Southern Italy

Southern Italy or Mezzogiorno (Italian pronunciation: [ˌmɛddzoˈdʒorno],[2] "South", literally "Midday"[3]) is a macroregion of Italy traditionally encompassing the territories of the former Kingdom of the two Sicilies (all the southern section of the Italian Peninsula and Sicily), with the frequent addition of the island of Sardinia and, historically, some parts of Lazio as well.[4][5][6]

The Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) employs the term "South Italy" to identify one of the five statistical regions in its reportings without Sicily and Sardinia, which form a distinct statistical region denominated "Insular Italy". These same subdivisions are at the bottom of the Italian First level NUTS of the European Union and the Italian constituencies for the European Parliament.

Southern Italy

Location of Southern Italy
 • Total123,024 km2 (47,500 sq mi)
 • Estimate 
(2013 est.)
 – Official languageItalian
 – Historical language minorities
 – Other common languages


The term Mezzogiorno ("midday" in Italian) first came into use in the 18th century and is an Italian rendition of meridies (Latin for 'south', because of the sun's position at midday in the Northern Hemisphere). The term was later popularised by Giuseppe Garibaldi and it eventually came into vogue after the Italian unification.

In a similar manner, Southern France is colloquially known as le Midi ("midday" in French).


Southern Italy is generally thought to comprise the administrative regions that correspond to the geopolitical extent of the former Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, starting from Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Molise, and Sicily; because of this historical reason, and the fact that southern Italian lects are spoken there as well, some also include the southernmost and easternmost parts of Lazio (namely the districts of Sora, Cassino, Gaeta, Cittaducale, Formia and Amatrice) within the Mezzogiorno. The island of Sardinia, although being culturally, linguistically and historically less related to the aforementioned regions than any of them is to each other, is frequently included as part of the Mezzogiorno,[7][8][9] often for statistical and economical purposes.[9][10]

Mezzogiorno d'Italia
Satellite image of Southern Italy


Southern Italy forms the lower part of the Italian "boot", containing the ankle (Campania), the toe (Calabria), the arch (Basilicata), and the heel (Apulia), Molise (north of Apulia) and Abruzzo (north of Molise) along with Sicily, removed from Calabria by the narrow Strait of Messina. Separating the "heel" and the "boot" is the Gulf of Taranto, named after the city of Taranto, which is at an angle between the heel and the boot itself. It is an arm of the Ionian Sea.

The island of Sardinia, to the west of the Italian peninsula and right below the French island of Corsica, might also be included.

On the eastern coast is the Adriatic Sea, leading into the rest of the Mediterranean through the Strait of Otranto (named after the largest city on the tip of the heel). On the Adriatic, south of the "spur" of the boot, the peninsula of Monte Gargano; on the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Gulf of Salerno, the Gulf of Naples, the Gulf of Policastro and the Gulf of Gaeta are each named after a large coastal city. Along the northern coast of the Salernitan Gulf and on the south of the Sorrentine Peninsula runs the Amalfi Coast. Off the tip of the peninsula is the isle of Capri.

The climate is mainly Mediterranean (Köppen climate classification Csa), except at the highest elevations (Dsa, Dsb) and the semi-arid eastern stretches in Apulia, along the Ionian Sea in Calabria and the southern stretches of Sicily (BSw). The largest city of Southern Italy is Naples, a name from the Greek that it has historically maintained for millennia. Bari, Taranto, Reggio Calabria, Foggia, and Salerno are the next largest cities in the area. The region is geologically very active (except Salento in Apulia) and highly seismic: the 1980 Irpinia earthquake killed 2,914 people, injured more than 10,000 and left 300,000 homeless.


Prehistory and antiquity

Selinunte - Templi Orientali (Temple E) 18
Greek temple of Hera, Selinunte, Sicily.
Southern Italy under Augustus


Magna Graecia ancient colonies and dialects-en
Ancient Greek colonies and their dialect groupings in Southern Italy.[11]
  Northwestern Greek

In the 8th and 7th centuries BCE, for various reasons, including demographic crisis (famine, overcrowding, etc.), the search for new commercial outlets and ports, and expulsion from their homeland, Greeks began to settle in Southern Italy (Cerchiai, pp. 14–18). Also during this period, Greek colonies were established in places as widely separated as the eastern coast of the Black Sea, Eastern Libya and Massalia (Marseille). They included settlements in Sicily and the southern part of the Italian Peninsula. The Romans called the area of Sicily and the foot of Italy, Magna Graecia (Latin, "Great Greece"), since it was so densely inhabited by the Greeks. The ancient geographers differed on whether the term included Sicily or merely Apulia and CalabriaStrabo being the most prominent advocate of the wider definitions.

With this colonisation, Greek culture was exported to Italy, in its dialects of the Ancient Greek language, its religious rites and its traditions of the independent polis. An original Hellenic civilization soon developed, later interacting with the native Italic and Latin civilisations. The most important cultural transplant was the Chalcidean/Cumaean variety of the Greek alphabet, which was adopted by the Etruscans; the Old Italic alphabet subsequently evolved into the Latin alphabet, which became the most widely used alphabet in the world.

Many of the new Hellenic cities became very rich and powerful, like Neapolis (Νεάπολις, Naples, "New City"), Syrakousai (Συράκουσαι, Syracuse), Akragas (Ἀκράγας, Agrigento), and Sybaris (Σύβαρις, Sibari). Other cities in Magna Graecia included Tarentum (Τάρας), Epizephyrian Locri (Λοκροὶ Ἐπιζεφύριοι), Rhegium (Ῥήγιον), Croton (Κρότων), Thurii (Θούριοι), Elea (Ἐλέα), Nola (Νῶλα), Syessa (Σύεσσα), Bari (Βάριον), and others.

After Pyrrhus of Epirus failed in his attempt to stop the spread of Roman hegemony in 282 BCE, the south fell under Roman domination and remained in such a position well into the barbarian invasions (the Gladiator War is a notable suspension of imperial control). It was held by the Byzantine Empire after the fall of Rome in the West and even the Lombards failed to consolidate it, though the centre of the south was theirs from Zotto's conquest in the final quarter of the 6th century.

