30 Best Places to Visit in South Italy

30 Best Places to Visit in South Italy
© Mikolaj64 | Dreamstime.com

What are the best destinations in Southern Italy? The regions of Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria are highly appreciated by many art and nature lovers. Depending on the interpretation, Sardinia also belongs to Southern Italy. However, the Mediterranean island has less in common with the rest of southern Italy because of its different culture and tradition.

The southern tip of the Italian boot has been inhabited by many different civilizations since ancient times, including the Greeks, Romans, Etruscans, Arabs, Normans and Byzantines. This diverse settlement is mainly due to the accessibility of the region from the Adriatic Sea, the Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

The destinations in southern Italy differ considerably from those in northern Italy. In the mainly rural areas and on the beautiful stretches of coastline, there are gorgeous beaches, charming coastal islands and a multitude of historic cities. Here are our 30 best places to visit in South Italy.

30. Naples

Naples Vesuv
© Minnystock | Dreamstime.com

Naples, the metropolis of the south, embodies its positive and negative sides in an extreme way like no other city in southern Italy. You can love Naples and you can hate it, and many of its inhabitants probably do both. The city leaves no one indifferent. It is a city of museums of the first order, and its architecture is also worth a visit. But Naples is full of glaring contradictions: in addition to magnificent palaces, there are also ugly, dilapidated and neglected neighborhoods, and urban sprawl has created many unattractive areas here. Naples is lively, chaotic, undisciplined and fascinating, and in the bustling confusion of the streets of the old city, the foreign visitor may wonder how such a city is still governable at all.

What makes Naples so uniquely interesting today, however, is not only the city itself, but also its surroundings, which are among the most beautiful and fascinating that Italy has to offer: Mount Vesuvius and the excavations of Pompeii, the wonderful Amalfi coast, and the two islands in the Gulf of Naples, Ischia and Capri, which are easily accessible from Naples by car ferries and other shipping connections.

29. Lecce

Roman Theatre in Lecce, Italy
© Angelo Cordeschi | Dreamstime.com

Lecce in Puglia is the charming capital of Salento in southern Italy. In the small university town, an enchanting old town invites you to linger. In addition, there are great sights to discover in Lecce. Because of the many churches and palaces from the Baroque period, Lecce is also known as the Florence of the South.

The sights of Lecce such as the Piazza San Oronzo with the amphitheater, the baroque church of Santa Croce, the cathedral square and the extraordinary church of Santi Niccolò e Cataldo can be easily visited within a day. It is also worth strolling down Via Salvatore Trinchese to the modern Piazza Manzini to get an idea of the modern city. Even if the explosive development of the modern city has led to the historical center of Lecce – by the way, as in many other cities in Italy – being pretty much abandoned, Piazza Sant’ Oronzo has remained the center of the city.

However, Lecce is particularly suitable as a location for a trip to Puglia because of its optimal position between the Adriatic Sea and the Ionian Sea. The beaches of San Cataldo on the Adriatic Sea can be reached in less than 30 minutes. A little further south, enchanting bathing bays on the cliffs of Salento with the seductive bright blue of the Adriatic Sea attract visitors. It only takes a little longer to reach the fantastic sandy beaches near Gallipoli on the Ionian Sea. And the charming port city of Otranto and the end of the world in Santa Maria di Leuca are also within easy reach of Lecce.

28. Bari

Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari
© Swisshippo | Dreamstime.com

Like hardly any other Italian city, Bari has two completely different faces: on the peninsula jutting out into the sea, the old town with its labyrinthine maze of narrow streets, in which one sometimes feels as if one were in an Arabian casbah – there, the streets seem to belong less to the public and more to the private living space of the inhabitants. On the other side is the modern New Town with its checkered streets. In between, the wide promenade Corso Emanuele II, which strictly separates the two parts. In the old town low houses and small stores, in the new town splendid town houses and elegant stores, where those who live in the old town are hardly ever seen.

Although the now neatly maintained old town has been largely renovated in recent years, the division between rich and poor is clearly noticeable. The old town undoubtedly possesses great charm and offers abundant architectural and cultural attractions.

