• Monti, Rome: Between Termini Station and the Forum, the area now called Monti was once known as Suburra—the source of the word "suburbs." A slum and red-light district during the Roman Empire, today it’s a colorful, authentic neighborhood that retains its working-class roots, with a lively dining and nightlife scene and shops offering antiques, bijou jewelry, and one-of-a-kind gifts. 

  • San Frediano, Florence: Most Florentines have abandoned their centro storico to the visitors, but the Arno’s Left Bank in San Frediano has plenty of local action after dark. Dine at iO Osteria Personale, slurp a gelato by the river at La Carraia, then sip cocktails at an acoustic gig at Libreria-Café La Cité.

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  • Cannaregio, Venice: This residential neighborhood has silent canals, elegantly faded mansions, and hidden churches graced by Tiepolo paintings. Here, too, is the old Ghetto Nuovo, a historic area of Jewish bakeries, restaurants, and synagogues. It’s all a great escape from the chaos around San Marco. 

  • Navigli, Milan: The city is still riding high on a post-Expo wave, and nowhere exudes it more than the Navigli neighborhood, around the Darsena, once Milan’s canal port. It’s now home to a market, shops, and bars; Milanese come here after dark for summer concerts, Christmas markets, or to watch a game on the big screen. 

  • Spaccanapoli, Naples: It’s sometimes said Naples is Italy on overdrive, and the city goes up another gear in the narrow, crowded, laundry-strung lanes of its centro storico. Gird your loins, watch your wallet, and forget about a map—just plunge into the grid and enjoy the boisterous scene. Shops sell everything from limoncello and carved nativity scenes to fried snacks and the world’s best pizza. It's a European souk. 

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  • La Kalsa, Palermo: Arabs first settled this seaside quarter a thousand years ago, and its narrow lanes and palm-shaded squares still feel beyond Europe. Old palaces house fine hotels and restaurants, plus the Galleria Regionale della Sicilia and more excellent museums. 

  • Sasso Barisano and Sasso Caveoso, Matera: Inhabited for more than 3,000 years, clusters of cave dwellings carved into limestone cliffs create one of Italy’s weirdest spectacles. The primitive, earth-hued assemblage of houses, churches, and monasteries pile one atop the other along a jumble of twisting stepped streets. They now house unique restaurants and hotels, too. 

 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.