Naples & the Amalfi Coast
Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast is the Italy of your wildest and most lingering dreams; a rich, intense, hypnotic ragù of Arabesque street life, decadent palaces, pastel-hued villages and aria-worthy vistas. Culinary Riches Naples and its region are the country's culinary soul, home to Italy's best pizza, pasta, mozzarella, vegetables, citrus and seafood.
Puglia, Basilicata & Calabria
Southern Italy is the land of the mezzogiorno – the midday sun – which sums up the Mediterranean climate and the languid pace of life. From the heel to the toe of Italy's boot, the landscape reflects the individuality of its people. Basilicata is a crush of mountains and rolling hills with a dazzling stretch of coastline.
The Ionian Coast is dotted with Sicily's superlatives – the island's highest volcano, Mt Etna, is here; the queen of all resorts, Taormina, perches on a clifftop; and it's home to Sicily's second-largest city, Catania. Catania is the region's centre, a wonderful and shabby city with a great pulse and active street- and nightlife.
Tossed like so many colourful dice into this beautiful velvet-blue bay, the islands here are justifiably famous and sought out. They are tantalisingly different as well. Procida, Ischia and Capri vary not just in ambience and landscape, but also in their sights, activities and size.
Syracuse & The Southeast
With its outstanding classical ruins, beautiful baroque towns and sandy beaches, this is Sicily's top draw. The temptation is to stay in Syracuse, hanging out in the piazzas and sunning yourself on the seafront, but drag yourself away and you'll be rewarded with some of Sicily's most charming towns.
Rising out of the cobalt-blue seas off Sicily's northeastern coast, the Unesco-protected Aeolian Islands (Vulcano, Lipari, Salina, Panarea, Stromboli, Filicudi and Alicudi) are a little piece of paradise, a magical outdoor playground offering thrills and spills at every turn.
Lecce & Salento
The Penisola Salentina, better known simply as Salento, is hot, dry and remote, retaining a flavour of its Greek past. It stretches across Italy's heel from Brindisi to Taranto and down to Santa Maria di Leuca. Here the lush greenery of Valle d'Itria gives way to flat, ochre-coloured fields hazy with wildflowers in spring, and endless olive groves.
Basilicata has an otherworldly landscape of tremendous mountain ranges, dark forested valleys and villages so melded with the rockface that they seem to have grown there. Its isolated yet strategic location on routes linking ancient Rome to the eastern Byzantine empire has seen it successively invaded, pillaged, plundered, abandoned and neglected.
Sicily's Mediterranean coast is a mixed bag. The main attraction of the area, the spectacular ruins of the Valley of the Temples – unparalleled across the island for their significance, expanse and beauty – are overlooked by ranks of unsightly tower blocks, giving the city of Agrigento an odd air.