A wonderful Southern Italy itinerary packed with UNESCO world heritage sites, stunning villages and beautiful coastal views! Easy to follow South of Italy road trip itinerary and recommended stops.
Southern Italy is one of the most beautiful yet underrated parts of the whole of Italy.
It is a land of shimmering sea and sandy beaches, of charming villages with unexpected architecture and cultural sites of worldwide fame.
However, it is a place still largely ignored by international tourism, that seems to stop around the area of Pompeii or flock to (stunning) Sicily.
We recently went on a road trip in the South of Italy and put a lot of research into its planning.
In this article, I share our best Southern Italy vacation itinerary, packed with the lessons learnt on the road!
Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
1 week South Italy itinerary at a glance
Day 1: Trani and Castel del Monte (from Naples or Bari)
Day 2: Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca
Day 3: Matera
Day 4: Matera
Day 5: Paestum and Amalfi Coast
Day 6: Amalfi Coast
Day 7: Amalfi coast – return to Rome
How many days to visit Southern Italy?
Southern Italy is a broad term to encompass the whole of the Italian boot South of Rome so it is not possible to give an exact idea duration for a trip there.
Depending on what you want to see, you can easily spend a month here but since this is often not an option for a vacation (I know it wasn’t an option for us!), I selected the places I feel will give you the best experience.
They span across three regions, specifically Puglia, Basilicata and Campania.
This suggested itinerary for Southern Italy can be followed in as little as 4 days (if you don’t stop overnight between Matera and Rome, a 6h drive) and has an ideal length of 7 days.
Use this article to plan your own trip to Italy, pin it for later!
Southern Italy best places to see map
How to get to Southern Italy
The easiest ways to get to the South of Italy are plane and car.
The main gateway airports to the area are:
Bari airport: located in Puglia, the heel of the Italian boot, Bari airport gets a reasonable number of flights from several European countries and it a good getaway for the whole area.
This is a wonderful starting point for this itinerary because, as well as convenient, Bari is incredibly beautiful! You can find idea on things to see in Bari here and you will quickly see what I mean and why you should visit.
Brindisi airport – Located in Puglia again, Brindisi gets flights from other Italian cities and some European locations (mostly Ryanair). Please be advised that especially from some cities, these flights are seasonal.
Naples international airport – Naples has a well-served international airport that puts you in a good position to drive both to the South of Italy or towards Rome.
You can follow this itinerary from any of these airports.
The best way to get around Southern Italy
The best way to travel around the southern regions of Italy is by car.
Unlike the rest of the country, the South of Italy does not have a good train network and having access to a private vehicle is paramount.
You can rent a car in any of the airports mentioned above and my provider of choice is Avis Car Rental.
If you cannot drive, local buses serve most locations but the distances are long and the journey time will eat significantly into your time in the area.
You may have heard that driving in Italy is hard but please, do not let this discourage you! Indeed driving here is very different from what you may be used to back home but you can do it, if you know what to expect. You can find my tips for driving in Italy here.
Suggested itinerary for Southern Italy 7 days
This is my recommended itinerary for a self-drive trip to the South of Italy.
Day 1: Trani and Castel Del Monte
Our first stop for this Italian vacation was the lovely village of Trani, in Puglia.
This is a small and charming town on the Puglia/Apulian coast, on the Adriatic sea, the part of the Mediterranean that laps the shores of the East of Italy.
It is in the Bari area so it is easy to reach and a wonderful base to discover the area for a couple of days.
The star of the show here is the town duomo (church).
It sits right on the seafront and it is a vision of picture-perfect Mediterranean splendor, made of light-colored stone and shimmering sea!
Trani is well served with accommodation and restaurants and a pleasant stop for one or two nights.
I recommend spending 2 nights here to be able to enjoy this slow-paced town but also drive and visit nearby Castel del Monte.
Castel del Monte is a castle and citadel perched on a hill in the Trani / Bari/Andria area and it is worth a visit.
Dating back to the 13th century, it is now UNESCO world heritage site for it unique architecture dating back to the time of Emperor Federico II (Frederick the second).
For Trani and Castel del Monte I allocated two days to give you time to settle after arrival.
If you are short on time, you can visit each in half a day.
In Trani, you can stay at the wonderful Mare Resort for the night/s: their terrace restaurant is wonderful or you can drive to Alberobello and spend the night there (recommended)
Day 2: Alberobello, Locorotondo, Martina Franca
Our second stop is the charming city of Alberobello, a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the most photographed places in the whole of Italy due to its peculiar houses, ‘i trulli‘!
