Call our experts today
020 7183 7766


Italy Travel Guide

Italy, the historical centre of the Roman Empire, boasts more cultural sights and attractions than you could ever hope to see in a single visit. In fact, Italy lays claim to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites (54 in total) than any other country in the world. Many of these awe-inspiring attractions - often rather casually located amid the hustle and bustle of modern city-life - are essential to an understanding of contemporary western civilisation. From the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the intricate Gothic architecture of Cathedral Square to the almost obscene wealth of artwork housed in the galleries of Tuscany, a holiday in Italy is nothing short of spectacular.

Of course, Italy's culture does not only belong in the past, with the country remaining on the cutting-edge of haute couture. Watching the famously stylish locals clip along cobblestoned streets in six-inch stiletto heels is almost a tourist attraction in itself. Shopaholics will feel as though they've found paradise, browsing the boutique stores of Milan's Fashion Quadrilatero; while gastronomes should prepare themselves for a holiday punctuated by unforgettable meals. The world-famous cuisine is naturally even more delicious when prepared in its homeland, with visitors to Italy able to look forward to interesting regional variations of their favourite pizza and pasta dishes.

Whether enjoying a holiday in Venice, where the songs of gondoliers are carried on the evening breeze, relaxing on the staggering Amalfi coastline, or exploring Verona, sipping an espresso in a crowded piazza while the sun sinks behind a skyline of Gothic spires, Italy will be an experience visitors won't soon forget.

Best time to visit Italy

Most people visit Italy in summer, between June and August. But the best times to visit Italy are in spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October), when the weather is cool and dry, the skies are generally clear and accommodation is usually cheaper as there's fewer tourists around. The sea is warm enough for swimming between June and September. Most Italians take their vacation in August, and many shops and restaurants are closed during this period. The ski season runs from December to April, and the best time to go hiking in the Alps is between June and September.

What to see in Italy

-Visit the Colosseum, the ancient site of Roman pageantry and gladiatorial combat in Rome.

-Stand in the shadow of Milan's awe-inspiring Duomo (Cathedral), the world's most grandiose example of Gothic architecture.

-Explore the ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii and come face-to-face with the 'frozen people' from the catastrophic eruption 2,000 years ago.

-Visit the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and be blown away by one of the finest collections of art on the planet.

What to do in Italy

-Stand with your back to the Trevi Fountain and flick a coin over your shoulder into its famous waters - legend has it that this will guarantee you a return visit to Rome one day!

-Tour the museums of Vatican City and marvel at the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

-Take a ride on one of Venice's gondolas and let your gondolier serenade you while you float through the waterways of the legendary city.

-Drive through the gorgeous Chianti Region, sampling some of the country's finest wines and olive oils as you go.

Getting to Italy

There are cheap direct and indirect flights to Italy available from the UK and the US. The most popular entry-points into Italy are Rome (Leonardo da Vinci Airport), Milan (Malpensa Airport) and Venice (Marco Polo Airport).


Italian Neighbours by Tim Parks, The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa, Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes and Italian Hours by Henry James.


Andrea Bocelli, Lucio Battisti, Zucchero and Laura Pausini.


Cinema Paradiso (1988), La Dolce Vita (1960), Il Postino (1994) and Roman Holiday (1953).


Sample some of the Chianti Region's world-famous wines.


Try regional variations of your favourite pasta dishes (such as cuttlefish-ink-based pasta sauces in Venice) and the mandatory Naples pizza.

What to buy

For a special trinket or a gift for a loved one back home, buy some authentic Murano glassware - you'll be purchasing something that comes from an artistic tradition dating back to the 7th Century. Olive oil, leather products and limoncello (traditional lemon-flavoured liqueur) are also popular things to buy in Italy.

What to pack

Remember that clothing is very expensive in Italy so you should arrive well prepared. Pack comfortable walking shoes for daytime excursions as well as stylish shoes for evenings out.

What's on in Italy

The Venice Film Festival is one of the oldest and most respected film festivals in the world, drawing hundreds of A-list celebrities. Milan Fashion Week is one of the top fashion events on the yearly calendar. For a festive Christmas season, head to Milan for the Oh Bej! celebrations, where you can eat roasted chestnuts and shop around the antique markets.

