Ten of the Best Italian Gems to visit in 2017

Here are our top picks of some of the most fascinating places to visit in Italy this year, in roughly alphabetical order. Titles and pictures link to blog posts.

  1. Sant’ Agnese and Santa Costanza: two gems outside Rome’s walls

The area around Sant’Agnese is one of the most tranquil spots in all of Rome. Here you can discover the story of the Virgin Martyr Agnes, and see the early Christian mosaics inside the mausoleum of Santa Costanza. You can also visit the catacombs underneath the complex, where there are two skeletons preserved from ancient Rome.

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2. San Giovenale: a little gem overlooking the hills of Orvieto

San Giovenale is a pretty little church on the outskirts of Orvieto where you can admire beautiful frescoes from between the 13th and 18th centuries. Outside there are lovely views overlooking the rooftops, hills and vineyards. wp_20150510_167

3. Finding the treasures of the Goddess Hera at Capo Colonna

A fascinating place near Crotone in the southern region of Calabria, Capo Colonna is the site of an ancient sanctuary to the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus. All that is left of the original structure nowadays is one single column. Several precious gifts to the goddess were found here which can now be viewed in Crotone’s archeological museum, including a golden crown and statues of a sphinx, a gorgon and a siren.

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4. Watching the sun set from Monticchiello in Tuscany

This hilltop village is worth a stop-off when you are visiting the area around Pienza in Tuscany. There are wonderful views of the rolling Tuscan hills and if you visit around August you may also get to enjoy their traditional “teatro povero” street theatre.

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5. On the trail of the nymphs in the garden of Ninfa

Ninfa is an eight-hectare landscape garden near Latina featuring a castle, a lake, ancient and medieval ruins, rivers and fountains, and a range of flowers, vegetation and trees. Hailed as one of the most romantic gardens in the world, it is only open on certain days of the year so it is worth checking if they fall during your holiday period.ninfa2

6. Villa Palagonia: the enchanted mansion of monsters

This villa in Bagheria, east of Palermo, looks like any grand mansion when you first approach it. But once you enter its grounds, you will discover all sorts of unusual creatures including goblins, monsters and other mythological figures: the eccentric world of the seventh Prince of Palagonia.

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7. A day out on the island of Procida

Procida island near Naples is less well known than its bigger neighbours Capri and Ischia but can actually make for a more relaxing day out which will probably also be more of a bargain. There are some lovely beaches to discover and a tour of the Abbey of St. Michael is highly recommended.

8. Spotting symbols in the Villa Romana del Casale mosaics

This Roman villa in central Sicily dating back to the late third century AD houses extensive and stunning mosaics that everyone should make an effort to see. Their highlights include a depiction of female athletes and a duel between Pan, the God of the Wild, and Eros, the God of Love.

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9. Spoleto: a historical jewel in the Umbrian hills

Spoleto is a lovely option for a day trip from Rome. Its top sights include the gardens of Hotel Palazzo Leti, the frescoes depicting chivalrous love in the Rocca, the Filippo Lippi painting in the Duomo and the small church of Sant’Eufemia. In the lower town you can also explore its UNESCO world heritage early Christian sites influenced by the Lombard tribe.

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10. Calabria in the footsteps of the poet Edward Lear: Stilo

Stilo is one of the most interesting towns on the eastern side of Calabria. Here you can visit the Cattolica: a small monastery used by hermits and monks who lived in caves in the surrounding hills. You can also wander through the pretty streets of the village and discover its links to Italian philosopher Tommaso Campanella.

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2 thoughts on “Ten of the Best Italian Gems to visit in 2017

  1. What about the region of Torre Pellice near Pinerolo; it was a small pilgrimage I made on my first visit to Italy in Sep 1976. My ancestors lived in the hamlet of Angrogna and many were massacred in the 1200s because they were protestants. Some survivors fled accross the Cottian Alps to Provence and sttled in the region of Merindol in the Durance valley, they had to flee religious persecution again in the 1680s and reached the Cape in South Africa in 1688. My surname still exists in the region. Do you ever travel in the North of Italy?

  2. Hi there thank you for the interesting tip. I have been doing most of my traveling in southern and central Italy, as I’ve been based in Rome and keen on seeing that area. I’ve written a few on northern Italy, including on Padua where I lived as a child, and some spots in Milan. I would love to do more in the North it just involves finding time. I’ll keep your idea in mind. Have you visited that part of Italy recently?

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