Off the Beaten Path: Italy’s Top 5 Hidden Gems

March 6, 2016,

Ciao to all you fellow adventurers and aspiring world-travellers! 

Since it’s Italian week here on HWE, I thought I would shed some light on some SERIOUS hidden gems that I’ve discovered on my many travels through Italy. While I totally get why Florence, Rome and the Amalfi Coast get all the press, I much prefer to explore off the beaten path, so here are 5 spots that top my list of uncommon, yet must-see places in Italy!

Monte Turri Arbatax photo by // Italy's 5 Hidden Gems on happiestwhenexploring . comPhoto by

#1 Arbatax, Sardinia
One year, while vacationing in Santa Teresa di Gallura, Sardinia (also highly recommended!), I was woken up and told to pack a bag for a few days and make sure to bring something fancy to wear… so you can imagine I was already super down for whatever was going on!

We arrived at the top of a mountain, through a winding dirt road, at what seemed like a house, which turned out to be the reception of a gorgeous hotel… And the other side of the mountain? PARADISE! The east coast looking out onto the Tyrrhenian Sea and a large Nature Park, home to plants and animals typical of Sardinian flora and fauna. A few days of pure beach bliss, many pools to choose from and gorgeous nature hikes definitely rocked my world!

Malcesine in Veneto Photo by Melissa Hetu // Italy's 5 Hidden Gems at happiestwhenexploring . com Photo by Melissa Hetu

#2 Malcesine, Veneto
Located on the gorgeous Garda Lake, Malcesine is a tiny commune that still has MANY medieval structures that really make it feel like you’ve gone back in time when you visit. Although I’m also partial to Verona (the closest city), Malcesine is just one of those special places that really hits you in OMGs!

There is so much to do: from spending a day on the lake, taking the funicular up Monte Baldo, going for a walk through the cobblestone streets and popping into all the cute shops. My absolute favourite thing to do (in life, basically, but ESPECIALLY) in places like these, is search the streets for the perfect aperitivo spot (that I love to rank by view, free snack variety and drink quality) – and Malcesine has quite a few!

Casies Valley Photo by Melissa Hetu // Italy's 5 Hidden Gems at happiestwhenexploring . com Photo by Melissa Hetu

#3 Casies Valley, Trentino-Alto Adige
If you love hiking, skiing and spas as well as breath-taking vistas, then you definitely don’t want to miss out on the Casies Valley, which is tucked away in the Dolomites, just a few minutes from the Austrian border. What makes this particular valley so special is that it’s home to the best Nature Spa Resort I’ve ever been to, Quelle (do Google it). It boasts a HUGE wellness and spa facility (with tons of different saunas, baths, steam rooms and services) and a Michelin star restaurant with plenty of veggie options.

In other words: pure heaven – whichever season you choose to visit. Even if it never occurred to you to visit South Tyrol, definitely take my word for it – you will feel rejuvenated, alive and so glad you made the trip!

Termoli via Wikipedia // Italy's 5 Hidden Gems on happiestwhenexploring . comPhoto via Wikipedia

#4 Termoli, Molise
If you love chilling on the beach, sipping caffè, eating pizza and slinging Italian drinks as you work on your tan, Termoli is the place to be. My first ever trip to Italy was a 2 week stint in Termoli with a few extra days in Rome. For young adults, the night life is fantastic and the price tag is definitely alluring. As a general rule, the South of Italy is easier on the budget…

…Which is great because although it is a smaller southern town, with an amazing beach AND night life to boot, its centre is packed with shops for every budget, in which you can get gorgeous Italian clothes, jewelry, make up and accessories. 

Riccione, Emilia Romagna by Melissa Hetu // Top 5, Italy's Hidden Gems Photo by Melissa Hetu

#5 Riccione, Emilia Romagna
While it’s less known abroad, among Italians, Riccione is often referred to as the pearl of the Adriatic, and I would have to agree. It’s home to enchanting outdoor clubs and bars (aperitivo gold mine!) as well as endless shops and boutiques for every taste and budget. There is also lots to do for families and couples, with tons of amazing restaurants, a gorgeous beach to spend your days at and many other attractions in the area (such as amusement and water parks, the Republic of San Marino and the Misano World Circuit).

Not to mention, it’s the place I now call home! Moving to Italy has always been a dream of mine… and now it’s real! For those who don’t know me, I’m a holistic and manifestation coach and I’m so honoured to write for Happiest When Exploring, because I am SUCH a huge fan… so we already have something in common!

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 Off the Beaten Path: Italy's Top 5 Hidden Gems by Melissa Hetu // Photo via

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  • Reply Ilena C. March 6, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    I really enjoyed #ItalianWeekWithHWE…and loved these tips from your contributor, Melissa!

    I’m looking forward to your next posts!

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring March 9, 2016 at 11:00 pm

      Thank you! Italian Week was so much fun… and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my contributors! Thank you <3

  • Reply Celia March 9, 2016 at 3:20 am

    Italy is beautiful everywhere you look. I can’t wait to head back to Italy someday in the near future and see all those amazing locations.
    Loved the Italian theme, you should come up with another theme 🙂

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring March 9, 2016 at 10:59 pm

      I can’t wait to see what you discover in Italy… you find the most lovely places! Thank you, the theme was a lot of fun… I will def be doing more 🙂

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