. Castle Castelbrando, originally a medieval fortification, was turned into a stately manor with a Renaissance wing in later times by the Brandolini family before becoming a tourist accommodation. The magnificent 18th century church Santa Maria Assunta houses a remarkable altar and enchanting paintings. Don’t miss out on a walk through the districts Tovena and Mura with their old rock buildings.

©Bigstock.com/Gimas

©Bigstock.com/Gimas

Follina

Originally situated on the major Roman road Via Claudia Augusta across the Alps, Follina (approx. 3,500 inhabitants) now is another important place of Prosecco growing, stretching across hilly scenery with divine views. You must visit the 12th century Cistercian abbey Santa Maria Sanavalle di Follina. The Romanesque cloister and the later added baroque details and works of art will wow you. Other smaller churches accompany your walk through the village, such as the late Gothic Chiesa di San Clemente or the mostly decayed Chiesa di San Tomio, its works of art and interior long stolen, sadly with very few exceptions. The watermill Lanificio Paoletti, however, is known beyond the region for its wool production. Countless renowned fashion brands use the high-quality commodities for their lines.

Portobuffolé

Portobuffolé (approx. 740 inhabitants) knew many different rulers over the course of its history, and they all left their mark. One of the key buildings is the monumental cathedral finished during the mid-16th century, hiding several treasure behind the comparatively simple façade with its clear use of forms. Numerous paintings line the tall ceiling. The two side altars were artistically adorned as well. Portobuffolé is also the home of magnificent villas, such as Casa Gaia. Impressive façade decorations and charming frescoes make this a must-visit building. 10th century Torre Comunale is the only tower left of the seven that used to dictate the panorama.

Province of Verona

Verona isn’t just one of Italy’s most popular tourist destinations, the World Heritage city is also home to several magical, fascinating sights. The eponymous province combines the urban core and equally alluring cultural landscapes with numerous castles, small towns and monasteries as well as the charmingly hilly nature in the north. The two most beautiful places in the Province of Verona are just as magical.

©Bigstock.com/yasonya

©Bigstock.com/yasonya

Borghetto

This district of Valeggio sul Mincio with a population of about 400 used to be a fishing village situated on both sides of the river Mincio. These days, the idyllic beauty below the Visconti bridge attracts numerous tourists who don’t just want to enjoy the neat view from the wooden bridge. The castle with its rather unusual 12th century tower on a hill over the village certainly is a worthwhile stop. You will certainly be enchanted by Chiesa di San Marco Evangelista with its neoclassical elements creating awe-inspiring harmony with the Romanesque roots and stunningly beautiful 14th century frescoes.

San Giorgio

San Giorgio (approx. 350 inhabitants), actually part of the municipality Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella, is near Lake Garda. You will be welcomed by the tremendous parish church, likely based on a 7th century Lombard place of worship. Some structures date back to this period, like the western façade and the ciborium. The current Pieve di San Giorgio di Valpolicella, however, is of 11th century origin and known for its numerous frescoes, such as the elaborately restored 14th to 15th century Last Supper. The adjacent museum welcomes you with finds from the long settlement history, prehistoric and Roman. Don’t pass on a walk across the magnificently terraced hills!

From winegrowing to monumental churches to charming narrow alleys: the most beautiful places in the provinces of Treviso and Verona live and breathe the spirit of days long gone. Standing on wine terraces, your gaze lingers on the small village centres, ostentatious castles and diverse nature with its enchanting hiking and biking trails leading you from village to the village. A slightly different Veneto already awaits you!

The most beautiful places in Belluno & Padua

©Bigstock.com/Buffy1982

©Bigstock.com/Buffy1982

Venice. Verona. Padua. Vicenza. Treviso. Some of Italy’s biggest cities can be found in the Region of Veneto in northeastern Italy. In terms of population, it is the fourth largest in the country which makes sense due to these metropolises. However, beyond these popular tourist destinations there’s an abundance of insider tips that are frequently – and most certainly wrongly – overlooked. The private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia” is dedicated to the protection of these gems’ interests. The two Venetian provinces Belluno and Padua each have two of the most beautiful places of Italy showing off a delightfully different side of the region.

 

Province of Belluno

The largest province of Veneto by area has the lowest population density. Swaths of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Dolomites cover this area and form a divine contrast to the comparatively cute, green Po Valley. The most beautiful places of the Province of Belluno most certainly make us of this scenic beauty, and there are exactly two of them.

 

Mel

Joining Trichiana and Lentiai, Mel (approx. 1,200 inhabitants) has been part of Borgo Valbelluna, a municipality newly formed in 2019, yet it is one of the most beautiful places of Italy in its own right. The earliest settlements date back to the 9th century BC. Finds from a nearby necropolis as well as many other interesting exhibits can be seen in the Archaeological Museum. Find testaments of Roman cultures – a wall plaque and a stone sarcophagus – near the baroque parish church, a highlight by itself thanks to paintings by Cesare Vecellio and Andrea Schiavone.

 

Narrow roads run through Mel, inevitably leading to the trapezoid main square lined with several grand palaces. Palazzo Zorzi, home of the town hall, welcomes you with impressive frescoes on the first floor. Villa Fulcis with its eponymous palace and wide park is among the province’s most imposing complexes. Don’t miss out on visiting Castello di Zumelle which was based on an old Roman fortification.

 

Sottoguda

Sottoguda (approx. 90 inhabitants) awaits you on the foot of the tallest Dolomite glacier, the Marmolata, at an altitude of about 1,250 m. Despite “only” being one of countless frazioni of Roccia Pietore, Sottoguda stands out by itself as one of the most beautiful places. One of the factors for this is the breathtakingly stunning nature around the Serrai di Sottoguda nature park with a spectacular canyon. Walking paths and hiking trails run through the protective area. Signs along the way tell stories of myths and legends. This area mostly belongs to ice climbers in winter.