27. The Amalfi Coast

Positano, Amalfi
© Amoklv | Dreamstime.com

The southern coast of the Sorrento Peninsula, the Amalfi Coast (so named after the town of Amalfi), is one of the most popular vacation spots in Italy. Rightly so, because the beauty of its steep rocky coast, in whose gorges and inlets lie small enchanting towns, is unique. Each of these small towns, however, has its own character and traditions. The narrow road that winds along this coast is perhaps the most beautiful panoramic road in the world. There are very few beaches here, however, and if there are, they are very small and usually crowded in the summer.

In the center of the peninsula lies the Monti Lattari mountain range, which is up to 1,440 meters high, and so hikers and mountain climbers will also get their money’s worth here. The mountain range includes a nature reserve and belongs to the regional park Parco regionale dei Monti Lattari. From here, in good weather, you have a beautiful panoramic view over the Gulf of Salerno, the Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius.

The Amalfi Coast in the true sense is the approximately 40 km between Vietri sul Mare in the east and Positano in the west, this stretch of coast has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. To the east and west of the Amalfi Coast are the two larger cities of Salerno and Sorrento, which are a good starting point for excursions to the coast.

26. Pescara

© Znm | Dreamstime.com

Already in the 1960s, the Italian Adriatic was a popular tourist destination. This has not changed until today. One of the most beautiful places here is the province of Pescara with the city of the same name, about 200 km from Rome. The short distance to the capital makes the region around Pescara a popular vacation spot also for the Romans.

Pescara is a vacation resort on the Italian Adriatic coast in the middle of Abruzzo, which can be visited all year round. In summer, especially the sandy beaches, some of which are over 20 km long, attract numerous vacationers to Pescara. Romantic bays, shallow shores and a unique water quality make the region an ideal vacation destination for the whole family. In the cold season, on the other hand, the town is also a winter health resort, inviting visitors to enjoy extensive wellness stays and curative treatments.

Culture has a high value in Pescara in every respect: be it the Pescara Jazz Festival, which has been held annually in July since 1969, or the changing art exhibitions of international importance in the “Museo d’Arte Moderne Vittoria Colonna”. But also the birthplace of the famous writer Gabriele D’Annunzio with numerous original documents from his life is worth seeing. Precious ceramics from Castelli, on the other hand, can be found in the “Museo di Antiche Maioliche di Castelli”. In addition, during the summer months there are free concerts in various places in the city.

25. Ostuni

Ostuni - South Italy
© Stevanzz | Dreamstime.com

The picturesque town of Ostuni is located in the province of Brindisi on the Adriatic coast. If you are planning a relaxing vacation with the whole family, you will get your money’s worth in this dreamlike small town in the Apulia region. The surrounding landscape with its numerous olive trees and vineyards invites to long excursions. In just a few minutes from the town center, vacationers can also reach the coast of the Adriatic Sea, which is only about 8 km away. The landmark of Ostuni is the beautiful old town, which is built on three hills. Thanks to the height of about 230 meters, visitors have a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside with its olive plantations.

The old town of Ostuni is characterized above all by its white limestone houses. In the narrow streets around the Piazza della Libertà, the beauty of the “White City” shows its most impressive side. Numerous sacred buildings such as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta are waiting to be visited here. In the small cafés and restaurants, guests can enjoy typical Italian cuisine and end the day with a good glass of red wine. It is also worth taking a trip to the Chiesa delle Moncelle, an approximately 25,000-year-old site where tools from the Stone Age were found.

24. Palermo

Palermo Cathedral
© Petr Jilek | Dreamstime.com

Palermo is the cultural, economic and political center of Sicily. Italians love this city – or they hate it. Even if a tourist spends only one day in this lively Mediterranean city, one can understand both points of view. The artistic richness of the city, which has both European and Oriental features, is impressive. The architecture of the city shows Norman, Baroque, Byzantine and Arabic influences. In the old city center, oriental-looking markets and baroque palaces and churches crowd into a very small space.

Numerous peoples have lived here, one after the other and with each other, contending with Palermo and leaving their influences in the popular traditions and in the cityscape. Carthaginians, Romans, Normans, Byzantines, Arabs, Spaniards, Austrians, French and Italians have gradually shaped the city. Palermo is a fascinating blend of cultures.

If you want to get to know the popular Palermo, you should visit the city between July 9 and July 15, because then the Palermitans celebrate their city patron saint, Santa Rosaria, for a week with a big folk festival, with splendid parades, concerts and a big final fireworks display.

