If Italy is on your bucket list and you’d like to sniff around some historic sites, this article is just for you. Instead of the usual tourist meccas, why not get off the beaten track? Here are some places which are certainly worth a visit if you aim to discover traditional and rustic sites. A road trip through this country will allow you to stop by the best 15 medieval hamlets in Italy.
1. Best 15 medieval hamlets: Soave, Veneto
Our journey starts in the north of Italy, near Verona. This small community was first inhabited many centuries ago and became a fortified site during the medieval period. Among its historical gems are the Hall of Justice, the Scaligero Palace, and the Pieropan Palace. If you take a particular interest in art, then you should have a look at the XVI century paintings displayed in the Parish church of San Lorenzo. Furthermore, inside the castle, you will be able to discover some of the most important frescoes in the region. Soave is surrounded by vineyards, so look for a wine tasting experience and go for a walk to admire its views.
2. Vigoleno, Emilia Romagna
You will find this beauty in the province of Piacenza. This small village is located on top of the hills, between the Stirone and the Ongina valley. As a matter of fact, not only Vigoleno, but the entire comune of Vernasca is a pleasant location to stop by. From here, you will be able to enjoy the landscape of the valleys. While you are in Vigoleno, you should start by having a look at the main square, which has a fountain at the center of it. Then visit the XII century Roman church of San Giorgio. Its bell tower has a square base and double lancet windows. Another interesting site is the Oratorio of Santa Maria, a small building where shows and concerts take place.
3. Castell’Arquato, Emilia Romagna
This hamlet is actually not far from Vigoleno, and it is located on the hills of the d’Arda Valley. Castell’Arquato is a popular tourist attraction, especially for those who live nearby. From the top of the village, you can admire the landscape of the surrounding valleys. Furthermore, it is also famous for its historic and artistic heritage, with its religious buildings such as the Colleggiata di Santa Maria, the church of San Giovanni and the Podestà Palace. Indeed there are many sites to discover, but if you want to experience its unique atmosphere, you should consider coming when the Medieval Festival takes place. This event will be of special interest if you have kids because there are several activities, such as traditional games and archery.
4. Dolceacqua, Liguria
The Nervia river divides this hamlet into two parts, a historical section and a modern one. The Doria Castle, the ancient bridge, and the churches are worth a visit. But what makes this place one of a kind is the picturesque medieval core of Dolceacaqua named Terra. Go for a stroll and get lost in its narrow streets and covered passages. If you are particularly interested in street photography, this is the right place to take some truly spontaneous pictures. Would you like to admire some uncommon pieces of art? Go to the Pinacoteca Morscio at Palazzo Doria Garoscio. Here you will find works by Robert Duflos, Achille Cabiati, Gaston Cirmeuse, Eugenio Bonivento, and many others, including some of the founder Giovanni Morscio.
5. Best 15 medieval hamlets: Gradara (Urbino), Marche
This city is situated on a hill from where it is possible to admire a view of the sea. Gradara, about 150 meters from sea level, is a unique example of medieval architecture. Visit the Gradara Castle and enjoy the experience of going back in time. In addition to that, there’s also the Rubini Palace, an XVII century building, and the History Museum of Gradara. The latter will guide you through Gradara’s ancient tools, history, and documents which prove its importance.
6. Monteriggioni (Siena), Tuscany
You will be able to spot Monteriggioni from quite a distance because it is surrounded by Toscany’s rustic countryside and the city’s mighty walls. It is located in the core of the region, where its main features are vineyards, hills, and lines of cypresses along the roads. While you are there you should definitely walk along the city walls and visit the small museum nearby. If you have some spare time, you could also go to the “Monteriggioni in Arme” Museum.
7. San Gimignano (Siena), Tuscany
It is also known as the medieval version of Manhattan. With its towers, it dominates one of the most fascinating landscapes in the peninsula. San Gimignano’s towers, narrow streets, palaces, and churches make this an alluring site for tourists, who come from all over the world to admire its beauty. In the most prosperous of times, the richest families of San Gimignano agreed to the construction of 72 towers. However, at present time, there are only 14 of them left. Saffron and white wine, such as the Vernaccia of San Gimignano are the main products of this area.
