Italy offers something to appeal to tourists of any age or background. This country boasts a rich heritage, famous for glorious achievements in art, architecture, music, and cuisine. Whether you are passionate about history, art, scenic nature, food, wine or any form of culture, Italy is your ultimate destination.
Italy is easily recognisable on the world map as a boot-shaped peninsula that shares borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. Vatican City, which is an independent country, is located in Rome.
The national icons of this popular vacation destination are the Colosseum in Rome, Vespas motor scooters, the five-pointed Stella d’Italia (Italian star), and the tricolour Italian Flag, striped with vertical panels of green, white and red.
When Is a Good Time to Visit?
Every season of the year is best for visiting Italy! If you prefer milder weather and less crowded attractions, a spring visit is ideal. While you may favour August for a beach holiday, many locals also head to the shore during this month – making it a challenge to find an empty stretch of sand. In general, be forewarned that Italian summers are very humid.
Travelling within Italy
Transportation is efficient and easy to navigate. Most metropolitan cities have excellent metro services. Public bus transport offers routes to almost every corner of the country. Be sure to check the bus schedules carefully, as times may change on Sundays and holidays.
Learn the basics
A few Italian phrases and polite behaviours are worthwhile to learn for your stay in Italy.
- When you enter a café, boutique store or lift, greet others with a courteous buonasera (“good evening” or “good day”).
- Cover your knees and shoulders when you enter a cathedral, even in hot weather.
- Italians typically drink in moderation and they look down upon public displays of drunken behaviour.
- If you join locals in their home for a meal, accept a small portion to start – for they will always urge guests to take additional servings later on!
- The most helpful words to know are: Ciao (Hello), Mi scusi (Excuse me), Grazie (Thank you), Quanto costa (How much does this cost?), and Buona giornata (Have a nice day!).
Interesting Italian Records
Italy is the proud holder of some impressive records:
- Largest pizza measured in at 1.5km long, at Milan’s Expo 2015
- Biggest cup of cappuccino held 4,250 litres of the aromatic brew, in 2013
- Most massive dish of tiramisu weighed in at 3,015kg, prepared in 2015 at Gemona del Fruili
Top Ten Italian Experiences
Italy, along with Greece, is widely appreciated as the origin of Western culture. Numerous World Heritage Sites are located in this remarkable country, all of which are must-sees on a tour of Europe!
1. Five Fantastic Cities
As you journey through Italy, there are five main cities to include on your route:
- Rome, the capital city, is filled with impressive sites that tell the tales of Ancient Rome.
- Milan is a lively, trendy city. High fashion highlights the variety of exclusive shopping and dining venues.
- Florence shines with stellar examples of world-famous Renaissance art and architecture.
- Venice is truly one-of-a-kind, with flowing canals and boats that transport you through a maze of alleyways.
- Naples holds the claim to fame as the place where pizza was born! It is also one of the most ancient cities of Western civilisation.
2. A View of Empirical History
A visit through Italy is like travelling along a timeline from antiquity to the present. Ancient Rome, founded in 753 BC, launched Western civilisation as we know it. Magnificent landmarks from this era include the Roman Forum and the Colosseum. If you travel north, be sure to stop at the awesome Roman Theatre in Sicily, as well as Piazza Armerina.
3. Rich Renaissance
View the sites of Italy that date back to the 14th century and you’ll have a great appreciation for the scientific and creative contributions of the Renaissance. Walk through the city centre of historic Florence to view the Piazza Della Signoria, the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and other icons. Art aficionados will love the chance to view Michelangelo’s David in person at the Accademia. To make the most of your time, seasoned travelers recommend that you join an informative, guided tour of these sites, as opposed to seeing it on your own.
4. Majestic Nature of the Alps
The Italian Alps are one of the most marvelous natural creations. As the mountainous border of northern Italy, these peaks span eight European countries and extend 1,200 kilometres! Outdoor enthusiasts, such as skiers, rock climbers, hikers and glacier walkers, will be thrilled to tackle this challenging ground. If you want to spend the night, you can choose to stay in a quaint ski chalet or an extravagant, five-star hotel. No matter which way you gaze, a view from the Italian Alps is breathtaking. Blue lakes surround the mountain range, with medieval castles and churches dotting the slopes.
5. Italian Islands
Charter a sailboat to glide to one of Italy’s charming islands, such as Sardinia, Capri and Sicily. If you are an experienced sailor, basic rental boats are available, or you can hire a vessel with a full crew. The striking island coastlines offer luxurious beach resorts alongside architecture that dates back to the 14th century. With plenty of sightseeing, watersports, fabulous shopping, and fine dining, there is no shortage of activities on these beautiful isles.
6. Cheer with the Locals
Soccer is a favourite national pastime in Italy. Often, the fans are just as heated and lively as the sports team players are! Football season is from August to May. You can buy tickets online or at club outlets.
7. Bike the Country
Italy is prime ground for cycling, with a mild climate and landscapes that range from sandy beaches to rugged mountain roads. Many bicycle trails lead through Florence and Pisa in the Tuscany region, where you will cross fields of blooming wildflowers and streets lined with terracotta houses. Stop at a winery for a tour and tasting, or visit a museum to view inspirational Renaissance art. No matter your fitness level, there is a suitable day tour or self-guided ride to join.
