Ultimate Guide to the 20 Regions of Italy (+ Map)

Unlock the secret to planning the perfect Italian vacation with this guide to the 20 regions of Italy

If you ask an Italian where they are from, there’s a good chance that they will identify this by region.

Before its unification in 1871, Italy existed as a collection of individual states, each with a rich history, customs and local dialects. Modern Italy comprises 20 administrative regions, which proudly preserve their cultural heritage and traditions.

Understanding the distinct character of each of Italy’s regions is essential when planning an Italian vacation. To help you do this, I’ve put together a concise summary of these regions and their main attractions.

While some may be instantly recognizable, others are hidden gems. But together, these regions weave the tapestry of one of the world’s most diverse and enchanting countries.

illustration of famous italian icons depicting what is italy famous for

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An A to Z List of the 20 Regions of Italy

In a hurry? Here’s a quick guide to Italy’s regions.

Those marked with an asterisk (*) are autonomous regions, which have more control over local legislation and spending. This distinction should not impact your travel arrangements.

REGIONPOPULAR PLACES TO VISIT
AbruzzoL’Aquila, Gran Sasso National Park, Parco Majella
Apulia (Puglia)Bari, Alberobello, Lecce
BasilicataMatera, Melfi
CalabriaReggio di Calabria, Tropea
CampaniaNaples, Capri, Ischia, Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, Mount Vesuvius
Emilia RomagnaBologna, Modena, Parma, Ferrara, Ravenna, Rimini
Friuli-Venezia Giulia*Trieste, Lignano
LazioRome, Civita di Bagnoregio, Ostia Antica, Tivoli, Sperlonga
LiguriaCinque Terre, Genoa
LombardyMilan, Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Lake Como, Lake Garda (western shore), Lake Maggiore, Mantova/Mantua
Le MarcheAncona, Urbino
MoliseAgnone, Térmoli
Piedmont (Piemonte)Turin, Alba
Sardinia (Sardegna)*Costa Smeralda, Alghero, Cagliari, Su Nuraxi di Barumini
Sicily (Sicilia)*Palermo, Catania, Taormina, Mount Etna, Siracusa
Tuscany (Toscana)Florence, Siena, Pisa, Arezzo, Cortona, Chianti subregion, San Gimignano, Elba
Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol*Trento, The Dolomites
UmbriaPerugia, Assisi, Orvieto, Spoleto, Gubbio
Valle d’Aosta*Mont Blanc and Matterhorn, Gran Paradiso National Park
VenetoVenice, Verona, Vicenza, Padua (Padova), Treviso, Lake Garda (eastern shore)

Map of Italy’s Regions

multicoloured map showing the 20 regions of italy

The Regions of Italy from North to South

For the majority of travellers, it is more practical to divide the country into broad geographic regions.

Our journey through Italy starts in the industrial heartland in the north and continues to the sun-drenched coastlines at the southern tip of the boot, before ending in the country’s island regions. There’s a brief overview of each region and I will shine a spotlight on its best-known destinations.

NORTHERN ITALY

Northern Italy is the country’s industrial and economic powerhouse. It’s also known for its jaw-dropping landscapes, including the majestic Alps and the Italian lakes.

Here you will find two of Italy’s greatest cities: the global fashion and financial hub of Milan and timeless Venice. The northern regions’ rich culinary heritage includes dishes like risotto, polenta and pesto.

1. Piedmont (Piemonte)

Piedmont is in the northwestern corner of Italy and offers a perfect package of history, culture and natural beauty.

Skiers make a beeline for its Alpine resorts, including Sestriere which hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics. This region is also famous for its fine wines, including Barolo and Barbaresco, as well as the exquisite white truffles of Alba.

Turin, its capital, has elegant architecture, a rich history and world-class museums.

red rooftops of the city of turin in italy's piedmont region
Turin

Where to visit in Piedmont:

  • Turin – Baroque city that is the home of Fiat, Italy’s car manufacturing giant.
  • Asti and Alba – centres for the production of Barolo and Asti Spumante
  • Italian Alpine resorts including Sestriere, Bardonecchia and Limone Piemonte

2. Valle d’Aosta

Home to the majestic Mont Blanc, Europe’s highest peak, Valle d’Aosta, is characterized by its Alpine landscapes and rich cultural heritage. This is the region of Italy for you if you like skiing, hiking or mountaineering.

Valle d’Aosta’s cuisine reflects its French and Italian influences, with foods like fondue and Fontina cheese.

