Are you in Italy, don't have a car and don't know where to go? Would you like to rediscover the beauty of travelling at a slow pace? Here are the five best destinations in Italy to visit without a car.
Stopping and getting rid of modernity, the hustle and bustle of motors, and, above all, city smog makes the traveller and his host happy. It's about embracing the philosophy of "time for myself" in a world where time seems to flow faster and faster and hurry, as we know, makes us lose moments that could be essential memories instead. Without a car, walking through places steeped in history and tradition, you will have the chance to harmonise with the surrounding environment, to follow its rhythms and capture its essence. You will be amazed at new details that you have never considered before. You will have the sensation of being an integral part of the community, losing the identity of a tourist and beginning to experience an authentic journey. Italy is the ideal destination to rediscover on foot, along ancient roads, old trade routes, forgotten but vivid villages rich in historical evidence. An intelligent and eco-sustainable approach allows us to discover lesser-known wonders of our country, far from the usual tourist destinations. Let's venture out together on this journey to rediscover 5 of the best destinations in Italy, where you can leave your car behind and be guided by the patience and simplicity of the trip.
"Travelling is a way of composing and writing songs through your feet; it is a form of writing through movement."
5. Bomarzo: the Village surrounded by mystery
Immersed in the rural landscape of Viterbo, perched on a tuff hill, is Bomarzo. It is a small village whose historic centre is considered a real jewel of Medieval town planning, and for this reason, it is defined as one of the most renowned landmark centres in Lazio.
Bomarzo lies in the heart of Tuscia between the slopes of the Monti Cimini and the Tiber Valley. Its origins are still shrouded in mystery. It was certainly an area intensely populated by the Etruscans and the Romans.
Today we can enjoy numerous testimonies of that time: we can take walks among the Etruscan necropolises, admire the ruins of a Roman aqueduct, but above all marvel at the foot of the Etruscan Pyramid of Bomarzo, considered the largest rock monument in Europe.
Thanks to the Attigliano- Bomarzo station, located at the confluence of the Viterbo-Orte and Florence-Rome lines, it is easy to reach this village from Rome and Montepulciano in about an hour. From Chiusi-Chianciano Terme in less an hour, from Orte, in less than half an hour and from Naples in almost two hours. Comfortably by train you can enjoy the scenery and relax without thinking about traffic and parking, and then arrive in one of the most beautiful villages of Tuscia.
Once you arrive at the station, the journey of discovery begins. It is ideal for walking through the fabulous "Cascate Del Fosso Castello", where the lush vegetation of moss and lichen envelops the tree trunks and makes the place enchanting.
Through a tunnel, you arrive at the "Valle Dei Mulini", where you can observe the remains of ancient buildings going back in time, all enveloped in contemplative and relaxing silence. Once you have passed the valley, the path leads uphill to a fantastic viewpoint, the Torre di Chia, from which you can observe the entire surrounding area.
After taking an unforgettable photo, take the path that leads to the "Necropoli di Santa Cecilia". From here, cross the anthropomorphic tombs in tufa and reach the "Piramide di Bomarzo", also known as "Sasso Del Predicatore". It is an enormous trachyte boulder detached from the overhanging wall of volcanic rock with 26 steps carved into the rock. It is impossible not to be astonished by this mighty 8-metre staircase, whose function, although not sure, is traditionally linked to the sacred sphere and is identified as an altar for celebrations and sacrifices in Etruscan times.
Bomarzo, over centuries, has been dominated by many, but its most flourishing period began when it became a fief of the Orsini family in the 16th century. The Orsini family made significant cultural and structural contributions, thanks to which we can now admire the alleys and views of astonishing beauty around the Cathedral of Bomarzo and Palazzo Orsini.
Palazzo Orsini was built at the height of the Renaissance, a central place of business for the Roman nobility during the 16th century. With its articulated structure, it dominates the town. Inside, of great importance is the beautiful hall frescoed by painters of the school of Pietro Da Cortona.
The Orsini Palace included a "Bosco Sacro", now called the "Parco dei Mostri". Prince Pier Francesco Orsini commissioned this as a dedication to his wife, Giulia Farnese.
The Park is an absolute labyrinth in which you can get lost as in a magical world, where you come across large boulders of unknown meaning, which stimulate intuition and imagination. Visitors enjoy finding the different connections between the mythological evocations and the purely literary references of the various statues. It is the perfect place if you like ancient legends and the adrenaline rush of mystery waiting to be discovered.
4.Cingoli: Balcony of Marche
Via the Rome-Ancona Railway line and a short bus ride from Jesi, we move into the Marche region to let the pleasant breeze blowing over the famous Panoramic view of Cingoli ruffle our hair.
