Italy's second smallest region spots lovely hikes, ancient ruins, and a laid-back village life long lost in busier parts of Italy
Until 1970, Molise was still part of the Abruzzo region now to its north—and it continues to share much of that central mountainous region's character, brightened by a bit of the sunny southern flair typical of its other neighbors, Apulia and Campania.
If nothing else, it is remarkable to find such a relatively untouched and overlooked region that's within a three-hour drive from Rome, Naples, or Bari—yep; few people could find Molise on a map yet it's right there, triangulated by those mighty cities.
Italy's second smallest region is also one of its most sparsely populated—just 300,000 residents in a region slightly larger than Rhode Island (which has more than three times as many people).
Aside from some great hiking on old shepherd paths in the woods and some nice walled coastal towns with castles guarding the beaches like that at Termoli, Molise does not have any marquee sights—though if you are passing through, detour to visit Saepinum, the remarkably preserved ruins of a small Roman town off the SS87 just north of Sepino (founded by those who abandoned Saepinum in the Dark Ages). This Area Archeologica di Sepino comes complete with flagstone roads, broken columns outlining ancient temples, and a medieval village built atop the curves of the Roman Theater.
Sorry. Nothing fits that criteria.