23. Brindisi

© Golasza | Dreamstime.com

The Italian port city of Brindisi finds its first mention as early as the third century, when it was conquered by the Romans and called “Brundisium”. “Brunda” means “deer’s head” and refers to the shape of Brindisi’s natural harbor, which to this day has great importance for international ferry traffic. At the same time, the city is also a popular vacation destination on the Adriatic coast.

Those who plan a vacation stay in Brindisi either want to spend their vacations on the Italian Adriatic or travel further. This is because the millennia-old port city, which already had a special significance in Roman times due to its exposed location, is still an important hub for international ferry traffic today. Ferries depart from here to Patras and other cities in Greece, Turkey and Durres in Albania, among others.

Among the most interesting sights in Brindisi are the Castello Aragonese and the Svevo Castle. Also worth seeing is the Colonne del Porto, an 18-meter-high column dating from the second century A.D. It served as an important landmark for sailors for many centuries. The picturesque, historic city center of Brindisi is also worth a visit. Here, among other things, is the Porticato dei De Cateniano, built in the 14th century, which served as the seat of the legendary Templars.

22. Barletta

Castle of Barletta, Puglia, Italy
© Milla74 | Dreamstime.com

Located at the southern end of the Gulf of Manfredonia, this city of 95,000 souls, which is one of three provincial capitals of the merged provinces of Barletta-Andria-Trani, offers a lot of variety and the typical cityscape of an Italian port city. Here in the Puglia region, south of Abruzzo, you will find a city that boasts the usual old Italian buildings, a large port, an extensive cultural landscape and an interesting industrial landscape.

In the port of Barletta you can find the Colossus of Barletta, a bronze statue probably made in the late 5th century AD. Slightly taller than 5 meters, the Colossus’s exact origin is as obscure as who this statue is supposed to represent. However, the stylistic elements of the colossus point very clearly to an Eastern Roman origin. Whether the statue became booty during a sack of Constantinople by the Venetians and eventually ended up in Barletta, or whether it arrived in the Apulian port city by other means, remains a mystery.

Also a real highlight is the Staufer Castle, originally built by Normans in the 10th century AD and further expanded by Frederick II. During the Crusades, the castle served as a base for the Crusaders, who stopped here both before their departure for the Holy Land and each time after their return. All the great European knightly orders of the Middle Ages had their delegations in this castle at times. Today the castle of Barletta serves as a museum.

21. Foggia

© Dudlajzov | Dreamstime.com

As the capital of the province of the same name, Foggia has a very special reputation. The city is considered a vibrant center and is especially popular with young people for its exciting nightlife. At the same time, however, there are also a variety of sights in the streets of Foggia. These include, for example, the portal arch of the imperial residential castle and the Foggia Cathedral.

Foggia actually combines everything that a great Italian city needs. In the city center there is a wide selection of stores, bars and restaurants. The finest Italian fashion meets the best espresso in the region. Just take a break and watch the hustle and bustle. Afterwards, continue to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Icona Vetere.

In the 18th century there was a great earthquake in Foggia, in which almost the entire cathedral was destroyed. However, the city has lovingly taken care to revive the imposing building. The baroque architectural style is particularly impressive and anyone who enters the cathedral and closes the door behind them can take a deep breath and enjoy the moment of peace and contemplation.

Many centuries have passed, but once Foggia was the imperial residence. Frederick II had his seat here in an impressive castle. All that remains of the castle today is a portal arch and an inscription. However, the city has retained its imperial charm.

20. Capri

© Tenedos | Dreamstime.com

If you thought that the 10.4 square kilometer island of Capri off the coast of Naples is only for the rich and famous with a private jet and their own yacht, you were wrong. Vacationers from all over the world flock here all year round, because thanks to the mild climate, the island can be easily explored and enjoyed at any time of the year. For centuries, artists, writers and intellectuals, as well as powerful figures of contemporary history have been drawn to this little island dream come true, located just five kilometers from the Italian mainland.

Many are inspired and enchanted here. Among other things, the evergreen vegetation with beautiful citrus trees, grapevines, olive trees and the blooming, magnificent gardens that adorn the island are probably to blame. Many Italian vacationers only make a day trip to Capri, which is a shame, because the island is best experienced when the day tourists have turned their backs on it again. Let yourself be enchanted by the unique charm of Capri!

