From crystal clear lakes to castle perches on clifftops, Italy has more than its fair share of fairytale travel destinations.
Castello Scaligero, Lake Garda
The 12th century castle, first built as a fortress, offers beautiful views over Lake Garda while also being picturesque in its own right. It boasts a drawbridge and is one of a few examples of a lake fortification, also acting as the entrance to the town of Sirmione.
Giardino di Ninfa, Lazio
Ninfa was once a bustling medieval town, but the locals abandoned their homes after some difficult decades in the 14th century, brought about by political intrigue and then an outbreak of malaria. In the 1900s, the spot was rediscovered and painstakingly transformed so that now visitors can admire plants entwined with the ruins and cross the castle’s moat to explore inside. You will need to book a guided tour to see these gardens.
Civita di Bagnoregio, Lazio
This hilltop town looks spectacular at any time of the day, especially when it is seen rising out the early morning mist. First inhabited over 2,500 years ago, it is now known in Italy as ‘the dying town’ after an earthquake caused public institutions and many residents to move out, as well as erosion of the cliff. Today it has only one dozen permanent residents. It is mostly populated by urban families who use it as a weekend getaway, but it retains an untouched, medieval feel.
Isola di Loreto, Lake Iseo
Once overlooked in favor of the larger, more glamorous lakes, Iseo has won increasing popularity with visitors. Isola di Loreto, originally a convent island, is now in private hands so it can only admired from the water. However, the whole region is worth exploring for its hills, small towns and Monte Isola, Italy’s largest lake island, where visitors can hike, admire the churches or indulge in fresh seafood at the many restaurants.
Castello di Venere, Erice, Sicily
Take the cable car up to this fortress, built 2,500 feet above Trapani for incredible views. This was once a sacred site, a temple to the goddess Venus, the clouds that often swirl around are known as ‘Venus’ Kisses.’ The remainder of the hilltop town is also worth a visit, with plenty of history, architecture and quaint streets.
Also in Sicily, this network of 5,000 burial chambers cut into the rock provides an awe-inspiring setting. Taking one of the hiking routes through the area is the perfect way to escape the crowds of the Sicilian tourist resorts and at the end of the walk, a river and cave are there for exploring and swimming.
Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore
There’s a reason it’s called the beautiful island. Isola Bella is home to a lavish palazzo, decorated with shells, rocks and art on the inside and is surrounded by magical gardens with a view across the lake.
Cascate delle Marmore, Umbria
These are the tallest man-made waterfalls in the world and incredibly, were built by the ancient Romans. The flow of the water can be turned on and off, which usually happens during midday. It is the best to time as you watch the rushing waters die down to a trickle. Try to catch a glimpse of the rainbow of Marmore, a phenomenon which has inspired painters and poets throughout the centuries on their Grand Tour. If the beautiful views aren’t enough, the site also offers white-water rafting.