Italy is a peninsula on the Mediterranean Sea, bordering Switzerland, Austria, France, and Slovenia in the north. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has ranked Italy the world’s 5th most popular country for international tourists for 2017. Italy received 58.3 million tourists in 2017, up from 52.4 million in 2016. The country ranks just behind France, Spain, the United States, and China. International tourists spent 44.2 $ billion in Italy in 2017. Our detailed Italy travel guide will introduce you to the best in the country.
Italy has been at the forefront of Western civilization since the days of the Roman Empire. It is a cultural powerhouse. There are 44 UNESCO World Heritage sites here, more than any other country. But the country doesn’t just sit on its rich history and artistic laurels.
Italy offers much more. There are the gorgeous Dolomites and Alps in the north, Etna in the south, stunning lakes, 900 kilometers of coastline, beautiful islands, rolling landscapes in the Tuscan heartland, and gorgeous food and wine. And of course, there are Roman ruins, domed churches, majestic public buildings, and many ancient towns are cities that are still striving.
Italy – Quick Facts
- Area – 301,340 square kilometers or 116,350 square miles
- Population – 60,483,973 (2017)
- Currency – Euro
- Official language – Italian
- Rome, which is 3,000 years old, is the capital of Italy.
- Biggest cities – Rome, Milan, Naples.
- 2 independent countries within Italy – The Vatican City, and the Republic of San Marino.
- There are 54 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Italy as of 2017, more than any other country.
- Four-fifths of Italy is hilly or mountainous.
- Italy has the most number of volcanoes in Europe.
- Pizza is from Naples, Italy. It was invented in 1860. Pasta can be traced back to the 4th century BC. Italy also introduced ice cream, fruit pies, and coffee to the world. The country also claims to have made the first French fries.
- Family is very important in Italian society. Many single Italian children stay with their parents in their 30s.
- Most-visited landmarks – Colosseum and the Roman Forum, The Accademia, Pompeii, Castel Sant’Angelo, Uffizi Gallery, Turin Egyptian Museum, Naples National Archaeological Museum, Boboli Garden, The Egyptian Museum.
Famous Italians – Julius Caesar (100 to 44BC), Marco Polo (1254-1324), Christopher Columbus (1451-1506), Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), Galileo (1564-1642), Michelangelo (1475–1564), Dante Aligheri (1265–1321), Giorgio Armani (1934– ), Raphael (1483-1520), Sophia Loren (1934- ), Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), Federico Fellini (1920-1993), Roberto Benigni (1952- ), Enzo Ferrari (1898-1988), Maria Montessori (1870-1952).
Top 10 Reasons For Visiting Italy
1. Cultural Diversity – Every region was a small state and kingdom before the unification of Italy. You can see the diversity to this day. Everyone speaks Italian, but the dialect is different. For instance, the European Union has recognized Sardinian as a minority language. The traditions, culture, history, and cuisine too are distinct.
2. History – The Colosseum, and St. Peter’s Basilica of Rome, the Vatican Museums, Florence Cathedral, Duomo di Monreale, Ducal Palace, and St Mark’s Basilica of Venice, the Siena Cathedral… there is plenty to see. You will have all the conveniences of the 21st century as you explore the ancient ruins, temples, 2,800-year-old columns, galleries, and museums. Walk the buildings are roads once walked by Romulus and Julius Caesar.
3. World Heritage Sites – There are 54 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy, more than any other country. This includes the archeological areas of Herculaneum, Torre Annunziata, and Pompeii. In Italy, there will always be a Heritage Site nearby.
4. Stay at a UNESCO World Heritage Site – You can even stay at one of these sites. Visit Alberobello in the Apulia region of the country, about 3 hours east of Naples. The Trulli houses here have limestone roofs and are conical in shape, which makes them unique. You can stay in one of these homes for a couple of nights to see the local architecture and nature.
