Italy: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Maybe you imagine a country bursting with pizza, pasta and gelato? While that may not be so far from the truth, Italy is also home to much more than cheesy-goodness. You’ll find the promised insanely beautiful ruins like the Colosseum and Roman architecture around each corner. Beaches, wine vineyards and untouched landscapes are also great reasons for a visit.


The key info

In the middle of the Mediterranean, Italy is a country that we associate with good food, excellent living, and passionate people. This boot-shaped country is the fourth most populated in Europe, and it borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, as well as the enclaved states of the Vatican City and San Marino.

Italy offers an enticing mix of the tranquil and exciting. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the world’s most alluring vacation destinations. Whether you opt for the chic Riviera, the vineyards of Tuscany, a historical tour around Rome or a phenomenal culinary experience wherever you go, it truly has something for everyone. With 20 regions to explore, natural diversity, and the world’s largest number of world heritage sites in any one country, Italy is the place to go for a vacation that will capture the imagination.

Italy in numbers

  • Population number: 60,483,973
  • Total size of Italy: 301,340 km²
  • Capital city: Rome
  • Currency: Euro (€/ EUR)
  • Language: Italian
  • Religion: Roman Catholic (74.4%) Non religious (22.6%) Others (3%) 

The 5 Largest Cities in Italy 

1. Rome

Once the seat of the Roman Empire, the Eternal City is thought to be more than 2500 years old. Rome is the eighth largest city in Europe and it has a population of almost three million permanent residents.

Feel the roars of the crowds gone by in the ancient Colosseum, marvel at the Pantheon, and make a wish in the Trevi fountain. With ancient history at every turn, there really is something to marvel around every corner. This is a bright and vibrant city, full of hustle and bustle which is home to some of the best restaurants in the world.

The best way to get around the city is by bus, and this also allows you to see more of the sights. When in Rome, you should do as the Romans do… So relax, enjoy your trip and don’t get caught in the many tourist traps!

2. Milan

With 1.3 million residents, Milan is one of Europe’s wealthiest cities. It is the home of style and the global capital of high fashion.

This fast-paced cosmopolitan city is characterized by old-world charm and the blend of the antique and the new provides the city with a unique character. Milan’s Duomo is awe-inspiring, and a trip to the top of this magnificent 14th-century Gothic cathedral is recommended for phenomenal views of the city below.  

3. Naples

Offering authentic Italian charm, Naples is a great place to visit if you are interested in seeing nearby Pompeii or Herculaneum. This vibrant city lies on Italy’s south coast and it has a population of just less than one million. The 13th Century Cathedral, Castel Nouvo is a fine example of Gothic architecture, the Museo di Capodimonte is the home to several must-see masterpieces by legendary artists, and the Theatre di San Carlo is the world’s oldest working opera house.

Naples is also one of the culinary highlights of any Italian foodie tour. Pizza was first created here and a trip to Naples would not be complete without a visit to at least a few pizzerias.

4. Turin 

Turin, or Torino in Italian, is a relatively underrated city but the historical palaces and Baroque architecture are breathtakingly beautiful. Although an industrial city, it is also a cultural hub and well known for its art galleries. The Royal Palace is stunning, as well as the many other grand buildings dotted around the city. Famous for chocolate, Turin claims to be the birthplace of the chocolate bar, and their local delicacy gianduja was the inspiration for Nutella. And for that reason alone, you should visit!

5. Palermo

Palermo is the largest city in Sicily and it is an ancient place that is steeped in history and culture. It is a city full of wonders, with so much to see and do. Stroll along Palermo’s beautiful promenade, with white sandy beaches and a splendid coastline on one side and beautiful buildings on the other.

The food in Palermo is particularly outstanding, whether it is local delicacies, street food, or fine restaurants, you are bound to be impressed.

Top Tourist Attractions

1. The Canals of Venice

Located in the northeast of the country, Venice is the city built on water, with crisscrossed canals and hundreds of bridges. Lie back and enjoy the gondola experience as you marvel at the unique architecture and imposing buildings. Venice is particularly beautiful in the late fall when a low hanging mist adds an ethereal quality to the city.

2. Florence

Lying in the heart of Tuscany, Florence is the province’s enchanting capital. Considered to the birthplace of the Renaissance, this city is filled with impressive art galleries and interesting museums. Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s Birth of Venus are at home here as well as many other world-famous pieces.  Florence is a beautiful city, with cobblestone streets, impressive architecture, and delicious food and drink.

