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Road Tripping in the Deep South of Italy: Popular Tourist Destinations and How to See Them

Updated: 3 days ago

The deep south of Italy is a beautiful and underrated region that is definitely worth exploring. This area is home to some of the country's most authentically beautiful villages, and gorgeous coastal towns. In this blog post, we will tell you how to see these amazing places and provide tips on where to stay and what to eat. So pack your bags and get ready for an adventure!


The best time of year to visit the deep south of Italy

The best time of year to visit the deep south of Italy is during the spring or fall season. The weather in each season is mild with average temperatures ranging from 18-25 degrees Celsius (64-77 degrees Fahrenheit). Additionally, both seasons offer plenty of sunny days with clear skies. However, if you're looking for fewer tourists and cheaper prices, then visiting during the fall might be a better option.


Winters in Southern Italy tend to be mild, with average high temperatures of around 50° F (10° C). However, cold snaps can and do occur, bringing much colder weather at times. As winters tend to be damp, even if not exceptionally cold, many visitors stay away. However, if you'd like to stick to a lower budget and don't mind cooler weather, mid-winter can be a great time to travel to Southern Italy.


Many major sights and attractions operate shorter winter-time business hours, so plan ahead if you want to fit a lot of sightseeing into your days.


Christmas and New Year's are celebrated throughout the country. While winter is generally the off-season, visitors flock to popular places during this holiday period. Italians also celebrate a number of other religious holidays during this period, including the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, Santa Lucia Day, Saint Stephen's Day, Epiphany, and other saints' days.


How to get to the deep south of Italy

The best way to get to the deep south of Italy is by car. This region is easily accessible by taking the A14 motorway, which runs from Bologna all the way down to Bari. Once you reach Bari, you will have to take the SS16 highway in order to continue your journey south. Another great option is flying into Naples and then renting a car for the remainder of your trip.


Road Tripping in the Deep South of Italy: The Ultimate Road Trip Itinerary


Bari, Italy

Bari is the capital of Puglia and the largest city in southern Italy. It's the perfect place to start on your trip. This vibrant city is home to some of the best architecture in Italy, with baroque buildings and churches lining the streets. Bari is also known for its artisanal products, such as leather goods, and is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir.


Bari is divided into four urban centers, each of which includes a distinct piece of the city's history. The northern region consists of the ancient city with Basilica di San Nicola (1035–1171), Cathedral di San Sabino (1035–1171) and Swabian Castle built for Frederick II. To the south is the Murat shopping district, which comprises a seaside walkway with views of Bari's harbor.


Bari's main tourist attractions includes; Basilica of Saint Nicholas, Bari Cathedral, Petruzzelli Theatre, Swabian Castle, Pinacoteca Provinciale di Bari, Barivecchia, The Russian Church and many more.


Trani, Italy

Trani, interestingly, is well-known for its Jewish heritage, having historically been inhabited by many Jews. The city was particularly known for its large Jewish communities in Southern Italy during the 12th century and forward.


Trani was home to a number of renowned rabbis, and many people are familiar with their names. Trani has several well-known synagogues. The Scolanova Synagogue is one of them, and it is still in use today.


Known more for its history than anything else, Trani still has gained a reputation for having great figs, almonds, olive oil, and Moscato di Trani.


Vietri sul Mare, Italy

Vietri sul Mare is a small town located in the province of Salerno, Campania. It's best known for its ceramics, which are on display throughout the town in shops and restaurants.

The town was founded in the 14th century and quickly became known for its pottery production. The ceramic industry here continues to thrive to this day, with a number of well-known brands calling Vietri sul Mare home.


In addition to its ceramics industry, the town is also known for its beautiful coastline. The crystal-clear waters and stunning views make it a popular destination for tourists.

Vietri sul Mare is also home to a number of festivals throughout the year, including a jazz festival in July and a wine festival in October.


The town's main attractions include; Ceramics Museum, Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, Villa Comunale, Marina di Vietri sul Mare, Amalfi Coast and many more.


Paestum, Italy

Paestum is a small town located in the province of Salerno, Campania. It's best known for its ancient Greek temples, which are some of the most well-preserved in all of Italy.


