Italy Travel Guide
One of the most popular and well-known countries of the world, Italy has been at the centre of civilization for millennia. Italy is a gorgeous country located in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, in Southern Europe.
Italy is one of the most iconic countries in Europe known for its innumerable works of art, popular cuisine and ancient ruins. You can't visit Italy and fall in love with the country over and over again. A beautiful country that is best explored slow, it's an ideal destination for honeymooners full of endless possibilities. You'll love exploring the ancient forest, the picturesque landscapes and indulging in the famed Italian cuisine.
Italy is immediately recognizable on the map thanks to its unique shape in the form of a boot. Surrounded by seas from all sides except the north, you can expect stunning locations by the vast Italian riviera. Its northern region it's occupied by the Alps with ancient forests which makes exploring Italy a photographer's dream. With one of the best climates in Europe, Italy is a year round destination.
Italy's capital, Rome, it's called the Eternal City for a reason: It’s stood in the same location for millennia and has survived many catastrophic events, and yet it still remains as one of the liveliest, and most popular, ancient cities in the entire world. Since its founding, Rome – and the Roman empire – has spread culture and art everywhere across the world. From the Ancient Age to the Renaissance, and later to the modern age, Italian culture and art are some of the most influential in the entire world.
Visit Italy for at least a few days, admire the gorgeous rolling hills in Tuscany, marvel at the Roman forum and enjoy a glass of Italian wine in Cinque Terre. Here's your Italy travel guide to help you plan your dream trip to Italy.
Things to know about Italy
Currency - The official currency in Italy is the EURO (symbol: €; code: EUR)
Language - The official language is Italian. Many Italians speak English, especially in major cities. Some of the older generations or people from rural Italy might not feel as comfortable speaking English. Learn a few Italian words, they will go a long way.
ATMs - ATM's are available in the cities and many places accept card transactions. However, not many places accept AMEX. You'll need cash for more remote areas, small bakeries and independent corner shops. The withdrawal limit on many ATMs is 250 Euros. it's a good idea to bring two cards in case of emergency.
Plugs & Sockets - Italy uses the Europlug, or Type C style plug with 2 round pins. As well as the Type F plug with 2 round pins and 2 Earth clips. The standard voltage is 230v and 50Hz frequency.
Safety - Italy is considered a safe country. It’s safe for solo travellers as well as women in general. There is some opportunistic crime, especially in highly touristic areas like pickpocketing, or mugging.
Climate - The climate of Italy is highly diverse. In most of the inland northern and central regions, the climate ranges from humid subtropical to humid continental and oceanic. The coastal areas of Liguria, Tuscany and most of the South generally fit the Mediterranean climate.
At the height of summer, temperatures can soar above 30 degrees celsius across the country. Winter can see drastic contrasts across the country. The East coast is wetter and suffers from cold winds. Snow could turn Milan into a winter wonderland whilst Rome enjoys a pleasing 20 degrees.
Driving - In Italy you will drive on the right-hand side of the road. Visitors must be aged 18 or over and hold a full, valid driving licence to legally drive in Italy. Riders of motorcycles up to 125cc must be aged 18 or over, while moped (not exceeding 50cc) riders must be aged 16 or over. Driving licences issued in EU and EEA countries are accepted. International driving permits are recognised, but not required.
In an emergency - 112 - Here's a really important bit of knowledge; you can dial 112 from anywhere in Europe and an operator will connect you to an emergency service in the country you're visiting. Operators can answer your call in their native language, English or French.
Useful phrases - Here are a few things to learn in Italian.
Hello - Ciao!
Goodbye - Ciao! (same as hello!)
Yes - Sì
No - No
Please - Per Favore
Thank you - Grazie
I don’t understand - Non capisco
Help - Aiuto
Italy is part of the European Union which means most tourists can visit visa-free for up to 90 days. If you visit from another EU country, you can enter visa-free and stay without any restrictions.
If you visit from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the UK, you can stay for 90 days, visa-free. There are some states whose citizens are required a visa upon entry on the Italian territory. See up-to-date information here on the official ministry of foreign affairs.
Best time to visit Italy
You can visit Italy at any time of the year. You'll very likely find cheap flights in the winter which is the perfect time to visit Italy if you love the Alps or want to explore the ski resorts. Cities will be much more affordable and you'll find fewer crowds at major attractions. The capital city, Rome, is an excellent place to visit during winter, especially for art lovers. Winter in Italy is also excellent for Christmas markets.
