Italy Travel Guide
Italy may be our favorite country in Europe and for that matter one of our favorites in the world. It has amazing food, an iconic countryside, fantastic wine, a rich history, and strong culture. You also don’t get just one single type of landscape in Italy as the country spans from the Alps in the North to Sicily in the Mediterranean. I guess what I’m trying to say is there is nowhere else on earth like Italy and it’s the perfect vacation for a newbie or seasoned traveler.
Where in Italy?
Italy Travel Guide
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Italian: “Buongiorno” (formal) “Ciao” (informal) and “Grazie”
- Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
- Visa: Schengen visa. Which is 90 days in Schengen countries visa free for most nationalities. Make sure to check with your embassy to see if this is you or not.
- Weather: The Italian peninsula stretches from the Alps in the North to the Mediterranean in the South. You can find all variety of climates in Italy and it depends on the season. Expect warm dry summers and cold snowy winters in the North.
- What to Pack: All depends on the season – Style is key to Italians – Read what to pack for Italy
- Stay Connected: Tim and Vodafone sim cards are cheap and you can pick them up at the airport.
Posts on Italy
- A Two Week Italy Itinerary • Don’t Miss the Best Cities in Italy
- 15 Things to Know Before Going To Italy
- The Best Hotels in Italy: Lake Como, Venice, Florence, Rome, & More
- What to Wear in Italy All Year Round
- Is Venice Worth Visiting? An Unexpected Experience in Italy
- A Guide to Coffee in Italy
- Val Di Sole • The Best Hidden Ski Destination in Europe
- 30 Italy Travel Tips to Know Before You Go
Pick up a Guide Book
Accommodation in Italy
Hostel (€10 – €30):
The average price for a hostel dorm varies between €10 – €30 per night and you can expect to find a private room for around €50 – €100 in city centers. Generally, you can expect higher prices in major cities of the North like Milan, Florence, and Rome. The South, including Naples, Bari, and Palermo is generally cheaper and depending on the season you can find dorm beds for€10. Almost all hostels have WiFi, linens, and a very basic breakfast of a cafe and croissant.
Hotel Room (€50- €100+)
You can find a wide range of hotels in Italy. A basic hotel room can be found anywhere from €40 up to €100. It all depends on the city and the season. Expect higher prices in the main cities of the North and the summer months. Check out some dream worthy Italian hotels here!
We have used Airbnb several times in Italy and typically get a great deal in the offseason months. You can find a shared room in someone’s home or apartments for around €20 a night and find a full apartment with a kitchen for around €50 a night.
Transportation in Italy
Most international travelers will arrive via two airports, Milan, Milan-Malpensa Airport (MXP) and, Rome, Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO). Outside of those two airports there a plethora of airports that service other destinations around Europe such as Pisa, Bari, Florence, Palermo, and Naples. There are many low-cost air carriers that service many of all of Italy, including flight routes within the country.
Train travel is one of the best ways to travel around Italy. The train networks are extensive and fairly affordable. Fast trains cost between €30 – €70, while regional slow trains can cost €6 – €30. The two main train companies are Trenitalia and Italo. It’s important to note that even if you have a Eurail pass in Italy you still must pay a reservation fee – typically of €10.
If you’re looking to save a few Euros the best way is to take advantage of the cheap bus network. A series of coach buses cover the whole country and make it easy to get between cities. They’re usually half the price, but take about double the time. Check out FlixBus which runs all over Europe.
You can find cars for an affordable price, but they often become a burden in Italy. Cars in Italy are given special plates that allow them to drive in city centers, something a rental car is not permitted. The result means rental cars must be parked outside of city centers in parking lots that cost money. If you’re exploring the countryside or mountains a car can be a great option.
Food Costs in Italy
We love to cook while we’re in Italy as it’s a great way to save money. Italy is known for having amazing food and that all stems from the gorgeous food products. You can find regional products like fantastic fruits, veggies, cheese, olives, herbs, and truffles in the grocery stores for an affordable price.
Quick eats like pizza by the slice, panini, and light snacks will cost between €2-7. Fast food (i.e. McDonalds) will cost €9 for a value meal.
Meals out in Italy are a special affair and an average meal with wine should cost around €30-€50 for two with vino. You should know that there is no tipping in Italy, but they do add “coperto” a service charge per person to the bill. This can be a massive pain if you’re looking to just have lunch or a light bite. Always make sure to check your bill to see if this was added. Side note: Italians eat late and I wouldn’t plan on showing up to a restaurant before 8pm.
