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Immerse yourself in the beauty of rolling hills and picturesque villages. Italy is home to some of the most idyllic villages in the world, which also offer a closer look into the country’s rich history. 

Put the authentic experience of visiting the medieval streets of Siena or the characteristic Cinque Terre to the top of your list. Live the true Italian experience. 

Villages 118 Search results
Art & Culture

Vernazza

Vernazza, a small village of great wonders A rocky spur reaching out towards the sea, backed by high cliffs and covered with green hills, home to a village of houses and monuments next to the marina. Introducing Vernazza, among the most authentic villages in the Cinque Terre. The small, colourful houses and moored boats, the prickly pears and cultivated terraces create an enchanting landscape. Venture into one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, for an immersive experience in the pristine Mediterranean landscape. Alleyways and stairways In Vernazza, everything centres around the small harbour and the small square behind it, where the locals rent apartments to tourists. The “carruggi”, the narrow alleyways of Ligurian villages, all branch off from here. We highly recommend taking a stroll among the colourful, towering houses, through courtyards, under porticos and loggias (the perfect spot for a cup of coffee), and along Via Roma, an ancient underground river. An unmissable site in this ancient village, which dates back to the year 1000 and was once used by the Romans as a strategic port, is the Church of Santa Maria d'Antiochia: dedicated to the village’s patron saint, it has mullioned windows overlooking the sea and presents a blend of Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic styles. While the Belforte tower acts as a lookout next to the small port, dominating the town from above is Doria Castle, on a dramatic cliff. Be sure to try the local speciality, Tian di Vernazza: baked potatoes and anchovies flavoured with Mediterranean herbs and lemon zest - the land and sea come together in one unique dish. At a slow pace to contemplate the landscape The entire UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Cinque Terre is dominated by rock and sea, small bays and inlets, and flourishing vegetation. Nature reigns supreme, so the Cinque Terre National Park ask that you explore respectfully, ideally on foot or by train. It’s well worth spreading out a beach towel on the cliffs to the right of the pier or near the harbour. Then, after enjoying a cool dip, it’s time to put on your hiking shoes. You are sure to enjoy the spectacular trek from Monterosso al Mare or Corniglia, two other villages in the Cinque Terre, located either side of Vernazza. The best route is the famous Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path), which narrows in some places as it enters the woods, while opening up elsewhere to offer breathtaking glimpses of the sea and towering coastline. This circular trekking route climbs up to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Reggio, with its beautiful Romanesque façade. The forecourt is lined with holm oaks, cedars and horse chestnuts, and providing shade is the oldest cypress tree in Liguria, which has thrived for 800 years and counting. The route continues towards San Bernardino before descending back down to the village, past cultivated fields and vineyards, dry stone walls, fragrant Mediterranean scrubland, streams and springs, well-worn ancient mule tracks shrouded in silence, and crisscrossing houses lost in the wilderness. You will find yourself outside civilisation, inside a natural space that regenerates the body and mind.
Nature

Riomaggiore

Riomaggiore, the village on the rooftop of the Cinque Terre Squeezed between two valleys in a panoramic position, Riomaggiore stretches from the Ligurian coast towards the Apennines, clinging to the ridge. It is the first village in the Cinque Terre coming from La Spezia and offers splendid scenery between land and sea: crystal-clear water and cliffs, brightly coloured houses, and paths leading up towards the mountains for a total immersion in the Mediterranean vegetation of the Cinque Terre National Park. Among the carruggi of the historic centre Alleys and steep stairways wind around houses with pastel-coloured plaster and slate roofs, outlining a picturesque village where dazzling light and shadowy corners alternate. The village follows the course of the stream, buried at the end, looking out to sea at the bottom and then climbing symmetrically on both sides of the rise: a perfect "V" drawn on the cliff. In the upper part you can admire the 14th-century Church of St John the Baptist in front of a beautiful square, then climbing further you reach the Castle, a fortress from which you can enjoy a magnificent view of the coastline. To admire the sunset, choose a spot along the wall and wait for the curtain to open on the spectacle of the sun plunging into the water. A stroll through the old town offers pleasant breaks at outdoor tables, where each restaurant offers both land and seafood menus. You must have the famous trofie with pesto, and try the anchovies, generously offered by the sea. When choosing gourmet souvenirs, be sure to include the fine Cinque Terre CDO white wines and TGI reds from the vines cultivated on the terraces, preserved anchovies and fragrant lemon jams. Experiencing the Sea The Riomaggiore beach is in a small inlet, only pebbles and lapped by a perfectly clear sea. There is an organised, and licensed, diving centre in the village: here, in the Marine Protected Area, snorkelling and diving are an authentic experience. You will come across a surprising amount of fish, from groupers to bream and sea bream; further out to sea whales swim. You will discover the varied vegetation on the seabed near the reefs and in some places you will see veritable sea gardens of lush algae species. For a sea trip, boats can be hired, even for large groups, and solo canoes and kayaks can be hired. By land A walk of less than an hour leads to the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Montenero via a forest path and a sequence of steps. And that is the only way to get there, there is no road that can be travelled by car. You are at an altitude of 350 metres at a point where the vegetation thickens and the green stands out against the blue sky in a poetic contrast. The view is one you won't forget. The entire area of the Cinque Terre opens up from up there, including the three islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto, and on clear days the view flies as far as Corsica. For the more experienced, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Montenero can be the first stop on a long scenic trek. Just take the Sentiero dell'Infinito from here, which connects Riomaggiore to Portovenere in 12 km. In the Cinque Terre National Park, the territory presents itself in all its magnificence, with ever-changing views. As you walk above the sea, you encounter ancient terraces for the cultivation of vines and olive trees, pleasant vegetable gardens and dense forests: the best of the Mediterranean landscape, which UNESCO has honoured by declaring it a World Heritage Site. Even more challenging is the Monesteroli Steps to reach the tiny village of the same name, which can also be admired from the sea. But it is the 1,200 steps that provide a unique thrill. The coastline follows you in parallel, on what was an old mule track used by farmers to reach the vineyards. A dizzying ascent towards the sky, breathing in the fragrant air: a bouquet of flowers, essences and saltiness.
Art & Culture