Did you know?

-When McDonald's opened in Rome in 1986, food purists outside the restaurant gave away free spaghetti to remind people of their proud culinary heritage.

-Italy has more volcanoes than any other European nation.

-Both ice cream cones and spectacles were invented in Italy.

A final word

Italy is a country uniquely blessed with sights, attractions, great food and wine, and a lovely climate. It's not only the historical 'centre of the western world' but one of its most enthralling modern-day tourist destinations.


The official language of Italy is Italian. English is understood in the larger cities but not in the more remote parts of the country.


The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 cents. Those arriving in Italy with foreign currency can obtain Euros through any bank, ATM or bureau de change. ATMs are widespread. Credit cards are accepted in upmarket establishments and shops around the cities. Banks are closed on weekends, but tend to have better rates than foreign exchange houses.


Electrical current in Italy is 230 volts, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are in use, including the European-style two-pin plug.


Tipping is customary in Italy and 10 to 15 percent of the bill is acceptable in restaurants, unless a 15 percent service charge has already been added to the bill. Hotels add a service charge of 15 to 18 percent, but it is customary to tip the service staff extra. Italians rarely tip taxi drivers but a 5 to 10 percent tip is always appreciated.


Tourists are vulnerable to pickpocketing in the bigger cities, particularly on public transport, in crowded areas and around tourist sites. It's advisable to be careful when carrying large amounts of cash and valuables. Be particularly careful around the main train station, Termini. Visitors should be wary of groups of children, some of whom will distract attention while the others try to steal what they can. Strikes by transport workers take place regularly throughout Italy and delays are possible.


The international access code for Italy is +39. City/area codes are in use, e.g. 02 for Milan and 06 for Rome. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.


There are no specific health risks associated with travel to Italy and visitors should be able to travel without special vaccinations and medications. Medical facilities in Italy are good but travel insurance is still recommended for non-EU citizens, as medical attention can be expensive. EU citizens can make use of Italy's health services provided they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), with UK citizens using their Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). The GHIC replaced the EHIC for UK citizens and allows UK citizens access to state healthcare during visits to the EU. The GHIC is not valid in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, nor is it an alternative to travel insurance. Although it should be possible to get most medication in Italy, travel authorities always suggest taking any prescribed medication in its original packaging with a signed and dated letter from a doctor.

Public Holidays

New Year's Day1 Jan1 Jan
Epiphany6 Jan6 Jan
Easter Monday13 Apr5 Apr
Liberation Day25 Apr25 Apr
Labour Day1 May1 May
Anniversary of the Republic2 Jun2 Jun
Assumption of Mary15 Aug15 Aug
All Saints’ Day1 Nov1 Nov
Day of Immaculate Conception8 Dec8 Dec
Christmas Day25 Dec25 Dec
Santo Stefano26 Dec26 Dec
Easter Day12 Apr4 Apr


Italians can be very formal and old fashioned, but are also warm and welcoming. Face to face communication is best and often a third party introduction can speed initial negotiations. Business attire is formal and stylish, and handshakes are the norm with first impressions counting a lot in Italy. Expect plenty of gesticulating, interruptions or people talking over each other. Business cards are used. Unfortunately the bureaucracy in Italy can slow down deal-making. Business hours are usually 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, but can vary according to season and region.

Passport & Visa

The borderless region known as the Schengen Area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option, and which allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all the aforementioned countries. Furthermore, all foreign passengers to Italy must hold visible proof of financial means to support themselves while in the country, return/onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Note that visitors may be refused entry, either for public security, tranquillity, order or health reasons. Extensions of stay in Italy are possible, by applying to local authorities. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


In Italy, it's an offence to sit on steps and in courtyards near public buildings, including the main churches in Florence; eating and drinking in the vicinity should also be avoided. Shorts, vests or any other immodest clothing should not be worn inside churches.

Duty Free

Travellers over 17 years from non-EU countries do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco. As well as this, travellers do not have to pay duty on 4 litres of wine, 16 lires of beer or 1 litre of spirits over 22 percent volume, or 2 litres of alcoholic beverages less than 22 percent volume. Other goods up to the value of €430 is also permitted (reduced to €175 for children under 15).

