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Italy Travel Guide

Live la dolce vita
In Italy, you’ll discover that the quiet moments rival the grandiose ones.
You can find delight in a scoop of soft cold gelato eaten under the summer sun, and in the sight of a funny tower so tilted, it looks like it’ll topple over; you can be awed both by a stadium of drama and death, where gladiators and beasts fought and bled, and the quiet exquisiteness of an oil painting by a 16th century master; and you can find joy in a warm dish of homemade pasta as well as the delirious pealing of Vatican church bells.
Whether you choose to explore Italy via a group tour or solo, you’ll stumble upon plenty of moments of freedom, glamour and history that’ll linger in your memory. 
— Read more —
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In Italy, you’ll discover that the quiet moments rival the grandiose ones.

You can find delight in a scoop of soft cold gelato eaten under the summer sun, and in the sight of a funny tower so tilted, it looks like it’ll topple over; you can be awed both by a stadium of drama and death, where gladiators and beasts fought and bled, and the quiet exquisiteness of an oil painting by a 16th century master; and you can find joy in a warm dish of homemade pasta as well as the delirious pealing of Vatican church bells.

Whether you choose to explore Italy via a group tour or solo, you’ll stumble upon plenty of moments of freedom, glamour and history that’ll linger in your memory. 

— Read more —

Location

Located in Southern Europe, the peninsula of Italy protrudes deep out into the Mediterranean Sea. Shaped like a boot, the country is bordered by the Adriatic Sea on its east coast, the Tyrrhenian Sea on the west and the Ionian Sea to its south. The country is also neighbour to France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia.

Where to go

You’ll be spoiled for choice. Walk through Renaissance streets in Florence, see world-famous art in Rome, drive through the scenic Tuscan countryside, spoil yourself with lots of pasta, wine and gelato no matter where you go. Choose a group tour package that matches what your ideal Italian holiday would look like.
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At a glance

Weather

The weather varies across Italy, with it being continental in the Po Valley, Mediterranean on the coasts, windy and cooler in the Apennines, and cold in the Alps. While summer, which peaks in 
July and August, is a popular travel season, so is April to June (spring) or between September and October (autumn).  This is the best time to visit Italy if you’re hoping for pleasant weather, fewer travellers, and reasonable prices.

Language

Italian
Naturally, the country’s official language is Italian, although English, French, German, and other European languages are also recognised as official linguistic minorities.

Currency

Euro
As Italy is part of the European Union, the Euro is the official currency used in the country. At the time of posting, the conversion from Euro to the rupee is INR conversion is the following: 1 Euro = 79.24 INR.

Expert travel advice

Travel tips and insider advice that have made the most difference to us, sourced from our
community of like-minded travellers and global experts.

Explore the Colosseum in Rome   

Recommended by Salt in our Hair

“An absolute must-do in Italy is visiting the world’s largest amphitheater. The Colosseum in Rome survived earthquakes, fires, wars and has a well-deserved title of one of the Wonders of the World.”

This award-winning travel blog features beautiful photography, travel tips and guides by Hannah and Nick.

Ride a vintage Vespa in Tuscany   

Recommended by Our Escape Clause

“We loved our morning spent zipping around ...the Tuscan countryside, watching the vineyards, olive trees, rolling hills, and Tuscany homes fly by. It was an incredibly freeing experience to feel the wind in our hair as we moved through the day, and we can’t imagine a better way to see the Tuscan countryside than from the back of a Vespa."

Jeremy and Kate Storm’s goal is to inspire you to follow your travel dreams and help you figure out the logistics of making them happen through their blog.

See the Venice Carnival   

Recommended by Nomadic Matt

“Ten days and nights of masquerade madness in February before Lent is quite the party. This tradition goes back centuries and is one of the biggest parties and festivals in Italy. If you have the funds, you can even pay to attend a traditional masquerade ball.”

Matt Kepnes, aka Nomadic Matt, has travelled to nearly 100 countries. He shares proven tips and advice on his website which has been featured on major media sites including the New York Times, the BBC, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, The Independent, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, and TIME magazine.