The cave system of the island is probably its biggest attraction. Probably the most famous cave on Capri is the Blue Grotto, which has captivated visitors for decades with its unique luminosity. Since the entrance to it is just one and a half meters high, it can be explored only in calm seas in a small boat.

19. Catania

Roman Theater in Catania
© Zoom-zoom | Dreamstime.com

Catania is located in the east of the Mediterranean island of Sicily and is considered one of the most attractive destinations in the region by visitors from all over the world. In the historic city center, guests admire the incomparable late Baroque architecture, thanks to which Catania was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Cattedrale di Sant’Agata, for example, is an impressive sight, delighting guests with its ornate facades, magnificently decorated interior and many works of art. When exploring Catania, travelers should also not miss the town hall – the Palazzo degli Elefanti – with the Fontana dell’Elefante.

Catania was founded in the 8th century BC by Greek settlers and has several ancient buildings that visitors can discover in the big city. In addition to several thermal baths, the Roman theater and the amphitheater are particularly exciting destinations to get an impression of the history of Catania. The Museo Civico, on the other hand, displays numerous exhibits and precious works of art that provide guests with further interesting insights. The museum is housed in the imposing Castello Ursino, which was built by Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century and is itself considered an important landmark.

Last but not least, Catania’s main attractions include its picturesque sandy beaches, which invite visitors to spend relaxing hours in the sun. The popular Playa di Catania stretches over large parts of the Sicilian east coast and attracts countless guests with its fine sand and handsome coastal landscape.

18. Ischia

© Freesurf69 | Dreamstime.com

Ischia, the largest island in the Gulf of Naples, with its hot springs, fumarole fields and fango containing radon, is an ideal place for spa stays. The spa facilities and the beautiful landscapes and beaches attract about 5 million tourists every year.

The island of Ischia is of volcanic origin. The craters of the 789 m high Monte Epomeo have been extinguished since the 14th century, but numerous hot, partly radioactive thermal springs still bear witness to the living volcanism. The Romans had already discovered the healing power of the springs and the development of tourism was strongly promoted by them, already since the 19th century. For example, the Italian national hero Giuseppe Garibaldi came here in 1864 to heal a foot injury.

The best way to explore the island is by taking a tour on an e-scooter, which can now be rented in many places. Bicycle tourists also get their money’s worth here, although the mountainous structure of the island (and the heat in summer) makes cycling quite strenuous. In any case, one should not be content to spend one’s vacation only between the hotel/holiday apartment and the beach, because the island offers many interesting sights, picturesque villages, wild cliffs and hidden bathing bays that should not be missed.

Especially recommended are a visit to the fortress Castello Aragonese near the village of Ischia Ponte and the picturesque village of Sant’Angelo, located on a narrow promontory, free of cars and accessible only by stairs and narrow paths. Also the thermal bath Cavascura, which was already in operation in Roman times, should be seen and if possible tried.

17. Gargano National Park

White rocks in the sea, Gargano National Park, South Italy
© Poike2017 | Dreamstime.com

The Gargano National Park is a promontory on the coast of Puglia in southern Italy. Covering an area of 118,144 hectares with forests of pine, holm oak and almond, orange and olive trees. The coast and beaches in the north of the Gargano National Park are flat and sandy, while the southern part is dominated by high cliffs with smaller bays. The heart of the National Park consists of the Umbra Forest, covered by beech and pine trees.

The small historical villages of Vieste, San Menaio, Peschici, Mattinata, Cagnano Varano, San Giovanni Rotondo, Vico del Gargano and others and the breathtaking blue sea of the Adriatic coast complete a stay in one of the most beautiful areas in southern Italy. Also the Tremiti archipelago with magnificent nature is part of the national park – including marine reserve.

16. Messina

© Masezdromaderi | Dreamstime.com

Messina, on the northeastern edge of Sicily, invites you to visit historical sites, wide beaches and mountain adventures.

The shortest way from mainland Italy to Sicily is by ferry from Villa San Giovanni in Calabria to Messina. It takes just 20 minutes to cross the Strait of Messina, as the sea between mainland Italy and Sicily is called here. The ferries run day and night and carry vacationers with and without vehicles. During the crossing there are magnificent views of the sea and the ports, whether you travel during the day or in the dark.

