Italy Tours & Vacations
Best Italy Tours
Zicasso Italy tours offer the quintessential Italian vacation through exclusive access to the best experiences. Our travel specialists will enhance Italy’s history, culture, and scenery in order to deliver the most memorable trip of your lifetime. Unlike others, we will tailor a custom itinerary to your exact specifications to create your ideal vacation. Learn renowned culinary techniques in a genuine Italian kitchen, visit historical wineries on private tasting tours, and discover hidden traditions that persist throughout the country from the eternal city of Rome to quaint country villages of Tuscany. The seduction of Italy is brought to life with a handcrafted experience from Zicasso.
The richness of Italian civilization incorporates history and heritage through art, architecture, and gastronomy acting as a celebration of culture with unquestionable inimitable style, endless feasts, and sensational landscapes. Sacred sites and medieval villages, lavish churches, and scenery imitating art, the ambiance of Italy derives from a fantastical culture basking in the daily revelries of life, from a simple sip of espresso to the aromas of a slow cooking stew.
Exploring Italy takes you face-to-face with icons of Western Civilization, such as the Colosseum and the Leaning Tower of Pisa, to witnessing expressions of the soul in the works of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper, Michelangelo’s David, or Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Playful baroque fountains grace the public piazzas of Rome, and elegant statuary adorns the nave of the Sansevero Chapel in Naples. The trails of the past take you past the Roman empire to the Greek settlements of Southern Italy and Sicily or along the famous pilgrimage route of Via Francigena, which connected France to Rome during Medieval times.
Luxury, wonder, and adventure cross paths around the Italy’s more than 116,000 square miles, featuring over 4,700 miles of coastline along the Adriatic, Ionian, and Tyrrhenian seas. The fascinating preservation of Italy’s past has attributed to the nearly 50 different UNESCO World Heritage sites scattered around the Italian peninsula. The diverse landscape and captivating wildlife of Italy escape the awareness of visitors interested in nothing more than capturing the culture of the main three cities of Rome, Florence, and Venice, however, Italy’s treasures go beyond the beauty inside the preserved historical centers of villages, towns, and cities across the peninsula by protecting its varied scenery spanning the arid plains and craggy gorges of the south, rolling lush hills at the heart of Italy, and snowcapped peaks of the Dolomites and Alps in the north.
The remarkable history of civilization in Italy dates back to the 18th century BC, but the history of the unified country began in the 1860s during the Risorgimento, during which time Vittorio Emanuele II, king of Sardinia liberated the territories of Italy occupied by the French, Spanish, and Austro-Hungarians. The Republic of Italy is even younger, beginning after World War II and the end of Mussolini’s fascist regime.
The aftermath of the Second World War left Italy with a shattered economy and divided society. The king, Vittorio Emanuele III, abdicated the throne and the new king, Umberto II, called for a Constitutional Referendum, which ended the Italian monarchy by placing a republic in its stead by mid-year 1946. The post-war economic growth cooled by the early 1970s and has since rebounded only in popular tourist destinations and the industrial cities of the north.
Even the most curmudgeonly of people fall in love with Italy’s distinctive pace, which changes between the rush of the cities to the quiet streets of towns and the peaceful ambiance of hillside villages. Even the atmosphere shifts between North, Central, and Southern Italy, emanating from enchanting aromas, delectable wines, and a slower pace of life. The Mediterranean peninsula captures the importance of Western European history in the way it shaped the greater continent and the world measured against the natural history of the landscape.
Great roads, accessible airports, and consistent ferries make even the most remote destinations of Italy reachable for a full-fledged romantic escape, unforgettable family vacation, educational sightseeing tour, or a simple Italian retreat to satisfy your curiosity. Your introduction to Italy provides easy access to all practical information regarding visa questions, steps to pre-trip healthcare, and the variety of activities and must-see destinations. Explore the famous, infamous, or hidden wonders across the Italian Peninsula and islands, indulging in the excitement of your Italy vacation to come.
For centuries, Italy has been one of the most popular destinations for discerning travelers: a fact that’s undoubtedly linked to its rich history and cultural attractions. This is a country that saw the birth of the Renaissance and the spread of the Roman Empire; that has produced profound poets and legendary leaders; that boasts some of the most breathtaking scenery on Earth. It’s home to some of the world’s greatest cities – Florence, Venice, Rome – as well charming and bucolic towns and villages. Throw in a beloved cuisine and some of the friendliest people you could hope to meet, and it’s no wonder that Italy continues to draw people in – as it has for centuries.
A relatively small country (it’s less than half the size of Texas!), Italy is so filled with cultural and natural treasures that UNESCO conferred it with 49 World Heritage Sites – more than any other country in the world.
First-time visitors can sometimes be overwhelmed by the sheer breadth of choices that Italy has to offer, flustered by the vast range of attractions in every corner of this captivating country. Wherever you choose to go, your tour of Italy will surely leave lasting memories. Nonetheless, there are some places that you simply cannot afford to miss, such as these cities:
- Italy’s famed and cosmopolitan capital, Rome remains one of the great European cities more than two thousand years after its founding. The Roman Forum is a stirring sight, as are the fabulous marble fountains and elegant piazzas that symbolize the more modern sections of this stylish city.
- Vatican City is the world’s smallest sovereign state and home to some of the greatest art and architecture in the Western world. The residence of the Pope and the center of Roman Catholicism, its legendary attractions are sure to leave you breathless – from St. Peter's Basilica to the incredible Sistine Chapel.
- There is truly nowhere on Earth quite like Venice, the fabled ‘Floating City’ that has enchanted visitors of all stripes for centuries. Here, you can shop for fine glass and handmade lace on the Rialto Bridge, sip a refreshing Bellini at Harry’s Bar, and enjoy the sunset over the Adriatic from a cafe on the banks of the Grand Canal.
- The capital of Tuscany and the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence offers a stunning array of museums, churches, art galleries and restaurants that are sure to delight. The art scene here is justifiably famous – the Uffizi Gallery is one of the best in Europe, and the Accademia houses Michelangelo’s magnificent David – but history buffs, gourmands and shopaholics will also relish this spectacular city on the banks of the River Arno.
- Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the home of some of the most celebrated fashion designers and haute-couture houses in the world. It’s a vibrant city of fine living and high culture, from the glittering boutiques of Via Montenapoleone to the hallowed halls of La Scala – one of the world’s most renowned opera houses.
Italy Family Vacations
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Italy Tours for Seniors
Italy for First-Timers
7 Day Italy Itineraries
8 Day Italy Itineraries
9 Day Italy Itineraries
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3 Week Italy Itineraries
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10 Day Northern Italy Itineraries
2 Week Southern Italy Itineraries
Specific Italy Destinations
Northern Italy Tours
Southern Italy Tours
Amalfi Coast Tours
Cinque Terre Tours
Rome to Amalfi Coast Tours
Sicily Wine Tours
Southern Italy & Sicily Tours
Rome & Venice Itineraries
Rome & Florence Itineraries
Rome, Florence, and Amalfi Coast Tours
Venice, Florence, Rome, and Amalfi Coast Tours
Lake Como Vacations
Italy isn’t a place that you visit, it’s a place that you experience: touching all of your senses, engaging your emotions, in a way you never thought possible. While many might choose to walk the streets of the country’s historic cities or simply relax in its postcard-perfect countryside, these are a few special attractions that cannot be found anywhere else:
- Take a tour through the seven miles of galleries that make up the Vatican Museums, as an erudite guide introduces you to some of the greatest artworks in human history. You’ll be regaled with stories as you feast your eyes upon the stunning frescoes of Raphael, the sublime watercolors of Titian, and to cap it off, the inimitable beauty of the awe-inspiring Sistine Chapel.
- Explore the sun-dappled vineyards and medieval hill towns of Tuscany, one of the country’s most diverse and evocative regions. You’ll marvel at some of the world’s most venerated architecture: from the stately villas of Palladio (the West’s greatest architect) to the iconic tilt of the Leaning Tower of Pisa; from the soaring Duomo in Florence to the graceful Campo in Siena.
- Immerse yourself in Italy’s centuries-old culinary heritage in Bologna, the gastronomic heart of the country, as you learn all the tricks of the trade in a true Italian kitchen. You’ll make pasta, antipasto, main dishes, and classic desserts – then sit down to enjoy them at a family table with a fine glass of local wine or one of the succulent national liqueurs, like Amaretto DiSaronno from Lombardy or Campari from Milan.
