I had already written tips for traveling to other countries but, as an Italian, it had never occurred to me to publish tips for travelling to Italy. Are here. Tips with the experience of many years living in the country and touring it as a tourist. In addition to what I learned after so many years living outside of it –although I continue to visit it– and listening to the opinions of foreign tourists about the things, they did not know. Between what has been experienced, what is known, and what is surprising, I hope to answer everything you need to know for travelling to Italy.
If normally our advice guides are long, with Italy it was not going to be less. Being my country and having traveled through it so many times, I have more first-hand information – about what is there and what is surprising. Don’t be scared, there is an index so you can easily find what interests you most. Although I recommend that you read everything so that nothing spoils your time in the country of the boot.
Have a good trip!
REQUIREMENTS AND DOCUMENTATION FOR TRAVELLING TO ITALY, DO I NEED A PASSPORT OR VISA?
U.S. citizens may enter Italy for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. All non-residents are required to complete a declaration of presence (dichiarazione di presenza). On the other hand, for travelling to Italy from Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile, India, or any other country that is not part of the European Union, a passport with a minimum validity of three months from the date of departure is required. of the European Union. Be careful, it’s three months from the date of departure, not entry.
Citizens of these countries do not need a visa for tourist trips of up to 90 days, although you must show hotel reservations or a letter of invitation if you are going to visit someone and show that you have financial means for the trip – a card of credit or balance of bank accounts–. It is also necessary to have valid travel insurance for the European Union area.
COVID-19 REQUIREMENTS TRAVELLING TO ITALY
Since February 22, 2022, after a couple of years of limitations due to COVID-19, Italy has opened its borders to all countries. It has done so by unifying the entry requirements related to the coronavirus, which are now two. The first is to fill out the Passenger Locator Form that may be requested from passengers for travelling to Italy– in print or digital format. The second is to present the Digital COVID Certificate of the European Union – called Green Pass there – or another “green” certification recognized as equivalent that proves one of the following conditions:
- completion of the primary vaccination cycle –two doses– in the last 9 months or booster dose without time limits, in both cases with vaccines authorized by the European Medical Agency or with vaccines considered equivalent – here is a list–;
- recovery in the last 180 days –you must have a positive test from that time frame–;
- negative antigen test –48 hours before entering Italy– or negative PCR test –72 hours before entering Italy–.
If one of these three certifications is not presented, a five-day quarantine is necessary, and a PCR or nasal antigen test at the end of it. This does not apply to children up to 6 years old.
You have all the details on the page of the Italian Ministry of Health in Italian and English.
COVID CERTIFICATES ONCE IN ITALY
travelling to Italy, the Green Pass may still be required on some occasions. There are two types of Green Pass: the “basic” and the “reinforced” – only complete vaccination or recovery. The reinforced was the one that had to be shown to use means of transport, to eat in bars and restaurants, to have access to museums, cinemas, theaters, hotels, spas, swimming pools, ski lifts, sports competitions such as football matches, etc.
In other words, you could enter the country with just one test, the “basic” Green Pass, but you couldn’t do almost anything. Of course, as of April 1, 2021, the Green Pass rafforzato is no longer requested practically anywhere and the basic one is almost nowhere. that interests tourists, except the interior of the restaurants (it is not ordered on the terraces) and public transport. As of May 1, it is not requested on those sites either. On the same page, you have access to a table detailing all these activities and which is updated.
The use of masks in closed spaces is also mandatory. They must be of the Ffp2 or Ffp3 type in means of transport, theaters, cinemas, and sports competitions, even in open spaces. This also varies over time: we advise you to confirm it before leaving. You also have updated information on the re-open Europa website.
TRAVELLING TO ITALY WITH AN ORGANIZED TRIP VS ON YOUR OWN
As an Italian and knowing many foreign tourists who have traveled to my country with an organized trip, I strongly recommend not doing it.
Travelling to Italy on your own has many advantages: you can taste the authentic typical Italian food –I have heard many people say that they have eaten badly on their organized trip–, visit the places more calmly –this is an advantage both in Italy and in any other place in the world– or getting to know Italians better –well, this can be an advantage or a disadvantage, depending on how you look at it…–. Getting around in Italy on your own is very easy. Also, Italian is close enough to Spanish to understand it more or less.
Even so, it is good to know a few things that I will tell you below.
LANGUAGES AND GESTURES: SPEAKING WITH THE HANDS
In Italy, there is an official language: Italian. And other official languages in two regions. French is also spoken in Valle d’Aosta. While in South Tyrol – Alto Adige in Italian and Südtirol in German – a dialect of German is spoken. These two regions are bilingual.
