Top 6 underrated alternatives to visiting Italy this summer

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This summer tourist season is expected to be extremely busy and people are planning to travel in record numbers to popular destinations around the world.

One region bracing for big crowds is Europe, with major hotspots like Italy, Greece and Spain bracing for record numbers of tourists.

The ancient city of Hierapolis Pamukkale Turkey, a young woman in a hat watching the sunset by the ruins UNESCO copy

With this influx of visitors come the side effects that over-tourism can bring.

Not only is massive overcrowding, higher prices and a lack of accommodation a problem for travelers, but local residents and the local environment are also badly affected.

Some popular tourist destinations have begun working to counter the effects of overtourism by adding tourist fees, reservation systems for popular attractions and other restrictions and rules this year.

One such country that has made some changes that travelers should be aware of is mega-popular Italy, which is expecting a record number of visitors this summer.

Tourism in Malta.  Rear view of tourist girl holding hat walking down stairs in Valletta old town, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Malta.

Luckily for us, there’s really no shortage of amazing places to visit in Europe, and while a trip to Italy is well worth it, it might be better to wait until everyone else goes this year and enjoy it after the post-pandemic crowds are over thinned out (hopefully).

While there are many reasons to visit Italy, most come for the beaches, history, nature, and of course, the food and wine.

These alternative options will have you exploring 6 countries that contain just as much natural beauty, history, sunshine and amazing food and wine as Italy, with a fraction of the crowds and not to mention a lower price.

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The Library of Celsius in Ephesus at sunset - Selcuk, Turkey

The five countries proposed as an Italian alternative this year include Turkey, Georgia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Malta and Albania. Let’s explore why they are great substitutes for an Italian trip this year.

Here are the top 6 underrated alternatives to visiting Italy this summer:

Traditional colorful Luzzu eye boats in the harbor of the Mediterranean fishing village of Marsaxlokk, Malta

Instead of the Dolomites: Visit the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia

Those interested in getting out and about in nature may be surprised to learn that Italy recently had to introduce reservation systems, visitor restrictions and traffic restrictions in its popular mountainous region of the north.

While these measures are undoubtedly necessary to help with the impact of overcrowding on the local environment, they can make travel plans a bit more complicated for travelers.

The ruins of the Atskuri fortress, Georgia, view from the fortress to the valley

If you want to explore some mountains, why not check out Georgia’s Caucasus Range?

Offering hiking, camping, skiing (okay, maybe not in the summer) and a variety of outdoor activities, this underrated Eastern European country is well worth a visit.

With a fraction of the crowds you’ll see in Italy’s popular Dolomites, the Caucasus Mountains offer something more unique, cheaper and quieter for travelers willing to go a little off the beaten track.

Gergeti Trinity Church in front of the Caucasus Mountains in Georgia

Instead of Lake Como: Enjoy Lake Ohrid or Bay of Kotor

You’ll find the tiny Balkan country of Montenegro twice on this list of Italian alternatives, and for good reason.

The most popular destination in the county is Kotor, which was founded by the ancient Romans but shows a strong Venetian influence in its design.

The bay itself is incredibly beautiful, vast and surrounded by mountains and small towns around every turn.

While the area does get busy during the summer months, it is nowhere near as busy or expensive as Lake Como. Although, unfortunately, you’re unlikely to spot George Clooney there.

Kotor, Montenegro.  Bay of Kotor

In addition, those looking for a lakeside vacation can enjoy Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia.

Another late and impressive (and great for swimming) Balkan lake bordering Albania and North Macedonia.

The town of Ohrid draws a bit of a crowd, but the smaller villages around the lake make for relaxed lake days, and PS: the wine from North Macedonia is very good and very cheap!

Colorful fishing boats on the shore of Lake Ohrid in North Macedonia on a sunny day

Instead of the Italian Riviera: Try the Albanian Riviera

The Italian Riviera is stunning; no argument about that. However, the summer months bring traffic to a standstill and with more traffic restrictions and parking issues, the task of walking around to see the sites becomes a bit of a nightmare.

Not to mention, mega-popular Portofino has just introduced a ban on selfies and panting for tourists, with heavy fines for those who take too long to get their photos taken.

Dermi, Albania at sunset

Want to explore a stunning coastal region with significantly fewer people and much quieter and cheaper villages?

Then the Albanian Riviera is for you!

Drive along the coast and explore the popular Saranda and Ksamil, but if you’re really looking for fewer crowds, head north and explore smaller villages like Dermi and Himare.

Port area in Saranda, Albania, Albanian Riviera, Southeast Europe, Mediterranean Sea

Instead of Venice: Visit Malta or the Old Town of Kotor

Here we see Montenegrin Kotor again, this time not so much for the lake, but for its compact and ancient old town. Here, you’ll notice the Venetian influence in every square you come across.

Although you won’t see any canals running through the city, you’ll be serenaded by live musicians, enjoy great food and drink (the Montenegrin wine is also a must-try, not to mention the fresh seafood!) and enjoy verandas offering stunning mountainside views.

PS: you also won’t have to pay a tourist tax to enter the city and be greeted by dry canals.

Clock tower in Stari Grad.  Kotor Montenegro

In addition to Kotor, Malta is an ideal substitute for a trip to Venice. Again, you won’t see any canals criss-crossing the old town here, but wandering the streets of Valletta or the fishing village of Marsaxlokk, you might have to remind yourself that you’re not in Venice.

Maybe it’s the hundreds of colorful boats called Luzzus, the water taxis, the blue water lapping at the docks, or the architecture, all of which win anyone who visits.

Insider Tip – Happy Hour drinks in Valletta almost always include great snacks, usually homemade bread and tomato jam. Come hungry!

many beautiful boats in Valletta harbor with cityscape in background, Malta

Instead of Italian ruins: Explore the ancient ruins of Turkey

Okay, Turkey isn’t exactly a secret. This is another country that is also expecting a lot more visitors this year than in previous years.

However, Turkey is big and full of things to see, and the crowds won’t feel so overwhelming when you get out and explore some of the county’s ancient ruins.

With its location connecting east and west, Turkey has historically been the center of ancient civilizations; therefore, you can find ruins of many ancient Greek and Roman cities and monuments.

A family taking a selfie at the Ancient Theater of Side, Antalya Province, Turkey

Rivaling all the historical ruins of Italy are the ancient structures you can find all over Turkey.

Some notable places include the Roman Theater at Aspendos, the ancient cities of Aphrodisias or Hierapolis, or the famous and striking Library of Celsus and the Temple of Artemis.

With numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, not to mention the 9,000-year-old city of Çatalhöyük, it’s no wonder this country has been called the world’s greatest museum.

The ancient city of Ephesus Turkey.

Rebuttal– Again, we cannot stress enough that we do not offer people OMISSION Italy forever. Italy is a country that deserves all its fame and praise, and there really is no good substitute for dolce vita.

However, it would be absolutely best to wait this summer and let the tables do their work. Instead, explore these totally underrated places and then head to Italy another time!

Warning for passengers: Don’t forget travel insurance for your next trip!

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