5. Fine Art – There are plenty of options here. Visit the Scuola Grande di San Rocco gallery in Venice to see ‘Christ Carrying the Cross’. Find many paintings by Titian in the nearby basilica of Santa Maria della Salut. The Uffizi Gallery of Florence is world-famous. You will see the works of Da Vinci, Botticelli, and Raphael. Finally, visit the Borghese Gallery, and the Galleria Doria Pamphili in Rome. Of course, there is the Vatican Museum too.
6. Venice – You will fall in love with this canal-filled, colorful city. The 118 islands are connected by bridges and walkways with the Grand Canal in between. Fall in love with Venice for the gondola rides, the piazzas, museums, walking tours, beautiful architecture, and glass factory.
7. The Coastline – In Italy, you will find some of the most scenic coastal drives and pathways in the world. Just south of Naples is the Amalfi Coast. The drive from Positano to Ravello is considered one of the most beautiful roads. Do not miss Sorrento and Amalfi. Sentiero degli Dei behind the Bay of Naples is called ‘Pathway of the Gods’. Here you can see the silhouette of the Vesuvius. You will also love the colorful towns of the Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. See them dangling from the cliffs.
8. Food – Italian food is some of the best in the world. The country is the birthplace of pizza, pasta, ice cream, and coffee. There is also the seafood and mushroom risotto, ravioli, lasagna, truffles, and cheese varieties.
9. Red Wine – The best wine-producing regions of Italy are Veneto, Tuscany, Piedmont, Lombardy, and Sicily. Italian wines are world-famous. Try especially red wine like Chianti Classico, Gattinara, Dolcetto d’Alba, Lambrusco, and Barbera d’Asti.
10. The Lake Region – There are three stunning lakes in north Italy, bordering Switzerland. Lake Como and Maggiore are close to Milan, while Lake Garda is close to Verona. They are all spectacular. See the mountain vistas, lakefront villas, and charming islands. Relax and take a cruise on these lakes.
Name of the country comes from the word ‘Italia’, meaning ‘calf land’, as southern Italian tribes had the ‘bull’ symbol.
- Rome – Fiumicino (FCO) – 26 kilometers from the city
- Milan – Malpensa (MXP) – 45 kilometers
- Milan – Linate (LIN) – 10 kilometers
- Venice – VCE – 10 kilometers
- Genoa – GOA – 6 kilometers
- Bologna – BLQ – 6 kilometers
- Naples – NAP – 7 kilometers
- Turin – TRN – 30 kilometers
- Palermo – PMO – 30 kilometers
- Pisa – PSA – 2 kilometers
The Best Time To Visit Italy
You can visit the country anytime, but it is generally considered that April to June is the best time, because of the sunny weather and the spring flowers. The schools are open, so there are fewer tourists. Most Italians travel between July and August, so the prices are likely to be higher at this time.
The winter can also be a good time if you do not mind the cold. There will be very few tourists, so you will have more access. Remember, in the north and the mountainous areas, it gets as cold as northern Europe. There are winter sports in the Italian Alps. The first snow is usually in November.
You can also coincide your vacation with a festival. You will find one every month, but the most popular is the carnival in Venice and Viareggio in February. Good Friday is also a big occasion in the country. Then there is also the opera season of Verona, which begins in June, and the Palio (bareback horse race) of Siena in July and August.
|Best time to visit Italy||In the spring between April and June, or the fall between September and October. Moderate temperature, lower prices, fewer tourists. The summer is crowded, hot, and expensive. The winter is cold, wet, and grey.|
|Best time for sightseeing||Between April and May, or from the middle of September to the middle of October, except the Easter week. Pleasant weather, fewer crowds. August is crowd-free, but the heat is soaring. Many small shops and cafes are closed. The first Sunday in many museums, ruins, galleries, gardens, and parks is free.|
|Best time to visit the Colosseum||The Roman Colosseum is a hugely popular tourist attraction, so there will always be crowds. On some days there are thousands of visitors. Take a night tour. There will be fewer tourists, and you will have access to areas that are typically closed to the public.|
|Best time to visit Pompeii||Between November and April, and from the middle of December to early January. Fewer tourists in the narrow streets. Go early or later in this period. Arrive at least 15 minutes before the gates open at 8:30 AM.|
|Best time to visit Venice||January is a great time if you don’t mind the cold. There are few tourists, so no boat traffic. The canals will look more beautiful. A gondola ride bundled up in a blanket is better than the summer when the temperature sizzles and the canals are all packed.|
|Best time for shopping||During the summer or winter sales. The winter sale is usually in the first week of January after the New Year. The summer sale is in July and August. You can get discounts between 30% and 50%. Towards the end, the discounts can go up to 70%.|
Italy Travel Guide – What To See
The country can be divided into 6 regions. There is something to see everywhere, but of course, some regions and provinces like Tuscany, Lazio, Lombardy, Campania, and Veneto always attract more tourists.
