MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN SOUTH ITALY
- 1 MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN SOUTH ITALY
Are you planning to visit South Italy and wondering about the best places to visit in Southern Italy? Then read here – because here you will find out.
Italy surely is one of the most stunning, the most unique, and the most interesting countries to visit. It is so rich in sights and natural attractions that it is probably on the bucket list of any traveler. And whether you visit Northern Italy, Central Italy, or the south – there are so many places to visit that it can be overwhelming.
Some of my fellow travel bloggers share their tips on where to go in Southern Italy – here are the places to visit.
- Katy from Untold Italy
Naples is crazy, chaotic, and cool – and a must-see in South Italy.
Naples is a city with a fascinating past, fun street culture, and of course, incredible food. Naples doesn’t have the dreamy, ethereal qualities you find in the cities of the north of Italy. Rather, it is a vibrant, living city of contrasts with a racing pulse.
Your first stop in Naples should be the wonderful Museo Archeologico with its collection of Roman and Greek artifacts and the remnant of the disaster at Pompeii.
For Renaissance and baroque splendor, head to the Cathedral, where the soaring vaulted ceilings and altar masterpieces are sure to impress. Next, go underground and discover the San Gennaro catacombs – a spooky network of tunnels and passageways lined with graves and crypts dating back hundreds of years. At the street level, walk with the crowds and stop at a cafe or bar and admire the city’s people, street art, and life.
Sitting in the shadow of Vesuvius, the people of Naples make each day count, and you should too.
- Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan
Don’t expect a carbon copy of Florence, though; the two cities are built in very different styles. Whereas Florence embodies the Renaissance, the streets of Lecce are lined with ornate buildings from the Baroque period.
Already known as a rather flamboyant style of architecture, in Lecce, the Baroque style has been given even more embellishments in the form of wrought-iron balconies and twisting columns. In fact, the style here is so distinctive that it has its own name, Barocco Leccese (Lecce Baroque).
Sights not to miss include the Church of Santa Croce with its beautiful rose window and the ancient Roman theater and amphitheater.
But just wandering down one of the main streets, such as Via Palmieri, is equally enjoyable. Take it slowly so you can admire all the ornate details on the façades. And you’ll definitely want to linger over a few multi-course meals in the local restaurants!
The region of Puglia has a very distinctive cuisine, and you’ll come across many dishes that you’ve never seen before in any Italian restaurant. Using lots of local vegetables, grains, and legumes, Puglian cuisine is also one of Italy’s most vegan-friendly cuisines.
- Veronika from Travel Geekery
Noto is a small picturesque town southeast of Sicily renowned for its Baroque architecture. You should visit Noto if you love exploring churches and cathedrals and if you have a sweet tooth!
You can find one of the highest concentrations of churches, palaces, and other religious buildings in Noto. They are everywhere, and they’re all amazing. The Noto Cathedral is the most grandiose one and, together with Noto’s historical center, has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2002.
Stroll through the narrow streets clad in white tiles, popping into any church you feel like. Most are free to enter, with a few palaces charging for entrance.
Noto’s famous Café Sicilia is no lesser motivation to visit Noto. The Netflix-featured café makes possibly the best granita (=an ice-cream-like dessert) in Sicily. The best and most original is the Almond Granita made from Sicilian almonds.
Café Sicilia has actually worked with local farmers and contributed to reviving the traditional almond growing in Sicily! If you come to Sicily and spend at least a week, you definitely should not leave out Noto! Gain inspiration from this weeklong Sicily itinerary.
Santa Maria di Leuca
- Michele of A Taste for Travel
One of the best places to visit in southern Italy is Santa Maria di Leuca, located at the very tip of the heel of the boot of Italy.
Flanked by both the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, this picturesque town is small but famous in many respects from a religious, strategic, and tourism perspective.
Some of the things to do in Santa Maria di Leuca include kayaking or taking a guided boat tour of the grottos and sea caves carved into the rocky coastline, basking on the beach at a nearby lido or beach club, and marveling at the ancient watchtowers dating to the 15th and 16th centuries and originally intended to warn of attacks from the water by foreign armies, smugglers and pirates.
The lighthouse at Santa Maria di Leuca also happens to be the second most important lighthouse in Italy, after Genoa, and is a popular landmark for photography buffs.
The lighthouse itself is built on top of a Greek temple dedicated to Athena. A scenic promenade along the seafront connects the town with the lighthouse via a set of stairs flanking Mussolini’s Waterfall ( a monument celebrating the Apulian Aqueduct’s construction). But the biggest draw for religious pilgrims is the Sanctuary or Basilica devoted to Saint Mary and constructed in 1720-1755 to commemorate the arrival of St. Peter during his travel to Italy.
