Awesome Italian towns 15

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A while back we wrote about great hill towns of Italy, this is a continuation of sorts with five more towns we enjoy visiting and hope that you will add them to your Italian itinerary, if you haven’t already.


A short drive from Orvieto is the tiny lakeside town of Bolsena. During the summer it is a bustling vacation hot spot with beaches, boating, food and fun.

Favourite Italian towns

It is also the place where we had one of our most spine tingling church visits ever at the Basilica of Saint Christina, visiting the tomb of Saint Christina and the ancient catacombs. A conglomerate of chapels, this church has so many stories to tell and amazing works of art, it is truly a hidden gem and incredible to visit. The rest of the town is a wonderful mix of medieval and modern with a number of shops and restaurants. The delicacy of the area is the coregone fish from lake Bolsena. A type of white fish, it is wonderful served simply grilled with lemon.


Montepulciano is one of my favorite hill towns to wander. Its beauty starts as you approach the town with its stunning silhouette rising before you against the rolling Tuscan hills. The spiraling town road winds its way to the top from a parking lot where you leave your car. We have never visited without stopping at Antico Caffe Poliziano for a coffee and a treat. They’ve been around since 1868 so you know they’re doing something right!

Favourite Italian towns

At the top, in the main square, sits the beautiful cathedral, town hall and one of the oldest wine producers in Italy, still producing wine from their family castle, Cantina Contucci. 100% of the production and storage of their wine has been done in the many basements below the castle for over 1000 years and 41 generations. You can visit the cellars for a tasting and buy a bottle to take with you, keep an eye out for the entrance on your walk to the top.


It was love at first sight when we set eyes on Todi, sitting in the lush green of the Umbrian countryside. From the parking lot at the base of Todi jump onto the tram that whisks you up to town level and out into a beautiful park with an epic view of the town and valley below.

Favourite Italian towns

Stroll into the main town square and you will immediately be impressed with very grand architecture and the spacious square hidden within. Setting off to explore, the town quickly dissolves into narrow winding roads with shops and restaurants and a steep staircase leading to the Basilica Concattedrale di Maria ss ma Annunziata at Todi’s highest point. Dining in Todi is another treat with a fantastic choice of places to eat serving some of Italy’s best olive oil and more fantastic local wine.


The walled hill town of Barga in the Serchio valley has a special place in our hearts. The old town is a marvel of pedestrian streets with only a handful of restaurants and shops mostly selling food stuffs and gelato. All paths lead to the duomo at the top and looks out across the valley.

Italian towns

The forests are filled with mushrooms, chestnuts and wild boar clinging to the marble peaks of the Apuan Alps. Ancient hiking trails connect all of the tiny mountain villages making the area a hiker’s delight. A special bonus of some of the best water on the planet, filtered through marble from deep springs below to many public taps and fountains you can find along the trail.


Sometimes overlooked for Pisa and Florence, Lucca is a wonderful alternative to add to your itinerary. The Centro Storico is accessible by foot only and has a ton of things to see and do including a couple of towers to climb, with a reward of stunning panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Italian towns

Cafes, bakeries and restaurants are around every corner and hidden on every street so if you’re hungry Lucca will satisfy. Lucca also hosts an awesome summer music festival and has more churches to visit than most Italian towns, some recently renovated and all offering something fantastic in architecture, art or history.

Have you visited any of these towns or are there others you would add to this list?


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About Nat and Tim Harris

Together for close to a quarter of a century, A Cook Not Mad‘s Tim and Nat have indulged their passion for life and experience to the fullest, but they feel most alive when traveling, cooking and eating. An award winning chef, Tim has dedicated his life and career to cooking and the pursuit of honest food. As a professional photographer, Nat records their adventures with incredible pictures of everyday life and the extraordinary. They believe that everyone should get to know a culture by learning about the foods they eat and living like locals as much as they can.

15 thoughts on “Awesome Italian towns

  • Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    We’re hoping to travel to Italy next year and you’ve given us some great ideas of places to visit as well as avoid the crowds and just enjoy soaking up the ambiance and beauty of the old cities. Montepulciano sounds lovely and I’d love to wander the catacombs at the Basilica of Saint Christina in Bolsena. Gorgeous photos!

  • Julie Dawn Fox

    They all look adorable, Michael. I wouldn’t know which to pick but Montepulciano might be a winner!

  • Michele Peterson

    This spring I made it to Perugia ( which was gorgeous with its underground streets) but I’d love to go to Lucca…it’s long been on my list as I’ve heard it has some great language schools.

  • The GypsyNesters

    There are so many fantastic towns all across Italy, it’s hard to go wrong stopping at any of them. Would love to see Montepulciano, it is one of our favorite wines.

  • Leyla Giray Alyanak

    What amazes me about Italy is no matter how many times you visit or how many new places you discover, it’s a country you can discover for the ‘first time’ every time. I have perhaps been a dozen times but no, I haven’t visited any of these towns and judging by these lovely photographs, I should…

  • jane canapini

    You had me at ‘Italian’! There is so much in this country that many travellers overlook, especially some of these smaller places that are not just picturesque, but where people live real lives not centred only on visitors. Now I need to go back…. 😉

  • Justina

    Beautiful towns! Italy is one of my dream destination. If i will get a chance to spend more time in Italy, I would like to visit all of these, but specially would go for Barga. Thanks for sharing.

  • Lisa Barr

    We’ve been to all of the towns on your list. We’re heading back to Italy (mostly Tuscany, with a few days in the Langhe) in September and planning to spend 3-4 days in Lucca this trip. We’ve been there several times, but only on day trips, so we want to really explore the town in depth. Hoping to get back to Barga while we are there, which is a lovely spot, although we’re also thinking about a drive through the Lunigiana, which we’ve never visited. So many places to see!

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