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Postcards from Southern Italy

southern italy

I don’t know where you all are in the world right now, but most of my friends and family are coming off the end of the #PolarVortex which pretty much turned most of North America into a popsicle this past week.

Is it rude of me to say I went to the beach? Twice.

If it makes you feel any better, the weather in Wellington is generally shit, and I really don’t think we are going to have a proper summer. It is never NOT windy here. I hate it! I’m still cleaning sand out of my ears from the beach!

southern italy

southern italy

Going from summer in Europe to a New Zealand “summer” (a phrase I use lightly since I’m convinced summer doesn’t exist in this part of the world) has been strange. It feels like only yesterday I was sweating my clothes off in southern Italy and Greece. Can I go back?

Sigh, I miss Europe sometimes. Back to Italy!

Maybe I’m wrong (please tell me if I am) but after spending some time in southern Italy, I’ve realized a few things, the first and foremost being that it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Rome, Florence, Venice, and all those great cities and regions of the north get heaps of love from us foreigners, and for good reason, they rock. But what about the south?

southern italy

southern italy

Always the champion for the underdog, any chance I have to visit a place that I feel is being overlooked, I jump at.

I just got a taste for southern Italy this summer, and it wasn’t enough. I am already thinking about when I might be able to go back to explore and dig deeper.

Has a place ever affected you that way?

southern italy

southern italy

1. Positano

While staying in nearby Salerno, one of the day trips I was most excited to make was out to Positano. Can anyone hanker a guess as to why? Go on.

If you thought Under the Tuscan Sun, you would be absolutely correct!

I actually first visited Positano in 2008 while traveling around the Amalfi Coast, and yes, for the same reason. Here is why Diane Lane spontaneously has a love affair with Marcello, where she drinks limoncello on the beach with him and finds a kitten to take home. It’s like fate really, until she finds out he was already seeing someone else.

Ugh, men.

southern italy

Anyways, there’s no denying it, the Amalfi Coast is stunning, and when I visited before it was a very wet spring, so I was thrilled to go back in July.

Little did I know the rest of the world would also be there.

Crowds aside, getting to walk down the streets I remember so fondly from 5 years ago was a beautiful feeling.

Have you ever gone back to a place you loved after a good chunk of time has passed? Have you ever gone to a place you saw in a movie?

southern italy

southern italy

2. Brindisi

Brindisi was my first solid introduction to southern Italy this summer, and it was fabulous. A week of exploring olive groves and harbors, getting lost on the crumbling old side streets in the hot sun, trying local dishes and hanging out in the markets, it couldn’t have been more local and more special.

Brindisi has that charm of old-school traditional Italy that sometimes feels lost in the more touristic cities. Here is a place where tradition is only just beginning to collide with modernity, where shopkeepers know your name and the food is local and fresh.

southern italy

Emma, the powerhouse behind Brindisi is My Destination, helped introduce me to so many of the things that makes Brindisi special, from the budding interest in ecotourism, to the sailing and maritime culture to the wine, of course. But I think one of the things I loved the most about this little corner of Italy are all of the old farmhouses-turned-B&B’s and beautiful rural masserias.

Getting to wine, dine and stay at Tenuta Moreno outside Brindisi was a dream come true in many ways. A hop, skip and jump aways outside Brindisi, down some dirt farm roads winding through olive groves that have probably been there since Roman times, you’ll eventually stumble on the massive Tenuta Moreno.

Here is the perfect example of historic colliding with modernity. Exploring the beautiful stone corridors that lead to gorgeous gardens and swimming pools. The property is vast and the kitchens are divine. I was blown away by the depth and precision of the meals offered.

southern italy

southern italy

I have conflicting feelings for Italy. On the one hand, I love how old-school, traditional, and rustic certain places can be. Nothing gets me more exciting than visiting a place with real old-world charm. But the flipside? Sometimes I get extremely annoyed with how behind the times places in Italy can be. No functioning website? Or the worst, wait for it, no wifi. *gasp*

You just can’t win. Unless you’re in Brindisi.

At Tenuta Moreno, I was lucky enough to hang out with the owner who really gets it, and the idea of having an innovative property. Clad in a very nice Italian suit (as if you could expect something less after all) we rode bicycles together around the property as he pointed out the gardens where the food is produced for the kitchens on site, or the best part, the new chicken coops he’s built so that they will have fresh eggs every day.

