8 Small Italian Towns You Need to Visit

8 SMALL ITALIAN TOWNS YOU NEED TO VISIT

The Streets of Vicenza, Italy
A beautiful backroad in Vicenza
The Streets of Asolo, Italy
A street in the hilltown of Asolo

There’s nothing I love more than charming facades, winding narrow streets, and a charisma you can only find in small Italian towns. If you’ve ever met me, there’s little chance I haven’t lit up with excitement and raved about my time living in the little Italian town of Italy. No trip to Italy is complete without a visit to the world-renowned cities of Rome, and Florence; but there is something about little Italian towns.

You could spend a lifetime finding beautiful small Italian towns, but here are a few that I fell in love with. Despite their size, these locations are chock-full of sights to see and places to explore – without the crowds! With compact city centers, enchanting side streets, and hidden gems at every corner, these towns have a magic you won’t find elsewhere. They’re also perfect for day trips or short stays! Here are my top picks for small Italian towns you need to visit…

VICENZA, ITALY

an enchanting historical center

Vicenza is the most beautiful place I have ever lived, and probably ever will live. From the Fiume Retrone river that ran outside my kitchen window, to my favorite people-watching spot from the columns of Piazza Dei Signori, Vicenza is far and away the most enchanting small Italian towns I’ve ever seen. Read more about how living in Vicenza changed my life.

No trip to Italy is complete without a trip to the Veneto region. Moreover, there is an unfathomable amount of history, culture, and beautiful cities in this Northern region of Italy. I highly recommend making a home base in Vicenza and venturing out to the nearby cities as day trips. Vicenza is smaller, quieter, and far less touristy than nearby Venice, Padova, and Verona. In addition, it’s a wonderful place to meet locals, visit incredible architectural landmarks, and venture out into the countryside.

Furthermore, it is very affordable to find accommodations here. Even in the city center, odds are you can find an entire apartment to yourself from between 40 to 100 euros a night. Check out a few Airbnb stays I handpicked for their prime locations in the heart of the city.

Small Italian Towns
Vicenza's Retrone River - I used to live in the apartment on the left!
Small Italian Towns
Piazza dei Signori

Everything You Need in the City Center

Vicenza does not lack in the realm of art, culture, and architecture. Go see an opera at the Teatro del Olimpico, explore the art collection in the Palazzo Chiericati, and hike out to see the Villa Rotunda. All these landmarks feature works by the infamous Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.

On Thursdays there is an open-air market in the piazzas around the Basilica Palladiana. The squares are filled with white tents and vendors with anything from fresh herbs, to art, to clothes. If you’re the outdoorsy type, you will absolutely love the endless options for bike rides through picturesque landscapes that surround the city. The nearby Parco Querini is the perfect spot for a picnic.

And lastly, take advantage of Vicenza’s prime location. Go on day trips: Venice, Padova, and Verona are all less than an hour train ride away.

Art History and Culture

Vicenza does not lack in the realm of art, culture, and architecture. Go see an opera at the Teatro del Olimpico, explore the art collection in the Palazzo Chiericati, and hike out to see the Villa Rotunda. All these landmarks feature works by the infamous Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio.

On Thursdays there is an open-air market in the piazzas around the Basilica Palladiana. The squares are filled with white tents and vendors with anything from fresh herbs, to art, to clothes. If you’re the outdoorsy type, you will absolutely love the endless options for bike rides through picturesque landscapes that surround the city. The nearby Parco Querini is the perfect spot for a picnic.

And lastly, take advantage of Vicenza’s prime location. Go on day trips: Venice, Padova, and Verona are all less than an hour train ride away. Need somewhere to start for planning your trip to Venice? Check out my post on Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Venice!

The Villa Rotunda - Vicenza, italy
The Villa Rotunda - a 20 minute hike out of the city center
Small Italian Towns
My favorite people watching spot in the world

Treviso, Asolo, and Bassano del Grapa

A tour of the veneto's best small italian towns

And speaking of day trips out of Vicenza – you can easily make a day trip to see my favorite small Italian towns in the Veneto.

