Italy travel guide

Where to go, what to see: your Italy travel guide

Why visit Italy?

Beautiful architecture, classical history, warm people and incredible sun-kissed cuisine, Italy holidays are a treat for all the senses. The north offers lakes, mountains and cool culture, the south is known for its demonstrative people, rolling landscapes and rich flavours.  The food in exceptional everywhere.

Italy is home to the most beautiful architecture in the world. According to UNESCO, over 50% of the world’s great works of art are found here. Take the masterpieces of Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Tintoretto and Caravaggio; the operas of Verdi and Puccini; and the cinema of Federico Fellini. Add the architecture of Venice, Florence, and Rome and you have just a fraction of its treasures from over the centuries.

Italy is a new nation with a very old civilization. Until 1860, it was still a myriad of different states often at war with each other. Despite its unity as a Republic today, it is still fragmented into a deeply-rooted mosaic of regional cultures. Italians are strongly attached to their towns, neighbourhoods and family values, which form the background of their society. They are warm, outgoing people. Time is not necessarily money to them, and the average Italian will always find the time to enjoy a good meal or drink a black espresso (28 million cups of coffee are sold every day!).

Weather and climate in Italy

When is the best time to visit Italy?

Italy has hot summers and cold winters. The south experiences mild, wet winters and very hot summers. Rain generally falls in October, January and early spring. Pack lightweight clothing with a few warm layers in spring and early fall, plus rain gear. In winter, bring a jacket in the south and a warm overcoat in the north. Summers can be hot and humid, so bring light summer clothes with a light jacket or jumper for evening.

To help you plan, below are average low and high temperatures for Italy.

 

 

 

 Lake Maggiore

 Rome

 Sorrento

 January

 -3/8°C

 4/13°C

 7/12°C

 February

 -3/10°C

 4/13°C

 7/12°C

 March

 1/14°C

 6/15°C

 8/14°C

 April

 4/17°C

 8/17°C

 10/17°C

 May

 10/22°C

 12/22°C

 13/21°C

 June

 13/26°C

 16/25°C

 17/25°C

 July

 15/28°C

 19/28°C

 19/28°C

 August

 15/27°C

 19/28°C

 20/29°C

 September

 11/22°C

 17/26°C

 18/26°C

 October

 8/17°C

 13/22°C

 14/21°C

 November

 2/11°C

 8/17°C

 11/17°C

 December

 -2/7°C

 6/14°C

 8/13°C

 


Browse our Italy tours

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Italy food and fun facts

Food specialities of Italy

Italian food varies greatly from region to region. In the north, flat, ribbon-shaped pastas with cream sauces are most popular; in the south, the favourite pasta is macaroni served with tomato-based sauces. The most popular meats are veal and pork.

In larger bars and cafés, and at “autogrills,” you normally decide what you would like, then stand in line to pay before taking your ticket to the barman to order. You can eat your meal/snack standing at the bar, or at tables. Alternatively, there is a sit-down table service, which incurs a service charge.

Italian food you know and love from back home may differ quite surprisingly from the local reality and the ‘typical’ Italian fare you may have in mind. You may be surprised that, contrary to expectations, the warm, effusive service you receive in restaurants in other parts of the world is not necessarily the norm.

The following budget guidelines are just approximate values or starting values for meals and are per person. Actual prices will vary widely by restaurant and city within a country but below are some averages as provided by our experienced personnel.

  • The approximate cost of a soft drink/mineral water/coffee is €3-5.
  • An average lunch consisting of a salad or sandwich and a soda or water starts at approximately €15.
  • Dinner at a mid-range restaurant with dessert and a non-alcoholic beverage starts at approximately €30-40 (seafood will be slightly more expensive). Please note that soft drinks and mineral water are often as expensive, if not more expensive than wine or beer.

Fun facts

  • Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's most popular play, was set in the backdrop of Verona, Italy.
  • The viol, violin, cello, piano, mechanical clock, barometer, thermometer, optical glasses, and telephone were invented by Italians.
  • Bubonic Plague killed one-third of the Italian population in the 14th century.
  • No other country is so immediately recognizable on a map; a high-heeled boot and the Sicilian triangular ‘ball’ form a unique silhouette.

Things to consider before visiting Italy

How to call Italy: Country code

The country code for Italy is 39. When calling to Italy from overseas, dial your international access code (+44 from the UK), followed by the country code, area code, and phone number. Phone numbers in Italy are eight digits in length.

Italy’s currency

The official currency of Italy is the Euro. Bank opening hours in Italy are weekdays 8.30am to 1.15/30pm, then 3/3.30pm to 4/4.30pm.

Keep receipts until you have left restaurants or bars, as occasionally there are spot tax checks on owners. Credit cards are accepted in the larger Italian cities (mostly Visa and MasterCard), and you should have no problems using them in shops and restaurants. However, smaller shops, especially those in rural locations, may ask you to pay in cash or have a minimum amount required to use a credit card.

Shopping in Italy

Shopping possibilities are endless with magnificent craftwork and designer goods plentifully available. Lemon-flavoured products such as limoncello are popular specialties in Sorrento and Naples. Watch out for counterfeit branded goods: anyone caught purchasing counterfeit items such as CDs/DVDs, bags, wallets, watches or sunglasses risks a substantial fine (equivalent to thousands of pounds) and plain-clothes policemen circulate in crowds. 

When and how much to tip in Italy

Where restaurant service charges are already included, round up the bill by a few Euros to show appreciation; otherwise 10% is a reasonable amount. In most Italian restaurants there is also a per person cover charge, which will be added to your bill. 

  • Taxi fares are usually rounded up to the nearest €1/2.
  • Tip hotel staff €1 for room service.
  • A few small denomination Euro coins will be needed for public toilets.
  • In Venice, a tip to water taxi staff is customary.