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Italy Travel

10 essentials for the South of Italy

Polignano a Mare

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that every summer we visit the south of Italy at least two or three times. We’ve been doing this for years now and try to explore new places as often as possible. I am always amazed at the sheer beauty of Italy! No matter how many beaches with stunning blue and green shades of water I see, I’m always in awe of just how perfect this country can be. Add pasta, gelato and prosecco into the mix and it’s truly Heaven on earth.

Having visited so many Italian beach towns over the years, it got me thinking about the things I always have to have. If you’re visiting a beach destination in Italy soon, you may find some of these useful.


Don’t just assume that your hotel will provide you with beach towels as in most cases, they won’t. Enquire ahead so that you can make sure you bring your own, particularly if you are on a budget as each towel will set you back around €10.

Diving shoes

Many of the beaches in the south of Italy aren’t sandy beaches. They are either pebble beaches or basically spots that are beautiful to swim in but only have rocks to lay your towel down on. Invest in a pair of diving shoes. You can purchase them either in a shop or from a stall by the beach and they should only cost between €10 and €12 a pair. They are pretty ugly and probably not for the fashion conscious but if you don’t want to feel excruciating pain when you walk over rocks or pebbles, these are a life saver. I also have ‘this thing’ about touching slimy rocks in the water so these are just perfect.

Blow up pillow

As I said, lots of the beaches are not sandy so having a blow up pillow makes lying down on rocks or pebbles so much more comfortable! Most shops will sell these or even some vendors on the beach itself. Expect to pay up to €5 per pillow. They are super quick to blow up and just as quick to deflate.


We always hire a Vespa or scooter whenever we visit a seaside town. This is because some of the best swimming spots and less populated beaches will be away from the town. Also, a Vespa is perfect for not having to sit in traffic! Plus, the breeze while you drive is so lovely too.

scooter in Polignano

Crema di caffe

Need a caffeine hit but can’t face a hot coffee when it’s 35 degrees out? Then order a crema di caffe. It’s almost like coffee ice-cream but served in a small glass. I absolutely love it. You can find it all over Italy so give it a try next time.

Crema di caffe


To be fair, this is an essential even if I’m visiting Bologna in December when it’s 12 degrees! Italy has the best ice-cream in the world so it would be rude not too… obviously in summer, the heat combined with the seaside makes having gelato even more irresistible. My favourite flavours are pistachio, nocciola (hazelnut) and stracciatella (basically a vanilla ice-cream with bits of chocolate).

Gelato in Sirmione


Even though it can be tempting to have yet another gelato, I recommend a granita if you need something cool, refreshing and icy. They are usually sold in cafes and come in a variety of flavours. My favourite is a lemon granita. If you visit Positano, be sure to have one from the granita stall – it’s shaped like a lemon and lemon is the only flavour they serve!



I can’t tell you how much I love vongole (clams)! I first had them years ago in Positano and I’ve been hooked ever since. If spaghetti vongole is on the menu – order it! If I’m not having clams in my pasta then I love to order saute di vongole as a starter. Often if will be vongole and cozze (mussels) but I’m not a huge mussel fan so I always ask to just have clams. Make sure you dip your bread in the sauce – soooooo good!

Saute di vongole

Polpo (octopus)

Polpo is always a good choice for a starter in the south of Italy! I love mine grilled and served with lemon and potato. Insalate di polpo is also a great choice for a light lunch – so fresh! To be honest, any seafood is a good choice because you are right by the sea. You couldn’t ask for fresher food.

Octopus and potato


Again, aperitivo is something to experience wherever and whenever you are in Italy. Basically it’s typically served between around 6 pm and 9 pm and it’s a drink served with a snack. Depending on where you go, the snacks can vary from olives and crisps that are served with your drink to a small buffet with a variety of dishes that you can help yourself to. When you are in the south and by the sea, you have the added bonus of spectacular views… it’s always a must for us to have an aperitivo before dinner and watch the sun go down.

Aperitivo in south Italy

I hope you found these tips useful! Please feel free to add your own in the comments.

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Ten essentials for the South of Italy

Kirsty Marrins

Reader, writer, occasional runner, travel lover.




  • Tara

    Oh, gelato – I don’t think there’s anything better! I’m willing to give granita a shot, though, just to compare. Great tips, I haven’t been to the south of Italy, but I’m thinking the Vespa would be such a great way to go!

    • Kirsty Marrins

      Well, I have LOADS of posts on the south of Italy if you need some inspiration 🙂 And think of all the gelato!

  • Christabel

    YES to everything on this list – I haven’t had vongole in a long time, your picture just made my mouth water at the thought!

    • Kirsty Marrins

      oooh, you definitely need to rectify that and book a trip 🙂

  • Amanda Thurman

    This post makes me want to go to South Italy. That Granita sounds so good. I do love aperitivo.

    • Kirsty Marrins

      Aperitivo is the best!

  • Faith Coates

    Funnily enough you had me at diving shoes lol – I have learned my lesson well that many beaches in Europe are just impossible to walk on with bare feet so now I always pack my water shoes when hitting the beaches in Europe.

  • Jamie Italiane

    I love that so many of the items are food related! I am still dreaming of the tomatoes I had there many years ago.

    • Kirsty Marrins

      Ha! I live for food 🙂 The tomatoes in Italy are just sublime! I think I have a post on Ischia that raves about the pomodoro bruschette we had. Mmmmm yum!

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