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Italy: What You Need To Know
Italy, one of the most popular tourist destinations on earth. The country, located in southern Europe, is generally acknowledged as one of the birthplaces of western civilisation, thanks to the Roman empire that was born and flourished in the region.
Italy has actually only officially been a country since 1861. Prior to that, it had been a collection of independent states, been ruled by the Hapsburgs, and of course was the centre of the Roman civilisation.
- Learn more about the history of Italy by reading our history of Rome
Italy is generally in the top 5 for tourist arrivals every year, so be prepared for a lot of people when you visit. Places like Rome, Florence and Venice are on the bucket list for most travellers, and so will usually be the busiest. In particular, July and August bring a huge number of tourists. If you can, go outside of those months. If you can’t manage that, book everything early, as lots of things tend to book out well in advance.
- Population: Around 60 million
- Capital city: Rome
- Official Language: Italian
- Currency: Euro
Places To Go
The capital of Italy. On lots of people’s bucket lists. 3-4 days is a good amount of time to spend in Rome.
Prepare for lots of tourists and lots of people in general. Be wary of anyone that comes up and starts talking to you, as there are lots people trying to scam tourists and it’s easy to fall for.
Probably our favourite city in Italy. As lame as it sounds, it’s almost like being in a fairytale.
You can also do day trips from Florence to both Sienna and Pisa. So book a couple of extra nights and check them out as well. A common way to visit Pisa is in transit between Florence and Cinque Terre.
Naples and the Amalfi Coast
Go to Naples for the Pizza and the Amalfi Coast for the views. It’s worth spending around 5 nights all up in the region.
Mix and match it how you like, but we’d recommend a couple of nights in Naples and then a few nights on the Amalfi coast somewhere like Sorrento. Positano is another option but tends to be pretty expensive.
Now a super popular place that people go to do the famous hike between the five towns. We’d say 2-3 nights here is a pretty good amount of time.
It’s easiest to get to Cinque Terre via train from Florence. If you organise it well you can include a stop off in Pisa to see the tower as well. You don’t need much time there if that’s all you want to do., a few hours is probably enough.
We didn’t really like Venice. But everyone seems to go there and love it, so we thought we’d include it anyway. 1-2 nights is definitely enough, and be sure to spend some time outside of the main city (a trip to Lido or Burano is well worth it).
More Places To Visit
There are a heap of other places that you can visit in Italy. Almost too many to list here. Here are a few others that we think are worth a look if you have the time.
Lake Como: A beautiful place to relax for a few days
Milan: Famous for the Duomo (Cathedral) and as a fashion capital. Worth spending 1-2 days if you have a bit of extra time.
Palermo, Sicily: We haven’t visited yet but it’s on our list.
Verona: Probably most famous for Juliet’s Balcony (The house of Juliet).
Travel Tips And Things To Know
Best time to visit: Avoid in July and August if you can, as there are just way too many people. If you do go then, make sure you book everything early as things tend to book out. The shoulder seasons of May- early June and September are probably best, as you should still get some nice weather but there won’t be quite so many people.
Getting around: Trains are the best means of transport around Italy. Unlike some other European countries, a train ticket shouldn’t be overly expensive, and can often be around the same price as a bus ticket. The trains are comfortable and much faster than the buses as well. Trenitalia is the national operator, and you can book tickets online in advance.
- Tip: To book tickets, we actually sometimes used Italiarail – they sell Trenitalia tickets, but the website is in english and A LOT easier to use.
Buses are another option, but the bus trips are usually much longer and the prices similar to the trains, so in our opinion it’s not really worth it.
Car hire is a good option if you’re exploring some of the smaller towns in Italy. Avoid it if you’re going to any of the major places though, as driving and parking will be a bit of a nightmare.
Expenses: Italy is a moderately priced country as far as Europe goes. A hostel dorm room is around €15-20 (depending on when you go, it can be a little more in peak season). You shouldn’t pay much more than €5 for a pizza, although pasta can be a little more expensive. A pint of beer is €4-5.
- Tip: In tourist hotspots (main squares or places close to attractions), avoid eating and drinking out. You can pay double or triple the price, and the food is the same if not a bit worse.
Onward Travels: There are lots of options for onward travel from Italy (at least if you end up in the north). Probably the two most popular options for people who are doing more long term travel are to head either east into Slovenia or West into southern France. Trains and buses run in both directions. You can get from Venice to Ljubljana, or from either Venice or Milan to Nice.
If you end up in the south of the country, the best option is to fly out, meaning that it doesn’t really matter where you choose to go!
Been anywhere else in Italy that we should include here? Let us know!
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