The 20 best places to visit in Southern Italy

 

Dating from around 600 to 450 BC, just to the south of the ancient city of Pompeii are the remains of the ancient Greek city of Paestum. Abandoned in the Middle Ages and re-discovered in the 18th century, the city walls and amphitheatre remained in excellent condition, as did the sites most famous features, three of the most well preserved ancient Greek temples in the world. Due to the incredible level of preservation, the entire area has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

20. Paestum

 

At the southern end of Sicily on the Mediterranean coast is a limestone rocky cliff of superbly white sedimentary rock known as the Stair Of The Turks, so named because of the natural staircase formation as well as the frequent raids carried out by the Moors. The Scala Dei Turchi and the nearby Roman Villa Aurea have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

19. Scala Dei Turchi

 

In the extreme south east of the country, south east from the city of Lecce is the small town of Sant'Andrea, famed for a small piece of enchanting coastline known as the Towers Of Sant'Andrea. The beautiful blue shallow waters are lined by steep white broken cliffs making it one of the top swimming spots in the country.

18. Torre Sant'Andrea

 

To the west of the city of Naples, at the northern end of the Gulf Of Naples is the volcanic island of Ischia, the largest of the Phlegrean Islands. Noted for its mountainous landscape, hot springs and volcanic activity, the islands major man made attraction is the medieval Aragonese Castle. Built around 474 BC on a separate small rocky volcanic islet, connected to Ischia by a causeway, it is a contender for one of the best castle structures in Italy.

17. Ischia

On the island of Sicily, on the Gulf Of Palermo on the Tyrrhenian Sea is the Sicilian capital, Palermo, noted for its history, culture and architecture. Occupied over 2,700 years, Palermo was founded by the Phoenicians, before becoming part of the Roman Republic, the Holy Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire and the Emirate Of Sicily under Arab rule. Among the Romanesque and Gothic architecture, one of the cities premier architectural attractions are the Cathedral Churches Of Cefalù And Monreale, a set of nine religious and civic structures dating from the mid 12th century during the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. Built in the Arab-Norman style, the Cathedral Churches have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Metropolitan Cathedral Of The Assumption Of Virgin Mary.

16. Palermo

 

North east of Naples, built on a cliff edge is the small town of Sant'Agata De' Goti. Among a smattering of 10th century churches and 13th century palaces and castles, the town is most famous for its sheer cliff fortifications, where the natural rock and man made buildings seamlessly merge.

Pictured are the Fortifications of Sant'Agata De' Goti

15. Sant'Agata De' Goti

South of the port city of Bari is the city of Matera, inhabited since the 10th century BC it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Sassi Di Matera, the ancient part of the city, are dwellings carved from the rock itself, thought to be among the first settlements in what is now Italy. The historical centre of Matera along with the nearby Park Of Rupestrian Churches is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

14. Matera

 

In the extreme south west of the country is the seaside town of Tropea, a favourite holiday spot among Italians for it's pristine blue waters, historic old town and dramatic cliff terraces reminiscent of Bonifacio in Corsica. The towns most beautiful feature is the 4th century Santa Maria dell'isola monastery. Re-built throughout the centuries, most notable in the Renaissance period, this majestic buildings stands on a rocky outcrop overlooking the beach. Accessible by climbing a winding flight of steps carved into the cliff, visitors should seek out the roof garden for one of the best views over the city.

13. Tropea

 

Built in the 3rd century BC, at the far eastern end of the island of Sicily in the hilltop town of Taormina is the ancient Greek Theatre Of Taormina. Today, though mostly in ruin, the Greco-Roman theatre is the second largest of its kind on the island. Its high location and spectacular views set it apart, in one direction overlooking the long Sicilian coastline while inland it offers fantastic views of the active volcano, Etna. 

12. Teatro Antico Di Taormina

 

Built in 1752 AD, directly north of the city of Naples, is the Royal Palace Of Caserta, constructed for the Bourbon Kings Of Naples. With its five floors, 1,200 rooms, a library and a theatre, in terms of volume it is the largest Royal residence in the world. Visitors should be sure to seek out the Grand Staircase Of Honour and the highly detailed Throne Room. Inspired by the Palace Of Versailles in France, this truly enormous building with its impeccable gardens, large surrounding parkland, fountains and cascades has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

11. Reggia Di Caserta

 

On the eastern coast of the island of Sardinia is the 730 square kilometre (282 square mile) area of protected land known as the National Park Of The Bay Of Orosei And Gennargentu. At its edge is a coastline of steep cliffs and perfect clear waters, whilst inland is a landscape of high snow capped mountains, deep valleys, lakes, rivers and large forests. Within the park, standing 1,834 metres (6,017 ft) above sea level, the mountain of Punta La Marmora is the highest peak in Sardinia.

