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The beautiful country. Italy has deserved this name thanks to its mild climate, extraordinary natural landscapes and unique cultural heritage in the world. Among the many beautiful places to visit in Italy there are some that are able to perfectly combine the beauty of the landscape and the historical value they represent: they are traces of a past that no book can tell better than a walk through the flavours, colours and the smells of ancient villages. To protect this wealth that makes the Peninsula one of the favourite destinations for travellers from all over the world there is “I Borghi più belli d’Italia”, an association that annually classifies the Italian villages and adds new treasures to the list. Romantic and characteristic, these places that often have very remote origins, risk being forgotten or abandoned. But the watchful eye of tourism does not lose sight of these small villages, entered by right in the list of the most beautiful places in Italy.
Ranking of the most beautiful villages in Italy: glimpses of pure beauty steeped in history
The village was born as a nerve center for the activities of the territory. A village is defined as a village with a limited number of inhabitants, no more than 6,000 and with an architectural and natural heritage certified by the Superintendence of Fine Arts. According to the last census the Italian villages to visit are 271 scattered throughout the Peninsula, with a greater concentration in Umbria, a region that counts 28. List them and describe them all would be really impossible and then we go to the discovery of the 10 most beautiful villages in Italy, protagonists of a special ranking in continuous evolution. Here, among stones laid thousands of years ago, and roads that do not prevent the spontaneous flowering of nature, the hands of the clocks continue to flow, but life has the beautiful and wise face of those sitting in front of the house and tells old legends . Stories of a bygone era, but removed from oblivion by every step that rests on these streets, in search of the infinite wonder held between alleys and walls, between roofs and lighted fireplaces, between typical dishes and mythical tales.
Gradara (Marche / Emilia Romagna)
Just under 5000 inhabitants and 142 m above sea level. Strategic position and breath-taking views. Between the provinces of Pesaro and Urbino stands what has been defined as the most beautiful village in Italy: Gradara. On the landscape of the small town stands the Roccaforte, mentioned among the most beautiful castles in Italy. Malatesta, Sforza, Della Rovere: the great families have alternated their dominion over this characteristic little ancient world. The village of Gradara is gathered between two walls to protect at best this crossroads of traffic and people, the nerve center of antiquity. The beautiful landscape surrounding the village was the setting for one of the most famous love stories in the world, made immortal by Dante Alighieri: here the unfortunate Paolo and Francesca loved each other, of that “Amor ch’a nullo amarto amar perdona” , of that love so strong as to end in tragedy or, better, in legend. In Gradara crafts are still widespread, such as the workmanship and the art of ceramics and majolica. And between a walk and the other in the history of this magical village is a must forked “bigol“, spaghettoni hand-made seasoned with porcini mushrooms from Montefeltro or with meat sauce from the Marche region. A perfect destination for lovers, every place and every time.
2. Castroreale (Sicily)
At 52 km from the city of Messina the village of Castroreale occupies the scene and the sight of the curious tourist. It is included for certain in the list of countries to be visited in Italy. To change forever the fate of the small village was Frederick II of Aragon who, in 1324, placed here one of his courts ordering the construction of the castle. Churches of considerable workmanship and prestige alternate between the streets of this miniature city reality. There are also many panoramic points, from which observe the splendid panorama of the land of Sicily. Traditions are the protagonists in every corner: the inhabitants of the village of Castroreale keep alive the ancient professions and craft activities of the past, such as weaving, the cultivation of silkworms, ceramics and sculpture. 2500 inhabitants and many bakeries and biscuits factory where you can taste one of the typical products of the area: U biscottu da Badissa with anise. A real balcony overlooking the Aeolian Islands.
3. Bobbio (Emilia Romagna)
One of the most beautiful Italian medieval villages stands on a slight elevation on the left bank of the Trebbia river, in the province of Piacenza. Various populations followed one another in this territory: Ligurians, Celts, Romans. The San Colombano Abbey is the original nucleus of this characteristic place: around the convent were built schools, houses, shops, in short everything that makes a village. Medieval architectures are still intact, evidence of a past that is not cancelled out. The symbol of the village of Bobbio is the Ponte Gobbo (or Ponte del Diavolo), built entirely of stone in Roman times with 11 irregular arches, the humpbacks, from which you can admire the surrounding landscape. The shops of the historic center are a triumph of art, tradition and culture: among the shelves are wines, jams, honey, salami and bakery products, all strictly organic and locally produced. Porcini mushrooms and truffles, then, await the more adventurous travellers who, in addition to the town’s souvenirs, want to take home a good harvest.
4. Furore (Campania)
“Furore, neverland, the non-country town, with its inhabited area scattered on the sides of the mountain overlooking the sea, is offered in small doses, let itself be discovered with flirtatious reluctance.” So the mayor Raffaele Ferraiolo presents this small village just off the podium of the most beautiful villages in Italy. The place was founded by a group of Roman families who took refuge in the Lattari mountains to escape the barbarians, building an unassailable stronghold. Thriving maritime businesses and primitive forms of industry developed along the coast of the town, 300 m above sea level. 1000 inhabitants scattered on the rocky slope, among olive trees and vines, and the path of steps that leads to you with the waves. In the days of flood the fury of the water breaks against the cliff: the sea let feel itself, with all its Furore (en. rage) . Before the eyes is opened the view of a cluster of simple houses, clinging to the wall of Furore’s fjord, a real wound in the rock, in which the water has made space. In the mouth the flavours of the Campania region: tomatoes, potatoes, olive oil. A maritime village studded with monazenes (“warehouses”, for tools and equipment for fishing): in one of these solitary houses, the most famous, happy days spent Anna Magnani and Roberto Rossellini, living their story of tormented love and intense passion, in one word: Furore.