The town was founded in the late seventh century BC by Greeks from Sybaris. The name Paestum comes from the Greek word "Pessa", which means sandy. This is in reference to the town's location on the coast, where sand drifts up onto the streets from the nearby beaches.

Paestum quickly became a prosperous city and was home to a large number of temples. The most well-known are the Temple of Hera, Temple of Apollo, and Temple of Ceres. The temples were originally built in the sixth century BC, but have been restored a number of times over the years. Make sure you check out the Paestum Archaeological Park.


Paestum is also known for its beautiful beaches, which make it a popular destination for tourists.



Castelmezzano, Italy

Castelmezzano is a small town located in the province of Potenza, Basilicata. It's best known for its unique rock formations, which have been carved over the years by wind and water.

The town was founded in the fifteenth century and quickly became known for its natural beauty. The rock formations can be found throughout the town and are a popular destination for tourists.


Castelmezzano is also home to a number of festivals throughout the year, including a jazz festival in July and a wine festival in October.


The town's main attractions include; Rock Carvings, The Castle, Piazza San Nicola, Church of Santa Maria Assunta, and many more.


Maratea

Next stop is Maratea, another small town located in the province of Potenza, Basilicata. It's best known for its beautiful beaches and stunning views.


The town was founded in the ninth century BC by the Greeks and quickly became known for its natural beauty. The main attraction is the coastline, which is dotted with a number of small towns and villages.


Maratea's beaches are breathtaking and each is unique. Some are sand, while others are black sand and yet others are tiny black pebbles. All have crystal clear water that has consistently been ranked among the cleanest in Europe, with the exception of some sandy areas where there isn't enough beach to go around. The seabed drops quickly meaning it gets deep (but extremely clear) quickly.


This makes it an ideal location for snorkelling and diving, as well as other water sports. All of the beaches in the summer months have official locations, as well as areas with sunbeds, umbrellas, showers, and bars. Fiumicello, Acquafredda, Marina di Maratea, and Castrocucco are some of the better populated beaches.


Tropea

Now you go South for a beautiful 3-4 hour road trip along the Tyrrhenian Sea to the gorgeous town of Tropea. Tropea is a dreamy town located in the province of Vibo Valentia, Calabria. It's best known for its stunningly clear water and lovely beaches.


This dreamlike mix of colorful structures, leafy groves, and imperial cliffs that makes up the tiny coastal town of Tropea is one of the most evocative in the world.


This gem of Calabria, in the southern Italian peninsula, beckons you into a fantasy with more than simply being an unusual destination. The sensation of escapism is immediate, with feet sinking into the fine sand on the beach, the Tyrrhenian sea in front, and this tremendous cliff behind. Tropea is an incredibly one-of-a-kind location that exists only in Italy, and which, despite its renown across national boundaries, has maintained its authenticity, similar to its core with a very Sicilian feel.


When they sample the extremely typical Nduja di Spilinga, which is eaten on a slice of bread, gourmet enthusiasts will be enthralled. There will be nothing better for the digestion than an invigorating walk to the magnificent monastery of Santa Maria dell'Isola, perched on a limestone peak. The view offered to you by this building, dating from the 7th century B.C., over Tropea will ensure you quickly forget all the steps you climbed to get there. This view is sure to make you want to go back and enjoy the turquoise waters of Tropea's beach; especially as there are so many water activity clubs where you can try your hand at kitesurfing or windsurfing. If you're looking for an unforgettable experience, why not rent a bike and go on a tour of the Calabrian countryside's many routes. Purists would want to head to Capo Vaticano, where they may explore its beautiful route and find a wild cove. The genuine sweet life!



Scilla, Italy

Scilla is the traditional site of the sea monster Scylla of Greek mythology. The town is located on the southern bank of the Strait of Messina, and it comprises two parts: the old city, where the town hall and the patronal saint's residence are located, and Marina di Scilla, a seaside neighborhood packed with tourists that is therefore filled with hotels and restaurants. Its beach is the first place in northern Italy where the ocean water is not cooled by the Strait draughts. The Ruffo Castle, a fortress built by the Dukes of Calabria overlooks the beach.



