by: Jason Young, Anna Zielazny
There is no need to introduce Italy. Almost everyone has heard about la dolce vita, a definition of the sweet life that one can taste while visiting this country. Here, where European civilization is rooted, you can enjoy great food, admire spectacular buildings and art from any period of history, spend time actively hiking or skiing, and immerse yourself into slow living in secluded vineyards. In this Italy travel guide, we aim to make sure that you’ll be fully prepared for the amazing experience ahead.
Things to Do in Italy
One thing is for sure: in Italy, everyone can find something to enjoy. Here is the list of the best things to do in Italy.
Lose Yourself in the Eternal City (Rome)
The capital of Italy attracts millions of tourists each year. Nothing surprising: it has a lot to offer. The most important attractions can be visited on foot. It is a place full of ancient monuments, baroque churches, and stunning squares. Rome is also famous for its vibrant nightlife, so whether you are an architecture lover or a party animal, you will find something for yourself.
Visit our Rome Travel Guide for more extensive resources on getting the best experience in Rome.
Discover stunning art in Florence
Florence is, together with Venice, the most visited city in Italy. It has a rich collection of art that lurks from every corner of the city. Half of the works of art that are in Italy are located in Florence.
You can find numerous museums here, including the most important Uffizi gallery. Visit Renaissance palaces, various churches, including the famous Duomo, and enjoy art in the fresh air at Piazza Della Signoria.
Find Romance in Venice
Italy is a perfect place for romantic holidays or a honeymoon. In that case, Venice is a must-see place. Take a ride in a famous gondola and admire majestic buildings from the level of numerous canals. If you don’t mind the crowds, try visiting Venice in February to see one of the best carnivals in the world.
Climb a Volcano and Discover a Past Enchanted in Ashes (Pompeii)
Vesuvius is one of the most famous volcanoes in the world. All because of the eruption that covered and preserved a whole ancient town, Pompeii, in volcanic ash.
Hiking to the top of the mountain is relatively easy and the view from the edge of the crater is breathtaking. After climbing the mountain, head to Pompeii to see the destructive, yet preserving power of nature.
Get a Great View in Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre, the Five Lands, is located in Liguria. These villages located on cliffs are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage. From Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore and Monterosso you can get a breathtaking view of the Italian Riviera.
Take a boat tour, discover romantic olive groves, take a dive into the clear sea, and enjoy Italian food in one of the traditional restaurants.
Wind Down near Como Lake
If you are looking for a beautiful place where you can unwind, encircled by nature and lovely Italian towns, the Lake Como area is a perfect choice. Located just 1-hour drive from Milan, Lake Como is surrounded by splendid villas and gardens. You might know Lake Como from movies, for example, Star Wars.
You can read a book on the beautiful shore, visit a botanical garden, walk one of the beautiful promenades, or hike around enchanted fishing villages.
Discover the Most Tragic Love Story in Verona
Verona got its fame because of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. You can retrace the steps of the tragic lovers and get lost in charming narrow streets or even serenade under Juliet’s famous balcony.
In the town, you can also visit Verona’s arena, Piazza Delle Erbe with local markets, and many churches. Don’t forget to climb the hill to Castelvecchio to see a beautiful sunset over romantic Verona.
Taste Exclusive Dolce Vita on the Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is considered the most beautiful coast of the country. It has wild coastline with charming villages nestled on the edge of the cliffs. You can taste the sweet Italian life in one of the towns around, including Praiano, Sorrento, Amalfi, or Positano. This area is full of upscale hotels, so if you want to take your trip to the next level, this spot is a perfect choice.
Cherish the Secrets of the Vatican
The Vatican is not only a city nestled in the heart of Rome, it’s a whole country. With a stunning Basilica where the pope regularly appears to bless the people, it’s a must-see when you are in Italy, especially in Rome. Don’t forget to visit its museums which keep a lot of art and even more secrets. The Vatican Museums are the artwork itself, with the Famous Sistine Chapel.
Taste Chianti Wine
Tuscany is one of the most beautiful regions of Italy. The Tuscanian landscapes are those that appear in trip guides and on postcards. Don’t miss the opportunity to discover this region.
