Italy, a European country with a long Mediterranean coastline, has left a powerful mark on Western culture and cuisine. Its capital, Rome, is home to the Vatican as well as landmark art and ancient ruins. Other major cities include Florence, with Renaissance masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s "David" and Brunelleschi's Duomo; Venice, the city of canals; and Milan, Italy’s fashion capital. Highlights of northern Italy include exploring the lakeside towns of Lombardy, hiking the hillside-hugging villages of Cinque Terre, and downhill skiing in the Italian Alps. Central Italy is known for the rolling vineyards of Tuscany and Umbria, as well as Pisa’s iconic leaning tower. Travel farther south to find Naples, known for its pizza; the rugged Amalfi Coast, where picturesque towns hang precariously over cliffs; and Pompeii's 2,000-year-old remains. Off the southern tip of the peninsula, Sicily offers ancient ruins, beaches, and an active volcano.
|Visa & Passport|
You are allowed to travel to Italy and to all other members of the Schengen Area for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa, as long as your U.S. passport is valid for at least 3 months after your planned return to the US.
Tipping is not a common practice at all in Italy and not expected. A service charge is sometimes added to the bill, ranging from 1 to 3 Euros, or 10% - 15%.
|When to visit||Most visitors arrive in summer (Jun–Sep), though cities tend to empty in Aug when shops and restaurants may be closed. Ski season in the Alps and Dolomites typically runs from Dec–Apr. Major holidays include New Year’s Day (Jan 1), Epiphany (Jan 6), Easter weekend (dates vary), Ferragosto/Assumption (Aug 15), Christmas (Dec 25) and Santo Stefano (Dec 26). The biggest Carnival celebrations (Feb or Mar) are in Venice and Viareggio.|
Top 5 Best Cities to Visit
Rome, Italy’s capital, is a sprawling, cosmopolitan city with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture, and culture on display. Ancient ruins such as the Forum and the Colosseum evoke the power of the former Roman Empire. Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, has St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, which house masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes. The 18th-century Spanish Steps sit at the heart of Rome’s high-end shopping district, with designer boutiques lining Via Condotti and Via Borgognona. Visitors toss coins into the iconic, baroque Trevi Fountain. The Pantheon, dating to the second century A.D., holds Raphael’s Renaissance-era tomb. Rome’s hearty cuisine includes such traditional dishes as carbonara, amatriciana, and saltimbocca. After-dark activities range from seeing one of Verdi’s classic operas at Teatro dell’Opera to club-hopping in working-class Testaccio, once the city’s slaughterhouse district.
Venice, the capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, is built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals – including the Grand Canal thoroughfare – lined with Renaissance and Gothic palaces. The central square, Piazza San Marco, contains St. Mark’s Basilica, which is tiled with Byzantine mosaics, and the Campanile bell tower offering views of the city’s red roofs. The Gothic pink-and-white-marble Doge’s Palace sits on the east side of the piazza. Before the Christian holiday of Lent, this area becomes the epicenter of Venice's Carnival, where partygoers dress in elaborate masks and costumes. A gondola ride away is the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, an influential gallery of modern art, and the Galleria dell'Accademia, a museum of Renaissance-era and Vedutisti paintings. The covered Rialto footbridge leads to a market that supplies many of the city's fish-focused Venetian restaurants.
Florence, the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture. One of its most iconic sights is the Duomo, a cathedral with a terracotta-tiled dome engineered by Brunelleschi and a bell tower by Giotto. The Galleria dell'Accademia displays Michelangelo’s “David” sculpture. The Uffizi Gallery exhibits Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and da Vinci’s “Annunciation.” Another architectural highlight is the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone-arch pedestrian bridge that’s packed with jewelry stores. Near the bridge, on the south bank of the Arno River, is massive Palazzo Pitti, once home to the powerful Medici family, showing works by such renowned artists as Raphael and Titian. On the north bank, the Piazza del Signoria is one of the city’s most visited squares thanks to the imposing Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall) and the much-photographed statue “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” by Cellini
Milan, a metropolis in Italy's northern Lombardy region, is a global capital of fashion and design. Home to the national stock exchange, it’s a financial hub also known for its high-end restaurants and shops. The Gothic Duomo di Milano cathedral and the Santa Maria Delle Grazie convent, housing Leonardo da Vinci’s mural “The Last Supper,” testify to centuries of art and culture. The cathedral shares the central Piazza del Duomo with the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. This glass-roofed, 19th-century arcade is now home to luxury shopping and upscale cafes serving classic Milanese food such as risotto and osso buco veal stew. Milan’s cultural scene centers on the 18th-century Teatro Alla Scala opera house and the Pinacoteca di Brera gallery, which houses centuries of Italian painting by artists such as Titian and Caravaggio. Twice a year the Quadrilatero d'Oro fashion district buzzes when catwalks take over neoclassical palaces for the famous Milan Fashion Weeks.
