In this travel guide, I have collected all the information I have about Italy – about traveling and having holidays in Italy, information about the largest and most popular cities, as well as about less-famous locations, about accommodation, transport and cuisine of Italian regions. Also, in this guide I have included links to reliable resources for booking tickets, accommodation, tours, as well as buying museums tickets in Italy. I keep the information in the guide as relevant as possible and keep updating it.
General information about Italy
Visa to Italy
Insurance for traveling to Italy
Travel guides to Italian cities
Air tickets to Italy
Car rent in Italy
Accommodation in Italy
Prices in Italy
Tourist attractions in Italy
Sightseeing tours in Italy
Italy is a state located in southern Europe, a member of the European Union and the Schengen zone. Borders on France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Vatican and San Marino. Divided into 20 regions, including Sicily and Sardinia , which are located on the islands.
The currency in Italy is euro.
The official language in Italy is Italian. In Bolzano and South Tyrol, the second official language is German (in fact, almost no one speaks Italian in northern Italy), Slovenian is also common in Gorizia and Trieste, and French in Valle d’Aosta.
In large cities, people speak a little English (mainly in hotels and some restaurants), in the southern regions, in Sicily, for example, it is almost impossible to find a person who speaks English well (even in Catania it turned out that not every hotel personnel speak English).
Visa to Italy
Italy is one of the Schengen zone countries; to enter it, you will need any Schengen visa.
Insurance for traveling to Italy
It is obligatory to have travel (medical) insurance in Italy. First of all, this is the consulate requirement for issuing a visa. Secondly, insurance is extremely important for a traveler. Medicine services are expensive in Europe; common cold or poisoning can ruin your budget more than buying a medical insurance. Moreover, if you don’t speak Italian, you will face problems even when buying a medicine in a pharmacy.
Insurance prices differ – on average, they start from 1 euro per day per person. Such insurance is suitable for applying for a visa as well.
Mobile connection in Italy
Now, there are 4 large mobile providers operating in Italy:
You can buy SIM cards in providers’ salons; the passport is an obligatory requirement for this. However, SIM cards are sold not only in official salons, but in contracted stores as well. There you will be asked to provide a “codice fiscale”. It can be obtained formally through the consulate or informally generated via the Internet.
In Italy, SIM cards are valid 11-12 months from the last deposit. Then it is frozen up to 1 year. In 24 months after the last deposit, your number and the remaining money will be lost forever.
All the Italian providers offer 2 tariff types – basic and combo tariffs. Basic tariffs are the ones without a monthly fee and additional options. Combo tariffs usually offer more favorable conditions, but they require a monthly fee and a limit on all types of the provided options (minutes, SMS, Internet).
For tourists, tariffs with a lot of Internet traffic are suitable, for example, in 2018, Wind had the following tariffs: 8 GB (+ calls) for 10 euros per month, 20 GB (+ calls) for 12 euros per month, 20 GB (Internet only) for 9 euros per month. Also, in Italy you will have to pay extra for a SIM card and a number of other fees. As a result, SIM card will cost you about 25 euros.
Another disadvantage of buying SIM cards in Italy: the working schedule of the salons. On weekdays, there is always a lunch break (from about 13 to 16), they close at 18-19 hours, at 16 hours on Saturday, and on Sunday they don’t work at all.
Travel guides to Italian cities
There are several tour guides to Italian cities in the blog. From a guide you will find out how to get to a city, where to stay, where to rent a car, how to get around by public transport, and what attractions to visit. If the guide to the city you are interested in is on this list, you can read it first
How to get to Italy, tickets to Italy
You can see when it is cheaper to fly to Italy in the calendar.
From European countries, you can get to Italy by ground transport – buses, train, car.
You can get to Sicily either by plane, or by ground or water transport from mainland Italy.
You can get from Rome to Palermo by train, bus, car, or ferry from Civitavecchia port. Details about all these methods you can find in this article.
