We’ve already covered some of the best places to see in north Italy here. Let’s continue discussing the best places to visit in Italy, this time focusing on Central and Southern Italy.
Italy is, dare we say it, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. It’s also one that we have visited numerous times, and have a lot to say about. There’s plenty to see (and eat) in Italy. But what are the very best places to visit in Italy if you have to pick only a handful during your trip?
Central Italy and Southern Italy are very different from the north. The south is known for its sandy beaches, chaotic cities, and relaxed lifestyle. It has been inhabited by many different civilizations since antiquity – resulting in diversity like nowhere else in the world.
The Greeks, Romans, Etruscans, Arabs, Byzantines, and Normans have all called it home over the years. It’s stunning coastline, diverse landscape, and postcard towns and cities mean it’s a popular spot during the summer months. It can get pretty busy, so make sure you time your visit well to avoid the crowds.
There’s so much to see and do in Italy wherever you choose to go. There’s historic Florence, the proud cradle of the Renaissance. Naples, with its crazy streets and world-famous cuisine. Bari and its beautiful beaches and white-washed architecture. The island paradises of Sicily and Sardinia, each with a unique culture.
Whether you’re looking for history, romance, or culture – the south of Italy has it all.
The Best Places in Italy – Central and South
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Florence is one of the best places to visit in Italy for people who love art, history, and, of course, food.
Once ruled over by the Medici family, Florence boasts a compelling history that is evident throughout the city today. Beautiful, fascinating, and vibrant – Florence attracts huge crowds all year round. The center of the city can feel a bit claustrophobic at times – especially near the Duomo. We’d suggest visiting in Spring or Autumn when it’s still warm out but there are fewer people.
The cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is the place to be for art fanatics and history buffs. At the heart of the city lies the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. It’s one of the world’s most beautiful cathedrals and it took over 100 years to build. It features an iconic red-tiled dome designed by the Florentine architectural pioneer Brunelleschi. Brave the queue to see inside and climb to the top for views of the city.
Visit the Uffizi Gallery and feast your eyes upon works by Da Vinci, Botticelli, Carravaggio, and other Italian masters. Of course, you can’t leave Florence without seeing Michaelangelo’s famous David in the Galleria dell’Accademia. Art is everywhere in Florence – from painting to sculpture to architecture – and there’s something incredible around every corner.
The city center of Florence is nice and compact, so walking is the best mode of transport. Get lost in the winding streets, sip an espresso in a charming piazza, and live la dolce vita.
Be sure to wander up to Piazza Michaelangelo or Forte Belvedere to watch the sunset as Florence settles down after another busy day. The skies turn all shades of orange and red, and the Duomo dominates the skyline.
What to eat in Florence
Are you hungry yet? Like in pretty much any city in Italy, in Florence you can eat really well relatively cheaply. Tuscan cuisine is world-class, and let’s just say you won’t be going hungry. If you’re a meat-eater you must try the city’s most iconic dish bistecca alla fiorentina (steak). Try one of the famous schiacciata sandwiches with truffle from All’Antico Vinaio. Another delicious Tuscan dish is pappa al pomodoro, made from stale bread, tomatoes, and beans. Florence is where gelato was born, so make sure your sweet tooth is ready.
Getting to Florence
If you decide to fly to Florence, the city has an airport. Pisa airport is also close by and the flights to and from it are often cheaper. Florence is accessible from other cities in Italy via bus or train.
Where to stay in Florence – HomEdo B&B
HomEdo B&B is located in Florence city center. Just 250 m from the Accademia Gallery and 450 m from Mercato Centrale, you’ll be in the middle of it all. It offers stylish rooms and great facilities. Rooms feature air-con, a private bathroom, and comfortable beds. Guests can enjoy a huge breakfast every morning, before setting out to explore.
Siena is a medieval city located in Tuscany. It’s one of the best places in Italy due to its humble size and fascinating history. If you want to experience the real Tuscany, then Siena is where it’s at. You can visit Siena as a day trip from Florence. The city is small and easy to navigate and provides a nice escape from the crowds of the Tuscan capital.
