The small village of Noli, an ancient maritime republic,  has a lot to offer
The small village of Noli, an ancient maritime republic, has a lot to offer
There are countless destinations in Italy that are perfect for short side trips, maybe not even an hour away from major hubs like Rome, Florence or Milan. These destinations are ideal for those seeking some rest and relaxation and a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of larger cities. These six spots might not be very well known but all of them are great for those looking for an original idea for a weekend someplace off the beaten path.
Crotone (Calabria). If you are interested in history and archeology, a weekend in Crotone might be more interesting than you think. The town features an absolutely stunning Archelogical Museum that showcases important remains that date back to the Magna Grecia period. Also worth a visit is the Aragonese castle, a beautiful fortress overlooking the sea that is particularly fascinating at night, when its lights are reflected in the blue waters of the Ionian Sea. Don’t forget to try ‘nduja, the local red hot spicy sausage Calabria is famous for. 

Worth a visit is the Aragonese castle in Crotone

Noli (Liguria). While most tourists visiting the coastal region of Liguria opt to stay in glitzy Portofino or in the Cinqueterre, the small village of Noli, province of Savona, has a lot to offer and is often much quieter and more enjoyable. Not many know that in the past Noli was a maritime republic together with the bigger and more famous Amalfi, Pisa, Venice and Genoa, and many signs of this illustrious history can still be seen around town: of the 72 towers that guarded the village only 8 remain, but they are beautiful and worth visiting. A day trip to the nearby byzantine port town of Varigotti on the Baia dei Saraceni is also a must do as it offers the chance to relax by one of the clearest seas in Italy.
Valle del Chiese (Trentino Alto Adige). The beautiful Chiese Valley gets its name from the river of the same name and is the perfect place to immerse one self in a quiet and stunning mountain landscape, made of lush woods and white peaks. Thirteen ancient villages dot the valley and all of them feature interesting medieval architecture and imposing looking castles. In Brione don’t miss the church of San Bartolomeo and the typical unique looking barns of Malmarone, while in Bondone admire the murals painted on the houses’ façades. No matter where you’ll stop for lunch or dinner, strangolapreti –a sort of gnocchi made with spinach and cheese– are an absolute must-try, as is Teroldego Rotaliano, the area’s most popular red wine.
Sperlonga (Lazio). Whitewashed houses, narrow alleys and delightful little piazzas: Sperlonga, a quaint maritime village perched on the sides of Monte Magno, is the ideal place to rest and relax if you want to get away from the chaos and commotion of Rome. Not far from the town center sits one of the most interesting archeological sites of the area, Tiberius’ Villa with its ruins and its Roman thermal baths. Don’t miss out the nearby cave which used to be a cenatio, an outdoors banquet room used by the emperor in the summer.
Noto (Sicily). One of the most beautiful and most underestimated Baroque towns in Sicily, Noto is a picture perfect town not too far from Syracuse. Enjoy a granita for a a leisurely breakfast in one of the many great gelaterie in the historical center, then wander aimlessly in the city center and take in the beauty of the many marble palazzos and churches along the way. Noto has a very lively cultural and musical scene, so make sure you check out the weekend’s special events as it is virtually impossible not to find at least some type of small festival taking place in the downtown district.
Val d’Orcia (Tuscany). The magnificent landscapes of the Val d’Orcia is part of the Unesco World Heritage List since 2004, and rightly so. Gently rolling hills, lush chestnut woods, olive groves and vineyards are dotted with picture perfect medieval villages, ancient watchtowers and rural farmhouses: Castiglione d’Orcia, Montalcino, Pienza and San Quirico d’Orcia are just some of the beautiful towns that are definitely worth a stop – and not only for their beauty, but also for their delicious local products such as calico cheese and Brunello red wine.       
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