Southern Italy, sometimes known as Mezzogiorno ("Midday"), encompasses five of Italy's twenty regions.
From the bustling cities to the tranquil countryside, you will find something to love about this incredible region.
|Apulia (Italian: Puglia) |
Referred to as "the heel of Italy", this large region has been colonised by numerous empires and has a rich archaeological history. The region also has some impressive views of the Adriatic sea, impressive coastlines, and a distinct culinary scene.
Referred to as "the instep of Italy" and "Italy's best-kept secret", this region has pulchritudinous castles, alluring religious sites, and comely views of the Ionian sea.
Has some impressive national parks, magnificent ski trails, and an abundance of nature reserves. Offers plenty of summer and winter activities for visitors. The word "Italy" is thought to originate from Calabria.
Rich in culture and home to ten UNESCO sites, among them Pompeii. The inland districts, especially Irpinia, are woody and mountainous.
Was part of ancient Samnium. The region is rich in history and culture and has some very impressive historical sites and ruins.
- 1 Bari — the capital city of Apulia and one of the most important economic centres in Southern Italy.
- 2 Brindisi — a city that was once the capital city of Italy when it was a kingdom during the mid-1940s.
- 3 Catanzaro
- 4 Foggia
- 5 Naples (Italian: Napoli) — the third largest city (after Milan and Rome) in Italy, the capital of Campania, and the most important economic centre in Southern Italy. Also the birthplace of pizza!
- 6 Potenza — the capital of Basilicata.
- 7 Salerno
- 8 Taranto — a coastal city that has one of Italy's most important commercial ports.
- 9 Reggio di Calabria
- 1 Amalfi Coast – the wonderful stretch of coastline on the Gulf of Salerno.
- 2 Ariano Irpino – a typical mountain town astride the Apennines, overlooking the green Irpinian highlands.
- 3 Capri – the world-famous island in the Gulf of Naples.
- 4 Craco – a ghost town on a rocky hill, set of various films.
- The ruins of 5 Herculaneum, 6 Paestum and 7 Pompeii
- 8 Lecce – triumph of baroque architectures in the heart of Salento peninsula.
- 9 Maratea – enchanting town on the west coast of Basilicata, known as "the pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea".
- 10 Matera – the historic centre composed of the distinctive "sassi".
- 11 Otranto – the easternmost town of Italy, where Adriatic sea and Ionic sea merge.
- 12 Scalea – one of the most popular seaside resorts, with its endless beaches.
- 13 Termoli – picturesque and colorful old town on the Adriatic coast of Molise.
- 14 Tropea – located on a reef over a wonderful white beach, on the Tyrrhenian coast of Calabria.
- 15 Vesuvius – 1,281 meters (4,203 ft) tall volcano with a stunning view over the Bay of Naples.
As a visitor, you'll very easily discover that Southern Italy has much to offer. Whether you want to enjoy some nice views of the sea, visit some historical sites, or be in the company of some very friendly people, you're bound to have a wonderful time here. A significant portion of people of Italian descent in various parts of the world (the United States in particular) have ancestors from Southern Italy. Argentina in particular has been strongly influenced by the values, norms, and traditions of Southern Italy.
Southern Italy has a rich archaelogical history, has some of the best coastlines in Italy, and an abundance of cultural opportunities. Some world-class destinations in the South include the Amalfi Coast, historical sites such as Pompeii, Herculaneum and Paestum, the world-famous Mount Vesuvius, the Irpinian mountains, and fantastic islands such as Capri, Ischia and Procida.
One of the most contentious issues in Italy is the North and South divide. The issue is so contentious that even academics, politicians, and scholars are not able to figure out what's driving this. In simple terms, this is an economic and cultural divide between Northern Italy (which is predominantly industrial and houses all of Italy's largest corporations) and Southern Italy (which is predominantly agricultural, and has some of the highest unemployment and poverty levels in Italy).
As a tourist, it is important to be mindful of this divide and to respect the culture and history of both the North and the South.