Middle Ages

Following the Gothic War (535–554), and until the arrival of the Normans, much of Southern Italy's destiny was linked to the fortunes of the Eastern Empire, even though Byzantine domination was challenged in the 9th century by the Lombards, who annexed the area of Cosenza to their Duchy of Benevento. Consequently, the Lombard and the Byzantine areas became influenced by Eastern monasticism and much of Southern Italy experienced a slow process of orientalisation in religious life (rites, cults and liturgy), which accompanied a spread of Eastern churches and monasteries that preserved and transmitted the Greek and Hellenistic tradition (the Cattolica monastery in Stilo is the most representative of these Byzantine monuments). From then to the Norman conquest of the 11th century, the south of the peninsula was constantly plunged into wars between Greece, Lombardy, and the Islamic Caliphate. The latter established several Islamic states in southern Italy, such as the Emirate of Sicily and Emirate of Bari. Amalfi, an independent republic from the 7th century until 1075, and to a lesser extent Gaeta, Molfetta and Trani, rivalled other Italian maritime republics in their domestic prosperity and maritime importance.

Southern Italy 1112
Southern Italy in 1112.

In the 11th century, the Normans occupied all the Lombard and Byzantine possessions in Southern Italy, ending the six-century-old presence of both powers in the peninsula, and eventually expelled the Muslims from Sicily. The Norman Kingdom of Sicily under Roger II was characterised by its competent governance, multi-ethnic nature and religious tolerance. Normans, Jews, Muslim Arabs, Byzantine Greeks, Lombards and "native" Sicilians lived in relative harmony.[12] However, the Norman domination lasted only several decades before it formally ended in 1198 with the reign of Constance of Sicily, and was replaced by that of the Swabian Hohenstaufen dynasty.

Castel del Monte BW 2016-10-14 12-26-11 r
Castel del Monte, built by Frederick II between 1240 and 1250 in Andria, Apulia.

In Sicily, Emperor Frederick II endorsed a deep reform of the laws culminating with the promulgation of the Constitutions of Melfi (1231, also known as Liber Augustalis), a collection of laws for his realm that was remarkable for its time and was a source of inspiration for a long time after.[13] It made the Kingdom of Sicily a centralised state and established the primacy of written law. With relatively small modifications, the Liber Augustalis remained the basis of Sicilian law until 1819. His royal court in Palermo, from around 1220 to his death, saw the first use of a literary form of an Italo-Romance language, Sicilian, that had a significant influence on what was to become the modern Italian language. During this period, he also built the Castel del Monte, and in 1224, he founded the University of Naples, now called, after him, Università Federico II.[14]

In 1266, conflict between the Hohenstaufen house and the Papacy led to Sicily's conquest by Charles I, Duke of Anjou. Opposition to French officialdom and taxation combined with incitement of rebellion by agents from the Byzantine Empire and the Crown of Aragon led to the Sicilian Vespers insurrection and successful invasion by king Peter III of Aragon in 1282. The resulting War of the Sicilian Vespers lasted until the Peace of Caltabellotta in 1302, dividing the old Kingdom of Sicily in two. The island of Sicily, called the "Kingdom of Sicily beyond the Lighthouse" or the Kingdom of Trinacria, went to Frederick III of the house of Aragon, who had been ruling it. The peninsular territories, contemporaneously called Kingdom of Sicily, but called Kingdom of Naples by modern scholarship, went to Charles II of the House of Anjou, who had likewise been ruling it. Thus, the peace was formal recognition of an uneasy status quo.[15] Despite the king of Spain being able to seize both the two crowns starting from the 16th century, the administrations of the two halves of the Kingdom of Sicily remained separated until 1816, when they were reunited in the Kingdom of Two Sicilies.

Regno di Sicilia 1154
The Kingdom of Sicily in 1154.

Early modern history

In 1442, however, Alfonso V conquered the Kingdom of Naples and unified Sicily and Naples once again as dependencies of the Crown of Aragon. At his death in 1458, the kingdom was again separated and Naples was inherited by Ferrante, Alfonso's illegitimate son. When Ferrante died in 1494, Charles VIII of France invaded Italy, using the Angevin claim to the throne of Naples, which his father had inherited on the death of King René's nephew in 1481, as a pretext, thus beginning the Italian Wars. Charles VIII expelled Alfonso II of Naples from Naples in 1495, but was soon forced to withdraw due to the support of Ferdinand II of Aragon for his cousin, Alfonso II's son Ferrantino. Ferrantino was restored to the throne, but died in 1496, and was succeeded by his uncle, Frederick IV. The French, however, did not give up their claim, and in 1501 agreed to a partition of the kingdom with Ferdinand of Aragon, who abandoned his cousin King Frederick. The deal soon fell through, however, and the Crown of Aragon and France resumed their war over the kingdom, ultimately resulting in an Aragonese victory leaving Ferdinand in control of the kingdom by 1504.

The kingdom continued to be a focus of dispute between France and Spain for the next several decades, but French efforts to gain control of it became feebler as the decades went on, and Spanish control was never genuinely endangered. The French finally abandoned their claims to the kingdom by the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis in 1559. With the Treaty of London (1557) the new client state of "Stato dei Presidi" (State of Presidi) was established and governed directly by Spain, as part of the Kingdom of Naples.

Napoli Castel Nuovo Maschio Angioino, a seat of medieval kings of Naples and Aragon 2013-05-16 14-05-42
Castel Nuovo, Naples: initiated by the Anjou, it was heavily altered as it served as Spanish headquarters until the 18th century.

The administration of the Kingdom of Naples and Sicily, as well as the Duchy of Milan, was run by the Council of Italy. The island of Sardinia, that came to be under full Iberian sovereignty in 1409 at the fall of the last indigenous state, had been an integral part of the Council of Aragon instead and kept being as such until the first years of the XVIII° century, when Sardinia was ceded to Austria and eventually Savoy.

