Italy’s colorful houses: the towns where you can see them

Where to go to see the most colorful houses in Italy

Italy is full of exquisite, charming, ancient little towns, but the ones that capture travelers’ attention the most are those that look as if they had been soaked in a rainbow. 

Italy boasts a variety of postcard-like villages that have alleys and streets lined by houses painted in a variety of different colors. They’re everywhere, from North to South, jutting into the sky from atop cliffs, blooming like bright bouquets on islands, and adding a glow to little bays along the coast. The shades used to paint the houses of these towns and villages vary, ranging from rich red and orange to pale yellow, ochre, baby blue, candy pink, lime, and emerald green… you’ll find all the colors of the rainbow and more!

Why do many Italian coastal towns have colorful houses?

The majority of Italian towns with colorful houses are fishing villages located along the shoreline. Originally, the fisherman and their families painted their houses using vivid colors so that they could identify them when out at sea. Similarly, the houses that framed harbors would be brightly colored to help seafarers spot the docks from afar. Later, when tourists and vacationers started flocking to the villages, people chose to maintain their houses’ beautiful colors to enhance their town’s appeal.

Scenic view of Italy colorful houses on cliff in Cinque terre village Riomaggiore, Italy

The most colorful Italian villages

Many Italian towns with colorful houses are famous, attracting Italians and foreigners for day trips or vacations. But there are many more that lie off the beaten tourist track, undisturbed, quiet, and absolutely magical. Read on for insider tips: we’ll tell you where to find Italy’s prettiest “secret” multicolored villages!

Italy’s most famous colorful villages

Virtually everyone’s heard about them, and many have spent glorious days exploring, wrapped in these lovely little towns’ vibrant colors and welcoming atmosphere. 

The most famous colorful villages in Italy are:

  • Portofino, on the Ligurian Riviera
  • Manarola, in Cinque Terre
  • Riomaggiore, also in Cinque Terre
  • Burano, in the Venetian Lagoon
  • Positano, on the Amalfi Coast
  • Marina Corricella, on Procida Island

Portofino, Riviera Ligure di Levante

Portofino has forever been a favorite holiday resort among artists, VIPs, and celebrities. Exquisitely draped along one of Italy’s most alluring harbors, Portofino is lapped by crystal clear waves and filled with glamorous yachts and gleaming sailboats. Its colorful houses, superbly reflected by the water and sun-kissed from dawn to dusk, are no doubt part of the town’s unending charm. The town is located in the Riviera Ligure di Levante, the stretch of coast that runs from Genoa to the Gulf of La Spezia, and rises on its own headland.

Manarola and Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre, Riviera Ligure di Levante

Cinque Terre colorful houses are famous all around the world. UNESCO Heritage Site since 1997, Cinque Terre is a strand of ancient little villages that cling to the weathered cliffs typical of the Ligurian Riviera. The area’s five towns, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore, all boast charming winding alleys, lively little squares, spectacular panoramic views, and their share of brightly painted houses, but Riomaggiore and Manarola are by far the most colorful.

Burano, Venice Lagoon

Have you ever traveled across the Venetian lagoon on a cloudy fall or winter day? The water is dark gray and almost still, and everything is cloaked in a blanket of heavy fog. Suddenly, you catch a glimpse, and then a burst, of color: it’s Burano, the most fascinating lagoon island, a haven of tradition clad in delightfully painted houses. The early morning mists and heavy fogs typical of this unique ecosystem are, as the story goes, the reasons that lie behind the dazzling colors that swathe Burano colorful houses: the island fishermen needed color to lead them home!

Colorful houses in Burano, Italy

Positano, Amalfi Coast

Pastel and flamingo pink, canary yellow, peach, ivory, and terracotta-red buildings enhanced by wisteria dripping over the walls, tiny citrus orchards, and vases filled with geraniums. Positano is sheer Mediterranean beauty, warmth, and flamboyance, enriched by a touch of glamour and pizzazz. This Amalfi Coast town’s colorful houses seem to challenge the law of gravity, clambering up the dramatic cliff and offering breathtaking vistas of the sea, coastline, and Capri Island. There’s nowhere quite like Positano!