Characterized by its medieval brick buildings, Siena is a unique Italian destination. A visit to Siena isn’t complete without seeing the magnificent Romanesque-gothic-style Duomo di Siena. Make your way to the heart of the city where you’ll find Piazza del Campo and the giant Torre del Mangia. Visit the museum in Palazzo Pubblico and climb to the top of the tower for the best views of the city. Be sure to head to the Piccolomini Library and marvel at the fresco-covered ceiling painted by Pinturicchio.
All of Siena’s main points of interested are located in close proximity, so exploring the city is a breeze. After you’ve ticked them all off your list, you’re free to explore or stop for a refreshing aperitivo.
Getting to Siena
Siena can be reached by train or bus from Florence in under 2 hours.
Where to stay in Siena – B&B Il Corso
B&B Il Corso is a great hotel in the city center of Siena. Rooms are big, bright, and feature exposed wooden beams. Some rooms have a balcony. A delicious buffet breakfast is on offer every morning.
Bari is the second-largest city in southern Italy and features an important port that connects it to Greece, Croatia, and Albania. Often overlooked as a travel destination, we think Bari is one of the best places to visit in Italy. A coastal city with a vibrant atmosphere and a youthful population, there’s plenty to do in Bari. It’s also a great spot to base yourself for a while, as there are many great spots to visit in the region!
An urban city, Bari combines history with liberalism and forward-thinking. The city is home to a stunning opera house, a fantastic archeology museum, and a local culture unlike any other.
Explore the city’s historic old town, a maze of cobbled streets and pretty white-washed houses. Head to the Basilica di San Nicola, the city’s most famous attraction, and visit the tomb of St Nicholas (the original Santa Claus) himself. Next head to Piazza Mercantile, a charming square with traditional architecture, shops, and food stalls. End the day with a relaxing stroll along the waterfront promenade, where you can breathe in the sea air and watch the sunset.
Home to the south’s largest university, Bari is a popular spot for students – and where there are students, there’s a party – right? Bari’s nightlife scene is fantastic. If you’re a seafood lover then you definitely won’t leave Bari hungry. Most restaurants and markets sell fresh and locally sourced seafood.
Day Trips from Bari – Alberobello
Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Puglia. It’s the perfect spot to visit as a day trip from Bari as it can be reached in under 2 hours.
The town is filled with guesthouses, shops, and restaurants – all housed in the iconic Trulli houses that are characteristic of the region. Trulli townhouses are characterized by their pyramidal, domed, or conical-shaped roofs. Built using local limestone, you won’t find houses like these anywhere else but Puglia.
Nowadays, the majority of Alberobello’s residents don’t live in Trulli houses, but the iconic buildings cater to the town’s thriving tourist trade. Wander the cobbled streets, weave your way through the charming houses, stopping at the many viewpoints to snap an instagram-worthy pic.
Alberobello is a unique destination that’s definitely worth the visit. Don’t miss one of the best places in Italy that can easily slot into your southern Italian itinerary as a day trip from Bari. You can reach Alberobello from Bari in under 2 hours. Trains depart regularly from Ferrovie Sud Est station, which is a 10-minute walk from Bari Centrale.
Getting to Bari
You can fly directly into Bari, or reach the city by bus or train from various places in Italy. Trains from Rome take roughly 3 hours.
Where to stay in Bari – B&B Murex
B&B Murex is a charming hotel with a rooftop terrace. The private rooms feature unique driftwood decor and a private bathroom. Rooms are comfortable, bright, and best of all – cheap! It offers a bar, lounge area, and free wi-fi.
Umbria’s largest city, Perugia is a cosmopolitan hub that attracts a diverse crowd of residents and inhabitants. Entering the Centro Storico feels like stepping into a time warp, as little has changed in almost 500 years. Perugia is a maze of cobbled streets, Gothic mansions, piazzas, and arched stairways. Today Perugia boasts a lively student population, as its university is a popular choice among Italian and foreign students.
