Northern italy vs Southern Italy: When and where to go

If you just have a few days to visit Italy, you won’t probably have the time to explore its many artistic and historical beauties, nor its many different landscapes. For this reason, we suggest you some insights to plan your trip according to your preferences by choosing to privilege Northern or Southern Regions (or a mix of both!).

Where to go in Italy? Northern Italy or Southern Italy?

Let’s start with a short overview of Italian Regions!

Do you know them all?

Northern Regions of Italy

beautiful towns in Lake Como
Varenna, Lake Como
  • Valle D’Aosta – capital: Aosta – main tourist area: Mont Blanc
  • Piemonte – capital: Torino – main tourist area: Torino and the Langhe area
  • Lombardia – capital: Milano – main tourist area: Como Lake
  • Liguria – capital: Genova – main tourist area: Cinque Terre
  • Friuli Venezia Giulia – capital: Trieste – main tourist area: Alpes and Dolomites
  • Trentino Alto Adige – capital: Trento – main tourist area: Dolomites
  • Veneto – capital: Venezia – main tourist area: Venezia and Verona
  • Emilia Romagna – capital: Bologna – main tourist area: Rimini and other seaside resorts

Central Regions of Italy

San Gimignano, Tuscany

  • Toscana – capital: Firenze – main tourist area: Firenze
  • Marche -capital: Ancona – main tourist area: San Benedetto del Tronto and other seaside resorts
  • Umbria – capital: Perugia – main tourist area: Orvieto and Assisi
  • Lazio – capital: Roma – main tourist area: Roma

Southern Regions of Italy

Matera - Southern Italy itinerary
Matera
  • Abruzzo – capital: L’Aquila – main tourist area: seaside resorts and ski destinations
  • Molise – capital: Campobasso – main tourist area: Appennines
  • Basilicata – capital: Potenza – main tourist area: Matera
  • Campania – capital: Napoli – main tourist area: Napoli, Capri and Amalfi
  • Puglia – capital: Bari – main tourist area: Salento area
  • Calabria – capital: Catanzaro – main tourist area: seaside resorts

Italian Islands

Fontana Pretoria - one day in Palermo
Palermo Sicily 
  • Sicilia – capital: Palermo – main tourist area: Palermo, Taormina and Eolie islands
  • Sardegna – capital: Cagliari – main tourist area: seaside resorts

The best destinations to visit in Italy for each month of the year

January: skiing holiday in the North of Italy. The most popular ski resorts are located in Trentino Alto Adige and they are perfect for all kinds of winter sports.

Northern Italy Cities and Towns you must visit - Cortina
Cortina D’ Ampezzo, mountain peaks of Dolomites, Trentino Alto Adige region

February: a romantic St. Valentine in the Alps in the North of Italy. You can choose a ski resort or a picturesque mountain village in Valle D’Aosta, Piemonte, Lombardia or Friuli Venezia Giulia.

March: early spring is perfect to go sightseeing in the many small and picturesque towns of Central Italy, which are among the richest destinations in cultural and artistic heritage. Choose Toscana, but don’t limit your visit to Firenze: explore the surrounding hills with their villages and medieval towns and the beauty of the rural areas too.

Le Complexe du Duomo - visiter Florence en 2 jours
Le Complexe du Duomo in Florence

April: Easter holidays are a classical tourist period in Italy and locals often choose the main cities of arts: Venezia, Firenze, Roma, Torino, Napoli, Matera etc. It is the perfect time of the year for a trip like that, because you’ll find a sunny and mild climate in every Region of the Country.

May: the ideal period to discover the lakes in the North of Italy. Choose Piemonte, Lombardia, Veneto or Trentino Alto Adige.

June: a seaside holiday in June is way cheaper than a vacation in July or August, so now it’s the moment to explore some small villages along Italian coasts. For a quiet and relaxing holiday, choose Liguria, Marche or Lazio. Any coastal Region of Italy is a good choice in this period, but avoid the most popular and crowded destinations.

Atrabni – Amalfi Coast

July: this month is often synonymous of seaside vacations in the Southern Regions. Don’t miss Salento (the most popular area in Puglia), Sardegna or Eolie Islands (Sicilia).

August: in this month we have “Ferragosto” (August 15th), which is the moment every Italian is on holiday somewhere. Every tourist destination in Italy is really crowded during this period, especially the Southern ones, because many locals choose a seaside resort. You’ll also find plenty of tourists in the mountains, especially in the Alps or in the many National Parks in Northern and Central Italy.

September: in the Southern Regions is still summer, so you can go the beach and have a swim in Calabria, Puglia and Sicilia. Now any location is less crowded and cheaper.

Polignano a Mare, Bari Province, Apulia (Puglia) - Southern Italy itinerary
Polignano a Mare Apulia (Puglia)

October: the ideal period for visiting the historic towns of Sicilia (Palermo, Taormina, Agrigento and Siracusa). Sightseeing in the South is better during Autumn or early Spring, to avoid hot Summer weather.

November: in Autumn, any Region has its own gastronomic festivals. Some examples? Torrone Festival in Cremona (Lombardia), the Truffle Fair in Alba (Piemonte), Saint Martin celebrations in Veneto and Lombardia, the Wine Festival in Merano (Trentino) or the culinary festival of Lucca (Toscana). Choose a gastronomic tour of Italy!

