Italy is a beautiful country. Located in the southern part of Europe, this country has numerous World Heritage Sites in UNESCO’s list. The country has been recently suffering from corruption as well as debts. Despite this, Italy has retained its beauty. The fashion industry thrives here, there are luxury cars, and an unmatched cultural history, arts, and beauty.
Things to See in Italy
Etruscan heritage is a big part of Italian culture. You shouldn’t miss the amazing collection of the Etruscan Museum of Rome. And if you have a car, you can also visit fascinating painted tombs and a museum of Tarquinia, as well as the huge burial complex at Cerveteri, which is located within the easy reach from the capital.
Ancient Greece had a grand influence on the former Roman Empire. You will find some well-preserved Greek temples at Agrigento, to the southwest of Sicily, and at Paestum, to the south of Naples.
Italy contains numerous ruins of the former Roman Empire. In Sicily, check out Taormina, with the Roman theatre and excellent views of Etna volcano. And on Piazza Armenia, you will find some well-preserved mosaics.
To the south of Naples, explore Pompeii and Herculaneum, greatly preserved by the lava of Vesuvius volcano. In Verona, you should visit the Roman amphitheater.
In Rome, on the other hand, every street in the center has a preserved piece of Roman heritage. Don’t miss Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Aqueducts, the Appian Way, and dozens of museums, devoted to Roman ruins.
Although considered an independent state, Vatican, the residence of the Catholic Church, is situated in the center of Rome. And the capital of Italy itself has 900 churches, many of which are worth a visit.
Throughout the country, there are some really nice examples of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. They retain some marvelous paintings, frescoes, mosaics, and sculptures. Also, in rural areas, you will find a number of fascinating monasteries.
The Renaissance cultural period lasted between 14th and 16th centuries. It is believed to have started in Florence. Now, the city is the main storage of Renaissance cultural artifacts. You should start with Piazza Michelangelo and then move to numerous galleries.
The paintings of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museum are also a great example of the Renaissance art.
Streets and Squares
You can enjoy Italy, even without visiting museums, churches, and art galleries. Just wander around in its ancient streets and squares. Look out for fascinating roof gardens and bell towers. Find some good food stores, pizza places, and ice cream trucks.
If you are a fan of good Italian opera, you have a vast choice to pick from. Milan, Verona, Parma, Rome, Venice, Turin, Spoleto, Florence, Palermo, and Genoa all boast great opera houses and fascinating performances.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Italy holds one of the biggest numbers of World Heritage Sites. The most famous are:
- Piazza del Duomo, Pisa
- Venice and its Lagoon
- Trulli of Alberobello
- Cinque Terre
- The Basilica of Aquileia
- Villa d’Este, Tivoli
- The Dolomites
Italy is a country with vast coastal regions and it has got a lot of beautiful islands. The most popular are:
Sicily is an island offering some lip-smacking Italian dishes. It is a hot and dry place, created by an earthquake and a volcano eruption. It has been a popular tourist destination for over two centuries. The island has also been the part of Greater Greece for over 500 years and still holds a lot of its cultural treasures. The Greek Theatre of Syracuse still performs classical Greek plays. And there are also a lot of sites of ancient Greek history.
This place is a true divers’ paradise. It boasts spectacular grottoes, turquoise coastline, and sea, rich with corals. The winds, which blow along the northern and southern coasts of the island, make Santa Teresa di Gallura and Chiaia attractive destinations for kite and wind surfers as well. And also, Golfo di Orosei draws sailors from all over Europe.
- Aeolian Islands
- Aegadi Islands
- Pelagie Islands
Every major city in Italy has a number of art and historical heritage museums. The most popular are these:
Uffizi Museum in Florence is one of the world’s greatest museums and is a must-see in Italy. Since the place is highly popular, you should book tickets in advance.
Brera Art Gallery in Milan is a highly prestigious museum, with some very nice examples of the Renaissance art.
The Etruscan Academy Museum of the City of Cortona, Tuscany.