- Explore Venice in timeless fashion as a charismatic gondolier captains you through the city’s labyrinthine canals in a sleek, jet-black gondola. Whether cruising by grand piazzas and famous landmarks, or through some of the quieter Venetian neighborhoods, this is an incurably romantic experience that is sure to leave indelible memories.
Photo: Picturesque view of blue gondolas at sunset in Venice
- Discover Milan’s most glamorous fashion boutiques (and most attractive bargains) on an exclusive guided tour with a ‘personal shopper’. From the magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, to the dazzling Quadrilatero della Moda, the fashionistas among you might just think they’ve died and gone to Heaven.
- Spend a day in majestic Naples, where the largest historic city center in Europe lies under the daunting shadow of soaring Mount Vesuvius. Take a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the city’s outskirts, from the opulent Palace of Caserta to the haunting ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum – both buried by Vesuvius in the devastating eruption of 79 AD. Gourmands should make time to try an authentic Neapolitan pizza at one of the many little pizzerias overlooking the Gulf of Naples – where the world’s most famous flatbread was first made.
- Sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts simply can’t miss the north of Italy, where the Southern Alps gradually give way to the roiling waves of the Mediterranean Sea. In winter, the skiing here is among the best in Europe, and the scenic stretch of the Italian Riviera – including the enchanting villages of Cinque Terre – is truly awe-inspiring. It’s also the home of Italy’s lake district, where visitors will find some of the most elegant and romantic resort towns in the world: places like Como, Bellagio, Ravenna, and Cannobio.
How Much Does an Italy Vacation Cost?
The cost of an Italy vacation is dependent on several factors such as the:
- length of your trip
- season (month) of travel
- class of hotel
- number of locations/cities you visit
- number of guided day tours and activities (e.g. cooking class, wine tasting, etc.)
- how much you splurge on meals, shopping, etc.
A vacation such as this is often the biggest purchase of the year. It will also likely be one of the most memorable experiences of your lifetime. To get the most out of your trip, we highly recommend using an expert Italy travel specialist to plan a customized Italy tour that is tailored to your specific interests and budget. Or, join an escorted group tour so that most travel arrangements are pre-planned for you -- you can travel hassle-free and relax while a professional tour director and guides take care of all logistics (including getting skip-the-line tickets) and any issues that might come up.
The cost of a tailor-made Italy tour typically starts at $2500 per person for a 10-day trip, i.e. at $250 per person per day, during the low- or mid-season. This includes:
- 3-star hotels (shared twin room)
- Some guided day tours and activities
- Transportation in Italy such as airport transfers and trains from city to city
A 5-star tailor-made Italy tour, where most services are upgraded and extra unique experiences are included, would typically start at $5,000 per person for a 10-day trip.
An escorted Italy group tour, with scheduled departure dates, delivers good value. At comparable inclusions such as class of hotel, guided activities, and transportation, a group tour can be 30% less expensive than an equivalent tailor-made tour.
Everyone’s priorities, interests, and preferences are different. Submit a trip request on Zicasso and we will personally match you with an expert Italy trip planner who will help you customize your dream trip or help you select the right Italy group tour, taking your budget into consideration.
Weather and When to Go
There is no singular best time to visit Italy. Each season represents something unique and different about the landscape, culture, and traditions to create alternate experiences. The weather changes the colors of the countryside between spring and autumn, while the festivities in the cities change between summer and winter. Traditionally summer has the most popular time to visit Italy, with schools in the United States, Canada, and the UK dismissed for vacation.
But the crowds of summer offer diminishing returns in the most popular cities and towns, making it hard to explore, experience, and discover. Wait times at the museums reach hours long, and actual locals leave on holiday from mid-August, coinciding with the Catholic calendar and the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, to the first of September. But Italians do not disappear from Italy during the height of summer, with the peak of the travel season offering a stunning impression of local life in smaller communities and the popular resort getaways in the south or the cooler alpine climates in the north. For a more comprehensive overview of when to go to Italy, please view our best time to visit Italy page.
An Overview of Italy’s Seasons
There are little surprises to Italy’s weather systems, which is considered the four seasons of the European continent. The winter brings cold weather and snow in the north, especially in the mountainous landscape separating Italy from France, Switzerland, and Austria, along with the Apennines along the bordering regions of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. The moisture of Northern Italy causes abundant rainfall throughout the year, most prominently during the summer months with precipitation average 40 inches per year, adding to the winters during which snow blankets the mountains.
The weather systems of Central Italy provide a milder shift between summer and winter, with a shorter and less intense cold season than northern Italy. The summers linger in Central Italy without the balminess of the mountains. The refreshing sea air helps mitigate the humidity around most of the central regions. Temperatures around Rome can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during July and August, but average a high of 86 degrees Fahrenheit in Tuscany. Rain falls mostly in the winter, as opposed to Northern Italy’s summer months, providing an annual precipitation between 31.5 and 33.5 inches.
Southern Italy boasts the popular Mediterranean climate for which Italy is most known, averaging temperatures of 77 degrees Fahrenheit in in July, shaping the hot, dry and long southern Italian days. Rain in the southern regions fall during autumn, winter, and spring, averaging between 19 and 23 inches a year. The southern coasts of Sicily and Sardinia are the driest areas of Italy. However, the mild seasons of the Italy’s southern regions provides navigable climate year-round.
The climate throughout Italy varies by regions and seasons. The northern part of the country generally experiences longer, colder winters and more mild (but more humid) summers than the south. For instance, in a northern city like Milan, the temperature can get down to the 20s during December and January. A southern city, like Palermo, can experience 90s in the months of July and August. The central regions of Italy – Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio, for instance – commonly have the best weather regardless of the season: you’ll be spared the heat of the south and the greater likelihood of rain in the north.
The Best Time to Visit Italy
Italy consistently ranks as one of the most visited countries in the world, rich in ancient history, magnificent art, and natural beauty. The best time to visit Italy is based on the types of activities you wish to pursue and the different areas of Italy you choose to explore. The cool waters of the Adriatic Sea will feel rigid if dipping your toes into the tide in winter instead of summer. The lush greenery and blossoming wildflowers of the alpine pastures in the Dolomites strike a profound contrast to the expectant reflective white of blanketing snow when staying in a ski during summer instead of winter.
Those who can travel to Italy outside of the “Peak Season” should, but remember, other travelers have the same concerns as you and hope to get the most out of their time in Italy with the least amount of hassle. Witnessing Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper or Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is a majestic experience. Standing up close to these masterpieces of western artwork allow you to view the intimate details photographs can’t capture, making you feel part of the work. That feeling of enchanting and gratitude disappears when surrounded by ten tour groups with chatty tour guides and other members who pass through the galleries taking pictures but otherwise not staying long enough to view the artwork away from the camera lens or phone screen.
Visit the fascinating statue of the Veiled Christ in Cappella Sansevero in Naples, and you feel as though you have the majestic work and the chapel to yourself. Tour the Colosseum in Rome at the beginning of August, and you might feel like a gladiator trying to wrestle free from the crowd; take a photo without featuring a tour guide’s umbrella, an idling bus, or strangers lingering near the entryway.
The peak travel seasons in Italy are late spring to early summer, and early autumn. Normally, many prominent attractions will be busiest in May and June, so the best time to go to the best-known destinations – Florence, Venice, and Rome – is either in April or in October. However, smaller towns and more rural areas are generally less crowded even in the height of the season, which makes for a nice option in those months when the major cities are packed with tourists from around the world.
Photo: David by Michelangelo, Florence
There are a number of great places to visit in Italy during the winter. Skiing is excellent in the north – the Dolomites and Alpine regions. Southern Italy (regions like Puglia, Campania, Sicily and Calabria) is generally quite pleasant in the early and late parts of the year. It’s not unusual for Milan, in the north, to see snow while Palermo, in the south, can be in the 70s on the same day. Early March can be rainy (Venice, Cinque Terre, etc.) but the biggest and well known cities start to clear up in late March or early April: this is the time to visit, before the influx of tourists come to experience the brilliant months of May and June. Christmastime brings a number of beautiful and unforgettable festivals and traditions throughout the country, though you’ll find the weather in the southern and central regions usually less harsh than in the north. The winter months are also the best time to visit for budget-conscious travelers, allowing you the chance to engage with Italy’s splendid cultural scene without the burden of large crowds.
