Italy is one of the most popular vacation destinations on the planet, and its headline attractions are world-famous. From the canals of Venice and the art galleries of Florence to the Colosseum of Rome and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, not to mention Milan’s fashion scene, Tuscany’s food, and Neapolitan pizza, Italy is packed with amazing things to see and do.
But traveling in Italy can be expensive, and following the tourist trail can sometimes be crowded and a little hectic. Sometimes, you just want to get off the beaten track and see something few other people have heard about. Luckily, in Italy, the most well-known sights are not necessarily the be-all and end-all. There are plenty of hidden gems and under-the-radar spots that offer an alternative perspective on this wonderful country. And best of all, plenty of them are free!
So if you are cruising to Rome next year and want to see a more authentic, less well-traveled side of this amazing place, here are five free and hidden gems in Italy that you can’t miss.
The Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore, Milan
While most visitors to Milan flock to see the iconic Duomo cathedral, the city has another equally impressive yet far less crowded religious landmark – the Basilica of San Lorenzo Maggiore. This beautiful yet often overlooked church was built back in the 5th century and is one of the oldest in Milan, with a gorgeous ornate interior that makes it well worth a visit. Entry is free, and you can also explore the archaeological ruins located in the museum next door.
The Certosa di Pavia, Pavia
This stunning former monastery is now a wonderful museum and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The museum complex is huge, with visitors able to explore the beautiful, peaceful cloisters, the awe-inspiring basilica, and the many artworks, sculptures, and antiques that are on display throughout.
The Cloisters of Santa Chiara, Naples
One of the least-known attractions in Naples, the Cloisters of Santa Chiara is a must-see for fans of religious architecture, as well as being a wonderful escape from the livewire excitement of the city itself. Built in the 14th century, this beautiful complex offers a peaceful oasis full of picturesque arches, columns, and gardens, and is a delightful way to discover another side to the city.
The archaeological site of Paestum, Paestum
Italy is not short of important archaeological sites, but Paestum might just be the most important of them all. This amazing site is the ruins of an ancient Greek city, founded in the 6th century BC, and its three temples are some of the best-preserved of their type in the world. The site is vast, and visitors can spend a whole day exploring the ruins, all without spending a cent.
The Villa Doria Pamphili, Rome
Rome is blessed with many amazing tourist attractions, but for value for money, nothing beats the Villa Doria Pamphili. This enormous park covers almost 500 acres and offers a wonderful oasis of peace and tranquility, a welcome antidote to the hustle and bustle of the city. Just exploring the green spaces and gardens is a treat, but the park also offers a number of gorgeous villas to visit as well.
These are just a few of the hidden gems that Italy has to offer. So next time you are planning a trip to Italy, don’t just stick to the well-known tourist spots – get out there and explore some of the country’s lesser-known treasures! You’ll have a better experience and save some money at the same time!