Italy Trip Travel Tips

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About the country

Italy, a boot-shaped country in Southern Europe with beautiful shores and mountains, charming villages, exquisite art, and a rich and ancient history, is a dream destination for so many around the world. The birthplace of pasta and pizza provides a wide range of travel experiences, with lots of activities and things to do.  If you are thinking of going on an Italy trip, here you will find some tips and pointers to help your trip planning.

When is The Best Time to Take a Trip to Italy?

Italy has a temperate climate with hot summers and mostly mild winters.  The weather is at its best in the spring (April to June) and autumn (September and October), with agreeable temperatures and scenic views. During those times of the year, it is less crowded, and the sights can be enjoyed at a more leisurely pace.

Culture

Italian is the official language and is the most widely spoken. There are also a number of regional and minority languages, as you can learn here.  English is not particularly widely spoken, although those who live in major cities or who work with tourists often do speak some English. It is highly recommended to learn at least a few common Italian phrases for greetings, courtesies, numbers, and requests for directions.  This excellent phrase book can help you to cover the basics.

Family ties are of the utmost importance in Italy, and so social courtesies mean a lot to the locals.

There is a strong influence of the Roman Catholic Church on the culture of Italy. Social gatherings call for formal wear, but one can dress casually otherwise. At some religious sites, sleeveless shirts and shorts are frowned upon and are best avoided. One should  be careful to keep an eye on purses and wallets.  In case of theft, police should be informed about the incident.

Sightseeing on an Italy Trip

Rome – Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi), St. Peter’s Basilica, the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican Museums and  Sistine Chapel, Galleria Borhese, Santa Maria della Vittoria, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Trastevere neighborhood, Castel Sant’Angelo

Tuscany:

Pisa – The Leaning Tower, Piazza dei Miracoli (Field of Miracles)

Siena – Piazza del Campo, Torre del Mangia, Cathedral of Siena (Duomo di Siena)

Florence (Firenze) Located in the heart of the Tuscan wine country and bursting with museums, cathedrals, historic monuments, and iconic statues, Florence’s charms are irresistible. Be sure to try a panino con lampredotto — which is a local delicacy unique to Florence — while you’re in town!  Sights to see: Florence Cathedral, Ponte Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery, Galleria dell’Accademia (home to Michelangelo sculptures, including the iconic statue David!), Florence Baptistery, Boboli Gardens, Medici Chapel, Bargello, Piazza del Duomo

 

Bologna – Piazza Maggiore and San Petronio church, Asinelli Tower, Archiginnasio, Bologna National Gallery, Santuario di Madonna di San Luca

Cinque Terre – Footpath Monterosso to Vernazza, Sentiero Vernazza a Corniglia, Nazionale Cinque Terre,  Church of San Francesco

Italian Lake District – Lake Como, Lake Garda and Gardaland, Lake Maggiore

Dolomites – Tre Cime di Lavaredo, Cortina D’Ampezzo, Passo Sella coffin lift

Venice St. Mark’s Square,  St. Mark’s Basilica, Doges Palace, Campanile di San Marco, Rialto Bridge, Grand Canal and gondola rides,  Bridge of Sighs

Sicily – Mount Etna, the Cathedral of Monreale , San Vito lo Capo Beach, Valley of the Temples, Palermo Cathedral, Palermo Archaeological Museum, Villa Romana del Casale, Segesta Temple, Taormina Greek amphitheatre

Amalfi Coast and Naples– Positano, hiking, beaches, Cathedral of Amalfi, Villa Cimbrone,  gardens of Villa Rufolo, Furore Fiordo, Capri, Blue Grotto, Pompei and Herculaneum, Capella Sansevero

 

At museums and art galleries, photography, especially flash photography, may be restricted. Check the ticket counter for more information. Italy is great for exploring on foot for a thorough viewing of all the beautiful buildings and monuments. Coaches and trains are a good option to get to tourist spots.

Getting there

Alitalia is the national airline of Italy. Many other flights connect to Italy from the USA, Canada and Australia.  There is big competition to attract passengers, giving travelers a wide range of offers. Rome airport (aka Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Aiport) is located 26 km away from the city and it takes 45 minutes to get there from the airport. Trains connect directly to Termini Station, from where one can take a taxi to get to one’s destination. Duty free shops, banking, car rental, and restaurants are some of the other services available at this airport. Milan has another famous airport (Milan Malpensa Airport), which is situated a distance of 45 km away from the city.

Major Italian cruise ports of call include: Rome (Civitavecchia), Venice, Naples, Livorno, and Genoa. With its long coastline, there are many large and small Italian ports to serve as a base for cruises, sailing, and water tours. Italian State Railways connects  to many European cities. However, Eurostar provides the fastest train service.

If choosing to rent a car, don’t forget to carry your international driving license and international insurance certificate. Roads connect Italy to France, Austria and Switzerland. Bus (coach) services are available to and from neighboring countries.

Electricity

The voltage in Italy is 220 to 230 volts and 50 Hz frequency. Wall outlets typically accommodate plugs with two round pins (or three if grounded).  Don’t forget to bring along a good universal travel adapter, like this one.

Emergency numbers

When traveling abroad, safety is of the highest importance.  In Italy, in case of emergency you can call 112 (the Pan-European emergency number), who can connect you to the appropriate agencies.  Or to directly contact a specific first responder agency: for the police call 113, for fire call 115, for medical emergencies/ambulance call 118.

Currency

Euro (EUR; symbol €) = 100 cents. The Euro comes in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins come in denominations of €2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents

Shopping

In general, shops here are open from 9 am to 7:30 pm, but close for lunch (1 pm to 3:30 pm). The quality of goods is great although prices for designer items can of course be steep. Items like crystals, lacework, leather goods, ceramics, Venetian glass and masks, and jewelry are great purchases to make on an Italy trip. Remember to hold on to the receipt. Tipping is not expected at restaurants, although a service charge of 10-15% is sometimes included on the menu. Italy is famous for its top designers, so do consider buying clothes and accessories to update your wardrobe.

Food and drink on Your Italy Trip

Open hours at restaurants can be limited:  they generally open some time between 12 pm and 1 pm and close between 2 pm and 3 pm.  Then they open again for dinner at 7:30 pm or 8 pm.

Tap water is generally considered safe for consumption, but bottled water is widely available.

The richness of Italian cuisine is legendary!  Among the many foods to try during your visit:

  • focaccia and other breads
  • pesto alla Genovese
  • tiramisu
  • authentic Neapolitan pizza
  • gelato, ribollita
  • risotto alla Milanese
  • polenta
  • cacio e pepe
  • tartufo nero (black truffles)
  • arancini
  • orecchiette alla pugliese
  • bottarga
  • lasagna
  • caponata
  • ossobuco.