Ah, Italia — a destination on the bucket list of billions of people across the globe. A country full of history, romance, amazing food, and even better people. However, only 20% of all Italian tourism comes from the Mezzogiorno region of the South of Italy. Why is that? Dario Francheschini, Minister of Cultural Heritage, and Activities, stated that the reasoning is due to transportation and infrastructure complications, but could it be that mere appearances play a pivotal role in the tourism industry? While transportation limitations certainly account for a portion of tourists, is there more to the story?
Is it too dangerous for tourists? Are the rumors true? For decades a myth has circulated that Southern Italy is too dangerous for the average tourist. The Godfather, and various other mob movies have fueled the stigma that those from the Mezzogiorno region of Italy are all tied to the mafia and inherently dangerous. However, the reality is quite the opposite.
Southern Italy is full of rural landscapes, farmland, quaint towns, and some of the nation’s finest scenery. Statistically, Southern Italy displays much lower crime rates than its Northern counterparts. Violent crime, sexual assault, petty crime, and practically every crime in between are much higher in Northern Metropolitan cities than that in the Mezzogiorno region.
Certain traveling rules of thumb ring true anywhere you go — do not flaunt your wealth, do not travel with anything irreplaceable, try not to wear flashy designer clothes, etc. These principles are not exclusive to Southern Italy and contradict the data. Milan is statistically the most dangerous city in Italy, with crime rates recorded at roughly 6.8 thousand crime cases per every 100,000 inhabitants.
Take a trip down South and you will discover the true idyllic charm of Italian culture, free of the tourist-ridden hot spots of Rome. Here you will receive a much warmer welcome from local Italians who are eager to share their culture and help cultivate an unforgettable experience for those who seek an authentic Italian getaway. No offense to other regions of Italy, but if it is an authentic experience you seek — there is no better place than the Mezzogiorno.
Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities, Francheschini, made the following statement: “Italy is the cultural capital of the world, and needs the ability to not only grow tourism in the North but in the South.”
While getting around Southern Italy does pose certain limitations, guides provide a convenient and seamless solution to experience everything the Mezzogiorno has to offer. Guided tours are typically run by enthusiastic guides who know exactly where to take you and what to show you. Here you will meet world-class chefs who want you to try everything in their kitchen, local fishermen, locals full of stories and hospitality, and new friends to last a lifetime. Pro tip: if exploring the Mezzogiorno, a guided tour may behoove you to save time, and immerse yourself in authentic Italian culture with a front-row seat to local hot spots and favorites.
There is something to be said about life in Southern Italy. It is not just a geographical location, but a lifestyle most Westerners seldom see. Life is to be enjoyed. Those in the Mezzogiorno do not live to work, they work to live and enjoy life to the fullest — indulging in unparalleled food, decadent wine, brilliant conversation, captivating music, and the embrace of a life well-lived.
It is called the “Mezzogiorno” because Mezzogiorno is the Italian term for “midday” or “noon,” and southern Italy is known as the Mezzogiorno because of the intensity of sunshine there at midday. This name is fitting as the people in the Mezzogiorno are laid back, warm, and inviting; eager to embrace those who are curious about their way of life.
From the beautiful port of Bari to the sprawling beaches of Calabria, the breathtaking vineyards of Sicily, and the unparalleled cuisine of Salerno — there is no better display of Italian culture than that of the Mezzogiorno region. Every step you take as a tourist is packed with rich history, transporting you back centuries to one of the world’s most infamous empires.
It is the mission of the MADRINA CLUB to seek out artisans of the Mezzogiorno territory to make products available to those unable to travel to their workshops and support e-commerce initiatives in Southern Europe and further propel the region into mainstream tourism.
So is Southern Italy safe? By the numbers, Southern Italy is safer than typical hotspots such as Rome, Venice, or Milan and offers the idyllic charm and authentic experience one can only experience with the help of locals. However, traveling within the Mezzogiorno may pose a challenge for those ill-prepared, so do your research in advance and plan to take a guided tour to experience everything the region has to offer. We promise — you will never regret it.