It is everyone’s dream to travel to Italy, and for good reason. Whether you are heading to the beach or to the mountains, to the vineyards or to the cities, there are endless possibilities for meeting the charm and elegance of Italy
Where does one begin with Italy? Italy is the land of mouthwatering meals that last all night, heady wines to drink underneath olive trees, pastel villas built into sheer cliffs above the crystal blue Tyrrhenian Sea, and Renaissance paintings and marble sculptures that leave you awestruck and inspired.
“Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.”
Spend 15 minutes with “The Last Supper” in Milan – Most tourists skip Milan, and that’s probably fine, but this is the only city where you can see Leonardo’s masterpiece of “The Last Supper.” It’s a heavily regulated 15-minute time limit, and you’ll need to get your tickets well in advance, but it’s worth it.
Overdose on Renaissance art at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence – The Uffizi Gallery is on just about every must-do list for Italy, and there’s a good reason for it. Nowhere else on earth will you see such an amazing collection of Italian Renaissance art, all contained in gorgeous buildings once roamed by Medicis. The artists on display here are like the rock stars of Florence.
Get a guided tour of the Vatican Museums – You could walk yourself through the Vatican Museums, but for everyone but the hardcore art historian it’s probably better to follow a guide who’ll point out the truly important pieces and keep you from spending too much time on the rest of it. And as a bonus, with most tours you’ll get a guided visit to St. Peter’s Basilica as well.
Climb Florence’s Duomo – This is perhaps not for those with fear of heights or small spaces, but for a spectacular view of Florence’s historic center and an interesting lesson in architecture and engineering, you could do worse than to climb to the top of the dome of Florence’s Duomo. If you’d prefer to have the dome itself in your rooftop view, then climb Giotto’s bell tower instead.
Eat pizza in Naples – There’s nothing like eating something as universally well-known as pizza in the place where it was born, and for that you’ve got to go to Naples. I’ve heard that the pizzeria which claims to actually be the very place which invented pizza is turning out less-than-lovely pies these days, but you’ll find plenty of great restaurants ready to take its place.
Visit the Greek ruins in Sicily – When you think of Italy, you probably think mostly of Roman ruins. But on Sicily you can branch out a bit by touring both Roman and Greek ruins, and the stuff the Greeks left behind is even older than the stuff from ancient Rome. A walk through the Valley of the Temples is highly recommended.
Tempt fate driving along the Amalfi Coast – Whether you decide to do the driving or not, the road that snakes along this stretch of Italian coastline is well worth the trip. It’s precarious at best and dangerous at worst, but the Italians seem to make it work – and the views are simply stunning. On second thought, perhaps you should let someone else do the driving so you can just stare out the window at the Amalfi Coast and pretend you’re not scared out of your mind. Oh, and for a truly heart-stopping ride, hop on the back of a local’s motorbike for the journey.
Sunbathe on Sardinia – Yes, lots of places in the South of Italy get loads of sun, but the Costa Smeralda boasts some of the most beautiful beaches anywhere on earth, let alone in Italy. Plus, while it’s wildly popular with Italians on vacation from the mainland, you’re less likely to see hordes of other foreign tourists on Sardinia.
See an opera in Verona – Opera fan or no, there’s nothing quite like sitting in a Roman amphitheatre, just as people have done for thousands of years, watching a show. Okay, so you’re not watching chariot races or lions fight gladiators, but Verona’s famous opera company, which fills the night air with music every summer, is still a grand spectacle.
Wander the Trastevere neighborhood in Rome – When Rome wears you out, or you’re tired of overpriced meals around all the tourist attractions, look no further than the Trastevere. This old neighborhood is full of twisting cobbled streets, peace and quiet during most days, cheap eats, and boisterous groups of young people at night.
Go back in time at Pompeii – While the residents of Pompeii in 79 A.D. probably were none too pleased with nearby Mount Vesuvius blowing its top and covering everything in sight, what it gives us today is a unique look at a Roman city frozen in time. Both Pompeii and nearby Herculaneum are well worth a visit, but don’t forget that much of what archaeologists have discovered is in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.
See an Italian soccer game – It matters not one bit if you’re a soccer fan, or even a sports fan, for that matter; going to a game of calcio makes for an unforgettable trip. Italian soccer can be considered a second religion in this country, and experiencing a game first-hand lets you witness the passion Italians feel for their clubs. Whatever you do, however, just don’t make the mistake of cheering for the visiting team.
Hike the Cinque Terre trail – I’ve said before that I think the Cinque Terre trail is overcrowded and posited that people should be let in on a permit system, but the fact remains that as long as there’s room on the path, the hike between these five picturesque villages is a great way to spend half a day. If you plan well (here’s a Cinque Terre hiking guide) and go when it’s not quite as overrun, all the better.
Eat two scoops of gelato daily – This is easy to do no matter where you are in Italy, so I don’t want to hear any excuses for not accomplishing this task. Remember, Italian gelato is made with milk, not cream, so it’s a lot less fattening than you think. And you’re walking everywhere, anyway, so it’s a well-deserved treat.
Get lost in Venice – Some places require a map. Some places require that you forget the map. Venice is in the latter category. It’s an island, people, so you’re not going to get too far off track. With that in mind, leave your map in your hotel (maps are all but useless in this city anyway) and get yourself good and lost in Venice. It’s by far the best way to spend a day in the canal city.