If you love wine, choose one of the many Chianti tours, during which you can taste this wine and enjoy the stunning nature in the area. A drive through the hills and staying in an old village can make your Italian Grand Tour look like it’s from a movie.
Hike the Slopes of the Dolomites
The Dolomite Mountains are a perfect destination for people who love spending an active time in nature. 18 mountain peaks can be challenging to hike, especially since some of them reach 3,000 meters in height. This UNESCO heritage site has a very peculiar shape, that makes the spot like no other.
In the Dolomites, you will find many stunning lakes, including Lago di Cerezza, with azure waters surrounded by pines trees. You can start your Italian outdoor adventures in Cortina, from which you can easily get onto many trails.
Immerse into Wilderness in Gargano National Park
The biggest natural park in Italy is located in Puglia. Gargano National Park has numerous caves and wild coves. It’s famous for its limestone rocks. While the area seems to be wild, you can easily find an easy and peaceful hike, where you can enjoy Italian nature.
Relax on a Beach in Sicily
If you like to spend your vacation discovering cultural heritage but also relaxing a bit on a beautiful beach, Sicily is a perfect choice. The biggest island in the Mediterranean sea has a lot to offer.
On its eastern shore, you can visit Catania, Syracuse with gorgeous narrow streets, and towns with a rich Baroque heritage: Noto, Ragusa and Modica. Don’t forget to visit the most active volcano in Europe, Etna.
While visiting the western shore, you have to see Palermo: a charming city with unique Catacombs, a palatine chapel, and the Norman Palace. If you want to slow down a bit, head to Cefalu, where you can discover traditional life in a fishing village. Everyone who is interested in ancient history should see the valley of the temples, and if the beach experience is not enough for you, head to the Egadi Islands that look like paradise.
Discover Your Sweet Tooth in Turin
While Turin is not the most popular destination in Italy, it is definitely worth visiting. Here you can taste famous Italian chocolate. This super popular sweet was invented by a chef from Turin. You can taste local sweets all year long, but if you want to take your sweet experience to the next level, go to Turin during the chocolate festival, during which over 120 chocolate makers share their products with visitors.
Turin should also be on the travel bucket list of anyone who calls themselves cinematography lovers. Turin’s Cinema Museum is one of the best in the world. You can immerse in the history of cinematography and admire artefacts from such great productions as Star Wars or Lord of the Rings.
The town also offers the oldest Egyptian museum in the world. It’s definitely worth visiting, as a bigger museum of Egyptian artefacts can be only found in Cairo.
Discover the Garda Lake Shore
Lake Garda is a very popular travel destination in Italy. This huge lake is a perfect place for everyone. You can enjoy water sports such as kayaking and canoeing in almost any place on the lake. Head to Torbole to enjoy a strong wind, perfect for kite surfing.
If you are not a fan of water sports, you can enjoy a walk and good food in one of the charming towns scattered around Garda. Visit beautiful Riva del Garda or get lost in the narrow streets of Limone.
For those who enjoy nature but also history, Sirmione can be a perfect choice. You can visit a medieval castle or Catullo caves with traces of Roman temples and villas.
Around Lake Garda, you will find various hiking trails. Some of them are easy, while others are good for more advanced adventurers and include rock climbing.
How to Get Around Italy
Traveling in Italy allows you to profit from the best value transport services hassle-free and combine different transport modes to create a unique traveling experience.
Best Way to Get Around Italy in General
The fastest way to go from one Italian city to another is by plane. If you are pressed for time, you can board a plane from Rome to the likes of Palermo, Naples, Milano, Torino or even Olbia or Cagliari, located on the scenic island of Sardinia.
What makes getting around so easy and cheap is the presence of low-cost carriers such as Ryanair and the sheer size of the Italian tourism industry. For example, for just 10 Euros, you can fly with Ryanair from Rome to Palermo to delight in the Sicilian delectable fare and its stunning architecture. Use Skyscanner to find best deals available.
When comparing plane to train, keep in mind that while flight time is shorter, you’d still have to spend more time in the airport than in a train station and airports are usually located 30-60 mins from the city while a train station is located within the city itself.
