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Italy, Tuscany, Greece, Peloponnesia, Cinque Terre, Santorini

Best quaint villages for 1st time to Europe

We are 2 active adults going to Europe for the first time for 12 days at the end of May/beginning of June. We enjoy hiking, panoramic views, exploring small towns on our own by car, good cheese/wine/chocolate, cafés, lush greenery. We don't like touristy places in large cities. Not into art or museums. Thinking of Italy, Greece, or Switzerland..or any other place really! Like the sound of Tuscany or the Peloponeese in Greece. Is Santorini completely touristy? Cinque terre? Unsure of Switzerland. . Is it possible to see both? What specific villages would you recommend?

9 Answers

answered by
aastha from Jaipur

Hello...looks like u r going to have an amazing vacation...italy  is breathtaking and if on a self-drive th
en its cherry on the top....well i am going to mention u places which r absolutely worth the trip.

1)Montepulciano-PienzaMontalcino ---- i did all 3 places in a day by car... the scenery was breath-taking...attaching the pic of the sky and the greenery....Its beautiful and the wine is amazing....u can just stroll at the amazing cobbled street.

2)Cinque Terre - it consists of the 5 towns, i haven't been there but planning my next trip there....the multicolour houses and trekking between all 5 towns looks like a unique idea

3)Comer See(lake como)- another gem in the crown

4)Amalfi Coast

5)Alberobello- this place has while houses called trulli...

italy is huge so its better u choose an area where u want to travel around.....i would recommend tuscany for sure....just keep stuff in car , take a map and stop wherever u feel like......attaching few pics for u...if u have any questions do ask anytime...

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Montepulciano (city)
  2. Pienza (city)
  3. Montalcino (city)
  4. Cinque Terre (region)
  5. Comer See (attraction)
  6. Amalfi Coast (attraction)
  7. Alberobello (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Kristiana from Jersey City

Tuscany I can recommend Montefioralle, it is just near Greve Chianti. Small and beautiful with a perfect small/intimate family owned vineyard. Some other towns to see in Tuscany are Cortona and Siena.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Tuscany (state)
  2. Montefioralle (attraction)
  3. Cortona (attraction)
  4. Siena (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
John from Carlsbad (California)

The Cinque Terre is a great choice. Mid-week is much less crowded that weekends and late May/early June is a good time to go.  Arrive there by train, because a car is worthless and you will pay to park it.  I highly recommend staying at Villa Steno in Monterosso al Mare. Great location above the old town, beautiful view, and good breakfast. I thought it was just about perfect for the setting. Make sure you get a room with a terrace or balcony. Almost all have them. Sit outside and look down on the town and you will see the village life- old men cleaning fish they caught and mothers walking their babies on the roof terraces. The people at the hotel are very friendly and helpful. Ask for recommendations. You walk down through a garden with lemon trees to Via Roma, the main street of Old Monterosso.  If you choose carefully, you can eat very well at a number of places in town.  The one restaurant that stands out was Ristorante Miky. We had dinner there twice. The fish is displayed on ice in a little boat just in front of the front door. It is very fresh and expertly prepared.  If you have pasta with pesto sauce and one of the fish dishes, you should do very well.  Ask for their house bottled water and the house local wine to save some money- they are as good as the bottled and half the price. The food is not cheap, but for the quality it is fairly priced.  Reserve ahead.  The train will take you to the other villages in a few minutes or you can take the boat or walk. Hiking between the villages is great. The via Via dell' Amore is really an easy stroll between Manarola and Riomaggiore, the southerly most village. Try it and work up from there. There are good beaches and hiking trails everywhere. 

You can take a boat from Riomaggiore south to Porto Venere, which is scenic and very pleasant. Better yet, take the train to Camogli and from there a ferry (they run in good weather during the warmer months) to San Frutuosso, a unique, tiny, peaceful, secluded place with San Fruttuoso Abbey. From there, you can take a boat to Portofino, a beautiful village where the rich and famous hang out, but still worth a visit. You can then take a boat to Rapallo and train back to Cinque Terre. It can all be accomplished easily in a day with a little planning and it is very worthwhile.