 

Other highlights pertain to the prominently displayed Ladin folk culture celebrated on Thursday nights. They focus on Ladin art and culture, and on traditional regional cuisine. Old barns, the so-called “tabièi”, illustrate the traditional block construction. Three splendid alpine Gothic churches, the old wrought iron workshops and the centuries-old beech forest neatly cap off the Sottoguda experience.

 

Province of Padua

Find two UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the Botanical Garden of Padua and the buildings of the 14th century fresco cycles – in the province with the highest population density in all of Veneto. Plenty of small and medium-sized towns, such as the popular health resort Abano Terme and Este (home of the former noble dynasty who ruled over most of Emilia Romagna from the mid-13th to the late 18th century), offer many a surprise. And then, there’s the two most beautiful places in the Province of Padua that have their own distinctive charm.

 

Arquà Petrarca

Arquà was given the addendum Petrarca in 1870 to honour the great Italian poet and humanist Francesco Petrarca who spent the final years of his life here. It won’t come as a shock that Casa Petrarca, his old home, is one of the most popular sights of Arquà Petrarca (approx. 1,800 inhabitants). The lower rooms of the stately house with loggia, external staircase and small garden welcome you with a permanent photo exhibition. The upper floor, however, was fully covered in frescoes depicting the literary life of the poet, as commissioned by a later owner.

 

Petrarca’s home and the church of the Holy Trinity make up the (upper) village centre. The oratory, first documented in 1181, is endowed with several baroque altarpieces. Sadly, only very few of the older 14th century frescoes survived. The lower village centre features the slightly older parish church that was only given its current neo-Romanticism charm about 100 years ago. Inside you’ll find restored frescoes and Petrarca’s tomb. Several villas and palaces line your tour of this beautiful place.

 

©Bigstock.com/makam69

©Bigstock.com/makam69

Montagnana

24 imposing hexagonal towers steady the massive medieval town wall surrounding Montagnana (approx. 9,300 inhabitants). This defence wall, mostly built between the 13th and the 14th century, protects several palaces and villas from different eras. Your tour will lead you past the noble residence Villa Pisani, Palazzo Giusti Chinaglia with its Venetian loggia, and the Gothic Venetian Palazzo Magnavin-Fioratti among many other buildings. Don’t sleep on the 16th century town hall and the imposing late Gothic cathedral with its late Renaissance additions. Castello di San Zeno, in contrast, dates back to the 13th century.

 

Putting the plethora of architectural styles aside for a bit, Montagnana is also home to genuine culinary bliss. The fine, high-quality ham Dolce di Montagnana is among the region’s most popular products. It is slightly sweeter than the well-known Parma ham and has very fine mottle. If you plan on visiting the region in autumn, you might want to check out the Palio dei 10 Comuni. This horserace, something like a smaller but just as nice version of the Palio di Siena, can be traced back to the 12th century and always takes place on the first Sunday in September.

 

Nature alone is reason enough to visit the most beautiful places in the provinces of Belluno and Padua as it serves as a wonderful, impressive backdrop for these fascinating villages. Architectural variety, massive walls, culinary treats and witnesses of days long past show many different sides of Veneto, one nicer than the next. Everyone will find something spectacular here, even beyond the big cities.

The most beautiful places in the Province of Trento

©Bigstock.com/Alberto SevenOnSeven

©Bigstock.com/Alberto SevenOnSeven

Autonomy plays a key role in Trentino. The Second Autonomy Statues in 1972 transferred the autonomy of the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol region to its two provinces, giving Trentino the official name Autonomous Province of Trento. Beyond the eponymous capital there’s a whopping 166 municipalities surrounded by numerous imposing mountains and ski areas, such as the world-famous Madonna di Campiglio. Furthermore, more than a third of Trentino counts as protected landscape including one national park, two nature parks, 143 Natura 2000 nature protection areas and 265 biotopes. This natural splendour goes hand in hand with old village structures of outstanding beauty, both on the mountains and in the valleys. Look forward to very charming places as part of the private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia.” The eight most beautiful places in the Autonomous Province of Trento are most certainly worth a visit.

 

Bondone

A veritable labyrinth of asphalted roads awaits you in this charming place. You can easily get lost in Bondone (approx. 640 inhabitants). Plenty of frescoes with religious motives on house walls reflect the erstwhile devoutness of the population. However, several satirical depictions have been smuggled among them – can you find them all during a walk? Find Castello San Giovanni, an 11th century castle likely built on ancient Roman structures, a bit outside of Bondone. Having been owned by the noble Lodron family for centuries, it was restored to its old look during renovations in the 1950s.

 

Canale di Tenno

Less than 50 people currently live in the smallest, probably most beautiful part of the municipality Tenno. First documented in the early 13th century, Canale hardly changed and still has this exclusively medieval look to it. Tightly interlaced houses lead you across the southern hill of Monte Misone. Today, many painters and artists call Canale di Tenno their home finding plenty of inspiration in the classical, more often than not particularly quiet atmosphere of this place. This changes in early August when the annual Rustico Medioevo, a one-week medieval event, takes places in Canale. One of Italy’s most beautiful places turns into a hotspot for theatre performances, for art and for regional cuisine.

 

Luserna

Find a bastion of an almost extinct Southern Bavarian dialect in the south of Trentino. There are only about 1,000 people in the world who still speak Cimbrian. Many of them live in Luserna (approx. 270 inhabitants) where about 90% of the population speak this dialectal variety. German settlers like came to the region when well-educated carpenters and wood carvers were needed. It won’t come as much of a surprise that Luserna takes great care of maintaining its traditions. There’s a large documentation centre that regularly organises exhibitions concerning the language, culture and history. The delightfully alpine charm of the many small houses is quite enchanting. Two hiking trails lead through and around Luserna illustrating its history, accompanied by art installations.

 

©Bigstock.com/Tatyana Abramovich

©Bigstock.com/Tatyana Abramovich

Mezzano

Charming Mezzano (approx. 1,600 inhabitants) awaits you in the heart of an almost completely green valley floor on the foot of the Pale di San Martino, part of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Dolomites. While there certainly may be many an interesting building, such as the 14th century parish church San Giorgio, the architectural uniformity, the charming idyll, the naturalness are what makes this place so special. Many narrow roads that were originally established for agricultural vehicles, small squares with fountains, religious frescoes and magnificent gardens create a lovely village scenery. 20 murals, more than 100 wall inscriptions, the well-thought-out water system and about 400 gardens provide plenty of enticing reasons to visit Mezzano.

