Ever considered exploring Italy beyond the standard tourist itinerary? Yes, great cities like Rome, Florence and Milan are an absolute must, especially for first-timers, but there is so much more to see off the beaten track! By taking the road less travelled, life in borghi can provide an Italian experience from centuries ago. You might be asking, but what exactly is borghi?!
A borgo (singular) means an old village or town in Italian. Typically located on a hill surrounded by countryside, they are isolated from the modern world, seemingly lost in time and space. But this precisely is the charm of borghi, for nothing gives you a bigger glimpse into genuine Italian life in the countryside or an understanding of where contemporary Italy originates from.
Here are seven reasons as to why you should include a visit to a borgo in your next trip:
If you’re looking for the real Italy, untouched by the modern hand, then this is your best bet. Its hard not to reiterate oneself; authentic, genuine, real are all the founding elements of borghi. The lack of big-city influence results in mostly original architecture from centuries past. Meandering lanes, arches, stairways, and stone walls that hold as many stories as there are bricks. The cinematic dream of strolling through small-town streets with laundry and flowers hanging in every window is alive here. The slow life of a village: siestas, late dinners with fresh local ingredients, and friendly townsfolk who stop to greet and catch up on life. What’s the rush? 🙂
Every borgo has a castle, at least a tower or a small fortress. The towns were built on top of a hill to make them less accessible for invaders, and the castles served as a fortification. Needless to say, they are all original constructions from the Middle Ages.
There is usually more than one church per village or town, often with legends surrounding them. Try asking the locals, they might tell you a few interesting facts and stories about their church. Moreover, it’s a great opportunity to see rare and original church decorations. Smaller churches have a certain quality that larger and popular ones just do not. Or at least, visiting a service is one more way to experience life as a local.
By now it’s no secret that the South is the main destination for Italian cuisine. The quality of local produce from fresh vegetables to meats and cheeses, and traditional dishes alike are the best in the country. Equally important to note is that the flow of tourists in these towns is incomparable to piazzas in Rome. Here they cook with no rush and – dare we say it – better attitude. They cook the food not as for tourists, but as for themselves, so everything has that homemade touch!
5. Arts and crafts
It’s not unusual for small towns to preserve their historic and traditional arts and crafts traditions. The skills are either passed on through generations within one family, or a village might be known for one specific product. You can find anything from beautiful hand-crafted furniture pieces to homemade olive oil cosmetic products.
An interesting fact about southern Italian towns that not everyone is familiar with is that southerners have many dialects. Some are so strong that they don’t sound like Italian language at all! So much that people from different villages don’t always understand each other. We encourage everyone to learn a few words in a local language/dialect. It’s all part of the experience! J
As previously mentioned, borghi are usually located on the top of a hill, guaranteeing an amazing panoramic view. Overlooking mountains, countryside fields, olive and tomato plantations and often the sea in the horizon. A climb to the top is always worthwhile and the ultimate way to feel like the king of the world.