"The Most Beautiful Villages of Italy" is responsible for promoting the heritage of the hidden parts of the country through the development of new and fascinating trip itineraries. The Top 20 has just been released.
Italy is globally depicted as a site of refined culture found in the countless ancient ruins, beautiful landscapes, and artistic treasures. These cultural resources are often located in small, hidden villages untouched by modern constructions.
In the 2017 edition of "I borghi più belli d'Italia" (The most beautiful villages of Italy), there are 271 small towns listed, with a population of less than 15,000 inhabitants. Kilimangiaro, a program broadcasted by the national Italian television (Rai) has just released the top 20, one for each Italian region.
1. Venzone - Friuli Venezia Giulia
Venzone has been a mandatory transit point since Celtic times (500 A.D.) because of its favorable geographic position. The Romans, who came after the Celts, made Venzone one of their statio along the via Julia Augusta road.
The village was declared a National Monument in 1965 as a unique fortified village of the 14th century in the region. It was almost entirely destroyed by the 1976 Friuli earthquake, killing 47 inhabitants. Clearing-up operations started immediately and, by resolution of a citizens committee, the historic town centre was rebuilt in its original style from numerous pieces of rubble in the next years and today it is an example of preservation and protection of the cultural heritage and the social and economic network in the Region.
2. Arquà Petrarca - Veneto
Arquà is the most famous and the most characteristic village of the Euganean Hills, 20 km far from the city of Padua. The village has kept its medieval architecture and it is the place where the poet Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca) lived the final four years of his life (1370–74). In 1870, the town of Arquà added his name to its own. The house where he lived is now a museum dedicated to the poet.
3. Conca dei Marini - Campania
The village of Conca dei Marini is so called because it is located in a valley by the sea and it is also called the city of sailors, for the old habit of the inhabitants to be all sailors. It’s a cluster of old houses inhabited by 700 residents, 400 meters above sea level of the Amalfi Coast.
4. Otranto - Puglia
Otranto is a historic seaside town and port on the Adriatic coast of southern Italy. It was important as a Greek and then Roman port, called Hydruntum. Later it was ruled by the Byzantines, the Normans and the Aragonese. In 1480 the town was invaded by Turks, and 800 locals were executed for refusing to convert to Islam.
5. Castiglione di Sicilia - Sicilia
Castiglione di Sicilia lies on a hill on the north side of Etna, in the middle of the valley that the river Alcantara digs between Randazzo and Taormina. It was inhabited by Greeks in 403 BC , who built a fortress to protect and control their colonies. Later the village was conquered by Romans, who built its bridges, Arabs who changed the irrigation systems, Normans and Swabian.
6. Fiumefreddo Bruzio - Calabria
The medieval town of Fiumefreddo Bruzio is of interest for its still intact ancient urban layout with its surrounding defensive walls, fortified gateways and watch towers with Arab-style battlements.
7. Castelmezzano - Basilicata
It is one of the highest villages in Basilicata with clusters of houses perched precariously on a narrow ledge that drops away into a dramatic gorge. The village offers evocative panoramas and is rich in history and tradition.
8. Montecassiano - Marche
Founded in the fifth century, perhaps by people fleeing from the near Roman town Ricina, Montecassiano stands on the top of a hill at 215 m above sea level, overlooking the plain traversed by the Potenza River. The ancient urban structure is still preserved: its inner small roads, like concentric circles, orderly twist until the town’s highest point, Piazza Giacomo Leopardi. The town is still surrounded by medieval walls that allow entering the centre only from its three ancient gates.
9. Vastogirardi - Molise
A small village in the hills of Molise located at 1,200 m on sea level. Inside the walls is the village is well preserved in its original defensive function.
10. Castelgandolfo - Lazio
Castel Gandolfo is one of the Castelli Romani, historic towns dotted around the wooded Alban Hills and dominated by grand villas. The summer residence of the Pope, Castel Gandolfo is much more than a pretty village clustered around the Papal Palace and the extensive gardens enjoyed by popes for centuries. Its name is derived from a castle belonging to the ducal Gandolfi family in the 12th century.
11. Panicale - Umbria
Historians believe that the name "Panicale" comes from the Latin words Pani calet, "to be in the heart of the god Pan", the patron of nature and forests. It can be dated back to ancient times: as early as 2000 B.C., Indo-European herdsmen called Acherni and Italic people lived on the hill where Panicale is situated. Some 1000 years later, Etruscan farmers replaced the herdsmen and were later joined by the Romans.
12. Suvereto - Toscana
The town is a splendid medieval village whose origins date back to before the year 1000. Situated on the slopes of the hills overlooking the Costa degli Etruschi, it is rich in history and art, set in the green valley of the River Cornia. The town displays an enchanting architectural harmony and its ancient walls enclose paved streets lined with stone houses, historical buildings, impressive churches, and shadowy cloisters.
13. Zavattarello - Lombardia
One of the most charming villages in the Oltrepò Pavese area, located in a valley that will take you back in time with its ancient parish churches, abbeys and castles. The original urban structure of the village's medieval town centre stands virtually intact. The village is still partly surrounded by walls, originally built for defensive purposes, and is dominated by the Fortress, an architectural complex made entirely in stone where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the surrounding area.
14. Canale di Tenno - Trentino
Narrow paved alleys, arcades, small internal squares, houses set one against the other like in the ancient villages of the 13 century. It is a mountain village immersed in the soft Mediterranean atmosphere of Lake Garda.
15. Rocca San Giovanni - Abruzzo
It is a little town with a population of about 2,000 inhabitants. Founded in XI century by Oderisio I, it is situated on a hilltop overlooking Rocca San Giovanni Marina and the Trabocchi Coast.
16. Orta San Giulio - Piemonte
In its location facing Lake Orta, the small town of Orta San Giulio is a maze of picturesque streets and narrow cobbled lanes, flanked by old stone walls with doorways topped with triangular architraves. The medieval atmosphere of Orta is enhanced every June with the Cusio Festival of Ancient Music, when a series of concerts are given in the 18th century Casa Tallone, on San Giulio Island, by internationally famous musicians playing ancient instruments.
17. Tellaro - Liguria
It is the eastern-most village in the county of Lerici. Its origins seem to date back to the mid-fourteenth century. It retains its typical Ligurian structure characterized by narrow streets and tall, narrow houses overlooking the sea, leaning one against the other.
18. La Maddalena - Sardegna
La Maddalena is an island located in northern part of Sardinia. The island is not very heavily populated and is a part of the province of Olbia-Tempio. The largest city on the island is the La Maddalena town. The island is quite famous for its beautiful beaches and has a rocky terrain. There are several ancient ruins and some fortifications that are still left on the island.
19. Montegridolfo - Emilia Romagna
It is a restored medieval village, built as a fortress, on the border between Emilia Romagna and Marche. Over the centuries, this village has suffered the influence of the Duchy of Montefeltro and Malatesta, venue of frequent military battles. For this exact reason, it was designed and built as a rectangular fortress, with a tower overlooking the walls.
20. Gressan - Valle d'Aosta
Set in a wide basin in the flatland of Aosta, Gressan is a village spread out over a slightly raised landscape set among vast orchards. This district was already inhabited during the Roman era, as confirmed by some inscriptions that were discovered and subsequently brought to the Archaeological Museum in Aosta.
The decision has been made by the program's audience and a panel of experts: Cristina Bowermann, one of the few famous female Italian chefs to have been awarded a Michelin star, Philippe Daverio, one of the greatest popularizers of art on Italian television and Mario Tozzi, an Italian geologist.