One of my favorite parts about living in the Veneto was the huge abundance of charming, sleepy little hill towns that fill the area. The places to explore in the region are endless but here are three that are definitely worth seeing.

Getting out here via public transport can take a little bit of time and planning in advance. If you’re wanting a little more flexibility, one option is to rent a car, hop on the SR53 Autostrade and spend a day or two exploring the small towns and villages in the area. You’ll be able to pick out the castles, churches, and medieval walls from the highway.

The Veneto Hillsides
The rolling hillsides of Italy's Veneto region

But if renting a car isn’t something you’re wanting to deal with, it is completely doable to get out to these towns via public transport. From Vicenza you can take a train to Treviso (about an hour journey for about 8 USD). In Treviso you can catch a bus to Asolo (another hour-long journey). After visiting Asolo, there is another bus to Bassano del Grappa (also about an hour). From there it’s just an hour-long train ride back to Vicenza. Be sure to check time tables ahead of time and plan accordingly – especially when the last train of the day runs. Read more about the apps I use to make traveling through Europe a breeze.

TREVISO

Small Italian Towns
Treviso's picturesque canal

One of the most memorable of Italy’s small towns – Treviso is hugely underrated in my book. To start with, it features canals that give it the same enchanting character you find in Venice (minus the crowds). Treviso also has beautiful medieval walls and gates that enclose the city center. The waterways, bridges, and waterwheels that you’ll stumble upon at every turn seriously make for the ultimate fairytale backdrop. Be sure to check out the Isola della Pescheria – an island fish market. And another great stop? This town has one of my favorite museums, the Museo Bailo. It’s a must-see for any art or archaeology lover!

asolo

The Streets of Asolo, Italy
A street in the hilltown of Asolo

This is probably one of the tiniest of the small Italian towns I’ve stopped into but it is one hundred percent worth a visit. The views that surround this hill town are absolutely unparalleled, and a visit to the fortress at the peak of Mount Ricco will have you feeling like a character in a medieval fairytale. You’ll find the locally-owned restaurants and cafes here are concentrated in the town center, and a perfect stop for lunch. Visit the cathedral, the Villa Barbini-Rinaldi, and the Roman Aqueducts, for a taste of Asolo’s rich history.

The streets of Asolo are lined with beautiful porticoed walkways and charismatic shops and storefronts. There is something about the quiet charm of this town that has left its mark on me ever since I visited.

The hillsides of Asolo, Italy
The beautiful hillsides of Asolo

Bassano Del Grapa

I absolutely adored this little Italian town for its quirky Alpine character. I’d describe it as a distinctly Italian town with the flavors of Switzerland mixed into its streets and building facades. It is a prime location at the foot of the Alps near the Swiss border. The Brenta river crosses through the middle of town and is spanned by the covered wooden Ponte Vecchio bridge (also designed by our beloved Andrea Palladio!)

Ponte Vechio - Bassano del Grapa
Ponte Vecchio over the Brenta River

This is a perfect spot to end a day of exploring the Veneto. Piazza Garibaldi in the heart of the city is one of my favorite public squares in Italy. There are lots of side streets to wander down in search of a place to stop in for dinner. And of course, because the town is named for it – try Grappa. I mean, if you can. I took one shot and I was seriously out of commission for the day. This stuff ranges from 35-60% alcohol by volume and is not for the faint of heart.

Small Italian Towns
This town is full of Alpine quirk and charm
Small Italian Towns
A charming piazza in the city center

SIENA

small italian town meets medieval fantasy

Siena is one of those places that leaves you feeling like you’ve been swept away to a different time. Firstly, this timeless hill town is filled with beautiful narrow streets, enigmatic aquifers and archways, breathtaking viewpoints,  a stunning cathedral, and the infamous Piazza del Campo. Secondly, the medieval architecture here seems virtually unscathed by any signs of modern development. As a result, the streets that surround the city center are complete devoid of cars, making it the ultimate pedestrian friendly zone.

