Hidden Gems of Southern Italy

Our travel experts Ria, Hannah, Livia and Bex traveled through Puglia and Sicily to discover the latest in luxury hotels, fine dining, and unforgettable experiences.

12 March 2024

Hidden Gems of Southern Italy

Travel Specialists from across our Singapore, UK and US offices joined forces on a trip to Southern Italy. It was a meeting of like-minds and different backgrounds united by a love of travel, all in this stunning part of Europe. They’ve come together to share their top tips for discovering the region.


What’s special about this region of Italy?

“Southern Italy is the perfect place to enjoy a more authentic and slower life. If you are looking to escape from busy cities, places like Puglia and Sicily will really make you feel like you have stepped back in time and where locals in small towns really value the little things of life,” says Livia from our San Diego office.


Top Tips from our Experts

  • Really take the time to travel around Sicily as a full itinerary, taking in a mixture of rural countryside, historical sites, beautiful coastal areas, and bustling towns with loads of character. For those that have more time, combine Sicily with Malta for a trip rich in culture and fantastic local experiences.
  • If you're staying at The Sant'Andrea, head up to The Timeo for incredible views of Etna over a lunch or evening cocktail.
  • Ask your Travel Expert to organize a private lunch in the vegetable garden of Villa Athena, you won’t regret it!

Stand-out Experiences in Southern Italy

It was a busy trip, each day filled with fabulous meals, stunning scenery and cultural deep dives. Here are the experiences our team loved the most:

Bike tour and olive oil tasting in Puglia
Bike Tour and Olive Oil Tasting

“Join a bike tour and olive oil tasting in a masseria in Puglia when you stay at Borgo Egnazia. Puglia produces 80% of the olive oil in Italy so this is the best place to experience the olive oil tasting. Biking through hundreds of olive groves with the sea views is an experience in itself!” says Ria.

Mt Etna
Mount Etna Hike and Winery

“The Mt Etna hike was so interesting, we had two geologist guides who knew so much about Etna and we learned a lot from them, plus the scenery was amazing. We drove in a 4x4 to see a lava flow from a 2002 eruption before walking along a couple of Etna's dormant craters that erupted about 100 years ago,” says Bex. Every hike, long or short, should end with a reward, “We also learned how the fertile soil also produces the best wine in Sicily and sampled a wonderful selection in a nearby winery over lunch,” adds Bex.

Valley of the Temples, Sicily
Valley of the Temples Tour in Agrigento

“To understand Sicily and its rich history, a visit to Valley of the Temples is a must. A good guide helps you navigate through the well preserved ancient Greek buildings avoiding crowds and focusing on the highlights. It was an incredible experience,” says Ria.

Noto views from Seven Rooms
Visit Noto

“Noto is a beautiful historical town, quaint and traditional donning early baroque architecture from the 18th century onwards. Golden hour is the best time to experience the magic of this place, as the golden facades on the buildings really glow. There are some wonderful local shops selling regional produce, as well as plenty of delicious, authentic restaurants lining every street corner,” says Hannah.

Caffe Leccese from Lecce
Must-try Regional Delicacies

Ria encourages her guests try some of her favorite treats, “Granita is like a sorbet, perfect for hot days. Try the almond granita topped with coffee flavored granita. Absolutely delicious! Try Caffe Leccese from Lecce – It’s espresso with almond syrup over ice. The people from Lecce were already into iced coffee even before it was a thing! Also look out for Peperoni Cruschi: sun dried red peppers that are totally addictive. It’s a delectable snack and unique to Matera and the region of Basilicata. It’s hard to find them anywhere else.”

Four Seasons San Domenico Palace, raw red shrimp
Unforgettable Dining

Bex is still dreaming of several of her Italian meals, starting with squid ink arancini at a restaurant called Porto San Paolo in Sciacca, “it was honestly the best thing I have ever tasted. But also, the pasta at Taverna de Lupo in Ragusa - everything we tasted was incredible. For seafood, I must recommend the Four Seasons San Domenico Palace, particularly the raw red shrimp”.

Livia, who is Italian and knows her local restaurants, gives her top dinner tip: “Grab reservations at Cumpa Cosimo in Ravello, a great spot for classic dishes.”

Our Picks of Where to Stay

Our team loved every hotel they stayed in, each with their own distinct character. Here’s what they had to say about their favorites:

 Four Seasons San Domenico Palace
Four Seasons San Domenico Palace, Taormina

Brought to the attention of many as the setting of the White Lotus season two, the Four Seasons also has a fascinating history which was brought to life by the hotel's historian on an exclusive guided tour. The property exudes luxury in every sense.

Il San Corrado di Noto pool
Il San Corrado di Noto, Noto

A fantastic location for guests wanting a resort style retreat, surrounded by scenic countryside. A stone’s throw from Noto, Il San Corrado di Noto is ideal for guests wanting the best of both worlds, space and privacy but with the convenience of a historical local town on your doorstep.

Livia Angelini at Borgo Egnazia, Puglia
Borgo Egnazia, Puglia

Perfection. A one-of-a-kind experience to be living in a borgo (village), with so much to do, you will never get bored. Borgo Egnazia's kids club caters to kids from four months to eighteen years old.

Hotel Q92, Noto terrace
Hotel Q92, Noto

Hotel Q92 Noto has a real personal touch, and a family-run feel. You almost forget you're a tourist and feel instead like a special guest at a family residence. The hotel is right on the main street in Noto so it's perfect for a bit of buzz.

Belmond Villa Sant'Andrea restaurant
Belmond Villa Sant'Andrea & Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Taormina

Villa Sant’Andrea has a relaxed atmosphere for guests looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Taormina and spend time by the sea, sharing facilities at Grand Hotel Timeo. The service is top notch, and the views are unrivaled at both.

Book Your Luxury Italy Trip Today

Ready to start planning your trip and uncover the hidden gems of Italy? Our travel experts are on hand to plan a trip that is truly unique to you. Find inspiration from our tours of Italy that take you under the skin of this unparallelled destination.

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