Is There a Perfect Time to Visit Italy?
While hotels might offer deals or tour groups promote packages, there is no perfect to visit Italy. Rome does not stop as a popular destination outside of summer, nor do locals in Venice suddenly welcome you into their homes because you are the single visitor to the lagoon in winter. The different times of year simply provide different experiences. The winter does not always mean the water along the southern shores of Italy is too cold to swim in, while the summer doesn’t mean you can trek the plains and mountains of the Italian Alps without caution.
Life in Italy has endured for over two millennia and will continue to feature history, culture, and natural wonderment rain, snow, or shine. Instead of the familiar four seasons of summer, winter, spring, and “autumn, there are only three seasons that matter when traveling to and around Italy: low season, shoulder season, and high season.
The High Season
Although summer is the best season for many people, especially families, to visit Italy, tourists on similar schedules--those shaped mainly by their child’s school system or the two-week vacation calendar their job allows them--crowd the main cities of Rome, Florence, and Venice. Italians take their vacation between August and September, with local shops closing during the holiday, leaving mostly tourist shops open between August 15th and as late as September 15th. The air in August across much of Italy grows humid and muggy, made worse by the tight crowds filling piazzas and narrow cobblestone streets.
Hotels and restaurants mark up their prices as a premium for staying home while their neighbors take a break on the coast or in the mountains. Less-visited cities, such as Turin and Milan, feel like ghost towns compared to the major attractions of Venice, Rome, and Florence, with fashionable restaurants and popular nightspots closed for the entire month. In these less-popular destinations, hotels often offer a discount during August, with the largest crowds passing through the popular triangle of cities between May and July. There are also various festivals in specific towns across Italy held during summer that are fun and unique experience in which visitors can take part, including, but not limited to, the Palio horse race in Siena and the Opera Festival in Verona.
Apart from the main season of summer, prices and crowds skyrocket at certain times of the year, mainly Christmas, New Years, and Easter, when Italians also like to vacation for the holidays and spend time with their families. When traveling to Italy to ski the Alps and the Dolomites or spend time in the snow, High Season begins in late November and ends in early March, consistent with the snowfall along the northern borders.
The Low Season
The low tourist season represents the opposite of the crowds and long lines of the High Season. Summer resorts along the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas have closed their doors. Family-run hotels and smaller seasonal museums shut down as well. Low Season provides the perfect opportunity to experience the cultural events of larger cities, such as touring popular museums, archeological sites, medieval towns. It is the best time to explore the canals of Venice, without the maddening packs of people clogging the waterways with gondolas.
It is also a great way to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David or traverse the halls of the Uffizi, both located in Florence. Fewer people mean less time waiting in line and provide ample opportunities to interact with locals in Italy, whether dining in a stylish trattoria in Padua or sampling cheese in a salumeria in Napoli.
The colder air also makes the sporadic crowds of Rome more bearable, but keep in mind, the metro system in Milan and Rome do not have air conditioning. When exploring the major cities by foot and utilizing the public transportation, you will notice locals wearing gloves, scarves, and heavy coats outdoors and inside the trains, which creates sweltering body heat in the non-air-conditioned train cars during rush hour. From certain perspectives, visiting Italy in Low Season is ideal. The cities are quieter, the lines are shorter, and you can have the chance for a more immersive Italian experience.
The Shoulder Season
The shoulder season flanks both low and high tourist seasons, encompassing spring and autumn, mainly from April to June and September to October. The large crowds generally depart Italy early September to return home, while the summer resorts in the south remain open until mid-September. It is also still warm enough to enjoy the beauty of the famous shorelines and towns of the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre before the cold sets in.
The main festivals of the regions begin in spring coinciding with cultural celebrations, produce cultivation, and religious events. The fall ushers in the favored grape harvest across much of Northern and Central Italy. Temperatures remain cool in both spring and autumn, while the colors of the landscape change from winter white to emerald green, or from the lush summer landscape to a shimmering tawny and burnt sage.
Every October Perugia celebrates chocolate with a week-long festival and Bari pays homage to the harvest with a food festival dedicated to vineyards, olive groves, and the season’s bountiful culinary pleasures. The Shoulder Season provides a stable amount of tourists across the country with many visitors focusing on the three most popular destinations of Rome, Florence, and Venice. This is still the best time to visit these major destinations, along with the various regions of Italy.
If you prefer a beachside getaway, you should visit Southern Italy or wait until the warmer months of summer, as the weather and water will not be warm enough in the Northern or Central Italy until late May, cooling by early September. You could enjoy the serene gold sands and warm water lapping against the southern edges of the country as late as early November, depending on how far south you choose to travel.
Nothing will heighten your Italian experience like the perfect hotel, and Italy has a huge range of accommodation that is as eclectic and exciting as the country itself. Families will revel in the condo-style hotels that can be found off the winding canals of Venice, or the charm of a private villa deep in the hills of Tuscany. Couples will cherish the romance of a cliff-hugging suite near the Blue Grotto of Capri, and rave about that quaint hotel room right next to that incredible pizzeria and the sprawling Spanish Steps. Nor do the options stop there: you can step into the Renaissance splendor of a former castle, indulge in bubbly and room service at a posh Rome hotel, or charter a luxury motor-yacht to cruise along the Amalfi coast.
Photo: Scenic view of the colorful village of Vernazza, Cinque Terre
There are also, of course, a number of international hotel chains with an extensive presence in Italy – offering you all of the comforts and familiarities of home while you’re an ocean away. Be advised that rooms in European hotels tend to be smaller than their American counterparts, and many older hotels in the country do not have elevators to the higher floors. When considering a particular type of hotel, it’s wise to remember that room sizes in Italy tend to be smaller than those of an equivalent rated American hotel.
The Quality of Accommodation
Boutique and eco-lodges have become popular in Italy over the years, along with luxurious villas, elegant castles, and even quiet monasteries. The travel industry has moved away from the bland accommodations and brand names of the past, revealing dedication to quality, distinctiveness, and fashion to make your accommodations in Italy part of the travel experience. Brand hotels, such as the Marriott or Hilton, the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons are names affiliated with grandeur and luxurious rooms. The most common brand hotels in Italy are Jolly and Hilton. However, smaller boutique hotels have created a movement capturing the leisure and Italian culture tucked in behind hidden bakeries and along private palaces. There are approximately 40,000 hotels in Italy, each with a fixed price in association with the Provincial Tourist Board.
The ways in which grand hotels now have distinctive designs more connected to their locations is a symbol of the effort's strength, which demanded unique style inspired by tradition, history, and heritage from the local furnishings to particular colors often associated with royalty or the former aristocracy. Erecting new structures in the heart of a historic city can be challenging, necessitating accommodations to use what was readily available, following in the longstanding tradition of renovating to upgrade the state of antique, and in some instances derelict, buildings or renovating and retrofitting seasoned edifices in need up updating but not major repairs. Ingenuity accompanies style in design, with different private hotel owners finding ways to personalize their accommodations, reflecting a region, town, or city more than the elusive culture of Italy.
It is easy to imagine four- and five-star quality lodges decorating the landscape of Italy, both in the cities and across the rural expanse. From mountain lodges in the Alps to seaside resorts overlooking the Adriatic or the Mediterranean, you are unlikely to find an ironing board in your room, and you will most likely open the door with an actual key as opposed to an electronic swipe card. In older hotels, the bathrooms can be narrow, but the windows in the bedrooms look out to the bustling life of the city, providing the soundtrack of daily life adding to the historic charms of the accommodation and its setting along cobblestone streets or olive groves, undulating hills or vineyards.
When contacting an accommodation, you should always hold onto an email or receipt of confirmation for your reservation. If you have traveled to a hotel without a reservation, it is considered normal to ask to see a room before booking.
To gain further knowledge on the different types of classifications of Italy's accommodations, click here.
Top 10 Unique Lodgings in Italy
Italy is a vast country with no shortage of culture nor beauty, which leads it to be a coveted destination for worldwide travelers. Fortunately enough, there is no shortage of places to reside when visiting. For those travelers looking for a more unorthodox place to stay when exploring Italy, here are the top 10 unique lodging experiences that Italy provides. For a more detailed description of the list below click here.
