The most beautiful places in the Province of Arezzo

©Bigstock.com/stevanzz

©Bigstock.com/stevanzz

Tuscany is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Italy. World-famous cities of culture, a magnificent hinterland and endless beaches invite you to enjoy city breaks, beach holidays and short getaways. You won’t be shocked to hear that Tuscany is home to some of the most beautiful places in Italy. Scenic beauty far away from the vast urban hotspots awaits you in the charming Province of Arezzo in the far east of Tuscany, bordering the Marche and Emilia Romagna and home to deep valleys and imposing mountain ranges. You also get to visit the six most beautiful places in the Province of Arezzo, part of the private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia” that has become synonymous with unique insider tips.

 

Anghiari

Whether the town’’ name comes from the particular shape of the old castle (“castrum angulare”) or the gravel (“ghaia” in Italian) on which the town centre was built remains a mystery today, but Anghiari (approx. 5,800 inhabitants) with its magnificent view of the green Valtiberina valley is always worth a visit. The former site of the Battle of Anghiari, which Leonardo da Vinci immortalised in an unfortunately lost fresco, today exudes great medieval fascination. Numerous churches accompany your walk through the municipality, including Badia di San Bartolomeo. It was probably built in the 9th century and is considered the oldest church in Anghiari. Santa Maria delle Grazie, on the other hand, was only built in the 17th and 18th century, creating an exciting architectural counterpoint and is widely known for its glazed terracotta charm. The old defence walls can still be visited today. Behind them are numerous palaces and the old fortress which was extensively renovated almost 200 years ago.

 

Castelfranco di Sopra

The originally independent municipalities of Castelfranco di Sopra and Pian di Scò were merged to form Castelfranco Piandiscò on 1 January 2014. Still, “only” Castelfranco di Sopra (approx. 2,800 inhabitants) is one of the most beautiful places in Italy, and for good reason, of course. As soon as you enter the town, you are greeted by a huge 14th century tower which, like most of Castelfranco di Sopra, was designed and built by architect Arnolfo di Cambio at the end of the 13th century. Originally founded by the Republic of Florence as a military outpost, the town centre has an astonishingly uniform appearance with medieval charm, accompanied by various churches and palaces. The Chiesa di San Filippo Neri, for example, dates from later times but blends seamlessly into the architecture of Castelfranco. Just outside the town you can visit the Monastero di San Salvatore a Soffena with a church full of magnificent frescoes.

 

©Bigstock.com/Buffy1982

©Bigstock.com/Buffy1982

Loro Ciuffenna

The Latin word for laurel and a small local stream gave Loro Ciuffenna (approx. 5,800 inhabitants), which was probably already inhabited in Etruscan times, its name. Situated at the foothills of Mount Pratomagno and the River Arno, you can enjoy the unique beauty of the landscape. One of its special features is the “Balze”, a kind of mixture of clay and sandstone that creates spectacular rock formations. The town itself is also well worth a visit, especially the church of Santa Maria Assunta in the town centre. Its frescoes and the panel painting by Lorenzo di Bicci on a gold background are must-see. Santa Maria Assunta, like all the other churches in Loro Ciuffenna, has distinct Romanesque features. The same goes for San Giusto with its Stations of the Cross painting cycle or the Pieve di San Pietro a Gropina, considered a Romanesque masterpiece, a national monument with basilica charm, medieval capitals and an impressive pulpit.

 

Lucignano

Lucignano (approx. 3,400 inhabitants) also has an illustrious history dating back to Etruscan times and even the Villanova culture, before a Roman military camp was established here and the town eventually a pawn of Arezzo, Florence and Siena in the Middle Ages. Today, Lucignano is best known for its many churches, most notably the late 14th century Collegiata di San Michele Arcangelo, located in town centre on the former site of a triangular Roman fortified tower. Several magnificent paintings for a home here after the expansion in the 16th and 17th century. The imposing Museo Comunale awaits you in the town hall, the former Palazzo Pretorio. The city museum extends over four halls of the old palace. Cycles of frescoes, paintings and statues take you on a journey through Lucignano’s multifaceted history. In comparison, the old defence tower Torre delle Monache looks almost rustic, yet it, well, towers majestically over the Borgo. A short tour of the still almost completely preserved city wall with its four gates and the never-completed Fortezza Medicea defence complex is also worthwhile.

