Southern Italy Itinerary: Where to Go in Italy
Are you looking for a Southern Italy Itinerary of where to go in Italy? Read on! I’ll have 10 recommendations of what to see in Southern Italy, and what you can skip…
Traveling through Italy should be on everyone’s list – obviously! The food, the views, the food, the wine and the food – what else do you need? That being said, with so much to see and do, how do you decide where to start? Well, I decided to separate my trips into Northern and Southern Italy. I have yet to get back to the Northern adventures – but it’s coming, don’t you worry.
In the meantime, here is some advice on where to go in Italy!
1. Rome in a Day, Eating Every Step of the Way
When deciding where to go in Italy, Rome should, of course, be on your Southern Italy itinerary. It’s Rome! That being said, you really only need a day or two to get your fill…
I’m not a resort-ist, so mostly I used sites like agoda.com, Booking.com, and Airbnb.com for all our Italian accommodations. We left the airport, hopped on the train, and figured it’d be a piece of cake to find our first Bed & Breakfast.
HA! When we walked out from the train station, we would up in a circular park that had streets emptying out in every direction. We checked every street, walking back and forth, and of course, it was the very last one. Luckily, the owner was extremely nice and we got settled in quickly. We only had about half a day to explore all of Rome that we could, so we wasted no time. Our host provided us with a map that included all tourist stops, and with our map in hand, we set off.
We took a bus to begin our Rome self-tour at the Vatican but chose not to wait in the 2-mile long line to get in (it was Easter weekend). Instead we made our way over to St. Peter’s Basilica, across the St. Angelo Bridge, and continued to explore the streets of Rome. Do be careful of the tours because often, what they promise may not be what you think you’re going to get. As a lover of food, I stopped to eat as often as possible. First for the panini that seemed like a simple ham and cheese sandwich but was FAR from it (amazing!), and then on to the gelato and beyond.
As a lover of food, I stopped to eat as often as possible. First, for the panini that seemed like a simple ham and cheese sandwich but was FAR from it (amazing!), and then on to the gelato, and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on.
It was raining lightly on and off all day, but we didn’t mind. Rome is such an incredibly beautiful city with such charming architecture – but, for me, a day was more than enough. The crowds certainly leave something for an introvert like me to be desired, but you can’t go to Italy and not go to Rome. We walked by all the famous spots we could, and let me tell you – things look very deceiving in photos because they never show the masses of people in the streets and all around.
We finished the tour with the Colosseum and a pasta dinner down the street and then passed out by 10 pm, exhausted from a long flight and a long day.
2. Relaxation in Ercolano and Hike up Mount Vesuvius
On day 2 of our Southern Italy itinerary, we woke up early to catch our train to Naples. The host of our next Bed & Breakfast would be picking us up in Ercolano at the train station, but with the language barrier, we were nervous there would be a chance it might not work out. Luckily, they were there with no problem!
When we were researching where to go in Italy, we wanted a mix of culture and fun with a side of relaxation. For this part of the trip, we would be staying in a more secluded area in the mountains near Mount Vesuvius for 2 nights. The Bed & Breakfast Le Fumarole had a beautiful entrance with an incredible view of Naples and Ercolano, all the way to the north side of the Amalfi coast.
The bedrooms were fairly small, but I don’t go on vacation to sit in my room so I was okay with that. There was a large patio area outside our room where we enjoyed some wine and a beautiful sunset both nights. Our hosts played taxi for us for a small fee while we were there, which was helpful in getting up to Mount Vesuvius. We got dropped off in a dirt parking lot for the Volcano trek, and from there you walk uphill the whole way (maybe 1.5 miles?) to the top. The best part is that at the top they serve more delicious panini
For the hike to Mount Vesuvius, we got dropped off in a dirt parking lot for the Volcano trek. From there you walk uphill the whole way (maybe 1.5 miles?) to the top. The best part is that at the top they serve more delicious panini sandwiches and limoncello! It’s not an easy stroll, but it’s a nice, wide dirt road that you can take at your own pace. The view is spectacular, and the volcano is pretty cool.
On day 3, our second day in Ercolano we decided to go horseback riding by a place that the B&B coordinated for us. Unfortunately, whether it was that they didn’t really know where it was or that it was Easter Sunday and nobody knew that they were closed, we ended up walking around aimlessly for about an hour before calling them to come pick us back up.
Overall, there’s not a whole lot to do in this area, but if you’re a couple looking to get away from things, this is a great spot away from the tourists. You’ll get tourists up at the Mount Vesuvius Volcano, but the area overall is nice and peaceful. Just make sure you make arrangements for dinner early enough because food options are limited! Our hosts didn’t speak English very well, but they did have Google Translate on their computer, and with my limited Italian, we were able to communicate well enough.