Spring in Italy is a dream, especially if you plan on visiting the south of the country. Spring also offers most comfortable temperatures and if you plan on visiting rural Italy or travelling to places such as Lake Garda, you'll see gorgeous wildflowers.
Summer is the most popular time to visit Italy. There's virtually no place you can't visit during the summer months. Visit Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre and enjoy the beach life in Sardinia or Sicily. Prices will be higher during the summer months and expect a few crowds. Both local and foreign tourists usually visit Italy in the summer.
Autumn is another fantastic time to visit Italy. The temperatures drop slightly, making it the best time to hike in the mountains and see some of the big cities. While truffles can be found year round, autumn is a good time to visit Emilia Romagna which has several key areas for truffle hunting. Autumn in Italy is also fantastic for nature lovers who want to enjoy a road trip to some of the hidden gems in the country.
Irrespective of your travel dates, you are going to have an amazing time since there's always something beautiful to see in Italy.
Safety in Italy
Italy is considered a safe country in Europe. Italy is safe for all travellers including solo tourists or women travelling alone. People are generally friendly and happy to help so don't hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
There are some instances when you will want to be more vigilant, especially in popular tourist destinations and big cities. Those are the areas where you might see pickpocketing, purse or phone snatching or some scamming. Avoid dark alleyways and unlit places after dark.
Keep your eyes on your belongings and keep your wallet close to you and make sure to not keep your phone or wallet in your back pocket when you are in a busy spot.
If you're visiting the Alps, don’t venture away from the hiking trails in the mountains, as those were created for your safety. If you plan on hiking deep in the mountains, leave your contact details with the closest information office and always check the weather in advance. Avalanches can occur at any time so please check with the Avalanche Risk Bulletin in advance.
As a solo women traveller, make sure you keep your drink safe at night if you plan on going clubbing. Don't leave your drink unattended. When leaving your accommodation, keep your doors closed and windows rolled up.
Most visits to Italy are trouble-free but it's always good to familiarise yourself with your surroundings. The most common crime in Italy is theft although you should avoid common scams.
How to get around
Italy has a good infrastructure but the best way to get around is by car. In big cities, you can rely on public transport but you might find it more difficult in rural areas. Between major hubs like Rome, Florence, Milan or Venice, you will find an extensive network of fast speed trains and regional services connecting small towns.
By car - Seeing Italy by car is by far the best option as it will allow you to stop for photos whenever you want. It will also make it easier to access hidden gems and beautiful locations which you might not otherwise add to your itinerary. Italy's countryside is simply stunning and we recommend taking smaller roads for more incredible vistas along the route. You can save money by booking a car rental in advance. Italy is such a beautiful country, seeing it during a road trip is a dream come true!
By public transport - As mentioned, you'll have access to fast and reliable public transport in major cities and major hubs. There are regional trains connecting smaller towns as well if you wish to take day trips from your city. Book your train tickets in advance here. If you want to travel all around Italy without restrictions, we recommend buying an Italy pass from Interrail.
Flights - There are so many low-cost flights connecting major cities in Italy. If you wish to travel from a Northern city to an island or to Southern Italy, you might want to consider getting a flight. It will save you lots of time and money. However, you will miss some incredible scenery along the way. Check out Skyscanner to book your flights.
Tour operators - There might be times you just want to enjoy Italy without having to worry about booking things or driving cars. For some of the best deals, find a guided tour that has everything organised including private transportation or guided paid trips. Book this 8 day best of Italy Trip from Rome.
Things to do in Italy
The reason why so many tourists come back to Italy is that they can never exhaust the endless list of things to do and see in the country. Art lovers will be lost in museums and galleries, admiring some of the most incredible paintings, frescos and sculptures. The food is out of this world, with authentic cuisine in every single Italian destination. Luxury travellers will be found exploring the Amalfi coast on a trip of a lifetime. To get a real sense of what Italy is all about, you'll need to spend time living in the country, exploring its every corner. And even then, you'll realise how every region is different, with its own tradition, food and customs. But as with every trip, you need to start somewhere, and here's our recommended list of the best things to do in Italy.