 

Poppi

The Casentino is one of the most beautiful mountain valleys in Tuscany, surrounded by splendid nature and situated far away from major transport routes. Here lies the insider tip Poppi (approx. 6,100 inhabitants) that, despite its remoteness, played an important role in the conflict between Arezzo and Florence in the 13th and 14th century as the seat of the noble Guidi family. Castello dei Conti Guidi, the castle of the aristocratic princes, can be seen from afar. Situated on a hill, the late 12th century complex dominates the town and served as inspiration for Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. It has been renovated many times over the years and thus, is well preserved, accompanied by thick walls, a moat, a mighty tower and a library with valuable medieval manuscripts. There is even a small chapel with a cycle of frescoes by Giotto’s pupil Taddeo Gaddi. The centrally located Propositura dei Santi Marco e Lorenzo church with spectacular works by Morandini and Ligozzi and the Eremo di Camaldoli hermitage of the Camaldolese order with the church of San Salvatore, which has been rebuilt several times and is now adorned with three statues, are well worth a visit.

 

©Bigstock.com/Fyletto

©Bigstock.com/Fyletto

Raggiolo

Many of the most beautiful Places in the province of Arezzo can look back on a long and illustrious history. The roots of Raggiolo (approx. 850 inhabitants) also reach far back into the past. The Lombards founded the municipality around the 7th century, and a castle became the centre of activity in later years before the Republic of Florence conquered Raggiolo and completely destroyed the fortress. Nevertheless, the picturesque village in the Casentino has managed to retain its original character. Countless stone buildings, some of which merge seamlessly into one another, guide you through the centre. The 13th century church of San Michele Arcangelo awaits you there, shining in its former splendour despite extensive later renovations. Numerous figures and canvas paintings accompany your tour of the impressive building with its expressive campanile. The history of the village is brought to life next door in the Ecomuseo della Castagna. The old mill is also part of this complex. And yet, above all, it is the unique atmosphere as you stroll through narrow, makeshift cobbled alleyways and your gaze falls on the next wooded hill that makes Raggiolo so beautiful, so special.

 

The medieval town centres and the magnificent, hilly to mountainous landscape all around seemingly blur together when you visit the most beautiful places in the Province of Arezzo. They are characterised by ancient conflicts, are often rich in churches and old fortifications, and combine historical charm with a special atmosphere and a wonderful sense of secrecy. This somewhat different side of Tuscany, far away from the sea and major cultural centres, allows you to experience the roots of the region first hand. Your authentic holiday in the heart of Tuscany cannot come soon enough!

The most beautiful places in Forlì-Cesena, Modena, Parma, Piacenza & Reggio Emilia

©Bigstock.com/Maugli-l

©Bigstock.com/Maugli-l

The great geographical and scenic diversity of Emilia Romagna has always fascinated travellers. Big cities, sleepy little towns, mighty mountain ranges, wide coastal strips and green hilly landscapes are enough to capture the imagination of travellers. Unsurprisingly, several of the most beautiful places in Italy of the private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia” are located here. Five provinces – Forlì-Cesena, Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia – feature eight such magical places that will show you a completely different side of Emilia Romagna and make your next holiday particularly unique.

 

Province of Forlì-Cesena

Until fairly recently, the Province of Forlì-Cesena in the south of Emilia Romagna was one of the few provinces in Italy without its own most beautiful place, which only changed in summer of 2023. Beyond the two main cities and the magical Cesenatico right on the coast, this area is characterised by a beautiful hinterland with some mountain communities that are definitely worth a visit and a little exploration tour.

 

Bagno di Romagna

One of Romagna’s most popular bathing and spa resorts is hidden behind large ring walls. Baths containing sodium bicarbonate and sulphur reach temperatures of 41 to 45 °C and are used by numerous thermal spas and wellness resorts as places of holistic well-being. However, Bagno di Romagna (approx. 5,600 inhabitants) has many other beautiful things to offer beyond these baths. The Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta with its seven chapels is considered a gem of Tuscan Romagna and probably dates back to the year 861. More than 70 coats of arms adorn the Palazzo del Capitano, once an important centre of power. Just outside the town you will find the Chiardovo spring, whose water is said to help with mild gastrointestinal complaints, as well as the Corzano hill with its old castle, a sanctuary and a mule track lined with bronze statues.