1. Trulli Hotels
2. Sassi Hotels
3. Treehouse Glamping
4. Ultimate Luxury
5. A Village Resort
6. Etruscan Chocohotel
7. Rifugio Bella Vista
8. Torre Prendiparte
9. Roman palazzo Residenza Napoleone III / Palazzo Ruspoli
Visa and Passport Requirements
Italy is a member of the European Union, so Americans don’t usually need a visa or any other entry requirements unless you plan to work here or to stay longer than 90 days. Should you require a visa for either of these reasons, you can apply for one at the nearest Italian consulate: much of the process can be done over the phone, but you will need to visit a consulate in person before you receive your visa to travel.
Traveling through Italy is harder than people think. When visiting a country known for ancient Roman relics, Renaissance art, romantic canals, you could easily get stuck in the tourist route consisting of Rome, Florence, and Venice. This is by no means a bad experience of Italy, but the country is so much more than these three popular destinations. Each region has its own customs and cuisine, cultural history and flair. Traditions, flavors, and even rivalries become more intricate on the micro-level, looking beyond the country as a whole and the united regions to find distinctive provinces and proud communes.
The longer you plan on staying in Italy, the better you can experience the true nature of a culture defined by the history of their towns as opposed to the past of the region. Witness a unified country with centuries of city-states vying for power, writers and poets performing their works in regional dialects, and artists commissioned by local lords to create unforgettable masterworks that surpass time and carry the nobles’ names into history.
Traveling through Italy walks you through a larger-than-life course in European history exceeding the Roman Empire, showcasing the Middle Ages, and connecting Byzantium with the Renaissance, the Baroque with ancient Greek settlers. Step beyond the surprise of learning there is more to Italy than Rome, Florence, and Venice. These three cities have gained a remarkable reputation over the centuries as grand tourist destinations for a reason, however, beyond the obvious lies the illustrious.
Planning a trip to Italy can be overwhelming. You could spend years traveling through the different regions and still not have enough. It is one of the reasons Italy is such a popular destination for tourists year-round from all around the world. Some visitors choose to return to Rome each year or spend their October in a villa in Tuscany on their anniversary. The following list is a compilation of the regions of Italy with a number of well-known and lesser-known cities, towns, and villages to explore during your first time or 100th time visiting Italy.
Health and Safety
Italy has long been a destination for travelers across the globe, whether pilgrims eager to visit St. Peter’s Basilica in the Middle Ages, Greek merchants headed to ancient Rome, or tourists eager to view the wealth of history, Culture spans the boot-shaped country nestled between the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas to the South, East, and West, with the rugged Alps bordering the north. The image of fashionable locals, famous artwork, and pristine coastline draws visitors with the promise of lavish excursions and relaxing getaways. The following information is intended to offer practical considerations when preparing for a trip to any part Italy’s nearly 116,500 square miles.
Italy has more diverse landscape than people realize. Although Italy is only Europe’s 10th largest country in terms of landmass, visitors can ski on the mountainous terrain, lounge on the bright sands of the coastline, sip wine or delight in olive oil sustained by the Mediterranean climate, or traverse a semi-arid desert. Most visitors to Italy associate the lush rolling hills of Tuscany and the indigo waters of the Amalfi Coast with the country’s diverse setting. The dry climate of Southern Italy has caused serious droughts, keeping farmers in the rural region of Calabria from irrigating their fields, while in the north, floods have caused evacuations in the Liguria and Piedmont regions during heavy autumn rains. It is important to keep destination and time of year in mind when traveling to any country, accounting for the intensity of weather conditions and the possibility of emergencies.
Vaccinations while in Italy
Italy has a westernized culture emphasizing the importance of health facilities, vaccines, and medicines in large cities and villages across the country. The Center for Disease Control, along with the U.S. Department of State does not suggest any inoculations beyond the routine vaccinations recommended before leaving your country of residence. These include:· Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
· Varicella (chickenpox)
The suggested vaccines for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are meant as precautions, especially if you might come in contact with contaminated food or water while in small towns or rural villages. You should discuss any vaccination with your doctor based on your destination and the amount of time you will travel. If you do not have a personal doctor, you could visit a travel clinic. You can find the nearest your travel clinic by visiting Passport Health.
The Euro was established as an official unit of currency in Italy on January 1, 1999. It officially replaced the lira as legal tender on February 28, 2002. The move benefitted travelers across the European Union and travelers wishing to explore a variety of countries by not having to exchange different monetary units between countries, simplifying travel, transfers, and banking in the region.
ATMs are prevalent across Italy. Restaurants, hotels, and shops in large cities or tourist areas often accept major credit cards. Small shops, hotels, and restaurants located in villages or towns outside of major tourist destinations may only accept cash. Local businesses, from hotels to restaurants, will quote their prices in euros. The exchange rate from dollar to euro can fluctuate daily.
Money exchange is easy across Italy. It can be done at kiosks located in any international airport or the bureau du change prevalent near the tourist areas of major cities. Rates can vary between the kiosks dependent upon the location in town versus the airport. British pounds and American dollars are the easiest currencies to exchange. You can also exchange currency in a bank if you have your passport.
Traveler’s checks are not as readily accepted by businesses in Italy. If an exchange company does accept the traveler’s check, they may charge a large commission. If you feel safer traveling with traveler’s checks, there are American Express offices in Milan, Florence, and Rome, which offer easy and accessible currency exchange when dealing with traveler’s checks. It is best to use traveler’s checks as an emergency currency. They are replaced if stolen and provide an extra source of money if bank computers, ATMs or credit cards malfunction.
Italians are not known for tipping. Many members of the service industry enjoy visitors from the US due to the tipping culture, however tipping is not necessary when eating at a cafe, taking a taxi, or enjoying an espresso at a traditional bar. If you do feel the need to tip but are not sure how much to give each time, you can use the following as a rough guide to how and when to tip:
· Taxis are optional. Most people round up to the nearest euro if they felt the ride had a measure of quality,
· Hotel porters often receive up to 5 at high-end hotels. It is okay to give a porter 1 per bag if the bags are heavy.
· Restaurants usually include gratuity on the check listed as servizio. If the charge is not included, it is customary to leave 1 or 2 euro at a pizzeria or up to 10 percent in a restaurant.
· If you drink a coffee or espresso at the bar like Italians often do in the morning, leaving small change is the custom. If you take drinks at the table, the bartender appreciates a small gratuity.
Is Italy Safe to Visit?
Horror stories while traveling has become ubiquitous in the travel industry, almost as common as the stories people share about their love affairs with a charming villa in Tuscany or a hidden gem on the Adriatic Coast. All-encompassing generalizations can leave a negative stamp on the growth of the tourism industry across Italy. The country is a safe destination for travelers from around the world but does have instances of petty theft centered on heavy tourist destinations.
Crime rates in the United States rank above those in Italy, accounting for more violent crimes occurring annually. However, it is important to remain safe and keep yourself out of harm’s way whenever possible, including when protecting your personal belongings. Keep your valuables hidden or in a safe place on your body while in large crowds to avoid theft. If using a money belt or travel satchel, use one made to hide under a shirt, jacket, or in the inseam of the pants, as opposed to protruding around your waist.
Pickpockets are notorious in Rome around the railway hub of Termini, along with the crowded tourist centers of the Colosseum, Piazza di Spagna, and the popular nightspots in the Trastevere neighborhood. Always make sure purses and backpacks are zipped tight before entering a crowd. Hold tight to any loose bags, including backpacks, as persistent thieves may try to cut holes in the bottom of a pack or purse to let the valuables fall out on their own, with the perpetrator trailing behind to collect any spoils.
If you choose to wear a purse or backpack, or are carrying a bag from a day of shopping, keep the item close to you when walking through a popular tourist area. In the same regard, you should keep a constant eye on active groups of gypsies who frequent tourist stops. Women and children work in tandem on unsuspecting tourists using a common scam.
The baby toss is an example when a woman wraps a doll like a baby and throws the “baby” at a victim. While the person attempts to catch the high-flying doll, the gypsy and her accomplices loot the victim. Another type of swindle to keep an eye on is the “Rose Scam.” Vendors walk around the romantic areas of a city carrying bouquets of roses. They complement a woman on her looks before handing her a gorgeous flower. The vendor then hounds the boyfriend or husband to pay for the rose. If the boyfriend or husband does not pay, the vendor will force the woman to return the rose, making everyone look bad in the process.
