15 Best Places to Visit in South Italy

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Southern Italy is a vast region that contains the provinces of Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Molise and Sicily – Sardinia is also sometimes included in this region but this island has less in common with the rest of Southern Italy and has differing culture and traditions. This region of Italy has been inhabited by many different civilisations since antiquity including the Greeks, Romans, Etruscans, Arabs, Normans and Byzantines. This diverse inhabitation is mainly due to the regions accessibility from the Adriatic, Ionian and Mediterranean seas.

In terms of tourism, Southern Italy has some absolutely magnificent offerings including beautiful stretches of dramatic coastline, picture perfect beaches, charming coastal islands and a plethora of historic cities and towns. Possibly the best known region is the gorgeous Amalfi coast and La Cinque Terre; this area on the Mediterranean coast is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Europe. Furthermore, cities such as Naples, Lecce and Palermo have some iconic historical sites including the Castle Nuovo, the Basilica di Santa Croce, and Palermo Cathedral that are waiting to be explored. With so much to offer, a trip to Southern Italy can be a true adventure.

Let’s have a look at the best places to visit in South Italy:

1. Naples

Naples HarbourSource: flickr
Naples Harbour

Located on the western coast of Southern Italy, Naples is one of the largest and most productive of Italy’s metropolises and accounts for a large percent of the countries economy.

This city has a huge commercial and public port and watching the various container ships and cruise liners entering the docks is certainly impressive.

Furthermore, Naples has a myriad of historical sites such as the domineering Castle Nuovo and the San Gennaro Catacombs.

Moreover, Naples is in close proximity to the legendary ruins of both Pompeii and Herculaneum, and in the shadow of the epic volcano Mount Vesuvius – these three sites are all must see attractions when visiting this region of Italy.

2. Lecce

LecceSource: Mi.Ti. / shutterstock

Lecce is lovingly known as the Florence of the South due to its plethora of opulent historical structures.

Located in the far south, this city is the main hub of the region and is also famed for its beautiful light Lecce Stone that has been used to create most of its structures.

Important sites include the beautiful Basilica di Santa Croce, the Cattedrale dell’Assunzione della Virgine, Lecce Castello and the ancient Roman Amphitheatre.

Furthermore, Lecce has several distinct and gorgeous squares such as the Piazza del Duomo and the Piazza Sant’Oronzo.

If historical buildings are not your thing, you can always relax in the sublime Villa Comunale gardens, or see the excavations of the Faggiano Museum.

3. Bari

Cattedrale di San Sabino in BariSource: flickr
Cattedrale di San Sabino in Bari

Bari is a fantastic coastal town located half way up the Adriatic coast of the South of Italy.

This port city has an extensive harbour, some gorgeous beaches, and a delightful historic old town centre.

The old town centre can be found close to the harbour and has a myriad of narrow streets packed full with interesting structures.

Within the old town, you can find the impressive Castello Svevo, the Cathedral of San Sabino, and the Basilica of San Nicola.

Furthermore you can also find several museums here – most notably the Archaeological Museum and the Bari Civic Museum.

In the modern part of Bari, you can find a host of designer establishments and quality restaurants and bars if you prefer to shop and dine.

4. The Amalfi Coast

Amalfi CoastSource: leoks / shutterstock
Amalfi Coast

This particular region of Southern Italy is one of the most beautiful and world renowned.

Stretching from Naples to Salerno, the Amalfi coast offers dramatic scenery, gorgeous towns that hug the mountains, and some interesting historical sites.

This protected region features some idyllic coastal towns such as Amalfi, Erchie, Minori and Positano – these towns have a series of multi-coloured houses that stack up against the hillsides and provide picture perfect photo opportunities.

Furthermore, sites such as Villa Rufolo in Ravello provide unrivalled views across to the Mediterranean Sea.

This whole region is crying out to be explored and a regular train and bus service make it easy to do so.

5. Pescara

PescaraSource: marcociannarel / shutterstock

Pescara is one of the most northern cities in Southern Italy and lies on the western Adriatic Coast of the country.

The city has a large harbour that is a great place to walk through and admire the various fishing and sailing boats.

Furthermore, spanning part of the harbour is the impressive Ponte del Mare which is a suspension bridge that has a split cycling and walking track running its entire length.

Either side of the harbour, Pescara benefits from two long stretches of golden and pristine beaches – these beaches are packed full of amenities and are the perfect places to soak up the sun and relax.

6. Catanzaro

CatanzaroSource: mRGB / shutterstock

Catanzaro is one of the most prominent cities on the dog leg of Italy and is situated in the mountains but extends down to the coast.

Once of the most impressive landmarks of Catanzaro is the Biodiversity Park – this park features an extensive botanical gardens, a military museum and a children’s playground.

If you head out of town, you can find the gorgeous Cascata Campanaro that is surrounded by hiking trails and some amazing scenery.

Spanning the Fiumaerlla torrent is the Ponte Bisantis – this huge bridge is one of the most important architectural constructs in Southern Italy and is a fine site.

Aside from parks, bridges and natural scenery, Catanzaro also offers a great beach in the form of Catanzaro Lido for those who want to kick it back a notch.

7. Palermo

PalermoSource: Vlada Photo / shutterstock

Palermo is actually the capital of the Island of Sicily and holds an important place in the history of this southern archipelago – it serves as the economic and cultural centre of Sicily and contains some of the islands most important landmarks.

Palermo Cathedral is simply stunning – its differing architectural styles show the various empires and nations that have conquered Sicily.

The Palermo Archaeological Museum expands on the city and islands history and contains some magnificent artefacts and relics dating back as far as the Roman era.

