Our 7-day Southern Italy itinerary from Sicily to Puglia is all about marking the highlights that await you on the sunny southern tip of the boot. There is a fantastic mix of them, from a trattoria run by a pizza maker at the heart of itNapolito idyllic towns clinging to the slopes of mighty Etna.
Over the course of a week, this guide will review the must-sees and must-sees throughout the region. It will take you from the largest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily, to the unspoilt regions of Apulia, where white stone villages sit on cliffs overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
We believe that everything is best done in the spring or autumn months. The winter will not be good because the beaches here are some of the highlights. Summer is fine, but expect to pay more for luxury and deal with large crowds between June and August.
Table of Contents
Day 1: Sicily
Where else but Sicily to start this Southern Italy itinerary? Start with a flight to one of the three main airports on the island: Catania, Palermo, Trapani. Either works, because you're going to rent a car anyway. Today is the day to go out and see the true beauty of the largest island in the Mediterranean. Let's assume you start in Catania on the east coast, as it has the biggest airport of the bunch. Otherwise, no problem - the trip from others is only 2-3 hours.
First, head to the south coast and the UNESCO-listed Valley of the Temples (Valle dei Templi). Home to the impressive Temple of Concordia and the Temple of Juno, it is arguably the most incredible Greek historical excavation outside of Greece itself and offers just a hint of Sicily's long, long history: the ruins here date back thousands of years! 2,500 years!
From there you sail east to the fantastic city of Ragusa. The part you want to explore is the steep Ragusa Ibla, the old town. It is a maze of small streets that occasionally open up to reveal beautiful baroque architecture. Lunch in the square in front of the elegant facade of the San Giorgio Cathedral is something you won't forget.
From here you head east back to Syracuse. This former Greek colony is teeming with life. Its historical core is known as Ortigia. It is actually a separate island accessed through an ancient gate. Head there to find salt-covered swimming spots built on stilts over the Mediterranean.
In the evening you will return to central Catania. There is no place like the cruel mass of crooked markets and palaces. Stay in the San Berillo area to be in the middle of it. HeHabitat($$)The boutique hotel is one of our all-time favourites.
Dia 2: Taormina ved Etna
Day 2 is mountain and coast, in that order. First go to Parco dell'Etna. The trip should take about an hour, no more. It climbs higher and higher towards the base station of the Funivia dell'Etna cable car. This is where you have a choice: on foot or by bike. We recommend the latter because you'll be further out afterwards (plus the Etna hike isn't the same incredible experience as the Italian Alps).
The cable car takes you straight to the top of the mighty mountain that truly defines the island's skyline. At the top station you can see the steaming Cratere del Laghetto and the steaming fumaroles of Crateri Barbagallo. The view, cloud permitting, is second to none. They face east towards the Italian mainland and south towards the expanse of Catania.
In the afternoon of the second day, go down the mountain and settle incharming town of Taormina. You must see the old Teatro de Taormina there. It originally dates from Greek times, but was rebuilt by the Romans in the 1st century AD. It has views that include Etna and the eastern coasts of Sicily. The city also has beautiful pebble beaches and tourist hotels such asHotel Metropole Taormina($$$)– infinity pool, anyone?
Day 3: Calabria, unspoiled southern Italy
Is there a car train or just a normal passenger train that takes you from Sicily to the mainland inItaly. They depart regularly from the port of Messina and connect with Villa San Giovanni. Welcome to the Calabria region, the tip of the boot. This is an area that has been much maligned for its historic levels of poverty and mob connections. But it is also an absolutely fantastic area.
Considering you only have one day here, we think you have a choice: Mountains or beaches. If you choose the former, go straight to Aspromonte National Park. It is a truly wonderful reserve that has peaks of hoodoo and hillsides covered in pine and holm oak, not to mention some of the last remaining wolf populations in the country. You can drive north to Sila National Park, where lakes hide in flat valleys beneath remote peaks.