10. Parco Nazionale Gennargentu

 

Dating from around 430 BC, in Agrigento, at the southern end of the island of Sicily is the archaeological site known as the Valley Of The Temples, one of the finest examples of Ancient Greek architecture outside of Greece. The sites most standout landmark is the 8.93 metre (29 ft) tall Temple Of Concordia, its outstanding level of preservation making it one of the most notable Ancient Greek edifices in existence today. One of the main attractions of Sicily, a national monument of Italy, the remains have also been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is The Temple Of Concordia and the Fallen Angel Statue.

9. Valle Dei Templi

 

In the extreme south east of the island of Sicily is the hilltop city of Ragusa, an ancient city that has been occupied since 2,000 BC. Devastated by a huge earthquake in 1693 AD, most of the old town had to be re-built, with many of the Baroque buildings from the period remaining to present day. One of the most picturesque cities in Italy, Ragusa along with seven other cities in the Province Of Noto has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

8. Ragusa

 

In the south east of the country, between Bari and Lecce is the town of Alberobello, made famous for its unique trullo buildings, whitewashed stone huts with conical roofs. Dating from the 15th century, it was imposed on the peasants of the area to built their homes dry and without mortar so that they could be easily demolished. Therefore the small conical shape became the most solid configuration. With hundreds of unique trullo buildings within the commune, Alberobello has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

7. Alberobello

 

In the far southern centre of the country, between the cities of Bari and Naples, among the mountains in the east of the Regional Park Of Gallipoli Cognato And Lesser Lucanian Dolomites is the town and commune of Castelmezzano. Its position among steep rocky peaks has led many to consider it among Italy's most beautiful located villages.

6. Castelmezzano

 

In the extreme south east of Italy, within the heel of the country is the capital city of the Salentine Peninsula, Lecce, sometimes referred to as the Florence Of The South. With so many monuments built from the white limestone known as Lecce Stone, there is a distinct Greek feel to large parts of the city. Places of note include the the Basilica Of Santa Croce, the Roman amphitheatre and Lecce Cathedral with it's 70 metre (230 ft) bell tower offering visitors one of the best views over the city. 

Pictured is the Roman amphitheatre.

5. Lecce

 

At the eastern end of the island of Sicily is the 3,329 metre (10,922 ft) high Mount Etna, an active stratovolcano that stands as the tallest in Europe outside of the Caucasus. Having last erupted in 2015 it is considered to be currently ongoing. One of the most famous volcanoes in the world, Mount Etna has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the city of Catania with Mount Etna behind.

4. Etna

 

South along the coast from the capital city, Rome, is the city of Naples, the third largest city in Italy and one of the oldest continuously inhabited urban areas in the world. Meaning 'New City' in Ancient Greek, it's 2,800 year history has left it with a wealth of historical buildings and monuments from medieval castles to classical ruins, though the most prominent architecture comes from the medieval, Renaissance and Baroque styles. The birthplace of Pizza, one of the most ancient cities of Europe, Naples is home to over 1,000 churches, making it one of the most Catholic cities in the world in terms of places of worship. With such a span of history, Naples historic centre is the largest in Europe, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. Napoli

 

South east of the city of Naples is the city locked in time, the ancient city of Pompeii. When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, Pompeii was covered in a thick volcanic ash. Unable to escape quickly enough, the people were suffocated by the thick ash, leaving the bodies and buildings perfectly preserved. Today Pompeii is one of the countries most visited destinations, and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Pictured is the Temple Of Jupiter with Mount Vesuvius behind.

2. Pompeii & Vesuvias

 

South of the ancient city of Pompeii and the city of Naples, running along the southern edge of the Sorrentine Peninsula is a 50 kilometre (31 mile) stretch of coastline known as the Amalfi Coast. This hugely popular tourist destination is a place of sheer cliffs dotted with small beaches and pastel coloured fishing villages that appear to climb upwards away from the Tyrrhenian Sea. Among the most notable and picturesque of these villages is Postinao, Sorrento and Amalfi, with all three making up part of the Amalfi Coast UNESCO World Heritage Site.

1. Costiera Amalfitana

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