Romantic getaways off the tourist trail

There are few places as romantic as Italy. The country’s incredible food, jaw-dropping panoramic views and dreamy culture are the perfect recipe for honeymoon romance. Italy’s major cities—Rome, Florence, Venice and the like—are must-sees for most travelers. Still, there is more to Italy than just the main haunts. Adventurous honeymooners looking to create a lifetime memory would do best to escape the tourist trail and dive into Italy’s lesser-known options, finding the ideal mix between the big sights and small-town Italian charm. Try an alternative overnight stay, add lesser-known places in between bigger destinations or skip the main sights altogether for an entirely new route.

Plan in advance to get the most out of your trip, says Rob Elking of Grandview Travel Team. Though most couples have a general idea of what they want, they don’t have to plan it alone.

“We plan the whole honeymoon,” he says. “From air and hotel to all the sightseeing, private airport transfers and rail.”

With the help of a local travel agency, newlyweds don’t have to stress about their big honeymoon. They’ll also be able to get off the beaten path for accommodations. While idyllic Cinque Terre attracts the most visitors along the Ligurian coastline, the lesser-known Portovenere, a coastal pearl to the south, has half the crowds. Quiet and beautiful, Portovenere can be a perfect base camp for those wishing to visit Cinque Terre and glamorous Portofino beyond that, or it can be a destination unto itself.

Portovenere is a small fishing village in the bay of La Spezia, known locally as the Gulf of Poets after the myriad writers and artists inspired by the location throughout history. The only thing more beautiful than the panoramic seafront by day is the city and its cliff-top castle lit up at night.

Those looking to really get off the beaten path can visit the island of Palmaria, one of three in the gulf and, like Portovenere, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Grand Hotel Portovenere offers a seafront location and special packages for honeymooners, such as a stay in the corner Deluxe Room, with red roses and sparkling wine upon arrival and a romantic candlelit dinner on the seaside terrace. Staff also can help organize excursions to Palmaria or Cinque Terre. Located in a historic convent, the hotel always has had a great location with gorgeous views. But after a 2014 remodel, the hotel now is one of the best in the region. With beautiful rooms and gourmet cooking, the Grand Hotel also is celebrated for its impeccable treatment of guests.

“Portovenere has always been considered a magical place,” says Andrea Fiorentini of the hotel’s booking department. “The Grand Hotel Portovenere is surely the best place to stay for a romantic escape.”

Portovenere isn’t the only gem along Italy’s Mediterranean coastline. There’s also the gorgeous Amalfi Coast. Located south of Naples, this 43-mile stretch of coastline is a honeymoon favorite. It has the perfect combination of great food, wine, art and commanding views, Elking says.

The sheer beauty and romance of Amalfi Coast towns like Positano and Ravello attract nearly 5 million visitors a year. Many are day-trippers, however, missing the opportunity to enjoy a slower pace by night.

For newlyweds who want to dive a bit deeper into the area, Elking suggests staying overnight in a place like Capri rather than just taking a day trip. By day, Capri belongs to the crowds of visitors and tours—especially during the summer high season—but stay past dusk and you’ll feel like the place is yours.

Look to Mr & Mrs Smith Hotels, boutique lodging aimed directly at those looking for romance, for a stylish and unique place to stay. Book a Star Junior Suite at the Capri Palace Hotel & Spa and you and your new spouse can enjoy a bottle of champagne, 50-minute massage and restaurant voucher upon arrival. The hotel also has a private pool and a private beach near the famous Blue Grotto.

Back on the mainland, adventurous couples can literally rise above the crowds by hiking the famous Sentiero degli Dei, or Path of Gods. Winding above the coastline, the full hike is about five miles long and takes around three hours, offering unobstructed views over the Bay of Naples and a chance to enjoy it in peace.

Those who want to avoid the crowds completely should look to the Puglia region (sometimes called Apulia in English) in the southeast portion of the country. The once-relatively ignored area now is celebrated for its incredible history and commanding beaches. Honeymooners looking to relax will love the pace and peace of Puglia, which is full of whitewashed hill towns and miles of coastline. It’s a perfect escape from the hustle of Rome or the crowds of the Amalfi Coast.

In nearby Salento, in the southern tip of Puglia, you’ll find the serenity of Naturalis Bio Resort & Spa, an organic hotel created from the restoration of an ancient rural hamlet. Situated on a hill overlooking the Salento countryside, Naturalis cultivates olives, aloe vera, wheat and vineyards, all contributing to the organization’s business of natural and organic cosmetics. This and the resort’s overall green ethos won it the Green Travel Award in 2015 for sustainable and responsible tourism.

“Puglia, specifically Salento, is the best possible place for a couple to be pampered on a relaxing holiday,” says Angelica Gallo, receptionist at Naturalis Bio Resort & Spa. “Based on its location and the organic philosophy that it’s founded on, Naturalis offers a chance to be in complete harmony with nature.”

Just 12 miles away is the beautiful town of Lecce. Called the “Florence of the south” for its baroque architecture, Lecce’s long history and distinctive white limestone are well worth exploring. From Lecce, couples can easily reach the Torre dell’Orso Bay, the Alimini beach and the beautiful cliffs of Torre Sant’Andrea.

Italy doesn’t have to be a typical beach honeymoon. It offers so much more! By traipsing outside the usual tourist haunts, newlyweds can have a trip of a lifetime and a honeymoon to remember.