A Route through Italy's Southern Coast
Navigating through the south of Italy is no easy feat. There’s much more to the south than meets the eye. While travelers seek out adventures in the Italian capital of Rome, a road trip through scenic Tuscany, or a thrilling adventure through Sicily, everything in the south of Italy is more intensified, a little more chaotic, a bit more free-willed. The cities, coastline, culture, and history is filled with dramatic flares and serendipitous occasions. But that's the reason why so many travelers fall in love with Italy. It starts with the urban jungle of Naples, the ancient civilization of Pompei, the swooning coastline of Maratea, and the provincial towns of the Adriatic sea. We'll take you from coast to coast through Naples, southern Italy on an unforgettable road trip itinerary.
- Route Name: A Route through Italy's Southern Coast
- Duration: 13 days
- Best by car
- Highlights: Vibrant markets of Naples, ancient remnants of Pompei, winding coastline of Maratea, the rejuvenating spas of Santa Cesarea Terme.
Discover part of this route in our Naples and Pompei travel guide by Chiara Fiorillo for € 4.99. Find the extensive version of this route with interactive spots and elaborate stories, and routes in the guide!
NAPLES - POMPEI (30 KM)
Naples is the third largest city in Italy, and has a timeline that spans back to the Bronze Age Settlement, making it one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. To get a sense of the city, walk around on the cobble-stoned streets where you'll find more than 60 permanent outdoor markets. First, La Toretta is a giant covered market for all your practical needs located in the Mergellina district. Then there's Naples Flea Market for second-hand goods in Mostra d’Oltremare in Fuorigrotta. Or if you want to sample some fresh seafood then head to Porta Nolana Market in close by Piazza Nolana. Lastly, in the historic district on Via San Gregorio Armeno, the century old tradition preserving the nativity scenes, which are recreated here with handmade terracotta pieces. Make a stop at the Duomo, dating back to 1300, where you can admire the Crypt and the Chapel of Naples Patron Saint, San Gennaro. Here is where you can navigate through the underground tunnels that house 3000 burial sites. For the history buffs, check out the Naples National Archaeological Museum for some the Roman and Greek artifacts from the past. More recently, the city experienced the tragic times of WWII. Naples was the most bombed city in Italy during the war, and the underground tunnels, known as the Bourbon tunnels, was a safe haven for thousands of people seeking refuge. Walk along the waterfront pedestrian promenade from Megellina to Santa Lucianeighborhood; you can also catch a view from the very top of Castel dell’Ovo.
POMPEI- PONTECAGNANO (45 km)
On the way to visit Pompei, the once thriving Roman city, you can stop by Mount Vesuvius and climb the slopes to discover the stunning view at the top, which only takes around 20 up and 30 minutes back down. You'll arrive at the Scavi di Pompei, where the preserved ruins of the remaining city of Pompei was covered in Vesuvius' ashes. Wander the vast area, as you'll see the chilling Garden of the Fugitives, a collection of the mummified remains of the Pompei citizens. There's also the Amphitheater, which is an ancient and well-kept building of all of Pompei, it used to be the stage for the gladiators to duel out in battles, but is now a host to some of the most popular musical performances. Make your way around the main landmarks such as the Gladiator barracks, Pompei forum, gymnasium, and the House of Faun. From Pompeii, you can experience the jet-setting lifestyle and take the coastal road along Sorrento to the famous Amalfi coast, where you’ll see the spectacular scenes of the Sorrentine Peninsula. The houses are balanced on the rugged hills, while the sea is at your doorsteps. It may be difficult to park or find an inexpensive resort here, so we recommend staying outside the area and visiting during the day.
PONTECAGNANO-MARATEA (142 KM)
Pontecagnano is a town in the province of Salerno, south of Naples and Pompeii, and has a population of almost 140,000 people. It has an important cultural heritage, which can be found in the exhibitions of the Museo Archeologico Provinciale. Another fascinating attraction is the Archaeological Park of Pontecagnano Faiano, which is a primary site for excavations of the Villanovan culture that inhabited the area many centuries ago. The park is a great place to admire the beautiful gardens and a working community vegetable garden, where you can relax on the picnic tables.
