Tired of Rome? Done Milan? Kids starts crying whenever you suggest another EM Forster tour of Florence?
Italy's big cities are no doubt worthy and its popular regions are popular for good reason. But some of the country's lesser known towns and villages are equally, or more, impressive. Here are our favorites.
Lying in the Gulf of Naples, Ischia is Capri's sister island, without the VIP status. It's more real, more genuine.
It's famous for its thermal baths (built by the Romans) and diving spots and features four-star luxury hotels with great prices year round.
Cheap but delicious fish restaurants lie along the harbor of Ischia Porto and the island is one of the few to make limoncello, that moreish lemon juice liqueur.
Visitors can opt for long strolls in the lush vegetation, or take a cab, bus or boat to tour the island. A must see is the majestic Aragonese Castle hanging on top of an isle-cliff, connected to the old hamlet of Ponte Ischia.
The Guevara Tower and Royal Palace (www.comuneischia.it) are worth a look for history fans, while at Fumarole beach you can see geysers of water vapor both underwater and above the ground.
With a temperature of up to 95 C, may want to test the water before diving in.
From the harbor ferries head for the neighboring fishermen island of Procida. Bellezza, one of the oldest restaurants on the island, also offers the best taste of the local cuisine.
The popular Kiwi Jam bar offers fantastic finger foods and happy-hour menus.
There's a huge choice of hotels, but we love hotel Casa Sofia, located in the southern village of St.Angelo, where cars don't run.
Forget Palermo's hellish traffic and Taormina's designer boutiques -- this is the heart of the real, wild Sicily famous for its artisan ceramics and the best slushies in Italy.
Getting here requires rolling across the desolate Erei hills. The top attraction is the monumental, flowery 142-step staircase of the Santa Maria del Monte, built in the 17th century, featuring hand-decorated majolica from different periods.
Once at the top the city's streets and piazzas unravel before you, showing off the lively piazza.
Must-sees include the ceramics museum, the Borbonic jail and the crèche museum, showcasing the best of the Sicilian tradition (www.comune.caltagirone.ct.it).
The best way to savor the city is to walk along the artisans' boutiques, which show off beautifully hand-made ceramics of live-size Christmas trees, Phoenician merchants' faces, gigantic green, red and blue pinewoods but also miniature ceramic owls and snails.
A day of shopping can be concluded with a slushie served inside a warm brioche. The Bronte pistachio, figs and almond flavors at the central bar facing the staircase are the best.
Restaurant Il Locandiere (+39 (0)9335 8292) offers a typical lunch while B&B Tre Metri Sopra il Cielo offers a cozy stay at the top of the staircase.
Dubbed the Florence of South Italy, Lecce can surprise even Italians. This is one of the country's poorest regions, where sheep graze among old olive trees and stone walls line the roads.
Like a Western movie, the countryside clashes with the city's luxurious Baroque, Roman and Renaissance elements.
The churches, like Santa Croce basilica, have golden-stone facades. Elegant fountains are scattered around. There's the Duomo, the 72-meter-tall bell tower and the vibrant Sant'Oronzo square, the city's pulsing heart.
Different architectural styles congregate, the most striking being the Roman column and amphitheater (www.infolecce.it). Here lies the center of the city's lively nightlife too; for evening aperitifs and happy hours there's the Caffè dell'Anfiteatro, right in front of the ruins.