Southern Italy is one of the most beautiful but least known travel destinations in Europe.
The way of life in Southern Italy is not always well understood by travel agencies. But the area below Rome is very much loved by solo travellers and people who organize their own trip autonomously and in total freedom.
In short, Southern Italy is for people who love travelling their own way!
More than a destination, Southern Italy is first and foremost an attitude. So let’s get deep into this attitude and this area of Europe, where you can still enjoy very low prices even while having a luxury experience.
1. Slow down
That’s the main mantra! You can prepare an itinerary, but please relax and know that you can always change and re-plan your next step and city to visit.
Be open-minded when someone tells you about an amazing beach or restaurant that you can’t miss. Locals can be so persuasive when it comes to showing you one of the region’s many hidden treasures.
Southern Italy is full of secrets that locals are happy to share with those who can wait, listen, taste, and enjoy a slow and contemplative pace of live.
2. Rent a car
You can land in Rome or in Naples and then arrange your itinerary by choosing local trains (among the cheapest in Europe) and/or buses. But the very best way to follow your itinerary and change it following your instinct, is by renting a car.
You can do it quite easily at all airports. For instance, instead of landing in Rome or Naples and starting your way down south like everybody else, you can decide to land in Bari and rent a car there.
This way you can have a tour of Puglia, then go through Basilicata and Calabria – all great places to see nature, do sports and admire Italy’s cultural heritage.
3. Follow the seaside roads
Driving along the motorway is ok, but if you really want to enjoy your Southern Italian experience, choose the seaside roads.
These routes will take a while longer, but the journey is more important than the destination (or it’s a destination in itself) and the roads along the coast are a show you can’t miss!
4. Get “souther”!
Most travelers choose Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence and Naples as their Italian destinations. These are amazing places to visit – unforgettable ever. But there’s a world to discover and enjoy south of Naples that will leave you breathless and that you’ll never forget for the rest of your life.
There are the secret, wild and ancient treasures of the old reign of Frederick II, one of the most educated and innovative kings in European history. If you go off the beaten path, you’ll see this art and culture scattered all over the southernmost south of Italy, in Sicilia, Puglia and Calabria.
Did you know that Matera (Basilicata) is a Unesco World Heritage? There must be a reason why Puglia has been awarded the title of “Must See Destination” by National Geographic twice!
And have you ever heard of the beauty of the centuries old olive trees in Salient, many of which date back to the time of the Roman Empire? Go south and be stunned.
5. Taste it!
If you go south Italy, you must leave your diet worries behind. Not only because the food is too good and it would be a shame not to taste it, but also because local food tends to be quite light and simple.
Vegetables cooked with local spices, fresh fish, cous cous and light pasta make this destination perfect for vegetarians, and you can eat well for weeks without putting on a pound. Southern Italian food is tasty and healthy!
To make the most of local food plan a stop in a trattoria or, even better, in some countryside masseria. They are restaurants and accommodations in old farmhouses, where owners grow their own products and cook them for guests.
6. Drink it!
Don’t forget to taste the best local beers and wines! Each area has its own local products and traditions. Wherever you go, ask for local beverages and waiters will be happy to tell you everything about the history, kind and production of each product.
7. Choose smaller towns
If you go to Bari and Palermo (the two main cities in Southern Italy, after Naples), you’ll definitely love them. They are stunning remnants of an empire overlooking the sea, modern and full of life.
But if you choose to spend a couple of days in the smaller towns you’ll see less touristy menus, feel like a local and that’s how locals will treat you!
8. Go to local markets
Going to a local market is something you must experience on your trip to Southern Italy. So many fresh products and sellers screaming to attract your attention!
As they realize you don’t speak Italian, they’ll do their best to make you understand what they are saying. They’ll be curious about you and they’ll suggest you the best places to go, drink and eat or enjoy the seaside.
Interact with locals and don’t be afraid. Language has never been an obstacle in this land that once upon a time was crossed by conquerors from all over the world.
Let locals guide you and feel free to change up your whole trip itinerary based on their suggestions!
9. Don’t miss Puglia
The most fashionable and stylish side of the boot… is the heel! Puglia is loved by Italian travelers because of its amazing landscapes, good food and the possibility to live la dolce vita (the sweet life) for rates that are still among the lowest in Europe.
You can land in Bari or Brindisi, rent a car and choose your main accommodation. Then, you can move daily to see the areas around you and also enjoy daily trips along the cycle paths spread all over the region.
10. Sleep in agriturismo
South Italy is full of accommodation facilities built in old farms and ancient rural dwellings. The latter were refurnished and restored with hard work, in order to preserve the past and the tradition that mustn’t be lost.
You can spend a weekend or more among the olive trees of Apulia, in an old local trullo or a farmhouse among the scented lemon trees in Sicily.
These lands and properties were often seized from the mafia and given a new life thanks to the work of citizens who live in full respect of the law and peace.
Sleeping in these places is not just a matter of having a nice place to stay: once there, you’ll be able to understand the past of these places.
Being at peace with the past ahasn’t always been easy for Southern Italy. But nowadays locals are finally so proud of their history that they’ll be eager to tell you all about it.
And after you visit Southern Italy, you’ll become a part of it forever.
Have you ever been to Southern Italy? What made your experience unforgettable? Comment below or ask for any advice!