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Cefalù
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10 of the most beautiful villages and towns in Italy

Each year, the ‘Italy’s Most Beautiful Towns’ group admits a handful of picturesque places. Here's our pick of the bunch

Huw Oliver
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Huw Oliver
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Okay, we know all about Italy’s grand cities, places like Rome, Naples, Venice and Florence, but Italy shines brightest in the offbeat small towns that are positively dripping in authenticity. Where to start? Anywhere, obviously, but there are so many beautiful towns and villages in Italy that you can feel spoilt for choice. That isn’t so bad when all the choices are great, but still, none of us is immortal.

Fortunately, the magnificent ‘I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia’ (Italy’s Most Beautiful Towns) publishes an official list of the country’s most special places with fewer than 15,000 inhabitants, a very exclusive club of quality over quantity, all killer, no filler. We’ve picked a handful of the finest, 10 of the most beautiful towns and villages in Italy that will take your breath away. 

Most beautiful villages and towns in Italy

Porto Ercole, Tuscany
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Porto Ercole, Tuscany

You’ll still find sailors patching up their nets on the harbourside in this traditional fishing town on Tuscany’s Argentario promontory (actually an island, connected to the mainland by three isthmuses). A certain Caravaggio died here in 1610.

Tropea, Calabria
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Tropea, Calabria

The Italian coastline that fringes the Tyrrhenian Sea is known as the Costa degli Dei (‘Coast of the Gods’) for several reasons. Chief among them: all the many beautiful resort towns that appear to balance precipitously on its dramatic cliffs. Tropea in particular has become a go-to for travellers from across the continent, no doubt thanks to its sprawling beaches and epic views of the Santa Maria dell’ Isola monastery, which sits majestically atop a rocky outcrop.

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Bassano in Teverina, Lazio
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Bassano in Teverina, Lazio

There are historic places, and then there are places like this small town in the Lazio-Umbria borderlands. The area has been inhabited since Etruscan times, and Bassano in Teverina alone brims with all manner of ancient sights including an amphitheatre, a clock tower and – because this is Italy – a whopping six churches.

Brisighella, Emilia-Romagna
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Brisighella, Emilia-Romagna

Known for its world-class olive oil, this medieval village is all but hidden amid the lush, rolling vineyards of the surrounding Emilia-Romagna region. Thirteenth-century castle La Rocca Manfrediana makes for an enrapturing centrepiece.

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Pacentro, Abruzzo
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Pacentro, Abruzzo

Part of the Maiella National Park, which is renowned for its natural springs and consequent abundance of fresh mountain water, the well-preserved medieval village of Pacentro lies on a plateau in the middle of the sublime Apennine mountains. This area of Abruzzo has a rich craft heritage, so you can expect to see plenty of terracotta and crochet work on display in the windows.

Borghetto, Veneto
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Borghetto, Veneto

There’s been a fortified settlement on this site in the middle of the River Mincio since the Lombards invaded in the sixth century. These days, Borghetto is a picture-postcard village cross-crossed by bridges and filled with historic windmills. Looming above it all are the impressive remains of the Ponte Visconteo, a fortified dam built during the fourteenth century.

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Monteleone d’Orvieto, Umbria
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Monteleone d’Orvieto, Umbria

Another picturesque medieval village on the site of a settlement that dates back to Etruscan times. Climb up to Monteleone d’Orvieto’s Torrone tower and you can enjoy breathtaking views that sweep across Umbria, Tuscany and Lazio.

Monte Sant’Angelo, Puglia
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Monte Sant’Angelo, Puglia

There are two sights that set Monte Sant’Angelo apart from the several thousands of other beautiful towns across Italy. First: the distinctive, neatly aligned, whitewashed houses of the Junno district – they’re prime Insta material. Second: the historic sanctuary of Sant’Angelo, which includes the remains of a castle and the enormous Torre dei Giganti, a 59-foot-tall octagonal tower. It’s a site of pilgrimage for a reason.

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Bard, Valle d’Aosta
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Bard, Valle d’Aosta

Wedged between two mountains in the narrowest part of the Aosta valley, Bard could well be the closest you’ll get to a fairytale holiday experience in Italy. It’s dominated by the eleventh-century fortress of the same name, but most come here to visit the charming olde-worlde village down below – all higgledy-piggledy passages, elegant mullioned windows and carved stone balconies.

Cefalù historic centre, Sicily
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Cefalù historic centre, Sicily

Cefalù isn’t exactly off the tourist trail, but there’s a reason it’s so popular: its sheer, staggering beauty. Around 70km from Sicilian capital Palermo, this small city’s historic district lies in the shadow of a huge rockface that stands up to 270m tall. The rest of the city is filled with charming piazzas and palazzos. Oh, and don’t get us started on the food.

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