These surprising hamlets are shrouded in mystery, steeped in history, and blissfully off the beaten path.
It’s easiest to take a cable car to get to this dreamlike mountaintop clutch of medieval landmarks often lost in the bank of clouds known locally as the kiss of Venus. Originating as a pagan place of worship, the village stays true to its Sicilian artisan traditions, with goods such as hand-painted ceramics and handwoven rugs sold in its network of workshops.
A one-street southern Tuscan village, Sovana reads like a leap through art history. The central Piazza del Pretorio is lined with medieval houses. The Church of Santa Maria features an elaborate eighth-century stone canopy and a 15th-century fresco of the Virgin Mary, and the Romanesque Sovana Cathedral is stippled with elaborately carved marble pilasters.
Claiming to be the snowiest resort in the Alps, this collection of pitch-roofed chalets attracts a growing insider crowd of snowboarders and skiers.
This walled village sits on its own rocky spur, just barely connected to the southern tip of the Peloponnese Peninsula by a narrow causeway. A jumble of Byzantine, Ottoman, and Venetian architecture, the hamlet is fringed by rocky Mediterranean beaches, though real athletes will want to make the climb to the ruined fortress that tops the island like a jagged tiara.
Revered for its production of faience, a tin-glazed earthenware that once decorated the royal tables of Versailles, this photogenic hamlet hangs off a limestone cliff in eastern Provence. Faience workshops produce plates, tureens, and vases painted with delicate, feathery birds, flowers, and grotesques; among the most active are the ateliers Bondil, Lallier, and Soleil.
Considered the birthplace of wine growing in Alsace, Eguisheim is an essential stop on the region’s wine route. Among the 30-odd local producers is the Domaine Emile Beyer, in business since the 16th century, which hosts wine tastings in its ancient cellars.
Perfumed by lemon and orange groves, the stony village of Fornalutx, on the Balearic island of Mallorca, is a surprisingly sporty hub. A long rocky beach lies nearby, and the village is within easy striking distance of the island’s renowned biking route, which snakes through the Serra de Tramuntana mountains.
The walled, white-washed Portuguese village of Monsaraz overlooks the Alentejo plains and is home to the Alentejana Mizette Factory, an artisanal workshop that has helped revive the regional craft of hand-loomed, brightly striped blankets and rugs.
This riverside Franconian settlement is known for its snaking main street framed by half-timbered houses, as well as its brewpubs. The family-owned Faust brewery can help arrange a tour of local breweries.
All sherbet-colored cottages, this lakeside hamlet could pass for Pippi Longstocking’s hometown and offers the bonus of the Renaissance Gripsholm Castle, which houses the Swedish national portrait collection.