You can buy ferry tickets to Sicily from the official websites
- http://www.traghettiweb.it/ – ferry to Sicily
- http://www.grimaldi-lines.com/en/ – ferries from Palermo to Tunisia and Salerno
- http://www.tttlines.it/en/ – ferry from Catania to Napoli
You can travel throughout Italy by low-cost busses by flixbus (my reviw). The ticket prices start from 5 euro, and from 1 euro – during the sale time. Bus and train tickets to Italy can be found on the website omio.com – it’s very convenient.
Italian airports: how to get to the city
If you arrive in Italy by plane, you will have to get to the city. The most convenient way is by taxi. You can take it upon arrival, but in Italy (especially in the southern regions) you should be very careful and agree about the amount paid to the taxi driver in advance. Otherwise, the final amount may be enough to visit Italy again. The fact is that the counter can show quite a substantial amount. In the ideal case – to know at least a few words in Italian. If you don’t want to worry about taking a taxi, book a transfer in advance. It will be a bit more expensive than a taxi, but you won’t have to bargain and the language barrier won’t be an obstacle. I order on kiwitaxi.com ( my review )
You can get there by public transport – by buses, sometimes by train. You can find information about the possibility of getting from the airport by public transport and find the bus, train, plane and even blablacar schedule on omio.com
There are detailed articles about the following airports in the blog:
Car rental in Italy
Renting a car in Italy would be a great idea. With a car, you will be as mobile as possible, you won’t be limited by the bus and train schedule (the latter never stick to it), you will be able to visit remote towns and villages located far from tourist routes ( my car route: Tuscany, Umbria, Apulia ).
You can rent a car at local rental offices, in international companies (at the location or via the Internet in advance), or from brokers (in advance via the Internet). I usually book everything in advance, comparing prices in various companies. Therefore, it’s more convenient for me to book from brokers, with the largest of them being rentalcars.com and autoeurope.com . When booking from them, the price is 10-15% lower. It’s impossible to say which of the two sites is cheaper to book from – sometimes the prices coincide, sometimes they differ by a small amount; therefore, I recommend browsing the both, reading the booking terms and conditions, and then decide 🙂
On average, a rented car will cost from 40 euros / day. Depending on a car brand and a company you rent it from.
There is a large detailed article about car rent in Italy.
You have to pay for autobahns in Italy. But they all are duplicated by free roads. Depending on how much time you have for driving and what you want to see, decide on which roads to take. You can make up a driving route on the official website of Italian roads autostrade.it. When driving, it’s convenient to use Maps.me – this is a free smartphone application that works as a navigator (don’t forget to download maps of the regions you need before the trip).
If you want to monitor the traffic situation, use Google maps.
Italian transport system includes a network of buses, trains, commuter rails, and trams. Many cities have a metro. In some cities, in Genoa, for example, cable-railways are included in the public transport system. In Venice, where there are no roads, water transport dominates; ferries are common on lakes in the northern part of the country, and there are even tuk-tuks in the south (for example, in Sicily).
Of course, you should find information about the transport system of each city separately, but in general, the ticket terminals for public transport (buses, trams, subways) are identical. Be sure to punch railway tickets. I try to include information about the transport of each city in a guide to this city; here I will list useful resources where you can find information about public transport or buy tickets.
- omio.com — to find a suitable way to get from point A to point B in terms of time and price (buses, trains, planes)
- trenitalia.com– Italian railways, you can see the schedule and ticket price.
- italotreno.it– Italian speed trains
- selectitaly.com– here you can buy train tickets for Italian speed trains without limitations (on trenitalia, you can buy only one ticket per day), or entering such information as your address in Italy and Codice Fiscale (Italian taxpayer ID, which you can get only at the consulate)
- flixbus.com– affordable bus tours round Europe (my review)
- http://www.atac.roma.it – public transport in Rome
- http://www.anm.it/ public transport in Napoli
- http://www.atm-mi.it/ — public transport in Milano
- http://www.gtt.to.it/ — public transport in Torino
- http://www.amt.genova.it/ public transport in Genoa
- http://www.pisa.cttnord.it/ public transport in Pisa
- http://actv.avmspa.it/ — public transport in Venice
- http://www.tper.it/ public transport in Emilia-Romagna region
- http://www.ataf.net/ – public transport in Florence
- http://www.saisautolinee.it/ — SAIS buses on Sicily
- http://www.interbus.it/ —Interbus buses on Sicily
- http://www.aziendasicilianatrasporti.it/ —AST buses on Sicily
- http://www.traghettiweb.it/- ferry to Sicily
- http://www.usticalines.it/en/ — ferry to Lipari Islands
- http://www.grimaldi-lines.com/en/ — ferries from Palermo to Tunisia and Salerno
- http://www.tttlines.it/en — ferry from Catania to Napoli
- http://www.navigazionelaghi.it/ — ferry network between Como, Garda and Maggiore lakes
Hotels, apartments, guest houses, villas in Italy
There are numerous accommodation options in Italy. It up to your wishes, preferences and financial capabilities, whether to live in an expensive hotel in the city center or on a farm in a small Italian village.
