Top 5 Southern Italy

While everything south of Rome is generally considered southern Italy, exactly where ‘the south’ starts depends on who you ask. The wife of a Calabrian once told me her husband ‘wasn’t southern’. Well of course not, there’s still all of Sicily further south than Calabria, right?

Matera - Southern Italy (regional guide)

Yet to a Florentine, Rome is in the south, and to a Milanese ‘the south’ may well start at the Lombardy-Emilia border! I love southern Italy for its laid-back hospitality; pasta at almost every meal; wealth of simple vegetable dishes; sun-ripened fruits; generous use of robust olive oil, chilli and garlic; and the way people take time to share the enjoyment of ‘le piccole cose’ (the little things) because, at the end of the day, that’s what makes life worth living.
Here are five of the things I love most about southern Italy.

Hotel Sant Angelo Restaurant Matera - Southern Italy (regional guide)

Stay Hotel Sant’Angelo (Basilicata)
A night in this cave hotel in the World Heritage-listed city of Matera is a bucket-list experience; it’s located in the heart of the historic centre (pictured above), where ancient churches and modern restaurants are all carved out of the soft tufa. Ask for a room with a view of the church and enjoy the local fare in the hotel’s cave restaurant, where I first tasted the bread salad in the video below.

Ristorante da Ciccio - Spaghetti Vongole Amalfi - Southern Italy (regional guide)

Eat Ristorante da Ciccio (Campania)
Perched on a cliff edge just north of the town of Amalfi, this family-run trattoria sources much of its produce from the family farm in Scala, high above the coast that provides their daily seafood. Spaghetti vongole cooked ‘al cartoccio’ and served tableside is worth it for the theatre alone. And they offer a taxi service to and from local hotels.

Carlo Noro Winery Lazio - Southern Italy (regional guide)

Drink Carlo Noro Winery (Lazio)
This unique winery about 50km from Rome only just qualifies as southern I guess. Carlo Noro is one of Europe’s leading exponents of biodynamics and his 5-hectare farm south-east of Rome is a hub of natural winemaking, biodynamic farming and training for those who want to know more about organic-dynamic agriculture. His wines are delicious too!

Catania Fish Market Sicily - Southern Italy (regional guide)

Shop Catania Market (Sicily)
The food market in the old city of Catania at the base of Mt Etna is a huge warren of streets, stalls, carts, smells and noise, more reminiscent of an Arabic souk than any other Italian food market I’ve seen. The fish market is full of weird and wonderful sea creatures and the graphic displays by the offal butchers are not for the feint-hearted or vegetarian.

Pompei Take Away Campania - Southern Italy (regional guide)
History Pompeii (Campania) While southern Italy is scattered with ancient ruins, there’s none more impressive than the locked-in-time city of Pompeii south-east of Naples. Engulfed by lava and ash when the top blew off Mount Vesuvius in 79AD, a two-thousand-year-old takeaway shop stands just as it did on that fateful day. A ‘beware of the dog’ mosaic graces the entrance to a villa and the brothel district is better seen than described. Get a guide, it’s worth it.

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