Nearby, within the Capo di Leuca region, are the famous sights such as the pilgrim’s stop of Santa Maria di Leuca de Belvedere, Ciolo Bridge, and several hiking trails and footpaths dating back centuries.
- Helen from Helen on her Holidays
Ischia is a small island in the Bay of Naples, just across the water from the more famous island of Capri.
Ischia is already very popular as a holiday destination for Italian families but is a little overlooked by travelers from other countries. It shouldn’t be; Ischia is a beautiful island with stunning landscapes, amazing food, and loads of things to do.
Some of the best things to do in Ischia include: Enjoying a relaxing bath in Ischia’s natural thermal waters. Ischia is a volcanic island and blessed with over 100 thermal springs. Many hotels on the island have their own thermal spas, and you can even visit a thermal bath used by the ancient Greeks and Romans.
If you love gorgeous gardens, you should visit Ischia’s two world-famous gardens. The La Mortella gardens are set in a deep rocky valley and mix lush planting in the lower areas with fragrant Mediterranean foliage as you walk up the valley side. Nearby, Giardini Ravino is a leading (and very Instagrammable) collection of cacti and succulents.
Visit Castello Aragonese, which is Ischia’s medieval castle located majestically on a rocky islet, and connected to the larger island by a long causeway bridge. Take a 20-minute ferry across to neighboring Procida, a tiny island with one of Italy’s most incredible views.
- Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles
If you plan a trip to Southern Italy, you will want to put the Amalfi Coast drive on your itinerary. Considered one of the most beautiful drives on the planet, this drive will take you past some of Italy’s most spectacular coastal scenery.
You can do this iconic drive in one day or take a few days and really enjoy the Amalfi Coast. If you do the entire stretch, you will drive from Sorrento to Salerno or vice versa.
The distance is not very long, at about 56 km, but the road is narrow and winding, and you will want to stop often to take photos. Some folks drive from Sorrento to Ravello and back, and that is doable in one day if you are based in Sorrento and want to visit the coast as a day trip.
The towns of the Amalfi Coast are super picturesque. Positano’s beauty is legendary, but the towns of Amalfi, Praiano, and Ravello are also gorgeous. Stop for lunch at a restaurant with a water view, and enjoy a taste of limoncello, the liqueur made with local sweet lemons. Wander the little towns, browse the shops, and take in the views. If you are looking for souvenirs, the ceramics of Vietri Sul Mar are famous.
With so much to enjoy, a drive along the Amalfi Coast definitely deserves a spot in your itinerary for southern Italy!
- Samantha from Sam Sees World
Talking about Positano – since it is such an incredible town-deserves some more space in this post.
It is located on Southern Italy’s stunning Amalfi Coast and is built into the surrounding mountains’ cliffside.
Positano is a top-rated travel destination due to the village’s iconic views but you will also find a pebbly beach with vivid blue waters. Pastel-colored houses built vertically into the cliffside, boutique shops, and luxurious restaurants. It truly is a traveler’s dream.
Although it is a small village, there are a plethora of things to see in Positano. The main beach is full of colorful umbrellas and is the perfect place to view the city from a lower angle and take a swim in the beautiful waters. More so, Positano has a hike called the Path of Gods that stretches along the Amalfi Coast and offers stunning views of the coast and surrounding mountains.
After a day of adventures, it is always nice to sit down for a delicious pizza in a restaurant with a view overlooking the city at night.
Positano is a great tourist destination year-round. In the summer months, everything is open and alive; however, there are more tourists! If you prefer fewer tourists, I suggest heading here in the shoulder seasons.
- Nicky from Above Us Only Skies
Travel through Puglia, southern Italy’s heel, and you can’t fail to notice quaint, white-washed dry stone huts with conical roofs dotted around the countryside.
And if you visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Alberobello, you’ll discover a whole village full of them.
They’re called trulli (singular, trullo) and are the main draw of Alberobello, attracting busloads of passengers every year to gaze at these splendid hobbit-like dwellings. Many of them are used as shops. In the main tourist area of Rione Monti, there are many trulli converted into hotels, restaurants, and artisanal shops selling everything from trullo-shaped key rings to fine Italian wines. Of course, a peek inside the shops offers a closer look at the impressive vaulted, conical roofs.
If you want to learn more about their fascinating history, including how they were allegedly developed as a tax dodge from feudal landowners, then pay a visit to the Museo del Territorio. It’s a wondrous construction of ten linked trulli housing informative descriptions of how the dwellings were made and the region’s history at that time.
And don’t miss the opportunity to stay overnight in one of these tiny pieces of history if you’re going to be touring in this area of Puglia.
- Ivan from Mind the Travel
Italy’s largest island, Sicily, has an incredible capital, Palermo. The city holds an important place in the history of this southern archipelago which makes it – without a doubt – one of the best places to visit in Southern Italy.