Alberobello is gorgeous and indeed unique: the trulli are round, whitewashed buildings with pointy roofs that are unique to this area and that give the town a wonderful fairy-tale village.
Originally poor dwellings, the trulli have now largely been refurbished and many have been turned into beautiful accommodation (we slept in one and loved it, you will find my recommendation below!)
Alberobello deserves a morning and is a good base to discover the area however, it is very touristy which is why we felt overall one night was enough.
Considering the affluence of large bus tours and what there is to see in Alberobello, I recommend you arrive in the late afternoon, spend the evening here (lovely and quiet) and explore early the morning after.
Leave before 11am/lunchtime, when mass tourism is at its peak.
After your morning in Alberobello, I recommend heading for lunch to the lovely town of Locorotondo, ten minutes drive away, and then take an extra stop in Martina Franca for an afternoon art-filled stroll before heading to Matera.
These are lovely and lesser-known places in Italy, full of charm.
In Alberobello, stay in the fabulous Trulli Anti Charme & Relax, simply wonderful (old trullo now converted into a stunning apartment)!
Day 3 and 4: Matera
Matera is less than two hours away from Alberobello but it is a world apart from anything else you have ever seen!
Located in Basilicata, a region both Italy and tourism seem to have forgotten for centuries have forgotten, Matera was nominated capital of culture for 2019 and is also Unesco World Heritage site.
The city deserved both nominations as it is truly stunning and unique.
It is entirely carved out of a mountain and its a maze of meandering alleyways, stunning churches and expansive views
The city is one of the oldest in the world, along Jericho and Aleppo, and is famous for troglodyte dwellings, rock churches and for being continuously inhabited since prehistoric times!
Nowadays, Matera is well suited to welcome tourists and is clean and rich with restaurants, hotels and wine bars where you can taste the delicious local food.
This is quite a contrast with the peculiar and hard history of its cave dwellings but the result is intoxicating and wonderful.
It is a place like no other and one that deserves at least two nights.
In Matera, stay at the perfectly located Casa del Sole apartments
Day 5 Paestum and Amalfi Coast
After Matera, our southern Italy itinerary turns back north and brings us to the third region we visited: Campania.
Campania is often and rightly mentioned for world-famous sites such as Pompeii, Herculaneum, the island of Capri and the Almalfi Coast but also has lesser knonw, amazing ones such as archaeological site of Paestum!
Paestum is a Greek settlement dating back to about 600 a.C that grew to be an important center in both Greek and then Roman times.
Nowadays, and is now a stunning archaeological site.
Here, beautiful temples lie on grassy fields and bear testimony of a grand past and a civilization usually only associated, in Italy, with the island of Sicily.
Paestum has some of the best preserved Greek temples in the world and is an absolute pleasure to visit.
You can reach it from Matera in about 3 hours and is well served with restaurants with lovely temples views.
You can easily spend a couple of hours here, letting the sun caress your skin, the temples mesmerize your eyes and the delicious local food fill your belly!
After Paestum, you can take the short drive to the Amalfi Coast. The easiest place to reach from Paestum will be Vietri, which is lovely or you can get a local ferry to almost any locality of your choice.
You can find our recommendations for the best places to base yourself on the Amalfi Coast here.
Day 5 and 6: Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi coast is an area of great natural beauty and you could easily spend a full vacation just here and never get tired of it!
However, if you only have few days you can still have a wonderful experience.
We usually base ourselved in the small and charming town of Minori and use the local ferry service to explore the area: Amalfi, Ravello, Positano and Salerno are all must see but the whole of it is beautiful!
Day 7: return to Rome or Naples
On day 7 you are likey to have to make your way back to a main center but you can still inlcude some cool stops.
Places you could see today are:
Pompeii or Herculaneum – Both within easy reach of this area.
Reggia di Caserta – a stunning castle, with Italian style gardens and priceless art
Cassino – famous for the Cassino Abbey (stunning) and for being the location of the Cassino battle in the II world war, Cassino is the perfect stop on your way to Rome for both location, cultural significance and visual impact.
Sperlonga – A lovely whitewashed village along the Tyrrhenian coast, Sperlonga is the perfect stop for a beach-side meal or a picture-perfect stop along the coast.
Gaeta – The small town of Gaeta packs a punch in terms of location and charm and with a wondergul sandy beach for a relaxing day
And of course Rome, which you won’t be able to see in half a day can be a wonderful city to explore if you have a few more days in Italy.
If you are unsure about how many night to spend in Rome and how to plan your time there, have a look at our full Rome vacation planning guide here or get in touch. I would be delighted to help!
I hope you enjoyed this Southern Italy itinerary and it gave you ideas of great places to add to your Italy bucket list.