After the War of the Spanish Succession in the early 18th century, possession of the kingdom again changed hands. Under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Naples was given to Charles VI, the Holy Roman Emperor. He also gained control of Sicily in 1720, but Austrian rule did not last long. Both Naples and Sicily were conquered by a Spanish army during the War of the Polish Succession in 1734, and Charles, Duke of Parma, a younger son of King Philip V of Spain was installed as King of Naples and Sicily from 1735. When Charles inherited the Spanish throne from his older half-brother in 1759, he left Naples and Sicily to his younger son, Ferdinand IV. Despite the two kingdoms being in a personal union under the House of Bourbon from 1735 onwards, they remained constitutionally separated.

Early 19th century

Koenigreich beider Sizilien
A 19th century map of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Being a member of the House of Bourbon, King Ferdinand IV was a natural opponent of the French Revolution and Napoleon. In January 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte, in the name of the French Republic, captured Naples and proclaimed the Parthenopaean Republic, a French client state, as successor to the kingdom. King Ferdinand fled from Naples to Sicily until June of that year. In 1806, Bonaparte, by then French Emperor, again dethroned King Ferdinand and appointed his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as King of Naples. In the Edict of Bayonne of 1808, Napoleon removed Joseph to Spain and appointed his brother-in-law, Joachim Murat, as King of the Two Sicilies, though this meant control only of the mainland portion of the kingdom.[16][17] Throughout this Napoleonic interruption, King Ferdinand remained in Sicily, with Palermo as his capital.

After Napoleon's defeat, King Ferdinand IV was restored by the Congress of Vienna of 1815 as Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies. He established a concordat with the Papal States, which previously had a claim to the land.[18] There were several rebellions on the island of Sicily against the King Ferdinand II but the end of the kingdom was only brought about by the Expedition of the Thousand in 1860, led by Garibaldi, an icon of the Italian unification, with the support of the House of Savoy and their Kingdom of Sardinia. The expedition resulted in a striking series of defeats for the Sicilian armies against the growing troops of Garibaldi. After the capture of Palermo and Sicily, he disembarked in Calabria and moved towards Naples, while in the meantime the Piedmontese also invaded the Kingdom from the Marche. The last battles fought were that of the Volturnus in 1860 and the siege of Gaeta, where King Francis II had sought shelter, hoping for French help, which never came. The last towns to resist Garibaldi's expedition were Messina (which capitulated on 13 March 1861) and Civitella del Tronto (which capitulated on 20 March 1861). The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was dissolved and annexed to the new Kingdom of Italy, founded in the same year.

Southern and Northern Italy in 1860

At the time of the Italian unification, the gap between Northern and Southern Italy was significant. The Northern states of Italy were home to roads for about 75,500 kilometers and railroads for 2,316 kilometers, combined with a wide range of channels connected to rivers for goods transportation; iron and steel production was 17,000 tons per year. On the contrary in the Southern state of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies there were 14,700 kilometers of roads, 184 kilometers of railroads only near Naples, no channels connected to rivers and iron and steel production was 1,500 tons per year.

1853 Mitchell Map of Southern Italy ( Naples, Sicily ) - Geographicus - ItalySouth-mitchell-1850
Map of the Bourbon-led Kingdom of the Two Sicilies from 1853, seven years before the annexation by the House of Savoy.

In 1860, illiteracy rates on the Italian peninsula of 1860 had an average of 75%, with the lowest peak of 54% being in the northwestern Kingdom of Sardinia (known as Piedmont), and the highest moving to the south, where in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies illiteracy reached 87%.[19]

In 1860 the southern merchant navy amounted to 260,000 tons, whereas the northern merchant navy 347,000 tons, aside from the Venetian navy annexed in 1866 and assessed 46,000 tons. In 1860 the whole Italian merchant navy was the fourth of Europe with about 607,000 tons.[20] The Southern merchant navy was made up of sailing vessels mainly for fishing and coastal shipping in the Mediterranean Sea and it had very few steamships, even if one of the first steamers was built and fitted in Naples in 1818. Both merchant and military navy were insufficient compared to the great coastal extent of Southern Italy defined by the Italian historian Raffaele De Cesare: "… a great pier towards South".[21]

In addition to the merchant navy we must also consider the waterway network connected with rivers and canals, which was used to transport goods in a large area, the waterway network was highly developed in the north and nonexistent in the south.

In the article This is Not Italy! Ruling and Representing the South, it is clear how the Northern elites considered the South. The Piedmontese North felt the need to invade the Kingdom of the two Sicilies and establish a new form of governance based on the Northern system since they viewed the South as under-developed and lacking of social capital. These views of the South can largely be attributed to the letters of correspondents in southern Italy who sent biased letters to leaders of the North, specifically Camillo Benso, urging for the invasion and reformation of the South. Although these views of the South were condescending, they also came with a genuine belief that in order to create a unified Italy, help from the North was necessary. Viewing southern Italy as barbaric, served as a sort of justification to allow the "civilized, Piedmontese north" (167) to intervene. Another view however was marked with disdain of Southern Italy. According to the article, "such manifestations of the south's difference threaten the glowing and gloating sense of northern superiority" (167). These viewpoints clearly indicate the divide between Northern and Southern Italy in the 1860s.[22]

Denis Mack Smith, British historian, describes the radical difference between the Northern and the newly annexed Southern Italy in 1860, for these two halves were on quite different levels of civilization, pointing out that the Bourbon in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies were staunch supporters of a feudal system and that they had feared the traffic of ideas and had tried to keep their subjects insulated from the agricultural and industrial revolutions of northern Europe.[23]

The above-mentioned study by Denis Mack Smith is confirmed by the Italian historian and left wing politician Antonio Gramsci in his book "The Southern Question", by which the author emphasizes the "absolutely antithetical conditions" of Northern and Southern Italy at the time of the Italian Unification in 1861, when South and North united themselves again after more than one thousand years.