Going by train is by far the most comfortable and easy way to travel in the continental Italy. Even if some locales are easier to visit by bus, Italy boasts one of the world’s best railway networks. What is more, going by train allows you to avoid traffic and crowded airports, all the while benefiting from a beautiful window view.
Also keep in mind that traveling by train in Italy is quite cheap with a ticket from Rome to Venice setting you back just 12 Euros. You can check various route options and secure your ticket via Omio.com.
Traveling by bus in Italy is inexpensive and fun. You can not only save up money for accommodation by traveling on a night bus but also profit from beautiful window views, and top-notch bus services offered by the European bus companies such as Flixbus. Search for ticket in general (including different bus companies) at Omio.com.
Note that even though flying from Rome to relatively far-flung regions of Italy like Sardinia makes sense, more proximate, off-the-main-railway line locales like Pescara, lacking direct train connection with Rome, are best accessed by bus.
Ferries can be a great way to visit the Italian islands like Capri, Sicily and Sardinia and hard-to-reach seaside resorts like Positano. You can even travel on a ferry with your car. Like this you can continue your trip in your vehicle, and visit the most off-the-beaten-track locales.
Rent A Car
Rent a car in Italy to travel to its most far-flung corners and profit from the utmost flexibility of being fully in charge. Renting a car can be a good way to save traveling expenses for large families or for those planning to camp in the wild. You can rent a small 5 seats city car for €48/day or get a 7 seats van for €110/day. Check and compare your selections at discovercars.com.
Note that Italy boasts a vast network of camping sites and traveling in a caravan is one of the Italians’ most favored options while on vacation.
Also don’t forget that you need an international driving license for you to travel in Italy.
Best Way to Get Around in/to Italy’s Popular Cities/Towns
Below are some cities/towns you’re more likely to visit in Italy and how to get around during your visit.
In Rome (city)
For starters, get a travel pass. If buying a 48-hours pass for 12.5 Euros, or a 78-hours pass for 18 Euros can look like a bargain, a week-long CIS at just 24 Euros is for sure the best-value transport solution in Rome.
Note that Rome offers not only great metro, train and bus services that you can use using your travel pass, but also a chance to cycle around in Rome, or even rent a scooter. Be as mobile and autonomous on your Vespa, and see the millennial beauty of Rome from your scooter.
In Lazio (region)
One of the best things to do in Rome is to go to the surrounding region of Lazio. You can take a train ride to Lazio cities like Viterbo, Civita di Bagnoregio, Tivoli, Bagnoregio, and Palestrina.
In Naples (city)
One of the best cities to travel in and around is Naples. The easiest and cheapest way to travel in Naples is by bus. You can also travel by tram and even a trolleybus. If you are pressed for time though, a taxi is also a great option.
In Campania (region)
You can travel by bus, car, train and even a ferry, a great way for you to travel in Campania to visit its beautiful seaside resorts such as Sorrento and Positano.
To Ravello (town)
Ravello, known for its great musical festivals, is one of the best places to travel in Campania. You can come here by taxi or bus from Amalfi. In addition to attending the great Ravello-unique musical performances such as those of Ravelo Musical Festival, held from 1st July to 28th August, you can visit great gardens, villas and even the stunning mosaics-featuring Cathedral of Ravello.
To Positano (town)
A scenic seaside village, Positano is known for its narrow lanes, nonpareil Positano-only fashion brands like Mason, a great beach, and picturesque spots to take great selfies. It can be reached by bus from Naples and most of the Amalfi Coast.
Note that you can also take a ferry to Positano. For example, a ferry ride to and from Amalfi is 25 minutes, Capri, 40 minutes , Naples 1.5 hours, Sorrento, 30 minutes and Salerno, 1.1 hours.
To Capri (island)
One of Europe’s most luxurious resorts is the paradisiac island of Capri known for its pristine beaches. It was home to the likes of R. Nureyev, a Russian ballet dancer, and features its non-pareil Villa Nureyev. You can get here on a ferry from Amalfi(1 hour), Sorrento(20 minutes), Salerno(1.50 hours), Positano(40 minutes) or Naples(57 minutes), making Capri a great destination for a day trip from the Amalfi Coast.