Palermo has been a flourishing cultural and trading center throughout history, and scores of invading armies have left their mark everywhere.
Think cultural and economic influences from the Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Normans, French, and Spanish Bourbons. Palermo itself is like a cultural amusement park with its winding alleyways, street markets with the most delicious veggies and fruit, cathedrals with distinctive architecture, and religious street processions.
It’s all a little weird and surreal. That’s why some of the best things to do in Palermo include engaging with culture and absorbing the architecture. The events in the city’s social calendar are endless – scope them out before you go.
The real Palermo is experienced in its streets, markets, and through its food. No trip to Palermo is complete without visiting Vucciria, Ballarò, and Borgo Vecchio open-air markets. These offer some unbeatable experiences.
Street food in Palermo can be found all over town in little stalls selling yummy snacks like sfincione and arancini for about 1 – 2 Euros.
The pedestrian-friendly streets made it easy to wander around the impressive palaces, some of which have been turned into museums. Palermo’s cozy squares are filled with little cafes, music venues, art exhibits, and strolling visitors.
Another highlight is the Monreale Cathedral and its thousands of square meters of golden mosaics. Even if you are not into arts, this place is gorgeous so try to squeeze in a visit during your stay in Palermo.
The Aeolian Islands
- Emily by Wander-Lush
The Aeolian Islands off the coast of northwestern Sicily offer some of the country’s most stunning landscapes.
If you love island-hopping, lounging on black-sand beaches, and exploring sweet Sicilian towns, this off-beat gem should definitely feature on your Southern Italy bucket list.
The Aeolian archipelago is made up of seven islands – Lipari, Salina, Vulcano, Filicudi, Alicudi, Panarea, and Stromboli. Because they’re volcanic islands (most are now extinct, but Stromboli is still famously active), the soil is rich and perfect for growing grapes, capers, figs, and other local produce.
Each of the islands has its own unique landscape and local culture. An ideal Aeolian Islands itinerary involves basing yourself on one of the quieter villages (I prefer Malfa in Salina) and visiting the other islands on day trips by boat. Highlights include swimming, snorkeling, and exploring the quaint towns on foot.
Other must-dos include hiring a jeep and driving to some of the viewpoints around Vulcano, visiting the world-class Archaeological Museum on Lipari, and hiking to the summit of Stromboli to see the crater up close.
- To get to the Aeolian Islands, take a hydrofoil from Sicily (Messina or Milazzo).
- Ashley from My Wanderlusty Life
For a great mix of everything that makes up Southern Italy’s culture, Sorrento is one of the best places to visit.
Sorrento is in the perfect location to serve as a base for your travels around Southern Italy. It’s within a short drive of the enchanting Amalfi Coast, Mt. Vesuvius’s wineries, the lively metropolis of Naples, and just a short boat ride to Capri and more of Southern Italy’s incredible and indulgent islands.
While in Sorrento, you can enjoy some of Southern Italy’s best food on specially curated food tours for all dietary preferences. You can tour olive oil production factories, organic wineries, and limoncello groves to learn all about Sorrento’s lemon-centered culture and history.
You can stroll the streets of downtown Sorrento with gelato in hand during the bustling passegiatta before watching the sunset from your cliff-side balcony. Shop for locally made items and listen to old Italian classics streaming from underground eateries.
Then you can spend the entirety of the next day swimming in the warm, emerald waters of the Mediterranean.
- Rai from A Rai of Light
Taormina, often described as the most beautiful town in Sicily, is an old hilltop village filled with history, culture, and charm.
With its dramatic coastline, pretty beaches, and enticing shops, the town offers several possibilities for a good time. It is well known for its archaeology, architecture, heritage, and history, with a whole lot to do. Don’t miss a visit to the Greek Theatre, Piazza IX Aprile, and the public garden.
The ancient theatre, a historical monument built way back in the third century BC, offers a glimpse into a primeval world.
For photo lovers, it also offers the opportunity to get some great shots of the surrounding region. The main street, Corso Umberto, crosses the whole center of the town and provides for some awesome shopping.
Taormina is somewhat touristy, and it can also get jam-packed, especially during the holiday season, so a little planning is advised. Fortunately, it is pretty easy to get here, and if pressed for time, it is possible to visit for just a day from anywhere in Sicily or Malta.
- Lori from TravlInMad
The island of Capri off the Sorrentine peninsula is one of the most unique places to visit.
Capri is idyllic and reachable only by boat, and ferries from Naples, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast can whisk you away to the island several times a day.
While many tourists visit Capri for a day trip, it’s worth so much more time for those seeking a relaxing and luxurious Italian holiday. Once the crowds go home at the end of the day, the island takes on a magical quality. It’s as if the tourists have been let in on all the local island secrets.
