There’s no better place to spend long, lazy summers than Rossano Ferretti Parma’s birthplace, Italia. Wrapped in breath taking landscapes, art, culture, fashion, fine wine, and divine food, this Mediterranean hub is a paradisial escape unlike any other. Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley says it best, “how beautiful is sunset, when the glow of Heaven descends upon a land like thee, thou Paradise of exiles, Italy!”
If Italy’s your holiday destination, ti diamo il Benvenuto – we welcome you! There is much to look forward to, including several tourist attractions and historical landmarks. But if you’re looking for a more authentic Italian experience, complete with quaint summer destinations and hidden gems, allow us to be your tour guides.
With a passion for our home country, our team of Italian-born hair artists has collaborated to bring you a blog series listing the most bountiful, less travelled places to visit. These places are richly swathed in Italian traditions and culture, bringing you closer to the core of our heavenly heritage.
In this summer holiday guide, we begin our journey in the beautiful southern part of Italy, home to some of the world’s most beautiful and historical locations. So without further ado, let’s begin!
Matera is well-known for its ancient town, the “Sassi di Matera”. The Sassi originated in a prehistoric troglodyte settlement, and these historic dwellings are thought to be among the first ever human settlements in what is now our beautiful Italia. The Sassi are habitations rooted into the calcareous rock itself, which is typical of the Basilicata and Apulia regions.
Many of the quaint buildings are little more than small caverns, and in some parts of the Sassi there are streets on top of another group of dwellings. Known as la città sotterranea (“the underground city”), the Sassi and the park of the Rupestrian Churches were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993. Later, in 2019, Matera was declared a European Capital of Culture and unsurprisingly, due to its ancient primeval-looking scenery the area has been used by filmmakers in movies like “The Passion of the Christ (2004)”, “Ben-Hur (2016)” and the latest “No Time to Die (2021)” – the 25th James Bond film.
Meander through the streets of this whitewashed town, stopping at one of several eateries to enjoy a meal in a hub of Italian history. The “Old Town” is Ostuni’s citadel built on top of a hill and to this day it is still fortified by its ancient walls. Ostuni is commonly referred to as “the White Town” (La Città Bianca in Italian) for its beautiful white walls and typically white-painted architecture.
Regarded as monuments in their own right, the town’s largest buildings are the Ostuni Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace, together with a number of palazzi owned by local aristocratic families. If you visit Ostuni you must not miss visiting some of the authentic restaurants in the old town or in the area directly suggested by Rossano: Osteria del Tempo Perso ( Ostuni ), Il Fornello da Ricci ( Ceglie Messapica ), Cibus ( Ceglie Messapica ) and Osteria Già Sotto l’Arco (Carovigno) .
Set atop gorgeous cliffs overlooking expansive sandy beaches and turquoise waters, this town makes for an enchanting summer getaway. It’s the most famous holiday destination in Calabria, southern Italy, and sits along a picturesque stretch on the western coastline called La Costa degli Dei (the Coast of the Gods). Famous for its clifftop historic centre, sandy beaches and clear blue waters around the island rock in front, it’s no surprise that the town is proudly regarded as the jewel in the crown of Calabria.
Although the area has gained more popularity and exposure in recent years, comparing this hidden gem to other Italian wonders such as Positano or the Cinque Terre, Tropea is almost undiscovered on the international tourist trail. Tropea boasts the kind of sea views that will make you stop and stare in awe– and as you approach the historic centre on your drive along the coastline from the north, many pull up the car and do just that.
Overflowing with historical landmarks surrounded by ocean, this island town is adored by locals and offers a homely ambience. Ortigia is a small island which is the historical hub of the city of Syracuse, Sicily. The island, also known as the Città Vecchia (Old City), features many historical landmarks tha Rossano deems as very worthy visits.
Ortigia is located at the eastern end of Syracuse and is separated from it by a narrow channel where two bridges connect the island to mainland Sicily. This beautiful location is everything you imagine an ancient Sicilian town to be, and more. It is a mixture of contrasting cultural influences that combine to create impressive architecture, a laid-back, friendly attitude, and food so good you want to stop passerbys on the streets and persuade them to try it! It is a well-preserved medieval island with authentic trattorias (traditional Italian restaurants) and specialty boutique shops selling home-made goods down every alley. The colourful alleyways open up to spectacular plazas, dazzling fountains and ancient ruins.