Visit your doctor to receive any prescription drugs used consistently before departing for your trip. You can attempt to take with you’re a surplus of your medication as long as you carry the doctor’s perspiration in concurrence with the treatment. Health care is readily available across the country with standards varying by the size of the city and location, with Southern Italy often seen as more disadvantaged.
Pharmacists offer a range of valuable advice and over-the-counter medication good for minor illnesses. Pharmacists can also offer advice on seeking more specialized help from doctors or a hospital in the area. Pharmacies keep the same hours as regular shops in Italy, including closing its doors on Sundays. If for any reason you need an ambulance, the number for general emergencies across Italy is 112. Pronto Soccorso is the emergency section of the hospital, which also offers immediate dental treatment when necessary.
Food and Water Safety
Food and water standards in Italy are similar to those in the United States, and therefore it is not necessary to take food or water precautions when traveling, beyond any precautions you would take at home. Ancient springs continue to feed cities and towns across the country, allowing for crisp, clean, and refreshing water springing from Nasoni, free fountains. These water fountains are tested for purity several times a year and are a much better way to cool off during a Roman or Florentine summer than dunking your head into Trevi Fountain and receiving a more than $275 fine.
Whether worried about your gluten-free diet or suffering from an autoimmune disorder that affects the way you can digest wheat, Italy is the perfect destination for those who still want to indulge in the delights of Italian cuisine. The Italian government learned that one percent of its citizens suffer from celiac disease. Regulation has ensured the majority of restaurants across the country have gluten-free options, including pizza and pasta. Even when ordering a gluten-free option, it is important to confirm the pans, floured surfaces, and doughs were not cross-contaminated.
There are gluten-free restaurant guides to Italy available, which helps someone otherwise unable to partake in the more than 600 varieties of pasta in Italy learn about Italian culture through the cuisine. For more information about gluten-free in Italy, you can visit the Italian Celiac Association or download the Mangiare Senza Glutine app for your iOS device. The app is offered in Italian or English.
Hygiene in Italy
When traveling through Italy, you should expect Western-style toilets in accommodations across large cities, small towns, and even in secluded villages. This also applies to campsites, lodges, national parks, and refurbished historic buildings such as monasteries or castles. The unique properties of ancient villages hidden in the mountains and structures hundreds of years old can mean the pipes might not be thick enough or new enough to allow for flushing toilet paper. In these instances, a note is often left inside the bathroom, visible to remind you not to flush the paper. A small trashcan will also be set beside the toilet as the place to deposit the paper after use.
Outside of department stores, trains stations, and museum galleries, there will be few opportunities in Italy to use public restrooms. If you must enter a café, restaurant, or bar, it is polite to order a drink or snack before using the facilities. If a public restroom is available for use somewhere in town, it is often contingent upon payment of between .50 to 1.50. In smaller towns and villages, these public toilets could also be what are referred to as “squat toilets,” which can consist of porcelain footprints bordering a hole or just a hole for which to aim.
Visa and immigration requirements for Italy are the same as for other members of the European Union. With US, Canadian, Australian, or New Zealand passports, travelers can enter Italy for up to 90 days without any need for a visa. You can travel through the Schengen Zone, which accounts for 26 European countries, as long as you have six month’s validity in your passport and two clean pages.
Travelers hoping to stay longer than 90 days in Italy must apply for a permesso di soggiorno, a permit to stay. The residence permit pertains to any person of non-European Union citizenship wishing to stay longer in Italy to study, work, or relocate. Before arriving in Italy, you must have proof of onward or return travel within 90 days of your arrival readily available for immigration officers to view.
Electricity and the Metric System
The electricity in Italy adheres to the European standards of frequency and voltage, ranging from 220V to 230V with a frequency of 50Hz. Thus, converters for other European countries will work while in Italy. Wall outlets accommodate plugs with two or three round pins. You will not be able to charge your accessories while in Italy without a converter or adapter due to the different plug shape of European sockets, along with the possibility of electrical fire or damage. Voltage can also make a difference when deciding to use an adapter versus a converter.
Adapters do not convert electricity but allow a dual-voltage appliance to access electricity through the socket. You should always check the device to ensure it can withstand the difference in voltage. Common dual voltage devices are iPhone chargers, laptops, iPads, and cameras. A stamp on the power label will say if the device is single or double voltage. If the device was sold in North or South America, the voltage would state 110V or 120V AC along with 220V to 230V if the device allows for double voltage. If the device is single voltage (110V or 120V), a converter is recommended to keep the device from damage. Examples of a single electric product are:· Non-travel hair dryers
· Steam irons
· Non-travel electric shavers
· Non-travel electric toothbrushes
· Small fans
· 1 Meter = 3.28 feet
Italy, like the rest of Europe, uses the metric system instead of the United States Customary Units (USCS). The alternative measurements used in most countries around the world uses the base unit uses meters, liters, and grams as the base units of distance, volume, and weight. The system applies the idea that units get larger or smaller by units of 10. The basic conversions between the metric system and the USCS are:
· 1 Liter = 33.81 ounces
· 1 Kilogram = 2.2 pounds
Being a member of the EU also ensures that Italy must meet international standards of hygiene and cleanliness, making it one of the safest countries in the world to visit. There is little risk of major disease, the water is safe to drink, food cooking and preparation standards are extremely high, and all hygiene facilities are modern and well-kept. Should an accident occur, Italian hospitals and the healthcare system are excellent: in 2000, Italy’s healthcare system was rated the second best in the world – behind only France – by the World Health Organization.
While much has been written about the pushiness of Italian men, this trait is essentially benign. Some single women suggest wearing a false wedding ring to discourage advances, but this is generally considered overkill: even the most dedicated flirters will back off if they feel their advances are unwelcome.
Photo: Golden evening light of the Grand Canal in Venice
In terms of general safety, almost every Italian city is as safe or safer at night than the average American city – and even the “more dangerous” cities like Naples are tamer than they are sometimes portrayed. The incidence of violent crime is much lower in Italy than in the US, and major city centers are almost always well-lit and patrolled by local law enforcement.
As with any travel experience, it is wise to employ some basic discretion in your everyday practices. Keep your passport separate from your cash and credit cards (your hotel is almost always the best place to keep it), travel in groups, keep to well-lit streets and intersections, and try not to appear obviously lost or disoriented. The overwhelming majority of Italians are friendly, engaging people who will help you if asked, so never be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it. English is generally understood or spoken, and even people who can’t speak English usually know where to find someone who can.
Like most of Western Europe, the official currency in Italy is the euro. Changing money is very easy, although you generally get the best exchange rates if you withdraw cash from an ATM rather than exchanging bills at a currency exchange. (Many American banks have sister banks in Europe, allowing you to use their ATMs without incurring a fee.) For most of its history, the euro has been more valuable than the dollar, so keep that in mind when making your purchases. Restaurants tend to add a ‘service charge’ of up to 15% on their bills, so tipping is not necessary or even expected. (If you do want to add a tip for exceptional service, you can always leave a small amount of cash on the table.)
Italy is a modern nation with contemporary sensibilities, but it is also a country with a strong conservative past. Shorts are more common now than they were even fifteen years ago, but everyday fashion is, generally speaking, slightly more formal in Italy than it is in the States. The most important considerations when it comes to Italian etiquette relate to churches and other places of worship: many of Italy’s churches will ask that you cover at least your shoulders – and often your upper legs as well – before entering. There will usually be a sacristan at the door to inform you if you need to cover yourself further, and they’ll generally offer a large piece of fabric to wrap around you while you’re inside the church.
Photo: View of the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence
Finally, while most Italians – particularly in the service sector – can speak English reasonably well, every Italian appreciates an effort to try to converse with them in their own language. Memorizing everyday words and phrases like “hello”, “please” and “thank you” (as well as the ever-important “do you speak English?”) will not only make you easier to understand, but will also demonstrate a respect for Italy, its language and its people that natives are sure to appreciate.
Italy remains rather formal in its etiquette, at least compared to other western countries, such as the United States, Canada, and members of the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand. Casual greetings are enthusiastic but retain a sense of formality in the way familiar friends or business partners or strangers shake hands while making direct eye contact and a small smile. After a relationship develops, friends will kiss both cheeks, starting with the left. Men also add a pat on the back as a formality. However, Italians will not refer to one another by their first name until invited.
