Last Updated on October 27, 2023 by Ingrid & Alex
Are you planning an Italy vacation and are not sure what to choose between North Italy and South Italy? Sure, it is still the same country, but there are so many differences you might want to look at in order to make the best decision.
More than 10 years ago I moved to Italy for my studies and ever since I went back almost every year on so many occasions. I couldn’t stop exploring and ticking things off of my bucket list. From the colorful villages in the North, to the cobbler stone streets in the South, and everything in between.
Because I’ve been to all these places, and because I have seen the differences first-hand, I am here to help you make the best decision. We will look at everything from transportation, accessibility, food, to attractions, accommodation, weather, and everything in between.
If you don’t have enough time on hands to see both the north and the south on a longer itinerary, this is your perfect guide for choosing the one for now: North Italy vs South Italy.
PS: I will consider the central part of Italy (Tuscany, Cinque Terre) and being part of the north.
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North Italy vs South Italy: which one to visit next?
Accessibility: how easy is it to get there?
With many of its major airports set in this region, I would say North Italy is a bit more accessible than Southern Italy.
There are so many flights to and from places like Venice or Milan, that you won’t find it hard to come here.
Even though there aren’t so many major cities in the southern part of Italy, you can still find ways to get there.
Flying into Rome could be one great option since the ancient capital is perfectly located in the middle of the peninsula. Other cities with great international connections are Naples, Bari, and Palermo in Sicily.
Getting around: how easy is it to travel around?
It is relatively easy to get around North Italy. Public transportation such as trains, buses, and trams are widely available and offer a convenient way to travel. The country’s extensive rail network means you can reach many cities in the north without having to switch modes of transport.
Additionally, there are domestic flights connecting major destinations in northern Italy such as Milan, Venice, Turin, and Genoa.
Also, once you arrive at your destination, most cities have local bus networks or bike-sharing services that make it easy to explore the area.
Whenever I traveled to the northern part of the country, I would always rely on public transportation and the well-kept railway system. Most cities are linked by trains and it is very easy to organize a northern Italy itinerary only by taking the train.
You should book your ticket ahead of time, especially when traveling in high season. Also, when taking the regional train you should not forget to validate your ticket before getting on.
If you plan to visit Southern Italy, getting around can be both exciting and challenging. From the ancient cobblestone streets of Rome to the winding roads of the Amalfi Coast, navigating your way through this beautiful region can be a bit intimidating. But with some preparation and knowledge, you’ll find that it’s easy to get around in Southern Italy.
Whether you choose to rent a car or use public transportation, there are many ways to explore the stunning cities and towns throughout this part of Italy.
While Rome, Naples, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast are easy to navigate by train and public transportation, other parts of southern Italy will require you to rent a car. The thought of driving around Puglia or in Sicily might scare you in the beginning, but it is not as hard as it seems, and it sure makes a big difference for your vacation.
Trust me, if I can do it, so can you!
Affordability: Which one is more affordable?
North Italy is generally quite affordable, especially compared to other parts of Europe. Accommodation costs are generally reasonable, with many budget-friendly options available for travelers on a tight budget.
Food and dining out can be expensive in some areas but generally very reasonably priced. Try to avoid eating at restaurants close to the major tourist attractions (such as Piazza San Marco in Venice) – the further away you are from popular destinations, the friendlier the prices will be.
Shopping for souvenirs or other goods can also be relatively affordable depending on where you shop and what you choose. Supermarkets, public markets, and small shops are available in any big or small city, and that’s where you will find authentic goods at the right price.
In general, North Italy is an affordable destination for travelers of all budgets, but it can be a bit pricier than South Italy.
Traveling to South Italy can be relatively affordable depending on your budget and where you choose to go.
There are many popular destinations that offer great value for money, such as Naples, Rome, and Sicily. Accommodation and food can be cheaper than in certain parts of the north.
However, many of the beautiful beaches and towns on the Amalfi Coast tend to be more expensive, but there are still ways to save money if you want to see the Amalfi Coast on a budget.
Beaches and coastline
The northern part of Italy is not necessarily known for its beautiful beaches and blue water. Most beaches (apart from the beach in Rimini, and a few others) are not sandy, and the water is deep at the shore.
That being said, in this area, you can find stunning rocky coves and rugged cliffs.
The northern coast is also popular for some of the most beautiful and colorful villages, such as Portofino or the Cinque Terre.
In conclusion, if you are looking for a summer holiday at the beach, North Italy might not be the best choice for you.
The beaches of South Italy are some of the most breathtakingly beautiful in the world. With crystal clear waters, white sand beaches, and stunning coastal views, it’s easy to see why they’re a popular destination for tourists.
