Updated: Sep 9, 2020
There are so many unique activities and experiences to be had in southern Italy! If you’re stuck on Tuscany, I don’t blame you… but I have to tell you, southern Italy is a treasure trove of authentic and beautiful experiences, places, and people that you would be sorely missing out on!
I recently lead a free live workshop about the Top 5 Experiences You CAN’T Miss in southern Italy. I’ve spent most of my time in the region of Apulia (or Puglia in Italian), so that’s where I’ve focused my recommendations on what to see and do. For some travel inspiration or to help plan a meaningful trip in southern Italy, give it a watch or read below! (Don’t miss the Bonus Guide at the end!)
What to Do In Southern Italy: Top 5 Experiences You CAN’T Miss!
1. Visit Sea Caves
The number one thing to do in southern Italy is visit sea caves. While exploring the coastline of Puglia, it's easy to be amazed by its wild and natural beaches with clear water and white sand. But you might not know that Puglia also offers many sea caves. Some are really deep, allowing you to walk back into them and explore inside. Others can just be entered by boat. There are even a few particularly amazing sea caves that hide really cool swimming holes! (Get my free Bonus Guide to learn about a few of my favorites!)
2. Attend Pizzica Concerts
When it comes to what to do in southern Italy at night, you absolutely can't miss attending a Pizzica concert! Pizzica is a traditional folk dance and type of music from southern Italy. The experience of participating in a local Pizzica performance is actually a great way to immerse yourself into the Italian culture and become a local in southern Italy. These incredible, cultural events bring together all ages and definitely give you a chance to connect with locals on a deeper level. Check out the free Bonus Guide to discover my favorite Pizzica music groups!
3. Explore Ancient Ruins
The third thing to do in southern Italy is explore ancient ruins. Southern Italy offers so many historical sites that you won't forget. Some of them are well-known and easy to reach from the main cities, while others can be found in isolated locations surrounded by nature, and perhaps a free-range cow or two grazing through (ha!). Puglia will often give you a good opportunity to turn your local experience into something intimate and more significant, allowing you to reach these areas on your own while exploring the countryside of southern Italy. (I share my #1 favorite hidden ruins in southern Italy in the Bonus Guide!).
4. Eat with locals
Anywhere you travel in Italy, I think most people would agree that the ultimate experience is dining with locals. Of course, it can be difficult to get invited inside local homes on your own, but such experiences will definitely turn your southern Italy trip into something more meaningful by truly connecting you with the Italian culture. Always remember to approach locals with the right intentions and with respect. Your goal should not be to “get something” from the locals, such as trying to get an invitation to dine with them. Instead, demonstrate that you really want to learn about them by giving your attention and respect, offering them a spotlight to talk about their life and share their perspective with you. Check out the Bonus Guide for a list of specific local dishes to try in southern Italy and get in touch to book a cooking or dining experience with locals!
5. Visit Trulli and Trabucchi
Trulli are an important part of the iconic architecture in southern Italy. Alberobello, which is an UNESCO Site, has the highest concentration of Trulli homes which has made it popular for tourists. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that Trulli are actually scattered all around the countryside throughout southern Italy. That's why I usually prefer to bring my guests into authentic Trulli homes hidden in off-the-beaten-path places, where they can see Trulli that have been updated for modern living as well as original Trulli that have been left alone for ages. Don’t miss the experience of stepping inside a trullo home–it’s the iconic thing to do in southern Italy!
Trabucchi are another unique and iconic part of southern Italian architecture and culture. Though a little lesser-known, they are wonderful examples of tradition, culture, and even cuisine in southern italy. Essentially ancient fishing machines, trabucchi consist of wooden piles with big fishing nets laced between the wooden arms that extend out over the water to lower and raise nets. One of my favorite parts of our Secrets of southern Italy small group tour is stepping aboard my friend Giuseppe's trabucco for an immersive visit. Then, we walk to the open air restaurant next door to eat some of its fresh seafood with a sunset view–this is definitely an unbeatable experience in southern Italy, but you have to know where to go!
Don’t miss the Bonus Guide in which I’ve listed more details about each experience and how to access it (including specific dishes and foods to try in southern Italy, specifically Puglia)!
Click here to watch the free live workshop on our Facebook page! Happy travels!
Don’t want to bother with logistics but don’t want a cheesy group tour either? Take a look at our small group tour to southern Italy, Secrets of Southern Italy, limited to just 7 guests for a relaxed and immersive off-the-beaten-path adventure!