From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Southern Italy (Italian: Italia Meridionale) or the Mezzogiorno (Midday) generally refers to the southern portion of the continental Italian peninsula and Sicily, historically forming the Kingdom of Two Sicilies plus the island of Sardinia. It encompasses the modern regions of Basilicata, Campania, Calabria, Apulia and Molise, which lie in Italy's south, and Abruzzo which is located in central Italy and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Some would also include the most southern and eastern parts of Lazio (Sora, Cassino, Gaeta, Cittaducale, and Amatrice districts), which historically were part of the southern kingdom.
The Istituto Nazionale di Statistica (ISTAT) uses the term Southern Italy but excludes Sicily, which it groups with Sardinia as Insular Italy; this is the same grouping used for European parliament elections.
The term Mezzogiorno 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). "Mezzogiorno" was popularised by Giuseppe Garibaldi and the term came into vogue after Italy's unification. It was sometimes associated with notions of poverty, illiteracy, and crime: stereotypes of the South that often persist to this day.