It is often said that there is a sharp divide between northern and southern Italy. Northern Italians are hard workers, they drive the economy, live in bigger cities, earn more money, are more organised and reliable. However, they are also dull, their cities are industrial and uninteresting to visit. Southern Italians are fun, friendly, welcoming, they have a relaxed lifestyle and know how to enjoy their gorgeous territory. Nevertheless, they are lazy, sly, disorganised and will always try to outsmart you.
Can we trust these stereotypes? How far are they from the truth? Will the decision to book a holiday in the north rather than in the south or vice versa affect your experience in Italy?
Stereotypes are just generalisations and they tend to present the reality in a very rigid way. Therefore travellers in particular should acknowledge that life in Italy and anywhere in the world is much more complex and multifaceted than we often make it seem.
This said, there are undoubtedly some very visible differences between northern and southern Italy. The Italian peninsula was unified as a single nation fairly recently in 1861. Before this unification the territory was very fragmented and Italians lived under different kingdoms like the Bourbons or the House of Habsburg with very little in common! Prior to an official Italian idiom being introduced, people spoke local languages which remain, to present day, as regional dialects. The shift towards this cohesive ‘Italian’ language across the country was, in fact, very slow and in many areas the traditional dialects are still widely used.
This goes some way to explaining why Italians have very strong regional identities and why, amongst other things, local cuisine varies hugely from one place to another. Differences are not solely historical but are also heavily linked to geographical conditions. With the Italian territory measuring approximately 1300 km from north to south it is understandable that many things vary along the way!
In the north, the climate is continental and characterised by the proximity of the Alps. In central Italy you can find beautiful regions with picturesque hills: Tuscany, Umbria and Marche whereas in border regions such as Trentino, Piedmont or Friuli you can see the influences of by neighbouring countries like Austria or France. Beyond that, Italy has over 7000 km of coast and two splendid islands; Sardinia and Sicily!! The south has a warmer, Mediterranean climate, and wonderful beaches, the appeal of which goes hand in hand. Sicily is relatively close to the shores of North Africa and some Arabian influences have also migrated in to the culture of the place. These are largely noticeable in its food and architecture.
In conclusion, choosing to travel to northern Italy instead of southern Italy or vice versa will of course, affect your holiday experience. Not in terms of quality, but the environment itself will be quite different. Before you book, think about what kind of travel experience you are looking for. A city of art? A peaceful resort surrounded by lush forests with an endless choice of winding bike trails? A chic and classy destination where you can relax and do a little shopping? Or maybe you have been waiting to laze on a golden, sandy beach? Italy can offer you all of this.
Ask yourself these questions and let them guide your choice. Our experts will then be happy to suggest the best destination for you. Be it north or south and we are looking forward to tailoring the perfect Italian holiday.