Skip menu

For the latest information on COVID-19 travel restrictions in Italy. Click here.

Undecided between seaside or mountains? Choose a countryside holiday. The countryside and rolling Italian hills are the ideal place for walks or cycling adventures. Rural landscapes are ideal for those who wish to switch off and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and breathe in clean air.

Hills and Countryside 33 Search results
Art & Culture

Calcata

Calcata, a village revived by artists Immersed in the woodland of the Treja Valley Natural Park, between Rome and Viterbo, Calcata stands out like a vision on a tufa limestone plateau overlooking the valley below. The settlement has never required the addition of any outer walls because it is as if it were suspended at the top of a rock formation and access is provided by a single arched portal. Abandoned in the 1930s due to a fear that landslides might occur at this point, Calcata was later repopulated in the second half of the 20th century by a colony of artists to whom it owes its current vitality. Highlights of Calcata A visit to Calcata will most certainly draw you back in time, and to a period which may be hard to define. It might be the distant, mysterious age of the Faliscans who formed part of a pre-Roman Italic civilisation dating back to the Iron Age (IX-VIII century BC). The Faliscans were the first group that populated this valley. We may also feel we have returned to the Middle Ages, when the houses of the village - partially made of stone and partially excavated in the tufa stone - were created. It might be the period of the Anguillara castle or even the 1960s, when Calcata became a popular venue for a group of Roman bohemian folk who quietly came to inhabit the village. The latter were followed by artisans and artists from all over Europe who, seeking a truly human-scale environment, came here to live and set up shops and ateliers. It is now a richly diverse village and the home of various cultural initiatives, such as the Grotta dei Germogli, a nouvelle-style restaurant and social club, installed in an elegant cave-like environment embellished also by decorative mosaic surfaces produced with recycled materials. Just outside the village, in the sub-district of località Colle, you can walk around the Opera Bosco open-air contemporary-art museum and workshop. Created in 1996 by the artists Anne Demijttenaere and Costantino Morosin, this initiative has been supported by contributions made by dozens of other artists. The works displayed at this site are produced exclusively with natural raw woodland materials that are present and are transformed and dissolved in the woods. Today the museum forms part of the museum network of the Lazio Region. It is certainly worth visiting the garden surrounding the house of the architect Paolo Portoghesi. The space was originally conceived as a repository of various memories of an architectural historian who became enchanted by the natural world and its suggestive local setting. In his “Garden of Wonders” Portoghesi installed a variety of structures, fountains, flower beds, pools and ceramic works, upon which appear particular phrases, poems and quotations. Six olive trees with centuries-old trunks have a sculptured appearance and Portoghesi felt he should assign to them the names of the artists Bernini, Michelangelo, Borromini, Rodin, Brancusi and Moore. In his book Abitare poeticamente la terra. La casa, lo studio e il giardino di Calcata (2022) Portoghesi and his wife Giovanna recount what attracted them to live at Calcata, a location that initially became a weekend retreat and eventually their permanent place of residence. The Treia Valley Regional Park A visit to Calcata should also include a tour of the valley of the river Treia. Over a distance of approximately thirty kilometres this tributary of the Tiber flows through a territory of volcanic origin where it has created deep gorges, and generating an ideal humid environment for amphibians and reptiles in the dense undergrowth. On the slopes exposed to the sun the Mediterranean maquis is the dominant form of vegetation. Nor should you miss a visit to the Monte Gelato district, with its waterfalls, medieval tower, an old water mill and natural basins. This beautiful, cool area offers an oasis in all seasons, thanks to the verdant natural shades of the spring and summer, and acquiring a magical atmosphere as the colours of autumn gradually appear. Likewise, from the valley below the village of Calcata presents a splendid panorama. The houses, veiled by yellow and reddish lichen, appear to merge with the rock formation upon which they rise and acquire a camouflaged appearance beside the colours of the woodland, presenting an ethereal vision. For further information www.parchilazio.it/valledeltreja
Point of interest
Marsala

