ITALY - BEYOND UNESCO
If you didn’t already know, Italy has a very impressive claim to fame: this beautiful country is the location of the most UNESCO listed sites anywhere on the planet. There are over 50, and you could make a completely unforgettable extended trip out of a pilgrimage to each and every one of them. However, there are also countless amazing spots in Italy that don’t yet have that coveted UNESCO status, and that means they can sometimes get unfairly missed off travellers’ itineraries. One major benefit of visiting these places is that they’re likely to be far more peaceful than some of the sites with more name-recognition. The other benefit, of course, is that they’re completely beautiful.
These five alternative sights all have the potential to be a major highlight of your Italian adventure –
maybe you should put them on your must-visit list; 

SCALIGERO CASTLE, SIRMIONE
Lake Garda isn’t exactly short of breathtaking sights, but Scaligero Castle, in the town of Sirmione, has to be up there with the best. Although it dates back to the 13th century, it’s one of the best preserved castles in the country. But what makes it truly special is its remarkable location, sitting right on the edge of Lake Garda and jutting out into its turquoise waters. Stroll across the drawbridge to access the top of the building’s crenelated walls, which offer sweeping views of the lake and of the castle’s own historic harbour, which is still in excellent condition.

TOMBOLI DI CECINA NATURE RESERVE, MARINA DI CECINA
One of the loveliest landscapes in Tuscany can be found in Tomboli di Cecina Nature Reserve, in the seaside town of Marina di Cecina. A walk almost anywhere in Tuscany is always a treat, but this really is a very special place to experience the region’s great outdoors. Reaching across more than nine miles, this protected space takes in cool, shady forests, undulating sand dunes and wildlife-rich scrubland. In the spring and summer, it’s alive with flowers, including bright poppies that grow along the beach. If you have binoculars, it’s a good idea to bring them with you. There’s the chance to spot everything from badgers, rabbits, roe deer and foxes to more unusual creatures such as porcupines.

BASILICA DI SANTA CROCE, LECCE
The Puglia region, which sits in the heel of Italy’s boot, has a good share of UNESCO sites, and how this spectacular church hasn’t made the list yet is something that’s a bit of a mystery. With its ornate Baroque architecture, Lecce is often referred to as ‘the Florence of the South’, and the 16th century Basilica di Santa Croce has more than a little to do with that. With its façade given over to a carnival of carved gargoyles, flowers, cherubs and graceful human figures, this is a building that definitively proves that less isn’t always more. The huge rose window over the door is an astounding piece of craftsmanship. Inside, the bounty continues, with 16 altars and a wealth of historic religious art.

TEATRO GRECO, TAORMINA 
The hilltop town of Taormina enjoys a deeply enviable location on the east coast of sun-drenched Sicily, overlooked by dramatic Mount Etna. And one of its greatest assets is made even more remarkable by this setting. Taormina’s Teatro Greco, or Greek Theatre, is an amphitheatre built in the 3rd century BC – but it’s still in such good shape today that concerts, film screenings and other events regularly take place here. Its elevated position, right by the sea, offers sweeping daytime views of blue waters and green coast. Swing by after dark, when it’s illuminated with carefully placed lighting, and you’ll find that it’s every bit as impressive.

MIRROR OF VENUS LAKE, PANTELLERIA
The Sicilian island of Pantelleria is, in our view, one of the most criminally underrated destinations in Italy. But that’s good news for those who do make the trip – it means they’ll find its beauty relatively undisturbed by crowds. The volcanic soils and waters on this island make it a hub for natural wellness experiences of various kinds. You can indulge in one of the most unique at the Mirror of Venus Lake, whose bright blue colour does indeed mirror the sky above. Step into the spring-fed thermal waters of this heart shaped body of water and let your troubles bubble away. To feel ultra refreshed, slap some of the lake’s mineral-rich mud onto your skin, too. UNESCO doesn’t know what it’s missing.