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Cinque Terre italy

Travel guide for Italy

Italy is a Mediterranean country bordered by three seas, the Adriatic, the Tyrrhenian and the Ionian. For many it is known as the birthplace of Western civilization. Italy is a stunning country referred to as Bel Paese (the beautiful country). A country full of history and beauty, any traveller who loves adventure and history cannot exclude it from their list.

From Unesco World Heritage sites such as the ruined city of Pompeii and the famous Mount Etna to coastal beauties such as the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre, Italy is a great place for those who want to experience something different. Adding to the country’s musts the Italian flavours of the local cuisine makes it one of the most enviable holiday destinations. Below in our complete travel guide you will find all the information you need before your first visit to Italy.

General Information

  • Find the travel documents you need for Italy here.
  • Italy is a free roaming country, so you can use your minutes and data as normal. Beware that student packages are excluded.
  • The power voltage in Italy is 230V and the frequency is 50Hz. Socket types C, F & L.
  • The currency in Italy is the €.
  • The official language of the country is Italian, however it is divided into about 33 dialects of which the most important are Lombardy and Ligurian, Neapolitan and the dialects of Sardinia and Bologna.
  • The population in Italy is just over 60 million inhabitants.
  • The capital and largest city of the country is Rome.
  • As far as religion is concerned, Italy keeps a neutrality according to the principle of the secular state. That is, they do not support any particular religion, but they do not support religion either. However, the majority of the population are Catholic Christians followed by some other minorities such as Orthodox and Protestants.
  • Italy is at the top of the Unesco list of World Heritage Sites, counting 55 monuments.
  • Italy has more volcanoes than any other country in Europe!

Budget

The issue of accommodation, as we have mentioned before, is a subjective one. Each one of us can travel either alone or with a group of friends, and has different selection criteria and obviously different budgets. However, the solution to all of the above is provided by the platforms that now exist and we list them in the rest of the article, with countless options for all types of travellers. As an indication, we mention a general picture regarding accommodation in Italy.

Low budget: If you don’t particularly care where you spend the night, but only care about the excursions and experiencing the rhythms of the city. The options in Italy, start from as little as 21€ per night per couple in cheap hostels in Rome, from 28€ in Florence, while in Manarola which is a summer destination if you go in summer the lowest prices can exceed 60€ per night. In low budget category we usually refer to bunk beds in shared dormitories, with no special facilities and shared bathrooms.

Mid budget. Or even more. As mentioned above, conditions change depending on the season as well. Summer destinations go up dramatically. A mid-range room in Positano, can even exceed 150€ per night. Enjoy private air-conditioned rooms with respective private bathrooms, indoor and outdoor pools, an on-site restaurant and bar and free Wi-Fi. Plus breakfast can be included at several hotels.

High budget. Enjoy the best hotels, elegant rooms and suites, spa services, indoor and outdoor pools, multiple restaurants, gyms with personal trainers, private balconies and more.

All of the above searches have been made for some alternative dates throughout the year and are based on 2 people per room. It would be advisable in popular cities like Rome that your accommodation is relatively centrally located. Yes it may cost a bit more per room, but you will save a lot of time on transportation and hassle, plus some of that money would go to frequent use of public transportation.

Available rooms and rates can be found here.

Traditional Food in Italy

As the whole world knows, Italy is famous for its pasta recipes, pizzas and good wine. But the menu doesn’t stop there. Below we will list the main dishes you should try when visiting the country.

Pizza: for some, there is no dish as representative of the country as the humble pizza. Easy, cheap and full of ingredients, pizza has long been a common snack or meal, especially in Naples, where tomato sauce was first added. In fact, according to the story, when Queen Margherita passed through the city on a tour, she asked to try this dish for which there was a buzz. A businessman served her the combination of tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil, probably creating the Margherita pizza that is still famous today.

Today, there are essentially two types of pizza to choose from in Italy: Neopolitan pizza or Roman-style pizza. Neapolitan-style pizza has a thick and fluffy dough and tends to be a little smaller in diameter. Roman-style pizza has the characteristic thin crust and is larger in diameter. As for the ingredients in both types of pizza, the question is entirely up to you since there are now so many ingredients.

