I’m making plans for my next trip in November if it’s possible and am looking for suggestions for new places to visit, preferably smaller towns accessible by train. Interests are history, art, wine and food. My favorites are Orvieto and Assisi. What are your favorites and why?
Have you been to Lucca? It’s charming with an ancient wall that can be used as a bike or walking path. The cuisine is still rather Tuscan but I remember an open courtyard with restaurants along the side. I stayed in a B&B in the middle of town.
Next on our list
Padova, Verona and Bologna
Lots of easy day trips by train
How about Mantova (Mantua)? Easy enough access by train and good food. And a couple Gonzaga palaces larger and more full of art than you’d expect of a smaller town that are a long but not unreasonable walk from each other. (See Mantegna and the camera degli sposi for reference). And if weather is good, I think there was bike rentals along the water (river or lake, can’t remember now). But there swans in it so definitely water of some sort.
Is there a region of Italy you're particularly interested in? Otherwise we could be naming small towns all over the map. But it's always interesting to read and dream when people explain what it is about a town that they particularly love.
When you ask for "small town", please specify what do you mean.
Assisi is a town in Italian meaning, so not capital of a province, but not so small and often with a long and important history. As town an Italian think of a size around 8'000 (small) - 50'000 (big) inhabitants.
Usually capitals of provinces are considered as "cities", like Verona, Bologna, Padua...
Can you tell us something more about where you'd like going? At least to refine the suggestions, because there are hundreds of towns suitable...
This website can give you some ideas: https://borghipiubelliditalia.it/en/borghi/ . Are mall towns and villages.
Interesting to see what people consider a "Small town". Orvieto and Assisi - I'd agree with (populations between 20-30,000)
Bologna is the 7th biggest city in Italy by population - it is bigger than Florence.
Verona is 11th - bigger than Venice.
If you allow for larger places (such as Lucca which is lovely) , then I'd include Arezzo, Pisa and Siena in Tuscany, Upper Bergamo in Lombardia and Lecce in Puglia
Much smaller places I really like include Cefalú in Sicily and the 3 parts of Castellabate in the Cilento National park in Campania.
You don't mention length of time, but emilio romagna province offers many easy access towns/cities. Base in Bologna, or the smaller Farrera, and there are numerous small cities in a 1 or 1.5 hour train ride. Modena, Verona, Padua, Ravenna, and if you want a dose of nature, rent a car and take a night or two in the Po Delta to the Adriatic Sea for some lesser trodden paths.
Treviso is 30–40 minutes by train from Venice --- we stayed there for 6 nights in September 2019 and loved it. We did have a car but also took trains and buses. Treviso has small canals and bridges, covered walkways, painted buildings, excellent places to eat, almost no American tourists, very interesting church and museum art, and a lot of car-free areas. I believe there is also a shuttle bus from the Venice airport.
Another small town we are fond of is Lecce in Puglia --- some of the best food we've had anywhere in Italy, very walkable (mostly pedestrian-only), and the Baroque church facades are endlessly enjoyable with their animals, dragons, mythical beasts, plants, and people (not usually a fan of the Baroque but the Barocco Leccese is charming). The central piazza has Roman ruins in it and there's a train museum. I don't know what it's like in the summer --- we've only been there in late October and early April.
Both towns have a lot of their old city walls remaining around their historic centers.
Thanks for the suggestions so far. I haven’t defined a region because that will be determined by the towns we decide we’re most interested in seeing and how long we stay. As to size, small in the context of historic centers as well as actual size. I’ve gone on websites and have seen dozens of suggestions but I really want to see your favorites and why you like them.
Bergamo is lovely. Oulx, a beautiful country town with hills and lakes. All the towns along the Adda are lovely as well.
Small towns can be difficult without a car, but if you have unlimited time, then I would look at Puglia (bus supplements train in this region). You will commonly find a car recommended for Marche, but again with a luxury of time, I think you will find you can access plenty--Ascoli Piceno is wonderful, as is Senigallia. Bus would be necessary for other towns.
Without a car, I find Liguria to be the easiest part of the country to access small towns. The area between the Lakes and Venice is somewhere I have not explored, but which appears to be very convenient by train.
I also find it really helpful to use a train line map to get ideas to research: https://www.italiarail.com/italy-rail-map
As a local, i'll try to give you a different input apart from the names you usually read in the forum.
If you are into wine and you are already planning to visit Treviso (or Venice), you can consider to take a trip to Cison di Valmarino, a really small town at the foot of Castel Brando. It's part of a UNESCO site famous for its wines, expecially Prosecco.
Pros: good wine, lovely cafes, pretty town, cool castle.
Cons: needs car, very small so a day is more than enough.
Take a look at Finché c'è prosecco c'è speranza if you want to know more, link: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finch%C3%A9_c%27%C3%A8_prosecco_c%27%C3%A8_speranza .
Sicily is full of breath-taking small towns. A lot of them have won the Price "Borgo più bello d'Italia" that literally means "the most beautiful small town of Italy".
Check out Taormina-Savoca-Castelmola-Gangi-Petralia Soprana-Castiglione di Sicilia...and many others. Typical sicilian style
I love Cortona! While the train station is in Camucia, there is a bus that takes you up to Cortona from the station, as well as easy taxi service. Several beautiful museums and lots of churches with amazing art! The restaurants are fantastic, too! I have stayed there twice - once with a car and once without.
I loved Verona! Great restaurants, piazzas, and a Arena older than the Colosseum in Rome!! Easy to walk around and great shops too! For the best meal of your life be sure to visit a family owned restaurant called :
Stresa, and Lake Maggiore in the north is a beautiful place to visit with lots to see and do- water taxis-boats- Borromean Islands to explore, waterfront dining- you can even take a boat to Switzerland for the day!!
Enjoy your trip ✨
Assisi is my favorite place in the world.
I'm headed to Puglia this fall & looking forward to exploring the little towns in the Valle d’Itria. Check out Locorotondo - it looks so charming.