Beyond Italy’s famous art cities like Rome, Florence and Naples there’s a rich tapestry of smaller towns and villages to discover and enjoy at a slower and more traditional pace.

The association I Borghi più belli d’Italia, “Italy’s Most Beautiful Towns”, was created specifically to protect and promote them. Small towns with a population of up to 15,000 people can request this certification if they’re prepared to follow a long and scrupulous process that checks the artistic, historical and cultural heritage of the place as well as its local traditions, attention to sustainability and tourist infrastructure. In October 2020 four new towns entered this exclusive club, all of them from the southern and central areas of the country.

This is officially Italy's most beautiful medieval town

The first one is Tropea, also known as “the pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea,” and one of the most beloved seaside locations in the region of Calabria. It’s known for its breathtaking natural scenery and its red onions, famous both in Italy and abroad. The association also adds that “thanks to its strategic position, [it] has always had an important role, both under the Romans and then during the following conquests by Saracens, Normans and Aragonese”.

A panoramic view of Tropea's seashore
The town of Tropea is one of the most famous on the so-called Coast of the Gods, which is Calabria's Tyrrhenian Sea coast © leonori / Getty Images

The other town from Southern Italy is Monte Sant’Angelo, in the province of Foggia in the Puglia region. Sitting in the middle of the Gargano National Park, the town boasts stunning scenery as well as two Unesco World Heritage sites – the sanctuary of San Michele Arcangelo, dating back to the fifth century, and the “ancient beech forests” of the Foresta Umbra with trees that can live for up to three centuries.

A panoramic view of Monte Sant'Angelo
Monte Sant'Angelo also houses the headquarters of the Gargano National Park's administration © LisaG / Budget Travel

Moving up the Italian boot, the next town is in Lazio in the Tiber river valley from where it gets its name – Bassano in Teverina. There is evidence of people living in the area dating back to the days of the Etruscans, and the association’s website also tells of “the peculiar story of the clock tower, that was built encapsulating the clock tower of the adjacent church of Santa Maria dei Lumi”. The two structures still coexist to this day.

A picture of the agricultural landscape seen from Bassano in Teverina
Bassano in Teverina opens up on a beautiful view of the Tiber river valley © S. Vannini / De Agostini via Getty Images

Finally, there’s Monteleone d’Orvieto in Umbria, dubbed as “an island of red bricks in a sea of green”. Located in the green heart of Italy, it’s surrounded by stunning scenery which can be admired from roof terraces in the middle of the town.

A picture of the city of Monteleone d'Orvieto at dusk
The town of Monteleone d'Orvieto is filled with picturesque little streets dating back to the Middle Ages © mirceax / iStock / Getty Images

If you’d like to know more about these four towns, the others that are part of the association I Borghi più belli d’Italia or the work of the association in general, you can check out the official website here.

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