Egyptian Museum in Turin retains the second-largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world, after Cairo Museum.
The Aquarium in Genoa is located in the Porto Antico and is one of the world’s largest and most beautiful aquariums.
Science and Technology Museum in Milan hosts numerous collections and provides information on boats, airplanes, trains, cars, motorcycles, radio, energy and other technologies.
Roman Civilization Museum in Rome retains the world’s largest collection of ancient Rome artifacts and the reproduction of the entire Rome area of 325 AD, the age of Constantine the Great.
National Cinema Museum in Turin is located in the famous Mole Antonelliana, a historical building and the symbol of the city.
Automobile Museum in Turin is one of the world’s largest museums of this kind, which holds a collection of 170 cars.
The Vatican Museum should be visited for Sistine Chapel, rooms painted by Raphael, amazing ancient maps, and many other valuable items.
Rome is the capital city, which has remnants of the glorious past of the Roman Empire. It hosts around 2500 years of the European history. Explore Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, and the Capitoline Museums. Visit Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Vittoriano, Castel Sant’Angelo, the Catacombs, and Vatican Museums. You will never get bored exploring the Eternal City!
With golden glimpses of St. Mark’s Basilica, beautiful marble palaces, and gorgeous Doge’s Palace, Venice is a masterpiece of art itself. Enjoy the Grand Canal from the gondola, with a glass of Champaign, or drift down the most beautiful boulevard in the world.
Milan is a world’s shopping center. There is not much to see in the city. However, the famous Duomo is well worth a visit, even if you just have a couple of hours before the flight. And if you want to see the famous Last Supper painting by Leonardo da Vinci, remember to book your visit in advance.
Florence is a magnificent city, very popular with travelers. Most famous tourist spots can be both expensive and crowded, so there are ways to avoid them, without missing anything. For example, the famous David sculpture by Michelangelo is situated in Galleria dell’Accademia. The lines can get up to several hours there.
However, you will find a couple of well-mastered replicas around the city: near Palazzo Vecchio and on Piazzale Michelangelo. Latter also gives a great opportunity to enjoy the panoramic view of the city. Unlike observation deck on Maria del Fiore cathedral, it is free and doesn’t have lines. Also, from Piazzale Michelangelo, you will see the Maria del Fiore itself, the beautiful pearl of the city.
Bari is a cute little town on the shore of the Adriatic Sea, in the region of Puglia, named one of the most beautiful areas in the world. The city is a popular pilgrimage destination for Christians from all over the world, as the tomb of Saint Nicolas rests here.
It is also well worth renting a car and exploring the region, outside of Bari. Matera and Alberobello are definitely worth visiting, as you will not be able to find such architecture and sceneries elsewhere.
Bologna is famous for its university, one of the oldest in Europe, its portics, and its cuisine. If you’ve always dreamt of trying the real Italian lasagna, this is a place to do it.
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, built in 1174, is one of the major landmarks of Italy, known all over the world. One of its sides is 5m closer to the ground, that the opposite one. The famous Galileo used the tower for his experiments, when trying to prove the theory of motion.
The city is famous for its Duomo. On the outside, it shows marvelous mosaics, peeping gargoyles, and a large bronze door. Inside, the cathedral boasts fine blue and gold interiors. And if you want to see its intricate patterned floor, which is covered most of the year, come in September.
The city, described by Shakespeare in Romeo & Juliet, attracts thousands of tourists every year. Juliet’s House is the annual place of pilgrimage for people, who dream about finding love. And the Roman Arena, constructed in the 1st century, holds an annual opera festival.
The country’s most famous natural attraction, situated on Sicily, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the highest mountain on the island, and an active volcano. It is highly popular among sports enthusiasts, offering skiing opportunities during the winter and great hiking in the summer.
The region is famous for its hill walking and climbing opportunities. Also, the Gran Paradiso National Park and Mont Avic Regional Parc host rich wildlife, which includes chamois and ibex.
This mountainous area, with flower-cloaked slopes, is perfect for hiking and mountaineering. During the winter season, you can enjoy nice hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, heavy snowfalls and great opportunities for skiing.