Where to visit in Valle d’Aosta:

  • Alpine resorts on the south slopes of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn (Courmayer, Brueil-Cervinia)
  • Gran Paradiso National Park – Italy’s oldest national park and home to the Gran Paradiso, the highest mountain entirely within Italy
  • Aosta – the regional capital, known as the Rome of the Alps

3. Liguria

Liguria serves up a tasty dish of natural beauty, history and culinary delights along the Ligurian Sea.

Its rugged cliffs and charming fishing villages are iconic. Genoa, its capital, is a historic maritime city with a rich heritage.

The region is renowned for its cuisine, particularly pesto sauce and fresh seafood dishes.

brightly coloured houses set on cliffside with deep blue sea
Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre

Where to visit in Liguria:

  • Genoa – Italy’s historic port city and capital of Liguria
  • Cinque Terre – UNESCO World Heritage-listed area consists of five colourful fishing villages set into the cliffs along the Ligurian coastline: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore.
  • Portofino – a picturesque fishing village and resort town known for its upscale shops, cafes and harbour
  • Rapallo – another lovely coastal town with a castle
  • Santa Margherita Ligure – a town known for its beautiful harbour and pastel-coloured buildings

4. Lombardy

Prosperous Lombardy is a dynamic mix of modernity and tradition.

Milan, its capital, is a global fashion and financial hub. Lombardy also offers scenic beauty with the unmissable Lake Como and historic towns like Bergamo.

Lombardy’s rich culinary heritage includes risotto and creamy polenta.

man sitting on bench on the shores of lake with village in distance
Bellagio on Lake Como

Where to visit in Lombardy:

  • Milan – Italy’s financial and fashion capital is known for the Duomo di Milano, the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci and world-class shopping
  • Lake Como – an achingly picturesque lake studded with gorgeous towns like Bellagio, Varenna and Como itself
  • Lake Garda –  Italy’s largest lake is famous for its clear waters and laidback lakeside towns
  • Bergamo – a historic city with medieval architecture and artistic treasures
  • Mantua (Mantova) – UNESCO World Heritage-listed city known as the Venice of Lombardy
  • Brescia – celebrated for its Roman heritage, including the impressive Capitolium

5. Veneto

Veneto is best known for Venice but offers so much more. Three other Veneto cities that are more than worth at least a day each are Verona, Padua and Vicenza.

If that’s not enough, there are the crystal-clear waters and charming towns of Lake Garda, and the Prosecco vineyards.

people walking across an old stone bridge in padua in italy
Padua

Where to visit in Veneto:

  • Venice – for its picturesque canals, St. Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace and gondola rides your wallet won’t forget
  • Verona – the city of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the Arena di Verona and the annual opera festival. For me, it’s one of the best solo travel destinations in Italy.
  • Lake Garda –  Italy’s largest lake offering water sports, hiking and waterside views galore
  • Padua (Padova) – home to one of Europe’s oldest universities and the Scrovegni Chapel with Giotto’s sublime frescoes
  • Vicenza – UNESCO-listed for the architecture of Andrea Palladio
  • Treviso – also known as “Little Venice” and a centre for Prosecco production

6. Trentino-Alto Adige

Trentino-Alto Adige is a region with a dual identity.

Trentino, with its capital Trento, offers Alpine landscapes and lakes. Alto Adige (South Tyrol) has a German-speaking majority and the Dolomite mountains.

This results in a harmonious blend of Italian and Austrian cultures and a strong culinary tradition influenced by both countries.

Where to visit in Trentino-Alto Adige

  • Bolzano (Bozen) – the capital of South Tyrol (Alto Adige), known for its old town
  • Merano (Meran) – a spa town, famous for its thermal baths
  • Trento – with the Dolomites as a backdrop, the historic capital of Trentino is one of Italy’s hidden gems (at least to non-Italians)
  • Dolomites – UNESCO World Heritage-listed mountain range for outdoor enthusiasts and landscape lovers
  • Lake Garda – see another side of Gard’s pristine waters in Trentino-Alto Adige
  • Alpe di Siusi (Seiser Alm) – Europe’s largest high-altitude Alpine meadow

7. Fruili-Venezia Giulia

Bordering Austria and Slovenia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia has been shaped by a blend of Italian, Austrian and Slavic influences.