If you are staying for a long time, it makes sense to rent an apartment. It will be cheaper than a hotel room, but you will have a whole apartment with several rooms and your personal kitchen at your disposal.
If you are travelling with a large family or company, consider renting a house or a villa. Typically, villas can accommodate 8-12 people, and as a result, the price is no higher than the one of a hotel room. But a villa will be completely at your disposal, and some villas have a personal garden and pool.
In 90% of cases I book hotels on booking.com. Numerous options, free cancellation for most of them (I try to choose with free cancellation), reliability, prices are often lower than on other resources (if you want to save and spend time comparing options, use hotellook.com – it will show on which site it is cheaper) .
At booking.com, you can find both apartments, villas, and agritourism.
But if I decide to stay in an apartment, I always look for options on airbnb.com Besides apartments, there you can find unusual accommodation types. For example, in Puglia region, you can live in a traditional Trullo house.
In Tuscany there are lots of castles and fortresses you can stay at. If some of them are too expensive, for example,
then every traveler can afford to book a room in any of the castles.
And after searching thoroughly, you can rent the whole castle
And my articles will guide you through numerous booking systems.
Also, there are several reviewing articles about hotels and other accommodations in Italy
Food plays a special role in the life of Italians, and Italian cuisine – in my life. Frankly speaking, I really like Italian cuisine. For me, “Italy” and “delicious food” (and “excellent wine”, of course) are synonymous. There are several articles about Italian cuisine in the blog:
An interesting fact is that Italian cuisine doesn’t limit itself to pasta and pizza. It is famous for many hot dishes, seafood, desserts as well. And Italian ice cream (gelato) is the most delicious in the world. Don’t forget about Italian cheeses (parmesan, gorgonzolla, mozzarella, mascarpone, ricotta…), wine, meat delicacies (the most famous of which, of course, prosciutto)
Every Italian region (or even a city) always has its own traditional dish or drink.
In Rome, it’s Pollo alla Romana (or “Roman” chicken with tomatoes and peppers baked in white wine)
Napoli is the birthplace of Margarita pizza. Watch the most mouth-watering moments from the movie “Eat, Pray, Love” starring Julia Roberts. By the way, the famous pizzeria the movie takes place — L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is located at Via Cesare Sersale 1/3
In Milano, as elsewhere in the northern part of the country, risotto is popular. For example, risotto alla Milanese (a-la Milano). Dishes made of fish from Como Lake or veal chop – Colotella “all Milanese” again are popular
Although we had no idea, Torino is the birthplace of such well-known products as Martini, Ferrero Roscher chocolate, Lavazzo coffee, and Grissini – crispy breadsticks that are today served in many restaurants all over the world. You should try risotto al gorgonzola and Fritto misto alla Piemontese (fried meat a-la Piedmont). Only here they make a unique Bicerin drink. Ihave even dedicated a separate article to the cafe of 1783, where Bicherin Puccini, Hemingway, A. Dumas used to drink.
Genoa is famous for its traditional pesto sauce, which is added to many Italian dishes. And, of course, the Genoese focaccia. There are numerous focacciarias in Genoa.
In Florence, of course, you should try the Florentine steak (Bistecca alla fiorentina). Prices are not low, but if you have come to Florence, you should definitely try this dish.
In Venice we should try “a-la Venice” cod, firstly, (Baccala alla vicentina), and secondly, veal liver (Fegato alla veneziana).