Thanks to the Mediterranean climate, the Italian Lakes have been a popular holiday destination since Roman times. Magnificent palaces, villas, and tropical gardens are plentiful in the region. The most popular lakes are:
Things to Do in Italy
Classical Music Concert
Italy is the birthplace of opera and, unsurprisingly, one of the world’s primary destinations for classical music lovers. It has plenty of opera houses, the best known of which is Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Many other genres of classical music, as well as ballet, also originate from Italy. If you are a fan of classical music, Italy won’t disappoint you.
The region of Tuscany is one the world’s most popular wine tour destinations. Italy is known for great wines. And its vineyards are situated among some of the most beautiful sceneries.
Italian countryside is great for riding a bike. Some tour companies even offer organized cycling tours. They will provide you with a bicycle, a guide, and the transportation for your luggage. These tours vary, and you can pick one to your liking. It is a great way to see Italy off-the-beaten-track if you like cycling.
Sailing is an exquisite way to enjoy Italian sea and numerous islands, such as Sicily or Sardinia. It is not difficult to hire a boat, even with a crew, if you can’t sail yourself. The choice is various. Everything depends on your budget and target.
Italy is an ideal destination for water sports, from waterskiing to windsurfing. The most popular spots are the Italian Riviera, the Adriatic, and the Amalfi coasts. However, beaches in Sicily and Sardinia are less crowded.
The National Park of Abruzzo offers a unique opportunity to watch Marsican brown bears, chamois, and eagles. The Molise region is a heaven for wolves. And for bird-watching, head to Sardinia. During the autumn migration, you will even spot Eleonora’s Falcons and the rare Cirl bunting.
When to Go
Italy is great all-year-round. However, the top tourist season is April to June. September and October are also a good choice for sightseeing. In July and August, the prices can get extremely high, as most Italians take their vacation during this period. Up north, the temperatures can become extreme in winter. But down south, the climate will be considerably milder.
What to Wear
If you visit Italy in summer, you will require lightweight clothes, made of natural fabrics. During the winter, the medium weight will be suitable in the South, but you will need warmer clothes in the North. Alpine wear is advisable for mountain regions. And if you are going hiking, don’t forget about appropriate boots.
Italian phrases need to be learned before you visit the country. The residents know only basic English or no English at all, unless they work in the tourist industry.
The currency is Euro. The currency exchange is available at banks, railway stations, airports, and some hotels. All major credit cards are accepted, and ATMs are available throughout Italy.
Local SIM Card & Free WiFi
The mobile connection has developed in Italy much earlier than it did in the States. So, there is no problem with purchasing a SIM card in the country. The main providers are TIM, Wind, Vodafone, and Tre. You can find retail outlets in most cities and towns. To register your SIM card, you will need to provide your passport or an ID card. Recharge cards are available in tobacconists, some bars, supermarkets, and banks.
3G Internet connection is available all over the territory of Italy, excluding some very far areas. Mobile packages often have limitations, although retailers can “forget” to tell you about this fact. The usual daily limit is 100Mb.
Wi-Fi hotspots in big cities and towns are widely available. Sometimes, to connect, you will need to register, using your credit card or an Italian mobile number. Probably, it would be easier to head to a café or a bar and use their Wi-Fi. Most tourist accommodations, such as hotels, hostels, and B&Bs offer free Wi-Fi connection for their guests. Some can also provide a computer for guest use.
Italy has a reputation of a highly welcoming country, and Italians are known to be friendly and courteous. The social and cultural life of the country is very much influenced by the Roman Catholic Church. Family ties are very strong, and most Italians consider themselves religious, although not many people attend the church regularly.
Italians greet family and close friends with kisses on both cheeks. And yes, men do too. To avoid awkward situations, first, move to the right and then to the left. However, if you meet a person for the first time, hand shake is commonly acceptable.
Casual wear is suitable for most situations. When you visit religious institutions or small traditional communities, try to dress more conservatively. Formal clothes are recommended for official events.