First impressions are important in Italy and can shape the entire relationship between people, making propriety and respect important. Punctuality is not considered an important part of etiquette in Italy, with friends or acquaintances arriving between 15 and 30 minutes later than the specified time. When invited to a home, guests bring gift-wrapped chocolates or wine, preferring to spend more for a smaller amount with better quality than for a larger amount of a less delicious product.
The Dos and Don’ts of Respectful Travel in Italy
Traveling to another country can be an enriching experience that teaches you about other cultures, spectacular history, and fascinating contemporary lifestyle, or it could lead to awkward glances, anxiety, and unfortunate misunderstandings if not adhering to simple social norms of Italy. While traveling Italy, it is important to use common sense in terms of what is considered respectful and what might be taken as rude. As a member of the European Union, many of the traditions and cultural conventions of Italy adhere to the standards you might be familiar with if living in an English-speaking westernized country such as the United States or Canada. However, there are still certain aspects of the Italian tradition that might be considered strange or overlooked.
Italians do not walk while eating or drinking. They may stand at the bar or inside a café but will not stroll down the street eating lunch or sipping a coca cola. Italians stop for their meals, even when in a rush, to enjoy a small pleasure during their busy day. An exception to the rule is for children who are often seen with a breadstick or piece of pizza while wandering the city at any time of day.
Dinner is eaten later in Italy than what you may be accustomed to back home. Most traditional restaurants in Italy do not open until 7 pm, with many Italians not sitting down for dinner until 7:30 or 8 pm. The best way to keep the hunger pains at bay is to partake in an aperitivo, a type of Italian happy hour, when small snacks, such as sandwiches, olives, or cheeses, accompany your cocktail order. Friends, families, and couples meet between 5 and 7 pm to chat about their day before heading home or to a restaurant for dinner.
Do not use your fingers when eating, and use a fork instead to pick up pieces of fruit and a knife to pick pieces of cheese is polite and considered more sanitary. Wine is served with meals when visiting a person’s private home. It is rude to refuse a glass of wine. Rather, if you do not want anymore or do not wish to imbibe at all, you can leave your glass relatively full.
The Best Walk in Italy – The Passeggiata
La Passeggiata is one of the few traditions to permeate the culture across the entirety of Italy. The simple act of walking through town becomes an art form when couples, families, and friends arrive on the boulevards to see and be seen. The daily pre-dinner activity translates to the “little walk” takes place between five and seven pm. Locals window shop while walking up and down the street before bumping into friends and acquaintances.
In smaller cities and towns, the passeggiata can be the social event of the weekend as people represent the personification of fare la bella figura, cutting a beautiful figure. Via del Corso in Rome provides an elegant panorama of the luxury boutique shops and window-shopping pedestrians. The narrow lanes of Florence lead locals to the public square of Piazza della Repubblica. Locals of Siena return to their medieval streets after the crowds of daily tourists retreat, winding around the shell shape of the main square Il Campo.
Italians are known for their passion, whether in business, love or with personal interests. Their enthusiasm spreads to their communication, leading to wordy, eloquent, and emotional illustrations accentuated by facial expression and hand gestures. While traveling in Italy, you should be aware of your hand movements so as not to offend those around you and better understand a heated situation.
Clenching your middle and ring fingers against your thumb, while extending your index and pinky is known as The Horns. When made with both hands, this gesture is used to ward off curses or bad luck. However, the gesture is also an insult, used to accuse someone of being a cuckold.
A gesture often made when imitating Italian hand gestures shows the thumb and fingertips brought together upright, while simultaneously waving the hand up and down. The animated gesture is frequently used in heated conversation, whether in person or on the phone and means “what do you want,” or more often, “what the heck do you mean?”
A classic gesture involves the hands loosely in front of the body, shaking from the wrists. The movement means that you have had enough or give me a break, reflected in an attempt to imitate testicles exploding. It is associated with the colloquial Italian phrase “non rompere le palle,” which roughly translates to “don’t break my balls.”
Italian Coffee Culture
Coffee has its own culture in Italy, and with that culture comes its own rules. Coffee in each region mirrors the predominant heritage, personifying distinctive features of a city or region. Therefore the names of Italy’s different types of coffee are an expression of flavor and a connection to one’s customs. There are eight common types of coffee in Italy:
- Caffé – a shot of espresso
- Cappuccino – a cocktail of one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third foam
- Macchiato – an espresso with a drop or two of hot milk. You can also order a Latte macchiato, which rotates the ratios of milk to espresso
- Marocchino – a shot of espresso with a layer of foam dusted with powdered cacao. It is milkier than a macchiato
- Caffé Latte – Latte in Italian means milk, therefore if wanting a latte traditional in the English speaking world, you must order a caffé latte, which is one-third espresso and two-thirds heated milk, topped with a light foam
- Shakerato – Espresso poured over ice and shaken until frothy, basically an Italian version of an iced coffee
- Caffé al Ginseng – Espresso brewed with ginseng extract to increase the nutty flavor with a natural sweetener
- Caffé d’Orzo – A roasted grain beverage made from ground barley and served as an espresso. However, the coffee substitute is caffeine-free and often considered an alternative for children or those looking for decaf. It is often enjoyed with the bright citrus of a fresh orange peel
Ordering a caffé doppio will get you a double shot of espresso. This type of drink is not common for Italians to order, however visiting the local barista multiple times a day for coffee breaks is normal behavior for most Italians. In the evening you can relax with a caffé corretto, an espresso served with a splash of alcohol, most often grappa or Sambuca.
Each region of Italy boasts its own special flavors of coffee, adhering to the local palates shaped by the cuisine and cultural history over the centuries. In the late 17th century Vienna exiled the occupying Ottomans with the help of the Venetian Republic. The retreating army abandoned approximately 500 bags of coffee, beginning the coffee drinking tradition in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy, most notably Venice.
Coffee in Venice continues to in the traditions of its heritage with well-rounded aromatics of a Middle Eastern and Central Asian vanilla fragrance. Milan coffee is light, delicate, and fine, connoting the high-speed pragmatism of the industrial city. The fast-paced urbanites drink their espresso quickly before heading to the office. The regions of Piedmont and Liguria produce sweet and delicate coffee shaped by the world wards, turning coffee into a small luxury in which to indulge. Neapolitans prefer their coffee intense and dark, with Neapolitan espresso becoming the worldwide embodiment of Italian coffee standards in style and quality.
Italians tend to order their drinks al banco, which means “at the bar,” preferring to stand with their colleagues and friends near the bar with their caffé in hand. The nomenclature of coffee changes between cities as well, with the city of Trieste claiming the most creative terms for its most popular beverage. Locals refer to espresso as Nero but order “Nero in B” if desiring an espresso in a small glass. However, if you were to place a simple order at the bar while in Trieste, Turin, Milan, or Naples, such as ordering an espresso, cappuccino, or macchiato, the bartender would understand even without the local terminology unless you ask for “coffee.”
The official language of Italy is Italian. However, there exist many different dialects dependent upon the region. The traditional national dialect is the original dialect of Tuscany as popularized by Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem La Divina Comedia, The Divine Comedy, which today is remembered around the world mostly for the first book in the epic, Il Inferno, Dante’s Inferno. Sicily’s dialect is so strong that Italians from other areas of the country have trouble understanding due to a long influence of Arabic, Greek, and Spanish on the island.
Groups along the northern border of France speak with an accent heavily influenced by a history of French occupation, along with the fluidity of the border connecting republics to the French monarchy. German is also spoken with prevalence in the mountains along the Swiss and Austrian borders due to deep border connection with former German-speaking monarchies and the occupation of eastern Italy by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Beyond language, Italians remain loyal more to their hometowns than to their country, with ancient feuds continuing to draw families together or wedge them apart. The national anthem of Fratelli d’Italia is played with pride during international sporting events but while in the United States or the United Kingdom, politicians build fervor through a call of patriotism to “God and Country,” Italian politicians create passion by stressing ties to loyalty to the family and the historical ties to the country.