Located in central Italy, Perugia’s Etruscan architecture is surrounded by lush green hills and snow-capped mountains. Make sure you pack comfy walking shoes because the streets in Perugia will take you up and down like a yo-yo. You can’t afford to get tired because there’s a LOT to see!
Perugia is small and very walkable. Wind your way through the medieval streets and breath in the mouth-watering aromas wafting from open windows. Stop along the way to check out the quaint artisan shops or admire the frescoes inside a church.
Be sure to check out the vibrant heart of the city in Piazza IV Novembre. Here you’ll find the stunning Fontana Maggiore sitting patiently in the same spot it has been for almost 800 years. Next, stop for a quick espresso as you watch the locals going about their daily lives. Be sure to check out the Palazzo Dei Priori along Corso Vannucci. It’s an impressive gothic structure that houses the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. Here you can marvel at some of the world’s most unforgettable Renaissance masterpieces from the likes of Perugino and Pinturicchio.
As the evening sets in, walk up Porta Sole where you’ll be greeted by breathtaking views of the city and countryside. Later, stroll down Via dell’Acquedotto which used to carry water from Monte Pacciano all the way to Fontana Maggiore.
What to eat in Perugia
Perugia is home to unique gastronomy that combines influences from nearby regions of Tuscany and Lazio. So get ready to eat, eat, and eat some more! Prepare your taste buds for mountains of home-made pasta, flavorful legumes, truffles, and plenty of meat. Food is hearty, and the art of slow cooking is a big thing.
Getting to Perugia
Perugia can be reached via direct train from Roma Termini, and the regional service is just 10 euro. Alternatively, you can arrive from other cities but the route will involve a few changes.
Where to stay in Perugia – Residenza il Punto
Located in the heart of Perugia, this charming hotel offers private rooms with great views. Guests can unwind in the garden area with a cold drink in hand. A delicious breakfast is provided each morning, and includes hot and cold options.
Naples is like cilantro. People either love it or hate it. It’s chaotic, energetic, and anything but ordinary. It’s Italy’s rawest and most exhilarating city.
Naples has it all – a lively city, rugged coastline, and even a neighboring volcano – the majestic Vesuvius. Naples is the 3rd largest city in Italy and sits on the edge of one of the country’s most beautiful bays in the Mediterranean. Located just 2 hours south of Rome, Naples feels a world away.
In Naples, the sound of scooters revving and honking combines with locals’ melodic Neopolitan dialect. It’s loud, run-down, and fantastic.
Marvel at the cracked facades of apartment buildings looming over the streets as residents lazily hang sheets on their washing lines. Battle with the irresistible aromas of freshly made pizza and rich coffee waft from the open bars and restaurants that line the streets. Naples is truly a feast for the senses.
Getting lost in the streets of Naples isn’t a difficult task. Explore the city at your own pace, taking detours and making pit-stops here and there. Naples has some excellent museums, including a fascinating archeological museum and a gallery of contemporary art. Admire the city’s many churches, take a break in one of its bustling piazzas, and stroll along the seafront promenade. Visit Castel Sant’Elmo for some panoramic views of the city and coastline.
Climate-wise, the best time to visit Naples is in the spring. May is a great time to visit as the Maggio dei Monumenti festival takes place. The month-long festival celebrates Naples’ rich artistic and historical heritage. Private monuments and collections are opened to the public, and exhibitions, concerts, and performances take place in historic venues.
Day trips from Naples – The Bay of Naples
If you have enough time, we suggest visiting one of the three stunning islands in the Bay of Naples. Of the three, Capri is the most beautiful but also the most touristy. Its quaint and colorful villages are the perfect place to relax and recover after the chaos of the city. The island of Ischia features thermal spas and beautiful beaches. Its third and least visited island Procida is a great choice for those who want a more low-key city escape.
