Italy is a traveler’s dream. Extraordinary history, architecture, art and food mark every centimetre of this incredible country. The mere mention of popular Italian cities like Rome, Florence or Venice is enough to evoke a flood of romantic images. But there’s even more to discover, all the way from Sicily in the south to the Italian Alps in the North.
I’ll be honest though, traveling through Italy isn’t all golden experiences. There are definite frustrations. Getting around certain cities can be complicated, corruption is an unfortunate part of Italian daily life, and there’s so many tourists, that touts and scams are a given, rather than an exception.
You’ll still fall in love with Italy though. It just can’t be helped.
In this guide, I’ll cover the basics of traveling around Italy, including the best things to see, when to visit, what to eat and how to get around. I’ll also pass on insider tips gleaned from 8 separate trips to Italy + things I’ve learned from friends and family that actually live there.
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Italy is so spoiled with worthy travel experiences that it’s almost impossible to select the best of them. I could easily fill an entire encyclopedia full of things to do in Rome alone.
If you’ve got the time though, there are things that every first-timer to Italy should do and see. In my mind, these are the unmissable experiences – the ones that you should do if you’ll only ever visit Italy once in your lifetime.
Is there a bad time to go to Italy? Probably not, as long as you’re willing to put up with some discomfort, depending on the season.
That’s because Italy’s most comfortable weather coincides with the busiest tourist seasons, in May, June, September, and October. You’ll be physically comfortable, but pay the price with crowded attractions and higher prices all over the country.
If you’re addicted to sun and sand, like I am, summer is undoubtedly the best time to visit Italy, but I recommend going in July. Many businesses are shuttered as Italians take the entire month of August off to celebrate Ferragosto. As Agri often tells me, there’s only tourists in Rome in August.
Italians are sun worshippers like no other, so August is also when visiting the beach is most expensive. Save yourself the trouble and visit in July if you can. Keep in mind that if you’re not on the beach, it’ll likely be hot and uncomfortable wandering around tourist sights in many cities. Make sure your accommodation has working air conditioning!
Minimum daily budget: 50 EUR and up.
With 50 euros, you could stay in hostels, use local transport, and eat out from time to time. You’ll waste a lot of time waiting in line for marquee attractions like the Colosseum or Vatican Museums, so if you have extra money, use it to book skip the line tickets for the places you REALLY want to see.
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Italy is one of the most visited places on earth with good reason. Incredible natural beauty and an unparalleled history will compete for your attention, never mind the food and gelato, so plan out your itinerary in advance.
This is one destination where it really pays to pre-book fast track admission tickets to popular sites. You’ll save precious hours in line by doing so, because waits for marquee attractions like the Colosseum, Vatican and Michelangelo’s David are guaranteed.
Be sure to reserve your skip-the-line tours or admission tickets as soon as possible. Italy’s eternal popularity comes with crowds year round, and these tickets do sell out far in advance.