From Cinque Terre, you can easily travel by train to Pisa (the Leaning Tower of Pisa and surrounding Piazza Dei Miracoli are well worth a couple hours) and pick up a car to explore Tuscany which has almost unlimited small cities and towns to choose from.  This website provides great information on many of them:  You may want to rent an apartment for a week or so in one central location and then take day trips to explore the area.  I would recommend being in or close to one of the villages with restaurants and shops.

If you are open to going to France, Provence is beautiful in May/June and has countless small towns and wine villages to explore, and the food is some of the best in the world. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cinque Terre (region)
  2. Villa Steno (hotel)
  3. Monterosso al Mare (attraction)
  4. Ristorante Miky (restaurant)
  5. Porto Venere (attraction)
  6. Camogli (attraction)
  7. San Frutuosso (attraction)
  8. San Fruttuoso Abbey (attraction)
  9. Portofino (attraction)
  10. Rapallo (city)
  11. Leaning Tower of Pisa (attraction)
  12. Piazza Dei Miracoli (attraction)
  13. Tuscany (state)
  14. Provence (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Mei & Kerstin from Larochette

WOW, there are many, many wonderful places in Europe full of untouristy small towns, good for hiking, and panoramic views!!

Let's start with Italy:

For starters, I would NOT recommend Cinque Terre TrekkingCinque Terre Trekking! We know so many people dreaming about this place, and finally decided to go there too. But we were sooo disappointed! All the villages there are full of tourists (especially American and Chinese tourists). It was suffocating, and the food they served was bad compared to so many other places in Europe! Everything is expensive too! Many hiking trails were closed (and still are now), because of hard rain.

However, the region of Tuscany, just a bit south of Cinque Terre is much more beautiful. It's perfect for hiking, wine tasting, and local cuisine. We drove down there last May, and explored the region for 10 days. Of all the small towns in Tuscany, we would definitely recommend Monteriggioni (our favourite one). It's not far away from the famous town San Gimignano (famous for its medieval towers, also known as the Medieval Manhattan). But I must admit that we both didn't like San Gimignano that much, since it's pretty touristy, and Monteriggioni is by far more interesting!

Certaldo is a bit larger for a town, but worth a visit (just be prepared to have a very good navigation in your car, and some maps in hand, because they've changed the direction of all the streets, and we were completely lost, driving around the city for an hour until we finally found the entrance to the historic town!) 

Volterra, a bit towards the south, is very touristy, but also worth a visit. If you go there in the morning, it's less touristy.

San Miniato (up north) is lovely too: wonderful panoramic views! And the ancient pilgrim route "Via Francigena" also goes through San Miniato. From there, we drove to the little town of Vinci, where the famous artist Leonardo da Vinci was born...

A bit towards the East, the Chianti region is very beautiful, where you can do wine tasting. We stopped in Gaiole in ChiantiRadda in Chianti and Castellina in Chianti. Between these towns, the scenery is just amazing!

From there, you can easily drive to the Montepulciano region (towards the south), where the wines taste better than in Chianti (but then, it also depends on your taste… :) )

Here are the links to our road trip through Tuscany with more tips, info and photos: Monterrigioni, the Chianti Region, Vinci.

Southern Italy is also awesome (for hiking, panoramic sceneries, etc.). But since you only have 12 days, I would recommend you to fly over to Greece. It's a huge country, and the landscape varies from place to place. I could write a 1000 pages about Greece (I studied in Athens for 6 months, and  travelled back to different parts of Greece many many times for internships and vacation)… but we're on trippy, so I try to keep it very very short! :D

My recommendation for Greece:

You mentionned the Peloponnesia: well, yes, BUT: it's a huge region, and obviously you'll have to choose a region inside this region. I would recommend the northeastern part (Argolis): Nafplion, and especially Porto Cheli (we LOVE this place). From there, you can take a boat over to Spetses, a lovely little island. Ermioni is also an interesting town, as well as the island of Hydra (Greece).

If you want to "feel" Greek, eat Greek, and see Greece for real, don't miss the Greek islands! Our favourite Greek island is Santorini. Here's a link to our blog post During summertime, it's quite touristy, but probably OK in May/June. Tourists usually stay in Fira and Oia, but there are other places on this island for trekking and hiking. And you can easily rent a car for a day or two and drive around the island.

