Much of the unique quality and appeal of Italy comes from the variety and individuality of Italy’s regions. There are twenty regions in Italy and before Italian Unification in 1861, many of these regions were proudly independent. In many areas that independence can still be felt today. For outsiders, the differing characteristics of certain regions can be obvious.
Northwest contains four of Italy’s regions; Aosta Valley, Liguria, Lombardy and Piedmont. Travellers sometimes forget the Northwest, but the mountain ranges here are some of the most beautiful in Italy (1).
Adventure seekers, alpine skiers, and Roman history buffs descend on Italy’s smallest and least populated region annually to get their fix. This hidden and tiny gem is bordered by the French and Swiss Alps making it an alpine paradise and playground for the avid skiers. The ancient towns and castles that are dusted with snow in the winter and full of life in the summer, revealing fortresses and bathhouses that date back to their Roman roots. Whether you are looking to relax, enjoy some alpine powder days, or get lost in history Valle d’Aosta is waiting for you (2).
Known by its neighbors as the Italian Riviera, it’s easy to see why even locals consider Liguria the perfect vacation spot. Warm blue waters hug its coastlines while the notable vibrant colours of Cinque Terre contrast with the sheer rock faces they are built upon. Top off your day, whether it was relaxing by the beach or filled with adventure, with a plate of what Ligurians are known best for pesto (2).
The Northeast contains four regions, with Veneto being the most popular to visit. That said, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige are beautiful and lush regions that are certainly worth a visit (1).
It’s considered the central point for eternal youth in Italy. The university cities of Modena, Parma, and Ferrara are cultural hubs but they have nothing on Bologna, the world’s oldest university. In turn where there is an abundance in education there is innovation. Home to megabrands such as Ferrari and Maserati, Emilia-Romagna boasts brand name luxury but pairs it nicely with an innovative food culture that region of Italy is famous for (2).
If you are solely thinking of Venice when this region comes to mind you’re not thinking big enough. Yes the floating city is still considered one of the most unique spots on the planet but if you broaden your horizons just slightly the hidden treasures usually shadowed by Venice will appear. Strong Medieval roots still define many of its inner towns, while alpine ski resorts dot the dolomites, and prosecco flows generously (2).
Central Italy is the most populated area of the country. Many major tourist attractions, including Rome, are here. Explore the regions of Lazio, Marche, Tuscany and Umbria for the picture-perfect Italy trip of your dreams (1).
Home to possibly the most fascinating city in all of Italy. Rome at one time was the cultural and political capital of the entire known world. It’s streets and alleyways are still places where history literally collides head on to create a contemporary European capital vastly unique to anything you’ve seen before. Outside Rome’s city limits lie landscapes and historical sites simply awaiting discovery (2).
Under the Tuscan Sun may have sparked your interest in running away to Italy and opening a Chianti vineyard but Toscana’s rolling hills cradle much more than just wine and romance. At one point in time it was literally the centre of the universe. Travellers, merchants and nobility came from all corners to experience the cultural mecca of Tuscany (2).
Italy’s South contains the most regions. Abruzzo, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria and Molise are not as popular as regions with large cities. They are in the countryside and many people live very traditional Italian lifestyles here. The most popular region in the south by far is Campania (1).
Of course pizza enticed and secured your attention towards Naples and the south but that’s just the tip of the iceberg in Campania. Newcomers to this region need at least a week to take in the region’s capital and surrounding areas, while Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast offer a whole other range of experience and beauty. You can expect no less when the roman roots of its name literally translate to land of the happy (2).
There are two large island regions in Italy, Sicily and Sardinia. The islands are key tourist ports, and each have unique thriving cultures. They are great places to enjoy the warmth of the Mediterranean climate. The islands are relatively easy to get to from the mainland and well worth a visit (1).
Italy’s most recognizable island and home to a distinct and unique cultural vibe that seems to be completely separate from the mainland. The land is dotted with ruins that drop hints to its vibrant past while everything from the local food to the dialect seems to have an underlying kick of spice and zest to it. History and art take their inspirations from the seas that surround the island and if you are going to try seafood for the first time here it better be in Sicily (2).
The island has a fierce sense of independence but now is more connected than ever to the mainland with its metropolitan airports. It offers the cleanest and most pristine beaches of the nation, while tourists find themselves strangely drawn to the unique ruins left behind by the Nuraghic civilization. It’s an island of unique wonder and excitement that easily distinguishes itself from the rest of the nation (2).