Metaponto

Today Metaponto is a hamlet of the village of Bernalda at Matera, with about 1000 inhabitants between the rivers Bradano and Basento. The village has an economy based on agriculture and tourism.


The coastal area, called "Metaponto Lido," is a popular resort with a wide selection of campsites and hotels near the beach, while the main town area of Metaponto is slightly inland, about 3 km from the coast.


Apart from the beach, the most notable tourist attraction is Metaponto's archaeological site, where excavation have revealed remnants of the ancient Greek settlement of Metaponto such as the Antiquarium, theatre, agora, and several temples dedicated to Athena, Apollo, Hera, Aphrodite and Demeter.


The majority of Metaponto's Doric temples were constructed between 570 BC and 530 BC. The temple of Aphrodite, which was erected in the Ionic style in 470 BC, is an outstanding example.


The so-called "Tavole Palatine" is a late sixth century Doric temple dedicated to Hera, erected on the Bradano River's right bank in an area where prehistoric ruins had been discovered.

In recognition of the Greek mathematician Pythagoras (570-495 BC) who spent time here in the final years of his life, this site at Metaponto is also known as the "School of Pythagoras."


Matera, Italy

Matera is a city and province in the region of Basilicata, in southern Italy. The town lies in a small canyon carved out by the Gravina di Matera, a tributary of the Bradano River.

The Sassi di Matera are cave dwellings dug into the rock itself, which date back to the Palaeolithic era. The Sassi are part of a larger limestone ridge, which was inhabited from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages.


The Ancient Greeks called Matera Oikopolis (City of Houses), since it was populated only by farmers and their families who lived in caves carved into the rock.


Matera has been inhabited continuously for about 9000 years, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.


The city has gained international fame for its ancient rock-cut architecture, which is unique to southern Italy and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.


Today, Matera is a popular tourist destination, and the Sassi di Matera are one of the tourist attractions of Basilicata.


The town is also known for its food, wine, and festivals.



Santa Cesarea Terme

Now drive down to the bottom of the "heel" of Italy to the commune, Santa Cesarea Terme. This small town is located on the Ionian Sea in the province of Lecce.


The natural surroundings and therapeutic climate has made Santa Cesarea Terme a popular tourist destination for centuries. The most notable attraction in the commune is the basilica dedicated to Saint Cesarea, which was built in the eleventh century.


The church houses an important relic, the head of Saint Cesarea. The town was also a favorite spot of the Roman poet Horace and the English writer D.H. Lawrence.


The beaches in Santa Cesarea Terme are well known for their clear water and therapeutic properties and are a popular destination for tourists who come to enjoy the sun and sea.


Santa Cesarea Terme Italy
Santa Cesarea Terme Italy

Otranto, Italy

Otranto is a beautiful town located on the eastern coast of the Italian Adriatic Coast near the very tip of the "heel" of Italy. With its charming medieval streets, stunning coastal views and delicious food, it's no wonder that this town is becoming such a popular tourist destination and the perfect place to start this ultimate road trip.


Otranto is well known for its vibrant nightlife, so be sure to enjoy a dinner in one of the town's many restaurants and bars. There are also plenty of things to see and do in Otranto, including a number of churches and historical buildings, as well as a nature reserve located just outside of town.



Galatina

Galatina is one of Puglia's lesser-known treasures. Just 20 kilometers south of beautiful Lecce, it shares many characteristics with its more well-known neighbor, not least its mostly baroque town center, which has been virtually unaltered over the centuries.


The town of Sancti Petri in Galatina, which was established in the 12th century, was originally called Sancti Petri Galatinensis, and it referred to Saint Peter's stopping here on his way from Antioch to Rome. It grew into a commercial center fairly rapidly and was passed down through the aristocracy.


The town of Galatina's historic center, with its ancient buildings and tranquil streets, provides an appealing sense of calm. There are also some decent restaurants, bars, and boutiques if you plan on spending a few hours there... which we recommend you do!



