written by
Matthew Schroeder

While Rome, Florence, and Venice enchant, less familiar cities and regions throughout the country are quietly emerging for their own moment in the spotlight. Whether it’s experiencing the timeless allure of Ascoli Piceno, indulging in Puglia’s culinary delights, or exploring the cultural heritage of Emilia-Romagna, these stunning destinations will introduce you to a side of Italy that’s as enchanting as it is authentic.

Ascoli Piceno

Nestled in the picturesque region of Marche in central Italy, the city of Ascoli Piceno is packed with rich history, charming medieval streets, and delectable cuisine. From its captivating architecture to its vibrant local culture, Ascoli Piceno invites visitors to step back in time while exploring its lesser-known highlights.

As you wander through the ancient streets of Ascoli Piceno, it’s impossible not to be awestruck by its timeless beauty. The town boasts a wealth of architectural marvels, including the stunning Piazza del Popolo, one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. Here, you’ll find the iconic Renaissance-style Palazzo dei Capitani, with its elegant arcades and impressive clock tower.

Beyond the main square, Ascoli Piceno reveals a trove of hidden gems. Walking the narrow alleys you’ll stumble upon inspiring churches like the Cathedral of Sant’Emidio, dedicated to the town’s patron saint. Don’t miss a chance to step inside to admire its frescoes and sacred atmosphere. For art enthusiasts, a visit to the Pinacoteca Civica is a must, as it houses an impressive collection of Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces.

Do prepare your taste buds for an unforgettable journey as Ascoli Piceno is renowned for its gastronomic traditions, and its most famous delicacy is the “Olive all’Ascolana.” These scrumptious stuffed olives are breaded and fried to perfection, creating a mouthwatering treat. Pair them with a glass of local wine and savor the unique flavors of the region. Don’t forget to check out the town’s lively food markets and indulge in other works of art, such as handmade pasta, artisanal cheeses, and locally produced olive oil.

Alongside the town’s architecture and culinary offerings, Ascoli Piceno also offers access to idyllic backcountry. The Sibillini Mountains, a short drive away, boast stunning landscapes perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the scenic trails that wind through verdant valleys, crystal-clear lakes, and quaint hilltop villages. In the warmer months, enjoy a refreshing swim in the Adriatic Sea, just a short distance from Ascoli Piceno.

Festivals are also an important link to Ascoli Piceno’s past. The Quintana, held in July, is a thrilling medieval jousting tournament that brings the town to life with colorful costumes, parades, and pageantry. During the summer months, the Piazza del Popolo hosts open-air concerts, theatrical performances, and art exhibitions, providing a feast for the senses and the opportunity to mingle with the locals.


Located in the enchanting southernmost part of Italy, the region of Puglia beckons with its mesmerizing blend of natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and sun-drenched beaches.

As you venture through Puglia’s idyllic countryside, you’ll be amazed by the rolling landscapes adorned with endless stretches of picturesque olive groves, their silver-green leaves shimmering in the sunlight. Vineyards dot the horizon, their rows of grapevines painting a patchwork of colors that change with the seasons. Amongst this pastoral elegance, you’ll encounter the iconic trulli houses of the region. Their whitewashed walls and conical roofs create a captivating sight, evoking a sense of timelessness, transporting you to a bygone era.

Alberobello, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the epitome of Puglia’s charm stands as a testament to the region’s exquisite architectural achievements. This fairytale-like town showcases clusters of stone trulli dwellings. These unique cone-shaped buildings are characterized by their distinctive dry-stone construction, consisting of limestone slabs stacked without the use of mortar. The roofs of trulli are typically conical in shape and often adorned with symbols or decorative motifs. It’s a place where you can take part in local traditions, appreciate the craftsmanship behind these unique dwellings, and witness the seamless integration of history into daily life.

Puglia’s coastline is equally enthralling, boasting charming towns that showcase the region’s coastal allure. Polignano a Mare perches dramatically on cliffs, offering breathtaking vistas of the azure Adriatic Sea. Wander through its labyrinthine streets and you’ll discover hidden coves carved by the relentless waves, inviting you to take a refreshing dip in their crystal-clear waters. Ostuni, known as the “White City,” dazzles with its gleaming architecture. As you ascend its winding alleys, the scent of jasmine fills the air, mingling with the salty breeze. From its vantage point, you can feast your eyes on the panoramic views of olive groves and the glistening sea.

Puglia’s gastronomy is a true celebration of flavors and traditions. Travelers will find joy in the simplicity and authenticity of dishes like orecchiette pasta, skillfully handmade with love and passed down through generations. The freshness of seafood caught from the nearby Adriatic is stunningly good, prepared with care, and served in traditional coastal taverns. The robust local wines are born from the sun-soaked vineyards that blanket the region and are the perfect pairing for a fantastic meal. 


Situated in the heart of northern Italy, the Emilia-Romagna region encompasses an astounding amount of history, culture, and culinary excellence. While it is rightfully celebrated as the birthplace of iconic Italian delicacies, like Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, balsamic vinegar, and prosciutto di Parma, this dynamic region offers so much more than just gastronomic indulgences. The region continues to captivate travelers with it splendid cities, enchanted by its ancient antiquities, and exhilarated by its passion for motorsports.

Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna, stands as a living testament to its rich history and architectural splendor. The city’s medieval structures, adorned with delicate details and colors, create a mesmerizing backdrop for exploration. Lose yourself in the labyrinthine streets of the historic center, where each corner reveals some new to investigate, from ornate basilicas to elegant palaces. The city is home to the University of Bologna, established in 1088, attracting students from Italy and across the world and giving it a youthful energy not found elsewhere. 
Ravenna, another jewel in Emilia-Romagna’s crown, showcases a different facet of the region’s cultural heritage. Known for its dazzling mosaics, this city transports visitors back in time to the days of the Byzantine Empire. As you explore the intricate designs that adorn the walls of its ancient churches and mausoleums, you witness firsthand the artistic mastery of centuries past. The profound historical significance of Ravenna is palpable, as you stand in the presence of these timeless treasures.

Emilia-Romagna’s allure extends beyond its cultural heritage to encompass a realm of thrilling motorsports. Motor enthusiasts from around the world make their pilgrimage to Maranello, home of the iconic Ferrari Museum. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, a visit to the Imola Circuit is a must. This renowned racetrack has witnessed legendary motorsport events, inviting you to witness the passion and excitement that permeates the region’s racing culture.

While Emilia-Romagna’s well-deserved foodie reputation precedes it, there is nothing quite like indulging in the region’s masterpieces on its home turf. From farm-to-table experiences that highlight the freshness of local ingredients to traditional trattorias that serve up soul-warming dishes, every bite is a celebration of the region’s culinary heritage. As with many cities throughout Italy, the food markets and family-run shops, where artisans uphold age-old traditions, will leave their mark on you long after you leave.

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