The Ultimate Southern Italy Itinerary
Usually when one thinks of Italy – art, beauty, romanticism, beautiful old towns, museums, ruins, and romantic places comes to mind.
At the same time, they usually associate these positive adjectives to cities in Northern Italy, such as Verona, Venice, and Milan, as well as some of the more central cities like Rome, Pisa, and Florence.
And in my opinion, having spent time living in the north and the south of Italy, I feel that the people in the south are way more genuine and friendly, and the weather down south is much more pleasant. Southern Italy also wins, hands down, when it comes to natural beauty.
In actuality, there are some really amazing locations in the south of Italy. Its beautiful coastlines, small villages, olive trees, and stone houses are only a few of the main attractions to see in this Italian region.
With that, let me tell you everything you need to know for a perfect Southern Italy itinerary for all who visit.
A Southern Italy Itinerary in Puglia
Where is Puglia? Puglia is a region in Italy that’s located between the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea. And these are the best places to visit in Puglia:
Bari is a port city in Southern Italy and is decorated sweetly with narrow streets, cathedrals, and great architecture.
Things to do in Bari
- Visit Citta Vecchia (the old town): The old town is filled with narrow streets, and over 10 churches. In Bari Vecchia, you can also see older women making pasta (fatta a mano) in front of their houses, which is super fun and interesting to see.
- Visit Castello Normanno-Svevo Fortress: This fortress was built by the vikings during the invasion of Apennine Peninsula.
- Walk on Lungomare: The length is about 12 kilometers and allows you to see a number of interesting and beautiful sights.
Ostuni is a major tourist spot during summer filled with white-painted houses and cathedrals. You’ll simply adore the architecture in this area, as well as the incredibly peaceful views.
Places to eat in Ostuni
Places to stay in Ostuni
- Masseria Salinola
- Masseria Valente
- Masseria Il frantoio
- Masseria Santa Lucia
- Hotel Sant’Eligio
- i 7 Archi
- La Sommità
Polignano a Mare
A super cute small town, Polignano a Mare has two amazing public beaches surrounded by rocks. If you’re a beach lover or love the sights, sounds, and smells of the ocean, I highly recommend visiting.
There are many B&B’s situated inside the Old Town of Polignano a Mare, so, staying in some of them should be, perhaps, a better idea than going to a hotel outside of downtown. And the good news is, the beaches are reachable from the Old Town in two minutes by simply following the old stairs.
Places to stay (and eat) in Polignano a Mare
- Grotta Palazzese: A beautiful hotel (and natural cave) found on a cliff that shows off views of the Adriatic Sea. You can also visit the restaurant at Grotta Palazzese for a bite to eat and to admire the scenery.
Helpful hint: Since Polignano is a very small town, two or three days is more than enough to see it all.
Monopoli is a beautiful small bay and beaches sitting on the Adriatic Sea. You’ll also find a charming old town, where you can eat a real Apulian pizza and drink a great cocktail or Italian liquor such as limoncello (liquor made of lemon) and liquirizia (licorice), which are traditional drinks in the south.
For seafood lovers, I recommend the restaurant, Piazza Palmieri.
Places to stay in Monopoli
If you decide to stay a few nights in Monopoli, you can choose between several B&B’s in the Old Town or a Masseria. Masseria’s are a kind of farm, located usually several kilometers outside of town, where families produce olive oil, wine, and mozzarella cheese.
Staying in a Masseria is such a romantic and peaceful experience, beautified by olive trees, and I would definitely choose staying in one as opposed to a B&B for your Southern Italy itinerary.
Masseria’s in Monopoli:
Capitolo, a coastal location, is characterized by long shores and fine sand. Here, you’ll find private and public beaches where you can simply open your beach umbrella and dive in the clear water of the Adriatic Sea, which slowly becomes deeper offshore.
The most popular public beaches of Capitolo:
- Torre Cintola: A naturally beautiful beach with high limestone rocks.
- Duna: Surrounded by high dunes, and a great spot for surfing and swimming.
The most popular private beaches of Capitolo:
Alberobello is a small village in Apulia that has such a fairytale feel about it. It’s a super unique place because of its architecture – namely, its trulli, and will make you feel as though you’re staying in one of the Smurf’s houses.
