Located in Southern Europe, Italy (Repubblica Italiana) is the third most populated state within the European Union (EU). The shape of Italy is generally referred to as a boot. Southern Italy is known as the bottom part of the boot consisting of the ankle, toe, arch, and heel.
Southern Italy includes 8 of the 20 beautiful regions of Italy— Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise, Sardinia, and Sicily. As well, the south differs from the northern and central parts as its Greek colonization heavily influenced it.
From historical and archeological sites to beaches and mountains, Southern Italy is a unique region every traveler should experience. Check out our list of must-visit travel destinations in Southern Italy.
1. Alberobello, Apulia
Recommended by Chris of LooknWalk
A small town in the province of Bari in the Apulia (ita: Puglia) region of Southern Italy. Alberobello is a picturesque destination, well-known for the Trulli houses.
Known as the Capital of the Trulli, one of the city’s neighborhoods has been made a UNESCO World Heritage site because of these strange, whitewashed houses. The buildings have conical roofs and no mortar.
While many of these Trulli are still inhabited – and there is a separate neighborhood of Trullis completely residential – some houses have been turned into stores, restaurants, or lodging.
Once you get off the train or bus, follow the signs and walk to the protected area. Alberobello can easily be visited as a half-day trip from Bari. Put on some good walking shoes as that’s what you’d be doing most of the time: walk! Explore the streets and the cute houses, stop to take photos, visit the church (also a trullo), and get some souvenirs.
There is also a Trullo Living Museum that you can visit (from July to September). It features old workshops and houses furnished with original 19th-Century tools and objects brought to life by actors.
Feeling hungry? Pack some snacks and stop in the square right in front of the entrance to the protected area and refuel. Or venture away from the tourist center to get something to eat in a local restaurant.
Should you want to spend the night in a Trullo, make sure to plan and book in advance, especially if you travel during the high season (summer).
2. Capri, Campania
Recommended by Kerry of VeggTravel
The Isle of Capri is located on the Mediterranean Ocean to the south of Italy. Popular with visitors as well as locals alike, the charm of Capri draws you in with its quaint residences as well as magnificent mountainous sights. One of the most common ways to see this magnificent Italian island is by doing a Sorrento to Capri day trip, as it is fairly expensive to stay in Capri.
Other options are to get a ferry to Capri from Naples or the Amalfi Coast or take an organized boat tour. With this option, you also get to visit the beautiful blue grotto which illuminates the small cave in a bright, alluring color.
Another must-do is to take the chair lift to the peak of Monte Salaro. Take pleasure in the panoramic sights 583m over sea level looking across the bay of Naples, the Amalfi coast, along with the captivating Capri Town.
If you’re not acquainted with Italy, there are extremely restricted public beaches and Capri is no different. This means that the majority of the ‘coastline area’ is privately owned by beach clubs which require you to pay to enter. The price of these can be fairly expensive so just worth doing if you’re taking pleasure from the beach club all day.
Otherwise, head to the public beach early so you can get one of the limited spots available. One of the most popular beach areas of the island is the Marina Piccola. There are great places to cliff jump from as well as some of the iconic rocky backdrops that you will have undoubtedly seen in the photos.
3. Naples, Campania
Recommended by Ronja of Ronja Goes Abroad
Naples, the third-largest city in Italy, is located in Southern Italy. It is known for its beautiful architecture and is one of the most important and big ports in Europe. But this city isn’t for everyone.
Arriving in Naples can be a shock. If you travel by car, the traffic changes majorly and you can feel the tension while driving. If arriving by plane and taking the train/metro to the main station, getting above ground and seeing the surroundings might shock you.
The city has had a serious problem with garbage for many years and you can see it here. The faster you get from the sea, the poorer and dirtier it gets. Therefore, the main tourist location is by the sea. But be aware of pickpockets!
The port area and its surroundings are beautiful. It’s the Naples you know from all the photos. Take a walk by the sea and stop to eat at one of the many restaurants.
You cannot visit Naples without eating pizza. There are many underground ruins in Naples worth a visit. Tickets to the catacombs are around 12€. Naples is an old city and has many castles for one to visit, for example Castel dell Ovo by the sea.
