While the major art cities of the north of Italy can be busy all year round, many visitors tend to overlook what the south of the country has to offer. Packing just as big a punch in terms of natural landscape, historical sites, and delicious food, the south of Italy is the place to sample vibrant culture and to get under the skin of the country’s most characteristic region. The distances involved make it perfectly possible to combine several cities on a road trip of the south of Italy, made even more comfortable with your own private English-speaking driver.
The third biggest city in Italy, Naples has a breathtaking position unlike any other and it’s not hard to understand how the expression “see Naples and die” came about. Sandwiched between the looming presence of the volcano Vesuvius and the stunning bay, complete with its islands, the city of Naples has plenty to offer. Go off the beaten track to explore on a food tour of the back streets and sample the best pizza you will have ever tasted. Explore the city’s hidden artistic gems such as the Capella di San Severo and the Pio Monte della Misericordia, with Caravaggio’s famous altarpiece. Don’t miss the huge Royal Palace in Caserta, just outside the city and allow your guide to tell you all about the history of the largest palace built in Europe during the 18th century. Finally, explore the bay with a full day private motorboat tour to the beautiful and exclusive island of Capri, which boasts some of Europe’s most spectacular views.
Matera is an immediately recognizable city built into a rocky outcrop in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. It is well known for its cave dwellings, or sassi, built into the mountainside, many of which have been turned into atmospheric luxury hotels and craft workshops. Despite its romantic present, this UNESCO World Heritage site hides a more tragic past: these cave dwellings were inhabited by poor families living in squalid conditions until as recently as the 1950s. The city is easy to explore on foot with a guide, who will introduce you to its tiny cave churches and most picturesque corners. If any of it looks familiar, it may well be because Matera was one of the filming locations for the iconic James Bond car chase in No Time to Die in 2019.
Often referred to as the Florence of the south due to its incredible baroque architecture and historical sites, the city of Lecce is an unmissable stop on any tour of southern Italy. Located in the Salento region right down in the heel of Italy’s boot, it is famed for the beautiful and harmonious cream-colored stone used to construct most of its buildings. Take a walking tour through its spider’s web of streets to visit incredible sights such as the Piazza del Duomo and Basilica di Santa Croce before sampling local coffee made with almond milk and typical sweet pasticciotto cakes. Marvel at the Roman amphitheater built in the late 2nd century BC and finish your stay with a visit to a papier-mâché workshop to learn about this craft that has been typical of the Puglia region since the 17th century.
Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast
Not really a city as such, Sorrento is the gateway to the Amalfi Coast. This enchanting stretch of coastline has been captivating visitors since the days of the ancient Romans. Busy at certain times of the year, it is still possible to avoid the crowds by opting for lesser-known hidden gems like Ravello, with its lush gardens and historical villas such as the Villa Cimbrone and Villa Rufolo. Enjoy lunch as you soak up the town’s unrivalled views along the coast before letting your private driver take you to a limoncello tasting at a traditional farm to round off your meal. Finish your day with a stroll through Positano for a gelato or aperitivo on the sea front.