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Art & Culture

Small and proud, with a focus on sustainability. Here are the most charming rural villages to visit in Italy

What are the most beautiful rural villages to visit in the world?

27 December 2022

4 minutes

The small charming towns that in addition to having extraordinary natural settings, proudly protect and promote their roots, culture, food and wine heritage. Encouraging and valorizing traditional lifestyles and activities, simultaneously showing that they know how to develop innovations and sustainability in all areas with commitment and foresight?

 Credits: Comune di Otricoli

Traditions e innovation can live together

traditions and innovation of the 2030 goals

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations agency that focuses on highlighting responsible, sustainable and accessible tourism to all, provides the answer by promoting the call for the Best Tourism Villages.

Among the villages identified in the four corners of the planet, last year the small and idyllic Italian town of San Ginesio stood out, near Macerata, in the Marche region. The excellent news is that this year two locations in our country have been selected for their charm and uniqueness: Sauris-Zahre, an alpine village in Friuli Venezia Giulia and Isola del Giglio is one of the most captivating of the Tuscan Archipelago. A special mention goes to Otricoli, an ancient Umbrian village in the province of Terni.

Let's discover them together, on this tour of the most beautiful jewels of the Italian territory, according to the World Tourism Organization.

Credits: comune di Sauris

San Ginesio, the balcony of Italy

san ginesio italy

Among the winners of the last edition of the Best Tourism Villages, San Ginesio as the "balcony of the Sibillini Mountains" is enough to make us understand why. The small town is in the province of Macerata, also known as the "city of 100 churches", due to its important religious and artistic heritage. It enjoys a scenic position overlooking one of the most beautiful national natural parks in Italy, that of Monti Sibillini. Also exemplary in terms of environmental sustainability and spectacular views, which go from the Adriatic to the Gran Sasso mountains.

San Ginesio is a cultural and artistic center of international importance since the Middle Ages. Every year it hosts “un Palio” , an Ancient Music Festival, and the Ginesio Fest dedicated to "the art of the actor", of which the patron saint of the town is the protector.

A UNESCO "Creative City" - a project born in 2004 with the aim of uniting a list of cities that have made creativity an engine for economic development - thanks to the redevelopment and recovery programs after the earthquake that struck it in 2016. San Ginesio is a key example for slow tourism in central Italy.

Sauris-Zahre, a sustainability lab

sauris zahre laboratoria sustainability

Set in the hills of the Carnic Alps at an altitude of 1400 meters, Sauris - Zahre in the local dialect - is a German-speaking enclave at the foot of the Friulian Dolomites. For a long time it was semi-isolated due to difficult access roads. The village has been preserved for centuries, with its traditional houses of wood and stone remaining intact; just as the cultural traditions have remained active and vital - such as their Carnival, with the amazing Night of the Lanterns - and gastronomic events.

Famous for its prosciutto ham appreciated internationally, in Sauris, the mountain cheeses and craft beers are also excellent products of the territory. Since the 1980s, the town has been a laboratory for experimenting with new forms of sustainable tourism. This led to the creation of a diffused hotel, and enhanced development of the community and local identity providing a better quality of life to its inhabitants and to tourists.

Its mountains and man made lake offer a thousand opportunities for those who love open air activities, both in summer and in winter.

Credits: G. Carlig

Giglio Island, pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea

isle of giglio tirreno

Gem of the Tuscan Archipelago, which has the largest marine park in Europe, Isola del Giglio in the province of Grosseto, is a so-called "scattered municipality". A small natural paradise, harsh and wild, in the middle of the Tyrrhenian Sea. It has always been the spearhead of Italian sustainable tourism for its perfect balance between environmental protection, preservation of traditions, local communities and availability of accommodation resources.

Coves and turquoise seabeds however, are not the only treasures: its unspoilt nature is ideal for outdoor sports enthusiasts, but also for those who love the slow life of villages. Inhabited since Neolithic times, the island was an Etruscan settlement and in Roman times, an important maritime node. It is dotted with churches, monuments and archaeological remains. Small, but culturally very lively, every year it hosts important music festivals, exhibitions and theatrical performances.

Otricoli, casket of ancient glories

ostricoli treasure chest of ancient splendour

A small town of 1700 souls in the province of Terni, in Umbria, Otricoli stands on the remains of an important Roman stronghold. The village has a strategic position located on the top of a hill overlooking a long stretch of the River Tiber. The archaeological area has ancient Roman vestiges and a frequented river port of the imperial era.

Its history is linked to a special castrum, but the village also boasts a circle of walls and a medieval castle and several Renaissance palaces.

Its historic center never has low seasons, animated by historical re-enactments linked to the ancient Roman and medieval splendor and highly anticipated food and wine events, which make it a very popular destination for all tourists in search of history, art and flavor.

Credits: Comune di Otricoli

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