Moreover, Siena is doable as a day trip if you are staying in Florence for a few days. Catch the bus that departs from Florence’s main train station and you’ll be whisked through the Tuscan valley and to this beautiful town in about an hour’s time.

The skyline of Siena, Italy
The beautiful Sienese skyline

THE PALIO

Siena is most famous for the Palio horse race that is held twice a year. It is a hugely anticipated event by locals, and is steeped in a culture of rivalry, and accompanied by a tradition of ceremonies and rituals. Siena is broken up into 17 districts, or contrade. Each contrada enters a horse into the competition, spending months preparing in advance – and months after celebrating if they win. 

The event itself is held in the Piazza del Campo – where crowds pack the center and the surrounding buildings to watch the horses speed around the perimeter. If you have the chance to visit on its scheduled dates of July 2nd and August 16th, it is seriously a once in a lifetime event to witness.

Siena's Hidden Gems

One of my absolute favorite things to do in Siena is to pick a contrada to explore and go on a bit of a scavenger hunt. Within each contrada you’ll find a complete community with its own museum, church, and stable, with architecture adorned with ornamentation that touts their mascot animal. My favorite of Siena’s mascots has gotta be the unicorn, or the snail. Ha. See if you can find all the key buildings in each district, and where they managed to sneak the mascot animal into the building designs.

Hillsides - Siena, Italy
Get lost in the enigmatic Sienese contradas

Siena's beachfront

Siena’s main square Piazza del Campo is a public space unlike anything I’d seen before and it’s considered one of Europe’s best medieval squares. From the way it fans out around the Palazzo Pubblico, and the way you’re funneled into the space at one of its entryways, it is truly a unique experience. Grab lunch to go and go sit in the Piazza del Campo. I’m serious, just sit. You’ll see everyone else in this public square will be doing the same. The sloped edges of this square are almost like a beachfront facing the Palazzo Pubblico, and the Torre del Mangia’s shadow on the piazza moves like the hand of a clock as the day passes.

Small Italian Towns
Piazza del Campo - Siena's beachfront

Architectural Splendors

In addition to Torre del Mangia being a landmark, it’s also a great viewpoint. The climb is definitely worth it! Siena is stunning, but what’s even more stunning is the landscape of Tuscany that surrounds this hill town. It’s six euros to get to enter the tower but it is absolutely worth it.

For architecture nerds like me, visit the cathedral. It’s one of my favorites in all of Italy. The Palazzo Pubblico is also worth a stop in if you’re an art lover – the frescoes in this building are incredible. And of course, you’re in Tuscany – do yourself a favor and try the wine!

Siena, Italy
Views from the hill of Siena
Small Italian Towns
Siena's cathedral

Como

best small italian town for a lakeside retreat

I still remember arriving in this beautiful little Italian town on the banks of Lank Como like it was yesterday. The lakefront is full of beautiful viewpoints and art installations including an avant-garde piece called Life Electric by world-famous architect Daniel Libeskind. The shores of Lake Como are a perfect place to relax by the water. 

Moreover, Como has such a memorable city center that I fell in love with instantly. Something about the bright facades and the elegant piazza paving mixed with modern street furniture and plantings gives the town a uniquely modern vibe that you don’t always find in small Italian towns. I visited on a cloudy spring day and despite some rain, I found the public spaces to be bustling with life.

Lake Como, Italy
Lake Como

A Waterfront Town

The town center is filled with beautiful squares, cafes, and shops. I love finding a cafe with terrace seating on the outskirts of a piazza to spend some time sketching or people watching. Piazza Guido Grimoldi with its view of Chiesa San Giacomo is one of my favorite stops in town, and Como Cathedral is one of my favorite 16th century facades. 

If you happen to be visiting on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday, be sure to check out the open-air market along the outskirts of the city center. Here you can also see the remains of the medieval wall that enclose the town, along with the main portal entries – both beautiful and enigmatic landmarks full of history.