Where to Stay in Italy
In general there are three common option on where to stay:
- Hostel: cheap accommodation if you’re willing to stay in a dorm room along with other guests, usually around $30-40 for a night. Unfortunately, while there are many hostel options in Rome, the selection is quite limited at other smaller cities/town. Hostelworld would be a good place to find one that suit you.
- Rent an entire place/apartment: a good way to safe money on accommodation if you’re traveling with at least one friend or in a group. Expect to spend between $60-140 for 2 people accommodation. Look for cheap but comfortable places at Airbnb.
- Hotel: professionally managed and expected cleanliness with breakfast in the morning, you can expect standardized services here. A high rating 3 stars hotel room will cost around $60-140, can be cheaper in smaller towns. Booking.com would be a good place to find one that meet your expectation.
Depend on your itinerary, consider the following cities to stay:
La Spezia is a beautiful port city located at an excellent spot to allow you to explore many places in Tuscany and Liguria by train, so it’s a great option if you want to avoid changing hotel every few days. Some nearby attractions are Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, and Genoa. There is no hostel in this city, our hotel recommendation is Albergo Venezia.
Praiano, Almafi, and Positano are the best towns to enjoy the beautiful Amalfi coast. Praiano is recommended because it’s less crowded than the more popular Positano but you’re free to choose any of the three. Recommendation: Hotel Villa Bellavista, or Casa Angelina if you’re willing to pay premium for more luxurious beachfront experience.
Towns around Dolomites Mountain Range
If you’re heading to Dolomites for an adventure or just to enjoy the breathtaking natures, consider Hotel Dolomitenhof, FIORI Dolomites Experience Hotel (for skiing), or Naturhotel Leitlhof to spend the night.
Best Restaurants in Italy
Italy is well known for its extraordinary culinary experience, experience them in in these restaurants as they’re among the best in the country:
- Rome: Da Armando al Pantheon, Grappolo d’Oro, La Pergola.
- Palermo: Bebop Ristorante, Buatta Cucina Popolana Palermo, Gagini Restaurant
- Catania: Me Cumpari Turiddu, Curtigghiu, Km.0
- Florence: Restaurante Il Latini, Il Santo Bevitore, Enoteca Pinchiorri
- Venice: La Colombina, Bistrot De Venise, Restaurant Terrazza Danieli
- Milan: La Rosa dei Venti, Trippa, Il Capestrano Ristorante Abruzzese
- Verona: Locanda 4 Cuochi, Trattoria Al Pompiere, Caffe Dante Bistrot
- Turin: Scannabue Caffe Restaurant, L’Acino Restaurant, Il Ristorante del Cambio
Best Time to Visit Italy
With its great Mediterranean climate, Italy can be visited at any time of the year. Although some seasons might be better than others, you can be sure that your trip to Italy won’t be ruined by extreme weather conditions. Here is some information about the best seasons to visit particular places in Italy.
Spring (March-May): Best Time
Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Italy. They’re out of the peak season, so there might be fewer crowds. The temperatures are comfortable, so you can visit places without getting overheated. On average the temperatures are between 10-24 °C (60-75°F).
If you are planning to hike during spring, be aware that some of the mountain areas in the North can still be covered in snow. It’s a perfect time to enjoy Tuscany and Southern areas in full bloom. Tourists can also enjoy popular cities such as Rome, Venice, or Florence without the usual crowds and very often at a lower cost.
Spring is the season with the most national holidays in Italy. Be aware that during national holidays some museums might be closed.
In spring in Italy you can enjoy:
- Easter Sunday and Pasquetta (the Monday following Easter). It’s a catholic celebration, but in many places you can enjoy parades and beautiful flower processions.
- Medieval Festival in early May in Assis, where you can immerse into the Medieval Era, try some original food, and admire the amazing costumes of participants.
- If you are planning to visit Rome on the 21st of April, be sure to enjoy numerous concerts, parades, and spectacles organized to celebrate the Birthday of the City.