Travellers from EU countries travelling within the EU are limited to 110 litres of beer, 90 litres of wine, 10 litres of fortified wine, 10 litres of spirits and 1kg of tobacco, 800 cigarettes, 200 cigars or 400 cigarellos. Prohibited items include narcotic drugs, medicinal products, arms and weapons, explosives and protected animal and plant species.


112 (General Emergencies), 113 (Police), 118 (Ambulance)

Entry Requirements

US citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond their intended stay in Italy. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), and 'British Overseas Territories Citizen' issued by Gibraltar, must be valid on arrival. British passports with other endorsements must be valid for three months beyond the period of intended stay in Italy. A visa is not required for British passports endorsed 'British Citizen' or 'British Subject' (containing a Certificate of Entitlement to the Right of Abode issued by the United Kingdom), nor for holders of identity cards issued by Gibraltar, and endorsed 'Validated for EU travel purposes under the authority of the United Kingdom'. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period for holders of British passports with other endorsements.

Canadian citizens must have a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond their intended stay in Italy. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

South African citizens must have a passport that is valid for three months beyond their intended stay, and a valid Schengen visa, to enter Italy.

Irish citizens must have a passport that is valid upon their arrival in Italy. No visa is required.

New Zealand citizens must have a passports valid for three months beyond period of intended stay in Italy. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days within a 180 day period.

Embassy Consulates

United States Embassy, Rome: +39 06 46741.

British Embassy, Rome: +39 06 4220 0001/ 4220.

Canadian Embassy, Rome: +39 06 85444 2911.

South African Embassy, Rome: +39 06 852 541.

Irish Embassy, Rome: +39 06 585 2381.

New Zealand Embassy, Rome: +39 06 853 7501.

Embassy Consulates

Italian Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 612 4400.

Italian Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7312 2200.

Italian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 232 2401.

Italian Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 423 000.

Italian Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 660 1744.

Italian Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 (0)4 473 5339.


Littered with more than 3,000 years of history, Italy is a sightseer's paradise. Spend some time in Rome taking in famous sites like the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, as well as the Pantheon. With artworks on display from the likes of Da Vinci, Caravaggio and Botticelli, it's a visual buffet for all visitors.

Head north to explore the canals of Venice by gondola or indulge in the wonderful shopping in the fashion capital of Milan. A little further south is the magical city of Florence, teeming with culture and Italian flair. Continue south past Rome to Naples and explore the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, destroyed by Mount Vesuvius, which can be seen standing sentinel over the city.

Italy takes a lifetime to explore properly because there is so much on offer for visitors. From the gondola-lined canals of Venice and the white sandy beaches of San Remo to the iconic Alps, Dolomites and Apennines, Italy has everything from beach holidays to luxury mountain ski resorts and a whole lot more in between.

The most popular time of year to visit Italy is during the summer months when most of the country can be enjoyed slowly like a fine Italian vintage. A trip to the rolling hills of Tuscany is in order to sample some fine wine and olive oil, as well as plenty of old Italian cuisine, while taking in the scenery of cypress trees, lush vines and olive groves. The more adventurous travellers can head to the Italian Alps and visit the resorts of Courmayer and Brevil Cervinia for some world-class skiing.


Italy has a largely temperate climate with regional variations. In summer, the northern parts of Italy are warm with occasional rainfall, the central region is somewhat stifled by humidity and the south scorches under the dry heat. In winter, conditions in Milan, Turin and Venice are dominated by cold, damp and fog and Tuscany's winter temperatures approach freezing, while temperatures in the south of the country are more favourable, averaging 50 to 60ºF (10 to 20ºC). Most people visit Italy in the summer months between June and August; but the best and cheapest time to visit is in spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October) when the weather is good and there are fewer tourists. The sea is warm enough for swimming between June and September. Visitors should note that most Italians take their vacation in August and many shops and restaurants are closed during this period. It also means that during August the coastal resorts are crowded with locals. The ski season runs between December and April and the best time to walk in the Alps is between June and September. The best time to visit Italy will vary depending on region and desired activities.

Showing: 8828 Cruises
19 italy