Cappella Sistina was built between 1473 and 1481. Today, it is the site of the papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The Chapel is famous worldwide and continues to attract millions of tourists thanks to its frescoes that decorate the interior, most particularly the Sistine Chapel's ceiling and The Last Judgment, both by Michelangelo. It goes without saying that the Cappella Sistina is busy at all times. Make sure to book your ticket in advance to avoid queuing.
➡️ Book your Sistine Chepel tickets here
The Vatican Museums are the public museums of the Vatican City. Visit and see some of the most renowned Roman sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world. Just know that under normal circumstances, close to 7 million visitors come to the Vatican each year. It's paramount that you plan your trip accordingly and you book your tickets in advance.
➡️ Book your entrance to the Vatican museum here
The Colosseum is the largest ancient amphitheatre ever built and is still the largest standing amphitheatre in the world today. Its construction started in 70 AD and officially opened to the public in 80 AD. Although substantially ruined because of earthquakes and stone robbers the Colosseum remains an incredible symbol of the Roman empire.
The Colosseum was used to host gladiatorial shows as well as other events. Today, the Colosseum is a major tourist attraction.
➡️ Book your tickets in advance and skip the line
Visit the pantheon in Rome, the temple of all gods, commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings and it has been in continuous use since the 7th century. There is no fee to visit the pantheon, making it an attractive tourist attraction amongst locals and foreigners alike. It usually attracts over 6 million visitors a year.
Visit the pantheon in the evening or first thing in the morning. It looks especially gorgeous without the crowds.
You've seen so many movies featuring the Trevi Fountain but in real life, this magnificent masterpiece looks even more impressive than you'd imagined. Standing 26.3 metres high and 49.15 metres wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains on the planet. On a sunny day, you'll see lots of tourists making wishes and tossing coins, as well as several beautiful and romantic proposals. It sure is a romantic spot and one which should be added to your list.
Visit the Roman Forum for some of the most incredible photo spots in Rome. Usually, with fluffy clouds in the background, this place looks like an incredible illustration. It's hard to imagine you're looking at ancient temple ruins some as 8th century BC. Once a marketplace, now a location where locals and tourists roam. It's also an ideal place to enjoy a quick lunch picnic.
The Roman Forum had various uses including a space for gladiatorial games, then later for religious and secular spectacles and ceremonies. It was once the site of some of the city's most imposing temples.
➡️ Book tickets to see the Roman Forum.
Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa is a freestanding bell tower known worldwide for its nearly four-degree lean, the result of an unstable foundation in the soft ground. However, the Tower of Pisa won't fall anytime soon, its centre of gravity is carefully kept within its base.
Many visit Leaning Tower of Pisa to take a picture with it but did you know you can actually go inside? You can even climb all the way to the top.
➡️ Book your tickets to enter the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Rialto Bridge is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal in Venice. It is now a significant tourist attraction in the city and one you can view from a gondola ride or from a special water taxi. You can alternatively walk across the Rialto bridge.
This bridge went through a lot: it was partly burnt during a revolt in 1310. Later, in 1444 it collapsed under the weight of crowds and then it collapsed again in 1524. The bridge you see today was completed in 1591.
➡️ Book a Venice tour which includes a gondola ride.
Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco is the main tourist attraction in Venice and a great place to start your explorations of the city. Sit down and enjoy a mozzarella sandwich, an Italian espresso and people watch for a couple of hours. The Piazza is lined with restaurants and small boutiques, perfect to hunt for souvenirs for family and friends. Napoleon once called this Piazza "the drawing room of Europe".
➡️ Book the Doge's Palace and St Mark's Basilica Tour
Duomo di Milano
Milan is known as the Italian capital for fashion, but many come here to specifically see the magnificent and imposing Milan Cathedral. A stunning example of gothic architecture mixed with Renaissance and Gothic Revival, Duomo di Milano is the second-largest cathedral in the world. Admire the 3400 statues, 135 gargoyles and 700 figures that decorate the Duomo. Climb the stairs to fully appreciate the architecture and views over Milan. While you are in Milan, don't forget to check out the Last Supper, by Da Vinci.
➡️ Skip-the-Line and get tickets to Duomo and Rooftop Guided Tour
Bridge of Sighs
A unique bridge in Venice is the bridge of sighs, made of white limestone. Also known as the prisoner's bridge featuring stone bars, it connects the New Prison (Prigioni Nuove) to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace.