Day trips from Naples – Pompeii and Herculaneum
If you’ve had enough of sun, sand, and sea then you can’t leave Naples without visiting the nearby historic cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Both cities were buried by the devastating 79 A.D. eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Now the cities exist as excavated ruins which act as a reminder of the power of nature. Pompeii is the more popular of the two, and visitors can freely explore the ruins and streets. Herculaneum is often overshadowed by Pompeii to the south but offers a unique insight into this historic catastrophe. You’ll be able to walk more freely here, as it is less touristic.
What to eat in Naples
Now for the part that you’ve all been waiting for: food.
Naples is famous all over the world for its incredible food. In fact, we can thank Naples for the modern pizza we all know and love today. You’ll be spoiled for choice for pizzerias. We suggest that you stop off at Pizzeria Brandi which has been serving doughy, cheesy goodness for over 200 years. So, it must be good.
Another Neopolitan delicacy is fried pizza. Yep – just when you thought pizza couldn’t get any better. Pizza Fritto is stuffed with fillings and then fried, and the result is like nothing you’ve tasted before. If you’ve still got space for some more carbs, try some traditional Neopolitan pasta dishes. Seafood is always a winner, and spaghetti alle vongole and risotto alla pescatora are typical of Naples.
When it’s time for dessert you’ll have plenty of options. Naples does pastries and cakes like nowhere else. Sfogliatelle is the most synonymous with the city. It’s a little flaky pastry filled with cream, chocolate, or custard – perfect eaten alongside a strong Neopolitan coffee. If you’re in Naples at Christmas time be sure to try struffoli – doughballs covered in honey and sprinkles.
Getting to Naples
Naples airport is located 7km to the city center and is connected by a regular bus service. Napoli Centrale connects to most other major Italian cities with high-speed and regional trains. The train from Rome to Naples takes just over an hour.
Where to stay in Naples – B&B L’Alloggio Dei Vassalli
Set in the former noble residence of Palazzo Donnalbina that dates back to the 1700s, this elegant hotel features air-conditioned rooms with classic decor.
Situated directly opposite Santa Chiara Church, B&B L’Alloggio Dei Vassalli is in the perfect spot from which to explore the city. Guests can enjoy a buffet breakfast as part of their stay.
If you’re after bright turquoise seas and endless sun then the Amalfi Coast is one of the best places in Italy. If you’re visiting the south, you can miss the array of unique cliffside towns that make up Amalfi.
The Amalfi coast isn’t the most budget-friendly location, and it’s become so popular that it’s original charm has been somewhat lost. However, it’s still worth a visit!
If you’re planning to visit the Amalfi coast, we suggest taking your time so you don’t get caught up in the tourist trails. The surrounding area is one of the most beautiful in the world and features some incredible hiking trails. You’ll find Italy’s finest restaurants and hotels here, each trying to stand out among the countless others.
Postcard-perfect towns line the Amalfi coastline, each offering a different vibe and attracting a different crowd. Positano cascades down the hillside in an array of bright colors and attracts sun-worshippers from all over the world. Amalfi sits below steep cliffs and features the grand Arab-Norman Sant’Andrea cathedral at its heart. Stunning Sorrento is perched precariously atop the cliffs and features a charming maze-like center. Then there’s hilltop Ravello, soaring above the sea with its iconic gardens and impressive villas.
Whichever Amalfi Coast town you decide to visit, you’ll be blown away. Sun, sea, great views, and world-class food – what more could you want?
Getting to the Amalfi Coast
The easiest way to visit the Amalfi Coast is in a car. But don’t despair, if this isn’t an option for you there are plenty of public transport options too. If you want to reach Amalfi or other towns south of Salerno, a regional train from Naples is your best bet. It takes about 40 minutes. If you want to reach Sorrento or towns north of Amalfi, take the Circumvesuviana from the main Naples station (1 hour from Napoli Centrale). Once there, the local bus service operates between towns.
Where to stay in Sorrento – Hotel Plaza (Sorrento)
Hotel Plaza is set in the heart of Sorrento and features a sun deck and pool. It offers modern rooms with a private bathroom and air-con. The hotel is located near Sorrento’s main square, and there are plenty of bars, restaurants, and transport links close by.