1. Northwest Italy – This includes Lombardy, Liguria, Aosta Valley, and Piedmont. You can see the Italian Riviera here, where there is the picturesque Cinque Terre and Portofino. The Italian Alps and the 3 lakes – Garda, Como, and Maggiore. You can see Renaissance treasures too at Bergamo and Mantova. 3 big cities – Milan, Turin, and Genoa.
2. Northeast Italy – Comprises of Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Emilia-Romagna, and Trentino-Alto Adige. The Dolomites for its top ski resorts, Bologna for its food scenario, and of course there is Venice and its amazing canals. You can also visit Trieste to experience Central European flair. The region also includes Parma and Verona.
3. Central Italy – Includes Tuscany, Umbria, Marche, Abruzzo, and Lazio. Famous for art and history. Rome is full of landmarks and many wonders of the Roman Empire. Florence in Tuscany is the cradle of the Renaissance. Outside Florence, there are rolling hills, spectacular villas, and some of the best vineyards in Europe. The cities of Pisa, Lucca, and Siena are also rich in heritage and history. You can also visit Assisi and Perugia.
4. Southern Italy – Made of Molise, Apulia, Campania, Basilicata, and the southernmost province of Calabria. Here there is Naples. Just outside the city, there are the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii overlooking Vesuvius. South of Naples is the spectacular Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri, one of the most picturesque islands in Europe. Visit Calabria for its stunning beaches.
5. Sicily – The island of Sicily, close to Africa, is beautiful. It is also famous for Italian cuisine and archaeology.
6. Sardinia – Beautiful large island on the Tyrrhenian Sea, Sardinia is about 400 kilometers west of Naples. The island offers beaches and mountains.
2-week itinerary for Italy – 3 days in Rome for the Roman ruins and the Vatican; 3 days in Naples for the city sights, Pompeii, and the Amalfi coast; 3 days in Florence for the city, Tuscany countryside, and Pisa; 2 days in Venice for the canals and the Piazza San Marco; 1 day in Milan for shopping and museum visit; and 2 days in the lake district – either Lake Como, Garda, or Maggiore.
Top 10 Cities In Italy For Tourists
1. Rome – The capital of Italy now, and the Roman Empire in the past. Also called Roma, there are plenty of sights and experiences here, like the Colosseum, Saint Peter’s Square and the Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel, Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Roman Forum, and the Piazza Navona.
2. Florence – Firenze to the Italians, Florence is the cradle of Renaissance. See the Duomo and Baptistery. The famous sculptures and paintings in the museums. You can see ‘David’ by Michelangelo and the ‘Birth of Venus’ by Botticelli. Explore the countryside and the small towns of Tuscany.
3. Venice – The Italians say, Venezia. Experience this unique city on water in the middle of a lagoon. Venice is one of the most romantic and beautiful cities. See the magnificent Saint Mark’s Basilica at Piazza San Marco. There are many palaces, churches, and museums to visit. Look at the architecture, which is often overlooked by many tourists. And of course, you want to ride the gondola on the Grand Canal and the narrow waterways. Read our detailed Venice travel guide.