Here is a place where the top person truly cares about making a better, sustainable, green hotel, and is passionate about change and productivity. IN ITALY OF ALL PLACES. Here is a place that really cares about keeping it local, sustainable farming and having a hotel that can supply itself – how often do you find that?

I couldn’t help but smile to myself as we cycled back to the main building, me in my jean shorts and tank top, and him in his suit. What a pair.

southern italy

3. Ostuni

The white city of Ostuni near Brindisi was also one of the biggest surprises for me last summer. I really wasn’t expecting to be as wowed as I was. Living in Andalucía in southern Spain for a year, I had no shortage of picturesque white towns surrounding me. Hell, I even worked in one, in Espejo, near Córdoba, complete with castle on the top.

But Ostuni embodies just about everything I loved about Italy. A beautiful old quarter packed with narrow streets you can spend ages getting lost in, rusty wrought-iron balconies juxtaposed with overflowing flower pots adding a splash of color here and there to the bleached white town.

southern italy

After spending hours exploring the town under the bright sun, it was perfect to relax in the shade of the main square sipping beer with new friends.

Don’t you just want to explore this place?

southern italy

4. Salerno

After a month of nonstop travel, I was in need of some down town and to hang out with friends. Through a friend of a friend, I ended up in Salerno for a few days. Just what I needed.

Tucked in on the beach at La Isla Resort, I was lucky enough to explore the area with locals, and really get an idea of what makes this area of Italy tick. After all of the hustle and bustle of the popular Amalfi Coast, getting to Salerno felt like I was coming back to the real Italy.

For me, there are times when I want to be a tourist, relish in taking photos, buying postcards and enjoy being the token foreigner. But there are other times I want to put my camera down and experience a place for itself, observe what it must be like to live there, wonder at cultural differences.

Can you guess which one I went for in Salerno?

southern italy

With my camera tucked away and my mind focused on food and making new friends, I enjoyed my few days in Salerno. From eating proper Italian pizza with Italians at La Basculla, to visiting a buffalo farm and eating decadent buffalo ice-cream (holy shit, how have I not tried this before?!) at Tenuta Vannulo to sitting on the beach and watching the sun set, I forgot about all trying to analyze a place and just enjoyed being there.

This is something I need to do more often. Oh, and buffalo ice-cream.

Have you ever gone off the grid in a place like Salerno?

southern italy

5. Matera

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Matera was one of the biggest surprises for me this summer.

Straight out of a movie (The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson) Matera is one of best preserved ancient cities and one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, making walking its narrow cobbled streets feel like you’ve actually stepped back in time.

Combined with the fact that the rest of the known world has yet to discover the charm and magic surrounded this time-capsule of a city, makes Matera one of my top favorite places in Italy.

southern italy

From sleeping in a restored Renaissance palace to getting lost in overgrown back alleys and following the cats to trying flower flavored gourmet gelato in the main square, I have nothing but fond memories from Matera, well except for the part where I royally fucked up the public transportation in Puglia and almost didn’t arrive.

Selective amnesia, let’s forget about that little mess.

All in all, I can’t recommend southern Italy enough, and I know next time I head back to Europe, I will be building in time to discover more about this area of the country.

Have you been to southern Italy? Heard of any of these places? Would you like to visit one day?

southern italy

southern italy

47 Responses to Postcards from Southern Italy

  1. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas January 13, 2014 at 4:30 am #

    I love the feeling of returning to a familiar place. Even when my memories are fuzzy back home, I seem to remember every detail once I’m back in the city! My parents were floored that I could remember places I’d eaten in Vienna and Salzburg five years ago!

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 1:59 am #

      that’s awesome! I love going back to but sometimes I need some space, like with spain haha

  2. Katie January 13, 2014 at 7:40 am #

    Beautiful photos.

    My parents and I drove around Italy a few years ago, from Florence down to Naples and the Amalfi Coast, then back up to Pisa. We visited Positano, but stayed in the smaller, quieter town of Praiano, just along the coast. It was such a lovely picturesque place to spend a relaxing few days.

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:01 am #

      That’s awesome, sounds like an amazing trip with your family! I’d love to take my parents there one day!

      • Katie January 14, 2014 at 8:22 am #

        It was a great trip! I think my parents thought it would be our last family holiday in a while, since I was heading off to uni, so we made extra efforts to make it a lovely couple of weeks.