Bottarga: Another way to describe bottarga is “Sicilian Caviar”. In August and September, southern Italians take the eggplant from grey mullets, salt it, press it and then let it air-dry for six months. The result is a solid piece of egg shredded and eaten or rubbed over pasta. It is now considered one of the most sought-after and luxurious foods in Italy, just like truffles there. We recommend that you grate it over pasta, or simply slice it thinly and pour oil lemonade over it.

Lasagna: This is a wide and flat pasta, usually baked in layers in the oven. Traditionally, lasagna was not made with tomatoes, just ragù, béchamel sauce and cheese, usually mozzarella or Parmigiano Reggiano or a combination of the two. Even today, only a single piece of tomato or tomato sauce is used in a traditional ragu, unlike most Italian-American dishes, which are smothered in tomato sauce.  In restaurants you can find various combinations.

Fiorentina Steak. This steak is made from a specific cut of meat from a specific type of cow. The thickness of the steak is at least 5 cm thick and it is made from a fillet of a cow usually reared in Tuscany. It is cooked for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, depending on the thickness, until the outside is cooked and the inside remains medium rare. Asking for it well done is a little difficult because of the thickness of the meat.

Polenta: A dish of boiled corn, historically made from other grains. According to history, it was eaten in the northern part of Italy. Although it lacks the diversity in shapes and textures that pasta has, polenta is the perfect accompaniment to a wide range of recipes, including various meats. It is one of those dishes that fits like a glove when the temperature drops considerably in Italian cities such as Milan, Turin and Venice.

Ossobuco: The world-famous ossobuco alla milanese is a steak of beef from the lower leg. It is cooked at a low temperature slowly until it melts and is mixed with white wine and vegetables. Traditionally, it is accompanied by gremolata (lemon zest, garlic and parsley), but this is optional. Despite the popularity of ossobuco, it’s not always common to see it on restaurant menus because it takes about three hours to cook. If you have the chance to eat it in a restaurant or a local’s house, you definitely shouldn’t miss the opportunity. It is usually accompanied with polenta that we mentioned above in our article. 

Focaccia. Although some say it was first made by the Ancient Greeks. Depending on the occasion and the shop, you can get it either as an accompaniment to a main meal, as a snack or as a sandwich bread filled with various ingredients of your choice. Many people mix various herbs and spices as well as olives and vegetables into the dough.

Coffee. For those who love coffee, there’s no better place to enjoy a coffee than here. For example, if you ask for a latte you will simply be served a glass of milk. The coffees also vary by region. For example in Trieste if you just order a coffee you will be served an espresso with whipped cream on top, while in Naples coffee is served strong, creamy and drunk quickly like a shot. The latter is true in most cities as well as in the capital. Italians don’t sit down for coffee. They come in, order it, drink it like a shot and leave to go to work or continue their day. As for the varieties of coffee you will find countless, with Illy being the top one.

Gelato.  It’s perfectly normal to eat it on a regular basis in Italy, especially in the summer. Although gelato translates to “ice cream”, it’s not exactly the same. By law, gelato has much less fat than ice cream.  The low fat content means that gelato is served a little warmer and tends to melt faster, it also enhances the flavour and gives it a velvetier texture. Secondly, gelato has a much higher density. Classic gelato has air and water to increase its volume and weight.

Unfortunately, these additions also make it less tasty. This practice is illegal in Italy, leaving gelato to hold the lead and be extremely sweet and delicious. Finally, good gelato is not made for long-term storage. As for the flavors you will encounter you will have a wide range. Every day you can try something different!

Digestivo: The term “digestivo” or “digestive” does not refer to a drink, but to a category of drinks consumed after a large meal in order to calm the stomach and prevent you from feeling bloated. Their consumption dates back to the Middle Ages, when people all over Europe believed in the medicinal properties of alcohol mixed with sugar and herbs. Popular digestives are limoncello, grappa, amaro, cynar, amaretto and if you want something stronger there is sambuca which has a lot of alcohol.

Discover other European destinations through our articles here.