In Bologna – you know everything yourself – pasta or lasagna Bolognese (Pasta Bolognese or Lasagna Bolognese)
Valle d’Aosta, a region on the border with France and Switzerland, is famous for its rather fatty dishes, not typical for Italy. For example, Lardo d’Arnad bacon, polenta (corn porridge) with sauces and fondue (hello, Switzerland!).
Trentino Alto Adige (Tyrolean region) will surprise you with the most delicious strudels.
On Sicily, get ready to try the sweetest desserts in your life – cannoli, cassata, marzipan fruits, torroncini, etc.
And everyone visits Palermo to try street fast food: arancini (rice balls with different fillings in breadcrumbs), a spleen sandwich (panino con la milza), panelle and crocce.
Prices in Italy
In general, Italy is not a cheap country to have vacation in. To my personal mind, it seems to me that prices in Italy are even higher than in Germany. Nevertheless, if you are eager to visit this magical country, you can plan a relatively affordable vacation. As an example, you can see My route in Italy and Spain for 10 days in April. The tour budget is 815 euros per person (excluding spending on shopping, duty free, souvenirs).
There is also an article about prices on Sicily in the blog
About food and restaurants price you can read in the article
Prices for 3* hotels in Italy start from 40€, for 4* hotels — from 70€, 5* hotels — 100€, guest houses and b&b — from 23€, villas — from 100€. Keep in mind that these are average prices, at resorts prices are higher, as well as in the center of tourist cities; in the capital (Rome), in the north of the country (for example, in Milan a 4* hotel costs from 140€ per night). All prices are for a double room.
Taxi from an airport to the center will cost 50€ on average in Italy. If the distance from the airport to the hotel exceeds 100 km, the price will be around 120€.
A single ticket for public transport (metro, bus) on average costs 1.5 €
Car rent (economy class) on average will cost from 40€ per day.
Petrol in Italy is one of the most expensive in Europe. The average price is 1.6€ per liter.
Autobahns in Italy are toll. The average price is 7€ per 100 km. You can make up a route and estimate the cost of driving along toll roads on autostrade.it
Prices for sightseeing tours
Tours around Italian towns on average will cost 70€ per person. It is often more beneficial to book individual tours. An individual tour can cost 120€ for all (there can be four or five of you going on the tour).
Individual tours to other cities/countries/mountains cost on average 200-300€
Prices in restaurants
- A dinner at an Italian cafe/trattoria/restaurant with home-made wine will cost 25€-50€ (of course, it will be more expensive in premium class restaurants)
- Pizza in a restaurant 7-12€
- Salads, snacks (antipasti) 4-14€
- Pasta (starters) 10-15€
- Main dishes 12-25€
- Desserts 3-10€
- Home-made wine 6-8€ for 0.5 l jug
- Bottled wine from 10€ and up to ∞
- Coffee 2-5€
- Beer from 3€
- Panini, pizza, arancini etc. – 2-6 euro
- Gelato 1.5-4€
- Coffee (espresso, cappuccino) 1-2€
- Cola, etc. – 1.25-2€
- Vegetable from 1€/kg
- Fruit from 1.5€/kg
- Water 0.35€ for 0.5l, 0.75€ for 1.5l
- Cola, etc. 0.8€
- Wine 4-5€ for a bottle of affordable but good wine, expensive wines from 20€
- Prosciutto – from 5€/kg
How much are vacations in Italy
- If you live in cheap hotels or guest houses, cook yourself and eat out in fast food restaurants, and use public transport, you can travel on average for 45 € per day for two.
- If you live in good 3-4* hotels, eat once a day in a cafe/restaurant, use public transport, take a taxi 1-2 times per trip, an average cost will be 100€ per day for two.
- If you live in good 5* hotels, eat in restaurants every time and take a taxi, such a vacation will cost from 250€ per day for two.
- If you plan to rent a car, add 70 euros per day on average (including rent, petrol and toll roads). I think, you won’t be able to spend less than 40 euros on a car.
Tourist attractions in Italy
In this section, you will find links to various articles in my blog that describe tourist attractions of Italian cities.
