Italy Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit Italy
Italy can be blisteringly hot in the height of summer and freezing in the winter. There are officially four temperature zones in Italy; mild continental in the Po Valley to the north of the country, cold in the Alps, Mediterranean on coasts and islands, and cool and windy in the Apennine Mountains, which run down the middle of the country.
April and May will bless you with carpets of spring flowers and perfect weather if you stay out of the mountainous regions, and the city streets will be just a little less busy. July and August are the hottest and most crowded months, especially in Rome and the cities of Tuscany.
Spring and fall are the best times to visit if you’re looking for deals on flights and accommodation. It will be warm in the day but you will need layers for the evenings.
The winter may be warm in the south if the winds are blowing from Africa, but the weather can be unpredictable. This is a great time for city visits if you don’t mind chilly weather, but crave empty museums and squares, and love Christmas markets!
- Pack layers for shoulder season trips and loose cotton or linen for summer.
- Include one longer dress/linen trousers or longer shorts and something to cover your shoulders, if you want to enter religious buildings.
- Sun protection, sunglasses and a cap or hat are a must in summer.
- Winter visitors should bring a waterproof or showerproof jacket and a few warm layers for colder days.
Italian City Destinations
Italian is the main language in Italy.
UTC +2 GMT
To enter Italy, a valid passport with at least six months remaining is required. You may also need a visa to visit Italy, and non-EU nationals will require a return ticket and proof of funds for the stay.
Italy has universal healthcare coverage, but only some services are completely free. Most services are provided on a cost-sharing basis and many are provided at the patient’s full expense. Unless you are an EU traveler with a valid EHIC card, we recommend taking out travel and medical insurance for your trip.
The currency in Italy is the Euro € and cents.
ATM’s which accept foreign cards are widely available in all cities and towns. If you decide to travel rurally, especally in the south of Italy, you will find ATM’s are less common.
Credit cards are widely accepted, with Visa and Mastercard being the most common. In rural areas, cash is the preferred method of payment and it’s handy for cities too, when you want a quick espresso or gelato!
Plugs in Italy are type C, F, and L. The standard voltage is 230 V, and the standard frequency is 50Hz. We recommend using a universal adapter with surge protection.
Some city municipalities provide free wifi zones which you have to register to use. Most hotels now provide free wifi. All of Italy’s cities enjoy 4g coverage and Rome, Milan, Naples and Bologna have rolled out 5g. Rent a travel hotspot with built in SIM for your trip and stay connected wherever you travel in Italy.
You are not expected to tip in Italy. In restaurants, a service charge of 10% or 15% may be added to the bill. If a service charge isn’t included and the service has been good, it’s customary to round up the bill to the nearest few euros.
Italy is a safe place in which to travel, with global safety rates higher than in the US and UK. As always, watch our for pickpockets in cities and don’t flaunt jewellery or money. In an emergency, the number for police, fire and ambulance is 112.
Intro to Italy
Italy is a country like no other. The culture, history, gastronomy and landscape of “the boot” will suck you in, until you never want to leave – or count down the days until you return. From Florence, Italy’s graceful monument to the Renaissance, via extraordinary Venice to the east-meets-west culture of Sicily’s capital Palermo, Italy’s cities are full of rich delights and more UNESCO world heritage sites than any other country on earth. With stylish and lively urban landscapes full of world-class museums and galleries, superb restaurants and historic architecture everywhere you look, la dolce vita really is a thing in Italy.
Outside of the cities, you’ll find rolling vineyards studded with tall Cypress trees, picture perfect medieval hill towns, mountains of glacial lakes and wonders like the Cinque Terre and Mount Etna, one of Italy’s three fiery volcanoes. The mediterranean islands of Sicily, Sardinia, Ischia and Capri beckon, offering frazzled city visitors respite and down time, whilst the beautiful and understated Puglia will balm even the most cosmopolitan city visitor.
Things to Know About Italy
- Italians are wonderfully friendly and will talk the hind leg off a donkey if allowed! They also see tourists as fair game, so always check the price before ordering, especially if you can’t see it listed anywhere, and beware ‘freebies’ such as a bread basket at the start of your meal, which is never complimentary.