Lecce is a beautiful town located in the southern region of Puglia and is often referred to as "the Florence of the South". This vibrant city is home to some of the best architecture in Italy, with baroque buildings and churches lining the streets. Lecce is also known for its artisanal products, such as leather goods, and is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir.


Be sure to wander through the city's many narrow streets, stop for coffee in one of the quaint piazzas, and enjoy a meal in one of the excellent restaurants. Lecce is also home to some great nightlife, so make sure you save some time to enjoy a few drinks in one of the town's many bars.


Ostuni

Ostuni, known as "the white city", is a beautiful town located in the southern region of Puglia. This picturesque town is perched on top of a hill and is surrounded by olive groves and vineyards.


The winding streets and whitewashed houses of Ostuni make it one of the most photographed towns in Italy and a popular tourist destination. There are plenty of things to see and do in Ostuni, including churches, palaces, and museums, as well as restaurants and bars.


Be sure to enjoy the stunning views from the top of the town while enjoying an espresso. This is definitely one town you'll want to spend so time in.



Martina Franca, Italy

Martina Franca is a beautiful town located in the southern region of Puglia and is often referred to as "the pearl of the Taranto plain". The town is known for its baroque architecture, which can be seen in many of the buildings and churches that line the streets.


Martina Franca is also home to a number of excellent restaurants, bars, and boutiques, making it the perfect place to spend an afternoon or evening. The town is also home to some great cultural events, such as the "Opera dei Pupi" (Puppet Opera) festival.


Be sure to wander through the streets of this charming town and enjoy.


Locorotondo

The most appealing aspect of Locorotondo for tourists is its lack of obvious tourist attractions. This is a place to lose yourself in for a few hours. To depart the new town and enter the old, to stroll tiny streets, to sit in the sun and have an espresso, perhaps peruse one of the many lovely ateliers or dine outside at one of the impossibly cute side-streets restaurants , but mostly, just take pleasure in it.


This village, which sat on a hill, may well have been the most stunning of them all. Even if you come to Puglia for only a few hours, it should be sufficient reason enough to visit - even if it's just to see this wonderful place.


Alberobello

When you Google top places to visit southern Italy, you will invariably see an image of the traditional stone roofed 'trulli' homes of Alberobello. A trullo (plural, trulli) is a traditional Apulian dry stone hut with a conical roof. Trulli were generally constructed as temporary field shelters and storehouses or as permanent dwellings by small proprietors or agricultural labourers. In the town of Alberobello, in the province of Bari, whole districts contain dense concentrations of trulli.



Grotte di Castellana

The "Caves of Castellana," a vast subterranean system of karst caves located approximately 1.5 kilometers outside the city of Castellana Grotte, is a major tourist attraction and is commonly regarded as one of Italy's most beautiful and remarkable cave systems.


The caves extend for 3.348 meters total and reach a maximum depth of 122m below street level. Inside the cave system the temperature stays constantly around 16,5°C.


Le Grotte di Castellana Italy
Le Grotte di Castellana Italy

Polignano a Mare, perched on a 20-meter-high limestone cliff above the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic, truly does live up to its name and is quite literally ‘beyond sea'! This charming town is home to a number of interesting historical buildings, including a castle and cathedral, as well as some lovely beaches. It’s impossible to visit Polignano without admiring its cliff-hanging old town and the crystal-clear waters of the Adriatic Sea.


Be sure to take a walk through the narrow streets of the old town, enjoy a coffee in one of the many piazzas, and taste the local cuisine in one of the excellent restaurants. A little cliff jumping will test your daring side. According to legend, the limestone cliffs surrounding Cala Porto Bay are a great place to take a leap of faith because they're not one for the risk-averse!



Road Trip: deep south Italy

If you're looking for a road trip that will take you to some of the most beautiful and historic towns in southern Italy, then look no further than the deep south. This route will take you through Basilicata and Campania, two regions that are full of charm and history.


So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and get ready to explore the deep south of Italy. With its rolling hills, stunning coastline, and delicious food, you won’t be disappointed. And if you need some help deciding where to go or what to see, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to hear about your favorite place in this beautiful region of Italy.

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