The bridge acquired its name because of the sighs of the prisoners passing over it. There's also a sweet and romantic tradition: legend has it that if a couple kisses while passing underneath the bridge in a gondola, they will enjoy eternal love.
➡️ Book your ticket to see Doge's Palace and Prison
You've seen it in movies, you've seen it in pictures and now it's time to see it in real life: The Val d'Orcia or Valdorcia is a region of Tuscany, central Italy, which extends from the hills south of Siena to Monte Amiata. It looks especially stunning in the morning or in the autumn when you get those lovely foggy mornings. Val d'Orcia is a UNESCO Heritage Site since 2004. Stop in one of the vineyards along the way. Italy has one of the best wine regions in the world.
➡️ Book your wine tour from Siena with local experts.
Best places to visit in Italy
Our ultimate guide to Italy must include some of the best places to visit. And trust us, this list could go on forever as Italy is full of UNESCO world heritage sites. After years of going back over and over to Italy, here are our favourites to get you started. Once you visit once or twice, you'll get the feel for what is it like to live life to its fullest in Italy, and you'll wish to return for a yearly Italian trip.
The ancient city of Rome is the perfect starting point for your Italian exploration. See the Colosseum, the museums, the artefacts and just take a moment to appreciate how much history there is all around you. Rome is a big city, full of noise and crowds, but it has gorgeous pockets of green where you can withdraw and relax. Walk hand in hand with your loved one and explore the maze of narrow alleyways, often filled with noisy scooters. Eat authentic gelato and take your espresso from a local Italian restaurant. Sit down and eat pizza, pasta and order an extra dessert because a holiday in Italy is just about "la dolce vita".
➡️ Book a quirky tour to see Rome by golf cart
One of the most impressive cities in Italy, Venice is a must-see when visiting this gorgeous Mediterranean country. It all starts in San Marco, the main touristic heart of Venice, home to St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sighs. Venice is romantic, seductive, historic. It's also a wonderful place for good food, as most Venetian dishes are fish-based.
Book a gondola ride and have that experience while you are in Venice. It may seem touristic but it's a must. We loved our experience and we cannot recommend it enough.
➡️ Book your Venice in a day experience: Basilica San Marco, Doges Palace & Gondola ride
Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. Calling all wine lovers, as in each of the 5 towns, you'll have vineyards to explore and trattorias full of delicious dishes to sample. There's a natural beauty to Cinque Terre, as there are plenty of hiking trails, forts and gorgeous beaches to be seen here. The Cinque Terre National Park is a protected coastline that looks fantastic day and night. A must for photographers!
➡️ Book a sunset boat tour and enjoy seeing Cinque Terre in the most perfect sunlight.
One of the most incredible places to visit in Italy has to be Bellagio. Bellagio is a small village by Lake Como. To get to Bellagio you'll drive by Lake Como and admire historical villas with blooming gardens and stunning statues. Bellagio has its own fair share of beautiful Italian villas and architecture with trimmed gardens and typical quaint alleyways. By the lake, you can see the Alps as a perfect backdrop to the city.
If there's one city you need to see when visiting Italy, then Florence is it. Florence is known for its culture, Renaissance art and architecture and monuments. Also known as the regional capital of the Tuscany region, Florence is one of the most iconic places in Italy. See the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome. Marvel at Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture in Galleria dell'Accademia and don't miss Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and da Vinci’s “Annunciation.” at The Uffizi Gallery.
➡️ Book your ultimate tour guide: Pisa, Siena and San Gimignano Day Trip from Florence with Lunch
Mount Etna is one of the most active volcanoes and is in an almost constant state of activity. It's located on the east coast of Sicily. Since 2013 the volcano is in Unesco’s Heritage List for its geological peculiarities of planetary relevance. It is the highest volcano in Europe with more than 3327 meters high with an average basal diameter of 40 km. If you love hiking, a trip to Mount Etna is a must.
For many, Italy is synonymous with the Amalfi coast, a 50-kilometre stretch of coastline of stunning vistas, grand villas and lemon groves. Amalfi Coast has many luxury accommodation options making it ideal for your honeymoon in Italy. Rent yachts, snorkel, dive and enjoy those warm evenings in Italy with a quality glass of Primitivo.