 

Pieve Tesino

Early settlements around this magnificent place (approx. 640 inhabitants) can be traced back to the Bronze Age. Numerous castles and settlements developed in later periods due to the proximity to a Roman road. Pieve Tesino itself, however, was founded in post-Christian times. Its diverse architecture invites you on a little journey through time with a mountainous backdrop. Among the oldest buildings are the 12th church Pieve dell’Assunta, restored in 1872, which is among the grandest and most important Gothic buildings in Trentino. Discover 16th century frescoes on its southern façade. There’s a slightly younger, equally impressive church on the Colle di San Sebastiano. Several museums, gardens and themed paths are dedicated to local and Italian history.

 

Rango

Despite being part of Bleggio Superiore, the district Rango (approx. 120 inhabitants) is one of the most beautiful places in the Autonomous Province of Trento in its own right. Originally located at one of the major trade and transit routes, time has seemingly come to a stand-still in Rango. The architecture has hardly changed its function since the 18th century. Houses and stables mostly remained under the same roof, stone and hay protect the various structures. The mullioned windows illustrate the Renaissance influence on the overall look of the place. Numerous passages, so-called “vòlt,” used to be where village life took place. They now serve as a thrilling backdrop from another time with the valley and mountains as thrilling scenic additions.

 

©Bigstock.com/RudiErnst

©Bigstock.com/RudiErnst

San Giovanni di Fassa

Called Sèn Jan in Ladin, San Giovanni di Fassa (approx. 3.600 inhabitants) only came to be in 2018 when Pozza and Vigo merged. Most of its beauties can be found in the former Vigo in the heart of the wide and sunny Fassa Valley, surrounded by the mountain peaks of the Latemar and the Rosengarten group that turn pink in sunlight. There’s even a special word for the region’s unique beauty: “enrosadira” (“turning pink”), from the Ladin “enrosadöra.” Every district, every small village within the village has its own distinct character. Find a spectacular late Gothic church with belltower in Vigo, enjoy the charm of old houses and fountains in Costa, and experience the architectural atmosphere of Vallonga.

 

San Lorenzo in Banale

The terraced location of San Lorenzo makes this place of approx. 1,600 people the perfect panoramic platform across the wide valley with the Dolomites serving as a tall, craggy backdrop. Being lush and green in summer and mostly covered in heaps of snow in winter, the scenic beauty comes through particularly nicely. San Lorenzo in Banale was originally formed by the merger of seven so-called “villas.” Numerous extensively renovated buildings line your walk. They hide glorious frescoes and monumental halls behind its façades. The arcades and courtyards, however, bring Mediterranean charm to the Italian north, thereby creating a fascinating contrast to the alpine scenery.

 

Magically enticing natural sites and diverse architecture make the most beautiful places of the Autonomous Province of Trento stand out. Their variety impresses over and over again. Architectural magic ranging from the Middle Ages to now makes history palpable. Language minorities have their say, old traditions and customs are practiced, an abundance of walks and hiking trails can be found. Trentino is a fascinating province and perfect to closely experience a slightly different Northern Italy.

The most beautiful places in the Province of Bolzano

©Bigstock.com/melis

©Bigstock.com/melis

Compared to other areas of the country, the Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol region enjoys an extensive level of autonomy that was transferred to its two provinces during the 1970s. They possess various self-governing rights, not least due to their strong regional culture. These rights derive from the protection of the Ladin and German population groups. As such, certainly in part due to historic reasons, about 70% of the population of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano speaks German. This peculiarity manifests itself in many multilingual place names, but also in the local alpine flair that can most certainly be found in the five most beautiful places in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano as part of the private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia.”

 

Kastelruth

One of the province’s southernmost places is also among the most popular tourist destinations of Trentino. The predominantly German and Ladin Kastelruth or Castelrotto (approx. 6,800 inhabitants) is located at the Seiser Alm (Alpe di Siusi), Europe’s biggest high alp. Enormous winter sport areas and a surplus of hiking routes lead you to dizzying heights.

 

Beyond its virtually magnetic scenery, Kastelruth’s affiliation with the most beautiful places in Italy stems from the magnificent architecture with an inviting town centre. The massive neoclassical, onion-domed belltower of the parish church Sankt Peter und Paul (Santi Pietro e Paolo) has become something of Kastelruth’s landmark. You should also visit the Cavalry with its small chapels – way more than just a pilgrimage destination.

 

Klausen

First settlements on Mount Säben high above Klausen or Chiusa (approx. 5,200 inhabitants) date back to pre-Christian times. The historic town centre might be “newer” in comparison yet is just as fascinating. The many oriels, façades, crests and frescoes display a plurality of stylistic movements bridging the gap between the Gothic and the Renaissance period. Likely newly built during the second half of the 15th century and renovated several times in later periods, the imposing parish church Sankt Andreas (Sant’Andrea) is home to numerous paintings and figurines with a Gothic touch. Discover even more hints of Gothic inside the Apostelkirche (Chiesa degli Apostoli).

 

Find one of the oldest Christian pilgrimage sites on the Säben, home to an early Christian church as early as the beginning of the 5th century. The actual Säben Abbey, however, was built much later and became a Benedictine abbey in 1686. It was only dissolved in November 2021 due to lack of new incoming nuns. The church been debating the future use of the abbey ever since. The grand complex on the ruins of an episcopal medieval castle, expanded around 1890, is absolutely worth seeing.

 

Glurns

©Bigstock.com/pisces2386

©Bigstock.com/pisces2386

Also known as Glorenza, this municipality in Western Trentino with a population of just above 900 is situated in the Vinschgau on the upper river Adige. This small place is probably best known for its still fully intact town walls dividing Glurns into an inner and an outer town. It was only built during the 15th century under Emperor Maximilian I and used to incorporate both the then-village Glurns as well as the former town of Duke Meinhard II. Its central axis, today’s Laubengasse, still shows ruins of Meinhard’s former medieval fortification structure.

