Italy has it all: rich history, spectacular cultural heritage, great food, wonderful sightseeing experiences, numerous world known landmarks, friendly people, affordable accommodation and easy transport from place to place.
Once the center of the Roman Empire, and the cradle of the Renaissance, Italy nowadays is one of the top destinations for travelers around the world.
It is also very diverse country, with every region bringing its own specific details into history, heritage and cuisine of the country in such a distinctive way.
Rome (Roma) — The Eternal City still stands in all its glory after centuries of wars, turbulence and civilization raise and collapse.
Milan (Milano) — world fashion capital, and also business and trade center of Italy.
Bologna — Italy’s and world’s great university city, filled with history, culture and technology.
Florence (Firenze) — cradle of Renaissance, this amazing city is known for its architecture and art.
Genoa (Genova) — an important medieval maritime republic, now it is a port city with art and architecture.
Naples (Napoli) — one of the oldest cities in the Western hemisphere, its complete historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pisa — another one the medieval maritime republics, today known for the famed Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Turin (Torino) — a home of FIAT and other automobiles and the aerospace industry.
Venice (Venezia) — one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, and world famous for its history, art, and of course its canals and gondolas.
Verona – Place where ‘Romeo and Juliet’ play of Shakespeare was taking place, but this city is much more than that.
Here are 14 essential things you need to know when you go visit Italy:
1. Quick facts
- Official name: Italian Republic
- Capital: Rome
- Population: 61 million
- Area: 301,338 sq km (116,346 sq miles)
- Major languages: Italian (German in the north)
- Major religion: Christianity
- Life expectancy: 81 years (men), 86 years (women)
- Currency: Euro
2. Where is it?
Location and neighbors: Italy is a Mediterranean country, located in Southern Europe on the Italian Peninsula, famously shaped like a boot. It is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the east, Tyrrhenian Sea on the west and the Ionian Sea to the south. In the north, Italy is bordering with France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia. Italy also has two large islands, Sicily and Sardinia with distinctive culture and architecture.
Italy also has two microstates, Vatican and San Marino, which are accessible without any border or passport control, but they are fully independent entities.
Size: Italy is 10th Country in Europe by area size and 73rd worldwide, which makes it medium size country.
Read more: where is Italy?
3. Visa requirements
Italy is part of Schengen agreement and visa for any of the countries from the Schengen group is also valid for Italy. List of countries members of Schengen Agreement and countries requiring visa can be found here.
As with many countries, your passport must be valid for at least three months after you complete visit to Italy, so please plan ahead.
More details about visa requirement for Italy and application process can be found here.
4. Getting there
Traveling to Italy from overseas, the best way to arrive there is via one of the international airports: Rome (FCO), Milan (MXP), Florence (FLR) or Venice (VCE). From any of these airports you will be able to fly anywhere else within Italy.
If you are traveling to Italy from Europe or neighboring countries, you can travel by train, bus or a car, especially if you are coming from France, Austria, Switzerland or Slovenia.
If you have plenty of time, driving throughout any of the scenic routes is the best choice.
5. Where to stay in Italy?
Italy has very developed tourism industry and its infrastructure is well designed to accept millions of tourists arriving every year.
Lodging options for Italy range from standard hotels in all categories and sizes, AirBnB rentals, Bed and Breakfast options, renting of villas and apartments, farm stays (agriturismo), camping (both individual or with RV campers).
For younger tourists there are plenty of cheap accommodation to choose from http://www.hostels.com/italy
For latest offers on hotels in Italy from our providers use search form below:
Read more: accommodation tips for Italy
6. Moving around
Italy’s public transport is well developed, and it consists of high speed trains between main cities, regular trains for regional routes, bus network and boat transport for coastal cities.
You can also travel by plane between cities, but with fast trains it doesn’t make much sense and it is very enjoyable to pass through beautiful Italian landscapes, especially in spring and summer.
If you prefer driving, renting a car in Italy is also an excellent option – it gives you freedom, it can be cheaper than train if there are 4 persons sharing a car and highways are stretching all over Italy and they are in great condition.
