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Off the Beaten Path: Unique Things to Do in Italy in Summer

Posted on June 10th, 2024

by Adriana ruiz


Italy’s summer charm extends far beyond its famous cities and popular tourist routes. For those in search of distinctive experiences, the country boasts a treasure trove of off-the-beaten-path destinations that enchant with their natural splendor, deep-rooted history, and cultural significance. Let’s explore a few of these destinations:

Visit the Aosta Valley

Off the Beaten Path: Unique Things to Do in Italy in Summer 7

Fenis Castle in Aosta Valley

The Aosta Valley, nestled in the Italian Alps, offers a unique summer experience beyond the typical tourist spots. Here are some activities to explore:

Aosta Old Town offers a captivating journey through history, showcasing well-preserved Roman ruins, including a Roman Theater (closed until May 2025), the ancient Arco d’Augusta, and Roman walls alongside medieval towers. Be sure not to overlook the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, a splendid example of Romanesque architecture. Its intricate facade, adorned with sculptures and decorative elements, captivates visitors from around the world, while inside, the cathedral boasts a harmonious blend of medieval frescoes and intricate wooden carvings.

Castles: Explore nearby castles like Château St. Pierre and Château Sarriod de la Tour. The Fenis Castle, known for its medieval architecture, is also worth a visit.

Hiking: Discover hiking trails in the Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso, offering options for all levels. For breathtaking views, take a short walk near Courmayeur to see the Italian side of Mont Blanc.

Mountain Biking: With over 1000 km of country roads, mule tracks, and wooded paths, Aosta Valley is a paradise for mountain bikers. Pila and La Thuile even offer summer downhill biking.

Balloon Rides and Paragliding: Soar above the mountains, gazing at the stunning scenery. Witnessing paragliders descend into the valley is a memorable sight.

 

Discover the Ghost Town of Craco

Off the Beaten Path: Unique Things to Do in Italy in Summer 8

Craco, Basilicata

Craco, an abandoned medieval village in Basilicata, offers a hauntingly beautiful glimpse into Italy’s past. The town was evacuated in the 1960s due to landslides, leaving behind a perfectly preserved ghost town. Here are some things to do there:

Rugged Landscape: Craco sits atop a steep 400 m cliff, creating a striking appearance where buildings blend seamlessly with the mountain. The vast open stretches of calanchi (badlands) add to the surreal atmosphere, devoid of vegetation or habitation.

Guided Tours: While the town itself is locked behind a fence, you can take a guided tour to wander through the eerie, deserted streets and buildings while learning about the town’s history and legends.

Film Location: Craco has become a popular filming location for historic movies. You might recognize it from films like ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ ‘King David,’ and ‘Quantum of Solace’.

 

Hike the Path of the Gods (Sentiero degli Dei), Amalfi Coast

Off the Beaten Path: Unique Things to Do in Italy in Summer 9

Path of the Gods in Amalfi coast

While the Amalfi Coast is a popular destination, hiking the Path of the Gods offers a unique way to experience its stunning beauty away from the crowds. This trail, stretching from Bomerano to Nocelle, provides breathtaking views of the coastline, charming villages, and the Mediterranean Sea. The hike is moderately challenging but rewards trekkers with some of the most spectacular scenery in Italy.

Visit the Sunken City of Baia, Campania

Off the Beaten Path: Unique Things to Do in Italy in Summer 10

Photo from subaia.com taken by Claudio’s Nymphaeum

Baia, an ancient Roman city submerged under the waters of the Gulf of Naples, offers a fascinating underwater archaeological site. You can explore the ruins of villas, mosaics, and statues by taking a guided snorkeling or diving tour. This unique underwater adventure provides a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of ancient Rome.

Explore the Parco dei Mostri (Park of the Monsters), Lazio

The Parco dei Mostri, also known as the Sacro Bosco (Sacred Grove), is a captivating and mysterious place in Lazio. Located just 1.5 kilometers from the charming village of Bomarzo, this unique park is home to majestic and bizarre statues that exude both eerie allure and visual impact.