Small Italian Towns
Como Cathedral
Small Italian Towns
The charismatic streets of Como

Como makes a wonderful summer holiday spot, particularly if you’re jonesing for a beach day. There are several spots around the lake where you can rent a beach chair, layout, or go for a dip. If you’re feeling like being out on the water, boat tours are also available for booking.

In addition, if you’re looking to venture out of the city center take the Como-Brunate cable car up the hillside for seriously unforgettable views of the town and the lake below. If you’re up for about a 30-minute hike – the Volta lighthouse is a great landmark in the hillside community of Brunate.

Switzerland Is Just Next Door

Lastly, if you’re looking to expand your Italy trip to include ventures into the neighboring country of Switzerland, Como is a great place to stay for a few days. The Swiss town of Lugano is about a half-hour journey by train and is definitely worth a stop by. George Clooney owns a vacation home there so it’s definitely got the ultimate stamp of approval. Both Switzerland and Italy have towns on the banks of Lake Lugano, typically with a Ritz-ier, resort-y, upscale feel. Read more about Lugano and my favorite destinations in the south of Switzerland. You’ll probably have better luck finding more affordable stays in Como – check these handpicked Airbnb stays for around 50-100 USD.

CREMA AND CREMONA

italy's film-worthy gems

Fans of the movie Call Me By Your Name – if you were wondering which town located “Somewhere in Northern Italy” was the backdrop to Elio and Oliver’s love affair, this is it – Crema. If the movie didn’t convince you to visit this enchanting town then I’m telling you now it is one of the most charming places I’ve ever visited. Crema is located in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. If you plan to stop in a bigger Northern city like Milan – I highly recommend catching a train and spending a day wandering the streets here.

Crema

Crema is one of the most quintessential and idyllic of the small Italian towns I’ve visited. I arrived here for a brief day trip with absolutely no agenda, and fell in love with the bright facades and cozy piazzas that fill this city. I spent my day exploring the beautiful baroque and renaissance churches and the many palazzos in the city center. If you appreciate Italian churches like I do – visit Crema Cathedral and the Church of Santa Maria della Croce.

Small Italian Towns
Crema - the backdrop to the film Call Me By Your Name.

Cremona

Additionally, Crema is a prime location for visiting the nearby Lake Garda, and the towns of Cremona and Bergamo. Cremona is a beautiful little village located about 45 minutes from Crema, best known for its workshops producing Stradivarius violins. For music lovers in particular, a visit to the Museo del Violino and Casa Stradivari are a must. 

Cremona also has a gothic and romanesque cathedral and baptistery that seriously took my breath away. It features a bell tower with the world’s largest astronomical clock. It’s also definitely worth mentioning that the food in this region is not only unique – but incredible. Being an agricultural center, cheese and meats are the stars of the show in most of the traditional dishes. Try a risotto, polenta, or go for a wine and cheese tasting.

Small Italian Towns
Cremona's lovely cathedral.

To be honest any list involving things I love most in Italy is always going to be incomplete because I seriously fell in love with just about every place I visited during my term living there. But I hope at the end of the day you came away with some ideas for some small Italian towns to stop in and sprinkle into your next trip – in my opinion, they are the very best part of this country.

 

Leave a comment if you have any other recommendations for small Italian towns to stop in, or if you have any questions for me. If you’re in need of any other recommendations – don’t be shy, drop me an email! See ya in the next one!

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8 SMALL ITALIAN TOWNS YOU NEED TO VISIT

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Charlena
Charlena

Hi! I’m Char 🤗 I’m a lover of all things travel, art, and design. You can find me jumping at any chance to dance, drink wine, or learn a new language. When I’m not designing buildings – you can find me drawing, painting, writing, or planning my next adventure. There is nothing more I love more in this world than discovering new places, people, and culture. Drop me an email and say hello! I’d love to be adventure buddies!

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