Travel to Italy
Italy is all about living ‘la dolce vita’ (the sweet life). From the romantic cities, to the great wines and food, Italy has something for everyone.
A single trip to Italy is unlikely to cover everything, which makes it the perfect country to return to over and over again.
It’s easy to fall in love with this charming country and its lifestyle. Italy is for gorging on all of the pizza and pasta, sipping on wine in the vineyards, driving through the beautiful Tuscan countryside, getting cultured in Rome, shopping till you drop in Milan and waltzing around romantic Venice. Italy will seduce you at every corner – whether it’s the charming buskers on the street corners, street side gelatos, charismatic drivers or the angry ‘mamas’ shouting down from their balconies. There’s something special about this country and you can’t help but love it.
You will of course come home from your Italy holiday a few pounds heavier after your daily dose of carbs, cheeses, gelatos and wine. But hey, it is 110% worth it! Every bite/lick/sip will be remembered for a lifetime.
If you’re planning a trip to Italy any time soon, we hope that our Italy travel guides will help you along the way.
Visa Requirements for Italy
Italy is part of the Schengen agreement, which allows most of the EU citizens to enter the country only with their ID.
When entering by air from a non-Schengen country, you will be expected to fill out a brief form which includes an address in Italy. You most probably won’t have a proper address, so you can use the one of your accommodation. It’s very unlikely that this will be checked, but you will have to enter an address if you want to enter the country.
A stay of longer than 90 days for non-EEA or non-Swiss citizens usually requires a visa, which you need to get before your trip.
To make 100% sure what you need, please check with your government officials or on this website.
Important Cultural Information
Italians are loud, full of life and extremely patriotic (especially the Romans). Just because you see a local shouting, it doesn’t mean that they are angry. While yes, they could actually be angry or complaining about something, they are also likely to just be having a normal conversation about something monotonous. This is life as an Italian.
The social culture is heavily influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. Family ties are strong – you will often see up to three generations living under one roof. Clothing is generally quite casual, though be prepared for some super fashionable Italians – especially in the fashion capital of Milan. When visiting churches, conservative clothes are required.
Food is a major part of Italian culture. They love gathering for big lunches and meeting on the streets with a gelato in the summer months. If you are invited into a locals home for a meal, make sure to take a small portion at first as you will undoubtedly be ‘forced’ to eat more (we say forced as it’s basically impossible to say no to an Italian trying to give you food – both because it’s so delicious that you don’t want to say no and also because they will just give you more anyway).
While the locals in the heavily tourist areas will likely speak a bit of English, don’t expect as much in the more rural areas. Best to learn a few basic phrases in Italian beforehand to help you get around.
Banking & Money
In Italy you pay with the Euro (€), just like in other 24 European countries. 100 cents makes up 1 Euro. Each country can produce their own Euro coins, where one side of the coins has their own unique designs, while the other side has a European standard design. You can use the Euro in any of the eurozone countries, without needing to exchange money when crossing the borders.
To exchange money, there are plenty of ATMs, where you can withdraw up to €500, usually for a fee, depending on your own bank conditions. Credit cards are well accepted all over. But it’s always useful to have a few Euro notes, especially in the countryside.
Medical Emergency Information
If there is an emergency, you can call 112 from any phone at no cost. This will get you in touch with the police, firefighters and ambulances.
Make sure to good travel insurance beforehand.
Wi-Fi and Internet in Italy
There are 4 network operators in Italy: TIM, Vodafone, 3, and Wind. TIM and Vodafone have the best coverage, with Wind and 3 not far behind. You should be fine in all major centres, but check the coverage maps if you’re planning on venturing off the beaten track. There are other resellers that work off the main networks, like Lycamobile which uses the Vodafone network.
You will find several shops selling SIM cards around Italy, including in the smaller towns. You will be required to show your passport when purchasing the SIM card. Make sure that you buy the SIM from a reputable seller, and get them to set it up before you leave the shop.
Another option is to rent a mobile MiFi device, your own hotspot. Those costs from around €5 per day. There are services, which you can pick up at the airport or which gets delivered to the hotel you are staying at.