Explore Cinque Terre   

Recommended by Polkadot Passport

“ Five quaint, colourful towns perched on the rugged cliffs of north-west Italian coastline… From the artisan wine to the impeccable seafood, the iridescent water to the vibrant throng of building facades, a stay in one of these seaside towns is a magical experience to say the least.”

Nicola, who runs Polkadot Passport, shares unique bucket-list experiences, destination guides, travel photography tips, and more. This popular blog receives over 1 million hits a year, won numerous awards and has been featured on the likes of Lonely Planet, Huffington Post and the Daily Mail.

Ogle at David   

Recommended by Hand Luggage Only

 “Probably the most famous man in the city, seeing Michelangelo’s David is one of the best things to do in Florence.”

Yaya and Lloyd share travel stories and photos with others like-minded travellers on the internet.

Incredible places to visit in Italy

Rome

No trip to Italy (and thankfully no Italy tour package) would be complete without Rome. And, as the popular saying goes, it wasn’t built in a day, so make sure you spend enough time in the city to properly take in its attractions and charm.  Now with palaces, temples, museums, and fresh spring water fountains aplenty, it can be challenging to decide where to spend your time. Here are the attractions you should definitely add to your itinerary:

The Colosseum

Walk in the footsteps of gladiators and let your imagination sweep you away to ancient times where men fought against exotic beasts to entertain emperors and thousands of spectators, whose very life depended upon whether a thumb was turned up or down.

St. Peter’s Basilica

A must visit on all Italy tours, this 4th-century medieval church remains Italy’s most spectacular. The basilica is in St. Peter’s Square, one of the best known squares in all of Italy, as it is the perch from which the pontiff addresses crowds of pilgrims. The original church, commissioned by Emperor Constantine, was built in 349 supposedly on the site St. Peter was buried. It contains works by Bernini, Bramante, and other renowned artists and architects; Michelangelo’s famous Pietà, the marble statue of Jesus in the lap of his mother after the Crucifixion can be seen here.

Trevi Fountain

When in Italy, wishes really do come true. All one needs to do is to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, a time-honoured tradition. Legend has it that throwing one coin ensures a return to Rome one day; two coins will lead to a new romance and three means a wedding.

Sistine Chapel

Housed in the Apostolic Palace - the official residence of the Pope - the Sistine Chapel is by far one of the world’s most visited sites and a must in any Italy tour package you consider. At peak pours, the chapel houses more than 2000 people, each as awe-struck as the next. It’s ceiling- famously painted by Michelangelo - depicts stories from the Bible’s Book of Genesis from Original Sea to the Separation of Land from Sea. Besides these, the chapel is teeming with ageless art from Renaissance artists such as Botticelli’s Temptations of Christ and frescoes from Perugino, Ghirlandaio, and more. The chapel’s religious significance is still strong, with it being the official conclave when electing a new pope.

The Vatican Museums

The museums are filled with a treasure trove of paintings, sculpture and other works of art collected by the popes through the centuries. The complex itself is vast and impossible to cover in a day, so a pre-planned itinerary is always a good idea, as well as arranging for a tour guide to provide context and insight. Audio guides are an option as well. As  the Vatican Museums are a traveller-hotspot, queues will be long, so a ticket booked in advance will do you well.

The Spanish Steps

To people-watch or for a microcosm of Roman life, the Spanish Steps are the place to go. 135 steps rise from the Piazza di Spagna, where you can spot the sinking boat fountain, and then at the  Chiesa della Trinita dei Monti, you can take in almost all of Rome.

Venice

Venice is a floating wonderland, with everything from marble churches to Renaissance art. Life here is slower, more vivid somehow, and overall, there’s a magic in the air that captivates anyone who steps foot here.  Here’s what to do when you’re in this city:

Doge’s Palace

The Doge’s Palace is a testament to an era when the Venetian empire was at its peak. The palace is ornately decorated; the architecture, a blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Byzantine. Inside, paintings and sculptures by the greatest Renaissance artist (including the largest oil painting in the world – Tintoretto’s Paradise), a golden staircase, and gold decoration everywhere speaks to the city’s power, strength, and wealth.

