The majority of tourists that visit Italy for the first time generally focus on the most famous destinations, such as Rome, Venice, Florence and Milan. Some of them may go to beautiful Southern Italy, reaching Naples, Pompeii and maybe Sicily.
But there is much more to see in this country that an entire year of holiday wouldn't be enough! To give you some inspiration for your next trip to Italy, we have listed our favorite 5 (+1) underrated and little-known cities in central Italy that deserve all your attention!
Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, which is one of the most beautiful regions in Italy, rich in beautiful destinations and culinary traditions (prosciutto, lasagne, tortellini, and much more...).
The historic town of Bologna is full of things to see and do. From enjoying the region's excellent cuisine in local Osterie, to exploring its wonderful monuments, such as the leaning tower of Bologna (it’s not just in Pisa!), the majestic Palazzo Comunale (also called Palazzo d'Accursio), home to the Civic Art Collection, with paintings from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, and the unfinished San Petronio Basilica (which was supposed to be bigger than St. Peter's in Rome), both overlooking the beautiful Piazza Maggiore.
Don't miss an exciting day tour of Bologna to discover all its wonderful attractions and enrich your holidays in Italy!
While in the Umbria region, why not visit another lovely place? Situated majestically on a big chunk of volcanic rock called tuff, Orvietois one of the oldest cities in Italy, whose origins date back to the Etruscan civilization.
The most important attraction of the old town is undoubtedly the magnificent 14th-century Orvieto Cathedral, built in 1290 in Romanesque-Gothic style, rich in works of art in its interior. Impossible not to be enchanted by the incredible façade, embellished with bas-reliefs and mosaics, which are believed to have influenced Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel (in the Vatican City).
At the rear of the Cathedral are the Papal palaces, austere 13th-century buildings that are definitely worth a visit. You can also immerse yourself in the timeless atmosphere of the city’s labyrinth of underground tunnels, carved 3000 years ago from volcanic rock by the Etruscans to provide escape routes for the nobility: this elaborate maze of tunnels contain grandiose rooms, stairs, caves and quarries.
This town is full of historic and artistic treasures, and you can easily discover all of them with a convenient day-trip to Orvieto, departing from Rome!
About two-hours from Rome, the town of Assisi is nestled atop a hill, in the region of Umbria. Wondering in its beautiful historic centre you will discover its Roman origin (in fact, its original Latin name was “Asisium”), testified by the many monuments such as the Temple of Minerva, the Amphitheatre, the Walls and the Forum.
But Assisi also boasts an incredible medieval heritage of incommensurable value, such as the Basilica of Saint Francis, considered the town’s main attraction: you can admire the splendid architecture and the stunning frescoes in the interior ceiling of this imposingcathedral, which is the burial place of the world-famous Saint Francis (1182 – 1226), the most illustrious of all Assisi’s citizens.
Around the Basilica of Saint Francis are lots of medieval houses and shops, spread over the narrow alleys of the town. Other not-to-miss sites during you Day Trip to Assisi include Piazza del Comune, the town centre, with its old clock tower, the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva with its Roman columns, and the Saint Claire’s Basilica, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes.
Arezzo is a city of ancient origin: it was an important Etruscan and Roman centre, becoming later a very powerful feud during the Middle Ages. Nestled in the rolling hills of Tuscany, the city offers an authentic atmosphere from the past, as well as the distinctive hospitality of its inhabitants, artistic treasures and culinary traditions.
The artistic and architectural works by Giorgio Vasari and Piero Della Francesca adorn the entire city and the influence of these artists is very recognizable in the historical centre: the portico of Piazza Grande, the frescoes in the Basilica of Saint Francis, and the Cathedral of San Donato. Another attraction of the city, which attracts visitors from all over the world, is the “Great Crucifix” (more than three meters tall) created by Cimabue, located in the Church of San Domenico.
Most of those attractions were immortalized by the cinematographic masterpiece "Life is Beautiful" (La Vita è Bella), by Roberto Benigni, who filmed a lot of the movie scenes in Arezzo. We suggest visiting those attractions with a guided tour of Arezzo, through which you will learn a lot about art and history, but you will also visit the main movie locations of “La Vita è Bella”, winner of the “David di Donatello” Award and three Academy Awards.
Twice a year, in Arezzo is held an important event called the “Giostra del Saracino”, a former competition in medieval costumes in which the knights of the four city-districts must hit the shield of the “puppet” with a spear, avoiding getting hit in turn by it. Attending this event will give you the opportunity to breathe the medieval atmosphere of Tuscany.
The city of Lucca is rich in history, traditions and culture. Its historic centre, perfectly preserved in its ancient urban structure, is still witness of the rich past of this city. Inside the walls that surround the heart of the Lucca, is an intricate maze of narrow streets, picturesque squares, ancient towers and the so-called “hundred churches”.
Lucca, in fact, is known among the cities of Tuscany because it has a high number of basilicas, churches and places of worship dating back to various different eras. Walking through the streets of downtown, you can admire the remains of the Roman amphitheater, the beautiful Piazza Napoleone and some of the former defensive towers, such as the “Guinigi Tower” - adorned atop a roof garden - and the “Tower of the Hours”, which marks the time in the city with its large clock since 1390.
Among the traditions of Lucca, we must mention that every third weekend of the month is held one of Italy's most famous Antiques Markets: over 300 vendors of furniture, ancient objects and vintage jewelry gather around the Duomo of San Martino and the nearby streets, attracting visitors from all over the world.
The lovely city of Lucca and its attractions are definitely best to be visited with a guided tour that will also give you the opportunity to eXPerience a wine tasting session, to taste the delicious local products of the city.
Not far from Rome, the wonderful Viterbo is a city with Etruscan origins that can be traced exploring its historic centre and its surroundings, rich in archaeological sites. In fact, the city was built in Roman times on the ancient Via Cassia, right in the heart of the Etruscan region called Tuscia, which remains mostly unspoiled and untouched by mass tourism.
Visiting Viterbo you will be able to discover also its medieval heritage, which can be seen all over the city, especially in the ancient walls that surround the historic center. Apart from the churches which are dotted around Viterbo, the town's sights tend to be concentrated around two squares: Piazza del Plebiscito, the main square, and Piazza San Lorenzo, the religious centre. The two are not far apart, and it's easy to explore central Viterbo on foot.
Also region’s nature is also very varied, from hills to seaside to countryside to small lakes, which makes Viterbo an ideal destination for those looking for a day trip outdoor.