5 Alternative Sights in Italy
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.
NEPTUNE'S GROTTO, SARDINIA
Believed to date back to prehistoric times, Neptune's Caves of Alghero, nicknamed ‘Neptune’s Grotto’, are the largest on the island of Sardinia. Extending four kilometres, the cave’s entrance is covered by vegetation and dense with stalactites and stalagmites. Many unique natural formations have been created by water ‘carving’ into the limestone over time. Must-see features include the 'room of ruins', 'palace room', 'the great organ' and 'the music stand'. Also featuring an underground lake, this spectacular and mysterious landscape earns its rightful place in our top five.
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.
EGNAZIA ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK, PUGLIA
Egnazia was an ancient Roman city which thrived for several millennia, but was abandoned by its inhabitants following the fall of the Roman Empire. The city fell into ruin, was rediscovered in 1912 and since then, only a small portion of the site has been excavated with treasures proudly on display at the on-site museum. Perhaps the best attraction of all though is the excavation of the Via Traiana – an ancient road which stretched 365 miles from Brindisi to Rome. You can even observe the furrows left by the chariots which traversed the road for the 14-day journey to the capital. There is also a forum and amphitheatre which are still clearly identifiable, and together with its location by the sea, Egnazia is quite possibly one of Puglia’s most interesting archaeological sites.