Summer (June – August)
Summer is a peak season for tourists, so you can expect crowds and higher prices almost everywhere. In the peak season you are more likely to get into common tourist traps and significantly overpay for food or accommodation. Also, be prepared to wait long hours in queues. On average, temperatures in summer are between 18 and 32°C (65-90°F)
Even though it’s hotter and more expensive, visiting Italy is a good idea, especially for those people who would like to enjoy swimming in lakes or the sea. Although if you are not comfortable with sightseeing surrounded by thousands of people, you may want to avoid the main cities and Sicily. Instead choose cooler and lesser known areas such as the Dolomites. During summer, you can also expect many outdoor concerts and local festivals, often free of charge.
The most important festivals:
- In the first week of July in the town of Matera people celebrate The Madonna Bruna. Even though the festivities have their roots in religious celebrations, nowadays it’s a happy event where people celebrate on the streets, enjoy colorful lights, market stalls, music bands, and various processions.
- Milano Summer Festival lasts from late April till mid-July and is a perfect festival for everyone who loves rock music.
- During Rome’s Festival di Caracalla, that lasts from June till August, you can enjoy classical concerts in an unusual setting of the ancient Baths of Caracalla.
Autumn (September – November): Best Time
Autumn is a time when prices drop after the peak season. After spring, it’s the best time to see Italy. Temperatures are a bit lower but still pleasant with average around 13-24°C (55-75°F)
While you can expect that the hardest heatwaves are gone, you will most probably enjoy warm, almost summer-like weather during the day, but be sure to take some warmer clothes for the evenings and mornings. It’s a perfect time to enjoy an adventure in vineyards, visit the most popular spots with smaller crowds, and enjoy colorful autumn foliage in the Northern part of Italy.
The most important festivals:
- If you are a foodie and/or a coffee lover, you cannot miss the Taste of Rome Festival. It takes place in September, and you can try the best Italian cuisine and coffee.
- September in Bologna is all about potatoes. The Potato Festival attracts more than 40 chefs that come to the town and prepare special dishes with potatoes. All of this with a lot of wine.
Winter (December – February)
Winter can be cold, even in Italy. The average temperatures are between -4 and 16°C (25-60°F) Yet it’s a good time to visit if you want to avoid crowds and if have a tight budget. January and February are a perfect time to enjoy significantly lower prices.
Winter is a perfect season for people who like snow sports. The Alpes and Dolomites offer a rich choice of winter activities, and you can enjoy mountain slopes covered with snow. Before Christmas in Northern Italy, you can enjoy various Christmas Markets. You can find them in, for example, Trento, Verona, and Bolzano.
If you prefer warmer weather, Southern regions are a perfect choice for you. You can also visit the most famous cities and see must-see spots without standing in queues. Be aware that some of the museums or attractions can be closed for renovations during the winter months.
The most important festivals:
- Carnival in Venice is one of the most famous celebrations in this season. It happens in February. You can admire colorful masks, parades, and enjoy various concerts and spectacles. However, during carnival, prices in Venice can hit the ceiling.
- If you like jazz music, be sure to visit Orvieto. During the last week of December and the first one of January, you can enjoy various artists at Umbria Jazz Winter.
Italy Trip Cost
Your travel cost depend a lot on when you’re going and your travel style. Coming during shoulder season (spring and autumn) would definitely cheaper than during peak season and coming in winter would definitely be the cheapest.
Flight to Italy
Assuming you don’t live in the neighboring country, you’ll come to Italy in a plane, probably to Leonardo da Vinci airport, just 30 minutes from Rome. If you already have the date planned, try to secure the tickets as early as possible. Use Skyscanner or Omio to find the best deal for you.
- Public transport ticket (bus/tram/metro): €1.5 per trip, €18 for 72h pass
- Taxi: € 3-4.5 minimum fare then €1.1 – 1.6 per kilometer
- Inter city train: €20 – 70 depending on which train you choose (fast or slow) and the cities distance. For example Rome – Florence: €30 for 1.5 hour ride, €22 for 3h 48m ride. You can opt to book your train ticket beforehand via Omio or get yourself an Eurail Pass here. By using a pass, you can travel via train for 4 days in a month for €153 (among other options).
- Transport in Venice (boat & bus) card: €20 for 1 day, €30 for 2 days. This rate is for vaporetto (boat), for gondola ride expect to pay €80 per 40 minutes for up to 6 people.
