Travel

Best 10 Small Towns in Italy

Everyone knows about the big three in Italy – Rome, Florence and Venice. And if you have never been to Italy, do not miss these small towns in Italy. But if you are looking for other places to visit in Italy, here are some brief reviews of smaller towns I have visited.

Small Towns in Italy…That I Visited

I can only speak to the towns I visited.

Pisa

There is more to Pisa than the Leaning Tower.  Pisa has an old city wall.

Best small towns in Italy - pisa
Leaning Tower of Pisa through a town wall
Plaza of Miracles, Pisa, Italy

To get to Pisa take a regional train from Florence. The trip is about an hour and cost €8.70 each way.

Most people exit at the Pisa S. Rossore station, see the Leaning Tower, and then leave. We wanted to see more of Pisa, so we got off at Pisa Central station and walked through town , ending at the Piazza dei Miracoli and the Leaning Tower. It’s about 25 minutes of walking, but took us longer as we stopped and enjoyed the sights along the way.

Piazza dei Cavalieri, Pisa, Italy

Lucca

Lucca’s ramparts are pretty boring compared to the other walled cities.  But treasures await inside those walls.

The simple but formidable ramparts around Lucca
Lucca, Italy

Don’t miss the Anfiteatro, oval in shape as it was built on top of a Roman amphitheater. That seemed to be the hub where people hung out.

Anfiteatro, Lucca, Italy

To get to Lucca, take a regional train from Florence. The ride takes about 80 minutes and cost €7.90.

Lucca and Pisa are about 30 minutes apart by regional train at a cost of €3.60. We did a day trip from Florence and went to Lucca in the morning and Pisa in the afternoon.

Siena

People raved about Siena, so I had to visit it while in Florence, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Siena, Italy
Entrance to Siena

Just wandering through the streets of the old town takes you back in time.

The highlight, and central focal point, of Siena is the Piazza del Campo.

Piazza, del Campo, Siena’s main plaza
Piazza del Campo, Siena’s main plaza
Siena Cathedral

Siena is a 90 minute train ride from Florence at a cost of €9.50. Plan to spend the whole day as there is plenty to see. Better yet, plan to spend the night. We did a day trip and, in hindsight, would have liked to spend the night in Siena.

Be aware that it is a long uphill walk, about 30 minutes, to historic Siena. If you are not up for that, look for a taxi at the train station.

Bologna

Though not a small town, Bologna is a stop on the train line between Florence and Venice, so I decided to make a quick stop for a few hours.

Bologna’s Main Square
Bologna’s “unfinished” cathedral

One of the major highlights of Bologna is the Fountain of Neptune, which unfortunately we didn’t get to see on our visit.

Though not as famous as Pisa, Bologna has it’s own leaning towers.

best 10 small towns in Italy

Bologna is a 80 minute intercity train ride from Florence, on the way to Venice. The ticket will cost about € 14. If you are willing to spend an hour and 50 minutes on the train, you can take a regional train for €9.45. Be aware that the walk from the train station to the historic center is about 30 minutes. That was a bit farther than we expected, especially considering we were carryng backpacks.

And while in Bologna, don’t forget to eat some bologna.

After Venice, I explored some more towns.

Castelfranco

From Venice, I took a 50 minute train ride to Castelfranco for €5.10.

Castelfranco has a has a medieval walled section that is about a 15 minute walk from the train station.

Castelfranco

The historic section of Castelfranco is pretty small. I spent a little over an hour, ate lunch, and then took a 15 minute train ride to Cittadella for about €3.

Cittadella

Cittadella is a walled town less than an hour from Venice, and 15 minutes from Castelfranco, so why not visit both? The train cost €2.70. The walled city is a 10 minute walk from the train station.

Cittadella Map

For €5 you can walk the ramparts.

I spent the night here (at B&B Cittabella) because I liked the idea of spending the night in a walled city. Cittadella was nice but not awesome. I’m still glad I went. My favorite part was walking around after dark.

Cittadella at Night

I was planning to spend the next night in Este. I had to change trains in Padua, so decided to explore for a couple hours. If you pick the regional train at the right time, you can get all the way to Este for €6.40. The first leg from Cittadella to Padua took 45 minutes.

Padua

Again, I know Padua isn’t a small town, but I stopped there on my journey, so I figured I would mention it. I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was a 20 minute walk from the train station to the old town.

I was aware of St. Anthony of Padua Basilica (not to be confused with the Padua Cathedral), so I felt obligated to see it.

St. Anthony of Padua Basilica

I liked it a lot. I probably spent almost an hour there and am very glad I saw it.

Ragione Palace

I had no idea Prato della Valle, the largest square in Italy (even though it is oval and not square), even existed. This is a must see stop in Padua. I found it very relaxing – grabbed some food and found a bench and took in the beautiful square…I mean oval.

Prato della Valle, Padua, Italy

Piazza dei Signori, with it’s iconic clock tower, was another must see sight. Well, I like old clock towers.

Piazza dei Signori, Padua, Italy

Este

Since I was spending the night in Este, I needed to move on and took a 30 minute train ride. It was then a 20 minute walk to the heart of Este, with it’s historic clock tower. I told you I like clock towers.

Este Clock Tower

Este has castle ruins on a hill to the north looking over the walled town.

Castle Carrarese above the town of Este

Once inside the walls, the entire castle grounds has been turned into a park.

Castle Carrarese, Este, Italy

Este even has it’s own leaning tower. What the heck? This is the third city with a leaning tower on this trip.

I was pleasantly surprised by Este. There was a lot to see, but it didn’t feel like a tourist town.

The next day I boarded a train, and 18 minutes and €2.70 later I was in Montagnana.

Montagnana

After about a 5 minute walk I came to the entrance to the walled city of Montagnana.

Montagnana is an undiscovered gem, completely enclosed by a medieval wall.

The walls of Montagnana

There is a nice town square with a cathedral

You can walk along the inner perimeter of the town walls.

Possibly most of all, this is an amazing town, but it wasn’t overrun with tourists at all. It made me feel like a local.

Montagnana is one of those off-the-radar places that I could see becoming popular one day.

Verona

The final stop on my trip was Verona. I don’t know what is was, but I loved Verona even though it’s not a very small town.  Maybe it was the ancient colisseum I noticed when I first arrived after a 20 minute walk from the train station.

Roman Amphitheater in Verona

Casa di Giulietta

Romeo. Romeo. Where for art thou Romeo?

Castelvecchio is an impressive fortress on the river.

Castelvecchio, Verona, Italy

You can even cross the medieval bridge to the other side.

Ponte Scaligero, Verona, Italy

I loved hanging out in this Piazza in the evening.

Piazza delle Erbe

I crossed the river and explored the Teatro Romano at night. I would have liked to go back during the day and explore in more detail.

Teatro Romano, Verona Italy

There were so many other things I wanted to see, but didn’t have time – Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore , Palazzo della Ragione, and the Verona Cathedral to name a few

I was only there for one night as I had to catch a plane the next day but, in hindsight I would have stayed another night as there was more I wanted to see. Some things I only saw on my walk at night and would have liked to see during the day.

Summary

I loved this trip. I only spent a night (or less) in each place but it allowed me to see many places. I would do this trip again. My favorites were probably Siena, Montagnana and Verona. Which place do you like best?

First of all, in the picture, I am the one on the right. I was a regular working guy, like many of you. I envied the people who had the freedom to do what they wanted when they wanted. I envied the people who traveled the world. When I turned 45, I wondered "if others can do it, why can't I?" and set out to retire by the time I was 50. Fortune smiled upon me and I accomplished my goal. Now you can follow some of my journeys.

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