  3. EuroTripTips January 13, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Not a huge fan of Italy myself. I would be it if weren’t for the massive crowds of tourists… It is a beautiful country though. Perhaps I should visit in the wintertime?

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:01 am #

      Wintertime and head south, a lot less crowds. Even outside the Amalfi coast in summer is quiet

  4. Kaelene @Unlocking Kiki January 13, 2014 at 10:45 am #

    Take me there asap! All these places are so beautiful, I wasn’t a huge fan of Italy when traveling through the big cities and popular places for tourist. I think I need to give Italy another shot though and try out some of these beautiful cities!

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:03 am #

      head south, you’ll love it!

  5. Christine Monson January 13, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    I always wanted to go to Italy, and New Zealand. Gorgeous Pictures, LIz. Bello!

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:02 am #

      Thank you! I hope you get to both soon!

  6. Krista January 13, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    Gorgeous pictures! I’ve been to Positano and it remains one of my top favorite places in the world. I’ll have to add the others to my to-visit list!

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:16 am #

      Positano is gorgeous! These other spots are pretty glorious too, and much less crowded. I love southern Italy!

  7. Rosemary K January 13, 2014 at 12:03 pm #

    If I didn’t live in France, I’d live in Italy. Since we drive there from Paris, we are slowly making our way further south but have not gone further than Positano and Paestum. I’m looking forward to visting all the other places you’ve mentioned.

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:17 am #

      Yay! That’s what I like to hear!

  8. Heather January 13, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    This was just the break from freezing North America that I needed! I’ve spent several weeks in Italy but never made is south of Naples. That will be remedied on the next trip :-)

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:17 am #

      GO SOUTH!!!!

  9. Andi January 13, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    BEYOND GORGEOUS!!!!!!

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:12 am #

      Thanks Andi!

  10. Trevor Huxham January 13, 2014 at 5:14 pm #

    While reading through Rick Steves’ Italy guidebook for yours truly’s Baby’s First Italy Trip this Christmas break, I was shocked that he completely ignored southern Italy, apart from the Naples area. Sicily was barely even mentioned! When I go back (it’s not an IF but a WHEN), I want to see more of the south, despite my unease with the chaos and general shittiness of Naples.

    Your picture of the Vespa in Ostuni still has me dazzled, and Matera seems absolutely magical.

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:13 am #

      Rick Steves SUCKS precisely for that reason – he never looks beyond the most standard tourist destinations. You would love southern Italy, its gorgeous!

  11. Hayley January 13, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    Ahhhh I kind of want to know more about this buffalo ice-cream. What did it taste like? I’m intrigued. Awesome photos but my mind couldn’t get past this haha! x

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:13 am #

      It was rich and divine, much better than regular ice-cream. I wish I had better pictures but I have no self-control and gobbled it up immediately haha

  12. Leland C January 13, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

    WOW. Tenuta Moreno looks so amazing.. those local-grown tomatoes and fresh veggies.. I can only imagine the taste!

    How about the swimming near Positano? Is the water warm similar to the tropics? Oh and.. my god.. some of the super yachts in your pictures.. just excessive. :)

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:14 am #

      I love home grown veggies, it tasted so good! I didn’t swim this time in Positano but I think it’s nice in summer, though a bit crowded. The water is a beautiful blue and so clear! Yeah those yachts make me hate life, so unfair!

      • Leland C January 14, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

        I hope you get the chance to do a post on home grown tomatoes (and other veggies of course!) some time soon :)

  13. Jen @thetrustedtraveller January 13, 2014 at 11:01 pm #

    Great post Liz. I have spent a bit of time in Italy but this makes me want to go back (very soon) and explore some of the places you talk about in this post.

    • Liz January 14, 2014 at 2:18 am #

      wahooo! I’m jealous, I wish I could go back now :)

  14. Rachel of Hippie in Heels January 14, 2014 at 8:03 am #

    OH I want to go! It looks so amazing! sometimes seeing places like this make me want to leave India. The grass is always greener!

    • Liz January 15, 2014 at 2:41 am #

      haha that is definitely true!

