A country known for its cuisine, cultural heritage, ancient history, and idyllic landscapes, Italy is unique. It’s also a country that varies significantly from region to region.
The administrative divisions used by the Italian government include regions, provinces, and municipalities. Of these, the regions of Italy are the largest divisions.
Each region has its own autonomous government, though five regions have an elevated autonomy status: Aosta Valley, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Sardinia, Sicily, and Trentino-South Tyrol.
The Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics (NUTS) used by the European Union (EU) and the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) also uses five larger macro-regions to talk about Italy:
In this post, we’ll look at the regions of Italy and the larger macro-regions they’re a part of.
Regions of Italy
Below is a map of Italy that shows the borders of each of the 20 regions in the country.
There are four regions that make up Central Italy: Lazio, Marche, Tuscany, and Umbria. Of these, Lazio has the largest population and is home to Rome, the capital city of Italy. Lazio is home to almost 10% of Italy’s population, and Central Italy as a whole includes about 20%.
This central region of Italy has historically been home to the most politically left-leaning groups in the country, known as the “Red Belt,” though this may be changing. Central Italy is also known for its artistic and cultural heritage, hosting numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The home of Rome and the most populous region in Central Italy, Lazio is located on Italy’s western coast and borders the regions of Tuscany, Umbria, and Marche. The coastline here is mostly composed of sandy beaches, and the Pre-Apennine Mountains run through the inland part of the region.
Traditional sources of income in Lazio are related to agriculture, animal husbandry, and crafts, though the majority of the region’s population is now employed in the services sector. This is due to Rome’s status as the nation’s capital and an administration hub. Lazio is also the main growing area for kiwi in Italy.
The capital city of Marche is Ancona, which is a seaport located on the Adriatic coastline. The region is known for its beautiful coastline, historic hilltop towns, and outdoor attractions like Monti Sibillini National Park and the Frasassi Caves.
A railway runs along the coast through Marche, connecting Bologna in the north with Brindisi. The inland portion of the region, however, is largely unpassable from north to south because of the mountainous terrain.
Tourists are drawn to Marche’s seaside resorts, cultural heritage, and natural beauty.
Tuscany is one of the most famous regions in Italy for its scenic landscapes, unique cuisine, and artistic heritage. It’s also known for being an important region during the Renaissance, as it was the home of notable figures such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Botticelli.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of the iconic landmarks located in Tuscany, as is the stunning Siena Cathedral, which, along with the Historic Center of Siena, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Umbria is one of the few landlocked regions of Italy, and the only one that doesn’t border an ocean or a foreign country. The region is partly flat in the valley of the Tiber and hilly and otherwise hilly and mountainous. The highest point in the region is Monte Vettore, which has an elevation of 2,476 meters (8,123 feet).
Perugia, the capital of Umbria, is known for chocolate and jazz festivals. The region’s cuisine features dishes like truffles, cured meats, and pecorino cheese. Famous wines from the region include Sagrantino di Montefalco and Orvieto Classico.
It is an ordinary region. Abruzzo has a population of 1,326,513. The surface area is 10,832 square kilometers. Its capital is L’Aquila.
The macroregion of Northwest Italy borders France and Switzerland and boasts a geography, cuisine, and cultural heritage that are unique in the country. It’s made up of four regions, Aosta Valley, Liguria, Lombardy, and Piedmont, of which Piedmont is the largest in size and Lombardy has the largest population.
Home to economic and industrial centers like Milan, Genoa, and Turin, Northwest Italy also plays an important role in the country’s economy, earning 32.9% of Italy’s GDP in 2018.
Aosta Valley is the smallest region in Italy. It accounts for just over 1% of the country’s territory, and it has the lowest population density of any region in Italy. The capital city of the region is Aosta, which was first settled in proto-historic times. Today, the two official languages in the region are Italian and French.
This region is located in an Alpine valley and has the highest elevation in Italy. The highest peak in the region belongs to Mount Blanc, which stands 4,807 m (15,771 ft) tall. Ski resorts take advantage of these peaks, making the region a great place for snow sport enthusiasts.
The region of Liguria borders the Ligurian Sea in Northwest Italy and covers most of the same territory as the former Republic of Genoa. The coastline is home to the Cinque Terre area, which is a popular tourist attraction and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997.
The capital of Liguria is the city of Genoa, which has a significant history as one of the most important centers of international trade in Europe and was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. Liguria is also the original source of pesto, one of the most famous and widely used Italian sauces.
With a population of over 10 million, Lombardy is the most populous region in Italy. Its capital city is Milan, which is the financial and fashion capital of the country as well as the second-most populous city in the country after Rome. Milan is also home to one of the largest churches in the world and is a popular city for tourists to visit.
