We’re officially in the age of “overtourism.” A perfect storm of decades of open borders, social media influence, the middle-class explosion in Asia and the former Soviet reaches of Europe, budget travel, and a culture firmly planted in #FOMO have opened the world to everyone. There are plenty of positives here — strife-ridden communities are gaining access to cash thanks to those tourist dollars or rubles or yuan. There are negatives too — islands, iconic beaches, deserts, and mountains have been overwhelmed by the Instagram-crowd and some cities are nearing their breaking point.
Italy is a prime example of how overtourism can overwhelm a local population and kill the magic of a place. The country’s famed Cinque Terre — a stretch of cliffs with motley villas clinging to the rocks over azure seas — has been so overwhelmed by tourists that they’ve implemented a ticketing system complete with turnstiles to slow down the deluge of people.
Yet, the numbers are still climbing. The allure of Italy is just too powerful to deny. In fact, over 50 million people will flood into the country this year, basically doubling the local population. Here’s the thing, you don’t have to go to the spot that everyone else is going to when you travel. Really. You don’t. The best part of travel is discovery, not repetition, and Italy is a diverse place.
With all of that in mind, we thought we’d offer you a list of great Italian villages that aren’t protected by turnstiles due to overtourism. These are the places that are just as strikingly beautiful as Cinque Terre, just as accessible, and far less trodden. Granted, some of these places will have abundant amounts of tourists (this is Italy after all), but the numbers will be far lower and the crowds less stifling.
SERCHIO VALLEY, TUSCANY
The Serchio Valley is one of the sleepiest corners of Italy. This is where dense forests meet ancient Roman villages — covered in equally ancient ivy with plenty of wine around every corner.
To really take in the area, it’s best to post up at a place like Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa which is perched right in the middle of it all. From there, you can hike through the woods to all five villages that make up the “Cinque Borghi” or “five villages.” Each one is a sleepy mountain Tuscan town that’ll feel more like home than a tourist destination. Plus, you can easily walk to all five villages in one day on a loop and end up back at the resort for a restorative massage.