- Book everything well in advance. At one point in 2019, there were no available time-slots to climb the Duomo in Florence for three months! You’ll find information on how and what to book in all our 24 hour city guides.
Getting to Italy
Italy’s largest international airport serves Rome and is a direct destination from most of the world. Because of Rome’s central position in Italy, this is also a good airport for not only visiting the city but starting an Italian road trip heading either north or south. Milan, Venice, Bologna, Florence and Naples are also home to international airports, with good world and European connections. For Sicily, Catania airport on the east coast has the best connections, and in Sardinia, the largest airport is Cagliari, which has a handful of direct international flights and regular short-haul from Rome and Milan.
Italy is accessible by train from the whole of Europe and it makes a breathtaking way to arrive. Once in Italy, city hopping by train is also easy with Italy’s futuristic high-velocity trains that reach a top speed of 300km/h. The fastest connect Turin, Milan and Venice in the north before heading south via Bologna, Florence, Rome, Naples and Salerno. The Rome to Florence ride clocks in at around 90 minutes, allowing you time to enjoy the stunning scenery as you relax.
If you’re visiting from Europe, Italy is very accessible by car – you might even squeeze in a detour over some of the Alps more interesting routes on the way! If you’re in a hurry, the well maintained French, German and Italian motorway networks will deliver you into the country quickly and safely, whether you follow the coast from France or head through the mountains from northern Europe.
Recommended Trip Resources
The Adriatic port city of Bari is the capital of southern Italy’s Puglia region. Its labyrinthine old town, Barivecchia, perches on a headland between the city’s two harbours and is full of charming narrow streets which are home to historic and religious buildings. The 11th century Basilica di San Nicola is a key pilgrimage site and the Murat quarter has elegant 19th century architecture, a promenade and pedestrian-only shopping areas.
Known as ‘the fat one’ Bologna is the foodie city of Italy. The lively and historic capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, the city is blessed with sprawling plazas lined with arched colonnades, cafes, medieval towers and Renaissance architecture. Visit Bologna and you’ll be rewarded with iconic foods such as Parmigiana, Prosciutto, Balsamic Vinegar and some of the best pasta in the country.
Cagliari is the capital city of the island of Sardinia. Known for its hilltop Castello, a medieval walled quarter which sits in a loft position above the city, and its Art Nouveau architecture. Cagliari is often overlooked by tourists and because of this, the city retains an authentic feel, visitors are more relaxed and the gelato really is artisanal!
The capital of Tuscany, Florence is a dream of a city. Home to Brunelleschi’s Duomo, Michelangelo’s David, the Uffizi Gallery, and more Renaissance art and architecture than any other city in the world, Florence is a masterpiece. Go expecting all your senses to be overwhelmed, and revel in the urban fabric of the city which has hardly changed since the 15th century.
Genoa (Genova) is a port city and the capital of the north-west Liguria region. Known for its central role in maritime trade over the centuries, Genoa was the birthplace of the great explorer Christopher Columbus. The old town is full of twisting lanes and huge squares which play host to medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic architecture.
The global capital of design and fashion, Milan delivers on sleek and simple Italian style at every turn. Milan has been at the forefront of the arts throughout history and this can be seen in the spectacular Gothic Duomo di Milano cathedral and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Santa Maria delle Grazie, home to Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper”.
Naples is the third largest city in Italy and sits on the Bay of Naples in southern Italy. Nearby is Mount Vesuvius, the still-active volcano that destroyed the nearby Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Dating as far back as the second millennium BC, Naples has centuries of important art and architecture – and it’s where pizza was invented!
A deliciously intense city, Palermo is full of dazzling cathedrals and grand parks, chaotic marketplaces, and endless cups of espresso. A meeting point between east and west for centuries, Palermo’s culture has an eastern edge which blurs its Italian heritage and can be seen in the spectacular Arabic architecture which adorns the city.
Italy’s gorgeous capital city, Rome is high on any bucket-list and full of love, life and romance. The Eternal City has been around for over three millennia and is home to fabulous historic architecture, incredible Roman ruins, the Vatican City of course, delicious Italian food and wine!
Breathtaking Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on more than one hundred small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. There are no roads, just canals lined with Renaissance and Gothic palazzos, and piazzas full of churches, galleries, cafes and restaurants.