Italy Names Six New Beautiful Villages—What To See And Foods To Try

Each year, I Borghi Più Belli d’Italia, an association dedicated to preserving and promoting the heritage of the country’s smaller, often rural destinations, announces new villages to add to its list of the most beautiful places in Italy. In August the association named six new borghi, ranging from the regions of Piedmont to Basilicata.

There are now 354 selected villages, with a roster of some 900 other borghi hoping to join the group. (A candidate town must meet 72 requirements to be eligible.) Becoming a member of I Borghi helps raise a village’s profile and contributes to both its economic and social development, the association says. “This is the advantage that our network offers and it is for this reason that we are once again asking the national and regional governments for particular attention,” Fiorello Primo, president of the association said when the new villages were announced in Rome early last month. He also called for a forward-looking strategy “so that the communities can continue to live and to protect the tangible and intangible heritage of which they are custodians.”

Here are the six new entries, what to see when visiting them, and, since a destination’s culinary culture is often so integral to its identity, some of the local specialties to try.

A Major Wine Village: Barolo (Piedmont)

Perhaps best known of the newly listed Borghi Più Belli, Barolo and its surrounding countryside is the epicenter for the production of one of Italy’s most famous wines, dubbed the “wine of kings.” Not surprisingly for a place famous for its “regal” vintages, Barolo, the town (about an hour’s drive from Turin), comes with a castle, plenty of romantic history, and a wine route (Strada del Vino) that will take you to some of the area’s most notable vineyards. Stop by the Wine Museum (WiMu) in the Castle Falletti, where you can learn about this coveted wine’s history and visit the private rooms of the Marchesa Giulia Falletti (known as Giulia di Barolo), a pioneering vintner who was instrumental in the wine’s development. At the end of the tour head to the enoteca in the castle cellar to sample Barolos from the 11 nearby towns where the wine is produced.

What to Eat: Barolo is a robust wine best paired with hearty pastas and entrees. Try Piedmont specialties like agnolotti del Plin or a mushroom or truffle risotto. There are also risottos made with Barolo and a beef stew (brasato al Barolo) simmered with it. And if you still haven’t had enough of the wine, you can order dessert with pears steeped in Barolo.

Stay: To experience a luxe, contemporary version of the castle/palace life, head to the stunning 18th-century Castello di Guarene, a Relais & Chateaux hotel in Guarene, with roots in the Middle Ages. It is about a half-hour’s drive from Barolo.

A Seaside Resort To Discover: Maratea (Basilicata)

Maratea is a beautiful, under-the-radar seaside destination with a notable collection of cultural sites. It dominates an idyllic stretch of coastline along the Tyrrhenian Sea, running some 30 kilometers from Campania in the north to Calabria in the south. This shoreline, one of Basilicata’s two rivieras, offers plenty of beach options and lido clubs, and an enchanting seascape fronted by clear turquoise waters. The town of Maratea and its satellite hamlets are home to 44 churches offering a wide collection of medieval art.

What to Eat: Like its neighbor Lazio, Basilicata produces fine mozzarella, which when paired with the local ribbed tomatoes in season makes for a memorable Caprese. Try one of the spicy pastas, like strascinati with breadcrumbs and peppers, or orecchiette with peppers, anchovies and turnip leaves. The vegetable calzones are tasty too.

Stay: The five-star Hotel Santavenere has commanding views of the sea.

An ancient getaway near Rome: Nemi (Lazio)

The Castelli Romani area of Lazio, south of Rome, was one of the Italian peninsula’s earliest resorts, beloved by Roman emperors and nobles, who came to escape the heat of the city. Nemi was a particularly sought-after spot, thanks to its volcanic lake; the infamous Caligula built the ancient equivalent of super-yachts to ply its waters. (You can see remnants of his boats in the town’s Roman Ships Museum.) Nemi is also known for its ancient Temple of Diana, and for producing small sweet strawberries.

What to eat: You’ll find many classic Roman dishes in the area, but some local favorites include risotto with porcini mushrooms; cellette di Rocca Priora, a thick twisty pasta served with an arrabbiata or a tuna sauce; broccoli soup; vignarola, a mix of artichokes, peas and fava beans worked up as a soup or mixed in with pasta; grilled lamb chops; ciambelline al vino, or wine biscuits; and strawberry tarts. The Castelli Romani area produces the well-known white wine, Frascati.

Stay: Nemi is about an hour’s drive from Rome, so can be visited as a day trip.

A Hill Town With Frescoed Buildings: Clusone (Lombardy)

One of Lombardy’s hidden gems, Clusone is a scenic hill town lying north of Bergamo with a significant cultural history. Clusone drew Giuseppe Verdi, who is said to have written the opera Attila here when he visited as a guest of Countess Clara Maffei, an aristocrat active in artistic circles and in Italy’s Risorgimento movement. Among the sites to see: the frescoed buildings, like the Oratory of the Disciplines and Town Hall; the baroque basilica, Santa Maria Assunta; and the oversized planetary clock in the town hall tower, created in the 16th century and still functioning.

What to eat: Pizzoccheri, a buckwheat pasta served with cheese, cabbage, and potatoes; the ravioli-like casconcelli; capù, a stuffed cabbage dish; various types of polenta, like polenta taragna cooked with local cheeses; and the biscotti di Clusone, baked with chocolate and almonds.

Stay: Clusone is about an hour-and-a-half drive from Milan, so can be visited as a day trip. The resort town of Sirmione on Lake Garda can also be reached in about the same time. In Sirmione the Villa Cortine is a five-star property that overlooks the lake.

In the Mountains: Fontainemore (Aosta) and Caldes (Trentino)


Fontainemore lies in an area known for its fresh Alpine beauty, the Val di Lys, one of the Aosta region’s most photogenic spots. Take in this rustic setting that’s changed little over the years with a stroll through the narrow village streets dotted with stone houses and chalets. Visit another Val di Lys charmer, the nearby Gressoney-Saint-Jean, to tour Castel Savoia once owned by Queen Margherita of Italy, who liked to come to this part of Aosta during summer.

What to Eat: Not surprisingly, the mountain food here is rich, hearty and often involves preparation with one of the local cheeses, like Fontina or Toma di Gressoney. Polenta concia, made with Fontina, is one of the dishes to try. Other local specialties include chnéfflene, a spaetzle-like pasta, and the Aosta carbonade, a beef stew cooked with wine and various spices. Aosta makes a number of fine high-altitude wines, like Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle and Torrette.

Stay. The international ski resort Courmayeur at the foot of Mont Blanc is a little over an hour’s drive from Fontainemore. Le Massif, a five-star property in the town, has a good location near the shops and slopes.


Caldes lies in the Val di Sole, a nature-enthusiast’s destination in the Trentino region of northern Italy. This small village is known for a medieval castle that comes with a sad love story. According to lore, a young countess who wanted to marry a courtier her father didn’t approve of, was imprisoned in one of the rooms to prevent the nuptials. To wile away the time, she painted the room with frescoes, a space that can be visited today. Apple orchards flank the village—the Val di Sole, like the nearby Val di Non, is known for its apple production, with harvests kicking into high gear in early fall.

What to Eat: Farmhouse restaurants and mountain huts serve area dishes like canederli, a bread and cheese or meat dumpling; strangolapreti, a type of spinach gnocchi; potato gnocchi; mushroom risottos; salads made with cheese, apple and cabbage; and apple strudel.

Stay: The glamorous ski resort, Madonna di Campiglio, is a half-hour drive away. Two popular hotels there include the Chalet del Sogno, and DV Chalet Hotel Boutique and Spa.

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