Amalfi is a town in a dramatic natural setting below steep cliffs on Italy’s southwest coast. Between the 9th and 11th centuries, it was the seat of a powerful maritime republic. The Arab-Norman Sant'Andrea cathedral at the heart of town, with its striped Byzantine facade, survives from this era. The Museo Arsenale Amalfi is a medieval shipyard-turned-exhibition space. Amalfi’s Chiostro del Paradiso has 13th-century Moorish cloisters around a tropical garden. The Valle dei Mulini ravine above the town is home to the Museo Della Carta (Museum of Paper), in a 13th-century mill with original working paper presses. Hiking trails in the valley overlook lemon groves and pastel buildings on hillside terraces. Many use the town as a base for exploring the beaches, forests, and mountains of the surrounding Amalfi Coast, picturesque Positano, and the hillside gardens and villas of Ravello. Boat tours leave from the marina, where there’s also a lively beach
Top 5 Places to Visit
The Colosseum or Coliseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is an oval amphitheater in the center of the city of Rome, Italy. Built of travertine limestone, tuff, and brick-faced concrete, it was the largest amphitheater ever built at the time and held 50,000 to 80,000 spectators. The Colosseum is situated just east of the Roman Forum. Construction began under the emperor Vespasian in AD 72 and was completed in AD 80 under his successor and heir, Titus. Further modifications were made during the reign of Domitian. These three emperors are known as the Flavian dynasty, and the amphitheater was named in Latin for its association with their family name. The Colosseum could hold an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 spectators at various points of its history over the centuries, having an average audience of some 65,000; it was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era.
Florence Cathedral, formally the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, is the cathedral of Florence, Italy. It was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to a design of Arnolfo di Cambio and was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi.
The Pantheon is a former Roman temple, now a Catholic church, in Rome, Italy, on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. It was completed by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated to about 126 AD.
The Trevi Fountain is a fountain in the Trevi district in Rome, Italy, designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini and several others. Standing 26.3 meters high and 49.15 meters wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world.
Piazza San Marco, often known in English as St Mark's Square, is the principal public square of Venice, Italy, where it is generally known just as la Piazza. All other urban spaces in the city are called campi. The Piazzetta is an extension of the Piazza towards the San Marco basin in its southeast corner. The two spaces together form the social, religious, and political center of Venice and are commonly considered together. A remark usually attributed to Napoleon calls the Piazza San Marco "the drawing room of Europe"
Useful Travel Guide & Money Saving Tips
Walk – Bring comfortable shoes and get ready to walk a lot when in Italy. Italy is one of those beautiful places that only by walking can you really take in all it has to offer. In addition to the fact that you will save a ton of money, walking really is the best way to explore all of the major attractions as well as many beautiful corners of the cities you'll visit. Make sure to stop for a picture, sit in a cafe, and enjoy all the little things Italy has to offer. Honestly, everything is so walkable that you almost don’t need to take the metro or taxi at all.
Explore nearby towns by train - Train tickets in Italy can be booked up to 120 days in advance, and you can make some great savings by booking early. Make the most of Italy's excellent rail service by visiting nearby cities. In a few hours, you could make the journey from Rome to Florence, Milan, or even Venice. What some people might not realize is that there are also regional trains you can take to explore nearby towns that are extremely charming and beautiful. For example, if you are in Rome, take the train or bus to Ostia, the nearest Italian seaside town that gives you a completely different feeling of Italy when compared to Rome. In fact, many Romans spend the summer holidays here, so you can experience summer like a local. Another town recommended by our Founder is called Castel Gandolfo. This stunning town overlooks Lake Albano and is only 40 minutes away from Termini’s station (Rome’s main train station). It’s so beautiful, so much so that the Pope picked it for his summer home.
Validate your train ticket - If you buy your train ticket from the ticket vending machines at the station anywhere in Italy, you need to “validate” your ticket at the green-colored machine near the platform before you get on the train. This is to show where you got onto the train. If you don't validate your ticket, you can be fined 100 euros or more - so don't forget to do it!
Free Water - Bottled water is not free in any restaurant in Italy, however, the tap water and water fountains across the city are free and drinkable. Don’t waste money by spending on bottled water, instead, bring a water bottle with you and make use of the free fountains are pretty much everywhere in the city.
Local Market and/or Supermarket – Food is actually quite cheap at the outdoor, local markets, as well as the supermarkets, compared to the US. If you would like to try some authentic local food such as wine, cheese, and pasta, you have to try these places. You can grab a bargain and still eat well!
Avoid unauthentic restaurants – The best way to spot if you are dealing with an unauthentic restaurant or not is simply this: If it’s an authentic restaurant, you won’t see any waiter standing outside and asking you to come to eat. These places in Italy have tourist menus with average, overly priced food. Our founder, Kate Stone, shared what she learned from many trips to Italy and from a friend who once worked in this type of restaurant. Waiters are actually trained to add 15-20% onto the bill, specifically to target those who seem to really enjoy their surroundings and are not paying much attention. Those who don’t speak English may not realize this too, and most tourists don't check their bills and pay for it anyway. We recommend that, for more authentic Italian food, go to a place where you can spot locals, or simply head to a pizzeria where pizza ranges from EUR 5-10!
Free attractions - In Italy, you are surrounded by art and history. Unless you want to dive deep into the details and learn more from a guided tour, you can really skip on all the paid tours. Many main attractions are actually free to walk around, you can enter some parts without any admission fees at all. Most of the churches and parks are also free unless specifically stated, and they not only provide shade from the sun but are a haven for Italian art.
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Italy Vacations & Travel Guide
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