To be accurate all of Italy is a gem, and there are probably thousands of “hidden gems”. One could travel Italy for a year an still miss wonderful experiences.
However on a trip to Italy I stumbled on three that you may find of interest.
1/ Maratea: On the west coast, south of the Amalfi Coast, about 2-1/2 hours south of Naples, Maeatea village has the ancient charm of Amalfi without the tourist crowd or prices. I jumped off
the train from Roma to Sicily and stumbled upon this gem. If you are interested here is an extensive review on Maratea. It is hundreds of years old…with amazing charm, and a view to take your breath from the upper old city…there is a portion of Maratea down on the water too…the port.
2/ Cefalu, Sicily: Taking the train from Roma to Palermo one September, I read a local article about Cefalu, the sister city in Sicily to Taormina…without the crowds. I jumped off the train on a Saturday evening and struggled in tourist Italian to convey to the young cab driver that I needed a room…not too expensive…yet nice and near the city center…my standard request. As we drove from the train station a block or two there was a traffic barrier on what appeared to be…and was…the main drag…where hundreds of people were strolling on the street. I asked if this was a “festa” and found this was a typical Saturday night. The locals were on their “passaggio”…an evening walk tradition in Italy…I couldn’t wait to join them.
My cab driver jumped out to check out availability at a couple small hotels and found one with an available room on the second stop…clean…nice…sea view…2 blocks from the main street “passaggio” site…and under $100 USD.
I loved Cefalu so much I stayed 3 days. Cefalu is fitted on a coast line beneath a huge cliff
with an ancient castle at the top. More info is available on the link. Don’t miss it if you can get there on the way to Palermo, the capitol city of Sicily.
3/ Taking the Train: As most European travellers know taking the train is a great experience. I was anxious to try my tourist Italian with anyone, and I was sitting across from an Italian school teacher from a small southern town, that was as anxious to practice his English on me. We had a two hour conversation…him speaking English…me speaking Italian…great fun!
One surprise on the train ride from Roma to Palermo was that the train boarded a ferry on the straights between Italy proper and the city Messina, in Sicily. They drove the train right onto the ferry and took us across…I don’t know what I expected…but this was quite a unique experience.
Take the luxury of not making too many plans, and let the experience of travel wash over you…you will love it. It is always a benefit to be able to say “please”, “thank you”, and “hello” in the local language, you don’t come off like an Ugly American. One other phrase is very useful…”where is the toilet”. This has worked for me in 4 languages so far including Greek a couple times.