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By Valentina Pizzi
As an Italian home for the summer, I have to sigh when I see hordes of tourists heading for Rome’s Coliseum and Pisa’s Leaning Tower. That’s nothing against tourists, nor is it an insult to my country’s most famous landmarks. There are places that have much more grandeur and beauty than the traditional sightseeing spots that are left totally ignored. It’s time to uncover Italy’s hidden gems.
Firstly, the Serio Falls are an incredible destination for everyone who loves a good walk in the mountains with breath-taking views. They are located 100km north of Milan in Lombardy’s Alpine region and are one of the tallest waterfalls in Europe.
There are only selected dates throughout the summer where the dam is open, so plan accordingly. But when it is, visitors can expect to see a show of cascading water from a height of 315m! For an extra thrill why not enjoy the spectacular opening of the waterfall at night, which happens once a year. It will leave you speechless!
This next destination is not for the faint hearted. The Cesana Claviere Tibetan Bridge in the north-western region of Piemonte (also home to the city of Turin), is the longest suspended bridge in the world at 478m. For €15, the ticket includes the required equipment rental and allows you to spend an unusual day testing out your bravery.
Surrounded by nature with a rapid river below your feet, you can enjoy the hour-and-a-half walk every weekend during the months of June and September and every day during the months of July and August. Just be careful not to fall!
For everyone who thinks holidays need to be relaxing, then why not head to Tuscany? This region of Italy boasts beautiful wine, good food and the romantic city of Florence in the north, along with Pisa.
But the real hidden gem of Tuscany is the Terme di Saturnia, an assembly of natural springs with sulphurous spring water at temperature of 37.5°C that can fix all of your problems. Kidding aside, the water’s therapeutic properties are well known and the best part yet: they’re free!
Apulia, the heel of Italy’s ‘boot’, is a region of beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets. But there is also a magical town there with funny houses that offers something unique. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996, Alberobello is the picturesque place where characteristic white-washed conical-roofed houses are still part of the town. It is a total immersion back in time and the fun part is that you can rent your own trullo house to live the experience to the max.
Close to the border with Austria and Switzerland, but still in the Italian territory of South Tyrol, Lake Reschen is an artificial work in which three lakes have been unified to exploit their potential to create clean energy.
Other than the beautiful scenery, the particularity of this lake is the steeple belonging to an old church that emerges from the water. You can visit it by boat during the summer months or reach it on foot when the water freezes in wintertime. Sounds fun, right?
Love walking through Glasgow Necropolis? Then you absolutely must visit the Necropolis of Pantalica, an impressive archaeological site dating from the 7th to the 13th centuries BC. It consists of five cemeteries spread over a large area.
Located in the island of Sicily, it is believed to be the resting place of hundreds of souls since recent estimates suggests a figure of around 4,000 tombs. If you’re not afraid of ghosts and love a bit of ancient history this is the perfect destination for you!
Everyone loves Venice, but have you ever heard of Burano? Hop on a typical Venetian water bus and after a 40-minute trip you will have reached your destination. But what is so special about this little island of 2,800 inhabitants?
Burano is known for its brightly painted houses that follow a certain colour-scheme (talk about a perfect Insta-friendly spot, right?) and its lace work. While you’re there, don’t forget to spot the leaning campanile of the Church of San Martino, not quite like the Pisa Tower but still an impressive sight!
Are you someone that loves risk? Why not visit Civita di Bagnoregio, an Etruscan town positioned on top of a hill and in constant danger of destruction due to the erosion of its surroundings. No wonder it has been nicknamed ‘the town that is dying’ and has only 100 permanent inhabitants.
If you’re up for it you’ll definitely not be disappointed: you can reach the town by crossing a narrow pedestrian bridge and once on top you’ll have a stunning panoramic view of the whole Lazio region. Suspended both in time and space, it is one of the most characteristic and beautiful Italian villages.
Civita di Bagnoregio
Finally, if you’re around Naples in the summer and temperatures get too hot for you to handle, then why not dive underwater to discover the sunken city of Baia? Imagine telling your friends that you’ve been able to visit one of the world’s few underwater archaeological parks, where you can swim among steam baths’ foundations, beautiful statues and the remains of an ancient Roman villa.
Are you curious to find out why this old town is now underwater? Blame it on the Vesuvius Volcano that caused a seismic phenomenon that plunged this village below the sea level.
That’s a lot to take in and you’d be lucky to even tick a couple of these off in one trip to Italy. And of course, the ‘mainstream’ cities of Rome, Milan and Pisa have their charms. But with waterfalls, record-breaking rope bridges, towns frozen in time and underwater ruins, there’s more to this fabulous country than propping up the Leaning Tower with your pinky.