Gradara

Back to the Middle Ages! Entering the fortified village dominated by the fortress feels like going back in time. The Rocca di Gradara and its Fortified Borgo (in the Marches Region) represent one of the best-preserved Italian Medieval structures; its set of two surrounding city walls (one of which extends to almost 2,625 feet in length) that protect the Rocca, also make it one of the most aesthetically-imposing. The Castello or Fortress stands on a hill at 466 ft above sea level, while its mastio or main tower rises an even further 98 feet, keeping watch over the entire valley. Gradara’s privileged position has meant its importance as a crossroads of peoples and trade since ancient times: during the Middle Ages, the fortress was one of the predominant theatres of battle between the Pontifical militias and the ruling dynasties of the Marches and Romagna regions. Today, with its vicinity to the sea, it lies near one of Italy’s major touristic destination, the Marchigiano-Romagnola Riviera. The mastio was built by the powerful De Griffo Family around the year 1150; however it was the Malatestas that constructed the Fortress and pair of fortification walls between the 13th and 14th Centuries, thus lending to Gradara its aspect as viewed today. Gradara has changed hands several times over the course of its existence, with various noble lineages in contention: think the usual suspects, i.e. the Borgias, the Della Rovere and Medici clans. Having said this, the Rocca's exceptional state of conservation has to be attributed to the engineer Umberto Zanvettori, who was responsible for reverting the fortress back to its original detail and beauty in 1920. Gradara is also blessed to be set within a territory rich in olive groves, vineyards and, consequently, is part of an important culinary culture. The typical trattorias and restaurants of Gradara offer excellent Marchigiano-Romagnola cuisine, where diners can taste an array of traditional gastronomic dishes and delicacies. Gradara's most characteristic dish is a plate of Tagliolini con la Bomba; it derives from peasant traditions, while its name – Tagliolini with a Bomb – relates to the way in which it is made. During Il Medioevo a Tavola (the "Medieval Age at Table") shows off its calling for history and particularly for the Middle Ages, dedicating entire days to Medieva cooking, with local restaurants metamorphosing into 14th-Century taverns. And Gradara's favorite event is Assedio al Castello, or the "Castle Siege" of 1446. This historical re-enactment, taking place in the penultimate weekend of July, opens with a pyro-musical show and with said re-enactment, in which the Siege is played out with actors, horses and special effects. The fun continues in the following days, complete with Medieval atmosphere and initiatives in the historic center. Finally, visitors that have the opportunity should not miss The Dragon Castle, Italy's most magical Celtic festival. Legend has it that Paolo and Francesca, the two lovers that Dante placed in his Second Circle of Hell, for lust, conducted their romance in the Castello di Gradara. Condemned to eternal damnation and eternal commemoration both, the two lovers are symbols for pure and unconditional love.
Art & Culture

Santa Severa

Santa Severa Castle, a piece of history by the sea The castle of Santa Severa dates back to the 14th century, and has the typical fairy-tale silhouette of mediaeval fortresses. It is located in the hamlet of Santa Severa, which belongs to the municipality of Santa Marinella, a few kilometres north of Rome, in Lazio. The castle dominates the landscape between the beach and the sea. With its unique settings, where explorers, merchants and conquerors once stayed, a visit to Santa Severa Castle is a very interesting experience. A lavish past in one of the most evocative places in Lazio The first written documentation on the Castle of Santa Severa dates back to 1068, when it was gifted by Count Gerard of Galeria to the Abbey of Farfa. It then passed into the ownership of Pope Anacletus II in 1130, and in 1482 it was handed over to the Order of the Holy Spirit. It was managed by the latter for five hundred years, until 1980. It takes its name from a young Christian martyr who was killed under Diocletian's empire. The early Christian church that can still be seen in Piazza della Rocca is also dedicated to Santa Severa and her martyrdom. The area now occupied by the Castle is of enormous archaeological significance: in the seventh century BC, Pyrgi, a major maritime port of Etruria and the ancient Etruscan city of Cerveteri, was situated there. The Maritime Museum is dedicated to underwater archaeology Santa Severa Castle houses the Museum of the Sea and Ancient Navigation. The exhibition and educational route is totally dedicated to underwater archaeology and ancient navigation, with interesting artefacts from the Etruscan port of Pyrgi and the nearby depths. A brief leap into history You cannot miss a visit to the mediaeval village of Santa Severa, with its arches and narrow stone streets that tell of the castle's history over the centuries. In the piazzale delle Barrozze, at the heart of the hamlets, stands a two-storey circular fountain, crowned by three large millstones. Heading towards the picturesque Piazza delle due Chiese, you can visit the Church of Santa Maria Assunta and Santa Severa, as well as the Baptistery dedicated to Santa Severa and Santa Lucia. Inside the latter, amidst frescoes from the late 15th century, votive graffiti depicting ships can be seen, which is the work of sailors who passed through the port. A convivial atmosphere and fresh fish abound With its taverns and restaurants, Santa Severa offers somem excellent fresh fish: L'isola del Pescatore (Fisherman's Island) is one of the most popular restaurants and has a view of the castle, but there are plenty of alternatives, all serving the best traditional Mediterranean cuisine and the local catch. For more information castellodisantasevera.it