Italy is arguably the most popular tourist destination in Europe with an incredible mix of world-class architecture, art and gastronomy.
The capital city of Rome, where the past effortlessly blends with the present was the center of the Roman Empire and so here you will discover a number of awe-inspiring ancient monuments such as the famous Colosseum. Milan is one of the main fashion hubs of the world and Venice the floating city. If you want nature choose between climbing Mount Etna, cruising the rolling waters of Lake Garda or skiing in the Alps. Italy has something to offer everybody, it’s diverse, unique and mesmerizing… and then there’s the pasta.
Italy Travel Info
Language: Italian is the official language of Italy. English is widely spoken in the big cities but not in smaller rural areas. In such places, you might face some communication problems so learn a few basic phrases so you can get by… Ciao is a good one to start with!
Visa: Italy is a member of the Schengen Agreement, which provides a free visa to travel to any EU country including countries not a part of the Schengen Agreement as well as those approved by Schengen like America, New Zealand, and Australia for a period of 90 days. Citizens of South Africa, Asia, and Russia, need to apply for a Schengen Visa before going to Italy.
Electricity: Italy operates on a 230 V electricity supply with a frequency of 50 Hz. The power sockets are usually two-pronged and round. I recommend bringing a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each country you visit.
Italy Festivals & Celebrations
Venice Carnival: For a fortnight beginning from the end of January, The floating city of Venice transforms into a lavish masked ball. Although the festival originated in the 12th century, is celebrated till date in anticipation of Lent. You need an invitation to attend the ball, and the ticket prices are sky high, but the street performances are open to all and free.
Battle of Oranges: The battle of Oranges takes place in Ivrea and the 12th-century scuffle with citrus fruit is re-enacted in this festival. This was the biggest fruit fight in Europe. Battle buses run all across the city and participants hurl oranges from these buses. This food fight is the biggest in Italy and continues for three juicy days.
The Marriage of the Sea: During the last weekend of May the city of Venice celebrates it’s maritime expertise with a procession of boats from St Mark’s to Port of St Nicolo. Visitors come in thousands to witness this water festival and watch teams compete in the races.
Safety In Italy
Just like all European countries, Italy is a safe place to travel. Thefts, bag snatching and scams are prevalent in all big cities so be mindful of this. Major cities like Milan and Rome are under the constant threat of a terror attack, as with all major cities in Europe, but security measures are in place. Based on my own travel experiences in Europe I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance no matter how safe the destination is considered. You can still miss flights, lose your luggage or break a leg, especially if you’re as accident prone as I am. For this reason I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks or months before you plan to visit Italy.
Top Things To Do In Italy
Pilgrimage to the Vatican
Vatican City is a state in itself within Italy. This landlocked area can only be reached by first going to Rome. If you are anywhere near the city, consider visiting one of the world’s most renowned religious spot along with powerhouses like St Peter’s Basilica and Piazza San Pietro. Also, visit the Majestic Vatican palace and the Sistine Chapel.
Explore the Valley of Temples
In the charming city of Sicily, lies the valley of temples which will be your first stop is you are planning to visit Sicily. You will find a vast archeological complex that is home to the most preserved Doric Temples that were built in the 5th Century. The best part is that these temples overlook the town and standing here on this historic site, you can get breathtaking views of the town below.
Explore Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a National park that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park situated in Liguria and comprises of five different villages that are located on the top of the rocky cliffs opposite the Italian Riviera. These villages are Vernazza, Manarola, Corniglia, Monterosso, and Riomaggiore. Each village has its own distinct feature and provides breathtaking sights. In the Cinque Terra, you will come across romantic olive groves, azure seas, and traditional eateries all along the coast.
Climb Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius is among the world’s most well-known mountains as it is an extremely dangerous Volcano and had erupted to cover the town of Pompeii in volcanic lava. Today, it is safe to climb the mountain, and you can even consider trekking to the crater which somewhat resembles the surface of the moon. Even the average hiker can hike this mountain, and the view from the top is just mesmerizing.
Visit Lake Como
Lake Como is spread across an area of 146 sq kilometers, and Italy can be explored best on a boat here. The area around the lake has houses that are owned by the biggest celebrities in the world which in itself speak loads about the beauty of the place. The lake is surrounded by Alpine forests and beautiful villages and elegantly ornate houses which appears like a picture-perfect masterpiece.
Visit the Coliseum
The impressive Coliseum is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and a visit to Rome is incomplete if you have not visited the place. This was once a grand amphitheater with the capacity of more than 50,000 spectators and was one of the most magnificent relics of today. The highlights of the amphitheater were the gladiator matches that used to take place here and you can still sit in the stands and imagine being a part of the crowd and enjoying the aggressive sights that were once considered entertainment.