Here are some intriguing details about the Parco dei Mostri:

Creation: The garden was commissioned during the 16th century by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini.
Symbolism: The sculptures within the park evoke an initiatory journey, representing stages the soul must undergo to ascend toward knowledge and truth.
Entrance Sphinges: Two sphinxes guard the entrance, their inscription urging visitors to discern whether the wonders they encounter are products of deception or art.
Ercole and Caco: Further along the path, you’ll encounter an imposing figure—a giant (possibly Hercules) tearing apart his victim (Cacus). This scene symbolizes the soul’s torn state as it embarks on the path to enlightenment.

Visiting Information: The Parco dei Mostri is open year-round from March to September: 9:00 am to 7:00 pm. the Ticket Prices for Adults and children aged 13 and over is €13 and for Children aged 4 to 13 years old is €8.

Hike Through the Dolomites’ Technicolor Mountains

Off the Beaten Path: Unique Things to Do in Italy in Summer 11

Cortina d’Ampezzo, South Tyrol

The Dolomites, often referred to as the “Technicolor Mountains,” are renowned for their dramatic peaks, sheer cliffs, and stunning rock formations, these mountains are part of the Southern Limestone Alps. What sets the Dolomites apart is their unique mineral composition, which gives rise to a spectacular array of colors, particularly during sunrise and sunset. The mountains’ vivid hues, ranging from deep reds and purples to soft pinks and oranges, create a breathtaking natural spectacle that attracts photographers, hikers, and nature enthusiasts from around the world. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Dolomites offer a rich blend of natural beauty, geological significance, and outdoor adventure.

Go Spelunking in Sardinia’s Grotta di Nettuno

Off the Beaten Path: Unique Things to Do in Italy in Summer 12

Inside the Cave of Neptune

Exploring Neptune’s Grotto (Grotte di Nettuno) in Sardinia is a captivating adventure that offers a unique glimpse into the island’s natural beauty and history. Located near Alghero, this stunning cave complex was discovered by a fisherman in the 1700s, though ancient populations likely visited it much earlier. The grotto extends about 4 km, but only a few hundred meters are accessible to the public. Visitors can reach the grotto either by boat or by descending a stunning 654-step staircase from the top of the 110m-high Capo Caccia cliff. Inside, the guided tour, lasting over an hour, showcases impressive stalactites and stalagmites in chambers such as the Ruins and the majestic Royal Palace, along with Lake Lamarmora, one of Europe’s largest salt lakes. Nearby, Capo Caccia hosts other lesser-known caves like Grotta dei Pizzi e Ricami, Grotta di Nereo, and Grotta Verde, which contains Neolithic paintings. When visiting, stay hydrated, wear a hat during hot summer days, and consider taking a boat tour for a different perspective on the stunning panorama.

Discover the Enchanting Aeolian Islands

Off the Beaten Path: Unique Things to Do in Italy in Summer 13

Vulcano island

Exploring the Aeolian Islands, also known as the Lipari Islands, reveals a captivating volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea, just north of Sicily. Named after Aeolus, the mythical ruler of the winds, these islands offer an off-the-beaten-path experience rich in natural beauty and adventure.

There are seven significant islands:

Lipari: The largest island, known for its charming old town and archaeological sites.
Vulcano: Famous for its therapeutic mud baths and steaming fumaroles.
Salina: Home to lush vineyards and stunning vistas.
Stromboli: An active volcano where you can witness fiery eruptions.
Filicudi and Alicudi: Remote and tranquil, perfect for escaping the crowds.
Panarea: The smallest, with chic boutiques and crystal-clear waters.

Accessible by ferries from Milazzo, the crystal-clear waters are perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and diving. Notable beaches include Spiaggia Bianca on Lipari and Gelso Beach on Vulcano. Local cuisine features fresh seafood, capers, and Malvasia wine, with sweet treats like cannoli and granita. Watching the sunset from Stromboli or Panarea is a breathtaking experience, and the islands’ unspoiled charm—with hidden coves, ancient ruins, and picturesque villages—remains largely untouched by mass tourism.

 

Discovering these hidden gems will enhance your appreciation for Italy’s lesser-known treasures. Which other destinations would you include on the list?

 

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