The Amalfi Drive (formally Strada Statale 163) is the name of the road which runs Sorrento and Amalfi. The road was originally built by the Romans. With incredible views from Positano for about 80 km along the coast, this is the perfect place to visit for road trip lovers.
What to pack for Italy
Summer packing - Summers are very hot, dry and torrid. Pack light and breathable materials. Shorts, skirts, dresses, sandals. Get your loose textile-like hemp or linen. Pack bright colours like white and beige and don't forget to be stylish as the Italians have a great sense of fashion. Pack your swimming costume, a great white shirt and your comfortable stylish shoes for the evening. For a sporty outfit get a pair of comfortable loungers.
Autumn packing - Autumns are mild and beautiful but they can be a little rainy too. A waterproof jacket, as well as a light jacket for the cooler evenings, should be added to your suitcase. Get your walking shoes and long trousers. During the day you can wear shorts or a skirt.
Winter packing - Winters are mild in the south but cold in the north and in the Alps. Get the warmest winter jacket you can find and layer up. Get warm merino wool thermals, wool or synthetic layers and a fluffy, warm sweater. Bring thermal underwear and trousers. If you wish to ski in the mountains, bring your ski gear with you. Apres Skis can be worn in cities too, especially when there’s heavy snow. Bring your snow boots with you if you decide to be in the mountains.
Spring packing - Spring is a phenomenal time to visit Italy and your packing will be light and nice. If you visit at the beginning of the Spring bring a lightweight waterproof with some insulation. If you visit towards the end of Spring, pack lighter clothes, some shorts, T-shirts and dresses and walking shoes. For evenings you should have a trench coat or a jacket to keep you warm.
Pack enough socks and underwear, toiletries and a small medical kit. For example, bring your own band-aids, earplugs, hand sanitiser and medical face masks. Don’t forget your universal charger/adaptor and some laundry bags to make your life easier.
Where to stay in Italy
Italy has every range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. In cities, you can book luxury hotels, mid-range options, studios and hostels. In rural areas, it’s common to find Italian villas or smaller family-run accommodation options.
Italy is a very popular tourist destination and one of the best money-saving tips we can offer is to book your accommodation well in advance for your trip. At least 3 - 4 months in advance if possible. Prices go considerably up for last-minute bookings and they soar in the summer.
If you decide to stay in a city, you should book your accommodation as close to the city centre as possible to have access to all points of interest and attraction.
To book your accommodation in Italy we recommend using Booking.com as this is the most popular site with great cancellation options.
One of the best Italy travel tips is to allow yourself to eat everything your eyes desire. Food is everything in Italy and no trip to this incredible country is complete without you trying an array of authentic dishes. Avoid all restaurant chains you've heard of and sit down only in the most obscure eateries you would have never otherwise. It's the small places that have the true Italian soul in them. The owners take food seriously and want to make you happy. Don't be surprised if you find yourself eating four different courses in one go.
Food is about living life to its fullest in Italy. Try fresh pasta, pizza napoletana, gelato, panna cotta, tiramisu, fresh mozzarella salads and risotto.
Wake up first thing in the morning and go visit a market, purchase fresh fruit and vegetables and make your own breakfast. Add extra virgin olive oil and eat that incredible cheese with fresh tomatoes. Add some aromatic herbs with a little sea salt and indulge in the simplest and best joys of life. You won't find bad food in Italy, just lots of delicious options.
Shopping and Souvenirs
No trip to Italy is complete without purchasing artisanal souvenirs to bring home to your family and friends. You'll want to purchase lemons from the amalfi coast, olive oil from rural areas and trufle oil from Tuscany. You've been saying how much you want to learn how to cook Italian food, so purchase an authentic cookbook. Surprise your friends with a dinner party where you serve limoncello or grappa from Italy. Purchase traditional cheese like parmigiano-reggiano or a fantastic pice of artisanal porcelain.
Find Murano glass in Venice and shop for a beautiful venitian carnival mask. For fashion lovers, shop for stylish clothes and perfumes, as Italy has plenty of stunning boutiques with clothes that fit so well! Stock up on jewellery and handmade shoes or go big and shop in one of the well known designer houses like Prada, Armani, Versace, Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana.