Probably Europe’s most attractive country, Italy charms visitors with irresistible food, charming architecture, diverse scenery and exceptional art. In fact, it’s so filled with possibilities it can almost overwhelm.
If this is your first time visiting Italy, you could well wonder where to go? What to see? Where to stay? How to travel? Here’s everything you need to know to get the most out of your time.
The Big Three: Rome, Florence, and Venice
If you’re visiting for a short period of time only, you might consider visiting the big three. A week is enough time to enjoy the country’s major offer.
Florence and Tuscany: art and wine
Two days in Florence will give you enough time to encounter an everlasting wonder of great Western art in the Uffizi gallery and indulge in its outstanding collection of ancient paintings and sculptures. Afterward, go inside Florence’s Cathedral, the Duomo and imagine why this cathedral took two centuries to be deemed finished. Next, climb the Duomo to see all of Florence.
Check into one of the picturesque rural farmhouses in Chianti or look for homes for rent in Italy and spend time exploring the land where you can see wineries lie everywhere.
The glories of Rome
Spend at least two or three days to see and enjoy Rome’s headline acts. Visit the 2000-year-old Pantheon, splendid Colosseum, the palace ruin of the Palatino, sacred St. Peter’s and the art-filled Vatican Museums. Take the Spanish Steps, rest at the side of Trevi Fountain, shop in narrow lanes, and enjoy people watching.
Spend another few days in Venice to enjoy this unique, utterly exquisite city. Glide down the Grand Canal via water bus, see the grand Palazzo Ducale, tour around Basilica di San Marco and get ready your camera for snapping the magnificent array of Venetian architecture. You can also join the locals shopping at Rialto Market and play around 400 bridges and 150 canals.
Best of the rest
If you have more than a week to prolong your Italian love affair, you can add these other dolce vita delights.
Attractive Naples; amazing Pompeii
Home to Italy’ best archaeological museums, Naples demands to be seen. Visit this city for an anarchic zest for life, Greco-Roman artifacts in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Neapolitan Baroque Certosa e Museo di San Martino. Afterward, go to Pompeii for ruined cityscapes and to Mt. Vesuvius to admire the live volcano and across a wide blue bay.
Style and beauty in Milan and the Lakes
For legendary and big-city style landscapes experience, go to the northwest of Italy. Visit Milan to see the famous Gothic Duomo, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper and La Scala for a world-class opera. Spend a few days at lovely Lake Como reveling in lake-lapped cocktail bars, vintage speedboat trips, sumptuous villas and in the snowy mountain with picturesque scenery.
Cinque Terre’s harbors and hills
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, Cinque Terre is the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet. It is a destination with timeless appeal, and it’s possible to do it justice in 4 days or a week. This is the kind of place that rewards taking it slow whether you’re up for a glass of wine, kicking back at a waterfront table in Vernazza, or listening to birdsong and just rest at an ancient sanctuary on a clifftop. Learn the intricate twists and turns of the villages, spend half of your day for hiking, swimming in the sea, and hit the walking trails.
Eating and drinking
Italy is one of the countries with a diverse regional cuisine and is the main reason why many tourists love to travel in this country. Some of the most notable food that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Italy are Florence’s iconic T-bone steak; olive oil and lemon-laced grilled fish on Elba; espresso and sweet treats in Naples’ backstreets bar; pizza by the slice in Rome; and creamy Po plains risotto. Try the best wines such as Brunello, Soave, Montepulciano, Prosecco and Chianti wines in historic cellars and in Italian restaurants.
Where to stay
There are a variety of places to choose from such as mountain huts, lakeside campsites, monasteries, hip hostels, secluded villas, family-run hotels, antiques-packed palazzos, and remote farmhouses with pools. Book ahead of time, as rates rise especially during summer, Easter and Christmas seasons. Festivals and local events also force prices up, while low season bargaining might bring the bill down. Take note that some places require a minimum stay or half-board in summer.
How to travel
Domestic air links, ferries, trains, and buses are the main networks between towns and cities. For unforgettable back-road explorations, rent a car. Trains in Italy range from regionals and InterCity to the high-tech, high-speed services. Alta Velocita service can save you time and cut longer journey times in half. However, the price is much higher than regionale.
- Greeting – Greet people by shaking hands or kiss both cheeks and say Buongiorno (good day) or Buona sera (good evening).
- Tipping – Restaurants have a cover charge of €2-3. If service isn’t included, give a small tip.
- Attire – Dress modestly when visiting religious sites. Shorts and sandals are good for the beach, but smart-casual clothes are best for towns. Walking shoes make cobbled streets and hill paths more comfortable.
- Communication – English language is fairly widely spoken in the main tourist centers, but in rural areas and south of Rome, learning few key phrases and expressions with a menu guide will make your visit more enjoyable and mealtimes more fun.