Why are you thinking to buy a second home in Italy? People move to the Bel Paese for a variety of reasons, but a recurring theme is a desire to experience a change in lifestyle, to embrace the Italian notion of “the good life”, known world-wide as la dolce vita. It can take many forms, ranging from a cosmopolitan jet-set resort style of living all the way to the much more relaxed and slower-paced small-town Italian lifestyle we will discuss here.

The noted business newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore, has published a compilation of findings and ratings regarding the salubrious effects of living “la dolce vita” in a number of Italy’s more rustic locales. 176 small communities with more than 5,000 inhabitants were rated according to criteria that included such factors as quality of environment, levels of income and education, safety, available services, and access to cultural offerings. So, where are some of the best “off-the-beaten-track” spots in Italy? Here, at Gate-Away.com, we are pleased to share some of the highlights of the study.

Led by Bruneck (Brunico in Italian), in the South Tyrol province of the Trentino-Alto Adige region, nine of the ten “happiest” communities are located in the mountainous north of Italy, with four of them in provincial Bolzano, namely Vipiteno, Appiano and Caldaro strada del vino. The mountains and lakes in the north are picturesque gems, and they seem to dominate the ratings, but Italy’s charms extend well-beyond the northern regions, and visitors are sure to find delightful havens no matter where they look, from the rugged mountains down to the scenic vineyard-covered hills and valleys, and all the way to quaint sunny seaside getaways.


Epitomizing the best of small-town alpine life in northern Italy is Bruneck, located in the Pulster Valley, right on the border with Austria. Italian is actually the second language in this village, where more people speak German as a first-language. The settlement traces its roots back to the 13th century, when the small commune consisted of just a single lane winding through two rows of dwellings. Today, though the town has grown to a population of 15,000 residents, the old-world ambiance is alive-and-well, and visitors come from miles around for the famous end-of-October Stegener Market, one of many open-air festivals that dot the yearly calendar. Winter sports are popular, of course, and the town is proud of its Serie A1professional hockey team, the HC Pustertal.

Lake Garda, the most Mediterranean of the Italian alpine lakes, boasts 2 “happy towns” included in the top ten, namely Sirmione and Bardolino which rank in 3rd and 5th position respectively. Sirmione is well-known as historic spa town and one of the most popular destinations of the area. Bardolino, the winner of the last edition of the study carried out in 2011, is renowned for its famous wines of the region, most notably the treasured Bardolino DOC, but wine production is only one of many features that attract visitors and home-seekers looking for a pleasant escape from urban sprawl. The pristine lake and nearby streams call to fishermen, birdwatchers, hikers, and nature lovers.

Iseo is a lovely town that hugs the shoreline of the lake that bears the same name, Lago d’Iseo, and the commune is another choice location that is away from frantic big-city hustle-and-bustle. The town is justly proud of its medieval origins, and sits just minutes away from Franciacorta, where some of the world’s greatest sparkling wines are produced.

Rounding out this “top-ten” ruled by northern places only the Tuscan village of Calenzano (outside of Florence) and Argelato in the province of Bologna (Emilia-Romagna).
Calenzano is a picture-perfect example of the Tuscan Dream“, a photographer’s heaven, and a splendid spot to revel in Italian culture and art. Here can be found frescoes by the likes of Nardo di Cione and Jacopo, as well as works by Benedetto Buglione and Baccio da Montelupo. Locals and tourists relax and dine in fine style in the many popular eateries of Calenzano.

The samples above are from the “top ten”, but there are so many fine options to explore that there is no way to list them all in such a small space. Check our listings, which show more outstanding, yet relatively undiscovered, Italian dream-scapes that you could soon call your own.