Marsala

Marsala, the town of wine and salt Marsala is the name of a town, and also a wine. Both are elegant and rich in history. The town is enclosed within the ramparts of the 16th century, when it experienced its own Renaissance that enriched it with palaces, churches and monasteries. Wine is the product that made it world-famous, thanks partly to the vision of an English merchant who adapted it to British tastes. In the beautiful old town you can visit the vestiges of its past, as well as the historic wine cellars that uphold the prestige of its finest product, while on the coast salt is produced in the spectacular salt pans. Amid Baroque and nature Those who approach from Porta Nuova are greeted by a string of beautiful Renaissance and Baroque buildings, such as the Monastery of San Pietro, which houses the Civic Museum, with an archaeological section and an area dedicated to the Risorgimento. Garibaldi and the Thousand landed at Marsala to accomplish the feat of the Unification of Italy. A little further on you come to Piazza della Repubblica, Marsala's gathering place, with the beautiful Palazzo VII Aprile with its clock tower and Baroque cathedral - although the façade was not actually completed until 1956. Next door is the Tapestry Museum, where eight Flemish tapestries, a gift from a Spanish king, are on display. A few steps away is the Convento del Carmine, now the Museum of Contemporary Painting, with works by various Italian artists including Cassinari, Maccari, Marchegiani, Pomodoro, Sassu, Sironi, as well as temporary exhibitions. To immerse yourself in Marsala's more ancient past, visit the Baglio Anselmi Archaeological Museum, in the building of a former winery on the seafront. Several artefacts are on display, recounting the foundation of the city (then called Lilybaeum) by exiles from the Phoenician colony on the island of Mothia. Don't miss the wreck of a Punic ship that was probably shipwrecked during the battle of the Egadi Islands in the First Punic War; it is located off the Isola Lunga near Punta Scario. There are also Roman mosaics and an extraordinary collection of amphorae documenting trade in antiquity. The museum visit is completed in the Archaeological Park with the Roman Insula, the site of a large Roman villa from the 3rd century AD with baths, cisterns and the remains of an early Christian necropolis. The bustling hub of Marsala is its central Fish Market, which has recently been renovated. By day, it is the place where the catch from the Stagnone and the Strait of Sicily comes in, and by night, it is the centre of nightlife where you can dine and stay up late. The Marsala wine that pleased the English Wine has always been produced in Marsala, since Phoenician times, but it was towards the end of the 18th century that an English merchant, John Woodhouse, sent a few barrels of local wine to England to be tasted by his customers, adding, however, a dose of brandy so that the wine would not spoil during the voyage. This is how the Marsala we know today was born, a liqueur wine much appreciated by the English who imported it in great quantities from then on, making the fortune of local producers: Florio, Rallo, Donnafugata, Pellegrino, whose historic cellars are still located in the centre of Marsala. The Stagnone Reserve and Mozia The Stagnone Reserve is a lagoon to the north of Marsala, 2,000 hectares of shallow and very salty waters with four islands: the Big Island, which acts as a barrier to the lagoon, the island of Santa Maria, a strip of land, the Schola (meaning “school”), because in Roman times it housed a school of rhetoric, where Cicero is said to have taught when he was quaestor of the city of Lilybaetano, and Mothia (Mozia), an island on which a Phoenician city stood from the 8th century BC, which ancient sources describe as rich in beautiful palaces, one of the most important trading bases in the Mediterranean antiquity. Conquered by Dionysius of Syracuse, Mothia was destroyed in 397 B.C. and never rebuilt, so its ruins are “intact”, with no overlays - a true paradise for archaeologists. The survivors in fact founded Lilybaeum, present-day Marsala. The island of Mozia now belongs to the Whitaker Foundation, an English wine producer which bought it and started excavations in the early 20th century, and it is open for visits. The salt pans of Marsala and the windmills On the coast to the north of the city, overlooking the Stagnone, are the Salt Pans of the Marsala Ettore and Infersa Lagoon, one of the most spectacular places on the west coast of Sicily, with stretches of water that take on different colours depending on the season, against which you can see the outlines of windmills surrounded by mounds of white salt. It is a place that is not only very poetic and picturesque, but also of great historical and environmental interest, structured to give visitors the all-round salt experience: here one can take walks along the salt pans, visit mills that are still in operation, enjoy tastings, manually harvest salt with the salt workers and dive into pools that are not in production, but still fed by the hydraulic circuit, where one can float in salt solutions with different concentrations and lie on the salt crust. For more information: www.turismocomunemarsala.com
Nature

