Italy is one of the most beautiful and culturally rich countries in the world to visit, and every year hundreds of thousands of people flock there to see the Pope, the Sistine Chapel, The Coloseum, The Pantheon, and of course, the beautiful Amalfi Coast. But there is so much more to see. Travelers are already making plans to visit new and underexplored destinations in 2017. Make unexplored parts of The Boot part of your next crazy, bucket list adventure.
Puglia is the place to visit this year, Sicilian-American and Italian travel expert Cassandra Santoro, the Founder and CEO of Travel Italian Style, says. You may have heard it before but her advice is to head to the heel of the “boot,” and the heart of authentic Italy, before the crowds come rolling in. “With the Baroque architecture of Lecce, the fairytale village of Alberobello, white sand beaches with pristine water, and streets lined by olive groves there will be plenty to see and discover during your visit,” she adds.
If you are passing through the Amalfi Coast, why not change your itinerary and explore the nearby islands of Ischia. “From castles to secret wineries and an underground city, you will be surprised and awed by the beauty and culture around you,” Santoro says. While visiting the Campania region, don’t forget to take a boat ride to Capri, shop for hand-made ceramics, take a day to hike the cliffs, and of course, reward yourself with the true Napolitano pizza, she adds.
For those who are planning their return to Italy and are looking for a new adventure, try vacationing with the Italians on the eco-friendly island of Sardinia or the beautiful beaches of Calabria, Santoro recommends. “Both locations have grown in popularity due to its consistent warm and sunny weather and wonderful cuisine.” They are also well known as the location where you may catch Italian celebrities cruising around the city on a Vespa.
Just 30 minutes from Florence, this is the location you visit to enjoy a Bistecca alla Fiorentina, the traditional dish of Tuscany, Santoro says. “With just a coffee bar, wine shop, and restaurant in town, this is the perfect place to take an early evening stroll with locals.”
This is a very charming mountain-top town that has a wonderful Enoteca, great food, and season festivals, Santoro says. It represents one of the most important walled castles in the territory, according to Discover Tuscany, and the current look is pretty much the original one. It has incredibly preserved an intact structure. The intact fortified wall presents 14 towers. There are two gates, one facing Rome and the other heading toward Florence.
This is where you go for a beautiful, non-tourist island escape. “The waters are unlike any other location in Italy,” Santoro says. Some refer to the place as the “secret island of Italy.” Ponza is a small island, with small towns, beaches, fisherman, and good food, according to Italy Beyond The Obvious. You won’t find big foreign crowds in this beautiful place with a laid-back island life.
“This is a colorful fishing village with private beaches and great seafood,” Santoro says. It is also one of the spots they filmed Il Postino (The Postman), which is the famous Oscar-winning movie from 1994, and The Talented Mr Ripley. Procida is a perfect day-trip destination with several authentic attractions, picturesque views, and relaxing on a nice beach. Walk up to the Terra Murata and soak up the stunning views over the Bay of Naples.
Dating back to the 10th century, this fishing village was once the hub for a Tonnare (tuna fishing warehouse),” Santoro says. “The gorgeous buildings in Piazza Regina Margherita and the nearby nature reserves give you the perfect opportunity to first enjoy a picturesque meal and then a late afternoon swim.”
This is the charming south of Italy location that is placed perfectly by the chocolate capital of Modica and just one-hour drive from Noto and Siracusa, Santoro says. “I love staying in this friendly local town,” she adds. The small town amid rocky peaks is divided in two – the more modern-looking Ragusa Superiore, and Ragusa Ibla, the place’s historic, and absolutely wonderful, region.
“The historic town gives you the culture and cuisine of Southern Italy but with the feel of exploring a local Greek Island village,” Santoro says. Locorotondo is known for its wines and for its round about 1,000-year-old center, from which derives its name, meaning “Round place.” The beauty of the town lies in the stunning labyrinth of white alleys where the houses end with the unusual pitched roofs called “Cummerse.”