Smoking is banned in all public places. When you are invited to someone’s home, it is advised to bring a small gift, such as sweets, flowers, or a bottle of wine. Also, try to dress nicely.
Italy is a famous destination for food tourism. Pizza, pasta, lasagna, real Italian wines attract food enthusiasts from all over the world. Like language and culture, Italian food also differs from region to region.
Top Dishes to Try
Although Napoli is considered the birthplace of pizza, it is actually the kind of food you can find anywhere in Italy, in both fancy and fast-food facilities. You can get the whole pizza or just a piece of it to go. By the way, it is traditional for Italians to have pizza and pasta late in the evening. How they manage to stay fit? We’ll never know!
- Pasta – in Italy, comes in different kinds (spaghetti, fettuccine, rigatoni, penne, or farfalle) with numerous sauces, not just limited to ketchup
- Risotto – very creamy and hearty dish, based on rice, with meat, poultry, seafood, vegetables, and cheese
- Arancini – deep-fried balls of rice, with tomato sauce, eggs, peas and mozzarella cheese
- Polenta – yellow corn meal, cooked with stock
- Piadina – flat folded bread with filling, served warm
- Gnocchi alla Romana – dumplings, made from rich semolina dough
- Bagna cauda – hot dipping sauce, made from anchovies, garlic, olive oil, butter, and cream
- Pesto – classical sauce, made from basil, pine nuts, and pecorino cheese
- Ossobuco – veal shanks in rich tomato and wine broth
- Porchetta – pork roasted with herbs, garlic, fennel, and encased in a crackling skin
- Ragu – thick, slow-cooked meat sauce, served with lasagna, tagliatelle, or pasta
- Panettone – Christmas cake with sultanas and candied fruit
- Gelato – World-famous Italian ice cream
- Tiramisu – cake, made with coffee, mascarpone, and ladyfingers
- Cornetto – a croissant or light pastry with filling (jam, cream, or chocolate)
- Coffee – very popular drink in Italy (the major kinds are espresso, ristretto, lungo, americano, cappuccino, latte, and macchiato)
- Wine – Italian wine is known all over the world, it comes in both red and white (white kinds: Frascati, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Grigio; red kinds: Barolo, Valpolicella, Cabernet, and Pinot Bero)
- Beer – the most popular kinds are Peroni and Moretti
- Limoncello – lemon-flavored liqueur
- Grappa – digestive, made of grape skins after the juice has been squeezed for wine-making
- Campari – ruby-red aperitif with a bittersweet flavor
The minimal drinking age is 16 for beer and wine, 18 for strong alcohol. The usual tip in restaurants and bars is 10%. In hotels, the service charge is usually included in the bill.
The abundance of low-cost carriers has made traveling around Italy by plane an attractive and cheap option. If booked in advance, air tickets can be even cheaper, than rail tickets. The major airlines, which operate domestic flights within Italy, are Alitalia, Ryanair, Easyjet, Blu Express, and Meridiana Fly, followed by several smaller air companies.
Railway connection is great in Italy. It is inexpensive and reliable most of the times. Tickets can be purchased online, via cash desks, or through the station terminals. If you book in advance, you can get really good prices. Between major cities, fares can be as low as 9 Euro.
For most trains, the tickets should be validated. To do that, stamp the ticket in one of the white boxes (Convalida). However, for long-distance trains, it is not always the rule.
You can use ferry service to get to one of the Italian islands, such as Sicily or Sardinia. Also, the dramatic coastline of the Italian peninsula is best appreciated from the sea. So, you might consider booking a cruise or renting a yacht.
City and mountain bicycles are available for rent in most cities and towns. Milan and Turin even have public bike share system. However, if you want to take your bicycle on board of a train, you will need to purchase a separate ticket.
Bus connection within Italy is exquisite. With many low-cost bus companies available, you can get a long-distance ticket for as little as 1 Euro.