St. Mark’s Basilica + Square

St. Mark’s Square or Piazza San Marco is the city’s main public square, and the the social, public and religious centre as well. It’s busy throughout the day and in the evening, cafes light up its edges and music plays throughout. As you walk into the cathedral, one is overwhelmed by the shimmering, glinting gold mosaics that span across walls and domes covering over 8000 square meters. The most prominent mosaic depicts the patron saint Mark dressed in a pontifical garment- fitting since the Basilica is built on his crypt.

Eat lots and lots of seafood

Nothing defines Venice's cuisine like its seafood. This is the best place to try a plate of soft squid cooked in its own black ink, spicy salami, or crispy, salty soft-shell crabs with a squeeze of lemon.. Don’t forget to try Venetian tapas aka cicheti which could include smoked tuna with parmesan, bread stuffed with crab meat, or grilled octopus, with a glass of red or white wine, called ombra.

Explore Burano

This colourful fisherman’s isle is one of Venice’s most popular destinations - it is only 45 minutes away by boat. Bright red, mint green, and yellow ochre houses line the isle’s canals, which are filled with fishing boats painted as bright as the houses  - guaranteed to up your Insta game. Burano is also known for lacemaking that started here in the 16th century, and it’s still a popular pastime on the island. You can visit a lace museum, a lacing school, and shop for souvenirs at several lovely lace shops.

Take a gondola ride

The quintessential Venetian experience. There are over 400 gondoliers in Venice, any one of whom will row you around the spider’s web of canals in the city. It’s an incredible way to explore the city, seeing buildings at once romantic and ornate as they rise up from the water, with your gondolier pointing out the bits of history behind them. 

Florence

Welcome to the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, opera, and gelato. Art and architecture know no bounds here, each site competing for a place in your heart and memory. Here’s what you should definitely not miss out on:

Uffizi Gallery

The Palazzo degli Uffizi was first built as the government's chambers. Now home to Italy’s greatest Renaissance masterpieces, this U-shaped gallery has around 100 rooms featuring the most comprehensive art collections you can imagine, including a room of Botticelli‘s finest. Plus you can head up to the rooftop terrace (previously frequented by the famous Medici family) for a drink and a snack.

Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

Florence Cathedral, or the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, dominates the skyline and delights with its intricate pink, green and white marble exterior. The cathedral features the iconic Altare Maggiore (main altar) flanked by beautiful frescoes from Ghirlandaio. The murals depict everything from the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist and later the era of the Florentine Renaissance. Needless to say, make sure this is an inclusion on an Italy travel package you’re considering.

Palazzo Vecchio

This is a palace  boasting centuries of history, first as the seat of Cosimo I and then for the Medici dynasty.  Florentine battles of victory are painted to immortalise their superiority over their rivals of Siena and Pisa. Cosimo I also had himself painted as a God on the ceiling that features 34 gold-leafed panels (which still glimmers away). With a 94 meter tower from which you can take in all of Florence, and a hall- Salone dei Cinquecento that hosts Michelangelo’s Spirit of Victory sculpture or Genio della Vittoria, the Palazzo Vecchio is a Florence landmark.

Galleria dell’ Accademia

A trip to Italy, and certainly Florence, would be incomplete without taking in Michelangelo’s ‘David’. 
A winding queue greets you as you enter, but take it from us, it is well worth the wait. This gleaming white sculpture, slingshot in hand ready to do battle, is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture.

Tuscany

The hills of Tuscany have sonnets composed about them, so you can only imagine how beautiful they are. Home to Italy’s greatest gems from organic, fresh farm food to green valleys and little towns,  Tuscany is exactly what you imagine when you think ‘slow paradise’. It goes without saying that your trip to Italy is incomplete without time spent here.

Chianti

If you love wine, there’s no doubt you’ll love Chianti. The world-famous region is full of green hills, terracotta-tiled villages and miles and miles of vineyards and olive groves stretching as far as the eye can see.  If you’re a hopeless romantic or planning a idyllic holiday with your partner, Chianti is the place to go. A short stay here must include wine-tasting, rides on a Vespa, stops at rustic farmhouses to sample the region’s famous wines along with fresh local produce, which could include cured meats, cheeses, warm breads and Tuscan biscotti, and in general, just time to while and wander away.

