ITALY

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.WHY GO TO ITALY?

If you haven’s visited, jump on the first flight over. Why? The food is amazing. Italians love to eat and you can find the tastiest cheeses, pastas, gelato and biscotti almost anywhere you go. Italy is great place for art, history and culture aficionados. The county is filled with museums, places to hear fabulous music and historic sites. Italy also has incredible craftsmanship and is great for those who appreciate style – especially when it comes to hotels or fashion items. There are many islands, beaches and lakes. Sardinia, Sicily and Capri have excellent sand and pebble beaches and it’s a blast to explore Lake Como and Garda by boat. Last, Italy is perfect for anyone who likes sports and adventure – there are lots of opportunities for skiing, hiking, climbing, swimming, scuba diving and running.

See what it looks like in our ITALY PHOTO GALLERY.

Check out our ITALY ITINERARIES for amazing activities,  great places to stay, eat and drink.

WHERE TO GO BY INTEREST

Italy is big. It’s about half the size of Texas with an amazing array of options that at times can be overwhelming. We’ve outlined how to choose where to go by your interests.

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Trevi Fountain in Rome (4 Day Rome itinerary with Meredith @kaffeeundkuchen) and view of Florence (9 Day Italy itinerary with Rachel)

⭐ First Timers Wanting to Hit the Must-Sees

If you’re going for your first (or second, or third!) time, you obviously have to go to Rome.  You could easily spend an entire week in Rome, but if you want to combine Rome with another location, here are our top choices:

  • The most popular choice, and especially with history lovers, is to combine Rome and Florence, because they’re only separated by an hour and a half train.
  • If you have a bit longer, you can hit the top three by combining Rome, Florence and Venice or just doing Rome and Venice.
  • If you prefer the ocean and little glamour, Rome and the Amalfi Coast is a perfect choice.

See the Travel Honey Rome Itinerary for the inside scoop.

 Getting Beachy

Italy is surrounded on three sides by stunning coastline, so you have a lot of options.  The most popular coastal destination is the Amalfi Coast, which includes Positano and stylish Capri and is just South of Rome.  Another favorite is the more affordable Cinque Terre to the north in the Italian Riviera. The islands of Sardinia and Sicily are also a spectacular choice, especially if you have a little more time to spend. See the Travel Honey Sicily Itinerary or Positano Itinerary for the best spots.

🏠  A Dream Week in a Country Villa

If you want to rent a gorgeous villa and get to know the ins and outs of a quaint village, your best bets are the rolling hills of Tuscany (think Under a Tuscan Sun) or Umbria. Check out the Travel Honey Tuscany Itinerary for more information.

🛍 If Shopping, Fashion and Michelin Stars is Your Jam

If you love fashion and shopping, then make sure to leave room in your suitcase when you head to Rome and Milan.

If you’re a foodie, just about anywhere in the country is great, but the highest concentrations of the tastiest places to eat are in Rome, Tuscany and the lesser known Dolomites.

⛰ For the Love of Hiking

If you love hiking, your best bets are the Dolomites, Cinque Terre, the Italian lake region (think Lake Como) and Sicily’s two hike-able volcanoes.

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Tre Cime di Laveredo hike in the Dolomites (6 Day itinerary with @angusandvivian ) and Etna Volcano Crater on Sicily

✈ Long Weekend Options from the U.S.

If you can’t do a full week, your best bet is to go somewhere with a direct flight, where you don’t have to travel far once you arrive. Your best bets are Rome and Milan which have direct flights from major U.S. cities.

Combining Italy With a Neighboring Country

One of the most popular combinations is taking a train or driving between the Lakes Region in Northern Italy and Switzerland.  Another excellent choice is combining Italy and Croatia. Although you’d think the ferry between the two countries might be a good option, unless you plan to be in Venice and northern Croatia, a (usually very cheap) flight is probably your best bet.

⛕ If You Want Totally Off the Beaten Track

Piedmont is starting to attract more visitors, the region that borders France and Switzerland had seen few U.S. tourists. Piedmont includes a portion of the Alps. It’s a food and wine lovers paradise; famous for white truffles and Barolo wine.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia borders Austria and Slovenia, this is one of Italy’s least visited regions but it offers beaches in the summer and less crowded skiing in the winter.

WHERE TO GO BY REGION

There are officially 20 regions in Italy, but we’ve described them below as larger areas that are commonly visited together.

Italy Regions Map

The NorthwestUpper front thigh towards the front hip. The regions include Aosta Valley (Mont Blanc), Piedmont (red wine and truffles), Lombardy (Milan and Lake Como), and Liguria (Cinque Terre).

The NortheastUpper front thigh towards the bum. Venice is the most visited city in Northeast Italy, but the Dolomites mountain range is growing in popularity. The regions include: Friuli-Venezia Giulia (largely untouched by tourists), Trentino-Alto Adige (Dolomites mountain range) and Veneto (Venice, Verona and part of the Dolomites).