Hitchhiking in Italy is frowned upon as hippie culture. It is considered out-of-date and useless. In tourist areas during high season, there is a chance you will get picked up by tourists from other countries. However, avoid being mistaken for a prostitute, since, nowadays, it’s their way to attract clients. Also, hitchhiking along highways and expressways is forbidden by law.
Driving in Italy is easy and comfortable. Fuel prices can seem a little too expensive if you are coming from North America, but they are actually in line with other Western European countries.
Roads are in good condition. Italy has an extensive system of motorways in the North. However, they might be not so great in the South. Keep in mind, in large cities, traffic is really heavy, and there is usually a shortage of parking spots.
Renting vs. Bus, Train, Taxi
Taxis in cities are multiple and easy to find. For single females, after 10 pm, there is a discount. Self-drive hire is available in most cities, airports, and resorts. However, you will get the best rates, when booking online.
Right or Left Driving
Cars drive on the right side of the road here.
Italy Trip Cost
Italy is considered an expensive travel destination. However, the hotels may range from luxury to affordable ones. Choose the right one for your budget. A double room in a budget accommodation will cost you a minimum of 60 Euro.
However, in hostels, prices are lower. A bed in a dormitory costs as little as 20 Euro, and double rooms are also cheaper. In a more high-standard hotel, don’t expect a price lower, than 100 Euro.
If you are hungry, you can also find both budget and luxury options to eat out. A piece of pizza in a fast food restaurant will cost a couple of Euro. The whole pizza in a café will cost a minimum of 10 Euro. And a price for a dinner in a nice restaurant starts from 25 Euro and can go up to 150 Euro.
As for entertainment, an admission ticket to a museum will cost from 4 to 15 Euro. While fares for opera performances start from 40 Euro.
Electricity & Plug Type
Italy uses types C and L sockets. F-type plug is also applicable. You need to bring a travel adapter to fit the proper socket type. Check out the above-linked page to see the photos and other useful information. The standard voltage is 230V. Many of your devices may need a step-up transformer to match the electrical voltage.
Where to Stay
There is a wide selection of hotels for every taste and budget in Italy. Prices vary, according to quality, season, services provided, and location. Keep in mind, the city tourist tax of 3 – 3,5 Euro (per person, per night) is usually not included in the price.
Hostels are also a popular type of accommodation in the country. They are cheaper than hotels, although provide simpler facilities. However, for young travelers and backpackers with the limited budget, they would be a perfect choice.
Bed and Breakfasts
Bed & Breakfast accommodations have become extremely popular in Italy over the recent years. They are mostly run by families and are great for meeting local people, getting to know Italian customs and traditions, and even learn some language. The facilities here also vary from basic to luxurious.
Camping is very popular in Italy. All the local tourist offices provide information about the nearest campsites. There are over 1700 official campsites throughout the country. The larger ones even provide tents and caravans for rent. Amenities depend on the particular place.
In Italy, villas, flats, and chalet are available for rent throughout the country. The choice is especially wide in the resort areas. Holiday villages provide bungalows and apartments for hire.
How Safe is Italy
Like most developed countries, Italy is a safe destination to travel to. However, you should still remember about basic safety rules. Keep in mind, Italy, like many European countries, is experiencing the immigrant problem in the recent years. Unfortunately, this leads to an increase in the crime rate.
Be particularly attentive on public transport, at airports, and railway station. Also, in crowded tourist areas, pick pocketing is common. And thefts from rental cars have also been reported. In a hotel, use safe for your valuables.
The country has high standards of medicine. For travelers from the EU, urgent treatment is free or reduced-cost. For others, full travel insurance is highly recommended. In some cases, pharmacists can give you advice on minor problems. In case of an emergency, call 118.
Tap water is allowed to drink in the South. However, in the North, it is not advisable. Milk, dairy products, and meat are generally safe for consumption. Seafood, fruit, and vegetables are also fine.
Before going to Italy, the WHO recommends vaccinations against tetanus, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, diphtheria, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, pertussis, and pneumococci.
August 10, 2016 12:00 am 2 Comments