Where to stay in Positano – Residence Villa Yiara
Each room at Residence Villa Yiara in cliffside Positano features a sea-view terrace overlooking the bay, as well air-conditioning and a private bathroom (some with a spa bath!). The 18th-century property is located 800m from the beach and is surrounded by plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bar
Located in southern Puglia, Lecce is an undiscovered gem among Italian cities. Its baroque old town features dozens of churches, some museums, and an amphitheater. All this is great, but we think the reason why Lecce is one of the best places in Italy is because of its atmosphere. It’s chilled and humble, and very peaceful. Wander the narrow sandstone streets, people-watch in a piazza, and eat until you physically can’t eat anymore.
One of the best things about Lecce is its slow ambiance. Nobody is rushing, and that’s just the way they like it. The city has a thriving student population, plenty of great bars and places to eat, as well as some upmarket boutiques.
Puglian food is some of the best in the world, and there are plenty of veggie options too. Once the sun has gone down, relax in a cozy trattoria and enjoy a meal and a glass of locally produced rose wine. From Lecce, you can easily reach the Ionian and Adriatic seas, and it’s a great base to explore Puglia from.
Getting to Lecce
You can reach Lecce easily by direct Trenitalia train from cities such as Brindisi (30 minutes), Bari (1.5 hours), Rome (5.5 hours), and Bologna (7 hours).
Where to stay in Lecce – Le Bifore Charming House
This lovely hotel is located 500m from Piazza Mazzini. Chill out on the sun terrace and admire the city views. Rooms feature air-con, TV, and a balcony. Le Bifore Charming House is an ideal spot if you want central accommodation in Lecce.
There’s no doubt about it – Rome is one of the best places to visit in Italy and the world. Italy’s capital is a haven for history nerds, food lovers, and art geeks. Overflowing with museums, monuments, restaurants, and beauty – Rome is a must-see among European cities. Romantic, historic, and downright gorgeous, Rome is unlike any other city on Earth.
When you’re there, be sure to visit Rome’s ancient icons such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon. Sample some Roman cuisine (spaghetti carbonara, anyone?) and eat tonnes of gelato. Get some fresh air in the gardens of Villa Borghese before shopping til’ you drop along via del Corso. Next, head to picture-perfect Trastevere for an aperitivo in one of its trendy bars. Finish the day on top of Rome’s seven hills for sunset views of the city’s skyline.
If you want some ideas for your Rome bucket list then check out our list of things to do in Rome.
Getting to Rome
Flying into Rome’s international airport is a breeze. Once you’ve landed you can connect to the city via train/bus. Rome is Italy’s capital, so it’s connected to most other cities with fast and slow trains.
Where to stay in Rome – Twentyone Hotel
Located in the heart of Rome, rooms at this Twentyone Hotel are decorated in a minimalist style and feature a TV, air-conditioning, and a minibar. Guests can indulge in a continental breakfast each morning in the charming dining room. The hotel offers a fantastic on-site restaurant that serves traditional Roman cuisine.
One of the best places in Italy, Sicily’s capital Palermo is a paradise for any traveler. Situated on the coast, Palermo offers ancient history, a lively atmosphere, and fabulous food. Palermo is a complex metropolis that exists after centuries of diverse rule. The city has been the meeting point for civilizations for millennia, and its diverse influence is visible today. Wander the ancient streets, gaze at Gothic palaces, marvel at Baroque churches, and get lost in the city’s history.
Palermo remains proud of its Arabic origins which date back to the 8th century. It’s street markets are like those found in an Arab souk, and are a must-see in Palermo. The city’s old quarter, Quattro Canti, is home to many piazzas, fountains, and churches.
There’s a youthful vibrancy to Palermo. Plenty of trendy bars and eateries have opened up over the years, and they’re definitely worth a visit. When you’re ready to hit the beach, hop on the bus to Mondello. Mondello is a former fishing village where you’ll find white sandy beaches and a bright blue sea.