Various lakes, including popular Lake Como and Italy’s largest, Lake Garda, are located in Lombardy. The region’s proximity to the Alps also makes it a popular spot for those interested in getting into nature.
Turin, the first capital of a unified Italy, is the capital city of Piedmont, which contains the westernmost point in the country. After Sicily, Piedmont is the second-largest region in Italy. The name of this region comes from the Latin Pedemontium, which translates to “at the foot of the mountains” in English, referring to the nearby Alps.
The lowland areas of Piedmont are fertile for agriculture and make up one of the essential wine-growing regions in Italy. Wines produced in Piedmont include Barbaresco and Barolo. Other agricultural products produced in Piedmont are cereals, maize, and milk.
There are four regions located in Northeast Italy: Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-South Tyrol, and Venezia. It’s worth noting that the region of Emilia-Romagna is culturally and historically considered part of Northwest Italy, but it is included in this category by the EU for statistical purposes.
This geographically diverse part of Italy features the Dolomite Mountains, the Alps, and the Adriatic coast. It’s also home to beautiful cities like Venice and Bolzano, and it is full of historical significance.
This region of Italy comprises the historical regions of Emilia and Romagna, and its capital city is Bologna. Emilia-Romagna is partially located in Northwest Italy, but it extends all the way to Italy’s east coast along the Adriatic Sea.
The region is significant for being one of the wealthiest in the nation and for the University of Bologna, which is the oldest continuously operating university in Europe. It’s also home to 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a center for automobile and food production.
The gastronomy scene in the region is also famous, and Bologna is known for dishes such as tortellini, lasagne, and tagliatelle.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is one of the five regions in Italy that have special status. Its capital city is Treiste, which sits on the Gulf of Trieste in the Adriatic Sea. The region is close to both Austria and Slovenia geographically and culturally. Austrian German, Slovene, and Italian are the three languages spoken here.
The region’s picturesque town of Gorizia, located next to Italy’s border with Slovenia, is home to a medieval castle and is a center for tourism, as is Trieste and the nearby Dolomite Mountains. The economy of Friuli-Venezia Giulia is also supported by exports and a wealth of small and medium-sized businesses.
Composed of the two provinces Trentino and South Tyrol, this region is located in northern Italy and borders Austria and Switzerland. It is one of the autonomous regions in Italy with special status.
The two major languages spoken in this region are Italian and South Tyrol German, the latter of which is spoken by the majority of people living in South Tyrol. Historically, the region was controlled by the Holy Roman Empire from the 9th century until 1801 before becoming part of Austria-Hungary until 1919. It was transferred to Italy at the end of World War I.
Veneto has the fourth-largest population of any region in Italy. Its capital city is Venice and its largest is Verona. The region has a rich history, forming part of the Roman Empire for many years and then being part of the Republic of Venice for more than 1,000 years. It became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.
Although Veneto is a highly-industrialized region, tourism also plays a large role in its economy. Venice is the province that receives the most tourists in the region, attracting almost 9 million in 2022.
South Italy is composed of six regions, which is the most of any Italian macroregion. This version of South Italy, as used for statistical purposes by the EU, shouldn’t be confused with Southern Italy, or Mezzogionro, which is a cultural and historical region that also includes Sicily and the island of Sardinia.
Abruzzo is the northernmost region in South Italy, located along the Adriatic Sea, its western border 80 km (50 mi) east of Rome. The region is made up of four provinces, the largest and most populous of which is Chieti. The capital city of Abruzzo is L’Aquila, located in the province of the same name.
Abruzzo is known for its beautiful geography, which includes a mountainous portion in the west, and a coastal area toward the east. It’s been referred to as the greenest region in Europe for its biodiversity and natural parks.
The region of Apulia, located in the far southeastern corner of Italy, has the longest coastline of any mainland region in the country. The southern part of Apulia is the Salento Peninsula, which forms the “heel” of the boot of Italy. Two national parks, Alta Murgia and Gargano, are located in Apulia.
Food is an important part of local culture in Apulia, and some food items produced here are olive oil, artichokes, tomatoes, eggplant, and asparagus, in addition to seafood. Some typical pasta shapes in Apulia are Orecchiette, Troccoli, and Cavatelli.
Located between Apulia, Campania, and Calabria, the Italian region of Basilicata has two coastlines: one on the Tyrrhenian Sea, and a longer stretch along the Gulf of Taranto. There are just two provinces in Basilicata: Potenza and Matera; the regional capital city is Potenza.
Basilicata is the mountainous region in Southern Italy, and its geographic inaccessibility has made it one of the least-visited regions in the country. Tourism has been increasing since the 2000s, however, and the town of Matera was named a European Capital of Culture in 2019.