The city of Messina has a long and fiery past. First settlements were made as early as the eighth century BC, and numerous conquerors left their mark on the city layout and historic buildings. Many of them were destroyed in earthquakes and devastating fires. Clues to the many different cultures and artistic periods are given:

Messina Cathedral from the 12th century reconstructed in 1943, with the world’s largest mechanical clock and a fascinating carillon. The Madonna delle Grazie as a church from the 12th century – it survived almost unscathed all natural disasters. Numerous palazzi dating from 1616 to 1940 and the fountains Fontana die Orione and Fontana del Nettuno.

15. Maratea

Andrew Mayovskyy

One of the most beautiful resorts in the region is the town of Maratea on Mount San Biagio. From the rocks you have a breathtaking panoramic view over the Tyrrhenian Sea. Around Maratea there are extensive but also smaller pebble and sandy beaches, lush vegetation with blue hydrangeas, bougainvilleas, olive trees, pine forests and mighty cacti. Directly on the turquoise sea you can admire numerous sacral buildings and buildings from the Middle Ages.

In the historical center with its narrow streets you can see many buildings from the Middle Ages. There are numerous churches, monasteries, chapels and hermit caves all over the town, which earned it the name of the town of 44 churches. On the top of Mount San Biagio there is the basilica of the same name, built in honor of the Holy Patron Saint of Maratea in the 6th and 7th centuries. In this place you can also see some remains of the ancient Maratea.

The church of San Vito from the 11th century is also worth a visit. Other sacred buildings worth seeing in the city include the Chiesa dell’Immacolata with its beautiful frescoes, the Chiesa dell’Annunziata and the churches Madonna degli Ulivi and Santa Maria Maggiore. A special highlight is the Grotta dell’Angelo, the angels’ cave on Monte San Biagio.

In and around Maratea, rest and relaxation are guaranteed. The great beaches on the crystal clear water, the rugged headlands with their beautiful bays and the diverse vegetation promise unforgettable days in nature. Some beaches are so remote that you can only reach them by boat.

14. Sorrento

Sorrento - One of the most beautiful small towns in Italy
© Schalk62 | Dreamstime.com

Legend has it that the name of this coastal town was derived from the mythical sirens who, during the Greek era, lured sailors to the rocky coast of volcanic stone with their song so that their ships would be wrecked there. The first settlement of Sorrento (Sorrento) was probably Phoenician or Greek, but there is written evidence of the settlement of the Romans in 89 BC.

Among the sights of the town, besides the picturesque Gulf of Sorrento, a part of the Gulf of Naples, is the Cathedral of the coastal town, which was restored in the 15th century and has a Neo-Gothic architectural style. In the Municipal Museum you can see some findings from the Greek and Roman periods, as well as various ceramic works of Capodimonte porcelain.

The peninsula of Sorrento (Sorrento) is particularly popular with tourists, one of the reasons why the main income of this locality is determined by tourism, agriculturally the Sorrentines are active in the field of wine growing and olive oil production. In 1955 the Italian film Pane amore e … directed by Dino Risi. In this film Sofia Loren and Vittorio De Sica had the leading roles.

Among the specialties of this town and the surrounding area up to Amalfi is a special type of lemon that is larger than others. From these lemons, for a long tradition, is produced the so-called Limoncello, a lemon liqueur.

13. Paestum

© Minnystock | Dreamstime.com

As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Paestum is one of the most important excavation sites in history, as temples from Roman and Greek times, an amphitheater and an almost 5 km long city wall from different historical construction phases were discovered here. Due to its location, Paestum is also known as a vacation destination for those who want to relax and enjoy the sandy beaches, which are about 40 km long in total, and also like to make day trips and excursions to the neighboring regions or to the Amalfi Coast.

Paestum was founded by the Greeks around 600 BC under the name of Poseidonia. In the course of time, magnificent buildings were erected here, the remains of which are still visible today. These include the imposing Temple of Hera, built around 540 BC, the Temple of Athena and the Temple of Poseidon, built around 450 BC. In addition, one can still find a comitium and an amphitheater, as well as the remains of other public buildings. The almost 5 km long city wall from different construction phases and its four city gates are also still well preserved.

12. Alberobello

Trulli of Alberobello typical houses. Apulia, Italy.
© Stevanzz | Dreamstime.com

Fascinating architecture, Mediterranean landscape and unique culinary experiences await visitors to the southern Italian town of Alberobello. Alberobello, near Bari, has become famous for its cone-shaped shepherd’s houses, but the small town has much more to offer.

