Italy has so many more beautiful sights to see than the whistle-stop tour of the Pantheon, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Colosseum. Plus, in your hunt for a home in Italy, you might not be keen for heaps of tourists to descend on your abode every summer. So, we’ve complied a list of places that still benefit from captivating Italian charm and landmarks, but are a little less well-known. We also look at what kind of property, at what price, you can find nearby.
More and more tourists and house buyers are looking for a place in Italy that is off the beaten track, yet still has interesting new sights and experiences, such as Roman Theatres and spectacular events. When you excitedly tell friends that you are looking at buying a property in a particular location in Italy, and they say “Oh, we’ve been there before”, it can rather take the shine off it. Fortunately Italy offers so much more than just the tourist hot spots, there are thousands of interesting towns and villages. Here are three hidden gems, where your friends probably haven’t been.
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Village painted by Monet in Liguria
The view of the bridge, village and castle of Dolceaqua is so beautiful it was painted by Monet, who visited with Renoir in 1884. Two panels with reproductions of Monet’s paintings have been placed by the river, marking the spots where the artist would have positioned his canvas. Maybe this beautiful place in Italy will also inspire you to discover your artistic talents.
The newer part of the village, called “Borgo”, is on one river bank and opposite is the medieval part, called “Tera”. The bridge connecting the two halves of Dolceacqua is called Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), as it was built in the 15th century and continues to stand strong today.
The charming medieval village of Dolceacqua is a maze of cobble stone and red brick alleyways. Here you will come across little shops, artists and wine cellars. The pretty church of Sant’Antonio Abate, and the Luigina Garoscio Palace are also to be found in the “Tera”. The palace houses an art gallery and an exhibition of small soldiers. Another unexpected gem worth searching for is the Visionarium 3D cinema, which offers a unique experience, showing a selection of adventure journeys.
When you reach the top of the village you are presented with the imposing Doria Castle. The castle is now used for exhibitions, conferences and weddings. But, back in 1177 it was owned by the counts of Ventimiglia.
Where is the village of Dolceaqua?
Dolceaqua is a small village of just over 2,000 inhabitants, located less than 20 minutes from the Ligurian coast at Ventimiglia, and 43 minutes drive from Sanremo. The village is situated in the Nervia Valley, along the stream of the same name. The nearest airport is Nice (NCE), which is 39.7km away.
Property for sale in Dolceaqua and Liguria
The cost of an apartment in Dolceaqua starts at €110.000. Town houses are about €200,000. There are many beautiful places in the area, with many other Ligurian properties for sale at similar prices.
“Little Rome of the Alps” in Valle d’Aosta
The town of Aosta has been nick named “Little Rome of the Alps”, due the town retaining large sections of the original city walls and parts of the Roman town. These include the Porta Praetoria, a roman bridge and a Roman Theatre. Today the theatre still hosts open-air events and shows.
When the Romans founded a city here in 25 BC, could they ever have imagined that people would be walking under the same stone gateway over 2,000 years later. Back then, the city was called Augusta Praetoria, in honour of the Emperor Octavian Augustus. The Arch of Augustus, built to celebrate their Victory over a local tribe, is still standing near the river.
Aosta is now the regional capital of the Aosta Valley (Valle di Aosta). It has a population of around 34,000, and is visited by tourists heading to the ski resorts. In fact, just a stone’s throw from Aosta train station, you can catch a cable car up to Pila. The panoramic views from the cable car and from the top are spectacular. Even if skiing isn’t your thing, you can enjoy the views from one of the restaurants or try mountain biking, horse riding, free climbing, paragliding or have family fun on the tree top adventure park.
Back in Aosta, the lively pedestrianised streets and the central Piazza Chanoux offer good shopping, and numerous restaurants and bars. There are also large supermarkets on the outskirts of town, a hospital and schools. For families, there are playgrounds, parks, indoor and outdoor swimming pools and an ice rink.
Throughout the year the town organises entertainment and sporting events. The Roman Theatre, hosts open-air shows and a festive Christmas market. Also, in the streets of Aosta they hold The millenary Sant’Orso Fair on 30th and 31st January. This event sees more than 1000 artisans from all over the region exhibit their traditional works. A similar fair also takes place in the summer.
Battle of the Queens
In October Aosta’s stadium hosts the final of the “Battle of the Queens”. No longer do people flock to see gladiators fighting in the arena. Today, crowds gather in Aosta to see big tough cows from the Alps lock horns. These strong muscly cows naturally want to test each others strength to determine the hierarchy in the herd. In the arena two cows push each other until one falls over or withdraws. The cow left standing is the winner, and the overall champion is crowned the “Queen”.
Exploring the area
Aosta has a year round appeal, partly due to the stunning scenery in the nearby Gran Paradiso National Park. Hiking along the many trails you might be treated by the sight of an ibex or even an eagle. The alpine botanical gardens are also worth a visit. As are, the medieval castles and fortresses of the region. Such as, Castello di Fénis and Castello di Verrès, which date back to the 14th century. Anyone who loves winter sports is spoiled for choice. The Aosta Valley has 830 kilometres of slopes, with excellent ski resorts, served by 180 ski lifts.
Where is Aosta?
