Italy Country Guide

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.

Find out everything you need to know before you visit Italy, including trip highlights, travel tips, road trip guides and city itineraries, with our Italy vistor’s 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!

Italy Travel Tips

  • Italian is the main language in Italy. 
  • CEST
  • To enter Italy, a valid passport with at least three 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 like this one.
  • 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. Buy 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.

Italy Packing Tips

  • Pack layers for shoulder season trips and loose cotton or linen for summer. 
  • Include one longer dress or linen trousers/pants 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.
  • Bring at least one warm top for summer visits, and a couple for autumn and winter visits, plus thermals if you’re planning to visit the mountains.
  • Make sure to bring a waterproof jacket, or showerproof top, even in summer.
  • If you’re visiting Italy’s historic towns and cities, make sure to pack trainers or comfy walking shoes. Cobbles can be tough on the feet!
  • Technical gear that washes easily and dries quickly is a great option if you’re road tripping or moving about a lot.
  • Don’t forget an easy to manage day bag, such as a ruck sack or day sack.

Italy Highlights

Intro to Italy

From Florence, Italy’s graceful monument to the Renaissance, via stunning Tuscany to the east-meets-west culture of Sicily, Italy is 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.

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.

Italy

Things to Know About Visiting Italy

  • Italy is a country of two halves. The wealthy industrial cities of the north have a fast and cosmopolitan pace of life with a full-on tourist presence for much of the year. The laid-back (and poorer) south has suffered from lack of investment in tourism infrastructure, meaning cities here are quieter but offer a more authentic experience.
  • Italy observes riposo (siesta)and many museums, churches and shops close from 1:30pm to 4:00pm so that workers can go home for lunch, and sometimes a nap, during the day’s hottest hours. In bigger cities you will find some establishments open but riposo is taken very seriously, so double check when planning your trip.
  • Restaurants, shops and attractions also close on Sunday’s and the twelve public holidays celebrated in Italy. Check here for dates and try and avoid if possible, especially if you only have 24 hours for your city visit!
  • Mealtimes start later in Italy, with dinner rarely being eaten before 7.30pm, and even later in summer. Most restaurants will close after lunch service and only open after 7pm, but you may find it very quiet if you go at this time. For true Italian atmosphere and a lively restaurant, do as the Italians do and adjust your mealtimes.
  • If you are planning to visit places of worship (this is Italy after all!) you must cover your torso and upper arms. Shorts and skirts must reach below the knee or you will be denied entry and considered disrespectful. The dress code applies to both men and women.
  • 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 one day city itineraries.

Getting to Italy

Flying

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.

Hiring a car, motorhome or campervan at Italy’s major airports is easy when you use our premier partners.

Train

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.

Driving

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.

Italy Road Trips

Italy Motorhome Resources

Italy City Itineraries

Essential Travel Products for Your Italy Trip

iBlock Universal Adaptor

Lonely Planet Italy Guide

Roxy Easy Fit Linen Pants

Foldable UPF50 Straw Hat

Ultra Lightweight Backpack

Eastpack Springer Bum Bag

Gonex Wheeled Duffel Bag

GolocalMe G4 WiFi Hotspot

Essential Oils Hand Sanitiser

Collapsible Water Bottle

New On the Blog…