Christmas market in Bolzano - winter in Italy
Christmas market in Bolzano

December: the month when the first ski vacations in the North of Italy take place, but also an occasion to discover Italian Christmas traditions, like the typical markets of Trentino Alto Adige (Merano and Bolzano) or Roma and Napoli. Another important tradition is “presepe” (the nativity scene), which is performed by actors (like in Abruzzo and Lazio) or is reproduced in creative and artistic ways (like in Liguria or Emilia Romagna).

Where to go in Italy if you enjoy shopping

Do you love shopping?

These are the best destinations for you:

famous Milan Cathedral - one day in Milan

  • Milano: the “Fashion City”. It is quite expensive and it is suitable for people searching for luxury and trendy shops.
  • Serravalle Scrivia (Alessandria – Piemonte): here you’ll find one of the largest Italian outlets. If you come here for a weekend of shopping, don’t forget to take a tour of the Monferrato area, to admire its hills and vineyards, especially in Autumn.
  • Fidenza (Parma – Emilia Romagna): the second most popular Italian outlet. Fidenza is a really nice town, rich in heritage and with a famous Romanic cathedral.
  • Firenze: here you can find many fancy shops, but also some affordable malls. Don’t forget to tour its markets and the artisanal shops.

For a shopping vacation, the best options are in the North of Italy, especially Piemonte, Lombardia and Emilia Romagna.

Where to go in Italy for Natural Landscapes

Italy has some amazing natural landscapes: mountains, hills, lakes, coasts and natural parks in almost any Region of the Country. Let’s see a few examples for each part of Italy!

North – famous for its mountains, lakes and river landscapes

Carezza Lake
  • Carezza Lake– Trentino Alto Adige: also called “Rainbow Lake” for its colors. It is located near Bolzano.
  • Cervia’s saline– Emilia Romagna: an historic saline and a beautiful natural landscape where you can watch flamingos and other rare birds.
  • Gran Paradiso National Park– Piemonte & Valle D’Aosta: it is famous worldwide for its sceneries and its many trails
  • River Po Delta Park – Veneto: it is located at the confluence of River Po and the sea. Here you can admire a unique landscape of lagoons, forests and wetlands.

Central Italy – ideal for trekking and hiking

Maremma
  • Maremma Nature Park – Toscana: walking or cycling here will let you admire the authentic Mediterranean ecosystem with its typical flora and fauna.
  • Sybilline Mountains – Marche: ideal for trekking lovers
  • Circeo Park – Lazio: a wild forest located on a steep cliff overlooking the sea.

South – for sea lovers in search of wild coasts and marine landscapes

Faraglioni Cliffs
  • Pollino National Park – Basilicata & Calabria: wild scenery and many trails to explore
  • Red Rocks of Arbatax – Sardegna: huge rocks of red porphyry that contrasts with the green water of this part of the sea.
  • Scala dei Turchi (Turkish Stairs) – Sicilia: a white cliff gently sloping into the sea forming a sort of natural staircase.
  • Capri’s Faraglioni – Campania: iconic rocks shooting up from the sea. They are a symbol of Southern Italy marine landscape.

Local Gastronomy around Italy

Italian gastronomy is famous worldwide and it is considered one of the best in the world. It is so varied and rich that it is impossible to make a summary, but it is quite safe to say that its base is the Mediterranean diet. Let’s see some examples of the most typical dishes for every part of Italy.

North

Northern cuisine is generally richer and caloric and it includes the gastronomic traditions of Emilia Romagna, often referred to as one of the best in Italy and abroad. In the North of Italy, the main ingredients are rice, meat and vegetables, other than pasta of course!

To taste:

  • Pesto – Liguria: pasta sauce made with basil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan cheese
  • Canederli – Trentino Aldo Adige: boiled dumplings
  • Baccalà alla Vicentina – Veneto: sotckfish
  • Brasato al Barolo – Piemonte: beef braised in Barolo wine
  • Tortellini – Emilia Romagna: stuffed pasta

Central Italy

Things to do in Tusvcany- Eat Bistecca alla Fiorentina
Bistecca alla Fiorentina

The typical cuisine is based on few and simple ingredients like pasta, vegetables, legumes and meat.

To taste:

  • Ribollita – Toscana: soup made with veggies, legumes and bread
  • Bistecca alla Fiorentina – Toscana: T-bone steak from Chianina cows
  • Olive all’Ascolana – Marche: stuffed and fried olives

South

Mainly pizza, pasta and ice cream. When you think of Italian cuisine in general, you’ll probably thinking of Southern one. It’s not entirely false, but there is more than that, for example the many fish recipes and the Arab contaminations, especially in Sicilia’s gastronomy (use of cous cous, oranges, aubergines and lentils).

To taste:

  • Pizza – Campania
  • Bread – Basilicata
  • Orecchiette alle cime di rapa – Puglia: pasta with turnip greens
  • Cannolo – Sicilia: pastry stuffed with ricotta

Enjoy your Italian vacation and plan a trip for each part of this beautiful Country!

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