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Northern vs Southern Italy: Which is better to Explore?

by Lisa Stentvedt
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Italy, as a country, is a real gem for those seeking a leisurely Mediterranean holiday. It attracts and fascinates tourists from all corners of the world with its several outstanding sights and unique treasures to explore. Consisting of 20 regions, Italy is believed by many to be divided into southern and northern parts. That belief is the foundation of the Northern vs Southern Italy debate.

However, based on research results, it’s fair to say that most tourists who have visited Italy at least once look forward to when next they’ll be back again regardless of the part of Italy they visit. So let’s first point out that whether you visit Northern or Southern Italy; you’ll have a great time!

That’s because most passionate travelers find Italy to be an ideal variant either based on the itinerary created by themselves or a connoisseur of quality service by groups offering various all-inclusive vacation packages to Italy.

The open and highly contemplated question of which is better to travel to: southern Italy or northern Italy, remains unsolved. Although the country is not officially divided into the north or south, this question continues to hold sway because both parts of the country represent it from completely different angles.

That’s why we have decided to shed light on the southern Italy vs northern Italy debate.

We’ll give an insight into the subject matter in such a way that it’ll be easy for you to decide where next to visit in Italy.

By the end of this guide, you’ll know the difference between Southern Italy and Northern Italy, places to visit, and why you should visit these places. Consider it the only Northern vs Southern Italy guide you need!

northern vs southern italy

Northern vs Southern Italy: Cultural Differences

The pace of life in northern Italy is more immediate. Tourism thrives in this region, and it’s a cosmopolitan region. Northern Italy, which is everything above Rome, is the industrial workhorse; the area produces not less than 90% of the country’s export and has more wealth to offer than the southern region.

The northern Italy border has the likes of France, Austria, and Switzerland. Because of its closeness to the Swiss and the Alps, the Alpine culture positively influences north Italy’s culture while the Germanic and French language shape the local language. When you travel across the north of Italy, you’ll find people wearing German lederhosen as an indication of the Germanic influence.

The Southern Italy region, on the other hand, is more traditional. The sea heavily influences it because it has no land borders. Many say the area has similarities to Greece and Spain because the Mediterranean Sea also borders them. If you can negotiate in Spain and Greece, visiting the southern region would be greatly fun for you.

Northern Italy: 6 Places to Visit

The northern region includes some of the most popular places to visit in Italy. There are, for example, some incredible Italian castles to find in this region.

Here are some of the places worth visiting and gives value to the tourist as a visitor;

#1 Turin

Turin, with its industrial history, has beautiful colonnades and boulevards to offer visitors. The Shroud of Turin makes the city famous.

The Shroud of Turin is a contested religious artifact on display inside the Duomo di Torino. The city is the perfect winter break for people looking to enjoy the slopes in Italy’s northern region.  Bring one of these personal favorite minimalist travel backpacks along your trip. These will allow you to carry all your favorite travel gear while you hit the slopes or hike the mountains. 

#2 Trieste

Trieste is another city in the north of Italy and near the Alps. It is the birthplace of the aperitif well hidden on the border of Slovenia. The town has a port occupied or owned by Italians, Romans, Germans, etc.

Trieste is a jumble of various cultural influences noticeable in its galleries, architecture, and diversity in eateries, piazzas, and sandy beaches.

#3 Venice

Venice is a famous city and tourist destination in Italy with a lot of attractions. With its many hidden side streets, piazzas, cafes, local shops, and canals, you will need to take your time strolling if you want to capture the beauty of the city. In this city are museums with a treasure trove of history.

You may also want to see places like the Teatro La Fenice, an exquisite old theatre, St. Mark’s cathedral, Gallerie dell’Accademia, a sprawling art museum, or you go to see the colorful island of Burano.

Read more: guide to evenings in Venice.

venice, italy, northern italy or southern italy

#4 Verona

The city of Verona is another tourist hotspot in the north of Italy. Because it is famous for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet artwork, it is considered the hotspot for star-crossed lovers.