 

Province of Modena

Extending across almost the entire width of the region, the Province of Modena covers 2,690 km² and is located in the centre of Emilia Romagna, bordering Lombardy and Tuscany. In addition to the provincial capital of the same name with its beautiful World Heritage Site, another one of Italy’s most beautiful places with medieval Apennine flair awaits you in the far south.

 

Fiumalbo

When the Celts travelled through the region in the 4th century BC, they also left their mark on Fiumalbo (approx. 1,200 inhabitants), as old huts, known as “casoni”, impressively demonstrate. Today, numerous medieval stone buildings shape the charm of the village surrounded by dense forests. The Tuscan-influenced Oratorio San Rocco with its frescoes welcomes you at the entrance to the village. Find several other churches in Fiumalbo, including the much-rebuilt San Michele Arcangelo with its comparatively modern belltower and San Bartolomeo Apostolo on the main square, which was completely rebuilt in 1592 and is decorated with impressive paintings.

 

Province of Parma

Is it really all ham and cheese? When you think of the Province of Parma, a richly laid table full of regional specialities expands in your mind. The products and recipes of this region are world-famous, not to mention the beautiful city of arts Parma. And then there are two of the most beautiful places in Italy that you should definitely visit.

 

©Bigstock.com/angelo ferron

©Bigstock.com/angelo ferron

Compiano

Well-paved alleyways lead through the hilly town of Compiano (approx. 1,100 inhabitants), not far from the road connecting Emilia Romagna and Liguria. The town takes its name from an old castle of unknown origin that was inhabited until 1987 and remains in good condition. Aristocratic palaces and tower houses line your walk to the central piazza with its marvellous views. The church of San Giovanni Battista, presumably of Lombard origin, stands out with its particularly ornate interior, such as the 15th century wooden sculpture Santo Crocifisso Miracoloso. The imposing old town hall and the courthouse with its magnificent terrace are also not to be missed.

 

Montechiarugolo

At over 11,000 inhabitants, Montechiarugolo is one of the largest municipalities in the Province of Parma and one of the most populous of the most beautiful places in Italy. The medieval village dates back to the 10th century and its mighty castle is certainly one of the most interesting sites. In its present form, it was probably built in the 15th century, but you can discover even older defence system all around. The Palazzo Civico, an important administrative and event centre, is a delight with its salons and loggia. Among the many churches, the Chiesa di San Quintino stands out, only rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century after old Romanesque plans (the parish church was first documented in 1230). Several monasteries and oratories invite you to take long walks – certainly one of those places where you can easily spend more than just a whole day.

 

Province of Piacenza

The next stop on our grand tour of Emilia Romagna takes you to the far north-west of the region. Piacenza is an exciting city in its own right, a hidden treasure in the midst of large metropolises and beautiful landscapes. Surrounded by Lombardy, Liguria and Piedmont, this little gem is home to three of the most beautiful places in Italy.

 

Bobbio

The centre of Bobbio (approx. 3,700 inhabitants) is where the Irish monk Columban of Luxeuil founded an abbey in 612 that was later supported by Lombard princes. The San Colombano Abbey, dissolved in 1803, used to possess great religious and cultural importance as its monumental buildings, the huge basilica with a 12th century mosaic floor in the crypt, and the library once filled with Irish manuscripts can attest. A short detour to the Porta Nuova hamlet takes you to the charming cathedral square with its old buildings, including the 11th century cathedral and the bishop’s palace of similar age, which was rebuilt around 400 years later. Bobbio’s landmark, however, is the Romanesque Ponte Vecchio. Although it was later rebuilt and decorated in Baroque style, its first records date back as far as 1196.

 

©Bigstock.com/milosk50

©Bigstock.com/milosk50

Castell’Arquato

Sense the spirit of days long gone, neatly captured by the brick houses and cobbled streets, in every nook and cranny of Castell’Arquato (approx. 4,600 inhabitants). One of its main attractions is undoubtedly La Rocca Viscontea, built between 1342 and 1349 by order of the city of Piacenza, one of the most important fortifications in the whole of northern Italy. Inhabited by the Visconti and Sforza families, among others, you can still marvel at one of the former four towers today. The Rocca itself now mainly serves as a venue for the three major local festivals. Don’t sleep the town itself with its small churches and palaces, such as the Palazzo del Podestà with its enchanting loggia and imposing staircase.

