Lisa Owen

Italy is more than Rome’s Colosseum, the canals of Venice and the cliff side towns of Cinque Terre. If you have the time, head further into Italy to the smaller towns to discover cave houses, castles, volcanoes and medieval walls. Here are my favourite spots off the well beaten tourist path in Italy.


Matera Italy

The southern Italian town of Matera is a must do in Italy. You can get there easily by train from the town of Bari – another seaside town that has a well preserved fortress.

Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built on a ridge with canyons on either side. The first inhabitants of the city settled in caves (sassis) on the hillside and Matera is known as the subterranean city.

Matera is split into two sassi areas. As you wind your way through Sassi Barisano you can see the caves in the hills.  Sassi Barisano’s cave dwellings have seen been updated and are now filled with shops, restaurants and mainstream houses. You can capture great views of the sassis at various high points along the hillside streets.


Catania Italy

One of the world’s most active volcanoes is Mt Etna, located on Sicily’s east coast just outside the city of Catania. This is one of the more accessible volcanoes with a number of tours offered suited for all fitness levels.

Most tours offer short walks along the volcanic soil to the lower craters and then drive through the barren landscape and feature information about the volcano’s explosive history. If you’re looking for budget accommodation in Catania, head to Hostel. 



Sicily’s Taormina is a picturesque village with outstanding coastal views along a walled promenade fringed by pink flowers. The highlight of Taormina is the Greek theatre. It dates way back to the 3rd century. It’s very popular in the summer so plan to visit early.


Sirmione Italy

Sirmione is located on a peninsula at the southern end of Lake Garda. Most tourists will take a peek at the picturesque Lake Garda from the town of Riva del Garda but I found Sirmione the prettiest spot. Not only does it have the drawcard of the blue waters of the lake, but you can also visit a beautiful castle.

Scaliger Castle is surrounded by water and dates back to the 12th century. Take a look inside the castle and also explore the fortifications from the outside as they merge with the lake. The best way to see Sirmione is on foot. Wander through the quaint streets, and then go lakeside to see it in all its glory – summertime is also perfect for a swim.

Sirmione is an easy day trip from Verona. You can take a train from Verona to Desenzano del Garde and then take a short bus trip to Sirmione.

Bassano Del Grappa

Bassano del Grappa is a pretty town on the Brenta River north west of Venice. The highlight of my trip to Bassano del Grappa was the grappa tasting and the red brown Alpini wooden bridge.

The bridge dates back to 1569 and it’s a great viewpoint to see the town. Have a taste of grappa at the adjoining Poli distillery while enjoying a great view. You can reach Bassano Del Grappa easily by train from nearby Italian cities such as Padua, Verona or Venice.


Treviso is only a short train ride from Venice and can be used as a base to explore Venice for the budget conscious. It has its own attractions though with the River Botteniga flowing down through canals across the city and well-preserved city walls. The waterways are dotted with waterwheels which were once used to power grain mills. Another popular attraction is the daily fish market.

Fun fact, Treviso is known for producing Prosecco wine, and well as the place where the delicious dessert tiramisu was created.


Lucca is a fascinating small town. It has one of the best preserved medieval walls I’ve ever seen in my travels. You can walk along the top of the entire city wall encircling the city. Lucca is not far from Pisa so you can combine a visit to the leaning tower with a trip to Lucca.

San Gimignano

San Gimignano Italy

San Gimignano is a beautiful medieval town in the Tuscany region which deserves a day or two to explore its old town. It’s claim to fame is its 14 towers that were built for important families to show their wealth. A visit to San Gimignano can be combined with a trip to nearby Siena, Assisi – famous for the Assisi Cathedral – or the well known Chianti wine region. 


Alghero Italy

Jump on a plane to the Italian island of Sardinia to see Alghero. Alghero has an interesting old town and boat tours are offered from the marina to see dolphins and Neptune’s Grotto. Boat trips to Nepture’s Grotto depart regularly during the summer, traversing the bay of Porto Conte and past the cliffs at Capo Caccia.

It takes about half an hour to reach the cave then you get off the boat and have the chance to look around inside the cave at the series of stalactites and stalagmites. You might even have time to get up some of the 656 steps that lead up from the steps leading from the grotto from the lighthouse at Capo Caccio. The dramatic Escala del Cabirol or goat’s steps were cut into the cliff in the 1950s. Sunsets are also especially fabulous in Alghero as the sun lowers into the ocean lighting up the city walls.


Trento holds a special place in my heart as I aupaired near here for three months and was wandering around the town a couple of times a week. The town is well located near the Dolomites mountain range. The train ride up here from Verona is especially scenic as you travel past towering mountains. Highlights in the town are the pretty plazas and you can take a cable car from the town centre for great views. From Trento, it’s easy to head into the Dolomites for hiking or skiing. I did some hiking near Trento in early spring and there was still lots of snow on the mountaintops.

Trento Italy

Lisa Owen is a pint-sized Australian following her dreams to travel to as many places as she can, and loves to share her photography, travel hacks, hiking adventures, and food discoveries along the way. At last count, she has travelled to more than 40 countries in between working in public relations and discovering hidden gems in Australia's great outdoors. Instagram: @_thelittleadventurer Facebook: The Little Adventurer Australia

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the PDS available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.