However, we prefer the Calabrian coast. The reason? tropical. This city is an amazing place. It rises from a steep cliff next to the Tyrrhenian Sea and is known for its ivory stones and crystal clear seas. It's a secret: see how the Italians themselves spend their holidays in Tropea!
Day 4: Amalfi Coast
The 4th opens one of the indisputable jewels of southern Italy. Signalon the Amalfi Coast. Navigating the hairpin turns of this incredible stretch of coastline will make you feel like a real James Bond. It stretches approximately from Salerno to Sorrento for about 25 miles. But the 25 miles are pure beauty: think cascading vineyards, curling limestone peaks and beaches dotted with tanned bodies.
The towns on the Amalfi Coast are as charming as they come. The best include Amalfi, which clings to a cliff above a series of marinas with bobbing boats, and Positano, which some say is the most romantic town in all of Europe. Stops are mandatory. Optional extras can be a walk along the fantastic Path of the Gods or a tasting of Limoncello, one of the region's delicacies.
Weather permitting, you can also take another ferryIsle of Capri jetsæt. This has been an R&R getaway since the days of Emperor Tiberius. His villa complex still crowns a central hillside there, but we think he might be more interested in the Michelin-certified seafood restaurants near the ports.
Day 5: Naples
Get ready for the determination and energy of Naples, the largest city in southern Italy. No trip to this corner of the country could miss this one. The thing is, though, the main attraction isn't really onNapoliitself, but only outside...
Pompeii is halfway across the Bay of Naples as you travel north from the end of the Amalfi Coast. It is hailed by historians as the most impressive Roman archaeological site outside of Rome itself. You'll see why the moment you step inside. The place was pretty much frozen in time in 79 AD. C. when Vesuvius (the colossal volcano you see on the page) erupted. Everything from villas to amphitheatres and brothels is still visible.
Set aside a morning for this, then head into the heart of Naples. This is the pizza house, you know? Of course you knew that. There are twopizzeriasthat stand out from the crowd: Gino and Toto Sorbillo, famous for their local ingredients, and L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, considered the original. Both are fantastic. Both ALWAYS have tails.
After your slice of the local pie, delve into the Spaccanapoli area to see the ups and downs of life in the city. Naples is a mecca for people-watching, with churches and cafes tucked around every corner.
Day 6: Gargano National Park
During the last two days of this trip, you will be transported to the eastern side of Italy. We believe that Gargano National Park is the perfect antidote to the energy and bustle of the city of Naples. Starting off the coast of the Apulia region in style, it offers the opportunity to slow down and relax among forty-dotted coves and coastal olive groves.
We would say that the best beaches here are in the small towns of Baia delle Zagare (ideal for couples) and Lido di Portonuovo (best for families). Most are easy to reach by car, although there are also many long coastal paths for hiking. Those who prefer cities to sandy beaches can stay in the immersive town of Vieste, which has a large mineral museum and some very beautiful neighborhoods perched on ridges high above the Adriatic Sea.
Day 7: Bari to Lecce – the best of Puglia
The end of our 7 day tour from Sicily to Apulia in southern Italy ends with a walk through the heels of the boot. Start in Bari's charming old town. It is often overlooked by tourists because it is better known as a port, but there are actually old streets to wander around, topped with churches dating back over 500 years.
From there it is easy to reach the town of Polignano a Mare. It has one of the most iconic urban spas in southern Italy. It's also a great place for a long seafood lunch overlooking the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic Sea. We recommend the Morus Sapori & Sentori terrace.
Turn inland again to the small town of Alberobello. This is asurpriseUNESCO websitehome to the iconic southern trulli homes. These are conical-roofed huts built of rough stone, all aligned to create beautiful village views that are a photographer's dream come true.
Talk about a photographer's dream come true... Lecce is the climax of your adventure in Puglia. The city is one of Europe's greatest Baroque achievements (sorry, Vienna). Honey-colored churches tower over the squares, wine bars adorn the side streets, and you'll see magnificent gilded front doors dating back centuries.