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25 Secret European Villages

16 Staphorst
Little has changed in Staphorst over the past couple of centuries. Two stoplights have been put in, but its strict-Calvinist villagers still adhere to old Dutch traditions. On Sunday afternoons, the cobblestoned streets are crowded with families in their churchgoing best: women wrap hand-painted shawls over blue skirts and black aprons and wear their hair twisted and pinned with gold brooches. Men are dressed in solemn black shirts with two rows of silver buttons, and dark pants with coins for fasteners. The town's businesses are also largely unaltered. The five-and-dime store sells a dozen varieties of clogs, while Folkloren Stoffen ("Folklore Fabric") peddles classic Dutch linens. One more concession to modern times: shops here now accept euros.
POPULATION 15,227 HOW TO GET THERE Amsterdam is 85 miles to the southwest; the drive to Staphorst takes under two hours. WHERE TO STAY Less than 10 miles outside town, the two-year-old Copper Heights Hotel (51 Lichtmisweg, Zwolle; 31-529/428-428; doubles from $164), a former water tower, offers a chance to see Staphorst from above. An exterior elevator rises past 18 standard rooms to the royal suite, a glass-enclosed bedroom. WHERE TO EAT The hotel's restaurant serves excellent Dutch and French fare (dinner for two $90).

17 Bormio
The mountain resort of Bormio, nestled in the Valtellina Valley to the north of Milan, is best known for World Cup ski events. But with the renovation of its 2,000-year-old Roman baths, the village is quickly becoming a spring and summer retreat for stressed-out fashionistas who flock here from Italy's style capital. Among the natural luxuries at the Bagni Vecchi spa are a 65-foot-long hot-water tunnel carved into a cave; warm waterfalls; and an outdoor thermal pool that looks onto the snowcapped Italian Alps.
POPULATION 4,100 HOW TO GET THERE Bormio is 122 miles northeast of Milan; it's a three-hour drive. WHERE TO STAY The rooms at the spa hotel Château Les Bains (Strada Statale dello Stelvio, Valdidentro; 39-0342/910-131; doubles from $200, including spa admission) are furnished with early-19th-century pieces. WHERE TO EAT Make time for a platter of salt-dried beef and a glass of Braulio, a medicinal-tasting herbal liqueur, at the pine-and-stone Bar Braulio (27 Via Roma; 39-0342/902-726).

18 Castagneto Carducci
Publicity-shy celebrities in search of an authentic Tuscan hideaway head for Castagneto Carducci, a hilltop village (circa a.d. 1000) surrounded by vineyards that sweep down to the sea. A-listers frequent the private estate of Count Gaddo della Gherardesca, whose annual June fte has drawn the likes of Naomi Campbell and Jetsun Pema, the Dalai Lama's sister. Among the village's other, less star-studded attractions: prizewinning "super Tuscan" Sassicaia wines from neighboring wineries, plus wool felt coats and corduroy hunting jackets made by a tailor in a nobleman's workshop that dates back to the early 1900's.
POPULATION 760 HOW TO GET THERE Castagneto Carducci is 85 miles south of Florence; the drive takes 1 hour and 20 minutes. WHERE TO STAY The friendly, family-run Hotel Bambolo (31 Via del Bambolo; 39-0565/775-206; doubles from $72) is an excellent value. WHERE TO EAT At the just-revamped Da Ugo (3A Via Pari; 39-0565/763-746; dinner for two $66), ordinary mortals often rub shoulders with supermodels (Elle Macpherson) and creative types (maverick photographer Oliviero Toscani) over dishes of inventive Italian cuisine.

19 Montepertuso
A lot of visitors to fashionable Positano never even make it to Montepertuso, an unassuming village mere minutes away. Too bad, because they miss outstanding views of the Galli Islands, where dancer Rudolf Nureyev famously secluded himself, which are among the best on the Amalfi Coast. Do as the Italians do and take the sociable public bus up, up, up from the beach, and then spend the morning at a café perfecting the art of far niente—doing nothing. Make the exhilarating descent to Positano on foot via a meandering path from the church of Santa Maria della Grazia.
POPULATION 900 HOW TO GET THERE Montepertuso is a 20-minute bus ride away from Positano, which lies 19 miles south of Naples. WHERE TO STAY After your day trip to Montepertuso, check into Positano's Le Sirenuse (30 Via Cristoforo Colombo; 39-089/875-066; doubles from $434). WHERE TO EAT Il Ritrovo (77 Via Montepertuso; 39-089/875-453; lunch for two $66) is a noted follower of the Slow Food movement. Try the cavatelli with zucchini and scamorza, a stringy cow's-milk cheese similar to provolone.

20 Possagno
Rome, Athens...Possagno?Architects, artists, and designers adore the giant Neoclassical temple built by 18th-century sculptor Antonio Canova in his native village in the Veneto. With its dome, 90 feet in circumference, and its sweeping flight of steps up to the double-columned façade, the structure wouldn't look out of place in one of Europe's grander capitals. Canova's house, now a museum, is not far from the temple; visiting art-lovers head straight for the 1957 wing by architectural genius Carlo Scarpa to view Canova's smooth plaster sculptures, bathed in pools of natural light from cleverly placed skylights and box windows.
POPULATION 2,075 HOW TO GET THERE It's a 90-minute drive to Possagno from Venice, 50 miles to the south. WHERE TO STAY Design die-hards can overnight 12 miles down the road at the Ca' Sette (4 Via Cunizza da Romano, Bassano del Grappa; 39-0424/383-350; doubles from $175), a classic-meets-contemporary villa-hotel that had a makeover in 2001. Ask for a frescoed room. WHERE TO EAT The hotel's restaurant (dinner for two $80) overlooks the garden; young chef Mauro Poggio creates nouvelle versions of local vegetarian and seafood platters, such as black squid-ink pasta piled with fresh shrimp and tomatoes.


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