  15. Raffaella January 14, 2014 at 1:41 pm #

    My dad is from Puglia, and I spend a week there (hardly enough) last time. Loved Ostuni and Matera, didn’t make it to Brindisi. Lecce and Gallipoli were amazing! Tourist season was just starting when we continued on to the Amalfi coast in mid-May but the weather was really nice for the most part – I don’t think I could deal with how crowded it gets in summer. Great read and thanks for sharing southern Italy with everyone!s

    • Liz January 15, 2014 at 2:41 am #

      thank you! So lucky to have an Italian dad!

  16. Angie Nasr January 15, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    Really really enjoyed reading this post. I was hoping you could tell me where you would choose to go if you can only pick one. Southern Italy, Southern France or Southern Spain?? (I’ve been to Florence and Tuscany and Paris). I have buffalo ice cream on my mind now! Haha thanks!

    • Liz January 15, 2014 at 2:42 am #

      sounds like you should head to southern Spain since you haven’t been there yet!

  17. Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren January 16, 2014 at 2:46 am #

    You capture Italy beautifully. Although England has mostly shitty weather, it’s my place that I always go back to. Thanks for sharing!

    Happy travels :)

  18. Kendel January 20, 2014 at 1:52 am #

    I’m currently in Kuaotunu, a little village in the North Island of New Zealand and it is POURING out of the sky. The weather is awful here. I think NZ has forgotten what a proper “summer” is like. But wow, your photos! They’ve revived my love {lust} for Italy and I’m DEFINITELY going to spend a good chunk of time over there in the not-so-distant future!

    • Liz January 20, 2014 at 5:41 am #

      Yeah I need summer, that’s part of the reason I wrote this haha. take me back to sunshine and beaches please!!

  19. Annie January 29, 2014 at 12:35 am #

    Oh, I love Italy so much it hurts to look at these photos. I’m ready to go back. Today. And we’ve only made it to the cities…I can’t wait to check out the Amalfi coast this summer! Beautiful photos, dear.

    • Liz January 29, 2014 at 10:07 am #

      It’s so beautiful!!!

  20. Matt January 31, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    This article was shared by a friend of mine on Facebook, very good read ! You should definitely go to Sicily, you are going to fall in love with Southern Italy even more :-)

    • Liz January 31, 2014 at 10:51 am #

      It’s totally on the list :)

  21. Alex February 12, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    Loved this! Just found your site via Buzzfeed. Positano was one of the greatest places I’ve ever visited. The people were so kind and the food was out of this world. I haven’t been there in years, but am looking to go back very soon! Safe travels!

  22. Bisbocci Abroad February 18, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    I’m so glad you posted about Southern Italy and gave it the love it deserves! So many people never look past the Florence/Venice/Rome circuit and consequently miss out on some of the best destinations Italy has to offer! You included some great places here…the Amalfi Coast (of course), Ostuni and Matera….Next time you return, if you haven’t gone already, I’d suggest Alberobello and Lecce!
    Happy travels,
    Erika

  23. Kate February 21, 2014 at 3:04 am #

    I spent so much time exploring the northern parts of Italy, but the few times I spent in the south were amazing! This makes me want to go back for a whole summer and just bop from city to city! Have you been to Sicily yet?

  24. Ben Aiken December 10, 2014 at 10:12 am #

    As a Kiwi that is living near Bari I can say I love your take on Southern Italy, Basilicata is one of my favourite regions in Italy offering many places of interest from rafting in the mountains to ziplines between mountain high cities. And of course my love Puglia, there isn’t a better summer out there than an “estate pugliese”, Polignano a Mare is my favourite spot at the sea, with the cutest historic town set of the cliffs of the Adriatic. But you haven’t seen Puglia if you haven’t seen Gargano, the most underrated spot in Puglia, where you find the perfect mix between timeless lime stone beaches, to mediterranean forests and beautiful churches. So glag you got to enjoy Southern Italy as much as I do.

    • Liz December 12, 2014 at 11:28 am #

      cool! I hope you’re enjoying it over there!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Weekly Blogger Round-Up: Renovating a château – Visiting Southern Italy – No pants in the Paris metro | Aussie in France - January 14, 2014

    […] Maybe I’m wrong (please tell me if I am) but after spending some time in southern Italy, I’ve realized a few things, the first and foremost being that it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Rome, Florence, Venice, and all those great cities and regions of the north get heaps of love from us foreigners, and for good reason, they rock. But what about the south? Read more […]

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