3. Spectacular Views from Rialto
Our next stop after Ercolano was the Amalfi Coast. The four of us loaded into a taxi to Salerno where we were dropped off our rental car office. Salerno is a fairly busy city, so there is a lot of traffic and shops everywhere. Since we would be spending the next few days exploring the Amalfi Coast, we decided that having a car (if you’re comfortable with driving on teeny tiny roads at high speeds) was our best option for transportation. After signing off on all the paperwork, we had our car and set off to find our next B&B in Vietri Sul Mar.
When researching where to go in Italy, we were definitely excited to explore the Amalfi coast but didn’t want to get stuck in the middle of tourist-town. Instead, we chose the town of Rialto. Rialto / Vietri Sul Mar is a very small and incredibly charming town right next to Salerno.
The B&B Il Melograno was by far my favorite accommodation of our Italy trip. It was a little difficult to find the address so we stopped in a small shop to ask for help, and it just so happened that the woman who owns the B&B with her husband was walking by right at that moment. We were so close! Her husband brought down a golf cart to drive our bags up, and we walked up the many, many stairs to meet them.
Disclaimer: this place is not for those who don’t do well with stairs. There are a good number of steps to make it up to the room from the road, but the views are well worth it. Our apartment was comfortable, minimally decorated, but we had a kitchen which was great! There was also a nice big patio outside where we got to enjoy meals.
Each day, the owners brought us food and treats from their garden: arugula, lemon mousse (omg yum!), fresh orange juice…it was all incredible. They were also very helpful with guiding us for things to do along the Amalfi Coast!
4. Delectable Dessert in Minori
One of the recommendations from our B&B owners was to stop in the small town of Minori on the Amalfi Coast to try their Lemon Delight dessert. Minori was on the way to Amalfi so we stopped as we were exploring the peninsula, and boy were they right about the lemon dessert! It was mousse-y and lemon-y and amazing. The town is right on the water, and there were a bunch of adorable old Italian men playing cards in the parking lot. You do need money for the parking meters, so make sure to have some coins handy!
The town of Minori is right on the water, and there were a bunch of adorable old Italian men playing cards in the parking lot. You do need money for the parking meters, so make sure to have some coins handy! There were a handful of restaurants to choose from, but otherwise, it’s a very small, charming town.
5. Lush Hills of Ravello
Let me tell you – if you’re looking for what to do in Italy, do not miss the chance to drive to Ravello. Wow. Seriously, wow.
To get to Ravello, you drive away from the coast for a bit, but the drive is incredibly breathtaking. It’s green and lush with houses set up and down the mind blowing hills. You follow a long winding road for a while and then you make a right turn towards the town (follow the signs, and the traffic).
The town of Ravello is old and charming, just like most of Italy. There’s not a whole lot to do once you’re there (plus it was raining for us) but there are shops and restaurants to spend time at. Definitely worth the little detour! The drive itself is enough to make me want to go back.
Another beautiful drive along the Amalfi Coast is to head to the north from Amalfi. The topography is completely different on the north side – it’s quite impressive! Most people I’ve spoken with spend their time on the south side of the island, but if you can cut through to the north, it’s far less touristy and well worth the time.
6. Amalfi Coast in a Kayak
Clearly I love adventure, so of course, we had to throw some of that into our travels through Southern Italy!
I had coordinated with Amalfi Kayak before we set off on our trip and they gave us a discount for booking ahead of time, which was awesome. We were running a little bit late that day and unfortunately had no working phone to let them know, but luckily they were pulling up to the coast in the kayaks just as we were walking up.
We set off on our Amalfi Coast Kayak adventure, each in individual kayaks, along the coast and got an amazing view that most don’t get from their stay on the coast. Totally different perspective. Our guides were very informative and told us stories about the Amalfi coast all along the way. Did you know that they are not allowed to build anything new on the Amalfi Coast and that every morning a helicopter flies along the coast taking pictures to make sure? Amazing. Conservation at its best!
We stopped at a beach along the Amalfi Coast that is covered in small, shiny rocks. The story is that the rocks came from buildings that were broken down that fell into the ocean and then got washed up on the shore. There was a cliff you could jump from, but the water was a bit too cold for me!
We finished the day in Amalfi walking through the shops in town and then enjoyed an absolutely delicious dinner on the water before driving back to Vietri Sul Mar and passing out, ready for our next adventure.
7. Picnic Lunch at the Top of Capri
I was told by a colleague that when deciding where to go in Italy, we should make sure Capri is on our Southern Italy itinerary, so off we went! We woke up early to drive back to Naples where we caught a ferry to the island of Capri.
Being from California, Capri very much reminded me of Catalina. Not a whole lot to do, incredibly touristy, and you’re stuck on an island. If I would have had the hindsight to cut this out of our trip, I probably would have, but unfortunately we didn’t know any better – but that’s just my preference. For most, it’s a great stop and a charming place to spend a casual day eating and shopping.