In fact, from its medieval walls, it is possible to look out as far as the Adriatic Sea and see the Apennines of Umbria and Le Marche.
Cingoli is a small town in the province of Macerata, perched on top of Monte Circe. For its particularity is among the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy. Its origins are ancient, dating back to the Eneolithic, 5000 years ago. Later it was inhabited by Picene populations. According to legend, the Picenian woodpecker landed on Cingoli.
After several dominations over the centuries, in 1829, Francesco Saverio Castiglioni, from a noble family from Cingoli, became Pope under the name of Pius VIII. In 1861, Cingoli became part of the Kingdom of Italy as a protagonist of all historical and political events.
Entering the historic centre of Cingoli, what immediately strikes you is the sensation of time stopping in a harmonious calm that combines with the amazement of the eyes when looking at the warm colours of the plaster of the facades framed by elegant Renaissance portals.
Sensations are generated and reinforced by the almost total closure of the old town centre to traffic, giving visitors the chance to experience the beauty and authenticity of the glimpses of significant visual and emotional impact.
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II is the heart of Cingoli. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and the Town Hall is considered the oldest structure dating to the twelfth century.
From the square, going down, you cross the beautiful Renaissance palaces that belonged to the noble families of Cingoli to reach the court where the church of San Domenico and the convent of the Order of Preachers are built. On the church's high altar, you can admire the beautiful painting of the Madonna del Rosario e Santi, one of the most magnificent works by the restless Venetian painter Lorenzo Lotto.
Not to be missed is a walk through the Polisena neighbourhood, considered the oldest in the town thanks to the interweaving of small streets made of irregular stones that cross rustic houses, without plaster, that recalls the hermetic period that interested Cingoli. Next to the building that once housed the church of Santa Maria in Valverde is the beautiful Fontana di Maltempo. Not far from it is the 17th-century Palazzo Castiglioni, where Francesco Saverio Castiglioni, who became Pope Pius VIII, was born.
From Cingoli, it is possible to make interesting excursions in the uncontaminated nature. Not far from the town centre, it is possible to reach Lake Cingoli, an ideal place to contact oneself and the natural world that surrounds us. From ancient times to the present day, Cingoli has a timeless fascination with history, art, and unmissable nature and can satisfy families on outings, trekkers, and those in search of romance or the adventurous dreamy. A destination for everyone.
3. Orta San Giulio and the Isle of Silence
We now fly to Piedmont to another of Italy's most beautiful villages: Orta San Giulio. From Milan Malpensa Airport, it is easy to reach the town by train on the Novara-Domodossola line, stopping at the Orta-Masino station.
Orta San Giulio is located in the province of Novara and has been awarded the Orange Flag by the Italian Touring Club. It is a tourist-environmental award given to inland Italian towns that have distinguished themselves for their hospitality and excellence in welcoming visitors.
Therefore, a perfect destination for our concept of car-free tourism and relaxation without smog and city traffic.
Orta San Giulio lies on the shore of Lake Orta. In the Middle Ages, it takes its name from the name of the lake of San Giulio, the evangelising saint. The story goes that in 390, the brothers Giulio and Giuliano came to the Riviera proclaiming Christianity. One day, walking along the shores of the lake, Julius saw a small island inhabited by snakes and dragons. Not finding a boat, he decided to spread his cloak over the water and reach the island, where he defeated the monsters and built a Basilica where he is still buried.
Entering Orta San Giulio, one has the impression of stepping back in time thanks to the mixture of architectural styles, ranging from Romanesque to Baroque. The narrow streets intersect and then descend towards the lake, characterised by silence and the play of shadows that make them suggestive and unique to walk through. The same roads lead to Sacro Monte, a Unesco World Heritage Site on the opposite side.
The centre of Orta is Piazza Motta with the Palazzo della Comunità della Riviera di San Giulio. The square offers the opportunity to relax on benches overlooking the lake, as in an actual living room, to have a drink or take a boat to reach the Island of San Giulio.
We take a ferry to the Island of San Giulio. The first thing that will amaze you is the fascinating Romanesque Basilica of San Giulio.
Strolling around the island, you can come across elegant villas that belonged to the canons, which bore the names of the saints. One of the most important is Villa Tallone, which hosts lovely classical music concerts every year.
The nerve centre of Isola Di San Giulio is the Benedictine Abbey Mater Ecclesiae. Initially, six nuns were living here, but now there are 80 who live in total silence. Their guide for all these years has been Mother Abbess Anna Maria Canopi, a crucial female figure in the Catholic Church. She is responsible for the mystical and contemplative atmosphere of the island, crisscrossed by a road, the Via del Silenzio. One walks past ancient villas, wells, walled gardens, and narrow alleyways that descend towards Lake Orta.