8. Savor the Flavours of Italy
Italians relish all their cuisine with gusto! The rich aroma of many mouthwatering Italian dishes will entice your taste buds way before you take your first bite! Before you fill up on pizza and pasta, we recommend the following:
- Arancini: a rice and breadcrumb coating surrounds a satisfying stuffing of mozzarella cheese, meat and tomato sauce, before it is deep-fried into a crispy delicacy.
- Risotto: a dish composed of Arborio rice sautéed in rich butter and cooked to creamy perfection in stock broth and wine. Mushrooms or seafood are often added to enhance the seasoning.
- Tiramisu: coffee, Marsala wine, cream and grated chocolate come together to create this classic dessert.
- Gelato: this refreshing Italian frozen confection comes in a wide array of flavours, such as pistachio, espresso, lemon and hazelnut.
9. Roman Life Frozen in Time
A tour of Pompeii will show you an overview of how the Romans lived 2,000 years ago. When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, it covered the thriving city of Pompeii with a thick layer of molten ash. Archaeologists excavated the site and uncovered many bodies and buildings intact. You can reach this captivating destination via a short day trip to the south of Rome. Many guided tours provide full transportation to and from Pompeii, or you can join a tour upon arrival.
10. Wine Tastings
Wine and vineyards have deep roots within Italian culture. There are many wine regions in the country, and each one produces a unique, local taste. Visitors are invited to view the picturesque vineyards and sample the exquisite, robust flavours. Around the world, people sip glasses of vintage red wines from Veneto, Tuscany and Piedmont. If you prefer white wine, it’s worthwhile to visit the Fruili region, a hidden gem of vineyards in northeast Italy.
Italy is generally a safe and secure country for visitors. The primary troubles that you may face include petty theft, road rage, hazardous traffic, and being the victim of scams by beggars and gypsies. Note that these risks are associated mainly with lively metropolitan areas. When touring the quiet countryside, there are virtually no security issues. In sum, as long as you use caution when visiting the big cities, there is little cause for concern.
Helpful Tips on How to Protect Yourself:
- Pay no attention to overly friendly strangers and refuse any “gifts.” One fraud is to present a tourist with an item, such as a bracelet or a fresh rose, and then demand payment for it.
- Stay sharp in crowded areas to protect yourself against bag snatchers, hi-tech thieves, and pickpockets. The pinnacle of tourist season is between June and August, and it is wise to be extra-vigilant in busy, high-traffic areas (such as the Termini station, in Rome).
- One common crime scenario involves the work of an orchestrated gang. In this scheme, one person will “accidentally” spill a drink or smear ice cream on your clothing, and a second person will rush courteously to your “aid” – only to steal from you when your defenc
- es are down.
- If a plainclothes cop requests to see your passport or search your bag for illegal possessions, ask for their ID. Chances are this “policeman” will make a run for it.
- To prevent criminals from skimming your bankcard, only withdraw money from mainstream vendors in bustling shopping areas, or better yet – only use ATMs in banks.
- Another tactic of thieves is to break into parked rental cars and rob items from the vehicle, such as electronic gadgets or shopping bags. Never leave anything on the seats or in view from outside the car windows!
- Take out travel insurance, preferably with a cover for rental car accidents, to help cover any unexpected expenses or emergencies. Even if an accident is not your fault, you may be responsible for repairs.
Getting Around Securely
Taxis: make sure you ride only in licensed taxis, indicated by a fare meter and proper signs on the car. Unofficial drivers are known to charge huge fees for short trips. When travelling in a licensed cab, keep watch on the meter to verify that there are no sudden, mysterious jumps in the fare.
Renting a car: if you plan to meander through the countryside, renting a car is a great idea! Yet, driving through the busy, narrow streets of main cities can be bloodcurdling. Italian drivers are typically aggressive, speeding between cars with little regard for the rules of the road. In addition, look out for “ZTL” signs. They define low-traffic zones in historic centres. Authorities can fine you for driving past.
First-Aid and Medical Care
Australia has a reciprocal healthcare plan with Italy, which allows you to receive medical attention from a public hospital if necessary. Your hospital treatment will only address the primary medical issue and you may need to pay privately for emergency transport or additional care. Be aware that the lines and wait-time in hospitals are usually long. If you seek treatment from a private hospital, you will probably need to provide payment upfront.
When you purchase travel insurance, read the fine print on the medical coverage. A 24/7 emergency hotline should be provided, which you can call for guidance on the best hospitals. It will also provide you with a guarantee to help fund the costs.
Unpredictable and Unavoidable Events
Italy is prone to a number of natural disasters that may interfere with your trip. Many regions of the country lie on a fault line for earthquakes. It is usual to feel tremors throughout the year. A major earthquake can close the public transport and infrastructure in the afflicted region.
Italy is also home to Mt. Etna, the most active volcano in Europe. When it erupts, it spews ash clouds into the air, which closes the airports until vision improves. Other natural disasters that may occur include heavy storms that can cause flooding and landslides and tropical-like cyclones that may blast the coastline.