There are more than 1400 trulli in Apulia, and if you get the opportunity to stay in one, I would definitely recommend it.
Here are some amazing Trulli accommodations in Alberobello:
Where to eat in Alberobello:
There’s a really famous restaurant in Alberobello called Terra Madre that is all organic and handmade. Here, you can enjoy pastas and a drink in a cute and adorable location.
Some other great restaurants in Alberobello:
Salento is a peninsula of Apulia along the Ionian Sea and it is full of many small towns and villages situated alongside each other. It’s a fantastic place during the summer and has proven to be more popular than the Adriatic Coast.
The views left me speechless, especially the little town of Gallipoli. This area has a beautiful sandy beach and crystal azure-colored water – perfect to recharge and relax.
Places to stay in Gallipoli
There are many B&B’s, villas, and upscale hotels in Gallipoli, as well as in other parts of Salento, so finding the perfect accommodation won’t be too hard.
Those who prefer luxury can choose between a number of five-star hotels, that include spa centers, swimming pools and some with beautiful gardens full of olive trees.
I recommend Palazzo del Corso, a five star hotel in Gallipoli.
And for those who want an authentic Italian experience, I recommend choosing an old stone house B&B down town.
Places to Visit in Salento
- Santa Maria di Leuca, a famous cave that can be reached by boat. There, if you choose to go diving, you’ll be able to see a statue of Virgin Mary under the sea, named “Madonnina dei due mari” (Madonna of the two seas”). It’s really a magical place, and should definitely be on your Southern Italy itinerary.
Trani and Giovinazzo
Found on the opposite side of the Ionian Sea, north of Bari, you’ll find Trani and Giovinazzo – two towns very close to one another. They’re both great for walking and swimming, and a day trip is more than enough to experience them.
If you are interested in spending a night or two in either one of these areas, here are some tips:
Places to stay in Trani:
Places to stay Giovinazzo
A Southern Italy Itinerary Outside of Puglia:
Basilicata borders Apulia, and it’s here that you’ll find the magical town of Matera. Fun fact: the film, The Passion of the Christ was filmed in Matera.
Calabria is found in the southwest of Italy, and it takes up the “toe” of the boot-shaped peninsula. You’ll love it for the mountains, grand beaches, and lovely little villages.
Things to do in Calabria
- Tropea, a small town that’s famous for its red onions as well as its 12th century cathedral, Santuario di Santa Maria dell’isola di Tropea.
- Capo Vaticano is a gorgeous bathing area that is well-known for its cape that is formed by white-gray granite (and has been studied extensively by geologists).
- Amalfi Coast is 50 kilometers of coastline with pastel-colored houses. It’s a great spot for tourists, and has some incredible beaches. I recommend seeing the Grotta dello Smeraldo, a cave that is partly filled with water. One can board a boat headed to this cave, and it’s an experience you definitely don’t want to miss.
- Naples is most famous for the Vesuvius Volcano, an active volcano that caused major catastrophe when it erupted in AD 79. Since, it has erupted about three dozen more times.
- Capri a super stylish island that is full of upscale restaurants, hotels, and shopping locations. Visit the Blue Grotto, a dark cave that displays glowing blue water at night.
- Pompeii was once a Roman city, and is best known for its archeology. When Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79, Pompeii was left hidden under ash but since, has come back to life, which makes it a huge tourist attraction today.
- Sicily, a Mediterranean island with seven Greek temples, and one of Europe’s most active volcanoes, Mount Etna.
And there you have it! A comprehensive guide and Southern Italy itinerary for you to enjoy this amazing region to the best of your ability. For those visiting in the future, I’m envious, for I really really loved living in this area, and hope to visit again very soon!
And for those doing a trip through Europe, here is a handy list of 10 must-have European travel apps to make your travels that much smoother! Enjoy!
Image credit: Italy Luxury Tours, Discover Italy, Decorazione Moderna, Trapana, Flickr, Gotto Palazzese, Booking.com, Bianca da Mare, Top Flight, Stay Ciao, La Macchia Travel Agency, God Save The Points, Get Your Guide, LivItaly Tours, Flickr, Avovo, Easy Viaggio, Summer in Italy, Happy Languages, Civado
This blog was guest written by Mina Knezevic and edited by Helena Lorimer