Wine is cheap and plentiful in Italy! Bottles in restaurants do come with a surcharge, but it’s easy to grab a bottle from the market for a few Euro. Throughout most of Italy, locals enjoy Aperitivo after work. It’s the Italian equivalent of happy hour, during this time you can buy a drink and the bar provides the food. The food served at Aperitivo can vary widely from some cheap snacks to a full buffet. Another great tradition is spritz, an Aperol based cocktail, and, cicchetti, a form of tapas that you eat in and drink in the streets of Northern Italy, Venice in particular.
Things to do in Italy
Do like the Romans do
All roads lead to Rome. It is the beating heart of Italy and a city that begs to be explored again, and again, and maybe one more time. It’s known as the Eternal City and one of the most romanticized cities in the world. History haunts its every corner and it is littered with historic site spanning several millennia. There is no city on earth like Rome.
Enjoy a spritz & cicchetti in Venice
Enjoying an afternoon of spritz and cicchetti is a must in Venice. A Spritz Veneziano is an aperitif in Northeast Italy and cicchetti are bite-sized entrees similar to tapas often on a slice of bread. Our favorite spritz is at Bacareto Da Lele for a cool €1.50 and it’s right around the corner from Osteria Al Squero, an excellent spot for cicchetti. There’s little to no seating room so come prepared to stand and relax along the canal.
Teatro alla Scala
Located in Milan is one of the most renowned theaters on earth. We are fans of opera and ballet so enjoying a show at the Teatro alla Scala was a must in our lifetimes. It’s famed for being one of the best theaters in the world and has some of the best talents in the world. Just be warned tickets are expensive – €180 a ticket.
Walk inside the Florence Cathedral
It’s the most beautiful cathedral in Italy. The size and scale of the interior along with the frescos housed inside will humble anyone. It is breathtaking with it’s white, pink, and green marble exterior. We love that despite being world famous the Duomo in Florence remains free to the public.
It’s only a two-hour train ride from Florence and it’s everything you can hope for in a Tuscan town. This is the Italy romanticized in countless movies and books (Hello, Under the Tuscan Sun)! It’s packed full of medieval buildings and offers the Italian countryside at its doorstep.
Belly up to an Italian bar
Coffee is a serious affair to Italians. You can’t walk down a street in Italy that doesn’t have a cafe bar. A coffee shop in Italy is no Starbucks, it’s standing room only and the drinks are made to be drunk immediately, leave the travel laptop in the hotel room and drink your cappuccino quickly while it’s hot.
Relax on the lakes
Northern Italy has some of the most beautiful lakes in Europe famed for being a playground for the rich and elite. Rent a boat, apartment, or villa and enjoy the stunning lakes of Italy like Lake Como, Lake Garda, and Lake Maggiore.
Dine at Mercato Centrale
If you’re looking to eat fantastic Italian food head to the Mercato Centrale in Florence. You can get some delicious bites to eat with counters and a few tables. The energy only adds to the environment and the beautiful food products of Tuscany are on full display.
Hike the Cinque Terra trail
It’s a photogenic collection of five towns that are on almost every traveler’s Italy must-see list. The five towns are accessible by train from La Spezia. The towns are colorful and perched along a series of cliffs. There is a trail that connects the five towns and it’s a summertime favorite to hike all them. Be prepared for some steep descents and ascents. If the hike is too much all the towns are accessible by train or boat.
Take a pilgrimage to Assisi
Assisi is the home of St Frances, the patron saint of Italy, and a site of pilgrimage for Italians. It’s one of the most beautiful hilltop towns in Italy with Mount Subasio rising above the town with wooded valleys. As the town’s cobblestone streets ascend to the Cathedral or “heaven” you’ll pass along the well-preserved building and hear the clatter of footsteps from nuns and pilgrims.
At the end of the day Romans meet for aperitivo, it’s essentially the Italian happy hour. Any decent bar supplies food that can range from simple snacks to full-on buffets or beautiful Italian food products.
Eat the best pizza in the world
If Naples has the best pizza in the world and Gino Sorbillo has the best pizza in Naples then you could say the best pizza can be found at Gino Sorbillo. Expect a massive crowd around the pizza joint and crazy long waits for a table. However, there is one trick, push through the throngs of people, walk up to the hostess, and order your pie take away. Even with two-hour waits, you can get a pizza in less than five minutes. The best part is it’s €3.50 for a margarita pizza.
Time travel at Pompeii
You’ve most likely heard of Pompeii. This ancient Roman city was destroyed by Mt Vesuvius in less than 24 hours, and in the process preserved in a layer of ash. Since it was excavated it gives great insight into what the cities of the Roman empire were once like thousands of years ago. The most impressive aspects here are the frescos and tile work that still contain color.