Alberobello is located in the Italian region of Puglia, about 60 km from the provincial capital of Bari, where the nearest airport is also located. The small town is best known for its characteristic conical buildings, the trulli. These can be found everywhere in Puglia, especially in the Murgia dei Trulli, but nowhere do they appear in such numbers as in Alberobello. Since 1996, the trulli have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attract tourists from all over the world to the small town on the tip of the Italian boot.

Simply quaint are the trulli, these simple, whitewashed round houses that can usually be spotted from a distance thanks to their cone-shaped roofs. In the two historic districts of Alberobello, Rione Monti and Aia Piccola, there are more than 1500 trulli. The largest trullo is the “Trullo sovrano”, the only one with two floors, which today houses a private museum. Those who want to intensively enjoy the special flair of these unique buildings can eat in one of the numerous trulli restaurants or opt for an overnight stay in one of the trulli.

11. Montecassino

© Iaceo | Dreamstime.com

Italy with a difference: the turbulent history and tranquility of the monastery of Monte Cassino shows Italy from a rather unknown side. Those who wish can get to know and participate in the life of the monks in Monte Cassino.

In 529 Benedict of Nursia began the construction of the first monastery in Cassino. He is also the eponym of the order. From this location, Christianity spread throughout Europe. After several destructions by fires, earthquakes and wars, Monte Cassino was rebuilt again and again, most recently after the Second World War. The abbot at the time insisted on using the original building plans from the 17th and 18th centuries for the reconstruction.

In ten years of construction, Monte Cassino was rebuilt, partly using building materials from the destroyed monastery. Today the cloister forms the entrance to the monastery. The first thing you reach is the chapel where Benedict died. It is dedicated to St. Martin of Tours. Today the monastery is a memorial and an international meeting place for survivors of the war and youth groups.

10. Matera

Matera - One of the Best Cities to Visit in Italy
© Minnystock | Dreamstime.com

Matera was settled as early as the Neolithic period and is the oldest place on earth continuously inhabited since the Stone Age. The city was built into the rock and is called a cave settlement. The ancient parts of the town, called “Sassi”, are an extraordinary example of cave settlements in the Mediterranean area and resemble a gigantic sculpture. Not least for this reason, they have been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1993.

The cave dwellings were carved out of the tufa rock and in the course of time even extended by annexes. This resulted in the formation of a highly branched underground complex. On the surface, a maze of small alleys, caves, squares and even rock churches was created. The roofs were used as paths or even as floors for the apartments above. An ingenious well and irrigation system has existed since the Bronze Age and has been preserved to the present day.

Until before the Second World War, up to 20,000 people lived in the cave settlement, in the past sometimes under poor hygienic conditions. As a result, a large part of the Sassi was closed and the inhabitants were housed in the newer parts of the city. Since the 1980s, part has been restored. Today you can find again comfortable apartments, original hotels, bars, restaurants and small stores.

Besides the “Sassi”, Matera has a lot of art and beautiful historical buildings to offer in the newer parts of the city. One finds numerous splendid churches. The “Castello Tramontano”, which towers over the old town, was built in the 16th century. It was also the location for famous movies such as “The Passion of the Christ” and “Ben Hur”.

9. Pompeii & Herculaneum

© Peter Klagyivik | Dreamstime.com

Pompeii was an ancient city in Campania, located on the Gulf of Naples. In 79 AD it perished during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The eruption of the volcano and the sinking of Pompeii was gradually forgotten over the years. In the 18th century, however, the lost city was rediscovered and began its second history. Pompeii thus became a central site for researchers and archaeologists, and today is one of the best preserved ruined cities from antiquity. Since 1998, the excavation site is a World Heritage Site according to UNESCO.

For many travelers Herculaneum is simply the insignificant sister of the world famous Pompeii. That’s why they don’t go there at all. A wise decision? Of course not! Because the excavation of Herculaneum is super interesting! The life of a small Roman town unfolds very vividly in the Parco Archeologico di Ercolano. In addition, the excavation on the Gulf of Naples is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many reasons, then, to take a look around a town that perished in the inferno of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

8. Taranto

© Claudio Giovanni Colombo | Dreamstime.com

The city of Taranto owes its nickname “city of two seas” to its geographical position: the oldest part was built on an island in the gulf of the same name. Today the city, with more than 190,000 inhabitants, also extends over two peninsulas that separate the Gulf from the Ionian Sea. Taranto experienced this expansion only on the threshold of the 20th century. Before that, its inhabitants lived exclusively on the island.