From the Amalfi Coast to Calabria and Puglia, there is an abundance of gorgeous beach resorts that offer plenty of activities for visitors such as swimming, fishing, sailing, and more.
So if you’re looking for a unique holiday experience filled with sun-drenched days and balmy evenings then head south this summer.
Food: where do you eat better?
Northern Italy is a paradise for food lovers. Home to some of the world’s most iconic dishes, this region offers an abundance of culinary delights that will tantalize your taste buds.
From classic Italian favorites like pizza and pasta to more unique regional specialties such as polenta and risotto alla Milanese, there are plenty of delicious options available in northern Italy.
Head over to Bologna for spaghetti alla bolognese, mortadella, or tortellini in brodo, stop in Modena and taste the balsamic vinegar, spend a few days exploring Genoa and the Cinque Terre and tasting everything with pesto genovese, and the focaccia.
Southern Italy is renowned for its delicious cuisine, which consists of a variety of regional dishes that showcase the local produce available in this region. Previously known as “cucina povera” – the poor man’s food, dishes in the south have plenty of flavor and use only a few ingredients.
Its traditional recipes have been passed down through generations and are still enjoyed by locals today.
The flavors of Southern Italian cooking vary from one area to another, but some staples remain consistent throughout the region.
Dishes often feature fresh vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and olives as well as seafood such as anchovies, sardines, and squid – all cooked with fragrant herbs like oregano, basil, and parsley.
Pasta is also an important part of the culinary culture in Southern Italy; classic favorites include spaghetti with tomato sauce or pesto-based sauces made with olive oil.
Breads such as focaccia or pizza dough can be found accompanying many meals too!
North Italy vs South Italy: Weather and best time to go
The weather in North Italy varies throughout the year, with hot summers and cold winters. In the summer months, temperatures can reach up to 35°C (95°F), while during winter they drop as low as -5°C (23°F). Rainfall is moderate year-round but tends to be higher in springtime and fall.
The best time of year to visit North Italy would be from April through October when temperatures are more comfortable and there’s plenty of sunshine.
During this period you will also have the chance to enjoy some of the region’s most famous attractions such as Venice’s Grand Canal or Cinque Terre’s stunning coastline.
However, you can also visit during the cold season for winter sports in the Dolomites.
South Italy has a Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers and mild winters. The summer months of June to August are the most popular times for visitors when temperatures range from 25-35°C (77-95°F).
However, these months can also be quite humid. The coastal areas tend to be cooler than inland regions due to the sea breeze.
Winter is generally milder in comparison but may bring rainier weather with it. December to February are usually the wettest months of the year in South Italy, although snowfall occurs mainly on higher ground such as in Naples or Rome.
For those looking for more temperate weather without extreme heat or coldness, spring and autumn might be ideal times to visit – April through May and September through October respectively.
North Italy vs South Italy: Safety
North Italy vs South Italy
Traveling to Italy is generally considered safe, although there are some areas that should be avoided due to crime (some places in Calabria, regions of Sicily, or Naples).
Additionally, visitors should exercise caution when visiting large cities such as Naples and Rome, which experience higher levels of petty crime than other parts of Italy. Always use common sense when visiting a larger city, keep your belongings close, and pay extra attention when using public transportation.
I have traveled alone or with a friend or my mother to places like Rome, Naples, and even Sicily or southern Italy and never felt unsafe. We kept away from dark streets, avoided going around at night, always kept our belongings in sight, and we didn’t have any issues.
Also, no matter where you choose to travel, when renting a car, don’t leave valuables inside, even in the trunk of the car. Moreover, at the beach don’t leave your belongings unattended, no matter where you are.
Overall, Italy is a relatively safe destination for tourists.
Is North Italy safer than South Italy?
All in all, taking into account the fact that all the places considered to be dangerous are in South Italy, we could say North Italy is safer. However, that doesn’t mean you cannot travel safely in the south. Choose the right destinations, use common sense, and you will be fine.
I remember when I was studying in Trieste people would always tell me nothing happened there, and I would go alone at night on the streets without any worry. I might not do that in Naples, or in Sicily. But I would go during the day without a care.
North Italy vs. South Italy: Things to do
North Italy is full of amazing sights and experiences that will leave you feeling like you’ve traveled back in time. From the ancient ruins of Rome to the romantic canals of Venice, there’s something for everyone in this part of the world.
Here are some of the top things to do when visiting North Italy: explore Milan’s Duomo Cathedral and take a gondola ride through Venice; visit Florence and see Michelangelo’s David; hike up Mount Cervino or enjoy skiing on its slopes; wander around Lake Como or take a boat cruise across it; go wine tasting at Valpolicella vineyards; hike from one colorful village to the other in Cinque Terre; rent a car and drive around Tuscany; taste the most delicious food in Bologna.