Gramsci remarks that, in the North of Italy, the historical period of the Communes had given special boost to history and in Northern Italy existed an economic organization similar to that of the other states of Europe, propitious to further development of capitalism and industry, whereas in Southern Italy history had been different and the fatherly Bourbon administrations produced nothing of value; the bourgeois class did not exist, agriculture was primitive and insufficient to satisfy the local market, there were no roads, no ports, the few waters that the region had were not exploited, due to its special geographical feature.[24]

Banda del Brigante Totaro di San Fele
A band of briganti ("brigands") from Basilicata, ca. 1860

Life conditions of the people of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies are illustrated also by Raffaele De Cesare,[25] who reports the lack of interest from the king of Naples Ferdinand II to do useful works to change the neglected conditions of public hygiene, particularly in the provinces where scarcity of sewer systems and often water shortage were known issues. [26]

The problem of brigandage is explained in the book Heroes and Brigands by the southern Italian historian and politician Francesco Saverio Nitti outlining that brigandage was endemic in Southern Italy, since the monarchy itself was based on it, serving as its agent.[27] Unlike Southern Italy, there was little brigandage in the other annexed states of northern and central Italy, like the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, the Duchy of Parma, the Duchy of Modena, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States, because the situation of Southern Italy was different, owing to the previous centuries of history.

According to the southern Italian historian Giustino Fortunato,[28] and Italian institutional sources[29] the problems of Southern Italy existed way before the Italian Unification, in this regard Giustino Fortunato underlines that the Bourbon were not the only ones responsible for southern problems, that had ancient and deep origins also in previous centuries of poverty and isolation, caused by foreign dominations and governments.

In literature the period of 1860 is described by the Sicilian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa in his famous novel The Leopard (Il Gattopardo) set in Sicily during the years of the Italian unification, in a famous final scene prince Salina, when invited to join the senate of unified Italy, answers to an important Piedmontese officer " … the Sicilian will never want to change, because the Sicilian feels perfect …", by which and by other words the author underlines the problem for the Sicilians to change their old life style while remaining in their island. The novel was represented in the homonymous film The Leopard (1963 film) by Luchino Visconti in which the actor Burt Lancaster played as Prince Salina.

After 1861

The southern economy greatly suffered after the Italian unification and the process of industrialisation was interrupted. Poverty and organised crime were long-standing issues in Southern Italy as well and it got worse after unification. Cavour stated the basic problem was poor government, and believed the solution lied in the strict application of the Piedmonese legal system. The main result was an upsurge in brigandage.[30] Because of this, the South experienced great economic difficulties resulting in massive emigration leading to a worldwide Italian diaspora, especially to North America, South America, Australia, and other parts of Europe. Many natives also relocated to the industrial cities in northern Italy, such as Genoa, Milan and Turin. A relative process of industrialisation has developed in some areas of the "Mezzogiorno" after World War II. In the 1946 referendum after the war, the region voted to keep the monarchy, with its greatest support coming in Campania. Politically, it was at odds with northern Italy, which won the referendum to establish a republic.[31] Today, the South remains less economically developed than the northern and central regions, which enjoyed an "economic miracle" in the 1950s and 1960s and became highly industrialized.


Map of Italian regions by GDP per capita in euros (2015)
Map of Italian regions by GDP per capita in 2015.
65393-Mafia Italian 2010ean
Map of the Southern Italian criminal syndicates.

Starting from the unification of Italy in 1861–1870, a growing economic divide between the northern provinces and the southern half of Italy became evident.[32] In the early decades of the new kingdom, the lack of effective land reform, heavy taxes, and other economic measures imposed on the South, along with the removal of protectionist tariffs on agricultural goods imposed to boost northern industry, made the situation nearly impossible for many tenant farmers, small businesses and land owners. Multitudes chose to emigrate rather than try to eke out a meagre living, especially from 1892 to 1921.[33] In addition, the surge of brigandage and mafia provoked widespread violence, corruption and illegality. Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti once conceded that places existed "where the law does not operate at all".[34]

After the rise of Benito Mussolini, the "Iron Prefect" Cesare Mori tried to defeat the already powerful criminal organizations flowering in the South with some degree of success. However, when connections between mafia and the Fascists emerged, Mori was removed and the Fascist propaganda declared the mafia defeated.[35] Economically, Fascist policy aimed at the creation of an Italian Empire and Southern Italian ports were strategic for all commerce towards the colonies. Naples enjoyed a demographic and economic rebirth mainly due to the interest of King Victor Emmanuel III, who was born there.[36]

Starting from the 1950s, the Cassa per il Mezzogiorno was set up as a huge public master plan to help industrialise the South, that aimed to do this in two ways: by land reforms creating 120,000 new small farms, and through the "Growth Pole Strategy" whereby 60% of all government investment would go to the South, thus boosting the Southern economy by attracting new capital, stimulating local firms, and providing employment. However, the objectives were largely missed, and as a result the South became increasingly subsidised and state-dependent, incapable of generating private growth itself.[37] Presently huge regional disparities still persist. Problems still include pervasive organised crime and very high unemployment rates.

Due to Southern Italy's lack of progress to bettering the area, it has a record number of emigration. The most prevalent issue in Southern Italy is its inability to attract businesses and therefore create jobs. Between 2007 and 2014 943,000 Italians were unemployed. Of this, 70% were Italians from the South.[38] Employment in the South is ranked the lowest compared to countries in the European Union.[38] Italians from the South are also ranked the lowest in terms of money contributed into the economy of the Italy from immigrants.[39] The most common jobs in Southern Italy lie in tourism, distribution, food industries, wood furniture, whole sale, vehicle sales, sales in mineral and artisan.[40] As evident in the list of the most common jobs in Southern Italy, the economy of the South heavily relies on tourism. It attracts tourists through its rich historical background.

A report published in July 2015 by the Italian organization SVIMEZ shows that South Italy had a negative GDP growth in the last seven years and that from the year 2000 it has been growing half as much as Greece.[41]

In 2016, Southern Italy's GDP and economy have been growing twice as much as Northern Italy.[42]


Linguistic map of Italy - Legend
The main regional languages of Southern Italy are from the Italo-Dalmatian family, comprising both Neapolitan (dark turquoise) and Sicilian (dark purple).
Sicilian Puppet Theatre is included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.