Wi-Fi is easily available at hotels and many coffee shops. Look out for ‘Wi-Fi’ or ‘@’ signs on the doors. Venice, Florence, Rome, Milan, Trento, Comiso and Bologna have instituted city-wide Wi-Fi hotspots. Apart from free Wi-Fi in coffee shops you may also still find internet cafes. Make sure to use a VPN while traveling and using Wi-Fi hotspots (we recommend ExpressVPN).
Coworking in Italy is also popular, with major coworking spots in Rome along with many found in Milan, Florence and Turin.
Arrival in Italy
When arriving to Italy by plane you will most likely arrive in Rome, which is the main international gateway into the country. Rome has two airports: Fiumicino (FCO – Leonardo Da Vinci) and Ciampino (CIA) for budget airlines. It’s also common to arrive via Milan, which also has two airports: Malpensa (MXP) and Linate (LIN). Alitalia, based in Rome, is Italy’s national airline along with Air Italy which is based in Milan.
Other international airports in Italy include Bologna (BLQ – Guglielmo Marconi), Naples (NAP – Capodichino), Pisa (PSA – Galileo Galilei), Venice (VCE – Marco Polo), Turin (TRN – Sandro Pertini), Palermo (PMO – Punta Raisi), Catania (CTA – Vincenzo Bellini), Bari (BRI – Palese) and Genoa (GOA – Cristoforo Colombo).
Search for flights to Italy on Expedia.
You can also arrive to Italy via train from neighboring countries. If coming from Austria, then you can catch a train via Vienna, Innsbruck or Villach. From France, you’ll catch a train from Nice, Lyon or Paris. From Munich in Germany, Barcelona from Spain and Basel, Geneva or Zurich from Switzerland.
There are no longer direct trains to Italy from Eastern Europe, you will first have to travel via Vienna or Villach.
You can of course also enter Italy via bus or by car from neighboring countries. If traveling to Italy by car, check out Europcar for car hire. Eurolines have regular bus routes into and around Italy.
Areas of Italy
Italy is made up of the following regions: Northwest Italy (Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy and Aosta Valley), Northeast Italy (Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto), Central Italy (Lazio, Marche, Tuscany, Abruzzo and Umbria), Southern Italy (Apulia, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Puglia and Molise), Sicily and Sardinia.
The main areas and cities in Italy that most people travel to include:
The capital city of Italy. Rome offers a mix of culture, history, art, amazing architecture and a feast of foods. This city is a beautiful mix of old and new, it proudly flaunts its rich and interesting history while keeping up with the modern world as it continuingly evolves.
Here’s a great guide to the city, including a Rome itinerary to follow.
The Renaissance city that is known for its architecture and art that had a major impact throughout the world. Former residents of Florence include some of the all-time greats like Dante, Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
Popularly known as the most romantic city in the world. Known for its history, art, and of course its world famous canals. When you think of visiting Venice, your mind is likely to imagine rowing along the canals on a gondola with a handsome Italian.
There are also loads of movies filmed in Venice – so you’re probably already quite familiar with the city.
The Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast has been a longstanding popular holiday destination – including a hot spot for the rich and famous. The Amalfi Coast is home to the picturesque pastel-coloured houses on the coastal hillsides. It’s the perfect Italy seaside holiday.
Bologna is one of the world’s great medieval university cities. Filled with history, culture, technology and food. Bologna is the capital of Emilia-Romagna, a region in northern Italy that is known for its ancient architecture, rich food, and the seaside.
If your main goal on your Italy holiday is to eat the best pizza in the world, then head to Naples – the birthplace of pizza! It’s also one of the oldest cities in the western world, with the historic city center being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The fashion capital of Italy, also Italy’s most important city of trade and business.
Other popular cities and areas to visit in Italy include Genoa, Pisa (even just to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa), Turin, Sorrento, Umbria, Capri (read about all the best things to do in Capri), Verona, the Italian Alps, Pompeii and Herculaneum, Lake Como and Cinque Terre.
