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Italy Travel Guide: Three Under-the-Radar Regions to See Now

You’ve been to Rome, Florence, and Venice and now you’re ready to dig deeper, right? Time to head to these three regions favored by Italians—one for wine, one for village life, and one for beaches.

Lombardy

Tuscany and the Veneto region may produce the most well-known Italian wines, but Franciacorta, in Lombardy, produces the best wines. This picturesque area between Milan and Lake Como boasts Italy’s coveted DOCG status—the highest you can get—for its sparkling wines made using the champagne method. Higher quality than Prosecco and even some Champagnes, Franciacorta is a connoisseur’s pick and Ca’ del Bosco is one of the best wineries to visit with an amazing art collection to boot. Stay at Da Vittorio, a family-run Relais & Châteaux property in Brusaporto with a three-Michelin-starred restaurant or book a room at Relais Mirabella Iseo for jaw-dropping views of Lake Iseo, where the artist Christo installed the Floating Piers last year. The art installation was only temporary, but you can still enjoy life on the lake with a speedboat ride and seaside pizza at Ristorante San Martino.

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Umbria

Set in the center of Italy, Umbria is Italy’s only region that was never invaded by outside forces, as proud Umbrians will tell you, and that includes the waves of foreign tourists flooding Tuscany. Here, village life is still characterized by long lunches of rustic home-style cooking, leisurely strolls through medieval cobblestoned streets, and vast swaths of fields and rolling hills dotted by olive groves. Perugia is the capital, but you’re better off staying in a small village like Gubbio, where you can sleep in a converted monastery now called the Park Hotel ai Cappuccini, a member of Small Luxury Hotels. Head to Piazza Grande for the best views of the terra cotta roofed houses below and gorge on fresh pasta at Ristorante di Porta Tessenaca. Rent a car and zip along the winding roads to Bevagna, where you’ll find a charming outdoor market and antiques shops selling Umbria’s majolica ceramics and other hard-to-find pieces.

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Puglia

Mention Puglia to an Italian and he’ll surely wax poetic about the best hidden beach with the clearest water. Located on the heel of the boot, its peninsula stretching into the Adriatic Sea, this is where city-dwelling Italians go on summer vacation. Italians have an expression, il dolce far niente—the sweetness of doing nothing—and that’s exactly how you’ll spend your days in Puglia. Stay at a little seaside retreat like La Peschiera, set in a former fish hatchery or a spa hotel like Furnirussi Tenuta. Or consider renting a villa. "Many properties have an original pizza oven where the local pizzaiolo can come to make pizza,” explain Rossella and Huw Beaugié, the husband-and-wife team behind villa rental company, The Thinking Traveller. For a truly Pugliese experience, rent a trullo—one of the ancient stone houses with a conical roof or a masseria—a farmhouse. Every morning, you’ll go down to the piazza for a cappuccino and cornetto, then head to the beach for maximum sunbathing and swimming, clamber back into town to eat fresh seafood fished out of the Adriatic with local wine, take a walk around town, nap in the sun, rinse, and repeat.

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