When visiting Naples, you must take a day trip to Pompei. It is easy to get there by public transport. Jump on the MET train or metro number 1 to Pompei. Both arrive in the city center of Pompei where it’s a short walk to the ruins. If you are not one to visit ruins, take a shuttle bus up to Mt. Vesuvius. Visiting the volcano is worth it both for the views and for the sight itself.
The best time to visit Naples is in summer but be prepared for many tourists and warm weather. If you are up to visiting during the off-season, October is a great time to visit. The weather is not around 15-20°C, and there aren’t as many tourists as there are during the summer months.
4. Positano, Campania
Recommended by Lori of Travelin Mad
Positano on the Amalfi Coast of southern Italy is not only one of the most beautiful and celebrated small towns in Italy, but it’s also a favorite vacation destination for Italians. Brightly-colored houses, shops, and hotels cling to the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea making for one of the most beautiful small towns in Italy.
To get to Positano, you’ll have to take a bus or a private shuttle, as no train lines serve the Amalfi Coast. A rental car is the least desirable since there are very few places to park.
When you feel like just relaxing and exploring the town, the Church of Santa Maria Assunta with its beautiful Moorish tiled dome provides an excellent reference point for getting around the town. It has great views of the sea and great photo ops.
By day, you can relax at sunny Spiaggia Grande beach or head to Da Adolfo and Laurito beach. In the evening, wander the narrow streets that wind up and down the mountainside with upscale shops, boutiques, and restaurants. You can even have leather sandals custom-made for you while you are dining.
For incredible scenery from high above the shoreline, make time to hike Il Sentiero Degli Dei, the Path of the Gods. It’s an easy hike with breathtaking views. For a different way to sightsee, take a guided boat tour of the coast and don’t forget your camera.
After dinner try a sip of limoncello, a local digestivo made from Sorrento lemons. Shops all around town sell lovely ceramic bottles of the liqueur for something special to take home.
5. Procida, Campania
Recommended by JJ of Travel Across the Borderline
Procida (pronounced pro-cheee-dah) is the smallest inhabited island in the bay of Naples, Italy. It is often overshadowed by its famous neighbor Capri, which is great news for you because whilst people are being overcharged in busy Capri you will have laid-back Procida all to yourself!
I recommend staying in Naples or nearby Sorrento and taking the ferry to Procida for a day trip. The small island is easily covered in a day.
Procida, Italy is famous for its pretty pastel-colored buildings that line the harbor so one of the best things to do is to hike up to the viewpoint so that you can admire Procida in all its glory. Yes, it will be very hot and sweaty, but I promise the view is worth the effort!
The best viewpoint in Procida is located on the opposite side of the island to where the ferry drops you off, but there are plenty of signs pointing the way. You can also type ‘Panorama Elsa Morante sulla Corricella e Terra Murata’ into google maps or maps.me to find your way there.
After your hike, you can cool off with a refreshing dip in the sea and then treat yourself to some delicious Italian cuisine in one of the many outdoor restaurants.
6. Sorrento, Campania
Recommended by Sam of FindLoveAndTravel.com
A little over an hour south of Naples, Sorrento is one of the most beautiful areas in Southern Italy! Its proximity to Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and Capri makes for a great starting point.
Naples also has tons to see and do! Sorrento has tons of shops and restaurants throughout the whole city, which is very walkable! Since they are located right on the water, Sorrento is known for having excellent seafood. They even have a fishing village at Marina Grande.
Furthermore, they have some great beach clubs. The clubs are more of a boardwalk into the crystal blue water than a sandy beach. Sorrento also has a very small public sand beach as well.
Additionally, you must add a lemon grove to your Sorrento itinerary! You will get to see the giant lemons Sorrento is so famous for and usually also includes some complimentary shots of limoncello!
For sunset, you can walk over to the Sorrento lift, which brings you to the edge of the cliff Sorrento is perched on. From here, you can look out and see Mt. Vesuvius across the gulf of Naples as the sunsets.
Sorrento has a large ferry port making it easy to get to Positano and Capri, both of which are a must-see! Pompeii and the Herculaneum are easy day trips to add to your southern Italy intermarry.