 

Let the hustle and bustle of the town pass you by while relaxing on Glurns’ main square with its drinking water fountain and the two cool chestnut trees. However, it does get very busy here during festivities and on market days. Find the parish church Sankt Pankratius (San Pancrazio) with its various frescoes and a unique sandstone relief outside the town walls. The town gates and the bridge across the Adige are just as fascinating.

 

Neumarkt

Bishop Conrad II of Trento had today’s Neumarkt or Egna (approx. 5,400 inhabitants) founded as a market settlement along major trade routes. The medieval village quickly gained significance and became very wealthy, something that’s reflected in the townscape created mostly during the 16th century. Many buildings and courtyards will surprise you with their Venetian style creating an exciting contrast to the diverse nature of the Alto Adige Wine Road and the stunning Trudner Horn Nature Park in the southernmost part of the province.

 

Neumarkt’s two main churches stand tall. Resting on Romanesque foundation walls, the parish church Sankt Nikolaus (San Nicolò Vescovo) sticks out due to its fascinating stellar vault. The late Gothic church Unsere Liebe Frau in der Vill (Santa Maria in Villa) emanates particular elegance. Endowed by the Würth company in 1992 and providing enticing architectural highlights, the Equus fountain in the industrial area shows off a far more modern side. The pilgrimage hospice Klösterle is among the few almost completely preserved of its kind. Pilgrims to Rome stayed in this Romanesque structure far into the 16th century.

 

Sterzing

Finally, we head for Sterzing (approx. 6,900 inhabitants), also known as Vipiteno, in the north of the autonomous province. It is one of Trentino’s tourism hotspots due to its wide variety of sport and leisure options, culture, and shopping possibilities. Find several recreational areas, such as the awe-inspiring Monte Cavallo and the Funivia Racines-Giovo, with plenty of hiking trails in summer and ski slopes in winter in close proximity.

 

©Bigstock.com/Luca Lorenzelli

©Bigstock.com/Luca Lorenzelli

It’s not (just) its stunning nature that makes Sterzing one of the most beautiful places in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano as the townscape is most certainly worth checking out as well. The modern town theatre with Sterzing’s library feels modern yet fits effortlessly into the scenery. In contrast, the late Gothic hall church Unsere liebe Frau im Moos (Chiesa di Nostra Signora della Palude) goes for a decisively more commanding presentation with the vault as its highlight. The town hall includes a rustic late Gothic parlour and the charming baroque Deutschhaus (Antica Commenda dell’Ordine Teutonico) houses inviting museums.

 

The Autonomous Province of Bolzano has numerous stunning spots in store beyond its exceedingly arty capital with plenty of churches. The magnificent, diverse scenery with tall mountains and cool valleys ultimately serves as a wonderful backdrop for picturesque places with fascinating history and many a thrilling sight. Plenty of churches, several surprises and lots of natural beauty accompany the most beautiful places in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano – the perfect ingredients for a somewhat different holiday in Northern Italy.

The most beautiful places in Como, Lecco, Milan & Pavia

©Bigstock.com/stevanzz

©Bigstock.com/stevanzz

An impressive eleven provinces constitute Lombardy with its particularly diverse scenery, small mountain villages and large metropolises. These partially very different worlds come together in the region’s north and west. Some of the most densely populated areas of Italy can be found here as well as almost empty parts brimming with distinct beauty. The private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia” is dedicated to highlighting the most beautiful places throughout the entire country. There are seven such places in total throughout the Provinces of Como, Lecco and Pavia and the Metropolitan City of Milan that are far more than mere insiders’ tips.

 

Province of Como

You will find several magnificent spots around the stunning eponymous city of arts and provincial capital in north-eastern Lombardy. Bordering Switzerland, the Province of Como with the almost magical Lake Como is also home to one of the most beautiful places in Italy that actually used to be a completely independent village for a long time.

 

Tremezzo

Tremezzo was merged with other municipalities twice – 1928 with Lenno and Mezzegra, only for this decision to be reversed in 1947, and again in 2014 with Lenno, Mezzegra and Ossuccio to currently form Tremezzina. However, it is this very area with documented early Roman settlements that was named one of Italy’s most beautiful places. The divine location at Lake Como with its astounding view alone highlights this affiliation. Among the best-known buildings of this formerly independent village of about 1,200 inhabitants is the late 17th century Villa Carlotta, now home to a museum with a large collection of sculptures and an enchanting Italian park. Several more villas lead you through Tremezzo’s streets and along the charming lake promenade. Don’t miss out on stopping by the parish church of San Lorenzo.

 

Province of Lecco

Small but certainly nice: the Province of Lecco only broke off the Province of Como in 1992. It might be one of Lombardy’s smallest provinces at 816 km², yet it has plenty of hidden treasures to offer around the eponymous capital. Several mountain ranges and the eastern shore of Lake Como provide scenic loveliness. And then, there’s one of the most beautiful places in Italy …

 

Bellano

Bellano with its population of approx. 3,400 is more commonly known as the “town of artists.” Numerous writers and painters were born and/or worked here. There are even monuments dedicated to Bellano’s famous sons Tommaso Grossi and Sigismondo Boldoni. Even though the town’s history is closely connected to Roman times, its most famous sight is actually about 15 million years old. Snug paths and bridges lead the way through the narrow, almost endlessly tall rocks of the Orrido gorge. The Gothic church Santi Nazario e Celso features a particularly impressive, partially striped Gothic façade.

 

Metropolitan City of Milan

The Metropolitan City of Milan is arranged around the eponymous second-largest city of Italy, one of the country’s most precious cities of art. It might have lost about 60 municipalities in recent years due to the establishment of additional provinces and other redistributions, but there are still far more than three million people living here. Ostentatious urban centres and charming suburbs aside, the Metropolitan City of Milan is home to two of the most beautiful places in Italy.

