5 Small Villas You Should See in Italy

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Where to go when you have had enough of the crowds and tourists of Italy.

Saturnia

This quiet little village is located almost exactly between Rome and Florence. Just a couple kilometers outside of the village is Cascate del Mulino, an all natural hot spring. Take in the believed healing powers of the spring while surrounded by Tuscan countryside and end the day with a traditional Tuscan meal in Saturnia. This spring is open year round and is free to the public.

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Murano

This forgotten piece of Venice is world famous for its magnificent glass work. It has all the beauty of Venice, but without quite as many tourists. This small island is only accessible by boat. This is easy enough for those already on the main island of Venice. It is a quick trip away on the vaporetto (water bus). And pet lovers… dogs ride free.

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Moneglia

A small sea level village wedged between high mountains. The city is protected from its large bay by a sea wall. There are numerous tunnels throughout the wall for easy access to the beach. The shocking contrast of mountains and beach not only makes the blue sea reflect a forest green, but one can hike in the mountains in the morning and lounge on the beach in the evening. An ideal location for those who wish to disappear for a while along the top of the Italian boot.

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Loreto

A magnificent glowing dome protected by high walls perched atop an olive grove hill. This pilgrimage sight is the believed home of the Virgin Mary. Regardless of your religion preferences, Loreto will entrance you with its beautiful town center, unusual niche of Virgin Mary trinkets, and unique basilica.

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Aosta

This small alpine town has made its mark on the map with its surprisingly large daily market. Nestled in northern Italy, it is located close to the French/Swiss border making it a popular destination for Italy’s neighboring countries. Come here for cheap Italian fashion, Roman ruins, and fresh alpine air.

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A House within a Church

A magnificent glowing dome protected by high walls perched atop an olive grove hill. Intriguing enough for anyone who does not know its unique history. For those who do, it is a pilgrimage sight for those seeking the alleged home of the Virgin Mary. Regardless of your religious preferences, Loreto will entrance you.IMG_8745

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Basillica della Santa Casa

In the town center, you will be met by countless stands and stores filled with Virgin Mary nicknacks in all shapes and sizes. Many have replicas of the beautiful black and gold statue of the Virgin Mary that resides within the Holy House of the Virgin Mary. This building is actually sheltered within the Basillica della Santa Casa.

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Inside the Holy House of the Virgin mary

Piazza della Madonna

The upper floor of the Apostolic Palace (next to the basilica) is where Loreto keeps its treasures. Large frescos taken from the alter of the basilica, ancient pottery from the Holy House apothecary, raphaelesque tapestries, and prototype Virgin Mary shrine statues. The fountains and statues outside of the basilica are also a sight to see. One of the most intriguing is the fountain centered in the Piazza della Madonna. Its detailed bronze dragons and violent mermen create a striking contrast against the white geometry of the piazza and elegant facade of the basilica.

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Sadly, Loreto is not very dog friendly. Dogs are not allowed within any of the historic buildings. All hotels close to the Basillica della Santa Casa do not accept large dogs. Although a select few will allow a small pet. I suggest pet owners seek accommodations in Ancona.

Saturnia: The best kept secret in Tuscany

The highlight of my one month adventure in Italy was a small dot on the map named Saturnia. This quiet little village is located almost exactly between Rome and Florence. Just a couple kilometers outside of the village is Cascate del Mulino, an all natural hot spring. This spring is open year round and free to the public.

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The hot spring is actually a waterfall next to an old mill. Its clear aqua blue water and white mineral steps are picturesque in its beautiful tuscan olive grove setting. The sulfur water is at bath temperature (37.5°C) and the water gets warmer the further you sit up the waterfalls. Each step of the waterfall is at perfect seat depth.

To get to the falls, the easy way is by car. Saturnia is 180km from Rome and 200km from Florence. If traveling by train, Albinia is the closest train station but not all trains stop here. The next closest station is at the coastal town of Orbetello. From there you will need to take a bus.

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Don’t forget to visit the village of Saturnia. It is a quaint, quiet little town with some great traditional tuscan food to offer. Try the risotto raviolis with the local boar ragu paired with a good red wine and you won’t be disappointed.