Transportation - More to Italy than Tuscany, Rome, and Venice
Italy is accessible through various modes of transportation, with the major cities reachable by train and small towns accessible by car or bus. The way you travel across Italy will offer different experiences through the various perspectives spanning train tracks, country roads, and vast coastline. The view can also change dramatically between driving a car, having a private chauffeur, or riding like an Italian on a Vespa. Click here for a more extensive insight on transportation in Italy.
There is no shortage of festivals to celebrate in Italy no matter the season or month of the year. Italians don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate and indulge in an expression of joy with their neighbors, whether in traditional ceremonies or unusual festivities, customary holidays or special events. Attending one or more festivals when visiting Italy can turn a great vacation into a story your family and friends will want to hear over and over again. It is important to note that national holidays in Italy are public holidays, which means many workers have the day off, including workers in tourism and transportation.
Be sure to check train/bus schedules if traveling away from your accommodations, along with the hours of monuments and museums to ensure they do not operate on different holiday hours. The following link below offers a comprehensive calendar of the major festivals and celebrations across Italy that also includes a selection of national holidays--when banks, businesses, and major attractions close -- legal holidays, and regional events or festivals, which provide a better experience during your travels, including the possibility of celebrating like a local.
To learn more about the festivals, celebrations, and holidays of Italy, click here.
The tendency to consider Rome, Florence, and Venice as a single entity of Italy has many people planning too many activities or tours without allowing themselves time to explore and experience the distinct cultures and local histories that separate the cities, along with their greater regions. It is important to look beyond seeing Italy as a single, unified destination to understand the epic feuds and captivating sagas between towns and cities dating back centuries and shaping contemporary culture. The great flood of Florence in the 1960s shaped the way the city protects its artifacts. However, the waters did not affect Rome. The consistent eruptions of Mount Etna over the millennia continue to shape its nearby Sicilian cities and towns but have no connection to the mountains of Lombardy in the north.
What to Wear
Fashion matters in Italy. It is easy to spot a tourist or backpacker based on the clothes they wear while wandering through the city. University students and young professionals often linger around the monuments and popular sites of a city after the tourists have gone, such as Campo de’ Fiori or Piazza Navona in Rome or Piazza Santo Spirito in Florence. Toddlers to geriatrics wear respectable and chic clothing throughout the year, from stylish jeans and trousers to a button-down and polo shirts.
Even the t-shirts are designer-caliber. Women wear skirts, trousers, or dresses even in summer. Shorts, sandals, and tank tops for men or women are considered resort attire and beachwear. When dining at a casual to nice restaurant Italians generally wear long sleeve garments consistent with a smart, casual ambiance, including a light sweater or waterproof jacket in spring or autumn. Comfortable, yet fashionable shoes are a must when visiting archeological sites, with Italians not sacrificing fashion for arch support.
Women wear low- or high-heeled shoes, along with stylish leather walking shoes easily transferrable between visiting Pompeii to entering a delicious restaurant. Boots in the winter add to the cacophony of footsteps pounding against the cobblestones of the antique cities, but due to their heavy bulk, boots are not necessary when traveling through Italy unless planning on country hikes or skiing excursions. Be careful when traversing the ancient streets when in high heels. The uneven ground can catch visitors off-guard, while Italian women have years of experience navigating the crowded narrow lanes and historic boulevards.
The churches, and some museums with church paraphernalia and artifacts require visitors to dress modestly. Signs posted outside of the church doors often detail the clothing not allowed inside, which includes:· Shorts
· Bare arms
· Low-cut dresses
These rules meant for men and women, forbidding tank tops as well as short skirts. Southern Italy is often more conservative. Women are expected to wear a shawl or scarf over their shoulders. Although sandals are allowed, men should consider wearing footwear considered more traditional or respectful.
Trend Need Not Apply
Modern designer fashion began in Italy in the early 1950s when a dignitary held a show in his private villa in Florence, beginning the celebration of runways, modeling, and an accentuation of the artistic trimmings of the city. The chic styles spread to movies where everyday people grew inspired by the elegance and quality worn by movie stars, heightening Italy’s connection as a land of art, love, and beauty.
Fashion in Italy is meant to accentuate the wearer’s best physical attributes, from bust to skin-tone, height to personal gait. The current trend is something any fashionable person would consider before stepping out their door, even while traveling, represented in the common Italian phrase Bella Figura, which translates literally to “Beautiful Figure.” The term extends beyond the physical look of the clothing and to the spirit of fashion, which is meant to promote confidence, infuses style, and affects one’s demeanor.
What Does Made in Italy Really Mean?
“Made in Italy” has become a slogan in the fashion industry meaning quality, associated with the traditions of artisanal craft reflecting the country of origin. Italians hold dearly to their customs of trade and craft with respect to the quality of material and spending time perfecting their skills. These traditions are important in providing the local and global community with quality goods made with attention to detail while simultaneously passing down heritage and tradition to the next generation. Italians are happy to spend a bit more believing in the value of the product as opposed to spending less for an inferior product.
When starveling in Italy, it is easy to assume that the “Made in Italy” stamp will ensure substantive material and attention to minute detail. The Italian government has started an initiative to ensure products promoting their merchandise Made in Italy adhere to industry standards with components, design, and assembly taking place in Italy to produce a true Italian product. The certification allows for smaller local manufacturers to separate themselves from gigantic global brands, reassuring the customer that the product was made entirely in Italy.
Top 5 Italian Designers
Fashion is not just a word in Italy; it is a way of life. Italian culture supports the fashionable eye and celebrates clothing as an art form on par with Renaissance frescoes and preserved classic architecture when done correctly. It is no wonder the world has embraced a number of fashion icons from Italy who have worked to make their mark on the industry and the greater world by creating sought-after brands. Italian designers surpass influencing their homeland and cause a global stir with new releases, providing unique aesthetics, textures, and combinations to fashion through shoes, clothing, and accessories. The following list attempts to offer five of Italy’s top designers, with the fierce and artful landscape of design always changing with a fashion-forward look at the world while paying tribute to the classics which have come before them.
1. Armani – Giorgio Armani is an Italian legend who started the label in 1974. The brand took the world by storm in the 1980s after the artist designed clothes for Hollywood celebrities. Armani’s connection to the elegance and glamor of Hollywood made his name famous and his brand coveted by the international elite eager to showcase their fame, fortune, and good taste. In 2001, Forbes magazine named Armani the most successful of Italy’s fashion designers. Armani also gained plaudits for being amongst the first designers to step away from using overly thin models with displaying his garments.
2. Dolce & Gabbana – The formidable duo of Stefano Gabbana and Domenico Dolce began working together in 1985 after establishing a relationship in the early 1980s. Their line began as leotards in 1988 and grew to designer swimwear and underwear by the following year. The brand expanded to include perfume, sportswear, costumes, and designer clothing for the fashionable names in the music industry and Hollywood. In 2005, The New Yorker published an article claiming Dolce & Gabanna had become the next big Italian designers, like Prada in the 1990s and Armani in the 1980s.
3. Versace – Gianni Versace began his career studying architecture but gave up the foam-board models for models of flesh and bone draped in decoration. He presented his first signature collection at the Palazzo della Permanente Art Museum of Milan after a successful launch in 1977 of an experimental line for Genny, an Italian ready-to-wear manufacturer. His background in architecture led to a connection to Ancient Greek and Roman artwork, along with modern abstract art. His younger sister, Donatella Versace, is well known as the first designer to use celebrities to showcase the Versace brand at runway shows. She continues to oversee a production of over a dozen collections each year and remains well known in extravagant social circles.
4. Gucci – Guccio Cuggi founded the House of Gucci in Florence in the 1920s. The shop began as a simple family-owned leather saddlery store but grew to a picture of quality craftsmanship and visionary design. The company reached new heights in the 1950s after Guccio’s death, expanding the greater world with stores in fashionable cities such as Paris, Beverly Hills, London, and Tokyo. Hollywood stars like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly made Gucci synonymous with chic style. In the 1990s the chic and elegant products of Gucci returned to the forefront with a selection of merchandise expanding beyond the leather purses to include perfumes, colognes, cosmetics, shoes, and watches, and jewelry.
5. Prada – The origins of Prada date back to Milan in 1913, when Mario Prada founded the label in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. Mario’s daughter, Louisa, joins the company in 1970, giving way to the rise of the label’s international fame by 1977. The fashion world fawns over the nylon that resembles silk and the footwear draws fanfare from across the globe. The label continued to expand into backpacks and bags, opening stores in London, Paris, and Tokyo, while hiding their logo inside the handbags and garments to keep an understated glamour about their fashionable wares.