Read more: transportation tips for Italy
7. Italian food
Italian food – pizza, pasta, risotto, bread, cheese, ice cream, wine and coffee (and this is very short list!) are known in every corner of the world and are always on top of the menu of many restaurants. There are Italian restaurants even in the smallest towns around the world and Italian cuisine is favorite to millions.
This is no surprise, as Italian cuisine was forged for centuries and it is a mixture of Mediterranean influences, together with European and all the flavors of Roman Empire.
Pizza and pasta, signature dishes of Italian cuisine come in so many varieties in Italy. Flavors depend on type of restaurants (pizza can be served as a fast food or in high end dinning place) and in which city/region you are at the moment as toppings and sauces have unique recipes throughout the country. You will certainly notice difference between pizza and pasta in your home country and Italy.
Variety of bread, cheese, meat and vegetable dishes is amazing, and you can easily gain few pounds during your visit. Add to that excellent ice cream (gelato), tiramisu, selection of Italian wines and espresso or cappuccino and your menu is complete. One piece of advice though, don’t order cappuccino in the afternoon or in the evening as it is considered breakfast drink.
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How safe is Italy for tourists and to move around? Italy is quite safe; it is ranked very high on the world safest country list (on various indexes). Tourist areas are generally safe, both for single tourists and groups or families, but extra caution for pickpocketers is advised.
Read more: Safety in Italy
Italy is not that costly for tourists, and you can always find great deals on accommodation, meals and attraction tickets. For detailed pricing information for various items, click here.
Prices throughout Italy are almost the same, with slight variation, but Rome, Milan and Florence are the most expensive for general tourism.
Here is example of various items with average prices in Italy:
|Basic lunch (with a drink)||$15||Downtown, in most cities|
|Dinner for two||$40||Neighborhood pub|
|Pint of beer||$5.5||Neighborhood pub|
|1 liter (1/4 gallon) of gas||$1.7||Useful if renting a car|
|Monthly ticket for public transport||$40||If you are staying for longer period of time|
|Pack of cigarettes||$6||Marlboro or similar|
|Monthly rent||$1,425||Long term rental, 85 m2 (900 sqft) furnished accommodation in expensive area, daily rent of similar size is about $100|
Due to its geographical diversity, Italy has changing climate throughout its territory. North, as it is close to Alps, can have harsh winters, while south enjoys more Mediterranean climate. Coastal areas have pleasant and moderate climate throughout a year.
Overall temperatures in Italy range from – winter temperatures going down to few degrees below zero and with summer to up to 35 C (95 F). Rain and snow are very common during autumn and winter, especially in the north.
Read more: Weather in Italy
11. Best time to visit Italy
Italy can be year around destination for any traveler as there is so much to see and do, but most popular times are April to June and September-October. These are the periods with nice weather and less tourists (if possible).
There are many festivals and Christmas markets in December, so count this as another good time to visit, but will be met with crowds, both locals and visitors.
July and August can be unusually hot, so visit to inland cities can be tough. If you are planning on visiting coastal cities, summer is OK, as climate around coastline is milder during the summer. Northern parts of Italy could be better for high summer months.
Read more: When to visit Italy
12. Money matters
Italy is part of the European Union and Euro zone and official currency is Euro. You should always pay attention when paying bills if you are coming from non-Euro countries and mind the exchange rate. (Xe.com). Major credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but please do check card charges from your bank in foreign countries before the trip. It is always good to have some cash on you, especially when leaving a tip in the restaurant or for taxi ride.
There are ATMs and banks on every corner and cash withdrawals are in Euros with a fee. Major banks don’t charge ATM fees to foreigners, but privately-operated ATMs may sometimes charge high fees, so pay attention before engaging into withdrawals. However, machine should warn you about the charge so you have a choice to cancel the transaction before committing to it.
Read more: Money and Banks in Italy
13. What to see in Italy?
What to see in Italy? Italy is packed with attractions and landmarks and singling out only some of them would be difficult. Here is a list of 50+ attractions in Italy to get you started, there are hundreds more.