Transportation in Italy
Italy has a fantastic rail network, making getting around Italy easy and relatively affordable. There are different train types: high-speed trains (Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca, Eurostar Italia), Intercity, regional trains (Regionali, Regionali Veloci) and international trains (Eurocity, Euronight).
Use ItaliaRail to buy train tickets between major Italian cities and destinations. The Eurail Italy Pass offers you unlimited rail travel in Italy for 3, 4, 5 or 8 days, within a one-month period. Valid for trains on the Trenitalia network.
There are also several budget airlines, like Ryanair, easyJet and Italy’s Air One, that offer another affordable option for traveling between cities. Search for flights. Travel between cities by bus is also common, e.g. the Rome to Florence bus is a popular bus route.
All major cities and towns also have their own bus systems. You can buy bus tickets from corner shops, bus company offices or automated machines before boarding – very few buses allow you to buy your ticket on-board. Every major city also has some type of City Card (like this one for Rome), a fixed-fee card allowing you to travel on local public transportation and visit a number of museums and giving you discounts in shops, hotels and restaurants.
While in Rome you can make use of the Metro as another method of Rome public transport – one of the smallest in Europe! Although the metro only comprises of three lines, it gets to most of the city’s top attractions. Rome Metro tickets can be purchased at the metro stations, at newsstands and in most corner shops.
In Venice, you can make use of the ferries to hop across the canals – you can buy tickets online beforehand. Here’s how to get from the Venice train station to the city centre.
Accommodations in Italy
A good variety of accommodation options are available throughout Italy. From world-class chain hotels through to smaller family-owned B&B’s and apartments. You will also find a few hostels, camping and other budget-friendly accommodation options.
Farmstays are increasingly popular, particularly in the more rural areas of Tuscany, Piedmont, Umbria, Abruzzo, Sardinia and Apulia. The popular coastal tourist destinations along the Amalfi Coast will have various options including a range of resorts and self-catering options.
Note that hotel star ratings in Italy isn’t always the most accurate depiction of what you should expect. Some hotels are listed as 2-star but turn out to be amazing, while some 5-stars leave little impression. Often the only difference between a 3-star and 4-star hotel is that the latter offers all meals while the former only offers breakfast.
Read our Rome accommodation guide for the best places to stay in the city. And if you’re traveling to Florence, we’ve got a list of the best budget hotels in Florence for you to check out.
Make sure to book your accommodation in advance, particularly during the peak seasons. Have a look through the options available on Booking and Expedia.
Food & Dining Guide for Italy
Italian cuisine is high up in the ranks of being the most popular food around the world – ranking among Chinese and Indian.
If you live by carbs, fresh produce, and simple food then Italy will be your foodie heaven. Italian food in Italy however is different to the type of Italian food you are used to in the US, UK and other countries.
The cuisine is diverse and differs per region. There is also so much more to Italian cuisine than pasta and tomato sauce. The variety of dishes to try are endless, including so many different ingredients.
Breakfast in Italy is often a very light meal, usually just a coffee and a pastry or bread and jam. Lunch is considered the most important meal of the day, with some shops even closing for a few hours to take lunch (mostly in the small towns). Dinner is then had at around 8pm, or even later in the summer months.
Classic Italian specialties to include on your ‘must-try’ list are:
- Pizza – this is a given. ‘Pizza al taglio’s’ are quick and convenient shops that sell pizza per weight – best for eating while on the run. For sit-down handmade pizza look out for “Ristorante-Pizzeria”. Also note that pizza in Italy is typically quite basic in terms of toppings, unlike what many American-style pizza places have.
- Pasta – so many varieties – not just your expected spaghetti bolognaise! Make sure to try out the many different types of pasta available.
- Risotto – sautéed and cooked Arboria rice resulting in a creamy and hearty dish. Again, there are many varieties available with the different regions/towns/families each specialising in their own style.
- Arancino – a deep fried ball of rice with tomato sauce, eggs and cheese. This is the southern specialty, while suppli is the Roman specialty which is also fried rice balls, but with cheese in the centre.
- Gelato – this is the Italian word for ice-cream. Budget in a ‘gelato-a-day’ – trust us!
- Tiramisù – a cake made with coffee, mascarpone and ladyfingers with cocoa sprinkled on top.
