8 Romantic Towns in Southern Italy

In our years here in southern Italy, we’ve come across so many stunning places. Many of them are so unknown that it surprises us – but that’s better for us. Let the buses and hoards all herd to the “same old” spots while we enjoy the uncrowded breathing room in these beauts.

Maratea. We’re not sure why Maratea is so uncrowded; even in high season we can find beach space and a room that doesn’t break the budget. But we’re not complaining (and almost hate to tout it). However, the dramatic rocky coastline is every bit as beautiful as the Amalfi Coast, and the variety of beaches and coves leaves couples with romantic and secluded options. The town uphill has a pretty piazzetta and coastal village appeal, while the porto serves up excellent dining with the backdrop of bobbing boats and spectacular sunsets. (Maratea, Potenza, Basilicata)

Matera. The “rock city” and its intricate ups-and-downs of lanes and tons of discoveries at every turn oozes romance. Play out your own Indiana Jones-type of adventure among the Sassi, which are especially evocative at night or when there is a bit of mist or fog. The upper city has some showy shopping and trendy cafes. Music wafts from the noted conservatory, and jazz is a big thing here. You can sleep in a romantic cave or a luxurious palazzo, your call. (Matera, Matera, Basilicata)

Castellabate. While Italians know about this seaside stunner, most Americans don’t (yet). The old town on the hill has splendid views across the sea, as far as Capri on clear days. The tucked-in piazza is a great place to hang out after exploring around the lanes. The seaside towns of Santa Maria and San Marco di Castellabate are part of the same comune, with spectacular beaches, fishing town atmosphere, great seafood, sea breezes, and waterfront bars. San Marco has the added romantic (and relaxing) bonus of an upscale spa. (Castellabate, Salerno, Campania)

Polignano a Mare. What is about waterfront towns that inspire romance? The waves, the salt air? In Polignano a Mare, it’s also the slick limestone streets and the white-washed old town that clings to a cliff, as well as the color of the water, so clear and such a deep, deep blue. We love the seafood here, the ever-changing sea views, and the hidden-away swimming spots. Wandering the old town brings you to lovely overlooks and poetry-infused corners. Now that’s romantic! (Polignano a Mare, Bari, Puglia)

Locorotondo.  It’s hard to pick just one town in the Valle d’Itria of Puglia as they all have their amorous attributes, but little Locorotondo just sort of does it up in a small space. The circular-shaped old town boasts some cool dining options right on the streets, and the white-washed houses lined-up in rows with their peaked roofs, called cummerse, are adorable.  There are pretty palazzi and churches to look at as you stroll hand in hand. The town splashes itself with adornments in every holiday, be it Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Carnevale. (Locorotondo, Bari, Puglia)

Trani. Seaside Trani is one of Puglia’s prettiest port towns. There’s a sophisticated feel to the place with its imposing palazzi, historic Jewish quarter, and shiny limestone streets. Walk along the arch of the waterfront, bask in the bastion-like waterfront cathedral, enjoy a Spritz on the seafront, and a just-caught seafood dinner (followed by a gelato, of course). Enjoy a romantic B&B or a historic palace hotel, either way you’ll wrap up in romance. (Trani, Barletta-Andria-Trani, Puglia)

Pioppi isn’t just a user-friendly beach town, it’s also a “fountain of youth” – or, better to say, of longevity. If you want to find the secret of staying healthy or living to 100, this is the place. There’s a lot of longevity and a bunch of active seniors around this town known as the epicenter of the Mediterranean diet. But for a relaxed and romantic beach stay, this is a great spot. Walk outside and hit the sand- no driving, no fuss. Aah, bliss. Tiny but charming, and the crystal water’s lulling waves is nature’s perfect music for you. (Pioppi, Salerno, Campania)

Raito. Along the end of the Amalfi Coast, this uphill town near Vietri sul Mare is a short distance from the city of Salerno but a romantic world away. Named among the most beautiful villages in Italy the jumble of pastel buildings and stunning sea views make Raito a romantic winner. There are cozy B&Bs, a luxury hotel, and a cliff-side winery to indulge in some vino and scrumptious food samplings (because in Italy food spells a-m-o-r-e.). The marina town of Vietri sul Mare is close at hand and has a plethora of pleasing dining options. (Raito, Salerno, Campania)