The 20 Regions of Italy
Italy is made up of 20 regions, each with its own history, flavors, customs, and local dialects. Some regions, like Tuscany and Sicily, are well-known as travel destinations, while others like Lazio, Lombardy, and Piemonte, are overshadowed by their capitals Rome, Milan, and Turin.
It’s worthwhile to educate yourself about the regions of Italy before planning your trip. So here is information about the most popular places to visit in each of Italy’s 20 regions, as well as information on the best times to visit each region and how to get there.
Map of Italy’s Regions
The Most Popular Destinations in Each Italian Region
|L’Aquila, Gran Sasso National Park, Parco Majella
|Reggio di Calabria, Tropea
|Naples, Capri, Ischia, Procida, Reggia di Caserta, the Cilento
|Bologna, Modena, Parma
|Rome, Civita di Bagnoregio, Ostia Antica, Castelli Romani, Tivoli, Sperlonga and the Riviera d’Ulisse
|Cinque Terre, Genoa
|Milan, Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Lake Como, Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore, Mantova
|The Marches (Le Marche)
|Bari, Alberobello, Lecce, the Salento subregion
|Emerald Coast (Costa Smeralda), Alghero, Cagliari
|Palermo, Catania, Taormina, Aeolian Islands, Noto, Siracusa
|Florence, Siena, Pisa, Arezzo, Cortona, Chianti subregion, San Gimignano, Elba
|Bolzano, Trento, The Dolomites
|Perugia, Assisi, Orvieto, Spoleto
|Aosta, Mont Blanc/Courmayer, Cervinia/Matterhorn, Gran Paradiso National Park
|Venice, Padua (Padova), Treviso, Verona, Vicenza, the Prosecco hills
The Five Autonomous Regions of Italy
There are five regions in Italy that are designated as autonomous regions or autonomous provinces. These regions are:
- Friuli-Venezia Giulia
- Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol
- Valle d’Aosta
Italy has given these five regions a “special statute” status, a largely administrative distinction that allows these regions more independence with regard to taxes and local laws. This is due to their history, but also to their geography, as you’ll notice that all five of these regions are either islands (Sardinia, Sicily) or border other countries.
While every region in Italy has its own accent and/or dialect, all five autonomous regions are notable for their dialects that incorporate language from their neighboring countries. So, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, you’ll hear Italian mixed with Slovenian; in Trentino-Alto Adige, Italian blends with German; and in Valle d’Aosta, you’ll hear a mélange of Italian and French.
Learn More About Each Italian Region
From its rugged, mountainous national parks to its less touristy Adriatic beaches, Abruzzo is, as noted by writer Giorgio Manganelli, “a great producer of silence. Abruzzo is considered the greenest region in Europe owing to the fact that is made up largely of parks and nature reserves, including three national parks.
Basilicata, the instep of Italy’s boot, is best known for the stony town of Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region is mostly mountainous, save for two stretches of coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Gulf of Taranto.
One of the least explored regions in Italy, Calabria is often skipped over as travelers head to its better-known “neighbor” Sicily. The narrow Straits of Messina separate Calabria, aka “the toe of Italy,” from the largest island in the Mediterranean.
Campania is one of those regions that has it all. Naples, the regional capital, is a lively yet mysterious urban center whose influence stretches across the entire region and beyond. Major tourist destinations Capri and Pompeii are in Campania, as the picturesque Amalfi Coast.
Emilia-Romagna is a region known for its good taste and unforgettable flavors. The region is a major contributor to Italy’s gastronomic heritage, being the birthplace of prosciutto, Parmigiano, balsamic vinegar, and egg-based pasta like tortellini and lasagne. Bologna, the regional capital, is home to the oldest university in the world.
Often paired with Venice and the Veneto itineraries, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is the easternmost region in Italy. One of the five autonomous regions, FVG has a Central European flavor, owing to its geography and long history as a crossroads for trade, particularly during the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Lazio is Rome’s region. But despite being home to Italy’s capital and largest city, the region has a reputation for being rather bucolic. Lazio is known for its archaeological sites—both Roman and Etruscan—medieval villages, tranquil beaches, and mountain towns.
The small region of Liguria is home to tourist favorite Cinque Terre, the “five lands” that colorfully cling to cliffs along the coast of the Ligurian Sea. This is also the region of ancient ports Genoa and La Spezia.
The richest and most populous of Italy’s regions, Lombardy is home to Milan. In addition to being the regional capital, Milan is also Italy’s capital of fashion, finance, and media. Beyond the hustle and bustle of Milan, Lombardy boasts some of the most beautiful and exclusive lakeside villages around Lake Como, Lago di Garda, and Lago Maggiore.
Marche, the region known as “the Marches” in English, is often called “Italy in one region” for its diverse geography. Ancona, the capital, lies along the coast and is a busy Adriatic port. Inland, the city of Urbino is an ideal city still basking in its importance as a center of Renaissance culture.
Once part of a larger region known as Abruzzi, Molise is a lot like its neighbor Abruzzo. Italians joke that “Molise non esiste”—Molise doesn’t exist—mostly because it is the country’s quiet, most unassuming region, blessed with small villages, rural landscapes, and hearty, honest food.
Elegant and understated but also industrial and innovative, Piemonte (Piedmont) is the realm of the royal House of Savoy and the home of Fiat. The regional capital and Italy’s fourth-largest city, Turin (Torino) has a cityscape punctuated by the unusual Mole Antonelliana and framed by the not-so-distant Alps.
If Italy is a boot, then Puglia is its spur and stiletto heel. A long region on Italy’s southeast coast, Apulia, as it’s called in English, contains vast fields of wheat and olive groves in its north and interior and gorgeous beaches and swimming coves in the south. UNESCO Heritage Site Alberobello is a popular tourist destination.
The second-largest island of Italy and in the Mediterranean, Sardinia is both a playground for the rich (in the Costa Smeralda) and also a mysterious land of shepherds and superstitions whose heritage has been shaped for thousands of years.
A crossroads for traders and crusaders from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, Sicily is a sunny island with a unique history. Palermo, its capital, is notable for its opulent churches. Ancient Greek temples dot the landscape around Taormina.
Trentino Alto Adige
The Germanic part of Italy, Trentino Alto Adige is also known as Südtirol. This region is best known for the rugged beauty of the Dolomite Mountains. Here is also where Ötzi the Iceman is on display in Bolzano.
A harmonious landscape of vineyards, olive groves, and rolling plains dotted with cypress trees, Tuscany is one of the most beautiful—and well-known—regions in Italy. One could easily spend an entire vacation here visiting historic towns, touring wineries, and taking in the serene scenery. Florence, the regional capital, is one of the most popular destinations in Italy and the perfect base for exploring the rest of the region.
The “Green Heart of Italy” is the perfect name for Umbria, the central, landlocked region of picturesque medieval hill towns, rolling green farmland, and dense forests. Perugia is the capital of Umbria.
Wedged between the Italian region of Piemonte, France, and Switzerland, Valle d’Aosta is Italy’s French-flavored autonomous region. The Aosta Valley is known for its great skiing and winter landscapes, particularly around Cervinia.
The Veneto region is known primarily for the city that gave it its name: Venice (Venezia in Italian). Here was the seat of the Venetian Republic, which ruled the northern Adriatic for a millennium from the 8th to the 18th centuries. Beyond Venice, the Veneto is home to Padua, Vicenza, and the Prosecco hills of Valdobbiadene.