The region plays with a full deck: majestic Alpine scenery, vineyard-covered hills, Adriatic coastline and historic cities. Known for its distinctive cuisine and thriving wine culture, it’s a lesser-explored region of Italy if you are looking for authenticity and natural beauty.

cypress trees and castle tower in front of a blue sea
Trieste

Where to visit in Fruili-Venezia Giulia:

  • Trieste – the regional capital, known for its historic architecture, Piazza Unità d’Italia (Italy’s largest seafront square), Miramare Castle and a cosmopolitan vibe
  • Udine – celebrated for its Renaissance architecture and castle
  • Aquileia – an ancient Roman city with archaeological remains, including a basilica with mosaics
  • Cividale del Friuli – a UNESCO World Heritage site rich in Lombard and Carolingian history
  • Grado and Lignano Sabbiadoro – popular coastal resorts with sandy beaches

8. Emilia-Romagna

There are few other regions of Italy that can lay a stronger claim to culinary excellence than Emilia-Romagna. This is the home of  Parmesan cheese, prosciutto and balsamic vinegar, not to mention a certain pasta sauce.

Its principal cities, some of which are UNESCO-listed, are steeped in history. And if it’s a spot of R&R you are after, Emilia-Romagna’s Adriatic coastline is studded with seaside resorts.

people-in-main-square-in-bologna-italy which is lined with porticoed medieval buildings
Bologna, Italy

Where to visit in Emilia-Romagna

  • Bologna – the regional capital, with a well-preserved historic centre, first-class restaurants and the University of Bologna, one of the oldest in the world
  • Ravenna – famous for its glittering Byzantine mosaics, including those in the Basilica di San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Modena – known the world over for its balsamic vinegar
  • Parma – forever associated with Parma ham and Parmesan cheese, this city also has a beautiful cathedral, Teatro Farnese and the Palazzo della Pilotta
  • Ferrara – another UNESCO World Heritage site that was the fief of some of the great Renaissance patrons
  • Rimini – the biggest and brashest resort on the Adriatic coast

CENTRAL ITALY

For good reasons, Central Italy attracts tourists like bees to honey. The heart of the country encompasses iconic landscapes, characterized by rolling hills, vineyards and historic towns and cities.

This is where you’ll find the popular regions of Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio, and the eternal city of Rome, Italy’s capital.

9. Le Marche

Bordered by the Adriatic coastline, Le Marche is off many people’s tourist radar. This is a mistake.

Its landscapes resemble that of Tuscany with the bonus of pristine beaches and a fraction of the crowds. Add to this cultural gems like the Renaissance city of Urbino and picturesque Ascoli Piceno, and you have a wonderful region to explore. 

urbino-italy
Urbino

Where to visit in Le Marche:

  • Urbino – a UNESCO World Heritage site and the birthplace of Raphael
  • Ancona – the regional capital with an attractive harbour and historic architecture, including the impressive Arch of Trajan
  • Ascoli Piceno – a town that is famous for its stuffed olives (Olive all’Ascolana)
  • Pesaro – the birthplace of the composer Gioachino Rossini hosts the Rossini Opera Festival
  • Loreto – home to the Basilica della Santa Casa, a major pilgrimage site believed to house the Virgin Mary’s house
  • Senigallia – a charming coastal town with sandy beaches and excellent seafood restaurants

10. Abruzzo

Abruzzo is another unfairly overlooked region of Italy.

Its rugged Apennine peaks and national park are perfect if you are an outdoor enthusiast or nature lover.  Abruzzo is home to  Gran Sasso, Italy’s highest peak, and diverse wildlife, including the Abruzzo bear.

It is also known for hearty cuisine, notably arrosticini (skewered lamb), and Montepulciano wine.

Where to visit in Abruzzo:

  • L’Aquila – the regional capital, known for its historic centre, the Basilica of Santa Maria di Collemaggio and the Fountain of the 99 Spouts
  • Gran Sasso and Monti della Laga National Park – offering hiking and wildlife
  • Abruzzo National Park – Italy’s oldest national park, known for its wilderness, hiking trails and wildlife
  • Pescara – a vibrant coastal city with beaches, a promenade and a modern marina
  • Scanno – a village in the Apennines, famous for its traditional costume and Lake Scanno

11. Molise

You may not have heard of Molise, but its charm lies in its relative obscurity, not to mention its unspoiled landscapes, historical sites and a slower pace of life. 

This is one of the best regions to experience a slice of unspoiled and authentic Italy.

Where to visit in Molise:

  • Campobasso – the regional capital, home to the Monforte Castle and the Church of San Bartolomeo
  • Termoli – a coastal town with sandy beaches, an appealing old town and a historic cathedral
  • Isernia – the location of the archaeological sites La Pineta and Fontana Fraterna
  • Agnone – known for its traditional bell-making craftsmanship
  • Sepino – an ancient Roman town with well-preserved ruins, including the Roman theatre

12. Tuscany

For very good reasons, Tuscany is one of the most popular regions of Italy and the inspiration for countless novels and films about Italy.

lts landscapes of rolling vineyards, cypress-lined roads and picturesque towns are beyond iconic. Tuscany is also renowned as the birthplace of the Renaissance, home to cities like Florence, Pisa and Siena.

