Italy Less Traveled
Italy is a perennial favorite for American travelers. It’s so popular that more than 2 million of us travel to the bel paese every year. Many first-timers hit the big three of Rome, Florence and Venice. Those with a little more experience take the lake country and the cosmopolitan city of Milan, while mixing in some of the Tuscan towns and countryside outside Florence. No matter how many times you go, it’s virtually impossible to see all of Italy. As Giuseppe Verdi famously said, “ You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” These are just a few of the places more seasoned travelers who have already covered the basics can see.
These mountains of the southern Alps separate the Romance world of the peninsula from the northern Germanic parts of Europe. Where they mix is a fascinating region of cultural intermingling and oh so much great skiing. Cortina d’Ampezzo hosted the 1956 Winter Olympics and is poised to host the alpine events in conjunction with Milan’s urban base for the 2026 games. Boutique Virtuoso-preferred resorts Hotel Rosa Alpina and Lefay Resort & Spa Dolomiti are the perfect places to set up your home base and get a feel for “The Sound of Music” with an Italian accent.
Puglia & Basilicata
The heel of the boot was a favorite summer getaway of the ancient Romans, but long overlooked by modern visitors to Italy. The wedding of Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel at Borgo Egnazia in 2012 helped change that, and travelers soon discovered the charming towns such as Alberobello, which is full of traditional stone huts with conical roofs known as trulli. While Puglia has the most coastline of Italy’s regions, Basilicata features the ancient cave dwellings of Matera known as sassi. The ancient look has allowed Matera to stand in for any number of ancient sites on film.
Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean, trailing only Sicily. Just like Sicily, a lot of different civilizations at one time laid claim to Sardinia, and this history is reflected in the diversity of languages and the official recognition of Sardinia as an autonomous region. The Costa Smeralda is a 12-mile stretch of surf and sand that has developed into one of the poshest places in Europe. The rest of the island is idyllic, filled with 4 million sheep and many agritourismi. There are ancient — as in 3,000 years old or more — fortresses known as nuraghi in strategic positions around the island. A visit to Sardinia most definitely encapsulates the old and the new.
At the southern end of the Gulf of Naples, off the Amalfi Coast, Capri is a popular destination known for shopping, grottoes and incredible views. Less well known is Ischia, Capri’s neighbor at the north end of the gulf. The volcanic island’s hot springs make it a great spa destination, as attested by Virtuoso-preferred Terme Manzi Hotel & Spa and Mezzatorre Hotel & Thermal Spa. It’s also much more laid-back than glitzy Capri, which has been famous for a couple of millenia.
A sort of junior Tuscany with all of the beauty but way fewer crowds, Umbria occupies a swath of central Italy just south of Tuscany and boasts vineyards and olive orchards of its own. Hill towns don’t get more charming than Assisi and Citta di Castello. Norcia preserves plenty of history from the Renaissance and earlier, and Orvieto holds a treasure trove of Etruscan and Roman artifacts. Capital city Perugia played an interesting role in the Italian Wars and in modern times has made a name for itself in the world of chocolate thanks to its signature Baci (kisses).