7. Vietri sul Mare, Campania
Recommended by Jackie of Jou Jou Travels
Vietri Sul Mare is a hidden gem along the Amalfi Coast in the Salerno province. It is known as the ceramic capital of the world and boasts one of the most beautiful serene beaches. The town has a beautiful view of the cityscape as soon as you exit the train station.
You can easily get to Vietri Sul Mare from Salerno by taking one stopover to the town or by taking a ferry to the Marina di Vietri from Amalfi or Salerno. Then, you will be alarmed by the true uniqueness and creativity the adorable town holds. The streets are decked with ceramics and each shop one after another has handmade ceramics you can buy and take home with you as a souvenir.
Not only that, there is so much to do after wandering the cute, quaint streets full of tiled walls and paths. Start your day shopping, then head to the private beach, Spiaggia Della Crestarella. It is relaxing and much less touristic than the other beaches in popular Positano or Capri.
In the center of the town, you will also find the Cathedral of Vietri, which is worth a stop. There is also a Park and Amphitheater over the sea with a tiled staircase leading down to the Amphitheater.
This is a great photo spot and right above it, you will find a nice place to grab food in front of the sunset. This restaurant is called Pane & Panorama and has some tasty sandwiches in front of a panoramic view of the town.
8. Castellammare del Golfo, Sicily
Recommended by Marianne of Pasta Pretzels & Passports
Castellammare del Golfo is a pretty seaside town located one hour west of Sicily’s capital Palermo. Centered around their marina, the town is filled with wonderful shops, restaurants, gardens, cafes, and even a castle! This town is worth a visit if you are heading to Sicily!
For a small town, there are so many things to do to fill your days. Depending on what you are interested in, you can relax by one of several scenic beaches, do some sightseeing, shop, enjoy the nightlife, or just soak in the culture on a stroll around town!
One of the iconic things to do in Castellammare is to visit Lo Zingaro Nature Reserve. This pristine area features 7 km of windswept shores, precipitous cliffs, turquoise water, natural coves, and grottos for swimming. Enjoy the stunning natural vistas as you hike, swim, or relax in the Sicilian sun.
If you are looking to do a little shopping, head to the Quattro Canti and Corso Garibaldi. This cobblestone pedestrian-only area is very picturesque, with gorgeous views of the marina and castle from the central gardens. Here, you will find quaint little boutiques, gelaterias, restaurants, and artisanal shops filled with amazing locally-made goods.
One thing you do not want to miss is a trip to the Belvedere. Take this short drive to the top of the cliff for a jaw-dropping view of the town. Not only is it a photographer’s dream, but you will also find a nice restaurant tucked into the hillside.
9. Palermo, Sicily
Recommended by Caroline of VeggieWayfarer.com
The Mediterranean island Sicily in southern Italy is favored by many a traveler looking to soak up some much-needed vitamin D in the winter months and those looking for the best beaches to relax in summer. The capital of the island, Palermo, is the perfect hub to go out and explore the multitude of quaint towns in Sicily.
Visit the Norman Palace with the impressive Palatine Chapel adorned with hundreds of golden mosaics, the Church of Gesu, and the Church of San Cataldo to soak up some typical Sicilian culture.
Grab a traditional spleen sandwich or a delicious Arancini (fried riceball with ragu or à la norma for the vegetarians) for lunch, and make sure to keep some room for gelato with a big brioche.
Make your way towards the Cathedral of Palermo, for a few euros you can climb up a set of narrow stairs and onto the roof for the best views over Palermo.
The local markets (Ballaro, La Vucheria, and Il Capo) are prime locations for the famous Palermitan street food, good coffee, and people watching.
Keep a close eye on your belongings here, though, as pickpockets are notorious in the area. End the day with a delicious plate of pasta with sardines or swordfish skewers. Buon Appetito!
10. Trapani, Sicily
Recommended by Tjasa of The Travel Momento
When visiting southern Italy cities, one of the most charming places you need to see is Trapani. Located on the West coast of Sicily, it is the perfect base to explore this site of the island and also the place with the best traditional Sicilian cuisine.
Usually not among the popular Sicilian towns, the ancient city of Trapani will find a place in your heart with its history, culture, and architecture. The best way to spend one or more days in Trapani is by exploring the narrow cobbled streets of the old center on foot. Walk through the alleys and admire the various churches, chapels, and temples that are still in existence today.