 

©Bigstock.com/Claudiogiovanni

©Bigstock.com/Claudiogiovanni

Cassinetta di Lugagnano

With a townscape very characteristic for the Po Valley, this place actually consists of the two town centres Cassinetta and Lugagnano situated on opposite sides of the Naviglio Grande river. Several formidable villas dominate the scenery, not just on the shoreline. Many of them originally belonged to wealth Milanese families who spent their summers here, had massive festivities and receptions here. The neo-classical Villa Trivulzio with a large park facility, the slightly hidden Villa Cattaneo Krentzlin with its window-heavy façade and the stately Villa Visconti are amongst the highlights. In contrast, the Oratorio di San Giuseppe allows you to immerse yourself in the Italian rococo style.

 

Morimondo

A humongous former Cistercian monastery near the Ticino river is among this place’s main attractions. The Abbazia di Morimondo used to be home to, at times, more than 50 monks despite multiple destructions in the Middle Ages due to conflicts between Milan and Pavia. These days, the monastery is home to two museums. One is dedicated to the old Abbazia complex, the other to the paintings and cartoons of the art nouveau artist Angelo Comolli. Chiesa di San Bernardo is situated slightly outside the monastery walls. Now privately owned and thus deconsecrated, it used to be the church of the local population. Find plenty of cycling and hiking paths around Morimondo leading through nature parks and to Lombardy’s big cities.

 

Province of Pavia

Last but certainly not least we turn our focus to the Province of Pavia in the southwest of the region. Beyond the eponymous city of arts, widely known for its gripping and eventful history, you will find one of Italy’s biggest wine regions here, the Oltrepò Pavese famous for its Pinot Noir. And then, there are three particularly beautiful places worth seeing and experiencing.

 

Fortunago

This place of about 420 inhabitants situated on a hill used to be the site of various Italian movies. An inviting town centre with medieval flair and plenty of rock façades awaits you. The only survivors of the old fortress are a massive tower and a few wall pieces. However, the parish church and the oratory came much later. Step inside the Chiesa di San Giorgio to see the lovely wooden triptych and an equally enchanting fresco. Seemingly endless walkways and hiking paths across vineyards and flowery meadows await you around Fortunago.

 

Varzi

The history of Varzi (population approx. 3,200) is closely connected to that of the noble Italian Malaspina family with various lineages of Lombard ancestry owning numerous fiefdoms and plots in northern Italy from the mid-10th century onward. In Varzi, they used to own a stately castle, currently owned by the municipality, that continues to dominate the townscape. The oldest structures were established around the year 1200 and extensively restored later. You can visit select wings during guided tours. The 13th century witch tower that used to serve as a prison will supposedly be made accessible to the public soon. Looking a bit non-descript from the outside, the 12th century Capuchin church with its old frescoes is actually among the region’s most beautiful Romanesque religious buildings.

 

©Bigstock.com/Claudiogiovanni

©Bigstock.com/Claudiogiovanni

Zavattarello

This stunning place with a population of about 1,100 awaits you in the heart of the wine-growing area. Zavattarello, too, is best known for a striking castle. Castello Dal Verme, former home of the war school of mercenary leader Jacopo Dal Verme, is an imposing rock structure with over 40 rooms high above the village. The castle park has since been declared a protective area. Zavattarello’s main square, however, introduces you to the charming Oratorio di San Rocco with an impressive 15th century wooden altar. The originally Romanesque parish church San Paolo might have been given more of a baroque flair in later years but is still worth a visit.

 

Four provinces, seven beautiful places and plenty of natural loveliness – particularly charming spots with exciting histories, magical sights and alluring scenery await you around Como, Lecco, Milan and Pavia. From long cycling tours to extended hikes to a short walk through the old town centres with their enchanting architecture: the most beautiful places in the Provinces of Como, Lecco and Pavia and in the Metropolitan City of Milan give your next holiday in Lombardy that certain something.

The most beautiful places in Cremona & Mantua

©Bigstock.com/eddygaleotti

©Bigstock.com/eddygaleotti

One of the main topographical factors shaping the south of Lombardy is the Po Valley. In transition to plainer areas, bordering mainly on Emilia Romagna, numerous rivers create fertile soil and plenty of agricultural opportunities. Here you come across two provinces that – for Lombardy – are populated rather sparsely, yet still highly enough: Cremona and Mantua. A few bigger cities alternate with many smaller, friendly municipalities steeped in history and superb scenery. Eight of them – three in the Province of Cremona and five in the Province of Mantua – are part of the private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia” and absolutely need to be explored.

 

Province of Cremona

You probably mostly know the province in the Po Valley due to its capital. Cremona, a city of arts with great musical tradition, stands out just as much as the slightly smaller yet equally neat Crema. Furthermore, there are numerous hidden treasures in and around the many rivers and on the almost flat land. We take a look at the three most beautiful places in the Province of Cremona.

 

Castelponzone

Only 370 people live in Castelponzone, a frazione (quarter) of Scandolara Ravara. Merely the outlines remain of the old fortress La Rocca that used to dominate the village and provided refuge to its rulers. Even the fortifications have been broken down to just a few old walls. Beyond various churches, such as the 12th century Chiesa Vecchia and the newer parish church of Saints Faustino and Giovita, you head for a stately 18th century building simply known as “La Villa” – a plain yet fascinatingly decorated house with country-style undertones. The ropemaker museum introduces you to the old art of making ropes and cords.

 

Gradella

Gradella (approx. 270 inhabitants) is another frazione and actually part of Pandino. Even though the roots of one of the most beautiful places of Italy likely date back to the 8th century, its layout is much newer and was completely revamped after French looting in the early 18th century. Among the gems is the parish church Chiesa parrocchiale della Santissima Trinità e San Bassiano, rebuilt in 1895, the chapel outside the cemetery that was established in 1630 during the plague, and the enchanting, extensively altered Villa Maggi. Gradella itself is very much worth seeing as well. The fairly rural looking place is made up of numerous yellow-painted buildings with red brick profiles, seemingly from a different era.