Colosseum. An ancient Roman gladiatorial arena, world known symbol of Rome and Italy in general. More info can be found here.
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Florence cathedral with recognizable design and iconic red dome.
Pantheon. Originally an ancient Roman temple, built by Hadrian, now a catholic church in Rome. The building was in a continuous use since 7th century.
Trevi Fountain. Lavish 18th-century fountain in Rome, famous for scenes from movie Dolce Vita, now popular tourist attraction and photo landmark.
Cinque Terre. 5 small towns linked by Sentiero Azzurro trail, sitting on the Italian riviera, with unreal multi-coloured houses. Very popular photo opportunity.
Uffizi Gallery. Art museum in Florence with Renaissance masterpieces of masters such as: Giotto, Simone Martini, Piero della Francesca, Beato Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Mantegna, Correggio, Leonardo, Raffaello, Michelangelo and Caravaggio. More info can be found here.
Leaning Tower of Pisa. Ornate 14th-century tower in Pisa, with an iconic tilt. Very popular with tourists making funny superimposing photos.
Roman Forum. Centrally located in Rome, this archaeological site of great importance contains many preserved ruins of Roman Empire. More info can be found here.
Duomo di Milano. Famous, landmark Cathedral and symbol of Milan. The cathedral took nearly six centuries to complete: from 1386 until 1965, when final details were finished.
Saint Mark’s Basilica. Landmark cathedral in Venice, with gilded domes, one of the top three attractions in the city. More info can be found here.
Amalfi Coast. Sorrentine Peninsula coastline with picturesque villages and beaches. Located south of Naples.
Lake Como. Lake with posh resort area in North Italy, close to Milan. Town of Bellagio is the most popular tourist destination, famous for inspiring namesake resort in Las Vegas.
Piazza Navona. Famous square in Rome with a fountain and dotted with authentic bars.
St. Mark’s Square. Most popular square in Venice with famous basilica. Many photo opportunities in and around the square. More info can be found here.
Lake Garda. Beautiful lake in north Italy, near Verona. Lakeside town of Sirmione is dominated by the Rocca Scaligera fortress.
Doge’s Palace. Dominating central Venice, this palace is one of the most important landmarks of the city. More info can be found here.
Spanish Steps. Iconic baroque stairway and popular meeting place connecting Piazza di Spagna at the base and Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top.
Ponte Vecchio. Medieval stone bridge with jewelry shops in Florence. One of the symbols of the city. More info can be found here.
Mount Etna. Large, active volcano with trails and ski areas. Located on the east coast of Sicily.
Grand Canal. Largest canal in Venice and main aquatic route in the city. Popular for boat and gondola rides and photoshoots of the city.
Mount Vesuvius. Famous volcano located in Gulf of Naples in Campania. A 1st century eruption destroyed nearby town of Pompei, which is now preserved exhibition area.
Palazzo Vecchio. A 13th century town hall of Florence. It overlooks the Piazza della Signoria, with replica of Michelangelo’s David statue. More info can be found here.
Castel Sant’Angelo. Also known as Mausoleum of Hadrian, this 2nd century cylindrical building in Rome was originally built as a mausoleum and now it is a museum.
Palatine Hill. Historic area with Roman ruins, one of the seven hills of Rome, most centrally located.
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The oldest shopping mall area in Italy, this ornate 19th century arcade is one of the top landmarks in Milan.
Burano. Tiny island in Venetian Lagoon, famous for colourful houses and lace making locals.
Pitti Palace. Massive Renaissance palace and art gallery complex in Florence, near Ponte Vecchio.
Villa Borghese. Large green area in Rome, containing several buildings and attractions, dating back to 17th century.
Sforzesco Castle. Once one of the largest fortresses in Europe, this 15th century castle was built by Francesco Sforza, Duke of Milan.
Bridge of Sighs. Iconic white-stone enclosed bridge in Venice, connecting former prison and Doge’s palace. Used to pass prisoners back and forth for interrogation.
David by Michelangelo. The world-famous Renaissance statue sculpted by Michelangelo. Housed in Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence and its replica is in Piazza della Signoria.