More seafront magic: Calabria, Gaeta, and the Amalfi Coast 

Albeit less renowned among foreigners, Procida, the smallest island in the Bay of Naples, is beloved and coveted by Italians. Endowed with bewitching black sand beaches, a fascinating 11th-century abbey, and an untarnished natural environment, Procida houses one of the most charming colorful villages in Italy. The town is called Marina Corricella, it’s a tiny fishermen’s village that dates back to the 17th century and boasts charming green, pink, and yellow houses. Procida is only a 40-minute/€20 hydrofoil ride from Naples, so next time you’re in town, make sure you check it out!

Unexplored colorful towns of Italy

The villages described above all rise in well-known regions of Italy, places that have been luring travelers ever since the 1700s. But there are many others located in remote areas off the beaten tourist path. 

The most beautiful ones are:

  • Borgo Parrini
  • Bosa
  • Castelsardo
  • Dozza
  • Tellaro
  • Varenna
  • Varigotti

Borgo Parrini, Sicily’s “little Barcelona”

There’s a little village made of blue, white, and yellow houses enhanced by mosaics, majolica, murals, and artists’ sayings. Borgo Parrini rises at a scenic 50-minute drive from Palermo, the capital of Sicily, and is one of Italy’s most unusual, and little-known, colorful towns. Located inland, it was abandoned by most of its inhabitants after WWII. In the early 1990s, a local entrepreneur and his few fellow townsmen decided to bring the town back to life by renovating it. Inspired by the art of Catalan artist Antonio Gaudí, they painted the buildings, covered some walls with brightly colored tiles, and decorated others with murals and artwork.

Bosa and Castelsardo, radiant Sardinian gems

Beautiful beaches are the first things that come to mind when one mentions Sardinia. Truth be told, this incredible island houses many unexpected attractions, and Bosa and Castelsardo are definitely among them. 

Bosa is an enchanting riverside town with a centuries-old heritage and rich cultural tradition. Renowned for its river, the Temo, which is Sardinia’s only navigable waterway, for its textiles, fine embroideries, and delightful array of picturesque colored houses, it is a fascinating place to visit. 

Italian coastal town with colorful houses: Bosa, Sardinia

Castelsardo rises along the coast some 30 km from Sassari and is immersed in greenery. The ancient part of the village, which dates back to the 1100s, is uphill and boasts a charming period town center and Medieval castle, while the modern part of town showcases a variety of delightful period multicolored houses.

Dozza, an open-air art gallery in the heart of Emilia Romagna

There’s an enchanted village hidden among the many attractions and heartwarming hospitality of Emilia Romagna. It’s called Dozza, Dozza Imolese to be exact, dates back to the Middle Ages and rises just 32 minutes from Bologna. Here, modern and contemporary art harmoniously blend with winding alleys, quaint doorways, the chime of church bells, and the scent of tortellini in brodo. Once upon a time, Dozza was just your “ordinary” ancient town, but everything changed in 1960 when it first hosted the “Biennale del muro dipinto”, which translates as the Bi-annual painted wall festival, invited artists to paint the buildings and streets, and found itself outfitted with brand-new vivid colors. Since then, Dozza has hosted the event every other year: every two years, the town’s colors are renewed, enhanced, and added to. It’s nothing short of extraordinary.

Tellaro, a hidden Ligurian jewel 

Everyone longs to roam the Cinque Terre paths and enjoy pesto in the villages’ restaurants or bask in the sunshine watching the yachts go by in Portofino, but hardly anyone ever gets to dreamy, magical Tellaro. Looking more like a cluster of exquisite pastel-colored seafront houses than an actual village, this tiny town rises on the rocky cliffs just 2 km from well-known Lerici. Actually, it also houses an important 12th-century church, an ancient castle, and a medieval tower. A great place for a day trip away from the maddening crowds.

Varenna, lakefront magic

Dainty multicolored houses, spectacular views of the lake, botanical gardens, and sumptuous period mansions. Varenna, located on the eastern shore of beautiful Lake Como, may not be as famous as its lakeshore sister Menaggio, or as glamorous as Bellagio, but it is just as charming, elegant, and filled with pretty cafés, restaurants, and shops. Plus, it’s the perfect departure point for hikers who want to try the famous Sentiero del Viandante, the 45-km trail that runs along the lake’s entire eastern shore.

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