Map of Italy Regions best regions to travel to

Best Regions To Visit in Italy – North vs South

Italy in 2024 – best regions to visit: quick points

Wondering what are the best regions to visit in Italy?

  • You should choose the regions in the North of Italy if you are looking for big trendy cities like Milan, and Genoa, shopping, beautiful (and stylish) lake areas, skiing, mountains, wine tasting, theme parks and, of course, Venice.
  • You are better off going to the South of Italy where you will find the best regions to visit if you are looking for amazing beaches and coastlines, traditional architecture, an authentic, laid-back Italian atmosphere and lots of sunshine.

How to decide what is the best region for you to visit in Italy -the North vs South dilemma

Sure, when it comes to visiting Italy, you would like to see it all. And you probably would see it all, if you had unlimited time and money, wouldn’t you? Hell, you would maybe even move to Italy for a change!

Still, you are here trying to decide which bit to experience for your next vacation. As an Italy-loving family made of one Italian speaking, Italian-culture-loving mother, two pizza, pasta and gelato addicted kids and one “let’s fly and drive and go to Italy tomorrow” dad, we get you. So, let’s try to make it a bit easier for you to choose.

While Italy is not a huge country by, let’s say, US standards, it is however large and diverse enough that you can roughly look at it from a North vs South perspective. This approach is not perfect, but I think it can help you get a general idea, especially if you are new to Italy. One thing I will say from the start is I have intentionally left Tuscany, Umbria, Marche and the Rome region of of this north/south divide. We will grant this “center” region a much deserved separate discussion.

Italy – best regions to visit in the north

The north is Italy’s more industrialized area. Public transport and rail connections tend to be well set up, Milan (Milano in Italian) is a huge urban center and flights hub. In terms of weather, it is not as hot during the summer, and it generally rains more than in the south, as the Alps are influencing the region’s climate. Food has its specificity, too, especially in the mountain areas close to Austria and Switzerland, where the local diet is richer in meat dishes and higher in fat than its southern, more “Mediterranean” counterpart. To our surprise, we found that even the cheeses they put on pizza are quite different from the ones used in the south (but I guess this is a matter of taste and personal preference).

So, here’s why you’ll love the north of Italy:

Mountains, trekking and skiing – the entire northern part of Italy, from East to West, is full of opportunities for outdoor adventures. There is The Dolomites range, on the northeast, with their unique look and feel and renowned ski-resorts like Cortina d’Ampezzo. To the northwest, on the border with Switzerland and France, the Aosta Valley allows you to ski and trek close to Europe’s highest peaks – Mont Blanc and the Monte Rosa. In between, amazing adventures await for you on the slopes of Madonna di Campiglio and all around the area.

Lake Garda Beautiful Region North Italy
Shores of Lake Garda, by

Stylish lakes of the north – head to the lakes area (lago is lake in Italian), with its famous Lago Maggiore, Lago di Lugano, Lago di Garda and, of course, Lago di Como, preferred by the rich and famous. While you may not necessarily go shopping for expensive real estate in the area, you can certainly enjoy the vibe and visit the many beautiful villages on the shores.

Milano, the “capital” of the north – a true metropolis, the financial capital of Italy Milano is full of life and busy. if you want to enjoy the vibe of a big European city, you are at the right place. Fashion and shopping, high-end restaurants, art and history are all there waiting for you. Make sure to visit the Duomo di Milano (the Milan Cathedral, one of the largest in Europe). Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” is there for you to see in the church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie, if only you can manage to book your spot on the tour very early in advance.

Venice – we’re not going to tell you why you should go visit Venice, so just go do it! It is certainly worth the experience, but expect big crowds if you go during the summer. We even tried the gondola ride (twice, by special request from the kids) and here’s a tip: the narrower canals make for a more fun and interesting experience than the Canal Grande. Oh, and starting with 2024, every day tripper entering Venice during certain days and hours, has to pay a 5 Euro fee. Just so you know.

Manarola Cinque Terre best region to visit north Italy
Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy ©

Genova and the Cinque Terre – one of our favorites on this list, Genova is set opposite Venice on the map of the Italian north, close(r) to the border with France. Once one of the most powerful states ruling the seas in the 1500s, Genova remains a stunning port city with architecture and atmosphere we bet you’ll enjoy. Just 1h30′ away by car or train, you can reach the world famous villages of the Cinque Terre region, and witness the beauty of colorful houses built on the rocks right by the seaside.

Italy – why go to the south and where

Ah, the south of Italy…! Sunshine, and beaches, and charming little towns with white houses and small piazzas, the best pizza in the world, wine and fresh olives, amazing coastlines and thousands of years of history! The trains and busses may not always come in time, especially in the more rural areas, the summer sun can be unforgiving and there’s no mountain close by to ski on. But we guarantee you will be close to the authentic, slower living of the Italian dolce vita – the sweet life of enjoying the little things.

We include here the islands of Sardinia (Sardegna in Italian) and Sicily (Sicilia in Italian) as well. They are both “southern” in spirit and geography (we will not go into great detail about them now)

So, here are a few reasons why the best regions to visit in Italy are in the south:

Beaches and the sea – the south of Italy has some of the most beautiful beaches out there. Puglia, Calabria, Sicily and Sardinia are all a beach lover’s paradise. We have been on all kinds of beaches in the south of Italy. Sandy beaches and rocky beaches. Small beaches in secluded little bays and also on uninterrupted wide stretches of sand as far as the eye can see. Family beaches and lovers’ beaches. Beaches that you only reach by walking through pine forests for one hour. And beaches that you park your car right next to.

Regions with best beaches Italy
Beach in Sardinia – all photos ©
Sicily best region to visit south Italy
Sicily beach
Puglia best region to visit south Italy
On a beach in Puglia

Stunning towns and villages on or near the coast – here’s some of them, with pictures we took ourselves:

  • Sorento, Amalfi, Positano, Praiano, Ravello (Amalfi Coast)
  • Ostuni, Alberobello, Locorotondo, Polignano a Mare (Puglia)
  • Tropea (Calabria coast)
  • Matera (Basilicata region) – not by the sea, but definitely worth it!

Naples (Campania region) – city with unique history and vibrant life. The birthplace of pizza and the ideal starting point for visiting the Amalfi Coast. Take a trip from Naples to Mount Vesuvius and see the remains of the ancient roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, destroyed by the powerful eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

Mount Etna (active volcano) and Taormina (Sicily) – this is worth mentioning here, although there are many other places in Sicily that should definitely be on your list. We have not seen Etna spitting lava, but we have seen it sending out big waves of hot smoke. It was quite a sight! Taormina is lovely and stylish, and getting down to the beach at Isola Bella to watch the sunrise and grab a coffee is one good idea!

To sum it up – what is the best region to visit in Italy?

Well, there can be only one answer to that question – the one you choose yourself! For us, the debate is still ongoing 🙂 as we had lots of fun and wonderful experiences in all the places that we visited in Italy (let me just confess that I am more of a south guy myself, but at the family level it’s still not decided yet).

How about you? What do you think is the best region to visit in Italy? Drop us a comment below and let us know!

Hugs from the four of us!

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