The regions of Southern Italy were exposed to some different historical influences than the rest of the peninsula, starting most notably with Greek colonisation. Greek influence in the South was dominant until Latinisation was completed by the time of the Roman Principate. Greek influences returned by the late Roman Empire, especially following the reconquests of Justinian and the Byzantine Empire.

Sicily, a distinctive Norman-Arab-Byzantine culture throughout the Middle Ages, was captured by Muslims and turned into an Emirate for a period, and via Sicily, elements of Ancient Greek and Hindu culture borrowed by Arabs were introduced to Italy and Europe. The rest of the mainland was subject to a struggle of power among the Byzantines, Lombards, and Franks. In addition, the Venetians established outposts as trade with Byzantium and the Near East increased.

Until the Norman conquests of the 11th and 12th centuries much of the South followed Eastern rite (Greek) Christianity. The Normans who settled in Sicily and Southern Italy in the Middle Ages significantly impacted the architecture, religion and high culture of the region. Later, Southern Italy was subjected to rule by the new European nation states, first the Crown of Aragon, then Spain, and then Austria. The Spanish had a major impact on the culture of the South, having ruled it for over three centuries.

Jewish communities lived in Sicily and Southern Italy for over 15 centuries, but in 1492 King Ferdinand II of Aragon proclaimed the Edict of expulsion. At their height, Jewish Sicilians probably constituted around one tenth of the island's population. After the Edict, they partially converted to Christianity and some moved to Ottoman Empire and other places in Southern Italy, Rome and Europe. In the 19th century, street musicians from Basilicata began to roam worldwide to seek a fortune, most of them would become professional instrumentalists in symphonic orchestras, especially in the United States.[43]

Southern Italy has many major tourist attractions, such as the Palace of Caserta, the Amalfi Coast, Pompeii and other archaeological sites (many of which are protected by UNESCO). There are also many ancient Greek cities in Southern Italy, such as Sybaris and Paestum, which were founded several centuries before the start of the Roman Republic. Some of its beaches, woodlands and mountains are preserved in several National Parks; a major example is La Sila, a mountainous plateau occupying the provinces of Cosenza and Catanzaro in the region of Calabria.

In recent years, Southern Italy has experienced a revival of its traditions and music, such as the Neapolitan song and the Tarantella.

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Dizionario italiano multimediale e multilingue d'Ortografia e di Pronunzia
  3. ^ "Mezzogiorno, Vocabolario online Treccani".
  4. ^ Hospers, Gert J. (2004). Regional Economic Change in Europe. LIT Verlag Münster.
  5. ^ "The Messy Mezzogiorno". The Economist. Aug 13, 2009. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  6. ^ "Mezzogiorno". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  7. ^ "Classificazione economica ISTAT" (PDF) (in Italian). Retrieved October 23, 2009.
  8. ^ "Classificazione demografica ISTAT" (in Italian). Retrieved October 23, 2009.
  9. ^ a b Apostolopoulos, Yorgos; Leontidou, Lila; Loukissas, Philippos (2014). Mediterranean Tourism: Facets of Socioeconomic Development and Cultural Change. Routledge.
  10. ^ Jepson, Tim; Soriano, Tino (2011). National Geographic Traveler: Naples and Southern Italy (2nd ed.). National Geographic Books. Retrieved 23 July 2016.
  11. ^ Roger D. Woodard (2008). "Greek dialects", in: The Ancient Languages of Europe. Cambridge University Press. p. 51. ISBN 978-0-521-68495-8.
  12. ^ Normans in Sicilian History
  13. ^ Georgina Masson (1973). Frederick II of Hohenstaufen: a life. London: Octagon Books. p. 156. ISBN 0-374-95297-3.
  14. ^ Hunt Janin (2008). The University in Medieval Life, 1179–1499. McFarland. p. 132. ISBN 0-7864-3462-7.
  15. ^ Sir Steven Runciman (1958). The Sicilian Vespers: a history of the Mediterranean world in the later thirteenth century. Cambridge University Press. p. 274. ISBN 0-521-43774-1.
  16. ^ Colletta, Pietro. History of the Kingdom of Naples (1858). University of Michigan.
  17. ^ "The Battle of Tolentino, Joachim Murat". 7 October 2007. Archived from the original on 1 February 2008.
  18. ^ Blanch, L. Luigi de' Medici come uomo di stato e amministratore. Archivio Storico per le Province Napoletane.
  19. ^ The Italian Unification (L’Unificazione Italiana)- Treccani with contribution of Aspen Italy – Section IV – pages 417–418 illiteracy, p. 419 iron/steel, p. 420 roads and channels, p. 421 railroads )
  20. ^ National unification and economic development in Italy 1750–1913 (Unità nazionale e sviluppo economico in Italia 1750–1913) by Guido Pescosolido pages 95,133 – Italian edition ISBN 9788868124229
  21. ^ The end of a Kingdom (La fine di un Regno) – by Raffaele De Cesare – Vol. II – pages 165–166
  22. ^ "This Is Not Italy!" Ruling and Representing the South, 1860–1861
  23. ^ Modern Italy: A Political History – Denis Mack Smith – University of Michigan Press (1998) – ISBN 0472108956 – page 3
  24. ^ The Southern Question (La questione meridionale) by Antonio Gramsci – Rome: Editori Riuniti, 1966, p. 5)
  25. ^ Raffaele De Cesare (1845–1918), southern Italian historian and politician
  26. ^ The end of a Kingdom (La fine di un Regno) – vol. II – page 117
  27. ^ Heroes and brigands (Eroi e briganti) by Francesco Saverio Nitti – (edition 1899) – Osanna Edizioni 2015 – ISBN 9788881674695 – page 33
  28. ^ The Midday (South) and the Italian State – political speeches 1880–1910, (IL MEZZOGIORNO E LO STATO ITALIANO – DISCORSI POLITICI 1880–1910), Giustino Fortunato, LATERZA & FIGLI, Bari, 1911, pages 336–337
  29. ^ The problem of the South – The gap at the start (Il problema del Mezzogiorno – Il divario di partenza)
  30. ^ Roland Sarti, Italy: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present (2004) pp 567–8
  31. ^ Sexton, Renard (December 15, 2009). "Berlusconi the Survivor".
  32. ^ Mignone, Mario B. (2008). Italy today: Facing the Challenges of the New Millennium. New York: Lang Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 978-1-4331-0187-8.
  33. ^ Dennis Mack Smith (1997). Modern Italy; A Political History. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-10895-4, pp. 209–210
  34. ^ (Smith (1997), pp. 199.)
  35. ^ Newark, Tim (2007). Mafia Allies: The True Story of America's Secret Alliance with the Mob in World War II. London: MBI Publishing Company. pp. 47–48. ISBN 978-0-7603-2457-8.
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ a b
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^ "Italy's south "much worse than Greece," economic think tank reports".
  42. ^ Sud nel 2016 cresce più del Nord, che nel 2017 recupera,
  43. ^ International Council for Traditional Music, Report from the International Meeting of the International Council for Traditional Music's Study Group on Folk Musical Instruments, Volume 11, Musikmuseet, 1992, p. 54

