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Top Places to Avoid in Italy in 2021–and Where to Go Instead

Why 2021 is the year for off the beaten path travel in Italy and how sustainable travel will rise to the surface. If where to go in Italy in 2021 is your question, keep reading.

panoramic view of an Italian village at sunset with mountains in the distance
Barga, in Tuscany, is a great little hidden gem to visit in Italy with very few tourists.

It’s not news that 2020 was a train wreck for travel. As the founder of Creative Edge Travel, offering small group and custom tours in Italy, I’m as eager as anyone to get back to international adventures. I clearly hear hazelnut gelato calling my name, maybe even doused in rich espresso for a steamy affogato. *Yum!*

But even after the masks come off and people once again get jetset, there’s another problem standing in the way of those who will be heading to Italy.

Do you remember what it felt like the last time you were surrounded by tourists, impatiently standing in line, following umbrellas, and fighting for a glance of your favorite painting through a sea of selfie sticks? Well, when you picture your long-awaited visit to Italy’s iconic sights in 2021 or even 2022, imagine that experience–but twice as bad, or worse.

Italian flag hanging from an Italian window during the COVID-19 lockdown

During the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Italy was the first European country to go into lockdown and give us a preview of what would be coming in our own countries. The world watched as they inspired us with their songs and applause from their windows. Suddenly everyone who had ever dreamt of traveling to Italy resolved to finally make that trip happen as soon as it’s safe to do so. No more waiting until the time is right.

Then something else happened. In November, Travel + Leisure announced their 2021 Destination of the Year: Italy.

“When we can travel again, Italy will need us,” writes Maria Shollenbarger in Travel + Leisure. “...The artisanal businesses that form the backbone of thoughtful travel experiences — boutique winemakers, olive farmers, innkeepers, craftspeople, boat captains, drivers, and, of course, guides — suffered profoundly this year. [...] The next year may well see them all flourish again,” Shollenbarger continues, “We can ensure this by being part of that renaissance.”

There are no complaints from my end about this effort to pick Italy back up and put its wonderful people back on their feet.

What a relief that Italy can [almost*] count on that double influx of tourism next year (*post-Corona we all carry a fresh understanding that nothing is quite guaranteed). But this enormous billboard for Italy does have specific repercussions for visitors.

young man looking at Italian buildings

With a wave of people newly dedicated to living out their Italian dreams, and with one of the most prominent travel magazines calling for travelers to make a pilgrimage to Italy to be part of its new renaissance, there’s one thing you can absolutely count on.

2021 will be the most crowded year Italy has ever seen.

Destinations that are already annually clobbered by tourists will be entirely overrun. I’m not saying cancel your trip, I’m saying you need to carefully choose where to go in Italy next year–or you’ll be sorry.

Italian street in Florence crowded with tourists

When choosing where to go in Italy in the past, maybe you’ve been too enticed by