There’s an old saying in Italy – La calma è la virtù dei forti, or calm is the virtue of the strong.
But in the chaos of summer tourist season in Italy, calm is harder to find than pineapple on a pizza.
Beloved favorites like Rome, Milan, and Venice deserve their spectacular reputations. However, some travelers won’t take any pleasure in being packed like sardines or languishing in mile-long lines, no matter how iconic the destination.
If you want to experience the wonder of Italy without the misery of overcrowding, you’re in luck. The country that gave us pizza and gelato has plenty of other gifts in store.
Here are four lesser-known destinations to avoid crowded cities in Italy this summer:
Florence – Lecce
Florence is the undisputed beating heart of the Renaissance in Italy. Over ten million tourists visit this artistic and historical landmark each year, making it one of the most crowded destinations in the country.
The summer high season in Florence means 50% price hikes for hotels, hours-long queues for its iconic art galleries even with advance tickets, and impossible dinner reservations.
Instead of overcrowded Florence, try the lesser-known seaside city of Lecce.
Located in the heart of Italy’s southern Puglia region (the ‘heel’ of Italy’s boot), Lecce is an artistic and historical treasure. In fact, Lecce has its own architectural style – barocco leccese. Think decorative columns, abundant gargoyles, and picturesque porticoes of the region’s signature golden-colored limestone.
Nicknamed ‘Florence of the South,’ Lecce is home to plenty of artistic and historical sites.
Take in the architecture from Piazza Del Duomo, marvel at Lecce Cathedral, or get a bird’s eye view of the city from its bell tower. Lecce’s second-century Roman Amphitheatre by St. Oronzo Square stands out as a seriously underrated archaeological relic.
For a deeper cultural experience, ditch the mainstream hotels for one of the many palazzi, historical houses located in Old Town with histories dating back over a hundred years.
Before soaking in the city, sweeten your trip with the city’s signature breakfast delight, pasticciotto leccese. This irresistible custard pastry is crispy golden brown on the outside, delectably creamy on the inside, and should not be skipped under any circumstances.
Rome – Ostia Antica
Ah, Roma. The Italian capital is crowded all year long, but the summer season really stretches the city’s seams to bursting.
Instead of overrun Rome, try the smaller nearby town of Ostia Antica.
Just 45 minutes from Rome, Ostia Antica has a similarly important history to the Roman Empire, without the capital’s hours long waits for a glimpse at its past.
2,000-year-old Ostia Antica used to be the bustling commercial port city of ancient Rome along the Tiber River.
Today, visitors can spend hours exploring the sprawling well-preserved ruins of ancient amphitheaters, baths, temples, and other aspects of everyday life. While it’s no Colosseum, Ostia Antica’s vast ruins are some of the best preserved in all of Italy. In fact, this site is often hailed as rivaling Pompeii.
Lake Como – Lake Orta
Okay, Lake Como has the Clooneys and star-studded villas. But it also has all the chaotic summer crowds.
Nearby Lake Orta has the same natural beauty with more character and less buzz.
Lake Orta is a cinematic destination on the Piedmonte side of the lakes region. While by the lake, travelers can indulge in five-star palatial villas, winding cobblestone lanes, and Michelin-starred restaurants with mouth-watering truffle-forward specialties of Orta’s Piedmonte region.
The monastery is the island’s most prominent feature, and the reason for its nickname as the island of silence. As Marie-Claire Chappet for Harper’s Bazaar so aptly put it, “think of it as a medieval meditation app.”
While Lake Orta is still a super popular destination in the summer – especially with locals – it’s certainly quieter than the neighboring A-list lakes.
Amalfi Coast – Western Sardinia
Many travelers dream of a scenic drive along the Amalfi coast, wind whipping their hair in a vintage convertible headed to one of many glitzy beach resorts.
To avoid Amalfi’s summer chaos, head to the underrated western coast of Sardinia for a spectacular seaside road trip.
A coastal drive from Carbonia all the way north to Alghero will dazzle travelers with striking sea views, dramatic cliffs, and untouched Italian paradise.
The peach-toned villages of Bosa evoke distinctly Amalfi vibes. The former tannery town’s Museo delle Conce and Museo Casa Deriu are must-sees. Enjoy a glass of regional specialty Malvasia dessert wine by the marina, or take a boat tour to Capo Marrargiu and its nearby caves.
At the northern finish line of your off-path Italian road trip, the Porto Conte Regional Natural Park offers some of the most pristine beaches and spectacular trails in all of Italy.
In the words of iconic Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini, “Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” We hope you enjoy both in peace with these lesser-known Italian destinations this summer.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com