Capri was once home to the Roman Emperor Tiberius and later his misguided nephew Emperor Caligula. Visiting the ruins of their Villa is one of the most interesting things to do in Capri.
Hiking to Villa Jovis on the top of the island is an excellent day hike, along narrow streets accessible only by single motor carts and on foot, and you’ll be treated to some of the most amazing views over the Amalfi Coast.
The island is also home to stunning rock formations and grottoes, so a boat trip is a must-do when you’re here. After exploring the famous Blue Grotto and a swim in the crystal clear waters, enjoy a late afternoon Aperitivo in the Piazza Umberto, then head for dinner at one of Capri’s incredible restaurants.
Whatever you choose to do in Capri, it’ll capture your heart forever.
- Nadine from Le Long Weekend
With its crumbling façades and colorful port, Gallipoli epitomizes the old-world charm of southern Italy.
It’s the place to go to experience the real Italy, the one where the art of making pasta is passed down through the generations and where groups of elderly men congregate on café terraces, Coppola caps firmly in place.
It’s worth a few days’ explorations, even if all you really want to do is laze on the picturesque beaches that surround the town. The old Gallipoli is an island attached to the mainland via a bridge and is where you’ll want to head first.
Walk the perimeter to get your bearings and take note of which bar you want to come back to later to enjoy uninterrupted sunset views. Visit the Castello Angioino di Gallipoli, a historic building on the waterfront once used to ward off enemies that now houses a cultural center, before wandering down one of the cobbled lanes that lead into the old town.
Admire the architecture on display and pop your head into one or many of the old churches to take in different styles. Then browse the small selection of boutiques and shops selling local wares before heading back to that seaside spot for sunset!
Pompeii and Vesuvius
- Coni from Experiencing the Globe
No visit to Italy is complete without the archeological site of Pompeii. These ruins have inspired songs, movies, books, and more, and with great reason.
An entire city with houses, temples, baths, public buildings, and shops was buried, giving you a fantastic opportunity to see how daily life looked like in a Roman city.
Pompeii was founded around the 8th century BC and completely covered in lava and ashes in 79 AD by Mount Vesuvius’s eruption. The excavation began in 1748, and it is still an ongoing process!
Don’t miss the forum, the brothel, the baths, the mysteries’ villa, the garden of the fugitives, the house of Venus in the Shell, the theater, and the amphitheater.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not start the day on top of Mt. Vesuvius? It’s still an active volcano, but it’s safe to visit. A bus will drop you at the beginning of a well-marked path, where you’ll have a comfortable walk with about 200 meters of altitude change to the crater. After walking around it, you’ll get to try wine grown on the slope of the volcano!
You can easily visit Pompeii and Vesuvius in one day from Naples independently. Just take the train from Napoli Centrale, and enjoy these amazing sights!
- Talek from Travels With Talek
Matera is a town in southern Italy, towards the end of the Italian boot-shaped peninsula.
It is a magical, otherworldly place with rock formations creating caves above ground and underground tunnels and caves running the city’s length.
The city‘s caves are called the Sassi di Matera, and the entire area is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Matera has been inhabited since paleolithic times. Throughout the centuries, people have lived in caves. Today some caves are still used as living quarters. A city tour will take you through some large caves used as homes. They look quite cozy and habitable with all the comforts of a regular home.
The city has made excellent use of its caves, turning them into a major tourist attraction. You can stay in a cave hotel, eat in a cave restaurant and best of all, see magnificent artistic structures in an underground museum. The statues are artistically lit and represent tango dancers, acrobats, and other forms.
Matera is so distinctive that it has been used as a movie set for films such as Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ and the most recent Ben Hur.
- Annabel from Smudged Postcard
The town of Tropea is located in the southern Italian region of Calabria midway between Lamezia and Reggio di Calabria.
Tropea is a particularly pretty seaside town. It is perched on a clifftop overlooking the Mediterranean. Beneath the town is a popular sandy beach and a small rocky island crowned by the medieval church Santa Maria dell’Isola
Tropea’s central Piazza Ercole is the perfect place for a morning coffee and a spot of people watching. The town is famed for its delicious sweet red onions, which are delicious in salads. Fiery chilies are also grown and widely used in food in this part of Italy.
Evenings are a lovely time to visit Tropea as the streets fill with people taking an evening passeggiata.
The beaches around Tropea and the nearby coastline of Capo Vaticano are why so many Italians flock to the town in the summertime. Snorkeling is good here, and there are boat trips available to the Aeolian Islands, including the active volcanic isles of Vulcano and Stromboli.
CONCLUSION: MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN SOUTHERN ITALY
As you can see, the south of Italy is full of stunning places. Hopefully, this list of the best places to visit in Southern Italy will help you create your itinerary. For more Italy travel tips, click here!