 

Soncino

To this day Soncino (approx. 7,500 inhabitants) is surrounded by its old 15th century walls. The since extensively renovated fortress Rocca Sforzesca with its four towers was built during the same time. Even older, however, is the parish church Santa Maria Assunta. The brick building with its magnificent organ and stunning paintings can be traced back to the year 1150. The tower of the church San Giacomo, connected to a former Dominican convent, is leaning. The Soncino family, synonymous with high-quality print products, used to work in the Casa degli Stampatori where the first fully Hebrew bible with vocalised text was printed in 1488.

 

Province of Mantua

Did you know that there’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Province of Mantua? The historic centres of Mantua and Sabbioneta, the latter we’ll tell you more about in a bit, received this distinction for their Renaissance beauty, showcasing the town planning in the 14th to 17th century, in 2008. The most beautiful places in the Province of Mantua have a lot of things worth seeing for you as well.

 

©Bigstock.com/giodilo

©Bigstock.com/giodilo

Castellaro Lagusello

Staying with World Heritage for a bit, there’s part of another UNESCO site in Castellaro Lagusello (approx. 450 inhabitants), a frazione of Monzambano. The pile dwellings Fondo Tacoli in the nature reserve Complesso morenico di Castellaro Lagusello were declared World Heritage Site in 2011 as one of 19 pre-historic pile dwellings. Enjoy a wonderful view of the heart-shaped lake in the reserve from the village founded during the 11th and 12th century. The old 13th century castle with four towers used to protect the place against repeat Gonzaga attacks. Another impressive sight is the stately Villa Arrighi with its superb façade and equally astonishing view. Don’t sleep on the rustic, timeless houses in the village centre with the baroque church San Nicola amidst them.

 

Grazie

Thank you very much: Grazie (approx. 530 inhabitants), a quarter of Curtatone, is mostly known for the sanctum Santuario della Beata Vergine delle Grazie. The Lombard-Gothic style building constructed at an elevated location in the early 15th century likely goes back to a small altar with an effigy of the Virgin Mary that was venerated by the rural population as early as the year 1200. Find 53 life-sized statues in the alcoves of the sanctum. The monumental, richly decorated interior alone is worth the visit. Fittingly, the annual international contest Madonnari on August 15th (Assumption Day) sees religious depictions painted onto the pavement with the most beautiful ones later conserved in a special museum.

 

Pomponesco

Town planning innovations by Giulio Cesare Gonzaga in the late 16th century led to the unique Latin cross layout of Pomponesco (approx. 1,700 inhabitants) with its narrow alleys and square channels. Even though other Gonzaga structures disappeared, such as the demolished castle (only the stables survived), the Piazza XXIII Aprile has pretty much stayed the same since the 17th century reflecting the former glory of this place. Numerous arcade-lined buildings, such as the town hall and the Chiesa arcipretale di Santa Felicita e dei Sette Fratelli Martiri, enclose the square. The old Palazzo Cantoni and the characteristic village theatre Teatro Comunale (inaugurated in 1900) are more than worth seeing.

 

Sabbioneta

The aforementioned World Heritage town is also known as the “little Athens” of the Gonzaga family. The noble clan who drastically changed Mantua from the 14th century onward inherited the castle of Sabbioneta (approx. 4,000 inhabitants) during the 16th century and turned the historic centre into an ideal town by greatly expanding it between 1554 and 1571. You can still experience the splendour of the first autonomously founded town of the Renaissance upon entering the place via the gates Porta Vittoria and Porta Imperiale. The ducal palace Palazzo Ducale, the magnificent antiques collection in the Galleria degli Antichi, the free-standing Teatro Olimpico with its Corinthian pillars, and the countless frescoes inside the private ducal villa Palazzo del Giardino are all must-see.

 

©Bigstock.com/eddygaleotti

©Bigstock.com/eddygaleotti

San Benedetto Po

Tedald of Canossa founded a Benedictine monastery on an island originally surrounded by the river Po that has since ceased to exist after one tributary was drained. San Benedetto in Polirone might’ve lost its status as a monastery during Napoleonic reign in 1797, but you can still visit many a magnificent building today, such as the refectory, the newer infirmary, the church and three monasteries. This alone understandably makes San Benedetto Po (approx. 6,700 inhabitants) one of the most beautiful places of Italy, its countless parish churches, oratories, abbey villas, dairies and farms seemingly belonging to a different era in the best way possible.

 

World Heritage Sites, agricultural facilities, unique monasteries and sanctums, and idyllic small town centres accompany your tour of the most beautiful places in the Province of Cremona and the most beautiful places in the Province of Mantua. These small yet definitely beautiful gems form a stark contrast to the urban centres and invite you to daydream and dwell a little bit longer. Enjoy your trip to the multifaceted Northern Italian Po Valley!

The most beautiful places in Bergamo & Brescia

Being the province of Italy with the highest population, Lombardy is home to countless big cities. Milan as the country’s second-largest city certainly stands out in more ways than one. However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg as there are countless precious gems hidden away beyond the urban centres in Italy’s north. Numerous places of the private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia” wow with their idyllic charm, with many a hidden beauty, and with often well-maintained medieval structures. The most beautiful places of the Province of Bergamo and the most beautiful places of the Province of Brescia introduce you to a somewhat different Lombardy.

 

©Bigstock.com/michelangeloop

©Bigstock.com/michelangeloop

Province of Bergamo

From the rather mountainous north with the southern Limestone Alps and Dolomites to the fairly flat south – the Province of Bergamo brings more than just topographical variety to the table. Beyond the very charming capital Bergamo, a hilly city of arts with two cable cars, there are four places of explicit beauty in this magical province.