 

Vigoleno

At just under 2,500 inhabitants, Vigoleno, which is actually part of Vernasca, is definitely small but beautiful. The entire village life takes place in the heart of the large castle. You never really know where the castle ends and the medieval village begins, as it is easy to get lost in the labyrinth of paths and corridors, not to mention all the renovations and modernisation work carried out during the 19th century. You can see this special mixture as soon as you arrive. At different times of day, the light reflects on the walls creating unique atmospheres. All sorts of treasures, such as the Romanesque church of San Giorgio, the Oratorio della Beata Vergine delle Grazie with its sandstone façade and the mighty old cistern, can be found on almost every corner.

 

Province of Reggio Emilia

Another province in the heart of Emilia Romagna marks the end of this exciting journey. Surrounded by the Po in the north and the Apennine ridge in the south, Reggio Emilia is one of the lesser-known highlights of the region. Several small towns and villages, a variety of landscapes and the charming capital Reggio nell’Emilia provide stylish and often surprising highlights. The Province of Reggio Emilia is also home to one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.

 

Gualtieri

The fertile landscape of the Po Valley with its rivers, meadows and fields surrounds Gualtieri (approx. 6,700 inhabitants), best known for its Piazza Bentivoglio. Once described by art historian Cesare Brandi as one of the most beautiful squares in Italy, the old medieval village and newer Renaissance architecture come together here. Three streets meet in the piazza, providing a direct view of three of the town’s most important sights. The church Santa Maria della Neve, completed around 1600, harmonises perfectly with the porticoes of the piazza. The five pyramids above the gable were added some time later for structural reinforcement. The town tower with its octagonal lantern fulfils the classical design rules of its time. And then there is the mighty Palazzo Bentivoglio with frescoes, paintings, decorations and stucco of incredible value.

 

Back and forth through Emilia Romagna, to magical places, towards the coast, the mountains or the fertile plain: the most beautiful places in Italy in the provinces of Forlì-Cesena, Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Reggio Emilia are a reflection of the region’s rich history and offer real treasures that are sure to captivate you. These suggestions will surely make for an amazing next holiday!

The most beautiful places in Bologna, Ravenna & Rimini

©Bigstock.com/Claudio Caridi

©Bigstock.com/Claudio Caridi

Several big cities and numerous villages, as well as an incredible amount of history, culture and fine cuisine highlight what makes Emilia Romagna so special. For many centuries, it consisted of two different regions. Emilia, the northern part of today’s political region, took its name from the Roman road Via Aemilia and emerged as an official name as early as the 2nd century, while Eastern Romagna was created in the Lombard period and originally referred to the then Byzantine territory around Ravenna. The cultural and scenic diversity can also be seen and felt in the beautiful places in Italy of the private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia”. Eight such magical places await you in the Metropolitan City of Bologna and in the Provinces of Ravenna and Rimini.

 

Metropolitan City of Bologna

Founded as the successor to the province of the same name, the Metropolitan City of Bologna is naturally home to the eponymous capital of Emilia Romagna. For many, it is synonymous with Italian cuisine, but also with art and culture. The city has even had its own UNESCO World Heritage Site with its arcades since 2021. However, the surrounding area also has many a beauty to offer. One of the most beautiful places in Italy awaits you in the Metropolitan City of Bologna and is known far beyond the country’s borders for its impressive architecture and fascinating arts.

 

Dozza

Colourful paintings adorn the walls and facades in and around Dozza (approx. 6,500 inhabitants). These are the traces of the Biennale del Muro Dipinto. At this event, which takes place every two years, local and foreign artists decorate the town with their permanent paintings and frescoes, focussing on both classical motifs and modern, often somewhat grotesque concepts. Walking through Dozza today, you feel like you are in a huge open-air museum. The old churches and buildings, most of which date back to the 12th century, punctuate this impression. The Rocca Sforzesca, which towers high above the town, is undoubtedly a major highlight. Converted from a fortress into a noble palace in later years, the good view even extends as far as Imola in fine weather.