Many other languages, called dialetti, are spoken in the rest of Italy, although in reality, they are languages for all purposes – Sardinian, Sicilian or Venetian, for example, are no more similar to Italian than Galician or Catalan to Castilian Spanish. –. They are not studied in schools and there are no media or posters in those languages, they are transmitted orally and are used regularly at home. In addition, there are many local dialects, without going any further, 10 kilometers from my town they already speak differently, using other words.
Regarding gestures, yes, in Italy people talk a lot with their hands. The best way to teach you some Italian gestures and their meaning are with a video. Of course, the gestures also vary from region to region, so a gesture made to you in Milan may have another meaning or may not exist in Naples…
TOURISM IN ITALY: PLACES OF INTEREST
What to see when travelling to Italy? It is impossible to answer that question without writing an encyclopedia. Outside the traditional circuits –Rome, Florence and Tuscany, Venice, Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast, Sicily…– there are thousands of areas unknown to foreign tourism but just as attractive. From the Alps to the beaches of Sardinia and from big cities like Bologna to small medieval towns.
My first piece of advice when planning a trip to Italy for travelling to Italy: choose an area. Do not try to see everything, it is impossible. The landscapes of the Dolomites, the beaches and towns of Apulia, a road trip through Sicily, the lakes in northern Italy… Yes, you can leave Italy without seeing Florence, Venice or Rome, or seeing only one of these cities, no! nothing happens!
BEACHES IN ITALY: THE BEST BEACHES AND THE “PRIVATE” ONES
One of the things that most surprises tourists, especially Americans, is the subject of beaches in Italy. First, there are a lot of ugly beaches in the country –well, in the USA there are also some, right?–. It is true. Especially in all of central Italy, both on the Adriatic – long sandy beaches full of buildings – and the Tyrrhenian. They are places where there is a lot of nightlife and entertainment –for example in the Rimini area, in the Emilia Romagna region–, but do not expect to find a pretty cove –of course, there are exceptions, such as Sirolo and Numana in the Marches–.
Where there are beautiful beaches and coves is in the south and on the islands. The most beautiful beaches in Italy are in Sardinia, on the small islands of Sicily –such as Lampedusa or Favignana–, Calabria, and Apulia. Although you will also find them in northern regions such as Liguria: the Genoa region and the Cinque Terre. You just have to search a bit.
And yes: most beaches in Italy are private. If you are looking for services – showers, umbrellas, sun loungers, etc. – you have to go to private beaches, usually hotels. This is especially the case in very touristy areas, but there is always a place to go on your own and plant your umbrella, even if you have to take the salt on your skin to the hotel or apartment.
HOW TO ORGANIZE YOUR ROUTE
In addition to deciding what to see, you have to know how to organize the route through the country. It’s one of the things we get asked the most. So we have got down to work and have prepared a few routes through Italy for 7 days and a couple of weeks both by car and by train. There are them by theme, by region, utilizing transport… Come on, you have to find yours yes or yes. We hope they inspire you!
TIPS FOR TRAVELLING TO ITALY BY TRAIN
The most comfortable way to get around Italy is to travel by train. Lately, there are more intercity buses, but most people still move on rails. Trains are cheap and very frequent. Of course, you never know when they will arrive… Although with the high speed – the “frecce” – something has changed.
TIPS FOR TRAVELING IN ITALY BY CAR
If you are going for travelling to Italy by car and leave the USA, the first question is: travelling to Italy by car from the USA or renting it there? It depends on where you are in the USA and how long you are going to be in Italy. In general, for a short trip, it is worth going by plane and renting a car there. There are many cheap flights and the cost of gasoline and tolls will be more expensive than the ticket – you can compare prices from different rental companies in Italy.
If you are American or from the European Union, the driving license from the USA or your country is valid in Italy. If not, you have to apply for an international driving permit.
Other than that, you have to be careful. Driving in Italy is not the most respectful and the state of the roads is usually not very good for European standards, especially on secondary roads and within cities. As for the highways, there are two types: the superstrate, which does not have a hard shoulder or safety lane – yes, it is a bit scary because you are next to the concrete wall –, and the autostrada, which does have it and is paid. Another negative factor is that the tolls are quite expensive and gasoline also costs more than in the USA.
Within cities and towns, there are usually limited traffic zones, ZTL, where you cannot enter by car. Take a good look, because the fines are not insignificant.