Piazza della Signoria. Central square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, main square in Florence and historically important landmark.
Blue Grotto. Picturesque sea cave on the coast of the island of Capri, southern Italy. Sun passing through water is creating blue share and unreal atmosphere. Boat tours offered.
Borghese Gallery and Museum. Renaissance art masterpiece collection museum in Rome, originally part of Villa Borghese park, now a separate attraction.
The Boboli Gardens. Originally owned by Medici family, this now public Renaissance gardens in Florence became inspiration for Italian gardens around Europe since 18th century.
Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence. The main Franciscan church in Florence, located about 800 meters away from Duomo.
Pompeii Archaeological Park. Preserved archaeological site of ancient Roman city of Pompeii which was destroyed after the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Located south of Naples.
Piazza del Popolo. Landmark square by Rome’s northern gate. Popular meeting and photo place and starting point of city tours.
Piazzale Michelangelo. A 19th-century piazza on top of the hill near Florence with spectacular views over city. Reachable by car and trails and steps.
Campo de’ Fiori. Popular square south of Piazza Navona in Rome. Famous for open produce market.
Piazza del Duomo. Also known as Piazza dei Miracoli (‘Square of miracles’) is a main square in Pisa, housing among others, famous Leaning Tower.
Murano. Tiny island of Murano in Venice Lagoon is famous for glass museum and colourful glass souvenirs.
The Baptistery of St. John. Also known as Florence Baptistery, is a landmark marble-clad religious building in Florence, next to famous Duomo.
Teatro alla Scala. A 18th century grand opera house in Milan famous for performance of Italian classical pieces.
Piazza di Spagna. Landmark square on Rome with Spanish Steps. Popular meeting and photoshoot area.
Campidoglio. Also known as the Capitolium or Capitoline Hill, this famous square is designed by Michelangelo himself.
Piazza del Campo. The main public space of the historic center of Siena, Tuscany. It is regarded as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares.
Capitoline Museums. Museum complex in Piazza del Campidoglio, on top of the Capitoline Hill in Rome, dating back from 15th century and hosting Roman antiquities.
Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore. A 5th century church with a gilded ceiling, Papal major basilica and the largest Marian church in Rome.
Gardaland. Large theme park in northeastern Italy offering many exciting and family rides.
Circus Maximus. Built in 6th century BCE, this ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue is located in Rome.
Santa Maria delle Grazie. A church in Milan, famous for the mural of Da Vinci’s piece ‘The Last Supper’.
Altar of the Fatherland. White marble national monument in Rome, built in honor of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy.
Juliet’s House. Stone balcony in Verona, believed that inspired Shakespeare to write ‘Romeo and Juliet’.
Naples National Archaeological Museum. Ancient mosaics, sculpture, coins and art museum, with collection including works from Greek, Roman and Renaissance times.
Duomo di Siena. Construction on this cathedral started in late 12th century. It’s a Romanesque-Gothic cathedral with mosaics.
Piazza San Marco. Also known as St Mark’s Square, it is the main public square in Venice, locally known simply as la Piazza.
Mouth of Truth. Mythical stone carving of a man’s face located in Rome. Believed to be testing the truthfulness of person who has hand inside of it.
Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. Also known simply as ‘Salute’, built in 17th century as a dedication to St. Mary after outbreak of plague in Venice.
Vatican Museums. Museum complex in Vatican City, containing painting, sculptures and various artifacts from Papal palace Renaissance art treasures.
Sistine Chapel. Famous chapel in Vatican, with Michelangelo’s iconic painted ceiling.
14. Interesting facts about Italy
Here are few interesting facts about Italy:
- Italy is one of the youngest countries in Europe. Despite being home to Roman Empire that lasted for centuries, modern Italy was formed only in 1861.
- Italy has the highest number UNESCO Sites in the world
- Italy is home to Europe’s only three active volcanoes: Etna, Stromboli and Vesuvius
Read more: Interesting facts about Italy
We hope you enjoyed reading about Italy!
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