The region is celebrated for its cuisine, including Chianti wines, olive oil and rustic Tuscan dishes.

statue of angel with arms outstretched in front of the skyline of florence italy
Florence

Where to visit in Tuscany:

  • Florence – the regional capital is one of my favourite cities in the world and is lauded for its Renaissance art and architecture, including works by Michelangelo
  • Pisa – so much more than its much-photographed Leaning Tower
  • Siena – the majestic setting for the Palio horse race and home to many artistic treasures
  • Lucca – enclosed by Renaissance walls, Lucca is one of the most appealing cities in Tuscany
  • San Gimignano – a Medieval Manhattan, known for its towers, and a UNESCO World Heritage site
  • Chianti Wine Region – say no more

13. Umbria

Lush and unspoiled Umbria is another of my favourite Italian regions.

Italy’s “Green Heart” is celebrated for its medieval hill towns, such as Assisi and Orvieto. Umbria’s tranquil charm and cultural heritage make it an ideal location if you are seeking a quieter alternative to Tuscany.

stone bridge across narrow alley in italian street
Orvieto

Where to visit in Umbria:

  • Assisi – a UNESCO World Heritage site, famous for the Basilica of St. Francis
  • Orvieto – Known for Orvieto Cathedral, its labyrinthine underground city and eponymous white wine
  • Perugia – the regional capital which hosts an annual chocolate festival (well worth going to!)
  • Gubbio – a tranquil medieval town famous for the “Race of the Candles”
  • Spoleto – a gorgeous Umbrian city that hosts the annual Spoleto Festival
  • Lake Trasimeno – Italy’s fourth-largest lake, offering water sports, boat trips and chilled lakeside towns

14. Lazio

For many travellers, Lazio equals Rome. However, Lazio offers much more than this.

While the region’s capital and places like Ostia Antica and Tivoli preserve remarkable reminders of the Roman Empire, Northern Lazio was the ancient Etruscan heartland. To the west, the Tyrrhenian Sea beckons with its expansive coastlines and lovely beaches.

low fouatind with water in front of the spanish steps in rome
Rome

Where to visit in Lazio:

  • Rome – Italy’s capital is stuffed with world-famous landmarks like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, and world-beating art collections, such as those in the Borghese Gallery and the lesser-known Palazzo Doria Pamphilj
  • Ostia Antica – for my money, one of the best archaeological sites in Italy,  offering insights into daily life during the Roman Empire
  • Tivoli – known for Villa d’Este, with its Renaissance gardens, and Hadrian’s Villa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Tarquinia and Tuscania – ancient Etruscan towns
  • Viterbo – a medieval town featuring the Papal Palace and natural thermal baths
  • Sperlonga – a popular coastal town with beautiful beaches, a favourite with weekending Romans
  • Civita di Bagnoregio – perched precariously on a cliff, the so-called “Dying Town” is a unique destination
  • Frascati – a town known for its wine production and historic villas

SOUTHERN ITALY

Sometimes the south of Italy, or Mezzogiorno, feels like it doesn’t belong in the same country as the north and centre of the peninsula.

The mountains and rolling hills of its northern neighbours are replaced by rugged coastlines and fertile farmland. Shaped by historical exchanges, Southern Italy has cultural similarities to the Mediterranean and Arab peoples.

Here, a multitude of dialects, alongside regional languages like Neapolitan, are commonly spoken.

15. Campania

Campania attracts the lion’s share of visitors to the south of Italy.

The region is a treasure trove of history, bearing the footprints of Greek, Ancient Roman and Etruscan civilizations. The Amalfi Coast, a UNESCO gem, wows with its dramatic cliffs and charming villages like Positano and Sorrento.

After you’ve explored the sights of Pompeii or Naples, you can savour local specialities like Neapolitan pizza and creamy buffalo mozzarella. Followed by limoncello, straight from the freezer of course.

rugged coatline backed by cliifs
The dramatic Amalfi Coast

Where to visit in Campania:

  • Naples – the regional capital known for its vibrant street life and pizza
  • Pompeii – the most famous ancient Roman city of them all, preserved under volcanic ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD
  • Herculaneum – another victim of the 79 AD volcanic eruption, in some ways more compelling than its more famous neighbour
  • Amalfi Coast – a gorgeous stretch of coastline, studded with colourful towns tumbling down the cliffs to the crystal-clear waters of the Bay of Naples
  • Naples’ Islands – Capri is the most famous but there are several others worth visiting, including Ischia, Procida and the Pontine Islands

16. Calabria

The “toe” of the Italian “boot” offers a mix of rugged coastlines, untouched beaches and soaring mountains. Its rich history is reflected in ancient ruins like the Bronzi di Riace statues, while traditional villages exude authentic Italian charm.