3. Pompeii

In the province of Campania and at the foothold of Mt Vesuvius, Pompeii is an ancient Roman city that was preserved when it was covered in lava and ash after the volcano erupted in around AD 79. Today, the protected landmark offers a snapshot of real Roman life. Pompeii attracts over 2 million visitors per year, with many choosing to visit nearby Herculaneum at the same time.

4. Leaning Tower of Pisa

The eight story leaning tower of Pisa is a marvelous feat of medieval engineering and easily one of the top tourist spots in Italy. This world-renowned landmark is pretty iconic but it was originally designed to be vertical! The medieval city itself is also interesting, and definitely worth a visit whilst you are in the area.

5. Vatican City

Vatican City is a micro-state located in Rome, and it is home to one of the world’s most significant art collections. The Sistine Chapel is the star attraction, with many revelling in the opportunity to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece on the ceiling. You’ll probably get a lot out of a guided tour of the city; it’s small, but there is a lot to see.

Best Time to Travel

Italy is a country with diverse geography and there is never really a bad time to visit. The north of the country is much cooler and the south has a warmer Mediterranean climate. The hottest months of the year are July and August, and droning this time, the cities can get quite hot and crowded. This is also the most expensive time to visit, whereas, visiting in spring or fall is likely to be much more affordable.

Holidays in Italy

  • 1 January: New Year’s Day
  • 6 January: Epiphany
  • 21 April: Easter Sunday
  • 22 April: Easter Monday
  • 25 April: Liberation Day
  • 1 May: International Workers’ Day
  • 2 June: Republic Day
  • 15 August: Assumption Day
  • 1 November: All Saints’ Day
  • 8 December: Immaculate Conception
  • 25 December: Christmas Day
  • 26 December St Stephen’s Day

Visa Requirements

The visa requirements for visiting Italy will depend on your country of origin. As part of the Schengen Agreement, citizens from most countries in Europe can travel for three months. Otherwise, you will require a Schengen visa. For more information regarding visa requirements, check out the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy.

Currency

The legal form of tender in Italy is the Euro, with each note depicting landmarks from across Europe.

Major credit cards are accepted but not everywhere and we recommend that you carry some cash. You can exchange money at a local Cambio, just take a passport or a form a form of ID. Alternatively, withdraw money from the ATM, but first, check with your bank for charges. Shops may not be able to provide the change for some of the larger notes.

Packing Must-Haves

Italians are super stylish and all their outfits are pulled together. In this country, it is better to overdress than underdress, with some business, landmarks, and attractions having rules regarding clothing. You are likely to be walking quite a lot, so think comfortable yet stylish shoes.

You may require a power adaptor and a charger bank for your phone would also be useful. You don’t want to run out of juice when there are so many instagrammable spots around!

DOs and DON’Ts in Italy

DoDon’t
Keep things safe and secure and be aware of pickpockets, particularly in big cities.
Dress appropriately: You will need to cover up when visiting certain landmarks, such as churches.
Relax and lose track of time: Adopt the laid back Italian lifestyle and enjoy each moment.
Meals can last hours in Italy, with every morsel being savored.
Sample the local dishes: Don’t just stick to what you know; each area of Italy is well-known for a particular dish.
Go off the beaten track: There are so many different parts to Italy and simply so much to discover.  
Don’t say ciao to people you first meet: Ciao is used amongst friends and family!
Picnic at the monuments: This is a new law, with eating at various monuments now being considered a crime with a risk of a fine.
Go to the restaurants closest to the tourist spots: These are often the most expensive, and not necessarily the best.
Wander around to find hidden gems off the beaten path.
Expect restaurants to be open: Typically Italians eat dinner around 9 pm, so most restaurants will not open till 7 or 8.

Secret Tips From Bloggers

  • Head to Trento, Trentino to see the best of Italy without the hustle and bustle, says Dan Flying Solo
  • Bring the taste of Italy home with you with a cooking class, recommends Untold Morsels
  • Procida might be the smallest of the Flegrean Islands but its promises postcard perfect scenery according to Forbes.
  • In the big cities, head to quieter side streets away from the centre to find the best food – curtesy of Italien Breaks

TOP 7 Instagrammable places

Fun Facts about Italy

Did you know?

  • Italy has three active volcanoes, Etna, Stromboli, and Vesuvius, and they have the highest number of earthquakes in Europe!
  • Around 3000 euros are thrown into the Trevi Fountain each day. The coins are then collected and donated to charity.
  • Pizza was invented in Naples in 1860.
  • The Vatican City is the smallest country in the world.
  • Italy is the world’s largest exporter of wine.

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