With so much to offer, North Italy truly has something for everyone!
South Italy is a region of beauty and history, and there are plenty of things to do for the adventurous traveler or for those looking to step back in time. From exploring ancient ruins and historical sites to taking in stunning views from high mountains or serene beaches, you won’t be disappointed.
Eat pizza in its hometown, explore the Ancient Ruins of Pompeii, drive along the Amalfi Coast in an ancient car, take a boat tour of the Bay of Naples, learn how to make limoncello and go on a lemon grove tour, visit Castel Dell’Ovo in Naples, shop for souvenirs in Sorrento’s markets, marvel at baroque artwork in Reggio di Calabria, stay in a trullo house in Puglia, stay in a cave house in Matera.
South Italy is full of surprises and unexpected delights that you won’t want to miss.
Top places to visit
Venice – a unique and beautiful city, located in the Veneto region of northern Italy. It is built on more than 100 small islands, separated by canals and linked by bridges. The city has been a popular tourist destination for centuries due to its stunning architecture, romantic atmosphere, and vibrant culture. Venice is known for its gondola rides along the canals, colorful buildings lining the waterfronts, and mouth-watering Italian cuisine that draws people from all over the world.
Milan – a city full of vibrant culture and history. From the iconic Duomo di Milano to the lively Navigli district, there’s something for everyone in this exciting metropolis. Whether you’re looking for an unforgettable shopping experience or a unique cultural journey, Milan has it all. You can take a stroll through Parco Sempione or marvel at the magnificent architecture of La Scala opera house. For those who love art and design, Milan boasts some incredible fashion houses like Prada and Versace as well as trendy boutiques offering unique pieces from local designers. If you’re feeling adventurous, head out on one of the many walking tours available throughout the city.
Bologna – Whether you’re looking for an adventure or a relaxing weekend getaway, Bologna offers plenty of attractions and activities to keep you busy. Explore the historic old town and its many churches, climb one of the famous towers to see the red city from above, or sample some local cuisine – all these experiences will make your trip memorable! And don’t forget about shopping – with so many boutiques and markets selling everything from handmade jewelry to vintage clothing, it’s easy to find unique souvenirs here too.
Verona – This charming town has been home to some iconic moments in literature and art, making it an attractive destination for tourists looking for culture and romance. From Juliet’s balcony to ancient Roman amphitheaters, exploring its winding streets or taking in the stunning views from atop one of its many hills, wine-tasting tours through Valpolicella vineyards to leisurely strolls along the River Adige, there is something to do for everyone who visits Verona.
Genoa – a less explored hidden gem, Genoa is a nice surprise for those willing to give the city a chance. Genoa has long been known for its historical significance, with many buildings and monuments from centuries past still standing today. Its winding streets, colorful homes, and vibrant culture make it a popular tourist destination. In addition to its rich history, Genoa is also an important center of culture and education, with several universities and colleges.
Florence – From the iconic Duomo to the stunning Ponte Vecchio bridge, Florence offers something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for art and architecture or just want to relax in one of its many parks and gardens, there’s plenty to do in this Italian gem. To get the most out of your visit to Florence, here are some activities that should not be missed: explore the Uffizi Gallery; take a stroll through Boboli Gardens; marvel at Michelangelo’s David sculpture; enjoy delicious Tuscan cuisine; go shopping on Via de’ Tornabuoni; see Santa Croce Church with its frescos by Giotto and Cimabue; wander around Palazzo Pitti Palace & Museum Complex.
Cinque Terre – It consists of five picturesque villages perched on top of cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The villages are connected by a network of hiking trails, making it easy to explore this beautiful region and its breathtaking coastline. From colorful fishing boats bobbing in crystal-clear waters, to terraced vineyards clinging to steep hillsides, the views here will take your breath away. With its friendly locals and traditional cuisine, the Cinque Terre offers something for everyone – from active adventurers who want to hike or swim in its coves, to those looking for a peaceful escape surrounded by natural beauty.
Rome – Rome is one of the world’s most beautiful and historic cities, with a rich cultural heritage that spans centuries. With its ancient ruins, iconic monuments, stunning architecture, and vibrant nightlife, it’s no wonder Rome has become such a popular tourist destination.
From exploring the Colosseum and the Roman Forum to marveling at St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City or taking a stroll through some of Rome’s picturesque piazzas, there are plenty of activities for visitors to enjoy while in this amazing city. There are also excellent dining options from traditional Italian restaurants to trendy eateries where you can sample delicious Roman cuisine; not to mention all the art galleries and museums that showcase masterpieces by some of Italy’s greatest artists.