The legendary founder of Taranto is a son of Neptune, the god of the sea, who is said to have founded Taranto more than a millennium before Rome was founded. The history can be traced back to the 8th century BC, when the Spartans destroyed the original settlement and founded their only colony in Apulia because of its good strategic position.

Even in ancient times the city was fiercely contested, experiencing a prolonged period of peace only after it was conquered by the Romans in 272. After the end of the Roman Empire, Taranto was passed back and forth between the great European powers.

From this troubled period of the city’s history comes the Castello Aragonese, built in the 10th century on an island off the coast. San Cataldo Cathedral is considered another highlight in the historic center of Taranto. The sacred building was erected around 1070 and today presents itself in a stylistic mix of late Baroque and Romanticism.

An outstanding building in Taranto is the hypogeum Ipogeo De Beaumont Bonelli Bellacicco. Covering an area of about 700 square meters, the underground structure tells the story of the city from geological times to the 18th century. Its exit leads directly to the promenade of the Borgo Antico beach. There, visitors will find a 140-square-meter ceramic plaque that recounts the city’s founding myth.

7. Syracus

Piazza duomo and the cathedral of Syracuse in Sicily
© Aliaksandr Mazurkevich | Dreamstime.com

Between a blue sky and an equally blue sea lies one of the most beautiful vacation destinations in Sicily. The coast is characterized by rough rocks, the remains of a volcanic eruption, in between fine sandy beaches. Whoever travels to Sicily will experience a completely different Italy here, one that is actually no longer Italy at all: the ancient capital Syracuse. Greeks as well as Romans have left their traces here.

The history of the city of Syracuse dates back to the 8th century BC. The city was founded by Doric settlers from Corinth on the Ortygia peninsula. They brought with them the Greek culture and knowledge. Over the centuries, Syracuse became the most powerful city in all of Sicily.

Around 200 BC, the Romans conquered the city. They made Sicily a Roman province and declared Syracuse its capital. According to a legend, the Apostle Paul passed through Syracuse on his journey to Rome in 44, spreading Christianity in Syracuse. The first bishop of Syracuse lived in the 3rd century. The famous catacombs of the city, which are also the largest after the Roman ones, date back to 315.

In the Middle Ages Syracuse came first under Byzantine and then under Arab rule. It was the Arabs who took away Syracuse’s status as capital and gave it to Palermo. Shortly before the Norman conquest of Sicily, the Byzantines again seized power. A reminder of this brief change of power is Castello Maniace, built by a Byzantine general.

6. Cagliari

Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy
© Sean Pavone | Dreamstime.com

The large city of Cagliari is considered the heart of Sardinia and impresses with its Mediterranean climate. Cagliari is especially popular with visitors for its historical sights, picturesque harbor and quiet, well-kept beaches.

Directly on the gulf of the same name lies the beautiful port city of Cagliari. With about 160,000 inhabitants, the city is the largest city on the island of Sardinia. The highlight of the city is the historic old town, known as Castello. In addition, Cagliari has many quiet stretches of beach, which invite you to spend relaxing days by the sea.

Magnificent sacred buildings characterize the image of the city, including especially the impressive cathedral, the landmark of Cagliari. Favored by the pleasant climate, the magic of Italian nature is also evident here in a blooming plant splendor.

5. Caserta

Royal Palace Caserta
© Angelo Cordeschi | Dreamstime.com

Almost all European monarchs of the 17th and 18th centuries regarded the Palace of Versailles near Paris as the epitome of absolutist splendor and power and as a model for their own palace buildings, which, however, usually remained a dream due to a lack of financial resources.

The Bourbon dynasty, which had ruled all of southern Italy since 1734 and at times also Sicily, was no exception. Naples, although the clear political and cultural center of this state, was considered unsuitable to be the site of a “Versailles of the South.”

In Caserta, about 35 km north of Naples, the magnificent palace was to be built, the construction of which was started in 1752 and completed in 1774. The gigantic sum of 8,711,000 ducats was spent on the construction, incredible given the poverty of the population and the economic backwardness of the kingdom.