 

Borgo Santa Caterina

We start in … Bergamo? One part of the provincial capital is actually one of the most beautiful places of Italy. Borgo Santa Caterina is also known as Borgo d’oro.” (“the golden village”) Here you get to experience Bergamo at its finest. The parish church Santa Caterina mainly revolves around three paintings depicting stages of Saint Catherine’s life. The museum Accademia Carrara is dedicated to various Italian schools of painting between the 15th and the 19th century. Enjoy romantic walks in Parco Suardi, one of the city’s largest green spaces, accompanied by artful poetry. Round out your tour by stopping at one of the many small cafés while letting the hustle and bustle of the city pass you by.

 

Cornello dei Tasso

This quarter (approx. 20 inhabitants) of Camerata Cornello is one of the best-preserved medieval villages of Lombardy. This alone would be reason enough for a trip to Cornello dei Tasso with its narrow paths connecting all three levels and leading to a charming little church, Palazzo Tasso, and other gems via arcades. The Tasso name still carries great significance as the family played a key role for the creation and distribution of the postal system in Europe. The Museo dei Tasso e della Storia postale is all about the Tasso family and the history of the post service. Among the exhibits is the very first stamp, the One Penny Black from 1840.

 

Gromo

Gromo (approx. 1,100 inhabitants) is situated on a ledge over the Serio river. Including the village built in the valley, the entire territory of the municipality covers 20 km² with altitudes ranging from 604 to 2,534 m. Numerous natural beauties aside, such as the karst cave Bus di Tacoi, Gromo itself is most definitely worth seeing. Two castles can be found in the village with Castello Ginami now being home to a restaurant. Don’t miss out on the Chiesa di San Giacomo e San Vincenzo with its splendid frescoes and stop by Palazzo Milesi with its noble marble façade.

 

Lovere

One of the most beautiful places of Italy can be found at the western shore of Lago d’Iseo. The view of the deep blue water alone is reason enough to check out Lovere (approx. 5,000 inhabitants). In all actuality it’s the charming way the lake and the diverse architecture come together that really makes this place stand out. One lovely stop is the late 15th century basilica Santa Maria in Valvendra with a simple yet imposing façade giving way to various paintings. Palazzo Tadini houses the academy of fine arts. The impressive neo-classical style certainly sticks out yet wonderfully fits the townscape that evolved over centuries. Don’t forget to take a walk on the promenade!

 

©Bigstock.com/Artem Bolshakov

©Bigstock.com/Artem Bolshakov

Province of Brescia

We move on to the largest province of Lombardy. There’s a fascinating region waiting around the Lombardic capital and city of arts Brescia, a region framed by the Stelvio National Park and the Adamello Group in the north, the Lago d’Iseo in the west, and Lake Garda in the east. The four most beautiful places in the Province of Brescia have a lot to offer.

 

Bienno

Our first stop is Bienno (approx. 3,750 inhabitants) with the earliest settlements likely dating back to the Bronze Age. The Benedictine monks who came into the region during the 10th century built mills and water channels to provide for the growing population. A rather exciting tour of Bienno starts at Vaso Re, one of those channels. These first signs of very early industrialisation lead to old factories and museums dedicated to the village history. Several late medieval buildings whisk you away on additional hikes with the outstanding Casa Bettoni and the comparatively new parish church as highlights. Find the golden statue Statua di Cristo Re from the year 1930 on a small hill.

 

Gardone Riviera

The charming municipality Gardona Riviera (approx. 2,600 inhabitants), known for its special, rather mild microclimate, is hidden between several hills. You’ll come across diverse Mediterranean und Central European vegetation, such as agaves, cypresses and citrus plants – at the western shore of Lake Garda. You’ll hardly be surprised to find a large botanical garden here, currently owned by the artist André Heller. Other delightful points of interests are the many magnificent properties, such as Villa Alba or Vittoriale degli Italiani. The latter has since been converted into a museum with an open-air theatre and is now one of the most visited museums in Italy.

 

Monte Isola

From Lake Garda to Lago d’Iseo: Monte Isola (approx. 1,700 inhabitants) makes a complete island one of the most beautiful places of Italy. Well, it actually consists of four larger and fiver smaller villages plus two smaller islands, if we’re being precise. We recommend dropping into Carzano with its fully intact old village structure. Narrow alleys and cobbled paths lead to various palaces. A mighty tower stands tall in Siviano, the principal village of the island municipality. The idyllic Santuario della Ceriola awaits you on the top of the island. And then there’s Peschiera Maraglio, a former fishing village turned popular tourist destination. You can find may an architectural highlight here as well, such as the mighty Castello Oldofredi and the magical Palazzo Erba.

 

©Bigstock.com/Artem Bolshakov

©Bigstock.com/Artem Bolshakov

Tremosine sul Garda

Finally, we return to Lake Garda one last time. Some 2,000 inhabitants live in the 18 frazioni of Tremosine sul Garda. There are some divine views from the high plateau steeply sloping toward the lake. Pieve certainly is a must-visit destination. Narrow roads lead you to the 18th century parish church with remarkable woodwork and a breathtaking altar by Francesco Barbieri. Enjoy the perfect view of Lake Garda and Monte Baldo rising behind it from Piazza Cozzaglio, heart and soul of the municipality. The old town hall is worth vising as well. Naturally, you have to check out the lake, a true paradise for yachtspeople and kite surfers.

 

Discover the Provinces of Bergamo and Brescia from completely new, pleasantly different angles with these beautiful places. Medieval gems, baroque and neo-classical highlights, and almost endless lakes form the backdrop for many a trip to a completely different, colourful, repeatedly surprising Lombardy. Don’t miss out on these magical spots!

The most beautiful places in the Province of Savona

The magnificent coastal strip at the Gulf of Genoa frames the enchanting Province of Savona. Bordered by the Ligurian Alps and the Apennines toward Piedmont in the hinterland, the seaside region is known for its numerous beach resorts, yet it also has many a hidden treasure to offer. Where there were settlements as early as the Punic Wars, there are now several charming cities focusing on, even savouring the Mediterranean flair that is characteristic for most of Liguria. In addition, the Province of Savona is home to many particularly beautiful places that are part of the private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia.” Time to check out some of these inviting spots with their medieval emphases.