Further reading

  • Dal Lago, Enrico, and Rick Halpern, eds. The American South and the Italian Mezzogiorno: Essays in Comparative History (2002) ISBN 0-333-73971-X
  • Doyle, Don. Nations Divided: America, Italy, and the Southern Question (2002)
  • Moe, Nelson. The View from Vesuvius: Italian Culture and the Southern Question (2002)
  • Schneider, Jane. Italy's 'Southern Question': Orientalism in One Country (1998)
  • Albanese, Salvatore Nicodemo. "Gramsci and the Southern Question" (1980)
1980 Irpinia earthquake

The 1980 Irpinia earthquake (Italian: Terremoto dell'Irpinia) took place in Southern Italy on November 23 with a moment magnitude of 6.9 and a maximum Mercalli intensity of X (Extreme). The shock was centered on the village of Conza and left at least 2,483 people dead, at least 7,700 injured, and 250,000 homeless.


Abruzzo (UK: , US: , Italian: [aˈbruttso]; Aquilano: Abbrùzzu) or Abruzzi is a region of Southern Italy with an area of 10,763 square km (4,156 sq mi) and a population of 1.2 million. It is divided into four provinces: L'Aquila, Teramo, Pescara, and Chieti. Its western border lies 80 km (50 mi) east of Rome. Abruzzo borders the region of Marche to the north, Lazio to the west and south-west, Molise to the south-east, and the Adriatic Sea to the east. Geographically, Abruzzo is divided into a mountainous area in the west, which includes the Gran Sasso d'Italia, and a coastal area in the east with beaches on the Adriatic Sea.

Abruzzo is considered a region of Southern Italy in terms of its culture, language, history and economy, although geographically it may also be considered central. The Italian Statistical Authority (ISTAT) deems it to be part of Southern Italy, partly because of Abruzzo's historic association with the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.Abruzzo is known as "the greenest region in Europe" as almost half of its territory, the largest in Europe, is set aside as national parks and protected nature reserves. There are three national parks, one regional park, and 38 protected nature reserves. These ensure the survival of 75% of Europe's living species, including rare species such as the small wading dotterel, the golden eagle, the Abruzzo (or Abruzzese) chamois, the Apennine wolf and the Marsican brown bear. Abruzzo is also home to Calderone, Europe's southernmost glacier.The visiting nineteenth-century Italian diplomat and journalist Primo Levi (1853–1917) said that the adjectives "forte e gentile" (strong and gentle) best describe the beauty of the region and the character of its people. "Forte e gentile" has since become the motto of the region and its inhabitants.


'Annurca', pronounced in Italy [anˈnurka], also called 'Anurka', is a historically old cultivar of domesticated apple native to Southern Italy, It is believed to be the one mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia, and in the 16th century by Gian Battista della Porta. However it was first mentioned by this name by Giuseppe Antonio Pasquale.Still today it is abundantly cultivated in Southern Italy, typically at the border between the Caserta and Benevento provinces, in the valley which is called the "queen of apples".

Brigandage in Southern Italy after 1861

Brigandage in Southern Italy had existed in some form since ancient times. However its origins as outlaws targeting random travellers would evolve vastly later on in the form of the political resistance movement. During the time of the Napoleonic conquest of the Kingdom of Naples, the first signs of political resistance brigandage came to public light, as the Bourbon loyalists of the country refused to accept the new Bonapartist rulers and actively fought against them until the Bourbon monarchy had been reinstated. Some claim that the word brigandage is a euphemism for what was in fact a civil war.

Catepanate of Italy

The Catepanate (or Catapanate) of Italy (Greek: κατεπανίκιον Ἰταλίας Katepaníkion Italías) was a province of the Byzantine Empire, comprising mainland Italy south of a line drawn from Monte Gargano to the Gulf of Salerno. Amalfi and Naples, although north of that line, maintained allegiance to Constantinople through the catepan. The Italian region of Capitanata derives its name from the Catepanate.

Central Italy

Central Italy (Italian: Italia centrale or just Centro) is one of the five official statistical regions of Italy used by the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), a first-level NUTS region and a European Parliament constituency.

Greek colonisation

The Greek colonisation was an organised colonial expansion by the Archaic Greeks into the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea in the period of the 8th–6th centuries B.C (750 and 550 B.C)

This colonisation differed from the migrations of the Greek Dark Ages in that it consisted of organised direction by the originating metropolis instead of the simple movement of tribes which characterized the earlier migrations. Many colonies that were founded in this period evolved into strong city-states and became independent of their metropoleis.