If you do spend the day in Capri, I highly recommend taking the chairlift up to the top of the island where they have a lookout. We managed to find a little trail off to the side away from the tourists and sat down to have a picnic – one of our favorite things to do. We pulled out the meats, breads and pastries that we had brought along with us, and opened a bottle of wine on the hillside. The view from the top of Capri was delightful!
Unfortunately we found out too late that we were trying to get back down to the ferry along with everyone else on the island, which made it very difficult to get transportation. By the time we got to the ferry, the ride we were scheduled for was full. So, we sat down to have some coffee until the next ferry, 1.5 hours away. After a very long day we made it back to Vietre Sul Mar and settled in for the evening.
8. Skip Naples
Before going to Italy we heard a lot of mixed reviews about Naples. “Ohhhh it’s so dirty and dangerous, don’t go there.” “But their pizza is great, you should at least go for that.”
On our last day in this area on our Southern Italy itinerary, we would be returning our rental car and heading to Naples for an overnight train to Sicily. We had the choice to either head to Naples early for our train to Sicily, or hang out on the Amalfi coast a bit longer…we opted for the latter. Being from New York City, I wasn’t so much worried about the crime. I’m used to it. But, knowing that Naples is another busy, dirty city – none of us really had any grand interest in exploring there. So, we went straight to the train station, found our train, and hung out there until it was time to leave.
So, we slept in late and took our time getting to Naples before heading straight to the train station. We were taking an overnight train from Naples to Sicily, which none of us had ever done before, and were excited to get on to our next adventure. The next one would be my favorite! We were all pretty tired and nothing really piqued our interest in Naples, so unfortunately no pics!
9. Horseback Riding and More Food in Sciacca
When deciding where to go in Italy, Sciacca, Sicily was pretty much my main motivator for going to Italy. My family is originally from this charming little town, so I build a Southern Italy itinerary around it!
We boarded the train from Naples and found our room which had 2 sets of bunk beds. There were chargers, which was nice, and after hanging around doing nothing, we were all pretty tired and just went to sleep. We settled in for some sleep and woke up pretty close to Palermo. I do remember briefly waking up to see that the train was being put on the ferry (pretty cool…), and then passed out again until we were almost at our destination.
After realizing we got off at the wrong stop and there were no car rental places nearby, we managed to find a taxi to take us to one not too far away. Before heading south from Palermo to Sciacca, we stopped in a coffee shop for some cafe and pastries. I had my first Sicilian cannoli and I was not disappointed!
The drive south to Sciacca was unexpectedly, and mind-blowingly beautiful. Lush, green, rolling hills and mountains all around. We hit some light rain which somehow only managed to make it that much more beautiful. Of course, we again had some trouble finding our B&B and precariously got lost up on some very small town roads, in the rain, on hills…but eventually found out that if we would have just gone right instead of left we would have been there. Whoops!
The B&B Conte Luna was old and charming on the outside, but modern and well kept on the inside. My friends and I decided to go our separate ways for a few hours – some wanted to go run, some wanted to nap…I wanted to explore on my own and really take it all in. It was everything I hoped it would be (did I mention Jon Bon Jovi’s family is also from Sciacca??). Not many tourists, and even fewer American tourists, make it down to Sciacca, so it seems to be well preserved.
The locals are very friendly – the man at the souvenir shop even excitedly gave me a free decorative plate of Sciacca when I told him my family was from there. That evening at the recommendation of our host, we enjoyed another incredible 4 course dinner at a small local restaurant. We woke up the next morning and set off for some horseback riding through Sicilian vineyards and down to the beach, which was amazing. I would definitely recommend stopping down this way. In my opinion, it epitomizes the essence of Italy.
In the list of where to go in Italy, I would definitely recommend stopping down this way and exploring the region of Agrigento. In my opinion, it epitomizes the essence of Italy and it’s far less touristy than so many other cities.
10. City Stop in Palermo
The last stop of our Southern Italy itinerary was Palermo. We had 2 nights here, but I wish we would have only done one and stayed in Sciacca an extra night. Palermo, while loaded with beautiful architecture, is your typical city, similar to Naples. Crowded, doesn’t feel super safe at night, and it’s fairly dirty in some areas.
I did have one of the most delicious dinners of all there, but overall it wasn’t incredibly exciting. Unfortunately, I also ended up sick the last day and spent most of it in bed, sunning on the patio, and walking around alone since my friends were still out exploring – overall just not the most exciting town.
The airbnb that we stayed at was very nice – loft bedroom upstairs, bedroom downstairs, living room, and kitchen. It was close enough to the center of Palermo to walk, but I wouldn’t recommend walking alone at night. There were some things to see at the dock, and plenty of stores for shopping in the center of town.
Most people I’ve spoken to who have been to Italy head towards the northern regions – Florence, Venice, etc. But, I think that more people should consider a Southern Italy itinerary when deciding where to go in Italy. There were so many places we didn’t get to go to – like the eastern side of the boot in the south and places between Sicily and Amalfi. But, overall, the trip was one for the books!
“Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience.” – Francis Bacon