5. Monte Isola (Lombardy)
A green mountain in the middle of Lake Iseo, the highest island of European lakes. 11 inhabited areas for a total of 1740 inhabitants. From the points of contact with the mainland to the top of the mountain there are: Peschiera, Sensole, Port of Siviano, Carzano, Siviano, Menzino, Olzano, Masse, Cure and Senzano. No car is allowed to pass here, residents move on foot, with bicycles or with the comfortable 30-seater shuttles that connect the hamlets. The old paths, the mule tracks, wind along the territory of the small town, to discover the characteristics of a millenarian peasant culture. Small churches, squares, white stone houses, arcades, courtyards and enchanting views. Needless to say, here we live by fishing: the food is donated directly from the sea and crafts are linked to the activities of fishermen. Every hamlet of this municipality has its history, its peculiarities, its traditions: together they form one of the most beautiful countries in Italy, to be lived first and then photographed, to try to impress the soul in a snapshot and stop the memory of an unforgettable journey.
6. Bagnoli del Trigno (Molise)
The origins of this Italian village in the province of Isernia are shrouded in legend: according to someone, the city was founded by a Duke who had quenched himself in the waters of Trigno, according to others the town would have developed from a thermal spring, others still speak of a shelter for tribes fleeing from barbarian invasions. Of course there is that before arriving today, this town has passed from hand to hand. The “Pearl of Molise” has just 700 souls, a jewel set among gigantic rocks, like a perennial nativity scene, illuminated at night by the light of the moon and the many small lights of the houses. The ideal place to unwind from the chaos of the city and enjoy a walk through quiet alleys, typical streets, and enchanting views. Piazza Olmo, Fonte Vecchia, la Casa Romana e il Ponte dei dodici archi di Carovilli await curious eyes that want to marvel in wonder. Lovers of red nectar cannot help but sip Tintilia del Molise, a DOC wine produced in this area, a further reason to visit one of the most beautiful Italian medieval cities.
7. Stintino (Sardinia)
Any picture taken here immediately becomes a postcard. In the province of Sassari, between fine white sand and light blue-turquoise waters, there is one of the most beautiful Italian villages. Stintino once welcomed the fishermen who sought refuge after the Asinara was turned into a penal colony: a paradise for lovers of the sea and unspoiled nature. Beaches to relax in the summer, during a tour in the most beautiful Italian islands, but not only. Stintino is also rich in history and culture: on the islet stands the Torre della Pelosa, an Aragonese tower from the 16th century and the imposing ancient tonnara, which has now become a splendid seaside residence. Coves and cliffs that can only be reached by boat alternate with little roads and paths to access the mysterious and fascinating hinterland. The main ingredient of local cuisine is fish, in all its flavours and all its forms. Among the typical dishes of the place it is a must to taste the potato and lobster soup, the octopus in garlic, the octopus alla stintinese (an octopus salad with potatoes, vinegar, parsley and onion) and among the desserts the tumbarella.
8. San Giorgio di Valpolicella (Veneto)
San Giorgio di Valpolicella is located in the municipality of Sant’Ambrogio, in the province of Verona. A small Italian town practically carved into the limestone rock that constitutes its surface and structure. The landscape of the village looks like a stretch of vineyards, olive trees and quarries. The small houses seem to come out naturally from the stone, traces of a past that finds its place in modernity. This natural fortress can only be reached after a long and tiring journey: from this derives the nickname of the village, “ingannapoltron“, or “deceives the lazy”. The main activity is the extraction and processing of marble, the famous Rosso Di Verona, but we are very dedicated to the cultivation of the vine. Valpolicella, Ripasso, Recioto and Amarone are born in the hills surrounding San Giorgio di Valpolicella.
1083 inhabitants in the province of L’Aquila. The foundation of this ancient village dates back to the 10th century: from then on it grew its reputation as Universitas Sui Domina (self-governing community), a motto that appears on every coat of arms of the town. Pescocostanzo knew how to redeem itself from feudal rule, and became the land of juridical, philosophical, historical, mathematical, literary studies and a noteworthy cult of art. Among the shops of this village, the traces of the first craftsmen able to create works in stone, marble and wood are lost. The production of bobbin lace, that of filigree and wrought iron, is very characteristic. At 1400 meters above sea level you can even ski, and that is why Pescocostanzo is home to one of the most popular Italian ski destinations in the world. Tranquillity, relaxation, sport and a nice plate of tacconi with orapi, maltagliati with wild spinach and anchovies, for the layman.
Sesto al Reghena (Friuli Venezia Giulia)
On the border between the province of Venice and that of Pordenone, there is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, totally dominated by the majestic Benedictine Abbey of S. Maria in Sylvis, dating back to the VIII century. Around this convent developed the inhabited center, which today has almost 7,000 inhabitants. The village preserves all the charm of the past, in its places where history and culture go hand in hand: at the fountain of Venchieredo, in the uncontaminated rural landscape, the writer Ippolito Nievo set some pages of his most famous book, Le confessioni d’un italiano. A place that welcomes the curious tourist to the sound of local flavours: to taste the typical “bussolà” (butter and egg cookies) and the guinea-fowl breast with radicchio, raw ham and peasant potatoes, traditional dishes that are the envy of restaurants starred most listed.
Far from the most famous destinations, from the most chosen itineraries, from the most beaten paths, there is an Italy to discover, made of little streets and surprises around the corner, of houses overlooking the sea and wild nature, historical architecture and flavours family. Italian villages, nostalgic pearls of hidden beauty, offered only to those who can see beyond, to those who do not live in appearance, but want to aim at the heart of Italian culture and history.