- Car rent: €48/day for a 5 seats car, mostly city cars. Check your available selections at DiscoverCars. Gasoline price is €1.74/liter ($7.4/gallon). Remember to factor parking cost as well, about €3/hour, €25-40 per day.
- Flight to different cities: €10-50. For example Rome to Palermo costs €10, Rome to Naples costs €19, Rome to Torino costs €47.
- Hop On Hop Off Bus: €20
Naturally the cost will differ depending on the type of accommodation you choose. Note that price might differ across cities.
- A dorm bed in a hostel: $30-40/night. Check Hostelworlds to see your options.
- Rent an entire place/apartment: $60-140/night for 2 person. Check Airbnb to compare available places.
- Hotel: a recommended 3 stars costs about $60-140/night. Check Booking to find best deals.
Food price may vary between cities. Below are price/meal in Rome’s standard, might be cheaper at smaller cities:
- Fast food/street food: €3-15
- Decent sit-in restaurants: €10-30
- Fine dining: €40 –100
Entertainment and Attraction
For entry tickets, the ones listed below are supposed to be bought beforehand and give you certain perks such as skipping the line and paying cheaper rate for packaged spots. You can always buy the ticket on the spot.
- Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill (skip the line): €22 (about €16 each if bought separately)
- Milan Cathedral with Rooftop access: €17
- Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel (skip the line): €26
- Uffizi Gallery in Florence: €19
- Aquarium in Genoa (skip the line): €26
- Chianti Wineries tour with food and wine tasting tour: €53
- Mount Etna Sunset Day Trip: €55
On average entry ticket costs around €15-30 while guided tour/day trip costs about €30-90 per person. For planning and booking, see the selections here.
The covid situation is very fluid and is subject to change at any moment. Find out the latest requirement to enter Italy here.
How to Stay Safe
Italy is at 32nd on Global Peace Index 2021, 1 spot above UK, which makes it relatively safe for traveler. Most crimes are pickpocket/petty theft so be prepared against this. Thieves usually scan the crowd for easy targets (that is, tourists) so your job is just to make sure you’re stand out less compared to the rest around you.
Precautions against theft:
- Don’t wear expensive watch/accessories/jewelries in public places
- Stay aware of your surrounding, if you happen to step into a unfamiliar neighborhood that gives bad vibes, turn around and walk away
- Carry your wallet in your front pocket, will feel weird but also will safe you from having to deal with lost wallet.
- If you’re driving, lock all doors and roll up your windows.
- If you’re walking or waiting for cab/Uber at night, stick to well-lit busier area.
- Make copies of important documents and keep them separately from the originals, or photograph them and mail them to yourself. Split your money; leave some in your hotel’s safe, keep some in money belt, keep the rest in your wallet. These precautions will safe you a lot of headache in case you lost your wallet/bag/phone.
Be aware of possible scams:
- Avoid buying knock-off designer brand from street vendors. Buying counterfeit goods is against the law in Italy and could get you in trouble with the authorities.
- Distraction tactic: one person talk to you about anything (offering something, asking direction, asking money as a beggar) while the other standing on your blind spot taking your valuables.
- Overcharging a taxi ride: to avoid this be sure to ride only licensed taxis and make sure the meter works properly when you enter.
Do I need travel insurance?
- If you’re going for nature related activities that involves some risks such as skiing, rock climbing, or hiking long routes on Dolomites, we strongly suggest to take travel insurance that cover medical fees and medical evacuation. Medical fees for injury can rack up very high and evacuation back to your country will cost even more so it’s better to keep yourself covered in that area.
- Travel insurance covers loss caused by theft. This usually includes valuable items such as mobile phone, camera, laptop, jewelries, and so on. As theft is common in Italy, taking protection from it is a good idea.
- Some travel insurances also cover quarantine cost in case you tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival. Take it according to your considerations.
Consider World Nomads for your travel insurance as they have years of experience as travel insurance provider with various plans to choose for your specific needs.
Italy is one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe. While it is a small country, there is no doubt that each region has something different to offer. Be sure that you adjust your Italian holidays to your needs and preferences. From exclusive villas, ancient cities, to stunning art collections, wild nature, and snowy slopes, Italy has it all.