8. Volterra (Pisa), Tuscany
You can spot Volterra by heading towards this place from the seaside, as it is located on top of a hill. The route to this hamlet is unique due to its stunning views. This hamlet is well-known for the production of alabaster and was one of the most important cities in Etruria (ancient Tuscany) during the medieval period as well as one of the main bishoprics. The historic center is the main point of interest. In fact, this is where you will find Ponta dell’Arco, Porta di Diana, and part of the city walls. All of these are from the Etruscan period. Also worth a visit is the Roman theatre and several buildings from the medieval period. For example, the cathedral, the Medicea Fortress, and the Priori Palace. Spare some time to wander around the streets and enter wine cellars and craft shops.
9. Spello (Perugia), Umbria
This picturesque hamlet rises on the slopes of Mount Subasio, between Assisi and Foligno, in the core of Umbria. Its main features are the ancient city walls, but there are several other interesting places to discover. The city is divided into three discricts: Pusterola, Mezota and Portachiusa. Spello is also well-known for wine, cereal, and olive oil production. Worth visiting are the main entrances to the city: Porta Consolare and Porta Romana dell’Arce, which date back to the Roman period.
10. Best 15 medieval hamlets: Pacentro (Aquila), Abruzzo
You will be able to find this place inside Majella National Park, which is located on top of the Morrone Mountains. It is truly the most relevant example of a traditional hamlet. What will definitely draw your attention is the Caldora Castle with its towers. These were actually a very important defensive system in the Peligna Valley.
11. Sant’Agata dei Goti (Benevento), Campania
Situated on the slopes of Mount Taburno, the core of this hamlet is truly one of its kind. In fact, its nickname is the gem of Sannio. Worth visiting is the Assunta cathedral, of the year 970 with slight changes during the XIII and the XVIII century. Inside it, you can discover important artworks as well as a Roman crypt. Then, stop by the Ducale Castle. The Longobards built the castle and later the Normans made a few changes. At first, it was a defensive structure, but it later became a residence during the renaissance period.
12. Locorotondo (Bari), Apulia
It is one of the white cities in Apulia, along with Ostuni, Cinestino and Martina Franca. Walk in the narrow streets and alleys to discover its beauties, such as the church of San Giorgio Martire and the Vittorio Emanuele square. If frescoes and art history are your cup of tea, then you should also stop by the church Madonna della Greca, which is quite interesting from that point of view.
13. Best 15 medieval hamlets: Tricarico (Matera), Basilicata
The town overlooks the valley of the Baseto River. This is the best medieval hamlet in Basilicata, as it is in good condition and well looked after. It is composed of the Arabic districts, such as Ràbata and Saracena, as well as the Norman ones, which are Monte, Piano, and Civita.
From the architectural point of view, the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral is a relevant site. Luigi d’Angiò, king of Naples, was crowned in this church in 1383. Furthermore, you should also visit the Norman Tower, which is 27 meters tall. If you take pleasure in getting to know about archeological findings, then we recommend you to visit the Palazzo Ducale.
14. Morano Calabro (Cosenza), Calabria
Morano Calabro is one of the main sites in Pollino Park, situated in the valley of the Coscile River. People also call it the crip of Pollino because of its unique urbanistic conformation, which makes it one of the most evocative locations in Calabria. While you are here, you should visit the Castle of Morano Calabro, as well as the Museum of Agriculture and Herding. Nearby, you can also find the Lavander Park, stop here and admire its views and essence.
15. Best 15 medieval hamlets: Scicli (Ragusa), Sicily
With Caltagirone, Militello in Val di Catania, Catania, Modica, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide and Ragusa, it is one of the cities in the Noto Valley which date back to the baroque period. If you watched the “Commissario Montalbano” series, then you should definitely visit this hamlet, as many of the episodes were shot here. Furthermore, what makes Scili special, are the narrow streets and the cramped houses which surround its main squares. If you want to admire the landscape from this location, you should head to the hill of San Matteo. You will also find a deconsecrated church here.
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