 

Province of Ravenna

One of the country’s most popular art cities can be found where the Western Roman emperor had his seat in the early 5th century until the fall of the empire. Large parts of Ravenna are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, accompanied by an almost unimaginable abundance of other magnificent places in the surrounding Province of Ravenna. Its two most beautiful places are also more than worth a visit.

 

Bagnara di Romagna

One of the best-preserved examples of a castrum in the whole of Emilia Romagna stands in the middle of ancient marshland. Bagnara di Romagna (approx. 2,400 inhabitants) was probably already inhabited in the middle of the 9th century. Destroyed in a battle between Bologna/Faenza and Imola in 1222, Bagnara was rebuilt on the site of an old house of prayer. Between the 14th and 15th century, the Visconti came to power and developed the town into a massive defence system – a military camp or “castrum”. Huge walls still protect Bagnara di Romagna to this day. A magnificent museum with exhibits from the Bronze Age to the Middle Ages awaits you in the old castle, another Rocca Sforzesca.

 

Brisighella

Three huge rocks, the so-called “Tre Colli”, dominate the landscape of Brisighella (approx. 7,100 inhabitants). Even from afar, the most important sights of this village can be seen from these elevations. The bell tower, built in 1290, rebuilt in 1548 and renovated many times since then, the imposing fortifications with a museum dedicated to rural life and the Monticino sanctuary with a terracotta image of the Madonna and Child “greet” you on your way to Brisighella. You must visit Piazza Marconi in the heart of the town. Situated next to the impressive town hall Palazzo Maghinardo, the covered Via del Borgo, also known as the “donkey street”, leads through Brisighella on a slightly elevated plain. One side of the street is lined with small entrances to the ancient houses that are still inhabited, while the other, with its arched constructions, offers a view of the village life below.

 

©Bigstock.com/ermess

©Bigstock.com/ermess

Province of Rimini

Last but not least, we head for the beach. Year after year, the Province of Rimini attracts countless visitors from all over the world who spend their holidays here, as well as many Italians who populate the long coastal strip, especially in Ferragosto. The hinterland is all too often overlooked and is home to many a treasure. Five of the most beautiful places in Italy await you in the Province of Rimini.

 

Montefiore Conca

Retrace the steps of ancient noble families time and time again around Rimini. This is also the case in Montefiore Conca (approx. 2,200 inhabitants), which has known many rulers but still retains the splendour of the Malatesta era. This is particularly true of the fortress, which the noble family once used as a holiday residence to receive emperors and popes. There are also several magnificent churches, such as San Paolo, Madonna di Bonora and Ospedale della Misericordia, all richly decorated with frescoes and paintings. The marvellous nature all around Montefiore Conca invites you to take short hikes and walks.

 

Montegridolfo

A beautiful medieval town centre with well-preserved town walls magically attracts you: Montegridolfo (approx. 1,000 inhabitants) managed to preserve its original charm as well, even though the town has been severely devastated several times. Nevertheless, Montegridolfo was rebuilt again and again during the Malatesta era, and its defences were repeatedly reinforced. The old fortifications have been lovingly restored since and today, like large parts of the village, function as a kind of huge open-air museum. The small Chiesa di San Rocco is definitely worth a visit. Look forward to breathtaking things from the Gothic-inspired portal to the numerous frescoes.

 

San Giovanni in Marignano

The so-called “granary of the Malatesta” is crossed by the river Ventena, surrounded by numerous cultivated fields and vineyards. However, San Giovanni in Marignano (approx. 9,400 inhabitants) is not only impressive in terms of its landscape, although the contrast with the industrial and service area on the plain is quite spectacular. An abundance of small churches awaits you in and around the fortified village of San Giovanni in Marignano. Santa Maria in Pietrafitta with the remains of a Carolingian balustrade, San Pietro with its magnificent high altar, and Santa Lucia, which rests on ancient remains, await you. In the recent past, the old defence complex was extensively renovated and now welcomes you with further insights into the Malatesta period.

