Alternative Travel Index Rank: #16
Italy also ranks 11th for Cultural Travel
Excels in number of World Heritage cultural and natural sites
Population and tourists density at peak season: 213 (high)
Italy is famous worldwide for its delicious cuisine, its trendy fashion industry, luxury sports cars and motorcycles, diverse regional cultures and dialects, as well as for its beautiful coast, lakes, and mountain ranges (the Alps and Apennines). No wonder it is often nicknamed the Bel Paese (the Beautiful Country).
Together with Greece, it is acknowledged as the birthplace of Western culture. Not surprisingly, it is home to the greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world. Art and monuments are to be found everywhere around the country, so you don’t necessarily have to stick to the typical tourist attractions.
Italy ranks #133/141 for price competitiveness in Justraveling’s Alternative Travel Index. Average travel costs per day: $69 (backpacker) – $233 (mid-range). Cheapest Italian cities: Naples, Bologna, Bari, Brescia, Pisa. Most expensive Italian cities: Venice, Alghero, Perugia, Rimini, Trieste.
Best Time to Go
Apr-Jun and Sep-Oct are the best time to go to Italy, to benefit from lower prices, a nice dry weather (ideal for active holidays), and a rich and varied calendar of cultural events, especially in major cities.
Places to Visit
Mantua (Lombardy) was considered one of the most important cultural cities during the Rennaisance, and over the centuries has inspired writers and poets, such as Charles Baudelaire and Aldous Huxley. It’s surrounded by three lakes.
The Tuscan Archipelago National Park is the largest marine park in Europe, protecting 56.766 hectares of sea and 17.887 hectares of land. It includes the 7 main islands of the Tuscan Archipelago and some smaller islets and reefs.
Obscured by the most famous Italian art cities, Ravenna is a real gem for art lovers. Once capital of three empires, it hosts 8 World Heritage cultural sites.
The Val Grande, located in Piedmont, at the border with Switzerland, is the largest wilderness area in Italy and one of the last in the Alps. Here, nature has taken over after the cessation of agro-pastoral activities in the 1950s and 60s.
La Scarzuola is a rural town in Umbria that hides a real treasure. In fact here the Milanese architect Tomaso Buzzi designed and built his Città Ideale (ideal city) between 1958 and 1978. Looking at these photos, you cannot blame him.
The Langhe is a hilly area in northern Italy, famous for its wines, cheeses, and truffles. A good alternative to the Chianti region for those who are interested in winemaking traditions, but also a fascinating playground for cyclists.
Altamura, located above one of the hills of the Murge plateau, is the perfect synthesis of the best that southern Italy can offer. Its unique bread, celebrated by Horace, a rich gothic heritage, or the footprints of dinosaurs, that were recently discovered here, all serve to form a magical atmosphere.
Castelsardo, at the east end of the Gulf of Asinara, in Northern Sardinia, is a picturesque, historic town of major archaeological value. Among other things, this village hosts spectacular megalithic structures of pre-nuragic times.
Travel Ideas and Things to Do
La Via dei Monti Lariani is a wonderful hiking footpath which runs across a mixture of forest and pasture land on the western shore of Lake Como, reaching the village of Sorico after a journey of 125 km and around six days of walking.
In the Dolomites, the stunning beauty of the landscape is enriched by the historical interest of the sites, that were battlefields during the First World War. Its wide network of trails, will test your physical strength and get you inspired.
Via Francigena is an ancient, enchanting long distance route that in medieval times connected Canterbury to Rome. Nowadays you can gently go through it in several stages, on foot or by bike, as a pilgrim or as a traveler. More info here.
More active travel ideas for your next trip can be found in the Hiking Series. Check out these five routes to enjoy an awesome day hike in Italy.
Keen on some real urban exploration? Browse our favorite trails in Milan.
This Travel Guide is a work in progress. Improve it with an Italian touch!
- Browse All European Destinations
- World’s Best Alternative Travel Destinations
- Trip Planning: Inspiration, Budget, Flights, Accommodations, Tools
Sources: some text excerpts from Wikitravel & Wikipedia; travel cost data from Numbeo.