There are roman sites to explore with the city, such as the Arena di Verona amphitheater and other medieval buildings to admire. The Adige’s right bank is home to lively and cheap restaurants, bars, and a Roman archeological museum.

#5 Bologna

Bologna is a gorgeous medieval northern Italian city. The presence and steady flow of students kept the city of Bologna vibrant and a place to visit. The town has several food festivals such as the Eataly, which food lovers would find delighting. Its slew of food markets is where you can learn about its various cuisines. The city also has an excellent display of art, Italian film, and music, all of which you can find inside the Bologna’s museums and galleries.

#6 Milan

Milan is a cosmopolitan city. It lacks the typical characteristics of an Italian city such as the ochre buildings and cobbled streets that Italy is best known for; however, it offers a wealth of culture.

The city’s major sights include the incredibly detained Duomo, an area where you can climb to the rooftop, the majestic Sforza Castle, and a shopping center with designer stores and beautiful mosaics called the ornate Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The city’s canal area offers chic eateries, street art galore, vintage shops, and all-you-can-eat sushi plus bars where you can enjoy the city’s lively aperitif.

Southern Italy: 6 Places to Visit

Because the south doesn’t draw as much attention as its northern counterpart, the south of Italy has a whole host of gems yet discovered by many tourists.

Want to know why you should visit the south of Italy? Here is why;

#1 Naples

Naples is one of Italy’s large and populous cities, having historical sites like the San Gennaro Catacombs and Castle Nuovo. Close to Naples’s city are the legendary ruin of Herculaneum and Pompeii and the domineering Mount Vesuvius.

Want to see the Bay of Naples from above? Take the cable car up to the 1150m-high summit of Monte Faito. You might need to stay vigilant and revel in its edgy because the atmosphere is non-touristic. That’s why the city is often described as unsafe.

Don’t miss some of these tours starting in Naples (Pompeii is just a short drive away):

#2 Maratea

Maratea is one of south Italy’s top resort sites. The reason it attracts tourists is quite explicit. It’s positioned along the rocky and Mediterranean coast, has a medieval town and a ritzy harbor. Because of the number of visitors Maratea accommodates annually, you have to pre-plan your visit to the city a year or more in advance. Besides, Maratea is a seasonal city, and many of the areas are closed to visitors between October and March. However, when you’re able to visit the city, some of the things you’ll do include; sunbathing and watersports.

#3 Lecce

In the region of Puglia and the heel of Italy’s boot lies the charming city of Lecce. Wandering on the street of Lecce is perfect as you’ll discover its hidden, beautifully detailed buildings, hidden piazzas, and well-constructed church buildings like the baroque Santa Croce.

When you visit, join the local tradition of strolling down the evening passeggiata. Also, take a day trip to Gallipoli and Otranto, lovely seaside towns for more local flavors.

#4 Bari

This metropolitan city in southern Italy offers authentic Italian street food, elegant buildings, and an ancient old town. You’ll find Bari’s hidden archways and alleys as you meander around the city’s colorful district. Also, visit its archeological museum.

bari, italy

#5 Cantanzaro

Catanzaro’s city is another hidden gem in the south of Italy and a less affluent region. It is famous for its Biodiversity Park having extensions like a military museum, botanical garden, and a children’s playground. It’s also a beautiful place to find less known beaches.

#6 Palermo

Palermo is in Sicily, and some may not consider it a part of Northern Italy (as it is an island on its own). Still, it is more South than North, and so I have included it here. Head this way for a complete guide of things to do in Palermo.

Final Take: What’s Best Between Northern vs Southern Italy?

Deciding to visit Italy as your next holiday destination is a great choice. It’s normal to ask the general southern Italy vs northern Italy questions. However, it doesn’t matter where you go in Italy, you’re sure to have a good time. Even after segregating the regions, each one offers its own unique attraction.


Author Bio: Via Travelers is a modern travel blog providing the best tips, hacks, and itineraries to ensure you have an amazing adventure. Follow us on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter.

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