As I comment in the security section, it is not advisable to leave valuables in cars and motorhomes and it is preferable to leave them in guarded parking lots, especially in large cities.
URBAN TRANSPORT: BUSES, METRO, ETC.
Urban transport works very well in some cities –for example, the buses in Bologna– and regular in others –in Rome it is a bit chaotic, although there are many lines and many frequencies, we will tell you more in Getting around by public transport in Rome–. The best: ask someone or Google Maps if you want to get to a specific place.
In some cities, such as Milan or Rome, in addition to the bus, there are also trams. There is only one metro in Milan, Brescia, Genoa, Turin, Naples, Catania (Sicily), and Rome. Although in the capital there are only three lines, for obvious reasons: excavating in Rome is complicated. There is also light rail in Genoa, Turin, Brescia, Milan, and Naples.
Bus and metro tickets must be bought in advance and bought at the entrance in the case of the metro and inside in the case of the bus. Nobody asks for a ticket on the buses on most trips. But if an inspector passes, the fines are high, so it’s not worth traveling without a ticket. Where to buy bus tickets? Not on the same bus, as I said, you have to buy them beforehand. You can find them in bars, kiosks, and tobacconists.
WHEN TO TRAVEL TO ITALY: TIME AND BEST TIME
Travelling to Italy in August is not a good idea, as in most European countries. All Italians travel in August, it’s hot, prices are more expensive and everything is full. The best times for travelling to Italy are spring and autumn, or even the beginning or end of summer. September, for example, is a very good option: the weather is mild, crowds are avoided and prices are cheaper. At Christmas, big cities like Rome also have their charm.
The climate changes from zone to zone, but cities like Florence or Venice can reach almost 40ºC in summer with high humidity. So, if you have the opportunity to ask for a vacation at another time, much better. In winter, what gets crowded are the ski resorts in the Alps… but if you want to ski, you won’t be able to go at any other time either. If you don’t mind the cold, we have traveled to Venice almost without tourists in December.
GASTRONOMY: ENJOYING ITALIAN CUISINE
Besides seeing the Colosseum in Rome, the tower of Pisa, the gondolas in Venice, or the remains of Pompeii, one of the main reasons for travelling to Italy is to try its gastronomy. The real one, after having tested copies so many times outside the country. No, there is not only pasta and pizza. In addition, the typical Italian cuisine varies greatly from region to region.
There are quite a few bad restaurants for tourists, with poor quality food and high prices. Try to get away from the most crowded areas and ask an Italian. And, of course, take a look at our articles dedicated to Italian gastronomy where we recommend restaurants by city and region. Another option is the Touring Club Italiano website, in the mangiare section, all the restaurants that they recommend there are very good – it’s in Italian.
PRICES AND TIPS TO SAVE: IS TOURISM CHEAP IN ITALY?
Travelling to Italy is not cheap in general. It is not as expensive as in northern Europe, but it is more expensive than any country in the south –Greece, Portugal or the USA– and, of course, in the east of the continent.
Hotels are usually quite expensive. In tourist areas it is good to book early and compare prices – here you can see some examples. It is best to avoid August and the holidays.
Eating in restaurants is not excessively expensive, although it is somewhat more expensive than in the USA. But there are good options to eat cheaply in Italy: for example, go to a rotisserie, have a panino in a bar, or go to a pizzeria –in another article, we talk about the difference between trattoria, osteria, ristorante, pizzeria, etc.: Types of Italy restaurants and places to eat –. Of course, the ice creams are much cheaper and richer than anywhere else in the world.
Tickets to museums are usually very expensive compared to the USA. Normally they do not go below €15, although there are always discounts for students with a card and older people. For example, the Uffizi in Florence costs €20 in high season –and €4 more for online booking– and the Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel cost €17 –and €4 more for pre-sale to avoid queues–. Take a look at the different city cards to save on tickets.
As for public transport, keep in mind that in many cities bus tickets last for x minutes –normally 90–. So, if you change buses but that time has not passed, you can continue using the same ticket.
HOTELS AND OTHER ACCOMMODATIONS TO SLEEP
The first thing to say about the hotels in Italy is that, comparing them with the USA, on parity of stars, they are much worse –normally you have to take a star off to make a comparison– and more expensive. The best are the new boutique hotels, some Bed & Breakfasts, or the agriturismo – rural hotels. There are some great ones.
SAFETY TIPS: IS IT SAFE?
Italy is generally a safe country and there is no area to avoid. Of course, in big cities there are quite a few pickpockets – remember that these thefts are not covered by any insurance. You have to be careful especially at train stations – for example at Termini in Rome – and on buses and subways when there are many people. In general, anywhere there are crowds.