Take shelter from rain (or sun) inside the Pantheon in Rome – No matter the season or the weather, there’s always a good excuse to duck into the Pantheon in Rome. For one thing, it’s free. And for another, although it’s got a giant hole in the ceiling to let in the light, it’s always cool in summer and dry when it’s raining outside. Plus, just setting foot on stones that have been walked on for 2,000 years is, in my book, pretty incredible.
Go for a drive in Tuscany – The roads that connect the famous hill towns of Tuscany might get short shrift with all the gushing people do about the towns themselves, but the views out of a car window when you’re cruising along windy country roads are enough to make anyone understand why someone might drop everything and buy a rundown Italian farmhouse. And if you’re beyond the Tuscany thing, you’ll get the same kinds of views (with somewhat smaller crowds) in nearby Umbria, too.
Walk in Caesar’s footsteps in Rome – History buff or no, it’s impossible not to marvel at a structure like the Colosseum, or stand in awe on the cobblestones of the Roman Forum and think about who walked there before you. An afternoon spent surrounded by the ruins that once made up the center of the Roman empire is an afternoon very well spent.
It is easy to reach Italy and travel around the country once you arrive. Italy offers excellent air links with the rest of the world, but it is also possible to come here by train, by sea or by using the extensive motorway network. It is also easy to travel around within the country. All the main cities are connected with frequent daily flights. The rail network is spread over more than 15,000 kilometres, offering uniform cover throughout Italy, while travelling by coach or car is even more convenient still, with a dense network of motorways, dual carriageways and trunk roads allowing visitors to reach any location in the country simply and rapidly. To reach all of Italy’s islands from the mainland, regular ferry services depart from the main towns and cities along the coast.
What documents are required to enter Italy? European Citizens whose country is under the authority of the Schengen Treaty may enter Italy with nothing more than a valid identity card or passport. Citizens from all other countries must show their passport on the border; where a visa is required, this must also be presented to the border authorities and must indicate the length of the holder’s stay and his or her destination. Visa applications – specifying the reason for the trip – must be made to the Italian Consulate in the applicant’s country of residence, and are generally issued 90 days after the application was been made.
Once visitors arrive in Italy, those who will not be staying in a hotel or similar accommodation facility must register with the local police headquarters within 8 days of their arrival in the country. Visitors staying in hotels or other tourist accommodation facilities will automatically be registered upon reception there. How does the electrical system work in Italy?
In Italy the electrical current is 220 volts AC (50 Hz). Electrical sockets comply with European regulations. In most hotels you will find adaptors for different types of plugs.
Is tapwater drinkable in Italy?
The supply of drinking water is guaranteed throughout Italy. The water from taps and fountains is checked regularly, and is perfectly safe to drink, unless there is a notice indicating otherwise.
What currency is used in Italy?
Since 2001, the currency used in Italy is the euro. One euro is divided up into 100 euro-cents. There are eight different coins (1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 euro-cents) and seven notes (5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros).
As well as in cash, purchases can be paid for using the most common credit cards. This payment system is common in Italian shops, which generally display the symbols of the credit cards they accept on the outside door. If you pay by credit card you will be asked to show an identity document. Travellers cheques (in USD or Euros) can also be cashed in Italian banks.
Tips are not compulsory and in Italy there are no generally established rules, although it is common practice to leave a sum amounting to around 10% of the bill if you are satisfied with the service you have received.
Documents required to drive in Italy Driving licences issued by any of the EU member states are valid throughout the European Union, including Italy. Drivers in possession of a licence issued by any EU country do not require an international driving permit or a sworn translation of their own licence.
General rules for driving Driving licences issued by any of the EU Member States are valid throughout the European Union, including Italy.
Drivers with a licence issued by any EU country do not require an international driving permit or a legal translation of their own licence. To drive in Italy, you must be over 18. Keep right and overtake on the left. Dipped headlights must be used on two-lane motorways. When driving through towns and villages, the horn may be sounded only in the event of an emergency. Trams and trains have right of way.
The use of seatbelts in both the front and rear seats is compulsory, and failure to keep them fastened may result in fines for both drivers and passengers. On three-lane motorways, the lane on the right is reserved for slow vehicles and vehicles that are not overtaking. At crossings, vehicles approaching from the right always have right of way. Seatbelts must be fastened both in the front and the rear (provided the vehicle is fitted with them). Fines may be issued on-the-spot to drivers and passengers stopped by the police and found travelling without their seatbelt fastened.
Mopeds below 150cc may not be driven on motorways under any circumstances. Helmets are compulsory to drive all motorcycles and mopeds, whatever the engine size.
What are the speed limits? Cars and motorbikes (vehicles with engine size over 150 cc): urban areas 50 km/h (31 mph); minor out-of-town roads 90 km/h (56 mph); major out-of-town roads 110 km/h (68 mph); motorways 130 km/h (81 mph). In the event of rain on snow, the limit is lowered to 110 k/h on motorways and 90 k/h on trunk roads.
In order to ensure that these limits are complied with, numerous speed cameras have been installed throughout the road and motorway network to keep electronic checks on speed.
The best time to visit Italy, in terms of the weather and lack of crowds, is April to late June, and September or October. If you’re planning to swim, however, bear in mind that only the south of the country is likely to be warm enough outside the May to September period.
If you’re planning to visit popular areas, especially beach resorts, avoid July and especially August, when the weather can be too hot and the crowds at their most congested.