Some of the most prominent sights are the long main street Corso Vittorio Emanuele alongside which you can find the Palazzo Senatorio o Cavarretta and Cattedrale di San Lorenzo. If you continue to the seaside, you will reach Torre di Ligny, which today represents the seat of the history museum. This is a fantastic spot to finish your day and admire one of the best sunsets you have seen.
In addition to Trapani’s rich architectural heritage, there are also some beautiful surroundings to explore, reachable by bus, cable car, or rented car. Drive up to the unique village of Erice and its medieval castle overlooking Trapani and the Sicilian coastline, get blown away by the pinkish salt lakes in Matala, and jump into the turquoise sea of the Aegadi islands.
11. Catania, Sicily
Recommended by Lara of The Best Travel Gifts
One of the best places to visit in Southern Italy is Catania in Sicily. Catania is a beautiful World Heritage-listed city filled with historical buildings and rich culture.
One of the best things to do in Catania is a walking tour through the historic city. You can either go for one of the free walking tours that depart from Piazza Università or create your own. Some of the highlights to include in your walking tour are Ursino Castle, Palazzo Biscari, Monastero dei Benedettini, the Roman theater and Piazza del Duomo.
If you have a strong stomach and you love being around locals, then make sure you add a stop at La Pescheria (the fish market) too. It’s a great place to experience authentic Catania.
Besides the fact that Catania itself is a beautiful city to visit, it’s also a great starting point for a day trip to Mount Etna. And a visit to Mount Etna is a must when you’re in Sicily.
To stand on the top of an active volcano (no worries, it is still safe to visit Mount Etna) and admire the view over the island, is something you don’t want to miss. There are many options for organized tours from Catania. Alternatively, you can rent a car or take the bus.
12. Taormina, Sicily
Recommended by Mariana of RoadTripEuroGuide.com
Among the many places you can visit in southern Italy, Taormina is probably one of the cutest cities in Sicily and worth a weekend trip at a minimum! There’s a debate going around on “What is Better? Sicily or the Amalfi Coast” and a defining point on why I pick Sicily each time is Taormina.
One of my favorite things to do in Taormina is to lay on the pebble beach of Isola Bella and just take in the views. A few other beautiful spots to visit are the park, Villa Comunale di Taormina, and the Teatro Antico di Taormina, especially at sunset.
Beyond that, the winding streets are full of Sicilian restaurants and the sea breeze, which carries the scent of flowers right to your table. I would gladly talk about top restaurants, but every restaurant is wonderfully delicious. What I will say is this – do not leave without eating a cannoli or having a granita.
A little legend I learned about in Taormina has got this city forever stuck in my mind. Way back, a beautiful Sicilian girl was taking care of flowers on her balcony when a Moorish man passing by noticed her and fell in love.
They had a love affair full of passion until she discovered he had a wife and kids waiting for him back home. She went crazy with jealousy, and one night, while he was sleeping, she cut off his head and decided to use it as a vase to grow her beautiful plants!
People walking by her balcony noticed her blooms, and they began to forge colorful clay head pots wishing to have the same magic green thumb.
Today in the streets of Taormina and all of Sicily, there are several varieties of ceramic heads, and the lesson is free for everyone to learn – Sicilian women don’t put up with foolishness.
If you’re looking for an unforgettable travel experience, southern Italy is a great option! From the picturesque coastal towns to the rolling hills of the interior, this region is truly special. Whether you’re a history buff looking to explore ancient ruins and stunning medieval cathedrals, or a foodie in search of world-class cuisine and local delicacies, southern Italy is sure to leave a lasting impression.
And with its crystal-clear waters and stunning coastline, this beautiful part of the country is also the perfect destination for those looking to enjoy some rest and relaxation. So if you’re ready for an unforgettable adventure, add southern Italy to your travel bucket list!
This article originally appeared on Wander With Alex.
Alexandrea Sumuel is a travel writer and the founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog, where she provides vacationers and travel enthusiasts with trip ideas, travel guides, news, and itineraries. She travels to experience, eat, and explore-- and, on occasion, escape! Alex’s mission is to help people travel a little easier.