While many of us may have been to or heard of the major cities and regions in Italy, most people like to get a little off the beaten track and visit some smaller villages and towns to get a taste of what life is like in them. 

We’re going to give you a couple of recommendations here that you can easily visit from Rome, Florence and Palermo for a half- or a full-day trip. Of course, when you book with us, you can easily customize one of our inspirational Italy itineraries to add one of these lovely medieval towns as a stopping point. Keep reading to discover three of our favorite Italian towns this year! 

From Rome: Tivoli

We suggest a visit to the picturesque town of  Tivoli, situated approximately 20 miles Northeast of Rome and easily accessible by car, or even better by train from Rome’s Termini station. Dating back to 1215 BC, ancient Tivoli is actually older than Rome! 

With a population of just over 50k, Tivoli packs a punch with villas, archaeological sites, thermal baths, listed buildings and many great places to eat. Tivoli was part of the Grand Tour, which many rich European aristocrats took from the 17th Century when they came of age. 

Tivoli has not one but two UNESCO world heritage sites; the Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa) and the Villa D’Este. 

Hadrian’s Villa: This villa was constructed for the Emperor Hadrian at the foot of the Tiburtini Mountain between 117 an 138 AD. While there was already an Emperors Palace on the Palatine Hill in Rome, it’s reputed that the Emperor Hadrian wasn’t particularly enamored with it and decided to have his own built in Tivoli, back then called Tibur.  At one stage the residence extended over 120 hectares, today you are able to visit “only” 40 hectares. Recommended time to spend at the Villa is 2 Hours. 

Villa d’Este: A famous Renaissance villa located in Tivoli, Italy, there are several highlight sights to see including the Renaissance gardens adorned with fountains, water features and sculptures, and Neptune’s Fountain depicting the God Neptune surrounded by mythological creatures. While the gardens are definitely the highlight, a visit to the Palace and Museum are also recommended. 

Following your visit to the villas, spend some time around the historic center of Tivoli and admire the picturesque streets and medieval architecture. Finish up with lunch at a local trattoria and try some local specialties!

From Florence: Monteriggioni

Here, you are spoiled for choice with so many beautiful Tuscan towns to take a day trip to but we are going to zone in on Monteriggioni, a picturesque medieval walled town 34 miles south of Florence and approximately an hour-and-a-half bus ride. A day trip to Monteriggioni can be a delightful experience with several activities and sights to explore. A couple of suggestions for a day trip include: 

Walk the Walls: The most iconic feature of Monteriggioni is its intact medieval walls. Take a leisurely stroll along the 570-meter-long walls that encircle the village. Enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and imagine the village’s past as a strategic fortress during medieval times.

Explore the Piazza: The central square of Monteriggioni, Piazza Roma, is a charming spot to relax and soak in the atmosphere. Admire the well-preserved medieval architecture, including the Romanesque Church of Santa Maria Assunta. The square is also lined with cafes and restaurants where you can savor traditional Tuscan cuisine.

Visit Monteriggioni Castle: At the highest point of the village, you’ll find the imposing Monteriggioni Castle. Climb up the tower for breathtaking views or explore the castle’s interior, which houses a small museum dedicated to the village’s history. The museum exhibits artifacts and displays that provide insights into Monteriggioni’s medieval past.

Enjoy Local Cuisine & Wine Tasting: Tuscany is renowned for its culinary delights, and Monteriggioni offers an opportunity to savor traditional Tuscan dishes. Visit local trattorias and restaurants to indulge in regional specialties like ribollita (a hearty vegetable and bread soup), bistecca alla fiorentina (Florentine steak), and pici pasta with wild boar ragù and pair with some delicious Tuscan wine.

From Palermo: Cefalù

Cefalù is a charming coastal town located about 44 miles east of Palermo in Sicily and approximately a 1 hour train ride from Palermo’s main central station. Known for its beautiful beaches, historic architecture, and picturesque streets, Cefalù offers a delightful escape from the bustling city.

We have a couple of suggestions to make the most of a day trip there: 

Explore the Historic Center: Upon arrival in Cefalù, head straight to the historic center, which is compact and easily walkable. Stroll through the narrow streets, lined with colorful buildings and charming shops. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit the famous Duomo di Cefalù, a stunning Norman cathedral with intricate Byzantine mosaics.

Visit the Mandralisca Museum: Located near the cathedral, the Museo Mandralisca houses a diverse collection of artworks, archaeological artifacts, and natural history exhibits. Its most famous piece is the “Portrait of an Unknown Man” by Antonello da Messina, an important Renaissance painting.

Relax on the Beach: Cefalù is blessed with a gorgeous sandy beach overlooking the crystal-clear Tyrrhenian Sea. After exploring the town, spend some time relaxing on the beach, swimming, or simply soaking up the sun. You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas or find a spot on the public beach.

Enjoy Local Cuisine: Sicilian cuisine is renowned for its rich flavors and fresh ingredients. Take a break from your beach activities and indulge in some delicious local food. Look out for seafood dishes like spaghetti ai frutti di mare (seafood pasta) or delicious arancini (fried rice balls). Pair your meal with a glass of local wine or a refreshing granita (a semi-frozen dessert).

Climb La Rocca: If you’re up for some adventure and have enough time, consider climbing La Rocca, a massive rock formation that overlooks Cefalù. The hike takes around 45 minutes to reach the summit, where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the town and the coastline.

With these gorgeous historical towns resting on the perimeter of great metropolitan areas, a visit is not only feasible, but perfect for a leisurely day trip. Is there one that’s calling your name? Let us know! And don’t forget to browse our inspirational Italy itineraries below to get started on a stunning Italian vacation.

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