But the attention is undoubtedly drawn to the messages left by Mother Abbess Canopi, who along this minor road shared her wisdom on silence. In contrast, in the opposite direction, she went thoughts on meditation.
It is precisely this aura of mystery and depth of soul that increases the desire to visit this magical place and contemplate her beautiful words, which are, today, small pieces of advice of great value for better understanding ourselves and others.
2. In Trentino in the Valley of Harmony
Our journey to discover the perfect places to visit without a car takes us to Val di Fiemme, in Trentino.
Arriving at any Airport between Verona, Venice, Bergamo Orio Al Serio and Milan, it is possible to reach what is better known as the Valley of Harmony with a "collective shuttle".
The Panveggio Forest is home to the finest fir trees used to make the soundboards for violins.
It is said that even Stradivari expressed great appreciation for them, so much so that he wandered through the forest, also known as the Forest of Violins, in search of trees, in particular centuries-old spruces, suitable for making perfect violins.
Today these soundboards are sought after worldwide, and internationally renowned musicians still use the extraordinary spruce trees.
The Valle di Fiemme is one of the principal valleys in the Dolomites and extends along the Avisio stream between the Lagorai and Latemar mountains.
As well as woods and forests, it offers the possibility to cross two nature parks and climb imposing Dolomite peaks, namely the Corno Bianco, the Gruppo del Letemar with beautiful spires and the Pale di San Martino. These incredible peaks have been declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site.
Val Di Fiemme is the ideal destination for those who want to travel environmentally sustainable way. In fact, in 2003, it was the first valley to certify its forests, and it was here that the first eco-certified World Championships were held.
Today a cycle path runs through the entire valley, from Molina di Fiemme to Moena and Canazei. Five ski areas and two cross-country skiing centres are available for those who love to reach these places in winter, especially for families.
Therefore, Val di Fiemme is one of Italy's most interesting naturalistic destinations. In its territory, there are scattered mountain villages and hamlets where it is possible to learn about the history and traditions of this immense Italian paradise.
1. The Car-free Village
At the top of our top 5 and in the far north of Italy is a smog-free, noise-free, stress-free village: Chamois, the only car-free municipality in Italy.
A referendum in 1955 decided to abolish the circulation of cars in this enchanted little place. A unique decision in Italy, of which, even today, the inhabitants are proud because it has made this small village a place of serenity, peace and tranquillity.
There is no traffic, no cars, no motorbikes, just unspoilt nature, forests, immense mountains, magnificent expanses of meadows, many panoramic viewpoints and narrow streets where the silence is broken only by the tolling of bells.
In Chamois you can move by bicycle, on horseback or foot.
To reach this Italian pearl, take the train to the Chatillon/ Saint-Vincent station and take the bus to Buisson, which is the starting point of the Cable car to Chamois. For the more courageous, you can walk from Buisson along a steep mule track through the woods at an altitude of 700 metres.
This jewel of nature where you can rest and find yourself is divided into seven hamlets, characterised by traditional, tiny wooden and stone houses surrounded by small paths, lakes and streams. Here you can meet farmers who live by ancient activities as if time had stopped. It will seem like you are taking a step back into the past, or you might even realise how satisfying it is to live in such an unspoilt place.
A 2-hour walk from the centre of the village and a 700-metre difference in altitude await us at an unmissable viewpoint, Le Point Sublime. From here you can enjoy a fantastic view of the Cervino, which is known the world over as "Europe's noblest rock", as the English poet John Ruskin described it.
Le Point Sublime is also a starting point for skiing or snowshoeing in winter and spring.
Fascinating and suggestive is Lake Lord, one of the most characteristic corners of Chamois. It is located at an altitude of 2000 metres and can be reached by chairlift or on foot along simple paths. This place in reverse turns into a natural paradise for ski lovers, especially for children who are taking their first steps in this activity.
In Italy for a "Slow trip"
In this historical time of rediscovery of essential values for human life, such as family, health and serenity, in a time of crisis that the pandemic has caused in everyone's hearts, the way of travelling is also changing. The practice of Slow Tourism is making its way and growing.
Slow tourism represents a fundamental change for those who are used to desperate journeys to crowded cities, between work commitments and another. Today the priority is to leave with a greater awareness of oneself and what one wants to learn from that journey.
The choice is to experience, learn more about sustainability and experience destinations not as tourists but as part of the host community. It is also a straightforward way of travelling; the important thing is to arm yourself with a lot of willpower and curiosity.
Italy is rich in history, culture, good food, craftsmanship, nature, and above all, an unparalleled welcome. It is, therefore, a wonderfully suitable destination for experiencing this type of journey, which enriches the soul and satisfies all the needs to return to a peaceful and serene "modus vivendi".