Italy, home to delicious food and wine, fashion, history and beautiful art and architecture. If you do a Google search for Italy, the first destinations to pop up are Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan. In Rome, you will find the Trevi fountain and Colosseum, in Milan one word; Fashion. But Italy has SO much to explore!
This week we venture out of the main cities and the mainstream destinations and explore some of the gems Italy has to offer that might be a bit lesser known but well worth a visit. If you are planning a trip soon why not incorporate one of the following into your agenda? Let's have a look…
SATURNIA HOT SPRINGS
Located in the southern Tuscan countryside, you will find the inviting and relaxing Saturnia Hot Springs. While there are spa resorts and private pools in the area, the thermal pools can be enjoyed for free and visited year-round. The water is heated by the thermal activity of Italy's second-largest volcano and flows into the baths and pools with a temperature of 37.5°C.
The water is rich in mineral deposits including sulphur that can give it an unpleasant smell. But some days are worse than others and given that the water is said to be healing and have therapeutic and relaxing properties the smell is only a slight drawback. Feel the warm water rushing over your back while sitting in the waterfalls or lazily relax in the pools or stream they lead to. As the hot springs are becoming well known we recommend early morning or late afternoon dips during the week if you wish to avoid the crowds.
SANTUARIO MADONNA DELLA CORONA
Not far from Verona and Lake Garda, on the vertical slope of Mount Baldo overlooking the Adige River valley, one seems to see the impossible. At first glance it might seem as though the church is suspended in mid-air, but that is not the case, it is built on a rocky terrace and is 774m high.
To reach the church you can either hike the Pilgrim's Path from the small town of Brentino Belluno. The path is about 2.5km long and can take about two hours to complete. Let's call this the up option.
The other option, let's call it the down option, is to approach from Spiazzi. You can follow the paved road from Spiazzi down to the church or use the shuttle that travels the same road in a fraction of the time. Another option is to use the steps that lead from Spiazzi down to the church. With numerous lookout points and a lot to see you can take your time and appreciate the church for what it was intended, a place of silent reflection removed from the world.
CANALE DI TENNO
A few hours' drive from Milan, past Lake Garda and surrounded by mountains and trees you will come to the medieval village of Canale di Tenno that dates back to the 13thcentury. The village is something out of a fairy tale with cobblestone streets, flower boxes in windowsills and houses built with stone and wood with beautiful views of the mountains. You can wander the streets and explore the village and if the weather is warm make your way to Lake Tenno.
This small lake is known for its bright turquoise water on sunny days as a result of the sun reflecting off the white stones at the bottom of the lake. You can go for a swim and follow the footpath around the lake for a relaxing stroll. The combination of lake, mountain, trees and pebble shores invites you to enjoy the day and the beauty of your surroundings.
Home of the trulli. For homes dating back to the 14th century built from roughly worked limestone to ensure it can be dismantled easily (to avoid property taxes), these homes have withstood the test of time. Alberobello offers uniquely large clusters of trulli scattered through the town and proudly states their UNESCO status since 1996 thanks to the unique architectural and historical value of the trulli houses. Wander through the cobblestone streets and explore the nooks and crannies of the town between the iconic white and grey houses with cone-shaped roofs. Due to the building style, one seldom sees a two-story trullo (singular) and large families would usually live in separate trulli grouped together. While many houses are tourist shops now the clusters of trulli are a beautiful sight. If you are wary of large crowds, it's best to explore early morning or late afternoon.
Italy is such a magnificent country with so much beauty and history to explore, expecting to do and see all in one trip is simply impossible. So, while we gave some inspiration and ideas for places to visit during your Italian vacation, be prepared to book another flight and return soon!