• Lecce, Matera are Italy's lesser known highlights

    2013-05-03

    Italy is certainly not lacking when it comes to large tourist draws. Cities such as Rome, Milan and Florence have rightly risen to become some of the most popular spots in Europe, but anyone who has had to battle crowds to see many of the famous landmarks knows that sometimes tourist hotspots are not all they're cracked up to be. Luckily, there are a number of highlights that are off the beaten path, and according to CNN Travel a few stand above the rest.

    Ischia
    Located in the Gulf of Naples, this tiny island is situated just off the island's west coast, and has something for everyone - whether you'd prefer to indulge your historical curiosity, enjoy the natural beauty or tour the breathtaking architecture. Among the highlights of Ischia is Aragonese Castle, a stunning building which dates back to ancient Rome. The castle is built into a volcanic rock located in the northern part of the gulf and can only be reached by a footbridge. There are also some idyllic stretches of coast, especially at Maronti beach, which is the perfect place to spend a relaxing day.

    Lecce
    On the other side of Italy sits Lecce, a city of about 95,000 people that has played an important role in Italy for more than 2,000 years. Although many cities in Europe are home to impressive churches, the ones that dot the landscape of Lecce are particularly impressive, especially the Santa Croce basilica. Famous for its golden-stone facades, this elegant church dates back to the mid-1500s and features some of the most intricate designs you'll find in Italy.

    Matera
    If you want to explore Italy's ancient history, than Mater is the place to go. Located in the southernmost regions of the country, the often overlooked destination is home to Sassi di Matera, an ancient collection of cave dwellings that some experts believe can be traced back to the prehistoric times and are the remnants of the first human settlements in Italy. Of course, there are also some modern highlights in Matera?, including the traditional restaurants Alle Fornaci and Trattoria Lucana?, as well as the compelling churches of San Giovanni Battista and San Pietro Caveoso, notes CNN Travel.

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