Italy travel guide: Everything you need to know before you go
Italy has it all. The Big Boot concentrates some of Europe’s most beautiful landscapes, islands, beaches and lakes, mountains and vine-covered hills, and adorns them all with more art and architecture than anywhere on Earth. the planet.
You can go back every year and never see it all. Because Italy has been one country since 1871, each region has developed its own character, cuisine and wine. Whether you love art or archeology, fashion or fast cars, or food, wine and la dolce vita, you’ll love Italy.
Current travel restrictions and entry requirements
Since June 1, the Covid-19 restrictions on entering Italy have been lifted. Italy does not require proof of vaccination, a negative test result or a certificate of recovery to enter the country, regardless of your vaccination status.
All passengers entering Italy by plane, ferry, train or coach must wear an FFP2 mask; masks are compulsory on public transport until June 15. For the latest information, see salute.gov.it.
Best time to go
Italy is a year-round destination. Summers are hot and crowded (Italians themselves go on vacation in August), but it’s also time for beaches, festivals and sitting under the stars. Spring is a pleasant time to visit, with many events, especially around Easter, while in autumn the colors are magnificent in the mountains and the vineyards at harvest time. Winter is stellar for skiing and winter sports, opera-goers, and visiting cities and museums without the crowds.
Main regions and cities
Italy’s capital, Rome, is one of the world’s great cities, the magnificent scene of a lion’s share of European history, a palimpsest of ancient, medieval, Renaissance and Baroque monuments. It is the only city that surrounds a sovereign country, the Vatican City, but next to the grandeur of the Pantheon and St. Peter, the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, Castel Sant’Angelo and Piazza d ur Spain and the 900 churches there is a feeling of pleasure. Hit the lively bars, lick an ice cream under the umbrella pines and rent a Vespa to pretend you’re on a Roman holiday.
Synonymous with landscapes shrouded in vineyards, olive groves and cypresses that seem straight out of a Renaissance fresco, Tuscany is a rare region that achieved a kind of perfection in the 16th century – then had a sense of never not change. The early capital of Tuscany was Florence, where wealthy patrons, notably the Medici, helped herald the Renaissance and filled the city with works that changed the history of art and architecture. Small art towns – Siena, Pisa, Lucca, Arezzo – and hill towns are gems, and beaches line the coast when you need a break from all that art and culture.
The dreamy city floating on the water is almost too beautiful for its own good – in fact, so many people want to visit it that the city has started charging day-trippers admission. But La Serenissima deserves more than a few rushed hours. The Grand Canal, the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge – all the iconic sights take on extra magic when lit up at night (and the day trippers are gone). Venice is exceptionally atmospheric in winter, when the mists lift, and you can have its churches and palaces filled with masterpieces by Titian, Bellini, Tintoretto and Veronese almost to yourself.
The Bay of Naples
Passionate, noisy, chaotic, anarchic, fabulous Naples is the queen of the south, with its unforgettable views across the water to the still-smoldering Mount Vesuvius. The volcano’s most famous victim, Pompeii, is just a short train ride away and more fascinating than ever thanks to recent excavations. The enormous royal palace of Caserta with its endless gardens sits just inland, while the bay’s three irresistible islands – chic Capri, beach-fringed Ischia and tiny Procida – are a front – taste of the sublime and dizzying Amalfi Coast which begins just to the south.
The largest island in the Mediterranean is a mini continent, with its own culture, dialect, cuisine and superb remnants of its Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Arabic, Norman and Neapolitan past. Palermo concentrates a large part of the art, but there is also Agrigento with its Greek temples, romantic Taormina with its Greek theater overlooking Mount Etna, superb Roman mosaics in Piazza Armerina, Norman Byantine ones in Monreale and the elegant Baroque towns of Noto, Modica and Ragusa. Equally fascinating are the small islands off the coast of Sicily, including the volcanic Aeolian Islands, where Stromboli erupts every few minutes.
Best under-the-radar destinations
Between the center and the south of Italy, encompassing the highest Apennines, Abruzzo is the “green region of Europe”. More than half of its territory is protected in national parks and nature reserves, home to brown bears, wolves, golden eagles, porcupines and chamois. It is an ideal destination for active holidays, with its hiking and cycling trails, mountain lakes, beaches, ski slopes, remarkable perched villages and archaeological sites.