 

San Leo

One of the most beautiful places in Italy was mentioned in Dante Aligheri’s Divine Comedy: the history of San Leo (approx. 2,800 inhabitants) can probably be traced back to a Roman military camp in the 3rd century BC. In contrast to other villages in the province of Rimini, the Malatesta couldn’t manage to establish themselves here. Until their extinction in the early 16th century, the Montefeltro governed of San Leo. You can see where they left their mark; for example, in the San Leo fortress, enthroned high above the old town centre on a triangular ground plan. The centre has also managed to retain its original magic with countless small palazzi and spectacular churches – the Romanesque basilica La Pieve and the yellow sandstone cathedral of San Leone.

 

©Bigstock.com/Luca Lorenzelli

©Bigstock.com/Luca Lorenzelli

Verucchio

Prehistoric traces of the Villanovan culture (12 to 9th century BC) and the Etruscans, rich amber finds and the birthplace of Malatesta da Verucchio who founded an entire dynasty: Verucchio (approx. 10,000 inhabitants) is undoubtedly a place steeped in history. Malatesta’s home, the Rocca Malatestiana, is one of the family’s largest fortresses and was extended by his successors. Verucchio’s history comes alive in the romantic Gothic parish church of San Marino, built around 990. The oldest Franciscan monastery in Romagna, the archaeological museum and the mighty 15th century bell tower are also well worth a visit.

 

These most beautiful places in the Provinces of Ravenna and Rimini and the Metropolitan City of Bologna combine medieval charm with military power and magnificent art. Combined with marvellous culinary delights and fantastic landscapes for hikers and cyclists, Emilia Romagna also knows how to impress beyond its major tourist hotspots. Discover a slightly different side to this beautiful region on your next holiday!

The most beautiful places in the south of Friuli-Venezia Giulia

©Bigstock.com/xbrchx

©Bigstock.com/xbrchx

While the north and centre of Friuli-Venezia Giulia are characterised by the mountainous and hilly terrain of the Southern Carnic Alps, the autonomous region in the far northeast of Italy becomes increasingly flat towards the south, criss-crossed by numerous rivers and finally facing the Adriatic Sea and the Gulf of Trieste. In this area with special rights where, for example, the Friulian language and culture are preserved, there are some well-known cities, such as Trieste and Udine, but also many hidden treasures. The private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia” is dedicated to the most beautiful places in the country, of which there are eight in the south of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

 

Clauiano

Our first stop takes us to Trivignano Udinese, just 15 kilometres southeast of Udine, where the Natisone and Torre rivers meet. The most beautiful place here, however, is the Frazione Clauiano (approx. 500 inhabitants), its name probably going back to the original landowner. With its stone buildings and gravelled roads, Clauiano conveys an exciting atmosphere of country life in the past. The oldest buildings in the town centre date back to the 15th century; Casa Gardellini with its red and white façade decoration being the oldest house. The Chiesa di San Giorgio may only have been built in its current form in the 18th century, but its roots go back much further. A particularly beautiful baptismal font is hidden inside. Numerous villas and (agricultural) estates, such as Villa Manin, the Palladini house and the Bosco estate, accompany your walk through the place.

 

Cordovado

Cordovado (approx. 2,500 inhabitant) was once surrounded by a massive medieval wall. Not much might remain of the 11th century fortifications, but you can still feel the spirit of days gone by in every corner of this fascinating place. Many of Cordovado’s most important buildings can be found around the old castle, including the elegant Renaissance palace Palazzo Agricola, the magnificently frescoed Palazzo Bozza Marubini and the monumental, three-storey Palazzo Freschi Piccolomini with its large portal. A little further out, the pilgrimage church of Madonna delle Grazie seems to literally shine – a real jewel of baroque art with a gilded ceiling and stately paintings. Speaking of stately: the mighty Palazzo Cecchini is also worth a visit.

 

Gradisca d’Isonzo

Four eras have left their architectural mark on Gradisca d’Isonzo (approx. 6,400 inhabitants): the Venetian rule (15th century), Austrian rule (17th century), Habsburg rule (19th century) and the incorporation into the Italian Republic after the First World War. A huge fort, used as a prison in Austrian times, dominates the townscape (the Slovenian word “Gradisca” means “fortified place”). The former site of frontline between Austria and Italy during the terrible Isonzo battles is now best-known as a stunning place with numerous palaces that date back to the heyday of the Eggenberg family (1647 to 1717). Even today, you can still stroll along the Venetian city walls, originally designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

 