History of Islam in southern Italy

The history of Islam in Sicily and Southern Italy began with the first Muslim settlement in Sicily, at Mazara, which was captured in 827. The subsequent rule of Sicily and Malta started in the 10th century. Islamic rule over all Sicily began in 902, and the Emirate of Sicily lasted from 965 until 1061. Though Sicily was the primary Muslim stronghold in Italy, some temporary footholds, the most substantial of which was the port city of Bari (occupied from 847 until 871), were established on the mainland peninsula, especially in mainland Southern Italy, though Muslim raids reached as far north as Rome and Piedmont. The Muslim raids were part of a larger struggle for power in Italy and Europe, with Christian Byzantine, Frankish, Norman and local Italian forces also competing for control. Muslims were sometimes sought as allies by various Christian factions against other factions.

The first permanent Arab settlement on Sicily occurred in 827, but it was not until Taormina fell in 902 that the entire island fell under their sway, though Rometta held out until 965. In that year the Kalbids established the independence of their emirate from the Fatimid Caliphate. In 1061 the first Norman liberators took Messina, and by 1071 Palermo and its citadel (1072) were captured. In 1091 Noto fell to the Normans, and the conquest was complete. Malta fell later that year, though the Arab administration was kept in place, marking the final chapter of this period. The conquests of the Normans established Roman Catholicism firmly in the region, where Eastern Christianity had been prominent during the time of Byzantine rule and even remained significant during Islamic period. Widespread conversion ensued, leading to the disappearance of Islam in Sicily by the 1280s. In 1245, Muslim Sicilians were deported to the settlement of Lucera, by order of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. In 1300, Giovanni Pipino di Barletta, count of Altamura, seized Lucera and exiled or sold into slavery its population, bringing an end to the medieval Muslim presence in Italy.


The Italo-Normans, or Siculo-Normans when referring to Sicily and Southern Italy, are the Italian-born descendants of the first Norman conquerors to travel to southern Italy in the first half of the eleventh century. While maintaining much of their distinctly Norman piety and customs of war, they were shaped by the diversity of southern Italy, by the cultures and customs of the Greeks, Lombards, and Arabs in Sicily.

Languages of Italy

There are approximately thirty-four native living spoken languages and related dialects in Italy, most of which are indigenous evolutions of Vulgar Latin, and are therefore classified as Romance languages. Although they are sometimes referred to as regional languages, there is no uniformity within any Italian region, and speakers from one locale within a region are typically aware of the features distinguishing their local tongue from one of the other places nearby. The official and most widely spoken language across the country is Italian, a direct descendant of Tuscan.

Almost all the Romance languages native to Italy, with the notable exception of Italian, are often colloquially referred to as "dialects", although for some of them the term may coexist with other labels like "minority languages" or "vernaculars". However, the use of the term "dialect" to refer to the languages of Italy may erroneously imply that these native languages spoken in Italy are actual "dialects" of standard Italian in the prevailing linguistic sense of "varieties or variations of a language". This is not the case regarding the longstanding languages of Italy, as they are not varieties of standard Italian. Most of the local Romance languages of Italy predate Italian and evolved locally from Vulgar Latin, independently of what would become the standard national language, long before the fairly recent spread of Standard Italian throughout Italy. In fact, Italian itself can be thought of as either a continuation of, or a dialect heavily based on, Florentine Tuscan. The indigenous local Romance languages of Italy are therefore classified as separate languages that evolved from Latin mostly independently of Italian, rather than "dialects" or variations of it. Conversely, with the spread of Standard Italian throughout Italy in the 20th century, local varieties of Standard Italian have also developed throughout the peninsula, influenced to varying extents by the underlying local languages, most noticeably at the phonological level; though regional boundaries seldom correspond to isoglosses distinguishing these varieties, these variations on Standard Italian are commonly referred to as Regional Italian (italiano regionale).

Other Italian languages belong to other Indo-European branches, such as Cimbrian (Germanic), Arbëresh (Albanian), the Slavomolisano dialect of Serbo-Croatian (Slavic), and Griko (Hellenic). Other non-indigenous languages are spoken by a substantial percentage of the population due to immigration.

Magliocco Canino

Magliocco Canino is a red Italian wine grape variety that is predominantly grown in the Calabria region of southern Italy. It is often used as a blending grape, often with Gaglioppo of which the varieties are often confused. In the late 20th century there was just over 1500 ha (3700 acres) of Magliocco Canino planted.

Magna Graecia

Magna Graecia (, US: ; Latin meaning "Great Greece", Greek: Μεγάλη Ἑλλάς, Megálē Hellás, Italian: Magna Grecia) was the name given by the Romans to the coastal areas of Southern Italy in the present-day regions of Campania, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria and Sicily; these regions were extensively populated by Greek settlers, particularly the Achaean settlements of Croton, and Sybaris, and to the north, the settlements of Cumae and Neapolis. The settlers who began arriving in the 8th century BC brought with them their Hellenic civilization, which was to leave a lasting imprint on Italy, such as in the culture of ancient Rome. Most notably the Roman poet Ovid referred to the south of Italy as Magna Graecia in his poem Fasti.

Norman conquest of southern Italy

The Norman conquest of southern Italy lasted from 999 to 1139, involving many battles and independent conquerors. In 1130 these territories in southern Italy united as the Kingdom of Sicily, which included the island of Sicily, the southern third of the Italian Peninsula (except Benevento, which was briefly held twice), the archipelago of Malta and parts of North Africa.

Itinerant Norman forces arrived in the Mezzogiorno as mercenaries in the service of Lombard and Byzantine factions, communicating news swiftly back home about opportunities in the Mediterranean. These groups gathered in several places, establishing fiefdoms and states of their own, uniting and elevating their status to de facto independence within fifty years of their arrival.

Unlike the Norman conquest of England (1066), which took a few years after one decisive battle, the conquest of southern Italy was the product of decades and a number of battles, few decisive. Many territories were conquered independently, and only later were unified into a single state. Compared to the conquest of England, it was unplanned and disorganised, but equally complete.


