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There is an old saying in Italy: Calm is the virtue of the strong, or calm is the virtue of the strong.
But in the chaos of Italy’s summer tourist season, calm is harder to find than pineapple on a pizza.
Beloved favorites like Rome, Milan and Venice deserve their spectacular reputation. However, some travelers will not like being packed like sardines or languishing in lines miles long, no matter how iconic the destination.
If you want to experience the wonder of Italy without the misery of overcrowding, you’re in luck. The country that gave us pizza and ice cream has many other gifts in store.
Here are four lesser-known destinations to avoid the crowded cities in Italy this summer:
Florence is the undisputed beating heart of the Renaissance in Italy. More than ten million tourists visit this artistic and historical landmark each year, making it one of the busiest destinations in the country.
Peak summer season in Florence means 50% hikes in hotel prices, hours-long queues for its iconic art galleries even with advance tickets, and impossible dinner reservations.
Instead of overcrowded Florence, try the lesser-known seaside city of Lecce.
Located in the heart of the Puglia region of southern Italy (the ‘heel’ of Italy’s boot), Lecce is an artistic and historical treasure. In fact, Lecce has its own architectural style: Lecce Baroque. Think decorative columns, lavish gargoyles and quaint porticoes in the region’s signature golden-hued limestone.
Nicknamed the ‘Florence of the South’, Lecce is home to many artistic and historical sites.
Admire the architecture of Piazza del Duomo, marvel at the Lecce Cathedral, or enjoy a panoramic view of the city from its bell tower. Lecce’s second-century Roman amphitheater in Piazza San Oronzo stands out as a seriously underappreciated archaeological relic.
For a deeper cultural experience, ditch the traditional hotels and opt for one of the many palaces, historic houses located in the old town with histories dating back more than a hundred years.
Before diving into the city, sweeten your trip with the city’s delicious signature breakfast, Pasticciotto Leccese. This irresistible cream pie is golden and crisp on the outside, lusciously creamy on the inside, and should not be skipped under any circumstances.
Rome – Ancient Ostia
Ah, Rome. The Italian capital is crowded year-round, but the summer season really stretches the city’s seams to bursting.
Instead of invading Rome, try the nearby small town of Ostia Antica.
Just 45 minutes from Rome, Ostia Antica has an equally important history to the Roman Empire, without the capital’s long waits for a glimpse of its past.
Ostia Antica, 2,000 years old, used to be the bustling trading port city of ancient Rome along the Tiber River.
Today, visitors can spend hours exploring the extensive and well-preserved ruins of ancient amphitheatres, baths, temples, and other aspects of daily life. While not quite a Colosseum, the vast ruins at Ostia Antica are some of the best preserved in all of Italy. In fact, this site is often hailed as a rival to Pompeii.
This lesser-known ancient port city offers Rome-bound history buffs a quieter path into the past.
Lake Como – Lake Orta
Granted, Lake Como has the Clooneys and star-studded villas. But it also has all the chaotic summer crowds.
Nearby Lake Orta has the same natural beauty with more character and less bustle.
Lake Orta is a movie destination on the Piedmontese side of the Lake District. While lakeside, travelers can enjoy palatial five-star villas, winding cobblestone lanes, and Michelin-starred restaurants with delicious truffle specialties from the Piedmont region of Orta.
Take a chartered boat or water bus to Isola San Giulio, the idyllic lonely island that draws visitors from the center of the lake.
The monastery is the most prominent feature of the island and the reason for its nickname as the island of silence. As Marie-Claire Chappet so aptly put it for Harper’s Bazaar, « Think of it as a medieval meditation app. »
While Lake Orta remains a super popular destination in the summer, especially with locals, it’s certainly calmer than the neighboring A-list lakes.
Amalfi Coast – Western Sardinia
Many travelers dream of a scenic drive along the Amalfi Coast, hair whipping in the wind in a vintage convertible heading for one of the many dazzling beach resorts.
To avoid the summer chaos of Amalfi, head to Sardinia’s underrated western coast for a spectacular seaside road trip.
A coastal drive from Carbonia to Alghero will dazzle travelers with stunning sea views, dramatic cliffs and an untouched Italian paradise.
The peach-colored villages of Bosa clearly evoke Amalfi vibes. The Museo delle Conce of the old tannery and the Museo Casa Deriu are must-sees. Enjoy a glass of regional specialty Malvasia dessert wine by the marina, or take a boat ride to Capo Marrargiu and its nearby caves.
At the northern finish line of your Italian road trip, the Porto Conte Regional Natural Park offers some of the most pristine beaches and spectacular hiking trails in all of Italy.
In the words of the iconic Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, « Life is a combination of magic and pasta. » We hope you enjoy both in peace with these lesser-known Italian destinations this summer.
traveler alert: Don’t forget travel insurance for your next trip!
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com