Palmanova

Palmanova in the south of Friuli-Venezia Giulia is an exciting UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town with its approx. 5,400 inhabitants being part of the Venetian works of defence of the 16th and 17th century. Unlike many other beautiful places, Palmanova was created as a so-called planned town and originally built as a fortress to protect the Republic of Venice from the Turks. in 1593  The fortified town held out until it was conquered by Napoleon’s troops around 200 years later. Today, you enter the star-shaped Palmanova with its width-regulated streets through one of three city gates and immediately get a glimpse of Piazza Grande, the heart of the town. Several churches, the city museum and the fascinating military museum should be on your itinerary, as well as a visit to the Palazzo del Provveditore Generale, the Santo Monte de Pietà and the Palazzo del Ragionato.

 

©Bigstock.com/bepsimage

©Bigstock.com/bepsimage

Polcenigo

Situated in the lowlands on the Livenza river, Polcenigo (approx. 3,100 inhabitants) combines natural beauty with a charming village idyll. All kinds of old, narrow alleyways lead through the borgo, which was originally built around the fortress resting on a hill. However, little remains of the old castle complex after a fire, and it was converted into a Venetian villa in the mid-18th century instead. Similar to so many other places throughout the region, all kinds of palaces accompany your tour of Polcenigo, including Palazzo Zaro, Palazzo Fullini and Palazzo Scolari-Salice. Several churches await you in throughout the place as well, including the 13th century Chiesa di San Lorenzo, which was extensively renovated in later years, and the parish church of San Floriano on the hill with its prominent frescoes. A detour to the magnificent Gorgazzo spring is an absolute must!

 

Sesto al Reghena

One of the oldest monasteries in the region is located in Sesto al Reghena (approx. 6,300 inhabitants). Abbazia Santa Maria di Sesto was founded around 741 as a Benedictine monastery, and the town itself is probably of Roman origin. It is a surprisingly strongly fortified complex, originally surrounded by seven defence towers. Only one, from the 10th or 11th century, remains and flanks the Romanesque monastery chancery and the impressive campanile. An expressive portal and several frescoes adorn the three-nave basilica. Although the Abbazia lost importance after falling to the Republic of Venice in 1440, it remains an impressive place to visit. There are such places in Sesto al Reghena, including the small country church of San Pietro and the Venchieredo Fountain, which has been immortalised in several literary works.

 

Strassoldo

This tripr takes you close to the sea. Strassoldo (approx. 800 inhabitants) is part of the municipality of Cervignano del Friuli, one of the larger towns in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Medieval charm with imperial undertones reigns in one of the most beautiful places in Italy. Two castles dominate Strassoldo – the upper and lower castle (Castello di sotto and Castello di sopra), and in the former you can spend the night in the unique Radetzky Suite (Michael Karl Maria Count of Strassoldo-Graffemberg was the Austrian imperial governor of Lombardy under Governor General Radetzky) with 500-year-old parquet flooring. Of course, this comes at a price, but the castles, which were built around the year 1000, are more than impressive enough in their own right. Ancient charm and vast gardens create a captivating symbiosis, combining rustic medieval features with baroque details. The Lombard stone cross in the Chiesa di San Nicolò in town centre bears witness to Strassoldo’s long history.

 

Valvasone Arzene

Only established on 1 January 2015 through the merger of the previously independent municipalities of Valvasone and Arzene, numerous churches and palaces line your tour of Valvasone Arzene (approx. 2,200 inhabitants), as they do in many other of the most beautiful places in southern Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The imposing cathedral, for example, built in the mid-15th century and financed by donations from the population and the nobility, stands in Piazza Libertà. In addition to the late 19th century neo-Gothic façade and numerous old treasures, the only surviving 16th century Venetian organ in the whole of Italy that is still in working order can be found here. The old 13th century castle is currently being extensively renovated, including a small theatre. The charming Chiesa di Santi Pietro e Paolo and the elegant Palazzo Fortuni neatly round off your visit.

 

The many attractions of the most beautiful places in the south of Friuli-Venezia Giulia are sure to inspire you too. A multitude of churches and palaces stand in almost magical harmony with the fascinating nature of the region. Old fortifications and even a monumental planned city with World Heritage status are also on your travel itinerary. That’s several good reasons to pay a visit or two to the northeast of Italy!

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.