Next stop: Southern Italy
“When life gives you twists and turns, chique yourself up in Italy!” – Barbara Conelli
Longing for your next adventure? Bored with being stuck at home? Let us warm you up this winter, by whisking you away to southern Italy (a.k.a. Mezzogiorno) in your daydreams. Our itinerary will take you far away from the usual tourist traps of the north, with beaches, landmarks and Italian cuisine perfect to explore at a safe distance, once we can travel again. After the twists and turns of 2020, a chance to chique yourself up in Italy is just what is needed!
Itinerary in a nutshell
Our itinerary starts in the coastal city of Bari, easily accessible by train, plane or ferry.
1. Bari 2. Alberobello 3. Taranto 4. Crotone 5. Reggio Calabria
From Reggio Calabria, you can also take a short ferry ride to Sicily or you can reach the airport, from where you can continue your adventures or head home.
Puglia's capital and largest port is located on the southeastern coast of Italy facing the Adriatic Sea and opposite Dubrovnik in Croatia. Take your time to get to know the old town that is nestled around Bari harbour, and enjoy an evening stroll down the impressive promenade - Lungomare Nazario Sauro. As you meander through the cobbled streets, you will be rewarded with a plethora of ancient buildings and churches - like the Church of San Sabino, Basilica of San Nicola or Castel Svevo (a Norman castle from the 1100s that provides a wonderful view of the city).
Bari to Alberobello: 2h 6m by bus and regional train
Bari is the perfect base to start your rail odyssey. Still not convinced? Here are the top 6 reasons to explore Southern Italy in winter:
- Italians love the holiday season and there are lots of Christmas markets.
- It's always sunny, and you can still enjoy lunch al fresco (be sure to wear layers).
- It's truffle season!
- Everything is cheaper.
- You will discover some of the nicest beaches in Europe.
- You can enjoy some spectacular sunsets with a glass of Fiano di Avellino (the Greeks nicknamed this region "The Land of Wine").
Fun fact: Bari is the second largest city in southern Italy (Naples is the largest).
Dreaming of a picture-perfect town? Imagine cute white-washed huts made of drystone walls, with cone-shaped roofs, the smell of smoke billowing out of little chimneys.
The charming town of Alberobello boasts the best-preserved Trulli style buildings in all of Italy (according to our sources). People come to the enchanting district of Rione Monti to lose themselves in the maze of narrow streets and little shops. With the highest concentration of around 1,030 houses, you'll be blown away by its beauty.
Hoping to find a less commercial corner of town? Head to the Rione Aia Piccola district where there are approximately 590 Trulli houses, (and the locals still inhabit most of them). Naturally, there are plenty of other sights with rustic charm waiting for you to uncover…
Fun fact: the best photos can be taken on top of the observation deck next to the church of Santa Lucia.
Alberobello to Taranto: 1h 25m, with a change in Martina Franca
Don't overlook this ancient city in the Apulia region of Southern Italy. It was first inhabited by the ancient Greeks as a Spartan colony around 700 BC. You can still find remnants of these cultures and eras dotted throughout the city. Explore the fantastic range of ancient buildings and monuments, and check out the exquisite beaches.
You can't miss the Aragonese Castle! It's situated in the south-east corner of the island of Borgo Antico – the impressive fortress dominates the bay (imagine King's Landing in Game of Thrones). Parts of the castle were built when the Byzantines ruled the region in the 900s. However, most of the main walls that stand today were constructed in the late 1400s by Ferdinand II of Aragon.
You can also explore a Byzantine cathedral, the Spartan museum or walk across Ponte Girevole, an ancient swing bridge that was built in 1887.
Fun fact: you can find remnants of the Temple of Poseidon still standing next to Palazzo del Comune (town hall).
Taranto to Crotone: 2 hours by direct intercity train
Dreaming of an adventure on (or in) the water? Crotone is nicknamed the Pearl of Magna Grecia. It's also known as the world's largest open-air aquarium! You will find the protected marine reserve of Capo Rizzuto along this section of the Ionian coast.
This area of extraordinary beauty covers 40 km of coastline (or 14,721 hectares), and the sea is a deep turquoise that changes to different shades of blue and green throughout the day. You can see the bottom of the seabed from a glass-bottom boat (or as you snorkel) in these unspoiled waters. Look for groupers, barracudas, little tunnies, and the occasional loggerhead turtle or dolphin. All of the species live undisturbed and are left to reproduce in this peaceful underwater sanctuary.
Don't forget to check out the interesting blend of ancient and modern architecture in the city before you leave. Crotone reveals a whole new splendour as you meander through the streets.
Fun fact: Crotone is a well-hidden treasure, with rolling green hills on one side and the clear blue waters of the Ionian Sea on the other.
Crotone to Reggio Calabria: 3h 25m by direct intercity train (once daily), or about 4 hours with change in Catanzaro Lido
5. Reggio Calabria
Dreaming of a city break that's away from the crowds? You'll be pleased to hear that most tourists find Calabria a stop to far! This not only makes for a more authentic holiday, but your money will go further too.
Reggio Calabria is one of the most impressive city's in Italy's southern region and shares a border with Sicily. You can also find some of the best beaches in the country: the sand is soft, white and luxurious to the touch, and the crystal clear water beckons you in...
Beyond the beautiful beaches, you can stay warm by exploring the many museums, castles and churches. You'll be charmed by the local hospitality, and you won't be able to resist the Calabrian cuisine. The local food is rich and flavourful, and perfect for anyone who loves pasta and seafood dishes.
Fun fact: Spanish speakers can usually follow the local Calabrian dialect, but many Italian speakers cannot.
Reggio Calabria to Tropea: 1h 23m by direct regional train (once daily), or about 1h 50m with change in Rosarno
Dreaming of winter sun, the sound of the ocean and sand between your toes? Who could resist the Pearl of the Tyrrhenian Sea?
Located on the coast of the Gods, and created by Hercules (according to legend), this seaside town is a year-round beach-lover's paradise. You will be captivated by the most beautiful beach in the whole of Italy. Imagine feeling the thick white sand under your feet, and paddling in the crystal-clear water (you could take a swim if you're feeling brave).
Tropea has it all! Aside from a stunning beach and pristine waters, there’s a charming medieval town perched on top of a sheer cliff. There are impressive walls, gates, turrets and of course, lots of churches. The old town is located on a vantage point that overlooks the sea and faces the spectacular island which houses the Santuario di Santa Maria dell'Isola (Church of St Mary of the Island).
Fun fact: the main cathedral has two unexploded bombs from WWII sitting outside the church door - so keep your distance!
Europe is waiting for you...
When the world starts moving again, take your time to explore this magical region of Italy. From the comfort of the train, enjoy views of the sparkling blue sea on one side and the lush vegetation on the other. Don’t worry too much about punctual timetables! Just enjoy travelling on rustic regional trains as you snake around Italy’s boot and towards the eastern heel.
We know you’re longing for your next adventure (we are too), but for now, take solace in the fact that Europe is still waiting for you.