The town of Aosta is in the Valle d’Aosta, which is a region in northwest Italy. The region shares a border with France and Switzerland. Located in the western Alps, it is famous for the snow-capped peaks of the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa and Gran Paradiso. Although Aosta has a small airport, most people fly into Turin. Aosta is about 115 km from the airport, which takes about an hour by car.
Property for sale in Valle d’Aosta
There are some beautiful chalet style properties for sale in the Aosta Valley. Property prices vary greatly, mainly based on how close they are to the ski slopes and chair lifts. Your Overseas Home have a selection of properties for sale in the Aosta Valley. However, If you contact one of our property consultants, they can introduce you to an agent who may have other properties for sale to suit your requirements and budget.
“A Knights tournament” in Marche
The Knights Tournament of “Castel Clementino”, is a historical re-enactment in fifteenth century costume, held in the village of Servigliano. On the third Saturday of August there is a grande procession, with over 300 participants in pre-Renaissance costumes, including flag wavers and drummers. The streets of the village are decorated in large flags representing the districts. It offers a unique trip into the history of Italian costume, with wonderful outfits, made by local tailors since 1969.
On the Sunday is the big event, the jousting Tournament “Giostra dell’Anello”, with knights on horseback. Representing the five districts of the town, they gallop around the arena and hook hoops. This is an event the locals spend the whole year preparing for and they get very passionate about supporting the team from their district. There is much celebrating if their team wins. The emotion and anticipation can be felt even in the days leading up to the tournament, when there are various events, highlighting the local art, food and music.
Servigliano, is listed as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy “. However, unlike the typical hill top villages of the Marche region, Servigliano is located on flat land on the banks of the river Tenna, in the province of Fermo. At last count, the village only had 2, 246 inhabitants, yet they are enthusiastic to maintain the old traditions and welcome people to their village. The nearest airport to Servigliano is Ancona (AOI), which is 59.4 km away.
The historic centre is enclosed by a wall, which from the air you can see is perfectly quadrangular in shape. The perimeter is characterized by the 18th century walls and is accessed by passing through three monumental gates: Porta Clementina (Porta Marina) located to the north, Porta Pia (Porta Navarra) to the south and Porta Santo Spirito (Porta di Amandola) to the south-west. Outside the walls the houses are very well spaced with wide roads.
Highlights of a walk around the village include the ancient Church of Santa Maria del Piano, the Civic Palace; the Church of San Marco, with its eighteenth-century Fedeli organ, the bridge over the river Tenna, the town Gates, and the frescoed ceilings of Palazzo Filoni. Although it is a small village, it has supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, shops, a gym, and a large park, where concerts are held.
The prisoner of war camp
In 1915 a large prison camp was built outside the village. Initially for Austrian prisoners during the Great War, it was also used as a prisoner of war camp during WWII. The prisoners of war included British and Americans. Thankfully, those prisoners that managed to escape were helped by the local people. In the 1970s, the dilapidated barracks were demolished and the municipality built a multi-sports centre in its place. The Casa della Memoria, built in 2001, contains a multimedia exhibition that narrates the events that took place in the prison camp during the two World Wars.
Infiorata of Servigliano
The community spirit can be seen not only at the tournament but also at many other events in the village. Once a year a carpet of flower petals create a beautiful floral path in the historic centre. They are arranged artistically with geometric patterns that enhance the architectural neo-classical structure of the town, including symbols of the Christian feast. The scents and colours are produced by using freshly picked flower petals, requiring the entire local community, and volunteers from further afield, to help lay them in a carpet almost a kilometre long. Work starts at the crack of dawn to prepare the floral display and by late morning it is ready to welcome the passage of Corpus Domini and the procession that follows.
Festival of wood-fired polenta
In September, the “Sagra del Polentone” is a culinary event based on polenta, using various recipes and cooked on wood. There are numerous stands full of tasty specialties, with lots of music and entertainment winding through the streets of the historic centre. Even the young people are catered for, with concerts organised in July and August (NoSound Fest).
Not far from Servigliano is a Roman Theatre, considered the best-preserved monument in the Marche region. Along the outer perimeter of the amphitheatre are still visible the stems of 22 columns once covered in marble. Today it is part of the Archaeological Park of Falerone and hosts an important theatrical season. The theatre is located in the relaxing atmosphere of the Piceno Countryside, surrounded by olive trees and vineyards. A large old oak tree dominates the site, watching every performance. If trees and stone could speak, the ones here would certainly have some stories to tell. To discover some of its history we must visit the Archaeological Museum of Falerone, where some of the artefacts are now displayed.
Property for sale in Servigliano
The insides of some of the properties in the historic centre are very palatial with frescos and luxurious décor. They are often bigger than they would appear from the outside and are well built. A large apartment in the historic centre of Servigliano could cost €320,000 and a house €820,000. However, outside the walls it may be possible to find a large house for €290,000 and an apartment from €85,000.
These are not the only amazing places in Italy. There are thousands of towns and villages (Borghi), loved by their local communities that are just waiting to be discovered by house buyers. Each place will have it’s own festivals and events, and most will have a beautiful historic centre to fall in love with. Here are six more “Beautiful Italian villages you can reach by train”.