Naples – Two cities in one, Naples is a mix of luxury and breathtaking natural beauty, with darker areas. Strolling on the narrow streets, watching the chipped walls, one might be transported to one of the most beautiful books set in Italy, “My Brilliant Friend“. The city has been inhabited since ancient times and contains many monuments that reflect its rich history. From the baroque architecture to the wonderful seafood restaurants, there’s something for everyone here. Visitors will find plenty to explore while strolling through its winding streets or taking a boat tour around its picturesque coastline.
Sorrento – The town has been a popular destination for centuries due to its picturesque views, rich history, and access to some of Italy’s best beaches. Visitors can enjoy spending time wandering through the intimate alleys with old buildings, churches, and villas, or by admiring the stunning scenery on a boat tour. Sorrento is also known for its delicious traditional cuisine that offers something for everyone, from seafood to pizza and pasta dishes. With plenty of restaurants, cafes, and trattorias in town, visitors can sample many flavors of Italy during their stay here.
The Amalfi Coast – With its dramatic cliffs, sparkling blue waters and beautiful towns, it’s no wonder that this region has become a popular destination for travelers from all over the world. From picturesque fishing villages to historic monuments and breathtaking views, there’s something for everyone along the Amalfi Coast. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or an adventure-filled holiday, this stretch of coastline has it all! From boat rides in Positano to sunbathing on Capri Island and exploring Pompeii ruins – your time here will be filled with unforgettable experiences.
Matera – The city sits atop two ravines, and it has been inhabited since Paleolithic times. This makes Matera one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Its landscape features picturesque views from its ancient cave dwellings that have been carved into limestone cliffs over thousands of years. Today, Matera is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an incredibly popular tourist destination due to its stunning natural beauty as well as its rich cultural heritage. Visitors can explore traditional streets lined with churches and medieval buildings or take part in outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and rock climbing.
Puglia – located in the heel of Italy’s boot-shaped peninsula, is a region full of natural beauty and historical sites. From its stunning coastline to its rolling hills dotted with olive groves, Puglia is a must-see. The region’s long history is evident in its many archaeological remains and UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Castel del Monte. Visitors can explore ancient Greek and Roman ruins or enjoy modern art galleries and music festivals.
Sicily – From the ancient ruins in Agrigento to the breathtaking views from Mount Etna, there’s no shortage of memorable experiences waiting to be discovered. And with its delicious cuisine and friendly locals, you’ll feel right at home whether you’re exploring quaint fishing villages or partying it up in Palermo. Whether you choose to stay on land or take a boat tour around the island, visiting Sicily will leave an indelible impression that will last a lifetime.
North Italy vs South Italy: Itinerary options
North Italy 2 weeks itinerary option
Fly into Venice
Days 1 – 3 Venice
Days 4 – 6 Milan & Lake Como
Days 7 – 9 Cinque Terre
Days 10 – 14 Florence and Tuscany
Fly out of Milan or Florence
South Italy 2 weeks itinerary option
Fly into Rome
Days 1 – 4 Rome
Days 4 – 5 Naples
Days 6 – 10 Amalfi Coast (Sorrento, Positano, Capri, Pompeii)
Days 10 – 11 Matera
Days 11 – 14 Puglia
What is North Italy known for?
North Italy is known for its picturesque mountain landscapes, several UNESCO World Heritage Site cities like Florence and Venice, beautiful lakes such as Como and Maggiore, incredible wines like Prosecco and Barolo from the Piedmont region, delicious cuisine such as risotto alla Milanese from Lombardy, and its unique culture. It’s also home to some of the world’s oldest universities in Bologna.
What is South Italy known for?
South Italy is known for its warm climate and sunny weather, along with its delicious cuisine. Dishes like pizza, pasta, seafood, and other Mediterranean favorites are staples in South Italian kitchens.
The region is also home to the iconic Amalfi Coast, beautiful villages perched on hilltops overlooking the sea below as well as an array of historical and cultural attractions from museums to ruins.
Overall, South Italy offers visitors a peaceful experience full of natural beauty and top-notch culinary experiences.
Is North Italy richer than South Italy?
Yes, North Italy is generally considered to be much richer than South Italy.
The northern region of the country has a wealthier economy due to the presence of major cities like Milan and Turin, while the south relies heavily on agriculture and tourism for its income. The two regions also experience different levels of public investment from the government, with North Italy traditionally receiving more funding.
In conclusion, no matter which part of Italy you choose to visit on your next vacation you won’t go wrong. However, if you are visiting Italy for the first time, I would encourage you to choose the country’s northern part. If you have already been there and want to see something else, go for the south.