Omertà (, Italian pronunciation: [omerˈta]) is a Southern Italian code of silence that places importance on silence in the face of questioning by authorities or outsiders; non-cooperation with authorities, the government, or outsiders; and willfully ignoring and generally avoiding interference with the illegal activities of others (i.e., not contacting law enforcement or the authorities when one is aware of, witness to, or even the victim of certain crimes). It originated and remains common in Southern Italy, where banditry or brigandage and Mafia-type criminal organizations (like the Camorra, Cosa Nostra, 'Ndrangheta and Sacra Corona Unita) are strong. Similar codes are also deeply rooted in other areas of the Mediterranean, including rural Spain, Crete (Greece), and Corsica, all of which share a common or similar historic culture with Southern Italy.

It also exists, to a lesser extent, in certain Italian-American neighborhoods, especially in neighborhoods where the Italian-American Mafia has strong influence, as well as in Italian ethnic enclaves in countries such as Germany, Canada, and Australia, where Italian organized crime exists. Similar codes of silence have been observed in Jewish-American, Greek-American, African-American, Hispanic, and certain working class Irish-American neighborhoods. Retaliation against informers is common in criminal circles, where informers are known as "rats" or "snitches".

Reggio Calabria

Reggio di Calabria (UK: , US: , Italian: [ˈreddʒo di kaˈlaːbrja; ˈrɛddʒo -]; Reggino: Rìggiu; Bovesia Calabrian Greek: Righi; Ancient Greek: Ῥήγιον, romanized: Rhḗgion; Latin: Rhēgium), commonly known as Reggio Calabria (listen) or simply Reggio in Southern Italy, is the largest city and the most populated comune of Calabria, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Metropolitan City of Reggio Calabria and the seat of the Regional Council of Calabria.

Reggio is located on the "toe" of the Italian Peninsula and is separated from the island of Sicily by the Strait of Messina. It is situated on the slopes of the Aspromonte, a long, craggy mountain range that runs up through the centre of the region. The third economic centre of mainland Southern Italy, the city proper has a population of more than 200,000 inhabitants spread over 236 square kilometres (91 sq mi), while the fast-growing urban area numbers 260,000 inhabitants. About 560,000 people live in the metropolitan area, recognised in 2015 by Italian Republic as a metropolitan city.As a major functional pole in the region, it has strong historical, cultural and economic ties with the city of Messina, which lies across the strait in Sicily, forming a metro city of less than 1 million people.Reggio is the oldest city in the region, and despite its ancient foundation – Ρηγιον was an important and flourishing colony of Magna Graecia – it has a modern urban system, set up after the catastrophic earthquake on 28 December 1908, which destroyed most of the city. The region has been subject to earthquakes.It is a major economic centre for regional services and transport on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. Reggio, with Naples and Taranto, is home to one of the most important archaeological museums, the prestigious National Archaeological Museum of Magna Græcia, dedicated to Ancient Greece (which houses the Bronzes of Riace, rare example of Greek bronze sculpture, which became one of the symbols of the city). Reggio is the seat, since 1907, of the Archeological Superintendence of Bruttium and Lucania.

The city centre, consisting primarily of Liberty buildings, has a linear development along the coast with parallel streets, and the promenade is dotted with rare magnolias and exotic palms. Reggio has commonly used popular nicknames: The "city of Bronzes", after the Bronzes of Riace that are testimonials of its Greek origins; the "city of bergamot", which is exclusively cultivated in the region; and the "city of Fatamorgana", an optical phenomenon visible in Italy only from the Reggio seaside.

San Giorgio Albanese

San Giorgio Albanese (Arbëreshë Albanian: Mbuzati) is a town and comune in the province of Cosenza in the Calabria region of southern Italy.It is one of the Arbëreshë towns in southern Italy.


Siculo-Arabic (or Sicilian Arabic) is the term used for varieties of Arabic that were spoken in the Emirate of Sicily (that included Malta) from the 9th century, persisting under the subsequent Norman rule until the 13th century. It was derived from early Maghrebi Arabic following the Abbasid conquest of Sicily in the 9th century, and gradually marginalized following the Norman conquest in the 11th century.

Siculo Arabic is extinct and is designated as a historical language that is attested only in writings from the 9th-13th centuries in Sicily. However, present-day Maltese is considered to have evolved from one of the dialects of Siculo-Arabic over the past 800 years in a gradual process of Latinisation which gave it a significant Romance superstrate influence. Very little Siculo-Arabic remains in present-day Sicilian, which is an Italo-Dalmatian Romance language, its influence being limited to some 300 words.

Southern Italy (European Parliament constituency)

In European elections, Southern Italy is a constituency of the European Parliament. It consists of the regions of Abruzzo, Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania and Molise.

As the other Italian constituencies, it has only a procedural goal to choose the elected MEPs inside party lists, the distribution of seats between different parties being calculated at national level (called Collegio Unico Nazionale, National Single Constituency).


Taranto (, also US: , Italian: [ˈtaːranto] (listen); Tarantino: Tarde) is a coastal city in Apulia, Southern Italy. It is the capital of the Province of Taranto and is an important commercial port as well as the main Italian naval base. It is considered one of the oldest cities in Italy.

Taranto was founded by the Spartans in the 8th century BC and it is the only colony ever founded by Sparta. During the period of Greek colonization on the coasts of Southern Italy, the city was among the most important in Magna Graecia and it became a cultural, economic and military power, which gave birth to philosophers, strategists, writers and athletes, such as Archytas, Aristoxenus, Livius Andronicus, Heracleides, Iccus, Cleinias, Leonidas, Lysis, and Sosibius. The seven-year rule of Archytas marked the apex of Taranto's development and the recognition of its hegemony over the other Greek colonies of southern Italy.

During the Norman period, it became the capital of the Principality of Taranto, which covered almost all of the heel of Apulia.

From the name of the city derives that of the species Lycosa tarantula, which originated the terms tarantella, tarantism and tarantula. Taranto is also known for the large population of dolphins and other cetaceans that historically live near the Cheradi Islands, located in front of the city.

It is the third-largest continental city of southern Italy and an important commercial and military port with well-developed steel and iron foundries, oil refineries, chemical works, naval shipyards, and food-processing factories.

Around 500 BC the city was one of the largest in the world with population estimates up to 300,000 people.


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