5 of the best alternative travel ideas for Italy lovers

You may have visited the Colosseum, taken a photo of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and joined the tourist trail at the Cinque Terre, but there’s so much more to see and do in Italy. From sleeping in a monastery to crowdfunding the future of Pompeii, these are our alternative travel ideas for true Italophiles.

1. Visit some of Rome’s lesser-known ruins

Everyone visits the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, but Rome is full of amazing ruins, which are overlooked by most visitors. The House of Augustus on the Palatine Hill is one of Rome’s best-kept secrets, perhaps because it can only be accessed on a guided tour. The luxurious private villa of the emperor Augustus has some of the most beautiful, well-preserved artwork in the city.

The Domus Aurea – the even more decadent palace that once belonged to Nero – is not always open to the public, but there are occasional guided tours. Walking through the echoing underground tunnels of this vast palace is an eerie experience, and you wouldn’t be surprised to see the ghost of the emperor himself.

Although the catacombs on the Appian Way are a well-known tourist attraction, there are some other interesting ruins along the Roman road that often get overlooked. Visit the nearby Circus of Maxentius, or the imposing remains of the Villa dei Quintili, which once belonged to Commodus.

alternative italy villa dei quintili

2. Stay in a monastery

There are many convents and monasteries across Italy that accept guests for as little as €40 per night. Although there are some disadvantages – curfews and strict rules about pre-marital bed-sharing – convents can be a comfortable, cheaper alternative to staying in hotels. Everyone is welcome, regardless of religious belief, as long as all the rules are obeyed. Spending the night in a beautiful 15th century convent in the heart of Rome will be much more memorable than staying in a bland hotel chain. For more information about staying in convents, check out this useful guide on Reids Italy.

alternative italy monastery

3. Choose Umbria over Tuscany

Tuscany is deservedly popular, but the neighbouring region of Umbria is also worth a visit. Although there are no large cities, there’s lots to see in Perugia, and the pretty hilltop towns of Todi and Orvieto. Umbria has excellent food –  there are lots of simple, seasonal dishes with fresh vegetables and truffles – and a wine culture dating back to the Etruscans.

For a more relaxing holiday, try staying in an agriturismo such as Fattoria di Vibio near Todi. It’s up to you whether you spend the day sampling the local cuisine and soaking in the spa, or exploring nearby towns and the surrounding countryside.

alternative italy fattoria di vibio

4. Check out some less touristy cities

If you’ve already been to Rome, Florence and Venice, give the rest of Italy a chance. In the north, visit Turin (elegant architecture, excellent museums), Genoa (a lively port city with a labyrinthine city centre) or Trieste (an enchanting, atmospheric city by the sea, where you can retreat from the wind in belle epoque cafes).

Further south is Bologna, the food capital of Italy, which has a vibrant atmosphere, a great nightlife and lots of cultural events. It’s also the perfect base for exploring the rest of Emilia-Romagna, where highlights include the stunning Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna, the medieval castle of Ferrara, and the culinary delights of Parma.

In Puglia, another underrated region of Italy, visit Bari (a port city with a surprisingly picturesque city centre), or the baroque city of Lecce, which has been described as “the Florence of the south”. If you were able to cope with Naples and are looking for a city that’s equally dynamic – if a bit chaotic – don’t miss Palermo in Sicily.

alternative italy bologna

5. Save Pompeii

Here’s something you can do without even setting foot in Italy – help to save Pompeii. The non-profit organisation LoveItaly are raising funds for the restoration of a cubiculum (bedroom) in a house in Pompeii. They’ve already successfully crowdfunded the restoration of a Roman sarcophagus, and are now reaching out to Italophiles across the world, in order to preserve Pompeii for future generations. If you love Italy and are interested in supporting the country’s rich cultural heritage, why not support LoveItaly’s Pompeii project? Visiting the impressive ruins of Pompeii becomes an even more profound experience when you know that you’re contributing to its preservation.

alternative italy pompeii

Rosario Gorgone is Co-Founder of Through Eternity Tours.

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Comments (1)

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  1. Areta May says:

    Amazing that there is an outreach to save Pompeii! Hoping to make it to this spot while on our
    Cruise this summer!

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