Transportation

Train: It’s a quick way to get around. You can find trains both for regional trips and between cities. High-speed trains are a fast and fairly cheap way to travel around Italy. From Rome you can for example get to Florence in only 2 hours. Timetables and prices can be found here.

Buses: Italy also has a well-developed bus network for travel within the major cities. It is even possible to connect cities with the rest of the country’s countryside. Bus timetables with their respective prices can be found here.

Taxi: Taxis are another alternative way of getting around within cities. You can stop one on the spot on the road or call one by phone or app. Prices vary depending on the distance you travel and they are not one of the most economical means of transport in Italy.

For in-city rides and airport transfers check here.

Car rental: To rent a car, you must be at least 21 years old and have an international driving license. Prices start from around 55 euros per day, depending on the type of vehicle. Many people in Italy, and in particular in Rome, also choose to rent a Vespa. Prices for rental can be found here.

What to do in Italy

Rome

For most people, a trip to Italy usually starts in the capital. The eternal city is literally one big museum. It has some of the world’s most famous attractions. You can discover the imposing Colosseum (Colosseo), the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the famous Fontana Di Trevi and much more. Each of these monuments are milestones in the history of Rome. Still don’t fail to visit the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica. Heaven on earth for art lovers, with works that have been remembered as unique.

You can still enjoy your walk in its famous squares, such as Piazza Navona, Popolo, di Raza and others. Even in the famous fountain of the city mentioned above, you can drop a coin, with your back turned to the water, and make a wish. The tradition for those who drop a coin into the water is that they will one day return to Rome. A total must do are the long walks in the alleys, enjoying ice cream and tasting their coffee.

Colloseum selfie at Rome of Italy
Milan

Among the top destinations in Italy, Milan could not be left out. The capital of Lombardy is without a doubt the city of refinement. It is home to many famous fashion houses and of course a world-leading shopping destination. Prices at the big houses are obviously a little high, however there are great bargains and low prices in the January sales.

You can walk in the famous Golden Quadrilateral (Quadrilatero d’Oro), which consists of Via Montanepoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni, Via Sant’Andrea. In the above streets you will find all the famous houses such as Dior, Luis Vuitton, Prada, etc. But you can also find less known, but equally stylish chains. Apart from shopping, don’t fail to visit the second largest gothic temple in the world, the Duomo di Milano. A few metres away, for the opera devotees you can also find the famous La Scala di Milano.

milano cathedral of Duomo in Italy
Venice

Another well-known destination in Italy. Venice and its famous canals. Floating trips on its Grand Canal and beyond, as well as exploring on foot in St. Mark’s Square. The district of St Mark’s is the oldest in the city, and has been the political and administrative centre of the Venetian Republic of Gallipoli, as well as the epicentre of social life for more than a thousand years. Among the buildings that steal the show is the St Mark’s Bell Tower, or Campanile, which stands over 98 metres high. You can book tickets online for the top of the building and save yourself the long waits. 

Many people still go to Venice every year for one of its biggest events. The Venice Carnival. Incredible masks, happy people and lots of fun. See also the most famous and old bridge that crosses the Grand Canal, the domed stone bridge Rialto. Built from 1588-1591 under the supervision of Antonio da Ponte. Despite Venice’s hundreds of bridges in total, until the 1850s it remained the only footbridge that joined the two sides of the Grand Canal at its narrowest point.

grand canal of Venice

Book your gondola tour here.

Tuscany

The most photographed region of Central Italy. One image is enough to describe the beauty and serenity of the landscape. Many people choose it also for a roadtrip by motorbike. It is better to visit it in spring, when the colours are bright and vivid. At that time of the year it reminds us of a huge palette, with many different colours that, combined with the changing landscapes, highlight this little paradise. Its capital and largest city is Florence. There, in the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, you will get in touch with the entire Italian culture and more. It is a city with a special glamour, famous for its arts and culture.  The historic centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There you can find the famous Duomo Square, where the imposing Florence Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore), and the Baptistery. Among the most important museums is the famous Art Gallery (Le Gallerie degli Uffizi) in Plazza della Signora, an art museum with works by the greatest Renaissance painters, including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli and others. Still in the region of Tuscany, there is another Italian landmark town. The well known Pisa, which attracts a large number of tourists every year. The main reason for most people visiting is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. However, there are many other monuments worth mentioning and visiting.  The square of the Pisa Cathedral is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Furthermore, you can visit the Borgo Stretto area, with its medieval alleys around the Arno River. There you will find many baroque squares, most famously Piazza dei Cavalieri, and various attractions such as the Medici Palace and Palazzo della Carovana. Then look for Corso Italia, which starts from the south of the city and goes all the way to the Arno River. You can cross it and on the way you will find, small cafes, bars, local restaurants and, of course, countless gelato shops.

