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Matera, Sardinia, and the timeless splendor of the Cinque Terre

Italy is the top international location for U.S. tourists in 2024. This European country is known for its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes, so it’s no wonder many people visit yearly.

With over 60 million inbound tourists in 2023, however, you may be looking to travel to unique and less crowded destinations next time you visit. Matera, Sardinia, and the Cinque Terre offer an authentic taste of Italy’s timeless charm away from the usual tourist hotspots. 

This article explores these hidden gems and their unique attractions while highlighting practical travel tips. 

Matera: The ancient city of stones 

Matera is in the southern region of Basilicata and is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. It’s known for its Sassi districts and features ancient cave dwellings carved into limestone cliffs. These Sassi districts are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and date back to prehistoric times.

Matera’s transformation from a symbol of poverty to a European Capital of Culture in 2019 has revitalized its tourism with restored cave hotels and vibrant local markets.

Sardinia: An island paradise

Sardinia is Italy’s second-largest island and boasts some of the most pristine beaches in the Mediterranean. The Costa Smeralda is great for beach lovers and water sports enthusiasts with crystal-clear waters and white sandy shores. 

The island’s culinary scene is equally captivating as it’s influenced by its pastoral and maritime traditions. It features specialties such as porceddu (roast suckling pig) and seadas (honey-soaked pastries). 

The Cinque Terre: Coastal charms

The Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with five picturesque villages along the rugged Ligurian coast. Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore are connected by a network of hiking trails, offering breathtaking views of terraced vineyards and the azure sea.

Choosing a walking holiday in Italy is a great way to explore the scenic beauty of places like Cinque Terre at a leisurely pace. 

Best time to visit

For Matera, spring and fall offer pleasant weather and fewer crowds. Sardinia is ideal in late spring to early fall, with July and August being peak beach season. The Cinque Terre is best visited in spring or fall when the weather is mild, and the trails are less crowded.

Getting there and around

Matera is accessible via Bari Airport, followed by a train or bus. Sardinia has three main airports: Cagliari, Olbia, and Alghero, with car rentals available for island exploration. To get to the Cinque Terre, you’ll need to fly to Pisa Airport and catch a train. Local trains also connect the various villages in the area.


Options range from cave hotels in Matera and beachfront resorts in Sardinia to charming guesthouses in the Cinque Terre. Booking in advance is recommended, especially during peak seasons.

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