- Cheeses and sausages – you can find nearly 800 kinds of cheese, including the famous Parmigiano Reggiano, and over 400 types of sausages.
Popular alcoholic drinks in Italy include wine, Grappa, Limoncello and Amaro. There is also a big coffee culture in Italy.
Where to eat & drink in Italy
There are so many things to do in Italy. Some of the top Italy attractions are found in Rome which include the Colosseum, the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basilica, Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, the Aqueducts, the Appian Way, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, museums, among others. Other places to explore the Roman ruins are in Sicily (the Roman theatre in Taormina and the mosaics at Piazza Armerina), Pompeii, Herculaneum and the Roman amphitheatre in Verona.
Our Rome activity guide has all the spots and information on how to visit them. And here’s a list of the things to book in advance in Rome.
Venice is also a major attraction in Italy, with its narrow streets and long canals. Venice attractions include Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Square, Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Grand Canal, among a few other unusual things to do in Venice.
Florence is great for art and architecture, with highlights including The Duomo, Florence’s Cathedral, Uffizi Gallery, Piazzale Michelangiolo, and San Lorenzo Michelangelo’s Medici Tombs and Da Vinci Museum, among others. When in Milan check out the Cathedral as well as take part in a Last Supper tour.
Still wondering about what to do in Italy? Well, you can also go look for the Marsican bears at the National Park of Abruzzo. Visit Mt Etna in Sicily for hiking in the summer months or skiing in winter. Take a typical tourist photograph at the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Hike the Path of the Gods. Or visit Romeo and Juliet’s house in Verona.
The list of things to do in Italy is endless, with a mix of big and small attractions.
Things to do & see in Italy
Shopping in Italy
Shopping in Italy ranges from street markets, boutique shops and small art galleries to large malls with luxury fashion labels.
Italy is well known for being a fashion destination, Milan in particular. You can find almost every major brand in the world in Milan – including top French, English, American, Swedish and Spanish brands. Some of the luxury shopping areas in Milan include Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni, Via Sant’ Andrea and the Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Virtually every street in Milan has some sort of boutique shop.
Rome and Florence are also major fashion centres, with both featuring some of the oldest fashion and jewelry houses in Italy. You will find chic boutique shops along with luxury brand shops scattered throughout the city.
Food is the best souvenir that you can get in Italy. From interesting shapes of pasta to cheeses, wines, oils and vinegars. Other top souvenirs to look out for in Italy include jewelry and accessories, designer furniture, leather products, glassware (look for this in Murano), books and art.
Nightlife in Italy
Italy has a rich and diverse nightlife. Cosmopolitan cities like Rome, Milan, Bologna, Naples and Padua have vibrant party scenes with buzzing bars and nightclubs.
Live music, of all kinds, is a common occurrence in bars, clubs and open air concerts in the summer months. Open-air concerts and festivals are often held in the summer months with many big international acts including Italy in the tour lineup.
During summer, happy hour in bars generally starts at around 6pm and can carry on until about 9pm. During this period you can expect your drinks to come with a few free snacks.
Safety Tips for Italy
Italy is generally a safe destination for travelers.
Crime levels are low, however pickpockets and bag snatching are notorious in big cities, like Rome. Make sure to stay alert while in crowded areas, like the popular tourist hotspots and main train stations.
You may also encounter tourist scams in the bigger cities such as Rome, Milan, or Naples. Read up about the current scams before going to be more aware of what to look out for.
Are you ready to start planning a trip to Italy?
It really is an amazing country that is packed with things to do, see, eat and experience. The history, art and culture can be overwhelming to take in, so make sure to plan enough days to get through everything that you want to see.
Join tours to help with navigating your way around the vast number of things to do, especially in Rome. And make sure to also include some ‘out-of-town’ experiences to see a bit more of rural Italy.
Italy has a predominantly mild Mediterranean climate, with colder Alpine climate in the mountains in the north and a hot and drier climate in the south. The coast is pleasant year round, though much better in the summer months. The summer months can get quite hot throughout Italy, which makes it the busiest season for tourists to visit.