MARATEA-CRISPIANO (202 KM)
Located on the Tyrrhenian Coastline, Maratea is the coastal gem of Basilicata. Its stunning landscape, historic and religious town, and chic architecture makes it an idyllic destination in Italy's south. The drive along the 30 km coastline is narrow, harrowing, yet, breathtaking. On the one hand, the unparalleled sea-view and on the other side is the rugged cliffs covering the wooded mountains. There is an abundance of white, sandy beaches all along the way and a mysterious cave called La Grotta delle Meraviglie that you can access by foot. The town of Maratea is a beautiful hilltop sanctuary with charming houses and villas that compliment the view. It is known as 'the Cannes' of southern Italy since it hosts an international film festival annually in August. Maratea has 44 churches in the small vicinity, and also a white Statue of Christ, ‘Il Redentore' that makes a great hike. For food, check out Ristorante 1999 Port of Maratea for a reasonably priced meal with large portions, highlighting the fresh seafood readily available on the coastline. The port is also an important part of Maratea. Here you'll find the central hub of the town with many cafes, bars and restaurants.
CRISPIANO-BARI (85 KM)
Crispiano is the rural powerhouse of Italy’s high-quality produce and agriculture of the area. Located in the heart of the Taranto Murgia Hills, where the Mediterranean terrain and hundreds of kilometers of olive trees. With an abundance of farmhouses and mills, over 100 in the vicinity, you're sure to come across some of the best products, known worldwide, in all of Puglia. Some of the goods to keep an eye out for are olive oil, cheese, fresh tomatoes, and wine. The primary architecture here are rural houses, but you can also find the remnants of fortified defense structures, frescoes, churches, farm mills and medieval towers. Now onwards to the Adriatic coast.
BARI-SANTA CESAREA TERME (84 KM)
Bari is a port city in Puglia on the Adriatic coast. While it may not gather as much attention as its sister city, Lecce, it is an interesting destination to spend a day in. Get lost in Vecchia Bari – the Old town of Bari - where you’ll get a sense of the daily livelihoods of the city. The doors to the local houses will be open, and homes are filled with women making homemade pasta. Many authorities warn tourist to be aware of their surrounding and valuables, some of the narrow streets are prone to petty crime. Visit one of the Old Town's famous churches, Basilica di San Nicola, that was dedicated to st. Nicholas, also known as Santa Claus. Stop for lunch at the Piazza del Ferrarese or Piazza Mercantile. There are several restaurants with terraces that will serve you great food and beverages. Check out the old port of Bari, the Porto Vecchio, where you can see fishermen docking their boats and selling their fresh catch.
SANTA CESAREA TERME - BISCEGLIE (242KM)
Santa Cesarea Terme is defined by its Moorish architecture, beautiful coastline, and vintage looking villas. The small village is located at the very tip of the jagged heel of Italy's boot. Built in the 19th century, it overlooks the cliffs of the Adriatic sea. It is a seaside resort town known for its spa and healing facilities, due to the four grottoes (Fetida, Gattula, Solfatara, and Solfurea). This is where you experience the healing properties of the waters, enriched with elements such as sulfur, iodine, lithium, and salt, in a soothing, warm temperatures. Visit the Villa Sticchi, an extraordinary colorful domed Moorish structure that will capture your attention once you set foot in the center. There are many different swimming areas, such as Bagno Marino Archi and Spiaggia Porto Miggiano that will give you full access to the glistening Adriatic sea.
Bisceglie was once a military stronghold, but now is a fascinating town full of historic palaces, monuments and churches, and a cultivation hub for almonds, olive oil, and wine. Here you can admire the ancient structures of Cathedral of San Pietro, the church of Santa Margherita, and St. Adoeno, the church of St. Luigi. These are some of the oldest churches found in Puglia. You can also venture to the mysterious Dolmens of Albarosa, Chianca, Giano, Frisari, Paladini, in the rural area of Bisceglie, which are megalithic tomb chambers that date back to the Neolithic era of 4000 to 3000 BC.
Discover southern Italy with our "Proeven in Puglia" travel guide (Dutch language) by Harmke Kraak for € 4.99. Find the extensive version of this route with interactive spots and elaborate stories, and routes in the guide!
Suggested readings for Italy:
- East Coast Route in Sicily
- The Scenic Route through Tuscany
- Coastal Route through Cinque Terre
- Dolce vita walking route in Rome
- West Coast Route in Sardinia