Pompeii gained fame with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, and the town was covered in lava released from the volcanic eruption. The life in this Roman town was frozen and captured in time. Centuries later when the excavation of the site took place, humanity got a glimpse of an era that had bygone. Today, Pompeii is an open-air museum that displays preserved houses, forums and baths filled with the remains of people present there at the time of the eruption.
Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa
The leaning tower of Pisa is among the seven wonders of the medieval world, but in reality, it is an architectural fluke. It so happened that when the tower was constructed, it began to sink into the swampy soil underneath it. Hence, the tower got its signature tilted look. The tower has been opened and closed several times for the public as it has been a struggle to assess whether it is safe or not. When the tower is open, you can climb up the viewing platform and see the city of Pisa from there.
Make a wish at the Trevi Fountain
An integral part of any trip to Rome is a visit to the Trevi Fountain, and if you want to return to Rome, this is an absolute must. As per the local legend, if you toss a coin in the fountain, good luck will come your way which means you will return to Rome one day. The fountain is made in the Baroque style of architecture, and its glistening marbles light up in the night to provide a magical effect.
Cruise the Grand Canal
The Grand Canal in Venice is among the most prominent waterways in the world, and you can enjoy this canal in several ways. You can take a vaporetto, a water bus and travel to the different parts of the canal. You can be awed by the little bridges and traditional houses that are located near the canal. Another more romantic way to traverse the canal is by taking the iconic gondola ride and imagining Venice of an entirely different era.
Other than these top things to do in Italy, there is so much more to see and experience in this amazing country. Be prepared to be flexible because sometimes other travelers that you meet on your travels will have the best suggestions for things to do in Italy that are off the beaten path.
What To Eat In Italy
Pizza: World famous and a main staple of most peoples diets… Pizza! Loved all across the globe, pizza originated in Italy. It’s cheap, easy and filling and can be taken as a meal or snack. Tomato sauce was incorporated in a Pizza for the first time in Naples. This legendary combination of dough, tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil is every Italian’s first love.
Lasagna: This is a flat pasta noodle that is baked in layers in the oven. It was a poor man’s food earlier which with time has transformed into a sumptuous meal full of sauces and meat.
Ribollita: This hearty soup is a traditional Tuscany dish and is extremely popular in all of Italy. It is a vegetable soup that is thickened with bread and not meat as this was a cheaper and more readily available option for the peasants who had invented the soup long back.
Carbonara: It would be quite easy to visit Italy and eat nothing but Pasta. But if you want to have the best pasta, Italy’s finest, then you should order a Spaghetti Carbonara. This is an extremely simple dish with spaghetti, eggs, cured guanciale (an Italian cured meat product prepared from pork jowl or cheeks), pecorino cheese and black pepper. Yes it’s a carb overload but when in Italy do as the Italian’s do.
Gelato: Gelato is a world famous dessert today, with Gelato shops all over the world selling Italian ice-cream. The best gelato is perhaps the simplest, the gelato that’s not brightly colored and can’t me made into a tall tower resembling the leaning tower of Pisa. Go with simple, traditional flavors when trying Gelato in Italy.
Where To Stay In Italy
Italy can be quite an expensive place to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Italy is easy but finding affordable accommodation, if you’re on a tight budget, is the hard part. Luckily Italy hostels and dormitories make travel here more affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget.
Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best accommodation options have already been snapped up. Italy is a very popular year-round destination with business travelers and sight-seeing tourists alike.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Italy.
If you’re backpacking in Italy or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Europe much more affordable and is also a great way to meet new travel buddies.
Italy Trip Planner
Best Time to Visit Italy
The best time to visit Italy is between April and October, this is if you want mild, reasonably warm or if you’re lucky hot weather. If you want to see Italy with hot weather and blue skies then aim to visit between June and September.
Italy Travel Budget
Italy can be an expensive city but it’s still generally an affordable destination for travelers on a tight budget. The cost of your trip to Italy really depends on the level of comfort you will want while here. If you’re backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between 35 to 50 euros a day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between 50 to 100 euros per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and gourmet restaurants in places like Rome, Milan or Venice then budget about 250 euros plus a day.
- Budget: €35 – €50
- Mid-range: €50 – €100
- Splurge: €150 +
Meal For One
- Budget: €8 – €25
- Mid-range: €25 – €60
- Splurge: €60 +
Italy Packing Guide
Packing for a trip to Italy, like most other places in Europe is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for Summer trips and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during Spring, Autumn and Winter.
Be prepared for the weather to get extremely cold during the winter. You will need high quality thermal wear and scarves, woolly hats, gloves and a thick winter coat. If you forget to pack something you can buy anything you need while you’re in Italy. Prices are generally higher in smaller boutiques than they would be online so expect to pay a premium if you don’t have the option of shopping around due to time restraints on your trip.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Italy include a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
For the full list of everything you need to pack for a trip to Italy check out the Jetset Bunny Ultimate Europe Packing List For Female Travelers.