Palermo is a great spot to base yourself if you want to explore the rest of Sicily. There’s so much to see and do on this Italian island that you’ll probably never want to leave. The best way to explore if by car, but there are also plenty of public transport options.
What to eat in Sicily
Sicilian cuisine was influenced by the Greeks, Arabs, Normans, and Spanish during the island’s long history. It’s no wonder that the food here is a world away from that of the mainland. Indulge in a brioche bun filled with ice cream for breakfast, and treat your tastebuds to the freshest produce around.
Try pane cunzato, a huge open sandwich topped with veggies, cheese, and tuna. Fish is a main ingredient in Sicilian cuisine, and it’s always fresh. Arancini are delectable deep-fried rice balls filled with meat or vegetables. Cure your hunger pangs with caponata – a sweet and sour mix of fried aubergine, tomatoes, capers, and vinegar.
Ready for the main course? Feast on parmigiana di melanzane, or pasta alla norma which are both delicious vegetarian-friendly options. When it comes to desserts, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Cannoli are the most famous of Sicilian sweets, pastry tubes filled with cream or chocolate. Compliment your meal with a glass of locally produced wine for the ultimate Sicilian dinner.
Getting to Palermo
Sicily can be reached by plane to Palermo airport from most major Italian and international airports. You can also reach Sicily by sea ferry from ports in Cagliari, Genoa, Livorno and Naples.
Where to stay in Palermo – Canceddi B&B
Located near Palermo Cathedral, Fontana Pretoria, and Teatro Massimo, Canceddi B&B offers modern units fitted with balconies and private bathrooms. Guests can enjoy a delicious buffet or Italian style breakfast.
Cagliari is the capital city of Sardinia and is one of the best places in Italy for a summer break. If you visit Cagliari, we hope you have time to explore the rest of Sardinia. It’s worth it – trust us. Full of sandy beaches, clear blue seas, rugged mountains, historic cities, and ancient ruins – Sardinia has it all.
Anyway, back to Cagliari. Cagliari is located to the south of the island and exudes tradition and culture.
First off, head to Bastione di San Remy, a 19th-century defense fortification that affords spectacular city views. Stroll along the tree-lined waterfront promenade and admire the boats as they bob up and down. Castello on the hill is the oldest part of the city. Explore its cobbled streets and admire the architecture before settling in a piazza for a coffee or snack.
What about the beach, you say? Don’t worry, the closest beach to Cagliari is a 15-minute drive away. Poetto beach is a clean stretch of white sand, with bright blue waters.
Cagliari is a lively island with plenty of charm and friendly residents who’ll make you feel right at home. If you want some sun, sand, and sea air – then Cagliari is a great spot to explore Sardinia from. Now, most importantly…
What to eat in Sardinia
If there’s one reason you should visit Sardinia it’s for the food. Sardinians use lots of fresh local produce in their cooking. Plenty of fruit, veg, and fish mean that food here is super healthy and delicious.
Sardinian cuisine combines traditional Italian cuisine with different Mediterranean influences. Be sure to try the malloreddus alla campidanese a native Sardinian pasta dish served with tomato sauce and sausage. A secret ingredient, saffron, gives it a unique flavor. Then there’s seafood fregola, a pasta dish that many liken to couscous. Potato and pecorino ravioli, prawns wrapped in bacon, mussel soup… Hungry yet?
We didn’t forget about the sweet-toothed among you! Sardinia is famous for its almond-flavored desserts such as amarettus and papassini. There’s no shortage of gelato here either…
Getting to Cagliari
Sardinia has three main airports near Alghero, Olbia, and Cagliari. If you are coming from the mainland, there are ferry services to Cagliari and various other spots.
Where to stay in Catania – B&B Sciara Larmisi
B&B Sciara Larmisi is located in central Catania, 500m from Piazza Duomo and a short walk from Piazza Teatro Massimo. The stylish and comfortable rooms feature a private bathroom, flat-screen TV, and spectacular city views. Eat breakfast on the terrace while admiring the breathtaking sea views.
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