Off The Beaten Path: Italy
Updated: Jun 17, 2021
When you think about Italy, Rome, the cities of Milan, Venice and Florence probably come to mind, but to truly experience Italy and all it has to offer, one must venture off the beaten path. There are hundreds of lesser-known cities around Italy packed with history and culture. While visiting these cities takes a bit more planning logistically, your efforts will be rewarded with beautiful art, breathtaking views, delicious food, and amazing architecture!
Located on the Northeastern coast of Italy lies the city of Ravenna. Ravenna, a small, quiet, and well-preserved Roman city known for its early Christian churches and Byzantine mosaics, is an art history lover’s paradise. Located approximately 50 miles from Bologna and easily accessible by train. The city itself is easily walkable with the city center designated as pedestrian only.
Eight of Ravenna's churches and monuments, from the 5th-6th centuries, have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites mostly due to their intricate mosaics. An "inclusive ticket", which includes access to 5 of the 8 sites, can be purchased for 10.50 euros, and kids 10 and under are admitted for free!
While in Ravenna, don't miss the tomb of Dante, the famous poet who wrote "The Divine Comedy", who was exiled to the city before his death.
Ravenna can easily be toured in one day and is one of my favorite cities off the beaten path.
San Marino, the 5th smallest country in the world and landlocked within Italy, is a must see when venturing off the beaten path in Italy.
Located three hours by car East of Florence and perched atop Mount Titano, you will find the historical center of the country with its fortress and three towers. As you reach the top of Mount Titano, you'll be rewarded with sweeping panoramic views of the rolling hills and city below.
The city-like country is full of museums, shops, restaurants and more. Since San Marino is technically a separate country from Italy, you'll enjoy duty free shopping as well! The euro is still the currency used here and Italian and English are widely spoken by all its inhabitants.
While Verona is more well-known than the other "Off the Beaten Path" destinations, it still tops the list as a must see. This romantic city, immortalized by William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, boasts picturesque views and tons of history. Located about a half hour by train from Milan or Venice, Verona makes an easy and fun day trip!
The small crowds of tourists will flock to the Balcony of Juliet, the home of Romeo, and the Tomb of Juliet. These spots are worth a visit to simply snap a few photos, but the city holds many other treasures.
The Arena of Verona, built in 1 A.D., was Verona's response to Rome's Colosseum. It could house up to 30,000 guests and drew in spectators from near and far to watch the games and shows produced here. Now the arena serves as the main concert venue in the city where operas and today's musicians still perform.
The Duomo of Verona is the main cathedral in the city. While the facade is impressive, the interior is elaborately decorated with Verona's red marble and filled with paintings from famous Veronese artists.
The Piazza delle Erbe in the heart of Verona is lined with shops and restaurant patios great for having an aperitivi and people watching! This plaza is one of most beautiful and typical Italian plazas in the area.
Spend a day or more off the beaten path and explore all that Verona has to offer!