Last Updated on February 26, 2021 by Jim Ferri
I love Italian hill towns because they get me away from the crowds in all of the big tourist hot spots. But there’s much more to the story than that…
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
By Jim Ferri
I love Italian hill towns.
I’m attracted to them because they get me away from the crowds in Rome, Venice, Florence, and other Italian tourist hotspots.
But there’s more to loving a place than just because you pretty much have it all to yourself.
In the hill towns of Italy, I find another way of life, a simpler existence where we wake, eat, and go about our business to a different clock than elsewhere. I also find it in many other countries, as well.
I’ll take a hill town over any city, any time, any place. Life in the hills is slower and easier, allowing us a more intimate view of what life is really like in these old towns and villages.
Trevi, a Little Italian Hill Town North of Rome
In Trevi, a little Italian hill town perched on a hillside about a 2½ -hours drive north of Rome, I spent several mornings sitting in a small outdoor café. I was indulging in one of my great pleasures, sipping my morning coffee while watching people going about their business, and opening their little shops every day. After a while, if only from afar across the square, I got to know them well.
But it’s not just people that provide the pleasure in these hill towns. Even when the plumbing in a hilltop hotel isn’t always what one would hope for, there’s something very gratifying about looking out a window and seeing tiled roofs and cobbled streets that have been there millennia.
In that same town, one evening two days after our arrival, my wife and I and two friends took a stroll along a quiet little street near the entrance to town. We soon were rewarded with a beautiful view out over the valley, where 300,000 olive trees clothed every hill in sight with their soft leaves.
Not far off in the distance we could hear the pealing of the bell in an old church as the last rays of the setting sun glistened off its steeple and the evening haze began to creep across the olive groves. It was an incredible serene feeling.
Strolling back to our hotel we passed and outdoor café where people had stopped for an espresso or aperitivo on their evening passeggiata. There was no hubbub of traffic or shrill of distant sirens. Everything was tranquil.
I’ve often found that tranquility in the hill towns, even though they’re not recommended as the top places to visit in Italy. Once, in the noisy high season on the Amalfi Coast, we stood on the terrace of our little B&B enjoying the magnificent and peaceful view as the morning sun caressed the shore far below.
That evening on the terrace of a little hillside restaurant again we stood entranced again, watching the lights twinkle on in Positano far below not hearing a sound beyond the breeze.
In Accettura, the Italian Hill Town of My Ancestors
In Accettura, an Italian hill town in Basilicata far to the south just a week later, my wife and I sat outside a small café sipping our wine, watching the passeggiata unfurl before us, as people walked down the middle of the street, now totally given over to the evening ritual.
We had come to this hill town to learn more of my ancestors, and I remember sitting there thinking how comfortable it all seemed, knowing they had likely enjoyed their passeggiatas here centuries ago.
It’s solitude that draws many of us to these hill towns, and our desire to connect with earlier, simpler times. Times when you could stand in total silence watching lights twinkle far below, or quietly watch the setting sun caress an olive grove.
Or, for some of us, being able to join people taking their evening walks in the middle of the street, just like our ancestors did.