As a land of culture and history, Italy welcomes more than 50 million tourists each year. Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan fire up the admiration of the country's enthusiasts. However, the nation overflows with natural splendours and architectural marvels concealed from the more touristy attractions. Follow us in a bold getaway, on Italy's little explored paths.
Rome's antique secrets
Rome's rich historical and cultural heritage makes it one of the most attractive tourist destinations. You can admire the Coliseum, enter the walls of the Vatican or drop a coin in the Trevi Fountain. But if you wish to escape packs of journalists and well-known sites, let yourself be led off the capital's beaten tracks.
Walk up to the Monte Testaccio, an artificial mound made of testae, fragments of broken amphorae in which Baetica's olive oil was carried by sea. Today, it gives its name to one of Rome's most popular districts. Away from the agitation of holiday-makers, you'll be able to wander around the streets of this “8th hill” before enjoying its electric night time atmosphere.
Bologna la Dotta, la Rossa e la Grassa
Halfway between Florence and Venice, Bologna remains one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. Among the porticoes that link the various streets, towers and palaces, the oldest university of the Western World stands proudly in the heart of the city.
As a major urban centre since the Etruscan period, Bologna spreads over 38 kilometres of galleries interspersed with reddening columns and arcades, in the manner of brick walls and terracotta roofs. Make a stop to wonder at the admirable Casa Isolani on Via Maggiore. It offers one of the last 8 wooden porticoes still standing today. Finally, if you wish to get a grasp of the entire city – and of Emilia-Romagna while you're at it – in one glance, just climb up the Torre Asinelli, one of the city's twin towers.
Historic Naples underground
Naples was slightly off the tourists' radars till the 1960s but has become one of the country's most popular destinations since then. Visitors linger in Pompeii, Herculaneum and on the Mount Vesuvius, but if you're looking for a real change of scenery, follow us on the secret paths of the Parthenopean city.
Roam the back alleys of varied neighbourhoods, in the shadow of laundry hanging out to dry between colourful façades. Venture in the volcanic underground system of the city, on the steps of Greek and Latin civilisations with a candle in one hand and a glass of said-to-be magic wine in the other (legend has it that it was prepared by nuns for barren women). The entrance is located on 68 Via dei Tribunali, a few metres from the Duomo near the Piazza San Gaetano. Lastly, do not miss to stop by the Toledo station on the line 1 of the Naples subway, nicknamed Stazioni Dell'Arte. We'll let you discover why...
Bergamo, an artistic medieval city
We are now on the footsteps of Donizetti, romantic master of Italian opera. Eclipsed by Milan's standing, Bergamo is a medieval city perched on the Alpine foothills. It is divided between an old town surrounded by Venetian ramparts built in the 16th century, and a lower city built in the plain and housing administrative offices and modern buildings. When wintertime rears its head, the Città Alta is covered in snow and the Città Bassa drenched in fog.
Walk around the paved streets of the historical centres and large avenues that a varnish of medieval architecture subtly adorns. On the Piazza Duomo, the Colleoni Chapel, which is the city's humble baptistery, elegantly stands alongside the Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica. The Palazzo della Ragione ornates the neighbouring Piazza Vecchia. These various atmospheres and settings mingle in an artistic city hanging between heaven and earth, surrounded between mountain and lake regions and anchored in a medieval universe, only magnified with modern touches.
Burano, in the Venetian Lagoon
Your path leads you to Burano, a small village in the north of the Venetian Lagoon. It is well-known for making lace with needles and admired for the beauty of many coloured houses. Linked to the rest of the archipelago by a vaporetto, the island displays the colours of a crazy spring, an inspiration for French artist Jean Cocteau. Why is each and every façade showing a different tone? Are bold colours used as landmarks for local fishermen lost in the fog, or are they the symbols of Burano's old families? No one can really say.
Just like a fresco painted over the Adriatic Sea, Burano makes the rest of the world look faded and bland. If you had to choose only one detour among the many secrets that Italy still holds, do not miss this gorgeous island where you can daydream alongside the canals by yourself.