3 Small Towns In Italy That Are Just As Beautiful As Florence

The idyllic Tuscan province of Florence, Italy, sits at the top of nearly every globetrotter's bucket list. The city's iconic Duomo, Uffizi gallery, and Renaissance-style architecture are undoubtedly a beacon for voyagers. Yet, something must be said about the small-town charm of Italy's lesser-known provinces that are just as captivating as the Tuscan capital. Italy's sundry topography is as unique as the country itself. From the towering mountains and vineyard-draped valleys of the northern regions to its southern coastal plains and lush forests, the country, as a whole, is a trove of wonders. 

Smaller cities such as San Gimignano, Alberobello, and Sorrento may host smaller populations than the larger Italian meccas of Florence and Rome. Still, their fewer numbers mean travelers are free to immerse themselves in the local lifestyle and gain a perspective of Italy that often gets lost in the country's busier regions. Whether you're seeking a quick day trip from the metropolitan cities or a weekend retreat to a remote area, consider visiting these three small-town gems.

Peruse the Manhattan of the Middle Ages

The walled, medieval city of San Gimignano encapsulates what most people envision when they think of Italy: captivating vistas of tumbling hillsides draped in vineyards. Known as the "Manhattan of the Middle Ages," this small, mountaintop city consists of skyline infrastructures encased by a circular stone wall. Arrive at the city gates, and you'll most likely feel like you're entering a fortress containing some of the world's best pizza and pasta.

Its Romanesque architecture and Gothic-style cathedrals were once the landing point for traveling pilgrims venturing to and from Rome. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the walled city preserves the history of its storied past. Spend the day getting lost down cobblestone paths and floating through outdoor markets on the outskirts of Piazza Duomo. As dusk settles in, raise a glass on the terrace of a ristorante while the sun sinks into the Tuscan countryside.

Explore the breadbasket of Italy in Alberobello

Ah, Puglia, the "bread basket of Italy!" And what makes it more of a perfect pairing is with a dash of olive oil, which the region is famous for. This southern province is responsible for growing 40% of the country's olive oil supply. Walking through the streets of Alberobello (just one of the towns in the area) is like stepping into a fairytale book with its cobblestone alleys and whitewashed cottages — known as trulli — with conical roofs. A true symbol of the Puglia region, the trulli date back to the mid-14th century and are named a UNESCO World Heritage Site to preserve this historic architectural technique. 

Farm-to-table vegetables make up the heart of Alberobello's culinary scene. While fitting for its name (which translates to "beautiful tree"), the plant-based diet can be traced back to Puglia's poverty-stricken past. Wander down any street in Alberobello, and you'll encounter dedicated artisans turning their creative passions into intricate, handwoven textiles. 

A sense of peace and happiness seems to cover the land of Alberobello, characterized by unhurried lifestyles. This relaxed rhythm is evident in the activities locals devote their time to, from live music festivals to harvesting crops and engaging with foreigners. 

Sip a glass of limoncello on the Sorrentine coastline

Beautiful Sorrento, known for its lemon groves and abundance of citrus trees, is a small coastal town on the Sorrentine Peninsula. Traditional Italian architecture combines with dramatic bluffs and the salty tang of a sea breeze. Enjoy a glass of limoncello, the product of this region's bread and butter. Alternatively, try Sorrento's signature pasta dish, Gnocchi alla Sorrentina. Both the geography and fertile climate are responsible for Sorrento's flourishing lemon harvest. While many voyagers are attracted to the rich historical roots of Florence, Sorrento is a competitive match.

Perched on a cliff overlooking the Gulf of Naples, the bubbling piazza contains an exquisite medley of local artisans passionate about their craftsmanship. Many Sorrentine locals specialize in a unique form of parquetry known as intarsia or wood paneling. Intricate designs are carefully etched into wooded surfaces such as small jewelry boxes to the large panel doors guarding Sorrento's famous Duomo.

Popular historical sites include the Sorrento Cathedral, Basilica of Saint Antonino, and Pizza Tasso. Wander down the ocean cliffs to find the Baths of Queen Giovanna. These ancient ruins are all that's left of this natural pool where it's rumored the queen would relish in her lover's attention.