10 Magical Secret Places and Hidden Gems in Italy - SafeLink

10 Magical Secret Places and Hidden Gems in Italy

From its dramatic coastline to the hills of Tuscany and epic mountains, Italy is known for its beauty. When planning a trip to Italy, most people make sure to include the cities of Venice, Florence and Rome.

10 Magical Secret Places and Hidden Gems in ItalyHowever, do you know? there are still so many hidden spots you shouldn’t miss. Many of these places are short day trips from more famous locations that may already be on your special itinerary.

Here we will review 10 magical secret places and hidden gems in Italy!

1. San Galgano Abbey
Italy’s first hidden gem is the San Galgano Abbey. This short day trip from Siena Monastery and Gothic-style church is the first of its kind in Tuscany. Known today as the roofless church and the sword in the stone church, this is a magical secret place that won’t disappoint.

San Galgano AbbeyBuilt as a chapel and monastery in 1180, this hidden gem has a fascinating history when the knight Galgano Guidotti decided to give up the life of his nobility. He ceremonially thrust his sword into a rock, which can still be seen today, and lived the life of a hermit. Today the church stands without a roof and is a unique backdrop for casual and even wedding photographs.

2. Chapel of Our Lady of Vitaleta
It’s not an understatement to say this is probably the most photographed chapel in all of Tuscany. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a hidden gem in Italy. Obviously, off the beaten track, legend has it that the Virgin Mary appeared to a shepherd in this field. The chapel was built in 1533 and redesigned in the 1800’s by Giuseppe Partini.

Chapel of Our Lady of VitaletaThis ancient chapel can also be found in the Provence of Siena on the road between San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza. Follow signs to the parking lot and from there about a 10-15 minute walk. You will immediately recognize it as a sweet chapel flanked by cypress trees.

3. Saturina Hot Springs
Saturina is an ancient small town in Maremna. It has been said that Greek historians in 60 BC recognized this area as inhabited by pre-classical Greeks. Then the Etruscians came and finally the Romans. Through it all, the hot springs have been known to have healing powers due to the high content of sulfur in the water. Today people enjoy these hot springs to cure a variety of ailments or just to relax and enjoy natures healing powers.

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Saturina Hot SpringsThis is a hidden gem because it isn’t quite built up as a resort but there are some fairly new wellness spas in the area. You can visit the waterfalls or the springs but will have to change in the car. We also recommend bringing your own snacks or planning on eating in the town. If you want to explore more hot springs in the area take a look at our guide to 4 Free and Natural Hot Springs in Tuscany.

4. Passo Gardena
Located in the Western Dolomites the Passo Gardena or Gardena Pass is a hidden gem that shouldn’t be missed. This magical spot is considered one of the most scenic drives in the Dolomites. These are mountain roads but the effort to drive the pass is well worth it once you see the majestic mountain peaks rising up toward the sky.

Passo GardenaThe Passo Gardena and Dolomites are just one magical secret spot in Northern Italy.

5. Cima Cadin
While you are in the Dolomites make sure to add Cima Cadin to your must-see list of hidden gems in Italy. While much of the Dolomites have become Instagram famous, and who can blame people, Cima Cadin is still relatively unspoiled. The glory of this spot is seeing the dramatic spires that make up the range.

Cima CadinNo matter your ability there are some great ways to see Cima Cadin. By car head to rifugio Auronzo there is a private road that takes you to one of the mountain huts that is a stopping point for hikers. This road has an entrance fee of around $30. From there it is about a 30-minute walk to one of the best lookout points to see Cima Cadin.

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6. Scaligero Castle
Located on Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, Scaligero Castle is the perfect stop before or after your adventure in the Dolomites. Scaligero Castle is a magical secret spot and hidden gem known because it is the best-preserved castle in Italy from medieval times. Built in the 13th century and taken over by the Republic of Venice in 1405 this castle was also originally a Roman fortress.

Scaligero CastleWalkthrough the drawbridge and climb to the top of the castle to see the series of bridges that make up the fortified harbor and moat. You will also have some amazing views of the town of Sirmione. The experience is like walking back in time where you can imagine life long ago.

7. Santuario Madonna Della Corona
Hanging midway down a cliffside on Mount Baldo this chapel was once a place of quiet contemplation. The church itself was built in 1530 and then restored in the 1970s.

Santuario Madonna Della CoronaYou can get to the church on foot either by taking the original stone steps from the town of Brentino. This way is a little more difficult but a fun way to experience a bit of history.

A slightly easier way to reach the church is by using the modern paved road which follows bronze statues that make up the stations of the cross. Inside the sanctuary of the church is the Scala Santa which is a reproduction of the stairs that Jesus walked the day he was crucified.

8. Bogliasco
Located south of Geona on the western coast of Italy Bogliasco is a magical secret spot. You will find a town with a central piazza, walkways above the sea where you can look down on the small port with fishing boats.

BogliascoThe town of Bogliasco is a hidden gem because it can serve as a home base for visiting the more well known Genoa and Portofino. The entire area has many magical secret spots where you can experience the Italian Riviera and it’s colorful fishing villages. For a longer day trip, consider heading over to Cinque Terre the picturesque five fishing villages.

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9. Nessun Dorma
One of the five fishing villages that make up Cinque Terre is called Manarola and the location of next hidden gem in Italy. Nessum Dorma is a casual outdoor restaurant where you can look out to the pastel houses of Manarola and the fishing boats tied up below. Manarola is known for its fishing and winemaking. The famous wine from the region is called Sciacchetra and is a must-try while visiting.

Nessun DormaWhen visiting Nessun Dorma don’t expect to order pizza or pasta. Instead, be ready for traditional local cuisines such as bruschetta, antipastos, and pesto! We recommend getting their signature antipasto platter which includes meats, cheeses, anchovies, fruit, and olives. Eat the best foods in Italy while sharing a bottle of wine, gazing out at the sea, and people watching. This hidden gem truly is heaven on earth.

10. Scola Tower
Originally built by the Republic of Geona in the 16th or 17th centuries, the Scola Tower is a hidden gem that won’t disappoint. It has quite an interesting history that goes beyond the question of when it was built. During the Napoleonic Wars, this defensive site was the center of a naval engagement between the French and British. On January 23, 1800, the British Navy damaged the tower resulting in it’s neglected for many years.

Scola TowerBy 1915 the Italian government had scheduled the tower to be demolished. Fortunately for us, it was decided to instead to preserve its history and restore it for visitors to enjoy. The easiest way to see this hidden gem is to stay in La Spezia, which also happens to be a great town to stay in when visiting Cinque Terre. Scola Tower is located in the Gulf of Poets just beyond the northeastern tip of Palmaria in Portovenere. It is easily reachable by boat tour or by hiring a private boat and a great addition to your tour of the Italian coast.