famous Pisa tower
Alberobello

A small town in Apulia, southern Italy. What makes the area so famous are the pyramid-shaped, domed or conical limestone houses, known collectively as “trulli”. It is believed that the term trulli comes from the Greek “trullo”, which in Italian translates to “dome”. Many trulli are still inhabited today and some have been converted into hotels, restaurants and shops. The story about the construction lies in the taxes they had at the time. Those who could not afford the taxes tore down the houses, but then they could very easily rebuild them. You can visit Rione Monti and in Aia Piccola, the alleys with the largest collection of trulli in Alberobello.

Alberobello town in Italy
Positano

One of the must tourist resorts in Italy. Positano is undoubtedly the great jewel of the Amalfi Coast. Full of colourful, picturesque little houses built on the rock. You can visit the church of Santa Maria Assunta and enjoy the beautiful view from up there.  The historic centre of the area is pedestrianised and Via dei Mulini is the characteristic alleyway with hawkers, artists and vendors that leads to Piazza Flavio Gioia. For swimming you can choose Piazza Grande or beaches in neighbouring places such as the nearby bays of La Porta & Fornillo.

Famous Positano in Italy
Cinque Terre

Five villages between sea and mountain along the Italian Riviera. Together, they are known as the Cinque Terre, or ‘five Places’. The villages are so isolated that there are only somewhat challenging paths connecting them and a railway line that passes through a series of many tunnels.

The five villages are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore and are located within the Cinque Terre National Park, which as a whole is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each village has its own personality. All are full of history, colorful buildings and offer some of the most spectacular views in the country.

The five villages are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore and are located within the Cinque Terre National Park, which as a whole is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each village has its own personality. All are full of history, colorful buildings and offer some of the most spectacular views in the country.

They date back hundreds of years, with the oldest being Monterosso in 643 AD, by people seeking refuge from the barbarians of the time. Riomaggiore was created in the 8th century by Greek settlers fleeing persecution in Byzantium. Many of the things that still exist in the villages have been there since the Middle Ages and include many castles and beautiful churches. Finally, beautiful beaches surround each of these 5 villages, while you can also walk through the beautiful and picturesque stone streets of the village.

Cinque Terre italy 2

Find top Italy tours here.

Packing Tips & When to go

Like many countries in Europe, the climate in Italy varies greatly depending on where you plan to travel. Significant differences in temperatures between north and south are most evident during the winter months. Winters in the north are cold and wet while winters in the south are milder. However, most of Italy has hot and dry summers with July being the hottest month of the year.

Bath products: Beauty and toiletries can be quite expensive in Italy. If your hotel doesn’t provide any of the above, it’s a good idea to bring your own if you want to save money.

Power Bank: wherever you are in Italy, Italy needs a lot of walking. Most of the day you will be out and about most of the time. To avoid running out of battery on your phone, or on your camera equipment, it is a good idea to bring a power bank with you.

Comfortable shoes: As mentioned above walking is something you will not avoid. So it would be good to have comfortable and lightweight shoes with you. Especially in areas with stone alleys and uneven terrain, you will regret it if they are missing from your suitcase.

The best time to visit Italy is spring (April to June) or autumn (September to November) prices are normal, tourism is at normal levels and temperatures are favourable enough to enjoy your itinerary.  Summer is the high season in Italy. There is a lot of heat though and plenty of humidity. Prices are higher and there are large crowds of tourists so do not book then if you want peace and quiet and relaxation. You can visit Italy in winter too. It is better in terms of definitely reduced prices and less crowds. The downside is the weather conditions that may spoil your excursions and activities.