Friuli Venezia Giulia
This small, triple-barreled region borders Austria and Slovenia and is just a 40-minute drive from Croatia. Its capital, Trieste, was once the main port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, giving it a unique Mittel European atmosphere and cuisine. There’s the artistic city of Udine, long part of the Republic of Venice, and Aquileia, one of the best-preserved Roman cities, plus sandy beaches and rolling hills that produce some of the best wine. Italian whites. In the north tower, the fanatical Friulian Dolomites and the Julian Alps and in between you will find the Tagliamento, one of the last wild rivers in Europe.
This emerald valley in the far northwest of Italy is framed by Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and the majestic Gran Paradiso National Park. The smallest and least populated region of Italy, where Italian and French are the official languages, is dotted with castles, chalets and happy cows with huge bells that produced the famous Fontina cheese from the region. valley. The pretty capital, Aosta, is full of Roman-Medieval charm.
The mountainous instep of the Italian boot has long been unknown to most tourists, although it is only just beginning to be discovered. There are small seaside resorts along the Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas, beautiful villages, fine wine Aglianico del Vulture and the fascinating town of Matera, where people lived in caves in a river canyon until the 20th century. century ; today it is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the stand-in for ancient Jerusalem in a number of recent films.
The best things to do
Eating in Bologna
The capital of Emilia-Romagna (think prosciutto, parmesan, tortellini, mortadella, etc.), Bologna is a foodie’s paradise. Its Quadrilateral market is a gastronomic epiphany and will whet your appetite for a dish of tagliatelle Bolognese – the heavenly origin of spag bol.
Garden hop on Italian lakes
Few places on earth can rival the magnificent landscapes, villas and gardens that grow in the singular microclimates of Italy’s enormous alpine lakes – Maggiore, Como and Garda. Regular ferries and boat services will get you there – or hire your own boat.
Attend an opera
Besides the resounding Italian cathedrals – La Scala in Milan, La Fenice in Venice or San Carlo in Naples – there are marvelous summer festivals in the Roman Arena in Verona, the Sferisterio in Macerata in Marche, the Baths of Caracalla in Rome and others dedicated to composers, such as Puccini in Torre del Lago (Tuscany), Verdi (Parma) and Rossini (Pescara).
Drive a Ferrari
Want to be a racing driver? Try your hand at a simulator at the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, the capital of Italy’s Motor Valley. For more Ferrari action, there are factory tours in nearby Maranello, plus the chance to visit the homes of Lamborghini, Maserati, Pagani and Ducati with their museums and factory tours.
Italy has a superb rail network and the high-speed service between major cities makes the train cheaper, more convenient and more comfortable than flying. Frecciarossa trains (red arrows) go up to 300 km/h (186 mph) between Turin, Milan, Bologna, Florence, Naples and Salerno, and between Turin, Milan, Verona and Venice. Coaches to towns and villages not served by rail are also excellent and usually depart from the nearest station. In the cities, public transport (subways, trams, buses and, in Venice, water buses called vaporetti) are also easy to use.
How to get there
The cheapest way to get to Italy from the UK is by bus – Flixbus and Bla Bla Car Bus take around 30 hours from London to Rome, with prices starting at around £60.
The fastest way is to fly. There are flights from London to 19 different Italian airports and to almost as many destinations from Manchester. There are also a few flights from Birmingham, Bristol and Edinburgh.
The most sustainable means is the train, even if it is unfortunately often the most expensive. From London to Rome, the journey time can be less than 15 hours on some days, with two or three changes.
Tip to save money
If you don’t bring the kids, you’ll save hundreds of dollars by avoiding travel during school holidays, when flight and hotel prices skyrocket. Some major attractions, such as the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, also charge less if you go between November and February.
What time zone is it in?
Central Europe (one hour ahead of the UK).
What weather is it?
It can be very hot in July and August, especially in the south and the Po Valley. Spring and autumn are mild (October and November are the rainiest months); winters demand coats, even in Sicily.
What currency do I need?
What language is spoken?
Italian, but English is widely understood.