We've released our Southern Italy Expert Guide, written by Michael Markarian! This is the final installment of our Italy expert guide series, joining our introductory, northern Italy, and central Italy guides.
Read an excerpt of the new guide below, and find the full version in the expert guide section.
Southern Italy is more agrarian and less industrialized than the northern portion of the country, and it has been slower to develop infrastructure. Farther from the rest of Europe—geographically as well as culturally—it is also more isolated by mountains and seas. Although it is home to large cities, such as Naples and Palermo, and popular tourist destinations, such as the Amalfi Coast, the south has more poverty than, and over double the unemployment rate of, the rest of Italy. Some of its regions are not widely known outside the country, except perhaps to descendants of Italian immigrants who left those regions seeking opportunity.
During the unification of Italy in the 19th century, the Risorgimento government was largely composed of northerners. The south was hurt by heavy taxation, high protective tariffs on northern industrial goods, and a mandatory seven years of military service, which had a particularly significant impact on the farm labor force in rural areas. As late as 1900, the illiteracy rate in southern Italy was 70%, 10 times higher than that of England, France, or Germany. More than four million Italians—over 10% of the national population—immigrated to the United States between 1880 and 1924, most of them from the rural south and the island of Sicily.
Yet despite its hardships, southern Italy has a long and rich history with viticulture and was likely one of the world’s earliest centers of vine domestication, after the Caucuses, Levant, and eastern Mediterranean. A 2017 archeological discovery of wine residue in terra-cotta jars inside a cave at Monte Kronio, in southwestern Sicily, suggests that winemaking in this area goes back 6,000 years.