Watch: Undiscovered Secrets of Italy



Who doesn't love Italy's grand cities such as Venice, Rome and Florence?

They have an almost gravitational pull that means you could spend your entire holiday getting lost in their magic. But Italy has dozens of lesser known treasures; from climbing live volcanoes, to spending the day soaking under a naturally hot waterfall.

We drove from Sicily in the south to the Dolomites in the north searching out Italy's undiscovered secrets, and here's what we found.


1. VULCANO ISLAND, SICILY

Ever wanted to watch the sunset from a steaming volcano? The island of Vulcano is an hour's ferry from Sicily, and it's a geothermal wonderland.

You can swim in the sea through hot volcanic vents bubbling away, or take a dip in its famed mud pool. "It will heal almost anything" one local enthusiastically boasted. The main attraction is a two-hour walk up the side of the volcano to its huge crater, where you can enjoy an incredible sunset across the Mediterranean.


2. GROTTA DELLA POESIA, SOUTHERN ITALY

This enormous rock pool looks like the result of a comet hitting the ground. You can dive in from 15 natural platforms and swim under a big arch out to the sea.

Legend goes the pool was a favourite of a princess dating back to the bronze age, and poets named the pool the "Cave of Poetry" because of her grace in the water.


3. TERME DI SATURNIA, TUSCANY

No trip to Tuscany is complete without a swim in its hot waterfall - and best of all, it's free. A geothermal spring a few hundred metres away produces 800 litres a second of perfectly warm water, which shoots down a skinny river which you can ride like a hydroslide.

The water then cascades down a series of naturally occurring white sulphur pools – each a slightly different temperature.

The destination is quickly becoming better known outside of Italy; Jamie Oliver happened to be filming a show when we visited, and even cooked us dinner!


4. TROPEA, SOUTHERN ITALY

It's no secret Italians love to build houses on dramatic cliffs, and the seaside town of Tropea is certainly one of the more breathtaking examples.

Get lost in the town's maze of cobblestone alleys and you'll quickly find yourself at the cliff edge looking down to the pristine sandy beach 100m below.

Tropea and its surrounding villages are also known for a particular type of onion. So proud they are of their bulb, there's even a gelateria selling red onion ice-cream!


5. CIVITA DI BAGNOREGIO, SOUTHERN ITALY

Perched precariously on a huge rock, surrounded by vast valleys, this medieval fortress looks like an island floating in the sky. The village is connected to the 'mainland' by a long footbridge and the journey feels like a step back in time.

The 20 villagers who still live there jealously cling to an old and simple way of life; you'll see no signs of modernity - just beautiful old stone houses and walkways covered in flowers.


6. ISOLA BELLA, SICILY

A visit to Sicily's Isola Bella (meaning beautiful island) feels like a tropical retreat, with its shimmering turquoise waters. The island is a nature reserve with some of Italy's best snorkelling.

It's connected to the mainland by a tidal walkway – but don't worry if you get caught out with a high tide, the warm Mediterranean water is irresistible.


7. ISOLA BELLA, SICILY

Ever wanted to sleep on the moon? You'll come pretty close with a visit to the Vajolet Towers, a lunar-like landscape nestled in the soaring peaks of the Dolomites mountain range.

The walk is steep, so to make it accessible to non-mountain climbers there are wire ropes installed to help make your way up. But don't let that put you off; the youngest we met going up was just 5, the oldest 82.

At 2620m above sea level you'll reach the base of the Vajolet Towers, made up of six craggy peaks . There you'll also find a 'Rifugio' (or hut) where you can spend the night.

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