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5 surprising destinations to discover on a trip to Italy

There is not one, but several good reasons to discover Italy. Few countries are able to combine architecture, thousand-year-old cities, walks in varied landscapes, the pleasures of the table, art, culture and traditions so well. It is a destination that suits all types of travellers, from hikers, who have the opportunity to walk through hilly landscapes where lakes lie, to those who never tire of contemplating the nuances of the coastline. And then there are the towns and villages, all of which have something unique to offer: a rich heritage, an abundance of culture, shopping opportunities and gourmet delights. It is easy to understand that Italy is an ideal destination for slow tourism. We take the time to contemplate all that is offered to us, while enjoying ourselves, respecting the environment and immersing ourselves in the local culture and practices. When we say the word "Italy", we all have in mind Rome, Venice or the hills of Tuscany. This top 5 takes you to the heart of this secret Italy, off the beaten track. And to take advantage of these surprising destinations, there's nothing like planning a trip with Solo in Italia, a designer of 100% tailor-made itineraries and a specialist in the unsuspected riches of what remains one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

1- Do the Sellaronda circuit to enjoy skiing and the mountains

The Sellaronda circuit goes around the imposing Sella massif in the Dolomites of South Tyrol. In summer it is a delight for hikers and bikers, but in winter it can also be skied thanks to the ski lifts and the 26 km of slopes that offer breathtaking mountain panoramas. Although Italy is less well known than France, Switzerland or Austria when it comes to winter sports, the transalpine massifs are even bigger and wilder. During the tour, sportsmen and women can also stop in resorts with character that have kept their authentic aspect. One of these is Alta Badia, north of Venice, which includes the villages of Corvara, Badia, La Villa, Colfosco, San Cassiano and La Valle. The resort is part of Dolomiti Superski, quite simply the largest ski area in the world, with 1,200 km of skiable runs. The area is perfect for all kinds of skiing. And to have a good time, the resort is rich in bars and restaurants. Santa Cristina Valgardena, with its church and pretty mountain houses, is another great place to stay. Simply because it is smaller, more isolated, but still offers quick access to the best spots in the region to ski and enjoy the fresh air. Note that the Sellaronda circuit can be done in both directions, allowing you to vary the pleasures and to take different slopes

2- Discover the beauty of the Egadi Islands

The Egadi Islands are a small archipelago located in the west of Sicily. There are three main islands, Favignana, Marettimo, Levanzo, and a series of small islets, some of which are just a small mass of rocks lying in the water. Travellers who wish to enjoy a charming seaside holiday in Italy will find the Egadi Islands an ideal setting for relaxation, on the edge of a crystal-clear sea of extraordinary colours. The archipelago, which has been declared a marine reserve since 1991, is also a favourite with scuba diving enthusiasts. From one island to another, you can discover ancient caves, green landscapes, other more rugged, and communities living peacefully by the water. On Favignana, the most populated island, you can enjoy wandering through the villages and admiring the heritage, including the sublime Castello di Santa Caterina and a gigantic tonnara. The nature walks, on foot or by bike, are in the heart of steep landscapes and often lead to the edge of translucent creeks.

3- Wandering around Palermo

There's nothing better than a stroll through the main cities of Italy to learn about its history. In Sicily, Palermo is a city of contrasts and extremely rich from a cultural point of view. The island's capital is home to a remarkable heritage. You can start by admiring the Palazzo dei Normanni and its mixture of influences, then the Palermo Cathedral and its Romanesque architecture with an Arab influence, before making another stop at the foot of the Teatro Massimo Vittorio Emanuele. This building is the largest theatre in Italy and its décor is enhanced by the great operas that are held there. Palermo is home to a large number of palaces, and you should not hesitate to go through their doors to admire the courts. There are also the squares where locals and visitors meet, the wonderful Quattro Canti crossroads with its symmetrical baroque monuments and the markets where you can stock up on good fresh local produce. A city of culture, a tour of the museums is also recommended, including the unmissable Regional Museum of Sicily. And to experience an unusual moment, the Capuchin catacombs, underground passages located under the Capuchin monastery and where 8,000 mummified corpses are carefully distributed, are a must

4- Hiking in Campania and on the Amalfi Coast

Head to the south of Italy to immerse yourself in the Campania region and hike on the Tyrrhenian side. You can of course start by reaching the incredible coasts of the island of Capri. Later on, the Amalfi Coast is the place to be for travellers looking for beautiful landscapes. The jewels of southern Italy, stretching from Sorrento to Salerno, the territory reveals steep mountains that plunge into the sea and high villages where every street corner is a treasure. A must-see experience on the Amalfi Coast during a trip to Italy is to walk the Path of the Gods. Connecting Agerola and Positano, this hiking trail is first and foremost a mythical place, as legend has it that the Greek gods once took this path to rescue Odysseus from the mermaids in a nearby archipelago. With a length of 8 km, it is easy to feel like you are in paradise, swept away by the beauty of the coast and its canyons, natural springs, caves, reliefs and the bluish reflections of the sea. In the midst of the Mediterranean vegetation, it is not uncommon to come across a local picking fruit or carrying goods, accompanied by a mule. The Sentiero degli Dei is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful walks in the world.

5- Venture to the most off the beaten track place: the Marche region

In the eastern part of the country, the Marche is a wonderful region to discover a secret Italy. The territory reveals in turn landscapes made up of hills, mountains and long sandy beaches. How can you miss the golden sands overlooking the crystal clear waters of Senigallia? The Marche is a wonderful playground for hikers, cyclists, horseback riders and canoeists. The natural areas of the National Park of the Sibylline Mountains, the Gran Sasso Park and the Laga Mountains are ideal for this. The flora is rich and birdwatchers can observe golden eagles, peregrine falcons and owls. You can also enjoy winter sports in the Apennine mountains. Every season has its own pleasures in the Marche. The discovery of the region also includes cities rich in monuments, such as Ancona and its port, Gradara and its fortified village or Ripatransone, superb with its steep medieval streets and its breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding natural landscape. And how can we not mention Urbino? A city with an extremely rich historical and artistic heritage, home of Raphael, its historic centre is a Unesco World Heritage Site. The city is full of Renaissance architectural marvels, such as the Ducal Palace built in the 15th century at the request of Duke Federico da Montefeltro. The National Gallery of the Marche region is home to such gems as The Flagellation of Christ, a major work by Piero della Francesca. The Marche region also delights those who love good food. Truffle dishes, marinated lamb, fried ravioli stuffed with chestnuts and other cheeses will tantalize your taste buds.

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