But the Bourbons were only interested in a demonstration of their power and nothing was too expensive for that. However, it was to take about another 100 years before the palace and park reached their final form.

In terms of size and splendor, the palace of Caserta is in fact little inferior to Versailles, both in the dimensions of the main building and the park, and in the decoration of the rooms inside the palace. The majestic 18.50-meter wide marble grand staircase (with 116 steps) that greets the visitor upon entering is impressive in itself.

The royal chambers on the second floor, including the imposing throne room and the palace chapel, which is a fairly exact copy of the chapel at Versailles, are definitely worth a visit. Although the furnishings of the rooms have been changed a few times over the centuries, much of the furniture from the time of construction is still preserved.

4. Benevento

© Claudio Giovanni Colombo | Dreamstime.com

In the middle of Benevento, on Via Trajana, rises a structure that has made the city famous far beyond the borders of Campania: The Trajan Arch, also known as Porta Aurea (Golden Gate). The triumphal arch, over 40 meters high, was built around the year 114 A.D. to the glory of the then Roman Emperor Trajan. It is considered one of the best preserved buildings of its kind. On artful reliefs one recorded in scenic representations with over 160 figures among other things the work of the emperor as well as historical events in and around Benevento.

Over the millennia, the historical city has been the plaything of rival invaders. Originally founded by the Samnite tribe, it was taken by the Romans around 300 BC, who gave it the name Benevento (good event) in 275 BC. Goths, Lombards, Franks, Arabs and Normans invaded the city one after the other from ancient times to the Middle Ages – and all left their mark on Benevento.

Although the city has been repeatedly destroyed throughout history, some of its most important buildings have been preserved or rebuilt. Today, in addition to the Arch of Trajan, the Cathedral of Benevento, with its restored western façade, and the Longobard Church of Santa Sofia, built around 760 and listed as a World Heritage Site, are well worth a visit. Particularly impressive is the Roman Theater of Benevento, restored in parts.

3. Salerno

© Siegfried Schnepf | Dreamstime.com

Breathtaking panoramas, spectacular buildings and a beautiful seafront: Salerno is an attractive destination for those who want to explore the Campania region. Just a few kilometers from Salerno are enchanting towns of the Amalfi Coast such as Maiori, Amalfi and Vietri sul Mare, as well as the important excavations of the ancient city of Paestum.

The city of Salerno, founded by the Romans, is particularly charming for its beautiful location on the Gulf of Salerno. Salerno is not necessarily a must-see for travelers to Italy, but it has a lot to offer: The beautiful old town with its winding streets, the Norman cathedral from the 11th century and the Castello Arechi, from which you can enjoy a great view of the city and the sea, are just some of the sights that await tourists in Salerno.

2. Castel del Monte

Castel del Monte
© Kromatikanet | Dreamstime.com

Castel del Monte is probably the most imposing building in Puglia. The medieval fortification was once the hunting lodge of Emperor Frederick II and impresses with its octagonal design.

In addition to the idyllic nature and the numerous picturesque villages, there are some fascinating buildings to admire in the Italian region of Puglia. Those who are enthusiastic about architecture and history should definitely visit the famous Castel del Monte in the town of Andria.

The famous hunting lodge of Emperor Frederick II is the most impressive medieval structure in southern Italy and is still well preserved in its original form. The fort is located high up on a hill and can be easily seen from a distance. Frederick II chose this location in order to have a good overview and to recognize enemies early. He also used the imposing structure to underpin his position of power in the empire.

1. Tropea

Tropea panoramic view, Calabria, Italy
© Travelbook | Dreamstime.com

Tropea is a small town on the coast of the southern Italian region of Calabria. The harbor town in the Mediterranean Sea is known for its old town situated on a rock, its white sandy beaches and red onions. In the dreamy old town 40 meters above sea level, you will find many small boutiques, cafes and restaurants in the winding alleys. Several lookout points provide a breathtaking view over the sea to the Lipari Islands in good weather.

In the lower part of the cliff town, bathing vacationers get their money’s worth. The beautiful white sandy beaches of the Mediterranean coast with their crystal clear water offer ideal conditions for diving enthusiasts. In the background you can see the Mediterranean island of Stromboli with its still active volcano. Tours to climb the mountainous volcanic island are also offered here. And if you listen carefully, you can hear the volcano rumbling in the distance…

Click Video to see the 30 Best Places in South Italy