For more history, you can travel underground and visit the Capuchin Abbey and Catacombs – here you can find over 8000 bodies that have been preserved by the monks that live here.

Palermo also features some fantastic markets and many places to find a bargain with the locals.

8. Brindisi

BrindisiSource: Mi.Ti. / shutterstock

Brindisi is located to the north west of Lecce and is an important coastal town in the region of Southern Italy.

This city has an ancient history and was supposedly founded by a the hero Diomedes.

The first thing you will notice about Brindisi is its amazing port – the two pronged body of water contains a myriad of shipping vessels and some fantastic scenery.

Secondly, if you travel to the northern part of the city you will reach the Isola Sant’Andrea – this small island sits at the opening of the harbour and contains a brilliant castle and fantastic views out to the sea.

Brindisi also features a range of superb historical structures such as the Monument to Italian Sailors and Brindisi Cathedral.

9. Barletta

Barletta, ItalySource: Dario Lo Presti / shutterstock

Further up the eastern coast of Italy you can find the city of Barletta.

This port is a great place to relax and enjoy the beaches and fine Adriatic climate, but also has a host of interesting sites and attractions.

The main point of interest is the immense Castello Svevo – this castle was constructed during the Norman period and has a fantastic design and impressive battlements.

If you enjoy walking, the Lungomare Pietro Mennea and the Lido provide opportunities to stretch your legs and take in the sea breeze.

This area of Barletta is well maintained and geared for tourists and those wishing to enjoy a day at the beach.

Barletta also has several interesting museums and lies in close proximity to Andria and Trani which are two other wonderful destinations.

10. Foggia

FoggiaSource: onairda / shutterstock

Foggia is a city and commune located in close proximity to the Parco Nazionale del Gargano.

This commune has been known as the granary of Italy and is surrounded by fertile farmland – it also serves as an important transport hub in this region of Italy.

Foggia has a fantastic array of attractions and one of the most famous is its cathedral; this Baroque structure has a sublime design and features some stunning architecture.

The Piazza Umberto Giordano sits close to the cathedral and has some great shopping opportunities and is surrounded by beautiful buildings.

Aside from the architecture, Foggia also has some magnificent parks such as the Parco Karol Wojtyla and the Parco San Felice.

For something different and off the beaten track, Foggia is certainly a top pick.

11. Capri

CapriSource: mikolajn / shutterstock

Capri is a small island off the western coast of Southern Italy that lies in close proximity to the Amalfi Coast and Naples.

This island is truly beautiful and is a hugely popular destination for day trips.

When you step off of the boat you will be astounded at the fantastic scenery of this mesmerizing place.

Take the funicular to the Piazzetta and perhaps site and enjoy a drink and people watch.

If you prefer to stay active, take a boat trip around the island or explore the fantastic Blue Grotto cave network.

Continuing the theme of adventure, you can hike to Monte Solaro for possibly the best views of the whole of Capri.

Finally, the nightlife in Capri is vibrant and if you enjoy partying, consider stopping here until the early hours of the morning!

12. Catania

CataniaSource: xabi_kls / shutterstock

Catania is the second largest city on the island of Sicily and can be found on it’s eastern coast.

Combined with the surrounding communes and towns, this metropolis is actually the 7th largest in Italy.

Within the confines of this busy city, you can find a range of historical sites and interesting attractions.

Ursino Castle and the Cathedral of Catania are both beautiful structures that have stood the test of time and provide insight into the history of the city.

Alternatively, if you want to travel further afield, you can see the immense Mount Etna which is active – trips are possible to see the smouldering crater and look down on the island of Sicily from up high.

13. Ischia

IschiaSource: GoneWithTheWind / shutterstock

This island is much larger than Capri which and both sit at either end of the Gulf of Naples.

Ischia is a volcanic island and contains a range of mountains and rocky terrain.

One of the main sites of this island is the impressive Aragonese Castle that sits proudly on its own small island and is connected by a long footbridge over the sea.

Ischia also contains some beautiful villages, an active port and some divine natural gardens.

Finally, the island is also home to a selection of beautiful beaches and hidden bays that are a great place to relax and enjoy the Mediterranean sun.

14. Parco Nazionale del Gargano

Parco Nazionale Del GarganoSource: viaggiareinpuglia
Parco Nazionale Del Gargano

On the eastern Adriatic coast of Southern Italy there lies an immense national park – Gargano.

This park covers over 110,000 hectares and is renowned for its beautiful scenery and dramatic coastlines.

Throughout this region you can find a multitude of hiking trails, mountains, lakes and stretches of rocky cost and cliffs.

Furthermore there is a wave of delightful coastal towns such as Manfredonia and Vieste that have great beaches and some brilliant sites and hospitality.

15. Messina

Aerial view of MessinaSource: Gurgen Bakhshetyan / shutterstock
Aerial view of Messina

Messina is one of the most important cities on the Island of Sicily and has an extensive history as a major port in the Mediterranean.

This city is only a short distance across the Straight of Messina to mainland Italy and has regular boats that travel to Reggio Calabria and Villa San Giovanni.

In the city itself there is a magnificent cathedral and bell tower that sit in a picturesque piazza.

Furthermore, the Messina Regional Museum contains a myriad of interesting artefacts and displays about the history of the area including archaeological excavations and artwork from Caravaggio.

In the immediate area, there is also several coastal towns such as Torre Faro that have beaches and a host of restaurants and beach bars.

15 Best Places to Visit in South Italy:

  • Naples
  • Lecce
  • Bari
  • The Amalfi Coast
  • Pescara
  • Catanzaro
  • Palermo
  • Brindisi
  • Barletta
  • Foggia
  • Capri
  • Catania
  • Ischia
  • Parco Nazionale del Gargano
  • Messina