Calabria is located on the “toe” of the boot of Italy. It extends from the Italian mainland into the Mediterranean Sea and is separated from Sicily by the narrow Strait of Messina. The region was settled by Ancient Greeks in the 8th century BCE and became a center of Magna Grecia (Greater Greece).
Today, Calabria is known for its stunning coastline, ancient villages, castles, and archeological sites. The Pollino National Park is located in Calabria, which is the largest protected area in the country. Coastal resorts and mountains are the main tourist draws in this region.
The region of Campania is located in the southwestern portion of the Italian peninsula and borders the Tyrrhenian Sea. It includes the Phlegraean Islands and the island of Capri. Covering an area of 13,671 km2 (5,278 sq mi) and with a population of 5,615,000, Campania is the third-largest region in Italy and has the second-highest population density.
Molise is technically the newest region in Italy. It was part of the larger Abruzzo-Molise region until 1963, and then officially became its own region in 1970. Geographically, Molise contains mountains and hills that descend to the region’s 35 km (22 mi) coastline on the Adriatic Sea.
Molise comprises two provinces: Campobasso and Isernia. The capital city of Molise is Campobosso, which is home to Manforte Castle. This is one of several castles in the area. Two traditional dishes in Molise cuisine are Brodosini and Calcioni di ricotta.
The last of the five statistical regions of Italy used by the EU and the ISTAT is Insular Italy, which consists of the country’s two major islands: Sardinia and Sicily. Each of these islands has its own unique identity and manages to stand out from mainland Italy with unique cuisines, cultural heritages, and landscapes.
The region of Sardinia includes the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea of the same name as well as the Maddalena Archipelago and several smaller islands. The two languages spoken on the island are Italian and Sardinian, which is the Romance language considered to be the closest to Vulgar (non-classical) Latin.
One fascinating historical element of Sardinia is the presence of prehistoric architecture. Products of the Nuragic civilization, some of the most noteworthy sites include the giants’ tombs, well temples, and the nuraghe.
Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean and makes up one of the regions in Italy with special autonomous status. It is the largest region in the country by size, and its capital city is Palermo.
While this Mediterranean island may have a reputation for organized crime, it’s got much more to offer: ancient Greek and Roman ruins, Europe’s tallest active volcano, world-famous cuisine, and sandy beaches. Sicily is made up of nine provinces.
Italy Quick Facts and FAQ
- Population: 61,021,855 (2023 estimate)
- Land Area: 301,230 km²
Italy is located on the Italian Peninsula in Southern Europe. It borders France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia.
Major Cities in Italy
Rome is the capital and most populous city in Italy, located in the region of Lazio. This is also where the world’s smallest country, the Vatican City, is located.
Florence, a city in the region of Tuscany, is one of the most visited cities in the world for its art. The city was a center for the Renaissance, evidence of which can still be seen in its architecture.
Milan is the largest economic, and fashion center in Italy. It is located in the northern part of the country in the region of Lombardy and is also home to Italy’s most renowned opera, La Scala.
Turin in northwestern Italy is one of the country’s largest industrial hubs. The automotive company FIAT is located here.
Naples is the regional capital of Campania in Southern Italy and has one of the most famous cuisines in the country.
Where is Italy on the world map?
Italy is located in Southern Europe. It borders France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. The Alps provide a natural border between Italy and other countries, and it extends into the Mediterranean Sea.
Which part of Italy is the most beautiful?
Taking into account the diversity of the 20 regions in Italy, it would be difficult to say one is definitively the most beautiful. Those interested in Alpine landscapes and snow sports are likely to find the northern part of the country more beautiful.
For the best beaches, Sardinia may be the most beautiful region in Italy. If picturesque hillside villages are more your speed, then Cinque Terre is probably among the most beautiful places in the country.
What region in Italy receives the most tourists?
Rome is the city that receives the most visitors in Italy each year, but Veneto receives more tourists than any other region in the country.
Which is the least visited region in Italy?
Calabria is located at the “toe” of the boot of Italy and is considered one of the country’s least visited regions. It is sometimes referred to as “the wild Italy” for its remoteness and features a number of scenic beaches.
What are the regions in Italy that have different names in English?
Here are the regions in Italy that have different names in English, along with their corresponding Italian names:
– Lombardy (Lombardia)
– Piedmont (Piemonte)
– Apulia (Puglia)
– Sardinia (Sardegna)
– Sicily (Sicilia)
– Tuscany (Toscana)
– Trentino-South Tyrol (Trentino-Alto Adige or Südtirol in German)
– Aosta Valley (Valle d’Aosta)