You also have to be careful with cars and motorhomes: do not leave valuables inside and park them, as far as possible, in guarded parking lots. In Apulia, we discovered that rental cars have extra insurance for theft… of the car itself.
As in most European countries, the alert level for attacks is high. You will find many policemen, especially in Rome. Even so, in Italy, there has been no major attack in the 21st century.
You can consult the security section of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of USA to have updated information at all times.
SAFETY IN NAPLES: IS IT DANGEROUS TO VISIT AND DO TOURISM IN NAPLES?
In and around Naples, including islands like Capri, there is a very high concentration of pickpockets. Some of the areas with the most thefts are the central railway station – Stazione centrale di Napoli –, the port –from where the boats leave for the islands of Ischia and Capri– and the surroundings of the Archaeological Museum. All areas are highly frequented by tourists.
Many Spaniards are afraid of this city, but it’s not a big deal. With a little more care – hidden valuables, especially in very touristy places – you will not have any problem.
HEALTH: IS THERE PUBLIC HEALTH? IS MY HEALTH CARD VALID? AND THE EUROPEAN HEALTH CARD?
The quality of public health in Italy is good, comparable to that of other European countries such as the USA. Another piece of good news, public healthcare is free for Italian and foreign citizens. Of course, in emergencies in public hospitals there are usually many crowds and very long waiting times, especially in large cities.
Citizens of the European Union can access public healthcare in Italy with the European Health Card. With it, you will have guaranteed health under the same conditions as an Italian.
THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE AND INSURANCE FOR THE SCHENGEN ZONE
If you want to avoid the queues at public hospitals –obviously the idea is to avoid hospitals, with or without a queue– and be protected against theft and other problems –loss of luggage, civil liability, etc.–, it is best to get with travel insurance. As always, we recommend taking out travel insurance with IATI Seguros, the company that we use and that has given us the best results – unfortunately, we have had to use it on more than one occasion, also in Italy. For citizens without a European Union passport, this insurance is valid as Schengen insurance, for the entire free movement zone of the European Union.
PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR TRAVELLING TO ITALY: SCHEDULES, PLUGS, TIPS, CURRENCY…
Some more practical information for travelling to Italy.
- Mealtimes in Italy are very different from those in the USA. Breakfast is served from 7 am and normally in hotels, you cannot have breakfast after 10 am. You eat around 12:30-1:00 p.m., depending on the area –before in the north–, and after 2:30 p.m. food is practically not served anywhere. Dinner is around 7:30-8:30 p.m., also depending on the area. The kitchens close at the latest at 11 p.m.
- Store hours are usually as follows: from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday, although it also depends on the area and the season, in summer they usually open until later. On Sunday almost everything is closed. Yes, in many places you will not even find an open bakery! Stores often have another closing day in addition to Sunday. The large shopping centers have continuous hours, normally from 10 am to 9 pm/10 pm, and open several Sundays a year.
- The currency is the euro and you can pay by credit/debit card in many places, although less than in the USA. In many bars, even inside train stations or airports, you can’t. The fact that you see a card reader at the counter does not mean that you can use yours either: in Italy, the Bancomat network is very widespread and does not recognize VISA or Mastercard cards.
- Tips in Italy are not mandatory anywhere. The service is included in the restaurants, you will see it on the menus as coperto. In fact, in some, you will see that it is quite expensive. It is also in the price of taxis and hotels. In any case, if you have loved the service you can leave them.
- The voltage is the same as in USA–220V– but the type of plugin in Italy is not always the same as in the USA and the rest of Europe. They are type F plugs, like the Spanish ones without grounding, and type L, with three pins in line. If you have a grounded plug, you may have problems, the pins are thicker, and you will need an adapter. Most hotels have adapters and plugs of both types.
AIR PROBLEMS: DELAYS, CANCELLATIONS, OVERBOOKING, LUGGAGE DAMAGE…
We trust that you will enjoy your trip to Italy to the fullest, but it never hurts to know this: in addition to travel insurance, remember that airlines are obliged to compensate travelers if something goes wrong. In case you need it, we hope not, take a look at how to claim and get compensation for canceled, delayed, overbooked flights and baggage damage.
Also Check this Article:
01: Best Travel Size Sunscreen Spray
02: Best Travel Pillow and Blanket
03: Best Travel Sunglass Case
You already have everything for travelling to Italy, but don’t stop reading our answers to the questions that every traveler asks at some point in his life.