Please sign in to post.

The Less "Touristy" South of Italy

Ciao all,

I am currently living in Rome, and on my vacation time I would really like to delve deeper into the South of Italy, to clarify: south of the resort areas near Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, specifically: Bari, Lecce, and the tip of the boot in the Calabria region. Also, any gems on the heel of the boot or on the Eastern Coast bordering the Adriatic Sea? My language skills are decent, and I am interested in what perhaps may be some different dialects?
How is the public transportation in these parts? No Metro, I assume, but is there a good train network to get around? I would love any tips from anyone who has been further south. As Rick says, if you like Rome, go further south, it intensifies!

Grazie tutti, e Buona Giornata!

Posted by
1449 posts

Have been to Bari and points nearby. Had a car, which made getting around much easier. The density of the area is pretty low, and trains work best (IMHO) when you're traveling to larger areas. My understanding is that in addition to Trenitalia there are private train networks in the area, but that buses may be your best bet for getting around between smaller towns if you don't have a car. There are some good guide books out there about the region, you can probably find more in Italian than in English.

Posted by
401 posts

I second the suggestions to go to Puglia, to Lecce in particular, or all the way to the tip of the heel at Santa Maria di Leuca.
Calabria is also beautiful, this wild rugged beauty where you have mountains on one side and blue sea on the other. You can use the train to get to major cities, but then you are at the mercy of the buses to get around to the smaller towns. I've always had a car when I have been in Calabria and Puglia so I can't help you there.
The dialects are incredible! I remember waking up after my first night in Calabria and I felt like I was in another country, I understood absolutely nothing! As in all of Italy, all towns and villages have their own dialects, sometimes two towns right next to each other have different sounding dialects. In Puglia it is the same deal. Southern Italy is beautiful, and places like Calabria and Basilicata are definitely off the beaten path and worth the trip.

Posted by
873 posts

My parents have property in Pizzo near Vibo Valentia, and it is very beautiful with the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. You can get there by train, but then I would recommend having a car as that seems like the most efficient way to get around unless you stay in the bigger cities (but then you miss out on the best parts, in my opinion). Every little town does not have a train station and the ones that do are not always easily accessible (for example, Pizzo's train station is a couple of miles south of the city). There is a bus system, but was told it is not so reliable. Tropea is very beautiful, as well as Pizzo and the other small towns that dot the coast down to Sicily. Lots of Roman/Greek ruins and history. The area is also easily accessible via the cheap airlines from the northern airports. I would start in Lamezia and go down south to Reggio Calabria. Cannot speak to the dialect as I do not speak Italian well enough. I did not find it intense, but rather relaxing and enjoyable.

Posted by
362 posts

Here is a set of photos from our trip in the first week of September of this year:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/14894020@N00/sets/72157622374976442/

I am working on the report, but I thought overall it was wonderful. Slower place, great people, great food, cheaper than most places I know in Italy, etc. We stayed in a fairly remote spot, Marina Serra - you can get to the region by train (as mentioned), but once there, a car is very handy.

This is where we stayed: http://salentoromantico.com/ - if you want no phone, no tv, no radio, etc. it is a great spot. From there we hit all of the heel (as you can see in the photos) just about in easy drives.

Posted by
842 posts

Below is a wonderful story from the NY Tmes about Puglia.

http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/05/06/travel/06Puglia.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5124&en=7fc0ee4c82bf1ba5&ex=1336276800&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink

We spent two weeks there in June of 2007, and absolutely fell in love. At the advice of a friend who grew up there, we drove down from Rome(beautiful!), and flew back on Air One out of Brindisi (cheap and fast).

Transportaion to and from is great(including the train); but you need a car after that; nothing else is reliable.

We really enjoyed Lecce; it is like a mini Sienna. We kicked ourselves for not staying in the seaside town of Trani. We were told to stay out of Brindisi and Bari because of the crime at night. We loved the drives down the East coast to the tip, and the beaches in the South, the Sassi cave houses, the Grotto de Castellana, etc.

The food and wines were wonderful.

But we really fell in love with Lecce. It is a vibrant college town with lots of shopping and fantastic restaurants.

We found our Lonely Planet guidebook to be invaluable.

Posted by
2213 posts

We spent a month in spring 2009, all by public transportation, visiting Troia, Lucera, Vieste, Peschici, Trani, Bari, Barletta, Ruvo di Puglia, Matera, Altamura, Alberobello, Taranto, Locorotondo, Martina Franca, Cisternino, Lecce, Otranto, Brindisi, and Gallipoli. A couple of years ago, we were lucky enough to spend a night in Scilla (Calabria), which we also enjoyed. We found the public transportation to be reliable but time-consuming and sometimes tricky (getting info on the buses and local trains requires persistence). For us, this is not a problem but just part of the adventure. It would depend upon how much time you had, I think. And it requires "enough" Italian. The places we enjoyed most were Vieste, Trani, Lecce and (surprisingly, considering what most guidebooks have to say), Brindisi. We ended in Naples (our second visit there), which we also love. Would be happy to answer specific questions.

Posted by
15 posts

Grazie mille for all the great suggestions everyone! I am elated at the responses and now eager to start planning. The only problem I face is that I am 19 (a student here in Rome) and not legal to rent a car, so I will have to rely on buses and trains. Can anyone tell me if the bus system is safe/reliable enough for a solo traveller?

Posted by
873 posts

Based on Janet's response, it appears to be very possible. I also saw the buses going by every once in a while, so they do exist. Since you seem to have a grasp of the language, I think planning and figuring out the bus system will be much easier for you and doable. Have fun!

Posted by
2213 posts

Safe and reliable - absolutely. There are a number of companies covering the different areas; most have schedules online. Sitabus.it covers Basilicata and northern Puglia. Ferroviedelgargano.com connects the smaller towns on the Gargano Promontory (click on Download to see lists of bus routes). Stpbrindisi.it goes to Ostuni. Fal-srt.it has direct buses from Bari to Matera. Ferronordbarese.it runs out of Bari, and FSEonline.it covers Alberobello, Martina Franca and the Salento. Have fun!

Posted by
842 posts

Januelle

Go to Trip Advisor and post your question about transportation in Puglia, or directly to " Vicki 2005". She is a Brit who teaches in Lecce, and has used all of the local transportation. She is an expert!

Posted by
440 posts

Januelle, on the advice from a friend who lives near Taranto, I used a car on two visits. If you can manage it timewise, the Gargano area (that's the spur on the heel) is absolutely stunning. Puglia is equal favourite with Sicilia as my favourite region...less touristy, often quite raw in it's beauty.

Posted by
1018 posts

I generally spend a week in Calabria visiting family and hanging out. Some places to see would be the Riacci Bronze Warriors in the State Museum in Reggio Calabria, Tropea, Le Castella at Capo Rizzutto, the Rock of Scylla, an evening stroll along the flea market lungomare in Fallerna Marina, or take the ferry to Sicily. The Rosso Gambero (red shrimp) Pizzeria in Falerna Marina is my favorite pizzeria in the whole world.

You did not mention when you will be vacationing. The south during the summer is HOT. I was there once when the temp was 115f. The beaches are pristine and the amenities are deverloping.

Buon viaggio,

RB