6. Alessandra Facchinetti – With so many well-known Italian designers, the previous list offered names synonymous with Italian fashion over the last three decades. Alessandra Facchinetti provides a name synonymous with the future of Italian fashion designers. The young designer stepped onto the scene highlighting the effectiveness of youthful vigor in prestigious positions at major labels when becoming the director of Valentino in 2007. Her talents have only blossomed when connecting to Tod’s, working as the creative director for the women’s collections. Facchinetti has helped build the brand’s reputation for ready-to-wear clothing by utilizing a youthful and captivating aesthetic of classic, wearable pieces for a fierce, glamorous look.
Why you would prefer North
Northern Italy is fashionable and romantic, home to Venice and the Italian Riviera, along with an abundance of medieval and Renaissance castles. Historic independent city-states developed into modern cities and retain a sense of their seasoned majesty in the preserved architecture, streets, culture, and cuisine. The northern regions led the movement for independence in the 19th century, which unified Italy. The climate is more continental, consisting of cold winters and wet springs.
Fashion remains an important aspect of daily life in northern Italy stemming from the connection of the industry with the chic styles of Milan. Sporadic Roman ruins lead to cathedrals brimming with gorgeous mosaics. Hilltowns overlook lush vineyards producing distinctive wines while hidden local restaurants receive international accolades, such as Michelin star ratings. Renaissance villas adorn the shores of stunning lakes alpine lakes and trails connect secluded towns over in view of the Mediterranean Sea.
The northern states are more industrialized and urbanized than the south. The cities of Milan, which is known for its fashion, Turin, which was the first capital of a unified Italy, and Genoa, which remains the most important port in the entire country, embody the contemporary culture and industrialization of Italy during and post the Second World War. Italians from the south and central regions flocked north for jobs in the “Industrial Triangle,” breeding resentment from locals of the larger cities and a boom to the populations. An undertone of animosity remains in the urbanized areas against those in the south, including residents whose families once migrated for work.
Northern Italian cuisine features less pasta than in the south. However, the grain is not absent from traditional regional dishes. The egg-based pasta of Emilia-Romagna has inspired tortellini and lasagna. The states farther north rely mainly on risotto and polenta due to the ease with which the regions have historically produced rice as opposed to wheat.
Tomatoes are not as prevalent in the dishes of the north but make appearances in the hardy meat-based sauce of Ragu alla Bolognese and minestrone soup. The regions of Northern Italy are:· Veneto
· Trentino-Alto Adige
· Friuli-Venezia Giulia
· Valle d’Aosta
Why you Would Prefer the Center
Central Italy is home to the notable cities of Rome, Florence, and Assisi, each located in their respective states of Lazio, Tuscany, and Umbria. Medieval towns crown lush hills and ancient villas adorn mountain ridges. The countryside provides views of grazing sheep, towering cypress trees, and the occasional palm tree. History dates beyond the Roman empire featuring tombs and artifacts from the Etruscans. Traditional gardens embody the prestige of aristocratic villas, while Umbria retains a sense of purity through undiscovered medieval villages providing grand views, serene cobbled lanes, and preserved heritage.
The culture of Central Italy runs deep, embodied in the ruins decorating Rome and the surrounding countryside of Lazio, along with the abundance of artwork and Renaissance history populating the museums and streets in the historic city center of Florence. Small and historic buildings retain a connection to their origins with elegant facades and dramatic interiors now housing cafes and restaurants, churches or hotels. Public squares host markets and festivals or nightly congregations of university students enjoying time away from their studies.
Central Italy is often connected more with Northern or Southern Italy in terms of cuisine and culture, with Rome considered dividing line connoting the two distinct regions. The cuisine of Central Italy is different from those of the north and south, blending the traditions of the kitchen with local ingredients and custom, notably bringing the family together around the table on Sunday evenings.
Gnocchi is a popular substitution for pasta in Central Italian dishes, with the certain recipes crafting the dumplings out of semolina as opposed to potato. Tuscany is also known for its remarkable T-bone steak, bistecca alla Fiorentina, made from prized Chianina cattle and cooked over a wood fire. While Northern Italy chooses to use butter in the French and Germanic traditions, Central Italy prefers the sensual flavors of extra virgin olive oil when cooking, marinating, or dressing their cuisine. The regions of Central Italy are:· Le Marche
Why you Would Prefer South
Southern Italy represents ancient history beyond that of Rome and draws visitors from around the country and the globe with the enchanting coastline, delicious cuisine, and unique culture shaped by a history of Greek, Roman, Norman, Arab, and Spanish occupation. The city of Pompeii demonstrates the daily life of Roman citizens around the Bay of Naples. The Greek temple at Segesta represents the largest Hellenistic temple in Italy, which was erected in the 5th century BC.
Southern Italy hosts pastoral mountains and idyllic shorelines, chaotic historical streets promoting a fast-paced contemporary culture contrasting the relaxed pace of seaside towns filled with quiet cafes. Southern Italians often linger in the public piazzas debating current events or sports while sipping espresso amidst baroque and medieval architecture. The city of Lecce embodies stunning architecture and the creativity of artists in history who didn’t have the materials to sculpt, and instead dedicated their talents to creating elegant figures out of paper-mâché.
The cuisine of Southern Italy has permeated Northern Italian culinary traditions and is most often the dishes associated with Italian food in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Southern Italian cuisine is more rustic, utilizing ingredients necessary to survive in the conventional Mediterranean climate. General ingredients consist of:· Tomatoes
· Pine Nuts
Pasta is the base of a large selection of regional dishes, along with polenta, which was once considered the “people’s grain.” The spices of the region are consistent with seasonings around the Mediterranean areas of Greece, Spain, and North Africa featuring red pepper, anise, nutmeg, and sea salt. Southern Italy also produces a variety of cheeses, including the popular Italian delicacies of buffalo mozzarella and burrata.
Southern Italy has a more traditional ambiance in the towns, villages, and cities offering a glimpse into unchanged traditions including an economy based on agriculture, as opposed to the industry-based economy of the north. With the absence of major industry shifting the culture of the region, customs have continued in daily life, along with a sense of an unmoving present, which culminates in an animosity towards Northern Italy. The south feels northerners live fast-paced lives focused on work, but believe their relaxed pace affords them a deeper connection with the life’s pleasures, including, but not limited to, an espresso and good conversation. The regions of Southern Italy are:· Abruzzo
Zicasso matches you to top travel specialists working to plan your dream vacation, allowing you to tour Italy through the conservation of historic sites, giving new life to cultural heritage and traditions, or basking in the Mediterranean sunlight on the Riviera or southern coastline of the Western European peninsula. There is more to traveling in Italy than the ruins of Rome, the art in Florence, and the canals of Venice.
Many travelers think that they have to choose between a pre-packaged group tour versus self-planned independent travel. The former offers hassle-free convenience while the latter offers flexibility. However, we recommend a third option: Customized tours of Italy.
With this option, you have the best of both worlds and you’ll enjoy a variety of unique and authentic experiences on a handcrafted Italy itinerary, customized just for you. You’ll travel independently, but your trip will be carefully planned for you to ensure hassle-free logistics, perfect hotel selections, and most importantly, authentic experiences that are most meaningful to you. For example, food lovers can have their trips designed around the foods of Italy or explore Tuscan cuisine in one of Zicasso's Tuscany tours. If you're interested in discovering an eclectic world of Italy, our Sicily tours section offers a wide range of ideas. Or if you’re into art and fast cars, or any unique combination of special interests, your trip can be designed accordingly.
While the major cities on the Italian Peninsula provide the staples of understanding Italy’s beauty, traveling the Zicasso way takes into account the aromas, tastes, and colorful charms waiting around every corner of an historic village or along the hidden museums of a bustling city, whether with unseen natural wonders, lavish ski and beach resorts, or cultural experiences taking you into the homes of a life-long chef. An Italy tour with Zicasso allows you to experience all the must-see sights, including those destinations you had never thought of or never before knew existed.
All you have to do is tell us about your dream trip by filling out a Trip Request. We’ll then match you with 2 – 3 Italy travel specialists who will work with you to customize a tour package—designed just for you.