This unspoiled and sun-drenched corner of southern Italy offers a tranquil escape during the summer. It’s known for its baroque architecture, including the reconstructed 18th-century Noto Cathedral. This small town in the south-east was founded again in the 1700s and known for being the heart and starting point for a visit to the valley of the Sicilian Baroque. Its cathedral, perfectly raised, was rebuilt again after 10 years of intensive work following the terrible earthquake in 1693 that struck the whole of south-western Sicily. It has since been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and features artistic inspiration from three architects, with three varying personalities and unique styles, which as it turns out, further enriched the town with elements of the Renaissance and neoclassical pseudo-Spanish elements, creating an imaginative and dreamlike style.
Artfully designed, the small town was divided into three parts by three roads running from east to west, thus ensuring the constant attention of the sun. The primary building material used was local compacted limestone, that seemingly absorbs the sun’s brilliant rays and transforms them into a soft golden-honeyed glow. According to Rossano, the effect at sunset is quite something.
Lecce is a city in Italy’s southern Apulia region. It’s known for its baroque buildings, built in the local, soft and creamy limestone with dazzling architectural structures that inspire and amaze around every corner. Known for its medley of streets offering a kaleidoscopic mix of long-range picturesque vistas, alluring glimpses and playful perspectives that have long enchanted visitors.
Supported by a history that dates back at least 2,500 years, modern-day Lecce is the main town on Puglia’s Salento peninsula and a growing tourist attraction. Lecce is also a lively, graceful university town with several interesting boutiques, sculptures, and the sunken Roman amphitheatre to explore – a must-see for culture enthusiasts.
Nestled in a dramatic, natural setting, Amalfi is a traditional Italian town that combines a holiday ambience with casual local life. It lies at the mouth of a deep ravine, at the foot of Monte Cerreto , surrounded by dramatic cliffs and striking coastal scenery. The town of Amalfi was the capital of the maritime republic known as the Duchy of Amalfi, an important trading power in the Mediterranean between 839 and around 1200.
Today, Amalfi is the main town of the coastline on which it rests, named Costiera Amalfitana (Amalfi Coast), and is a popular destination that is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city starts at the water’s edge with a pretty promenade along the Mediterranean and a marina full of bright and interesting boats adorned with international flags. The focal point of this historic centre is the Piazza del Duomo, in front of the striking cathedral. The piazza is clustered with sidewalk cafes and sophisticated shops, but the sixty steps leading to the church beckon to be scaled to visit the Byzantine style structure that bears Moorish-influenced arches and astute decoration.
Dedicated to St. Andrew, the Duomo di Sant’Andrea is a truly beautiful structure that cannot be missed. Step inside and you’ll find the hidden Cloister of Paradise, dating back to 1266, with a forest of columns, Arabesque arches and walls embellished with an amazing fresco.
If you wonder down towards the Cape Conca, the Emerald Grotto is one of Amalfi’s natural wonders as it emits an other-worldly emerald hue that emanates from its depths thanks to an underwater crevice refracting sunlight. I valori architettonici e artistici dei suoi monumenti ed edifici storici, l’indescrivibile bellezza dei suoi paesaggi, il suo folklore e le sue tradizioni hanno reso, e fanno tuttora, Amalfi un luogo senza paragoni, tanto che è stato detto: “Per un amalfitano il il giorno in cui va in paradiso è come tutti gli altri giorni”.
A scenic-rich coastal town loved for its Byzantine mosaics and soaring twin towers, Cefalù, is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, and also one of the most culturally expressive destinations on the island. It is located on the northern coast of Sicily, in a strategic position, to say the least: about an hour from Palermo and Capo d’Orlando, on the A20 road.
The town is dominated by a monumental rock rising to a height of 270 metres, known as the promontory of Hercules, as well as beautiful squares, streets and churches. This medieval town is incredibly postcard-pretty and you will not be alone as you gaze in awe at one of Sicily’s finest beaches and visit the Arab-Norman architectural masterpieces. In fact, it’s no wonder director Giuseppe Torntore chose to set some of his scenes here for his much-loved film Cinema Paradiso. This is a visit not to be missed – a place that offers a magnificent glimpse of medieval Sicilian life.
The south of Italy is a healing destination. It offers locals and tourists several means to find solace through art, history, and beauty in its most authentic form. Let’s just say it’s perfect for those in dire need of summer fun and relaxation.
If you are planning your next trip to South Italy soon, do not forget to take care of your hair with our handy, travel-friendly haircare. Choose from our 50ml-100ml sized shampoos, conditioners, masks and styling products and receive a free Rossano Ferretti beauty bag when you purchase a travel-sized full routine.
So, until our next Italian Summer holiday spotlight, ciao for now.
Photo credits: alleksana_unsplash, Cristina Gottardi_unslpash, Freysteinn G. Jonsson_Unsplash