The Colosseum, Pompeii, The leaning Tower of Pisa; You have heard about and recognize Italy’s grandest and best know sites. What about some of Italy’s Off the beaten track destinations? Here are a few of Tour Italy Now’s favorite unusual attractions in Italy.
Rome and Lazio:
Park of Monsters, Bomarzo
Less than an hours drive from Rome, the Parco deo Mostri, is a fascinating testament to love and grief. The park was commissioned in 1552 by Prince Pier Francesco Orsini for his beloved wife, Giulia Farnese, and built by the architect Pirro Ligorio. Spend an afternoon exploring the 24 incredible sculptures of animals, dragons and monstrous faces.
Museum of Souls in Purgatory
This tiny room in the gothic Santa Cuore del Suffragio near the Castel San’Angelo and a short walk from the nearby Vatican is home to one of Rome’s most unusual sites. A collection of objects are believed to show the scorched marks of souls in purgatory. According to Catholic doctrine purgatory is a period of temporary suffering suspended between heaven and earth. The unusual relics from Italy, Germany, Belgium and France were collected by a French missionary about 100 years ago.
Lungotevere Prati, 12
Florence and Tuscany
Ponte della Maddalena
This medieval structure, found near Lucca in the tiny town of Borgo a Mozzano is known colloquially as the Devils Bridge. The bridge spans the river Serchio and was an important link for pilgrims on their way to Rome on the via Francigena. Legend has it that the overnight completion of the unusual structure was a deal struck with the notoriously slow builder and the devil.
The oldest scientific museum in Europe, the 34 rooms of strange and wonderful collections fill this often overlooked Florentine museum. Case after case of colorful insects, butterflies, taxidermied birds, animals even fish will enchant the natural history enthusiast. The elaborately decorated and slightly macabre anatomical wax sculptures were once used to teach medical students in the 17th century.
Medieval Torture Museums
You can find one of these macabre museums in the popular Tuscan hill towns of Volterra, San Gimignano and Siena. A visit to these ghoulish and gruesome places can be well worth enduring. The result can spark some very thoughtful conversations on the horrors of human cruelty, society and tolerance with middle and high school age children.
Certosa di Pavia
This remarkable building, one of the largest monasteries in Italy is filled with important collections of stained glass and paintings. the elegant cloisters are a mix of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. These treasures are not the interesting part of this place however. Deep inside what was once the summer palace of the Visconti family is a small crypt sacristy where you will find a 14th century tryptic carved from the ivory of hippopotamus teeth.
Tibetan Bridge in Claviere
Suspended for 468 meters over the San Gervasio Gorge between the Tyrolean towns of Claviere and Cesana Torinese, the Tibetan Bridge is a site not for the faint hearted. You can rent the required climbing gear and take a thrilling walk almost like walking in air. There is short practice bridge to test your bravery.
Liberia Acqua Alta
The entire watery city of Venice and her many islands are in itself an unusual attraction but one of our favorite places to lose a an hour (or two) is in the labyrinth of shelves inside the Liberia Acqua Alta.
Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa (Corte Senza Nome) 5176 – Castello
The Marche region is often overlooked when planning a trip to Italy. This is a shame as this region in central Italy near Tuscany and Umbria filled with art, mountains, pretty seaside towns and hearty cuisine. One of the more unusual attractions is the Grotti di Frassi. The Grotti di Frassi are a remarkable series of caves discovered in 1948. Learn the difference between stalactites and stalagmites and climb the narrow passages inside this incredible natural formation.