4. Milan – One of the fashion capitals of the world together with London, Paris, and New York. Milan or Milano is best for galleries, restaurants, and stylish shops. See also the cultural and artistic heritage of the supper. ‘The Last Supper’ of Leonardo Da Vinci is a top attraction of the city.
5. Naples – Napoli or Naples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the western world’s oldest cities. There are many artistic and historical treasures here. Visit the Amalfi Coast, Herculaneum, and Pompeii. Naples is also the birthplace of pizza.
6. Bologna – A vibrant and colorful city in the northeast best for its rich culture, history, and food. Many Italians consider the city to be the culinary capital of the country. One of the oldest universities in Europe. Attractive city squares lined with porticos, and a medieval center.
7. Genoa – This is a port city in the northwest. But the city also offers a lot of history and culture. Its historic center is the largest medieval quarter in Europe. There are many museums, palaces, and churches to see. You will also love the architecture.
8. Verona – Famous for the story of Romeo and Juliet. The city also has the third-largest Roman Arena in Italy. See the medieval center and the castle complex. The opera festival of Verona is famous.
9. Turin – An industrial city now, but with a rich history. Home of FIAT Automobiles, and also the first capital of Italy. The city has many elegant shops, restaurants, and many excellent museums. Don’t miss Torino’s historic palaces, artisan workshops, and Baroque architecture.
10. Pisa – A medieval maritime republic, Pisa is famous now for the leaning tower. Many tourists visit Pisa from Florence and then go to the nearby Cinque Terra along the coast.
Vatican City is the only state that can lock its gates in the night. It has its own army, money, stamps, TV stations, radio, and phone company. Italy is the cradle of the Renaissance.
Italy Travel Guide – Weather
|January||North Italy – Coldest month. Snow in some areas. Rain, fog, cloudy skies. Average temperature: 7°C.|
South Italy – Mediterranean winter. Not too cold. Some mist and rain. Average temperature: 9°C.
|February||North Italy – Below freezing in the hills. Slopes for skiing. Less precipitation. Average temperature: 8°C.|
South Italy – The same as January, but slightly more rain. Average temperature: 9°C.
|March||North Italy – Lower chance of snow, rain. Avg. temperature between 9°C and 17°C.|
South Italy – Spring. Lots of sunshine. The sun sets close to 8 PM. Average max temperature: 16°C.
|April||North Italy – 78 mm precipitation. More hours of sunshine. Warmer. Average temperature: 14°C.|
South Italy – You will need sunglasses and sunscreen. The sea temperature is still cool. 100 mm rain.
|May||North Italy – Summer is almost here. Bright sunny days with 72 mm rain. More tourists.|
South Italy – More of summer than spring. Average high: 20°C
|June||North Italy – Summer is officially here. Lots of sunshine and tourists. 24°C by the end of the month.|
South Italy – Pleasant weather. Daytime average: 21°C. Evenings are cooler. 30 mm of rain.
|July||North Italy – Max temperature. Clear sky. Very little rain. Average temperature: 25°C.|
South Italy – Busiest and hottest month. 30 mm rain. Average high temperature: 30°C.
|August||North Italy – Daytime temperature average: 31°C. On some days it reaches 40°C. Precipitation 48 mm.|
South Italy – Almost the same as July. High humidity. Average high temperature: 30°C.
|September||North Italy – Hot summer days, but it starts to cool down as the month progresses. 76 mm rain.|
South Italy – The temperature drops in the south too. Average high: 27°C. Little more rain than in August.
|October||North Italy – Autumn is here. Pleasant temperature. More tourists. 96 mm rain in 12 days.|
South Italy – Cooler. 130 mm rain, much more than September. Average max temperature: 22°C.
|November||North Italy – Grey, rainy days. 102 mm of rain, which makes this the rainiest month. Snow in the mountains.|
South Italy – Wettest month also in the south. 140 mm rain. Average max temperature: 17°C.
|December||North Italy – Cold. Below freezing in the hills. 72 mm rain. Average max temperature: 11°C.|
South Italy – Winter also in the south. Pleasant in the day. 100 mm rain this month. Average max temperature: 13°C.