Best Places to Visit in Southern Italy

MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES TO VISIT IN SOUTHERN ITALY

Italy surely is one of the most stunning, most unique and 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. Yes, you can see Italy in two weeks – but, you will miss out on many gorgeous places the country has to visit. I suggest to visit Northern and Central Italy and then explore the south of the country.

So, this post is only about the absolutely best places to visit in South Italy.

Some of my fellow travel bloggers share their tips on where to go in Southern Italy – here are the places to visit for your Southern Italy trip (btw, here is a post with amazing destinations in all of Italy).

Enjoy!

Naples

Katy from Untold Italy

Naples is crazy, chaotic and cool – and a must see in South Italy

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Often missed by people who bypass it en route to the Amalfi Coast, it’s 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 artefacts and remnant of the disaster at Pompeii.

For Renaissance and baroque splendour, 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 street level just walk with the crowds and stop at a cafe or bar and admire the people, street art and life of the city.

Sitting in the shadow of Vesuvius, the people of Naples make each day count and you should too. You can easily spend three unforgettable days in wonderful Napoli.

Lecce

Wendy from The Nomadic Vegan

Often dubbed “the Florence of the South”, Lecce is indeed just as beautiful as the famous capital of Tuscany and yet sees only a fraction of the tourists.

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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 the most vegan-friendly cuisines in Italy.

Noto

Veronika from Travel Geekery

Noto is a small picturesque town in the 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!

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In Noto you can find one of the highest concentrations of churches, palaces and other religious buildings. They are everywhere and they’re all amazing. The Noto Cathedral is the most grandiose one and together with Noto’s historical center have been listed in UNESCO since 2002.

The best thing to do in Noto is just to 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 revive the traditional almond growing in Sicily! Granitas should be vegan, but check with the waiter to make sure there’s no dairy.

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.

Beautiful scenic seascape at Ciolo Bridge, near Santa Maria di Leuca, Salento, Apulia, Italy
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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 marvelling 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.

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.

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 construction of the Apulian Aqueduct).

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.

Ischia

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.

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Ischia is already very popular as a holiday destination for Italian families, but is a little overlooked by travellers 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.

Visiting Castello Aragonese. Ischia’s medieval castle is located majestically on a rocky islet, connected to the larger island by a long causeway bridge. Taking a 20-minute ferry across to neighbouring Procida, a tiny island with one of the most incredible views in Italy.

Ischia is a fantastic place to visit in southern Italy and ideal for a vacation of around a week.

Amalfi Coast 

Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles

If you are planning 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 the most spectacular coastal scenery in Italy.

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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!

Alberobello

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.

Puglia is one of the best places to visit in South Italy
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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. Indeed, 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 history of the region 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.

Positano

Samantha from Sam Sees World 

Talking about Positano – since it is such an incredible town, this deserves some more space in this post.

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Positano is one of the most magical and charming cities in all of Italy. It is located on Southern Italy’s stunning Amalfi Coast and is built into the cliffside of the surrounding mountains.

Positano is a very popular travel destination due to the village’s iconic views and sights to see. Here you will 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 travelers dream.

Although it is a small village, there are a plethora of things to see in Positano. One of the best things to do in Positano is to visit the main beach. The 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 mountians, this is a must-do while visiting Positano.

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 less tourist I suggest heading here in the shoulder seasons.

Palermo

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.

Famous fountain of shame on baroque Piazza Pretoria, Palermo, Sicily, Italy
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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, 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 a visit to Vucciria, Ballarò, and Borgo Vecchio open-air markets. These offer some unbeatable experience.

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.

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.

Another highlight on a list of places to visit in Palermo is 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 a visit  during your stay in Palermo.

The Aeolian Islands

Emily by Wander-Lush

The Aeolian Islands off the coast of north-western Sicily offer some of the most stunning landscapes in Southern Italy.

Aeolian Islands in Sicily by Emily Lush
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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 and snorkelling, 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).

Sorrento

Ashley from My Wanderlusty Life

For a great mix of everything that makes up the culture of Southern Italy, Sorrento is one of the best places to visit in Southern Italy.

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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, the wineries of Mt. Vesuvius, 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 a gelato in hand during the bustling passegiatta before watching the sun set from your cliff-side balcony. Shop for locally made items and listen to old Italian classics streaming from the underground eateries.

Then you can spend the entirety of the next day swimming in the warm, emerald waters of the Mediterranean.

Southern Italy is truly a gem and you can see the best of it all from Sorrento.

Taormina

Rai from A Rai of Light

Taormina, often described as the most beautiful town in Sicily, is an old hilltop village that is filled with history, culture and charm.

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With its dramatic coastline, pretty beaches and enticing shops, the town offers a number of 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 really busy, 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.

Capri

Lori from TravlInMad

The island of Capri off the Sorrentine peninsula in southern Italy is one of the most unique and one of the best places to visit in the Southern Italy.

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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, and 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.

Gallipoli

Nadine from Le Long Weekend

With it’s crumbling façades and colourful port, Gallipoli epitomises the old-world charm of southern Italy. 

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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 worthy of a few days’ exploration, 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 centre, 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 the differing 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.

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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 an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The excavation of began in 1748, and it is still an ongoing process!

Don’t miss the forum, the brothel, the baths, the villa of the mysteries, 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!

Matera

Talek from Travels With Talek

Matera is a town in southern Italy, towards the end of the Italian boot shaped peninsula.

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It is a magical, otherworldly place with rock formations creating caves above ground and underground tunnels and caves running the length of the city.

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 the 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.

Tropea

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 chillies 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 the reason so many Italians flock to the town in summertime. Snorkelling is good here and there are boat trips available to the Aeolian islands including the active volcanic isles of Vulcano and Stromboli.

Many of them are used as shops. Indeed, 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 history of the region 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. I am sure you will agree it is one of the places to visit in southern Italy.

CONCLUSION: MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN SOUTHERN ITALY

As you can see, the south of Italy is full of stunning places – and hopefully this list with the best places to visit in Southern Italy will help you create your itinerary. For more Italy travel tips click here!

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