With some basic internet skills, you can set up your own driving tours of the most beautiful out-of-the-way towns and villages in Europe.
Visiting the major cities is of course where one starts in Europe. But after a few trips, you might want to get off that beaten path and discover some of the lesser known towns and villages. After countless trips throughout the continent, that’s what I really enjoy — find a little time-worn town, stroll to the piazza (in some there’s only one) and stop at some joint for wine or an espresso. The walk on the way gives me a feel for the town’s overall ambiance, and there are usually some shops to browse along the way.
Most travelers are familiar with the hill towns of Tuscany or the Romantic Road in Germany. But there are hundreds of these little gems all over Europe. The trick is finding them. I’ve come up with a process that’s pretty effective, and it involves using Google Maps and Images.
Let’s say I plan to stay in Rome and want to explore the surrounding area. I will first search on the internet for the “most beautiful towns in Lazio” — Rome’s Region — and from the websites that pop up I create a list of towns that are possibly worth visiting. The emphasis here is on “possibly” because not all are. Sometimes there are only the tourist websites of the province, and they will play up their little towns, even if there really isn’t much to see. On the other hand, towns that are listed on multiple websites have to be given serious consideration. But still, you have to be selective.