Siena

The medieval city of Siena is considered Tuscany's second most beautiful town. It is filled with charming sights and stories to match.The city is divided into 17 districts, each with its own church, symbolic animal (dragon, giraffe, unicorn, seashell etc.) and insignia, and as you walk the honey-stoned streets, you’ll notice the flags changing depending on which district you are in. Other attractions here include the Piazza del Campo where Il Palio, the dramatic bareback horse race is held, the candy-striped Duomo, and Monteriggioni, a small medieval fortress in the Sienese hills, where you can pretend to be a knight by putting on shining armour in the village’s museum.

Naples

A city of browns and yellows set against striking blue, Naples holds on to Italy’s history like a careful librarian with rare first editions. Works by Titian, Raphael, Correggio, Masaccio, Mantegna and Caravaggio are easily discovered in the city. As are palaces and fortresses. 

However, travellers will most likely fall in love with the Naples of the present, rather than the past. It is gritty but authentic. You’ll see locals drinking beer and smoking cigarettes on outdoor terraces throughout the day, cars crowding over cobblestone streets, and elderly nonnas putting their laundry out to dry. It’s colourful and authentic.

Visit Pompeii

Everyone’s studied about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in school, and how Pompeii was preserved in a layer of pumice, but to see it in real life is a surrealistic experience. The ancient Roman city - full of restaurants, bars, baths, monuments, and shops. Walking through Pompeii, it’s easy to let your imagination draw you back in time. As the volcano erupted, the town’s inhabitants fled. Those who stayed behind were covered in debris. Their decomposed bodies have been filled in with plaster by scientists, capturing their last moments.

Cinque Terre

The Cinque Terre region is - without being hyperbolic - extraordinarily beautiful. It comprises five small seaside villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso. Each filled with lovely little painted houses and vineyards, harbours filled with fishing boats and family run restaurants boasting seafood dishes made from recipes handed down through the generations. Everywhere cherry blossom, iris, lilies, violets and poppies run amok and the smell of huge lemon and orange trees.. It is timeless, so iconically Italian, so romantic, that you might find yourself tempted to give everything up and just move here.

The Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast is one of the most glamorous destinations in Italy.  It’s a place made for driving along the beach-lined waters, the sun on your face and sea breeze in your hair, and stopping for little picnics in quiet coves. It’s a place where you can stay in some of the most luxurious resorts in the country, and sip on limoncello (the region’s traditional and much-loved lemon liqueur) at the terraced bars alongside movie stars and celebrities (previously frequented by Grace Kelly, Humphrey Bogart and Elizabeth Taylor). 

Pisa

Yes, it’s most famous attraction is its architectural accident- the Leaning Tower (it costs nothing to take silly photographs outside on the green lawns) - but that’s not all you’ll find in this wonderful Tuscan city. There are plenty of other historical monuments to visit, including the Piazza dei Miracoli, where you can admire the edifice of the Baptistery or the Cathedral which houses a masterpiece of Romanesque art. And make some time to go shopping on Via Santa Maria, that is lined by pretty butter yellow buildings with green shutters, and little shops.

Verona

Located in northern Italy, Verona’s claim to fame is that it’s the setting of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. And indeed, even though the characters are fictional, the Montagues and Capulets were real feuding political families. You can visit the 13th century Casa di Giulietta on Via Cappello, the location for the balcony scene and mutter “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” under your breath, or 
Romeo’s house, a medieval building that bears a small plaque with a Shakespearean quote on it.
Verona’s other famous landmarks include the mammoth 1st-century amphitheatre, where you can stop by for an evening of opera or theatre. You can also tour the ancient Castle Vecchio or stroll through the Piazza Delle Erbe.  If you’re in Venice, Verona is only a one hour train ride away, easy enough for those seeking out their own Romeo and Juliet or others looking for a reason to believe in love again.

Top things to do & experience in Italy

Nobody wants to be a tourist. Here are curated experiences in art, music, food, culture and communities
to help you have an authentic and memorable trip.

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