Southern Italy, including the region of Sicily, which is covered separately in this guide, was suffused with Greek influence and, in large part, constituted Magna Grecia in ancient times. It was during the Hellenistic period that the city of Neapolis (Greek for "New City," and now called Napoli in Italian and Naples in English) was founded and that the ruins of Paestum date from. The area was also a very important part of ancient Rome, during which period the port city of Brundisium (now Brindisi) flourished, Naples had bustling suburbs like Pompeii and Herculaneum that were preserved under the ash of a disastrous eruption of Mt. Vesuvius — a volcano which is still active and dominates over that area to this day — and the island of Capri was where emperors like Tiberius had their holidays and orgies.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the southern part of Italy came under the sway of various foreign powers, most notably Spain, whose Bourbon rulers presided over the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies for centuries. These largely absentee rulers left a local power vacuum, which was filled by regional enforcers, such as the Camorra in Campania and the 'Ndrangheta in Calabria, that wielded local power and enforced a type of rough discipline. Southern Italy's economic development was neglected by the foreign rulers, and following Italy's unification in the 1870s, the power and influence that the local enforcers — increasingly seen as organized crime syndicates — had attained was difficult to counteract and served as a continuing brake on the advancement of the area.
Following World War II, the Italian economic miracle had much less effect in the south than in the regions further north, as money from the central government continued to be siphoned into the pockets of the organized crime families, with collaboration from the Christian Democrat-led local and national governments. Since the 1990s, with the Christian Democrats and their coalition partners defeated and in some cases replaced by officials who have spent more money on behalf of the people, conditions have improved in some areas of the south, with examples of decreases in crime, poverty and unemployment and improvements in infrastructure and order, but depressing counterexamples, such as repeated garbage crises in Naples, have persisted. Southern Italy still has a lower standard of living, higher unemployment and poorer infrastructure than Northern Italy.
Southern Italy is proud of its role in the history of the arts. It is perhaps particularly noted in the field of music, in which traditional Neapolitan songs are beloved worldwide. Naples is also important in the history of opera, as many important operas were premiered at Teatro di San Carlo, which was completed in 1737 and is the oldest opera house still standing in Italy.
- See also: Italian phrasebook
Southern Italian dialects (at least some of which are considered separate languages by linguists) can be very hard for people used to Tuscan or other Northern Italian dialects to understand. Even when locals speak standard Italian, you may find their accents difficult. Never fear: Just ask them to repeat things more slowly (Ripeti più lentamente, per piacere: Repeat more slowly, please).
Some people speak some English, but do not expect to be able to get by easily with English alone. Spanish-speakers will have a much easier time, because centuries of Spanish rule as part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies has infused local speech with a good deal of Spanish influence.
Southern Italian cuisines are fantastic, and part of the draw of this part of the country. In general, they are based on pasta, extra-virgin olive oil and soft cheese, and feature plenty of seafood, given the area's long sea coast and history of fishing and maritime trade. In addition its mild climate allows the production of a lot of fruit, tomatoes and vegetables which are also exported everywhere in Europe.
In addition, the pastries of Southern Italy, especially Campania, are legendary and much appreciated throughout the world. This is the land of cannoli, baba and many other delicious sweets.
A special word about pizza is merited, as pizza margherita — whose colors of red (tomatoes), white (mozzarella di bufala: fresh mozzarella cheese made from European buffalo milk) and green (basil) correspond to the Italian flag — was invented in Naples, and the protected designation la vera pizza napoletana ("real Neapolitan pizza") is considered a mark of quality both within and outside of Italy.
Southern Italy has been a wine-growing area since ancient times, and many of the wines produced in this part of the country are famous today.
There are also some excellent mineral waters from this region. Perhaps the most interesting is a naturally lightly-carbonated mineral water from the slopes of Vulture, Basilicata.
Parts of Southern Italy have a bad reputation for purse-snatching and other property crimes, so make sure to be alert and take sensible precautions.
Corruption and organized crime continue to be issues in this part of the country. However, violence resulting from these activities is very rare, and it's uncommon for tourists and visitors to be involved, whether or not there's violence.
Basilicata, Molise and inner Campania are considered by statistics to be the safest districts of Southern Italy.
- See also: Italy#Respect
Generally speaking, Southern Italy also has a much more traditional feel compared to the more progressive north. This can be seen in everything from the slower pace of life to the more traditional cuisine.
Church attendance in the South is quite high. As obvious as it may sound, always behave respectfully when entering places of worship and try to avoid speaking about religion in a negative manner or from a secular point of view.
The concept of family is taken a bit more seriously in Southern Italy. Be mindful of that while you’re there.
Avoid joking about or discussing the Mafia; it's a rather sensitive issue in the South and probably a lot of people are well-aware of how they are often stereotyped as "mobsters" or "gangsters" in popular culture. If this is in your repertoire of jokes, keep it to yourself; it is very rude to perpetuate such stereotypes.
The North and South divide issue can be a touchy, emotive, and highly polarising subject to discuss. Southern Italians in general feel that the region is often overlooked.