Don’t miss the spicy ‘Nduja sausage and fresh seafood.

Where to visit in Calabria:

  • Tropea – a coastal town, known for its clifftop views, beaches and historic centre
  • Pizzo – visit for its delectable Tartufo ice cream, considered by some to be the best in the world
  • Reggio Calabria – home to the impressive National Archaeological Museum with the Bronzi di Riace statues

17. Basilicata

This lesser-known gem in southern Italy is characterized by its rugged landscapes and is famous for the unique cave dwellings of Matera, a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you are a nature enthusiast, you will love Basilicata’s national parks.

When it comes to cuisine, it’s all about savouring simple yet delicious dishes like orecchiette with turnip greens.

hilltop town of Matera with grey stone buildings rising up to a church bell tower
Matera

Where to visit in Basilicata:

  • Matera – the most famous destination in Basilicata, known for its ancient cave dwellings known as “Sassi”
  • Craco – a  medieval ghost town sitting atop a hill
  • Pollino National Park – Italy’s largest national park

18. Puglia

Puglia (Apulia), in the “heel” of Italy, offers a rich historical tapestry that has been woven by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Normans. The region is famous for the iconic whitewashed trulli homes that dot its landscape, especially in the coastal town of Alberobello.

white conical shaped Trulli Houses in a street
Trulli Houses in Alberobello

Where to visit in Puglia:

  • Alberobello – a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its trulli houses
  • Lecce – a Baroque city, often called the “Florence of the South”
  • Bari – the regional capital, offering a mix of history and modernity
  • Ostuni – known as the “White City”

THE ISLANDS

We end our journey through the regions of Italy with its two autonomous island regions: Sardinia and Sicily.

19. Sardinia

I am longing to return to Sardinia, Italy’s second-largest island. Its pristine beaches, rocky cliffs and coves draw the crowds but venture inland for its rugged interior that teems with wildlife.   

Sardinia is home to unique archaeological sites, including the Nuragic civilization’s stone structures known as nuraghi. More than 7,000 of these ancient stone towers remain and they are thought to date back to the Bronze Age.

flatbread with cheese olives and cold meats
Sardinian snacks

Where to visit in Sardinia:

  • Costa Smeralda – the playground of Sardinia, famous for its luxury resorts and gorgeous beaches
  • Cagliari – Sardinia’s capital city has Roman ruins and a picturesque waterfront
  • Alghero – a lovely coastal town with fortified walls. Don’t miss the Grotta di Nettuno (Neptune’s Cave) nearby.
  • Nuraghe Su Nuraxi – the best preserved Nuragic complex, offering insights into Sardinia’s prehistoric past

20. Sicily

The architecture, cuisine and traditions of the Mediterranean’s largest island have been shaped by the various civilizations responsible for its rich cultural heritage. Sicily’s (Sicilia’s) numerous archaeological sites bear witness to its millennia-spanning history.

It is famously home to Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano.

Where to visit in Sicily:

  • Palermo – the regional capital features a mix of architectural styles, from Arab-Norman to Baroque
  • Taormina – perched on a hilltop overlooking the sea, Taormina is famous for its ancient Greek theatre
  • Mount Etna – Europe’s most active volcano
  • Agrigento – the location of the Valley of the Temples, an ancient Greek archaeological site with well-preserved temples, including the Temple of Concordia
  • Siracusa –  known for its Greek and Roman ruins, the island of Ortigia and the Ear of Dionysius cave
  • Catania – a lively city with Baroque architecture
  • Cefalù – a coastal town with a medieval core, a Norman cathedral and gorgeous beaches

And That’s a Wrap!

I hope that this guide to the 20 regions of Italy helps you to plan your next Italian vacation like a pro. Although I have visited most of these regions over the years, there are still a few that I’ll be excited to discover first-hand.

If you are looking for further general information about Italy, take a look at a few of my other articles here:

bridget coleman the flashpacker 2

About Bridget

Bridget Coleman has been a passionate traveller for more than 30 years. She has visited 70+ countries, most as a solo traveller.

Articles on this site reflect her first-hand experiences.

To get in touch, email her at hello@theflashpacker.net or follow her on social media.

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