ITALY, December 9, 2017 – Continuing our leisurely look at Italy’s ten best undiscovered small towns and villages as rated by the venerable “Condé Nast Traveler,” here is our own second grouping of five.
Pietrapertosa: With a reputation as one of the most dramatic small towns on the Italian peninsula, Pietrapertosa is the highest village in all of Basilicata, a little known region in southern Italy.
Sitting precipitously on the edges of the rock upon which it is built, Pietrapertosa is justifiably known as the “City in the Clouds,” a designation that often scares and amazes visitors.
At 3,500 feet above sea level, more adventurous travelers thrill to the views of the town and its surroundings from Il Volo dell’Angelo. It is reputed to be the world’s longest, highest and fastest zipline.
More sedate visitors will enjoy visiting the countless ancient ruins here. They include a ninth-century Saracen castle, a fortification dominated by a natural arch once used as a look-out post. Today that arch offers spectacular panoramas to those who visit.
Belluno: Everyone knows about Venice. But roughly 60 miles north, slightly more than an hour’s drive from the meandering Grand Canal, sits Belluno, one of the best kept secrets in northern Italy.
Filled with Renaissance architecture, palazzi and churches, Belluno is tucked beneath the snowcapped Dolomite Mountains, rising upon high bluffs overlooking the Piave River. The result: 360-degree views that led to its Celtic name “belo-dunum,” which means “splendid hill.”
Founded sometime between 220 and 200 BC, Belluno’s geography made it strategically advantageous not only for itself but for other villages to the south. It was also an important supplier of iron and copper. In more modern times, Belluno was an important hub for transporting lumber on the Piave River.
An earthquake in 1873 heavily damaged much of the town including the cathedral. However, the campanile was spared.
Sperlonga: Most people are familiar with the island of Capri as a former hideaway for many Roman emperors, particularly the notorious Tiberius. But for the aficionado of Italian small towns, Capri contains a less well-known gem, the coastal town of Sperlonga. It sits half the distance between Rome and Naples making it more than convenient for weekend escapes.
Located near the Via Appia, or Appian Way, Sperlonga, with its lovely pristine beaches, was originally known for the sea grotto along its coast that gave the town its name.
Emperor Tiberius later embellished the grotto with a magnificent villa filled with exquisite sculptures. Today, they are on exhibit at Museo Archeologico di Sperlonga. Many of the sculptures celebrate the mighty deeds of wily Odysseus.
For taking in the best scenery, the Torre Truglia, which sits at the tip of Sperlonga’s promontory, is the best place for taking pictures.
Cefalù: When it comes to seaside small towns, Cefalù, Sicily, just an hour outside of Palermo, is one of the best. Not only is Cefalù famous for its cathedrals filled with mosaics. It is also popular thanks to its notoriety as a favorite setting for many Italian films, including the Academy Award winning “Cinema Paradiso” (1968).
Thanks in large part to the success of “The Godfather” trilogy, which has its roots in Sicily, Cefalù has capitalized on this and other films to promote its close associations with Italian film-making.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to Cefalù each year to stroll leisurely along the picturesque seafront promenade and to view the sunset from La Rocca, the city’s beloved mountain.
There is evidence of human activity in the area dating as far back as prehistoric times and, sometime during the 5th and 4th centuries BC the sacred Temple of Diana was built over an existing cistern associated with the worship of the waters.
Alberobello: It has only been in recent years that the back side of Italy’s boot has become a popular destination for visitors, particularly those interested in that country’s exquisite small towns. One of the main attractions in the region of Puglia is the tiny hamlet of Alberobello with its distinctive buildings known as “trulli.”
Trulli are traditional dry stone huts that are specific to the Itria Valley in Puglia. Typically, a trullo is rectangular building with a pyramidal, domed or conical cornbelled roof.
Roughly worked limestone boulders are collected from nearby fields, whitewashed and built directly onto the limestone bedrock without using mortar or cement.
So unique are these enchanting little dwellings that Alberobello was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.
Alberobello is great fun for a casual stroll through town and shopping. But the best overall views of the village are on the Piazza del Popolo at the Belvedere Trulli lookout.
And there you have it: a dozen new small towns (less two) to visit in your search for some of the best kept secrets in Italy and on the planet.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com). His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
Editors Note: Support Bob’s GoFundMe to give him a hand up