Central but Northern Italy – the knee to the lower thigh. The regions include Tuscany (Florence, Siena and Pisa), Marche (not frequented by tourists), and Umbria (Assisi).

Central but Southern Italy– the knee to the ankle. The regions include Lazio (Rome), Campania (Naples, Pompeii, Capri and Positano), Abruzzo, and Molise .

The South – the Ankle, Toe and Heel.  The regions include Calabria (toe), Basilicata (angle) and Puglia (high heel).

The Islands – Sardinia and Sicily.

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Sardinia Beach (Sardinia itinerary with Lotte @phenomenalglobe) and Favignana Island, Sicily (photo by @marinapascucci from 3 Day itinerary with John Henderson)

WHEN’S THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ITALY?

Italy is an amazing place to visit year round. If you’re going for general sightseeing, make the trip in the spring or fall. The weather is mild, there are few crowds and prices are moderate. If you go in the summer, be prepared for heat, crowds and inflated prices for flights, hotels and activities. If you’re keen to ski, the winter is the best time to visit the mountains. However, if you’re keen to hit up the beach or swim in lakes, then head for Sardinia, Sicily, the Amalfi Coast, Lake Como or Lake Garda in the summer. If you’re a foodie, visit the farmers markets in the spring or head over for the vineyard harvest in the fall.

If you’re going during a peak time, consider reserving a room with free cancellation as soon as you know possible dates – at the least you’ll have a back-up. During peak seasons, reserve restaurants and tours as far in advance as possible.

PASSPORT & VISA REQUIREMENTS

If you’ll be in Italy for under 90 days, a visa is not required for U.S. and most European citizens.  From the U.S, your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your planned date of departure and have two pages for each entry stamp.

Additional information from the U.S. State Department about Italy, including travel requirements, is located on the travel.state.gov here. Visa and passport requirements for other countries may be located here.

HOW DO I PAY FOR STUFF?

Currency: You’ll use Euros, but there are plenty of ATMs, including at the airport, so no need to pay extra fees for taking out money ahead of time from your local bank.  You’ll be able to use your credit card except in less touristy areas or in small mom and pop type shops. Always transact in Euros rather than USD to avoid extra currency conversion fees.

Tipping:  Like elsewhere in Europe, tipping for food is not more than 10%.

EATING & DRINKING

The Italian highlights are pasta, pizza and gelato.

Northern Italian food is more influenced by northern European neighbors and they use butter instead of olive oil. You should make sure you eat gobs of risotto and polenta. Northern Italians are known for beef and veal, stews and cheeses.

The food in Southern Italy is more influenced by the Mediterranean so think eggplant, tomatoes, peppers anchovies, olives.

If you’re on the coast, obviously eat seafood.

If you want to eat truffles, Piedmont’s Alba is the most famous, but truffles are also found in Tuscany and Umbria.

Sicily is known for its granita.

Italy is home to some of the world’s best vineyards and most awesome wine. That said, keep in mind that house wines can be cheap and amazing, but they can also be horrible, especially in Rome, so ask to try it before you order.

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Cookies in Rome (4 Day Rome itinerary with Meredith @kaffeeundkuchen); Vineyards in Tuscany (from Rachel’s 9 Day itinerary); Gelato

HOW DO I USE MY CELL PHONE IN ITALY?

Get a SIM card, it’s super easy and the service is good.  Vodafone has a holiday SIM with 5GB of data, 500 min. Local calls/texts and 30 min. calls/texts to the U.S., Canada, Australia, Brazil and New Zealand.  There’s also a 1GB option for 10 euros that only includes local calls/texts.  They both last for 30 days. Read the Ultimate Guide to Using Your Cell Phone Abroad for more information to make your decision.  

WHAT SHOULD I READ, WATCH AND LISTEN TO BEFORE THE TRIP?

Read H.V. Morton’s “A Traveler in Italy”. Watch “La Grande Bellezza”. The movie is  set in the lavish night clubs of Rome and won an Oscar for best foreign-language film in 2014. Listen to anything by Luciano Pavarotti, the opera king.

MORE ITALY TIPS?

  • Get your hotel to make reservations for you. While more of the well known places will accommodate a reservation, the authentic, mom and pop places won’t pick up an international number. When you book your trip, take advantage of the hotel concierge and ask them to make the reservations – Italians are very kind and accommodating so don’t be afraid to ask!
  • To the extent possible, book all reservations well in advance.
  • If you plan to visit more than one location in Italy, check prices for departing from a different airport than the one you arrived at.  For example, if you plan to visit Rome and the Amalfi Coast, consider flying into Rome and flying out of Naples.  You may save time and money by not having to get yourself back to Rome for the flight home.
  • Pickpocketing can be an issue in large cities (especially Rome). Keep an eye on your belongings on transportation (especially the buses).

HAVE AN AMAZING TIME + SAFE TRAVELS.