Crete is a huge island, but DO go there if you can. The less touristy places in Crete are in the eastern part of the island. I used to go there for archaeological fieldwork (but there's not ONLY archaeology in this region…), and believe me: I only met 10 tourists in total! Interesting small towns are: MaliaNeapoli (Lasithi)EloundaSitiaPalekastro and especially Vái. Vai is my absolute favorite place: it's truly a paradise!! :)

The southern part of Crete is also worth a visit (but then again, you won't have time to explore the whole "island"!). If you want to avoid tourists, then don't go to the western part of Crete, although Rethymno and Chania are very very beautiful! :) 

There are many other wonderful Greek islands. Some people would recommend you Mykonos, but I wouldn't : it's way too touristy. And people usually go there to party, or to go visit the archaeological island Delos (Archaelogical site of Dilos). But you did mention you're not into museums, so it's be better to avoid going to Mykonos and Delos.

I could go on and on, talking about other countries, such as FranceSwitzerland or Austria, wonderful countries for hiking too. But the landscape is of course completely different compared to Greece...

I shall let you decide which countries first… and don't hesitate to contact me (through our blog for example…) if you have questions, or need info and tips!

Hope my answer helped a bit!


Mei (from

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cinque Terre Trekking (attraction)
  2. Cinque Terre Trekking (attraction)
  3. Tuscany (state)
  4. Monteriggioni (city)
  5. San Gimignano (attraction)
  6. Certaldo (city)
  7. Volterra (city)
  8. San Miniato (city)
  9. Vinci (city)
  10. Gaiole in Chianti (city)
  11. Radda in Chianti (city)
  12. Castellina in Chianti (city)
  13. Montepulciano (city)
  14. Greece (attraction)
  15. Peloponnesia (attraction)
  16. Nafplion (attraction)
  17. Porto Cheli (city)
  18. Spetses (attraction)
  19. Ermioni (city)
  20. Hydra (Greece) (city)
  21. Santorini (island)
  22. Crete (attraction)
  23. Malia (attraction)
  24. Neapoli (Lasithi) (city)
  25. Elounda (attraction)
  26. Sitia (city)
  27. Palekastro (attraction)
  28. Vái (attraction)
  29. Rethymno (city)
  30. Chania (city)
  31. Archaelogical site of Dilos (attraction)
  32. France (attraction)
  33. Switzerland (country)
  34. Austria (attraction)
1 thanks

answered first by
Kathy from Wilmington

Cinque terre fits the bill for small towns and hiking.  By the seashore.  But also take advantage of being near bologna and Florence.  Both are great small cities that are best seen walking 

1 thanks

answered by
Maria from Dublin

As you like hiking and panoramic views I recommend the area in the very north of Lake Como in Italy. Maybe stay in Domaso or Gravedona - you can hike over the border into Switzerland from there. The scenery is stunning, there is plenty of water sports activity on the lake and lots of good, local restaurants and bars. Travel between the villages by water bus.

I also love the area around Lake Constance (Europe's third largest lake) which criss-crosses three countries: Austria Germany and Switzerland You can cycle around the lake to the lovely little towns, hike the lower slopes of the Swiss Alps, visit medieval castles and vineyards and generally chill out while being active. It's particularly good off season, in April-May or Sept-Oct. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Domaso (city)
  2. Gravedona (city)
  3. Lake Constance (attraction)
  4. Austria (attraction)
  5. Germany (attraction)
  6. Switzerland (country)

answered by
Roberta from Reggio di Calabria

Cinque Terre is a very beautiful place! I have been there and I liked very much the characteristic streets and alleys, and the beautiful views of the sea.

I can suggest you to visit this website in which you can find accommodations and special experiences in Italy! Alternatively, there are accommodations and experiences in Como.

Check out and let me know :)


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cinque Terre (region)
  2. Como (attraction)

answered by
Federico from Levanto, Italy

Ciao, Cinque Terre are  simply  amazing,  for  more  info.  you  can  visit,  ciao

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cinque Terre (restaurant)

answered by
Abbie from Kingston, Rhode Island

I lived in the Umbrian Region in Italy for a few months, specially in Perugia.  It is a beautiful, small town right outside of Assisi and falls in between Florence and Rome.  There are excellent shops, amazing views, and even better food.  Travel there if you're looking to fully experience the Italian lifestyle.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Perugia (attraction)
  2. Assisi (attraction)
  3. Florence (city)
  4. Rome (city)

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