Sicily and Sardinia
Trentino-Alto-Adige (Northern Italy)
Museums and archaeological sites in Italy
Italian history is so rich that it’s not surprising that so many museums are located on its territory. The number of art galleries, archaeological excavations, modern museums in Italy are endless, and the masterpieces housed in the museum walls are just priceless.
Here are the blog articles about museums:
Below, I will list the most popular museums and historical sites in Italy.
Of course, the most popular building in Italy is the Colosseum. You can examine it not only from the outside, but get inside as well, which I honestly recommend you to do. However, keep in mind that it is better to choose spring or autumn for a visit, since in summer the stones get so hot on the sun that it will be uncomfortable to stay inside for a long time. Don’t forget about the huge queue (especially in season!) at the Colosseum box office. To avoid these long queues, buy a ticket not from the box office of the Colosseum, but at the Forum box office (the ticket includes 2 attractions) or in advance via the Internet. For example, here you can buy a ticket to the Colosseum (including a visit to the arena level) and a quick access. It may be a few euros more expensive, but it will save you hours (!) of waiting in a queue.
The Borghese Gallery is a popular art gallery in Rome, which beside a collection of paintings (including several works by Caravaggio and Rafael Santi), houses sculptures by Bernini. Entrance and exit from the Gallery is strictly limited in time. You will have 2 hours to examine 3 floors. That was enough for me. It’s unlikely that you will manage to buy tickets for the same day at the box office. It is better to buy them in advance via the Internet, at least 3-4 days prior or even more than a week prior, then you will have a wider choice of the entrance time to the gallery. When buying a ticket online, you need to come to the museum in advance and exchange a voucher for a ticket. You should leave backpacks and large bags at the storage room. You can find information about prices on the Gallery’s official website; the easiest way to buy a ticket is to use a special service, for example, this one. You can do this staying at home.
If you have purchased a Roma Pass season ticket, you will be able to enter the Gallery for free, but you will need to book tickets in advance. You can it by calling +39 06 32810 only.
Museums of Vatican and the Sistine Chapel are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome and Vatican. To buy tickets, almost all the year round you will have to spend long hours in the queue. Not to lose a day in Rome, it’s better to overpay a bit, but to avoid queues. You can buy tickets online without queuing, for example, on a specialized website selling tickets and tours in Italy.
If you also want to climb under the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, you will need to buy a separate ticket. Tickets to Vatican Museums are not valid here. The Tourist Card is not valid either, no discounts are offered, and you can pay only in cash. There is a separate article in the blog about our visit to this attraction.
Florence is also rich in museums and art galleries. The most popular attractions in Florence are:
Uffizi Gallery (the mostpopular art gallery in the world)
Pitti Palace (housing the largest collection of paintings by Rafael)
Boboli gardens (the most famous park of the Italian Renaissance epoch)
The most popular attraction in Milano (of course, beside Duomo Cathedral) — is the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. You can see the famous fresco only if you buy the ticket in advance. People are allowed in only in certain time and in small groups. You can stay as little as 5-10 minutes in the hall with the fresco. No photos allowed.
If you visit Venice, I recommend looking into the Doge’s Palace. It is better to join a guided tour. It will make it possible to walk around the palace, to see the rooms where it used to be a prison for condemned to death, to walk along the Bridge of Sighs (and find out why it has such a name). A tour to secret places in English – 54 euros, the entrance tickets included [book]
One of the attractions of southern Sicily is the Valley of Temples in Agrigento. Excavations of the ancient Greek city. If you are interested in this topic, I recommend visiting this place. I think, there will be no problems with buying tickets at the location, but just in case, a link to buying tickets online
For the Ferrari brand’s fans, there is a special place in Italy – Maranello town. This is the place where Ferrari headquarters and manufacturing facilities are located. Here, you can also visit the Ferrari museum
Sightseeing tours in Italy
Even if you have come to Italy on your own, you can always book a guided tour – with a group or individual. You can do it either at the location, or through local travel agents or hotel reception, or in advance through the Internet. One of the advantages of booking tours on specialized websites is that there are a lot of uncommon trips there.
If you have questions or additions, you can leave them in the comments to this guide.