There is a distinct difference between the North and South of Italy. I find the South of Italy to be more raw, real, not as industrious yet still lively, full of history, and a chaotic feel that is purposeful and freeing. Much of Italy has somewhat of a chaotic feel, with city congestion, traffic, and geographic make-up—mountains down its center and top and surrounded by waters. In the South there is an unstructured feel unlike its northern counterpart.
All of Italy has a movement of time that is unlike that of America. It’s a little slower, a little less frenetic, and more moment-to-moment even in its bigger and more modern cities like Milan. This moment-to-moment feel is much more evident in the South of Italy. It is what brings a sense of peace to the chaos. I highly recommend visiting the bigger, more touristy cities; yet, I stress strongly that the south of Italy must be seen, otherwise Italy’s true essence will be missed.
My family lives a little outside Palermo and since I was a child it’s a city I visit almost every year. I love my visits to this city; yet, while in my twenties they were my most memorable--I say this because I had just finished university, had no obligations of work or responsibilities and was free of life's worries and woes. I was fortunate to have had a year in Italy to explore and be with my family. I return every year, however my stay is much more brief but always very full and fulfilling. Palermo is a great city for shopping, eating and nightlife—it’s a very gritty, authentic and youthful city surrounded by an island history that surpasses that of Italy’s north--architecturally, it too is different with an Arabic, Norman and Greek influence. Many mythological characters have been known to live or visit the island of Sicily from Cyclops, Persephone and Dionysius-- It’s a mythical place indeed. Famous writers have written about its aesthetics, its origins, and all stating in their own way that Italy is not truly experienced without visiting this mysterious, captivating and alluring island. Exploring its larger cities such as Messina, Catania and Agrigento and seeing the smaller islands that surround this region is a must see; yet, Palermo, being its capital, would be a great place to start…
During my year sojourn in Italy and while living in Sicily, I got a chance to visit a friend that was living on the island of Ischia off the coast of Naples. I’d recommend taking the overnight ship ride from Palermo’s port to the port of Naples—a wonderful experience. Ischia and the smaller island of Capri are also on my—you-must-see-list —you must see these breathtakingly beautiful islands.
The city of Naples is unfortunately mis-understood and missed by visitors due to the belief of high crime, garbage, and idea that there is not much to see—there is crime, just like in many other Italian cities, (bad things can happen anywhere—a group I was with one year was robbed in Florence, of all cities), there is garbage but the city is cleaning itself up (the garbage crisis is everywhere in Italy including the big tourist cities like Rome) and there is no truth to the idea that there is not much to see—there is plenty to experience, explore and see in Naples. This is truly one of my favorite cities in all of Italy—its history, its people, and its palpable vitality is contagious! If you have the time, explore its underground, its Centro Storico (Spaccanapoli), its famous Amalfi Coast and its little surrounding villages. Also, Pompeii is not too far…
Public domain footage used for the Naples section of the video