 

©Bigstock.com/MarkUK97

©Bigstock.com/MarkUK97

Colletta

We begin our journey in Castelbianco and head for the Colletta quarter (approx. 30 inhabitants), one of the most beautiful places of Italy by itself. First documented in 1202, the area was abandoned in later years and had completely decayed by the time a restoration projected was commissioned in 1995. Modelled after plans by architect Giancarlo De Carlo, the old village was rebuilt using original materials and equally old construction techniques, but it incorporated modern technology. Telecommunication brought the present into the enchanting medieval village, its ruins long since gone. At first glance it’s hard to believe that Colletta was only “built” during the last three decades. Walking through this lovely place, you’ll feel like exploring days long gone.

 

Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena

This beautiful place (approx. 130 inhabitants) arose from a medieval castle complex on the Rocca Barbena. The so-called Castello dei Clavesana was built by the Clavesana family around the 11th century and lasted for a long time until catching heavy damage from Genoese soldiers in 1672. The north-west wing remains a ruin, other parts of the fortress has since been restored. Enjoy an astonishing view of the Val Neva. Characteristic rock houses accompany your tour of Castelvecchio di Rocca Barbena. Stop by the Chiesa di Nostra Signora Assunta, greatly extended during the 15th and 16th century, and home to many a stunning fresco.

 

Finalborgo

Strictly speaking, Finalborgo (approx. 3,000 inhabitants) is also part of another town – Finale Ligure, about 60 km southwest of Genoa – yet needs to be appreciated by itself. It even used to be the capital of the Margraviate of Finale during the Middle Ages and mainly served to protect from invading powers due to its location in the town’s hinterland. After being removed from the margraves’ protection in 1602, the Habsburg took over. This is reflected by Finalborgo’s architecture as the medieval structures are joined by numerous buildings of later periods. You absolutely must check out San Biagio, the mid-17th century basilica with baroque and rococo charm. The numerous astounding frescoes, however, are of later periods attesting to the changes the church experienced until the early 20th century. Its breathtaking interior alone is worth a visit.

 

©Bigstock.com/MarkUK97

©Bigstock.com/MarkUK97

Laigueglia

At just under 1,700 inhabitants Laigueglia is certainly among the slightly larger most beautiful places of Italy. The municipality located scenically at the coast is home to divine beaches and an equally magnificent ocean view. Medieval charm once again collides with later architectural eras. You will come across three defence towers along the coast that were set up for protection against frequent pirate raids. The two belltowers of the baroque parish church San Matteo once had a similar function. Find several precious paintings from the Genoese school of painting inside the church. Stop by the Oratorio di Santa Maria Maddalena next door to see a particularly spectacular silver crucifix, a hefty marble altar, and depictions of shipwrecks and pirate attacks.

 

Millesimo

The history of Millesimo (over 3,100 inhabitants) can be traced back to pre-Christian times. It used to be the site of a Roman settlement, represented by a memorial stone from the 2nd or 3rd century AD in the village. The colourful houses in the centre alternate with rock buildings uniting the Middle Ages with more modern architectural leanings. Something similar applies for the sights in Millesimo, and there are plenty of them. Cross the fortified 12th century Ponte della Gaietta bridge with its watchtower to access the municipality. The nearby castle was restored during the 1990s, but its oldest structures – stone tower, keep and east wall – actually date back to the 13th century. Don’t sleep on the Chiesa della Visitazione di Maria e di Sant’Atonio, partially rebuilt around 1467, with its impressive Madonna statue.

 

Noli

Noli (approx. 2,400 inhabitants) is another coastal municipality among the most beautiful places in the Province of Savona. Once destroyed by the Lombards only to be rebuilt as a centre of administration, Noli suffered repeat Saracen invasion until the 15th century, formed a close alliance with Genoa and, as a naval power, even managed to maintain its independence until 1797. The former wealth can mostly be seen in the excellently preserved medieval centre with what remains of a former fortification – three town gates and towers, to be precise. Even some tower houses managed to survive the centuries fairly unharmed. The 11th century church San Paragorio awaits you at the southern entrance to the village merging the original Romanesque architecture with later Renaissance endowments. Together with the cathedral in Ventimiglia it’s Liguria’s oldest mostly preserved Romanesque church.

 

©Bigstock.com/faber1893

©Bigstock.com/faber1893

Verezzi

The splendid quarter (approx. 180 inhabitants) of Borgo Verezzi is near the Palm Riviera yet has so much more in offer than “just” the stunning, breathtakingly beautiful sea. Find plenty of terraced vineyards and olive groves throughout the so-called “Saracen village”, but also the characteristic Ligurian medieval architecture with its stone houses, arcades and high staircases. Verezzi is actually comprised of four small villages: Poggio, Piazza, Roccaro and Crosa. The latter is known for its structures carved into stone. Hidden behind them are cave systems dating back to prehistoric times. Enjoy the stunning ocean view on the Piazza Sant’Agostino in, well, Piazza, and stop by the charming small 17th century church afterward.

 

Zuccarello

The ruins of a fortress built by the Margrave of Clavesana towers over Zuccarello (approx. 270 inhabitants). Enter the village through the old, impressive town gate. A Romanesque bridge crosses the Neva river. The bridge was even on the cover of Time Magazine in the 1960s and remains a popular photo motif to this very day. Several gates and palaces lead you through the charming medieval village. So-called “beudi” – long canals that used to supply the mills and the population with water – run through Zuccarello. The now rather baroque parish church was originally Romanesque as you can gather from the old campanile. The Scalino del Buon Arrivo evokes rather uncomfortable memories. Convicts could beg the margrave for mercy on this stair. If it wasn’t granted, they were bound to the black pillar and flogged.

 

The gorgeous beaches and equally glorious ocean views alone make the Province of Savona worth a visit. Add the fascinating insider tips to your holiday mix for pure bliss. The most beautiful places in the Province of Savona combine characteristic medieval structures with architectural variety spanning from the Stone Age to modern times. Unhurried walks, inviting cafés, and maybe even a little dip into the ocean sum up the diversity of Liguria in one single region.