The Top Attractions in Southern Italy

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It is unfortunate that most people who travel to Italy don’t go south of Rome. Many places in southern Italy would be overcrowded if they were further north. The Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, and other tourist attractions in southern Italy are both highly regarded.

These seven attractions are worth more attention than they get from tourists. Some of them are almost unknown to most people who visit Italy each year. These spots deserve a bit more attention from tourists. Here’s a short introduction to some places in the south of Italy you might not have heard about but that are worth your time.

This is not a complete list of all the places that are worth seeing in southern Italy. You knew that, right. Right.)

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Sassi di Matera

A series of cave dwellings are found in the Basilicata Matera. They are believed to be inhabited back to around 7000 BCE. The town residents used them until the middle 20th century when they were forced to move. Many of them have been restored to their original condition and others have been converted into unique hotels. The “sassi” are the caves, and Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Alberobello Trulli

Alberobello, Puglia, is most famous for its unique houses. These are cylindrical white structures with conical gray roofings known as “trulli” and can be used as homes, shops or restaurants. Although these traditional structures can be found in other areas of Puglia too, Alberobello is the best place to view them.

Blue Grotto

The Blue Grotto, located on Capri’s Amalfi Coast, is not the only sea cave where the water glows in a ethereal manner. The cavern is mostly underwater and the sun shines through it. It glows a brilliant blue color because the light filters through the water. Only the tide is right is required to access the cave’s entrance. Even then, only small rowboats are allowed.

Reggia di Caserta

A former royal palace is located near Naples with huge manicured gardens. It is Italy’s answer for Versailles. The Reggia di Caserta palace was built in 18th century to serve the Bourbon kings from Naples. Now it is open to the public. On a day trip from Naples, you can visit the palace apartments, the gallery of fine paintings and the vast gardens.

Paestum

Paestum’s ruins are Greek, not Roman. The site’s three Greek temples are from the 5th-6th century BCE when Paestum was a major city in Magna Granecia. The site also contains a Roman Forum and an amphitheater that dates back to the 3rd Century BCE. A museum on the site houses many of the artifacts discovered during excavations. This UNESCO site can be reached easily from Salerno. However, you could also travel from Sorrento and Naples.

Valley of the Temples

There are more Greek ruins on the island of Sicily, in an area called the Valley of the Temples. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. These temple ruins, which include seven temples in different states of ruin, are among the most well-preserved ancient Greek remains anywhere. You can visit them on a day trip from Taormina or Palermo or Agrigento. The geography is not to be confused as the temples are located on hills and not in the valley.

Mt. Etna


Mt.

The huge Mt. The massive Mt. If it isn’t about to erupt, Etna can be a great spot for guided hikes in summer and a popular ski area in winter. The mountain’s bounty will appeal to wine and food lovers.

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10 Responses to “Southern Italy’s Top Attractions”

  • Greg Speck said:

    These are some of the most stunning sights in southern Italy. I was able to see everything except Matera. This will be a part of my next year’s visit. Paestum is a beautiful place and much less well-known than Agrigento. It is worth a stopover if you are able to travel to Sicily via Autostrada del Sole. Andrea took this amazing photo of Mt Etna.

  • Lee Says:

    Do you have a link to the train routes in Sicily? I have the trentalia website, but I need a map of the route.

  • These are all great ideas. Matera is definitely magical. Matera was my first visit. I returned for a day and stayed in a hotel in the Sassi. The ancient temples at Agrigento and Paestum are my favorites. Although I love Calabria, I would vote for the Bronzes of Riace archeological museum in Reggio. It is filled with ancient wonders of the Greek period. However, for those who are passionate about temples, the only remaining column in the area is in Crotone.

    • Jess has the following:

      I was thinking about adding the Riace Bronzes… Maybe I will have to do that. Thank you for your note!

  • Rosa Moore:

    The perfect time for today’s Newsletter on Southern Italy was yesterday! Last month was the first time my husband and I went to Italy. We used the Itinerary for First-Time Visitors to Italy, 2 Weeks. We also added some side trips. We visited Rome, Florence, Volterra, Sienna and Pisa. Cinque Terra was also included in our trip. It is a must-see for everyone. We fell in love with Italy, and we are planning to visit Southern Italy next year. Two questions I have that I did not see answered anywhere. I was first curious as to which airport you would recommend flying into. What’s the best season to travel to this area?

    • Jess has the following:

      It’s so great to hear that you enjoyed your first trip to Italy and that my website was helpful. That is a wonderful compliment. The airport you choose for your next trip will depend on the itinerary. Below is a list of major international airports within Italy, organized by region. Open-jaw tickets are still recommended unless the itinerary is very circular. The best time of the year is also subjective depending on what activities you are interested in. I personally avoid the summer months, mainly because I can’t handle hot weather. But if you want to concentrate on beaches, then you will need warm weather. To give you an idea about historical averages, the average temperatures for Palermo can be found on my Italy climate page. However, it is important to note that these numbers have changed in recent years.

  • Bernie says:

    What is an open-jaw ticket?

    • Jess has the following:

      Bernie, thanks for your question. I will probably write an article about it. A “open-jaw” ticket is one that allows you to fly in and out of one city, instead of backtracking to your departure city.