Corniglia

Corniglia, a village overlooking the Cinque Terre district Set at the top of a spectacular sheer cliff, Corniglia is the only village in the Cinque Terre district where direct access to the sea is not available. The vast expanse of the Tyrrhenian Sea appears one hundred metres below the cliff-top settlement. The surrounding countryside presents the green natural dimension of the Cinque Terre National Park with its terraced vineyards and olive groves. A picturesque ascent towards the village If you arrive on one of the many trains that travel along the route between La Spezia and Levanto, and this is recommended as an alternative to travelling by car, the Scalinata Landarina (stepped pathway) leading up to the crest awaits you. As you walk up the 33 ramps and 377 steps you will feel you are floating between the rock formation and the water. This is how you will reach the promontory upon which the village is situated (100 metres a.s.l.), immediately entering a magical landscape. Take your time as you walk calmly through the shady streets and alleyways, admiring the stone houses and ancient religious edifices. The Parish church of St Peter is certainly worthy of note. A striking element on the façade of the building, constructed in the Ligurian-Gothic style, is a carefully embroidered rose window produced in Carrara marble. You may then move on towards the Oratorio dei Disciplinati di Santa Caterina, which dates back to the 18th century. The panoramic view from the Sanctuary of San Bernardino is highly suggestive. Enchanted by this small village, you may decide to spend a night here at one of the smaller guest houses or you may decide to rent an apartment or a single room provided by local residents. The fact that there are no large hotels at Corniglia would appear to enhance its particular charm. A dense maze of trails When you plan a visit to Corniglia, you should prepare a rucksack with a decent supply of water and a few snacks and use a pair of comfortable hiking shoes. At this site you will be following a network of pathways in an entirely natural environment. If you want to go for a swim, a good solution would be to go down to the Spiaggione, a large beach not far from the railway station, or, starting at Corniglia, you might decide to follow another pathway leading towards Vernazza and stop at the Marina beach. You should also consider climbing up to the higher areas to enjoy direct contact with the splendid hinterland and the slopes leading down to the sea. This is the most iconic landscape of the Cinque Terre, now recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site. One of the most beautiful pathways starts at Corniglia and leads on towards Manarola, another gem of the Cinque Terre, and passes through the small hamlet of Volastra. Walking on the slopes, you will follow a route that also presents very steep sections and stepped trails. You will enjoy glimpses of the coastline as you walk past groups of fruit trees, vegetable gardens, olive groves and vineyards. The ingenious agricultural terracing method This is a marvellous wild zone. However, as occurred elsewhere in the world, humans found a way of altering the landscape to facilitate the cultivation of certain crops. The age-old technique, already adopted in the Middle Ages, involves the creation of terracing with dry stone walls: a typical method of the entire area between the Ligurian Sea and the Apennines. Reducing slope gradients in this way, the terraces may be covered in orchards, olive groves and the renowned vineyards which are the source of Ligurian wines. This truly natural spectacle, which will accompany you during your trekking sessions, represents a masterpiece of agricultural engineering. Precious wines Once you have returned to the village after completing a rather strenuous walk you can reward yourself with a lovely glass of wine, a delicious evening meal or a few appetising snacks. Choose the wine shop or wine bar that suits you best, and at Corniglia it’s not hard to find a good solution. Consider the extraordinary local red and white wines which present the DOC and IGT appellations of the Cinque Terre. The dessert ritual will also be interesting because you can try the rare and very precious Sciacchetrà, a sweet dried-rasin “passito” wine produced in accordance with the criteria of the “Slow Food Presidia”. This traditional wine is produced from grapes harvested in the local terraced vineyards. Guvano, a legendary beach with an atmosphere reminiscent of the 1970s Before leaving Corniglia you may be tempted to spend some time on the Guvano beach. In the 1970s it was a point of reference for nature lovers and ecologists. It still retains a special charm, embedded as it is in a small bay and protected by the rocks behind it. You can arrive at the beach by sea, on a private or hired boat, or walking down along a path, which is not always easily accessible. It is still a favourite venue for nudism enthusiasts.