Many resort towns line the Mediterranean coast of Italy. Despite sharing several things in common — jaw-dropping views, and intricately designed cathedrals — each possesses its own character. The choice of places to visit in southern Italy may seem endless, so I’ve carefully selected the 8 best for you:
Italy by the Sea
1) Amalfi Coast
Nestled between steep cliffs and the Mediterranean Sea is Amalfi. Its pebbled beach is a favourite summer destination for locals, but that isn’t the town’s only draw. Amalfi boasts a mosaic-covered Byzantine cathedral with thousand-year-old brass doors and a hidden cloister dubbed the “Cloister of Paradise”. Mills at the top of town bring water down, where centuries-renowned workshops produce high-quality handmade paper.
From Napoli Centrale, board the Trenitalia train for Vietri sul Mare station. Take a bus to Amalfi and other cities in the province. There are also buses and ferries running from Salerno to Amalfi.
The verdant town of Ravello is perched on the hills above Amalfi, boasting sweeping views of the Mediterranean Sea below. There are plenty of interesting cultural tidbits to keep an eye out for while you’re in town, like the manicured gardens, the devotional chapels and votives on the city streets, the cathedral museum that houses Roman and medieval sculpture and art, and the Coral Museum of Ravello.
Villa Cimbrone offers accommodations in a lush 11th-century estate that played host to many famous personalities, including Gore Vidal, Winston Churchill, and Greta Garbo.
Ravello is a walkable distance from Amalfi. It’s recommended that you take the bus from Amalfi and walk back down to enjoy the seaside view.
A fashionable retreat on the cliffs of Monti Lattari, Positano is one of the top places to visit in southern Italy. High on your to-do list in this Italian resort town should be enjoying its sunshine-filled beaches, feasting on seafood by the Mediterranean Sea, and admiring the spectacular majolica dome of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta.
If you’re in the mood for luxury, visit one of the many high-end fashion boutiques in Positano, or charter a private motor-boat for a tour to the nearby island of Capri.
A Circumsvesuvania train ride from Naples to Sorrento takes just a little more than an hour. From the Sorrento train station, there are buses that will take you to Positano. In the summer, you can also take the ferry from Molo Concordia or Molo Manfredi in Salerno.
Chaos and charm collide in Italy’s third-largest city, Naples. It prides itself in heritage sites and historical institutions, including two royal palaces, ancient Greek and Roman ruins, three castles, a church built in the 4th century, and the world’s oldest surviving opera house. Not only is Naples famous for its outdoor markets and small boutiques, but it’s also the birthplace of pizza, so be sure to grab a slice while you’re there.
Naples is home to the Capodichino International Airport. However, if flying isn’t your things, the fastest way to get from Rome to Naples is by the Alta Velocita trains. There are also slower trains that cost less if you’re on a budget.
It’s said that the eastern Sicilian town of Taormina attracted and captivated the literary elites Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, and Friedrich Nietzsche. It was also one of the filming locations for The Godfather films. Well-preserved Greek and Roman civilisation ruins are scattered atop a mountain ridge above the Mediterranean Sea. This Italian resort town is enveloped by powerful natural forces. Mount Etna, an active volcano, looms nearby, while the Isola Bella nature reserve is just south of Taormina. You can also take a refreshing dip in the sea just below the town.
Taormina is about an hour’s drive from the nearest airport – the Catania Fontanarossa International Airport. You can also catch the bus from the airport to Taormina.
Sicily’s cultural, economic and tourism market has over 2,700 years of history. Palermo’s geographical location and historical significance make it one of the top places to visit in southern Italy. Mountains form a cirque around the city, gorgeous Norman palaces, magnificent churches, busy street markets and several UNESCO World Heritage Sites add character to the seaside landscape.
Lovers of music and theatre should also make time to watch a performance at Italy’s biggest theatre, the Teatro Massimo, known for its perfect acoustics.
The national rail service Trenitalia runs throughout Sicily and the mainland. From elsewhere in Italy, it’s best to get to Palermo by plane. The Palermo International Airport is located on the west side of the city.
7) Polignano a Mare
Polignano a Mare deserves to be known as one of the best seaside cities in Italy. It’s a spectacular venue for cliff diving, sunbathing, and plain old sightseeing. Like many of the houses in Polignano a Mare which are carved into the cliff, Restaurant Grotta Palazzese is set dramatically in a natural cave commanding a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea.
Sei Stelle Mama Bed & Breakfast serves an ideal base to set out from as it’s located right at the heart of Polignano a Mare. Overlook the town’s rooftops while having breakfast in this charming B&B’s terrace.
If you’re arriving from Bari airport, a shuttle will take you to the Bari central train station. From there, take the train and you’ll be in Polignano a Mare in about 20 minutes.
Castelsardo’s principal tourist attraction is the Doria Castle, built some 900 years ago. The castle terrace overlooks the rocky seashore and offers an unparalleled perspective of the town’s narrow medieval alleyways and stone buildings. Regarding accommodations, hotels are below the historic upper citadel lies the newer part of town. Looking for an authentic handmade souvenir? Castelsardo specialises in basket weaving.
To get to Castelsardo, you either arrive at Olbia by air or by sea, or at Porto Torres from Alghero or Cagliari. The best way to get around in Sardinia is by car, but there are buses and trains that serve the island.