Useful Words

YesGood MorningBuon giorno!
NoNoGood nightBuona notte!
HelloCiao!My name isMi chiamo
Thank youGrazieSee youArrivederci
You’re welcomePregoHow are youCome stai?  

Useful Sites & Apps

Throughout the years we have been travelling we usually look for apps or websites that help us to get around better, either before or during the trip. In this way we have access to useful information like where can we get the best deals and expand our options. We usually make our choices on what activities we are going to do and where to go with help from those apps and follow the best ratings. Some we used are:

Booking.com

With a plethora of choices, traveller points that help you get better deals the more you travel, promo codes for you and your friends, with available credit options as well and much more. Start booking and see for yourselves. For available rooms and prices look here.

Welcome Pickups

One of the best, most trustworthy, and most convenient 5-star airport taxi companies for your airport transfer based on user reviews across various platforms such as Google, Tripadvisor, and Trustpilot. Welcome Pickups offers a great experience and safety to its travelers. Local English-speaking drivers, flat, pre-paid fee, flight monitoring for delays, 24/7 Customer support + free cancellation. Check your options here.

Air Bnb

With more than a million properties around the world and still growing. A very popular choice for those looking for more affordable options even at the most expensive locations. Having the choice to pick an apartment or even a whole villa would make you feel more at home while you travel.

Hotels.com

Registering here is free and easy. Every hotel on this platform will grant a free tenth night, so if you stay for ten nights the tenth night is free.

Trip Advisor

I don’t know anyone that has ever travelled and not used this platform for reviews or information about almost any location around the world. Hundreds of millions or reviews are available for most interesting locations when one is traveling. It can even help you find interesting things to do where you live and haven’t noticed yet.

Omio.com

Anything you need a click away. Find the best deals on trains, buses, flights, or even ferry tickets. Travel to thousands of destinations in Canada, the USA, and Europe. I often check here when I am already on a trip and I need to visit some neighbouring town or city. Check available routes here.

Skyscanner

The first website that every traveller always checks. Instant and fast price comparison from airlines around the world. We love the “To any destination” filter, which shows us, all available flights sorted by price (low – high), for the dates we have selected. The best solution for a last minute trip. Available flights and prices can be found here.

GetYourGuide

And for whomever likes activities and adventures or are even interested in museums and historical locations there is anything available to do and can be mostly found on this platform. You can even set a time and location to find what to do and not waste time waiting. Only make sure you check the reviews to know what to expect at each different activity or visit. We have used it many times throughout Africa, Asia, and the USA without any issues. For available activities and tours check here.

Discover Cars

For car rentals at the lowest prices, servicing in over 150 countries and with the best deals and support in over 12 different languages for your own leisure.

Hotel Tonight

Here you will find last minute discounts on vacancies from hotels. This is an amazingly simple app and it doesn’t take long to book a room. You may search in each town for sights and maps. Furthermore, you can check the reviews and photos of other travellers in order to be sure about the trustworthiness of each hotel. It also has a 24/7 customer service. If you’re stuck somewhere and you need a room desperately, this is the perfect app for you.

City Maps 2Go

Maps for travelling, hiking, mountain cycling and many other activities. A necessary app for every adventure, activity or touring abroad. You may only download one map per country, whereas it was possible to download two in the past. For an additional map you need to pay.

You can mark all the places of interest on the map you have downloaded. Whether they are sights, shops, or restaurants you can use the directions guide to get there. The great advantage to this app is that you don’t need to have internet connection although it might get stuck a few times. Nevertheless, it is quite a reliable and useful app.

EXTRA TIP

Once you have marked all the places you want to visit prior to your trip, you can also book your accommodation accordingly. This way you can be sure you’ll be staying somewhere close to all places of interest.

iVisa.com

More information for the necessary travel documents, depending on your nationality and your travel destination can be found here.

NanoWhat

Find a city’s hidden gems & cool places directly from the people who know it best. Keep local travel ideas in your pocket. Simply choose your list of cool places & click ‘download’ on the confirmation screen after checking out. The link will open in Google Maps. Hit ‘follow’ and save it for later. Download the Ultimate Italy Travel Guide here.

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