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Italy, with its breathtaking landscapes, passionate people, trendy fashion and art treasures, is a mesmerizing European hub that never fails to amaze visitors. Admired for its grandeur, top-class cuisine, and history, Italy has so much delights to offer that it might take one a lifetime to explore it. Known as one of the most sought-after and gorgeous destinations, Italy is a heavenly place in its truest sense that should be traveled at least once by everyone!
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Italy isn’t a place that you visit, it’s a place that you experience: touching all of your senses, engaging your emotions, in a way you never thought possible. While many might choose to walk the streets of the country’s historic cities or simply relax in its postcard-perfect countryside, these are a few special attractions that cannot be found anywhere else:
- Take a tour through the seven miles of galleries that make up the Vatican Museums, as an erudite guide introduces you to some of the greatest artworks in human history. You’ll be regaled with stories as you feast your eyes upon the stunning frescoes of Raphael, the sublime watercolors of Titian, and to cap it off, the inimitable beauty of the awe-inspiring Sistine Chapel.
- Explore the sun-dappled vineyards and medieval hill towns of Tuscany, one of the country’s most diverse and evocative regions. You’ll marvel at some of the world’s most venerated architecture: from the stately villas of Palladio (the West’s greatest architect) to the iconic tilt of the Leaning Tower of Pisa; from the soaring Duomo in Florence to the graceful Campo in Siena.
- Immerse yourself in Italy’s centuries-old culinary heritage in Bologna, the gastronomic heart of the country, as you learn all the tricks of the trade in a true Italian kitchen. You’ll make pasta, antipasto, main dishes, and classic desserts – then sit down to enjoy them at a family table with a fine glass of local wine or one of the succulent national liqueurs, like Amaretto DiSaronno from Lombardy or Campari from Milan.
- Explore Venice in timeless fashion as a charismatic gondolier captain you through the city’s labyrinthine canals in a sleek, jet-black gondola. Whether cruising by grand piazzas and famous landmarks, or through some of the quieter Venetian neighborhoods, this is an incurably romantic experience that is sure to leave indelible memories.
- Discover Milan’s most glamorous fashion boutiques (and most attractive bargains) on an exclusive guided tour with a ‘personal shopper’. From the magnificent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, to the dazzling Quadrilatero della Moda, the fashionistas among you might just think they’ve died and gone to Heaven.
- Spend a day in majestic Naples, where the largest historic city center in Europe lies under the daunting shadow of soaring Mount Vesuvius. Take a guided tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the city’s outskirts, from the opulent Palace of Caserta to the haunting ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum – both buried by Vesuvius in the devastating eruption of 79 AD. Gourmands should make time to try an authentic Neapolitan pizza at one of the many little pizzerias overlooking the Gulf of Naples – where the world’s most famous flatbread was first made.
- Sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts simply can’t miss the north of Italy, where the Southern Alps gradually give way to the roiling waves of the Mediterranean Sea. In winter, the skiing here is among the best in Europe, and the scenic stretch of the Italian Riviera – including the enchanting villages of Cinque Terre – is truly awe-inspiring. It’s also the home of Italy’s lake district, where visitors will find some of the most elegant and romantic resort towns in the world: places like Como, Bellagio, Ravenna, and Cannobio.
There is no singular best time to visit Italy. Each season represents something unique and different about the landscape, culture, and traditions to create alternate experiences. The weather changes the colors of the countryside between spring and autumn, while the festivities in the cities change between summer and winter. Traditionally summer has the most popular time to visit Italy, with schools in the United States, Canada, and the UK dismissed for vacation.
But the crowds of summer offer diminishing returns in the most popular cities and towns, making it hard to explore, experience, and discover. Wait times at the museums reach hours long, and actual locals leave on holiday from mid-August, coinciding with the Catholic calendar and the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, to the first of September. But Italians do not disappear from Italy during the height of summer, with the peak of the travel season offering a stunning impression of local life in smaller communities and the popular resort getaways in the south or the cooler alpine climates in the north.
An Overview of Italy’s Seasons
There are little surprises to Italy’s weather systems, which is considered the four seasons of the European continent. The winter brings cold weather and snow in the north, especially in the mountainous landscape separating Italy from France, Switzerland, and Austria, along with the Apennines along the bordering regions of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. The moisture of Northern Italy causes abundant rainfall throughout the year, most prominently during the summer months with precipitation average 40 inches per year, adding to the winters during which snow blankets the mountains.
The weather systems of Central Italy provide a milder shift between summer and winter, with a shorter and less intense cold season than northern Italy. The summers linger in Central Italy without the balminess of the mountains. The refreshing sea air helps mitigate the humidity around most of the central regions. Temperatures around Rome can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit during July and August but average a high of 86 degrees Fahrenheit in Tuscany. Rain falls mostly in the winter, as opposed to Northern Italy’s summer months, providing an annual precipitation between 31.5 and 33.5 inches.
Southern Italy boasts the popular Mediterranean climate for which Italy is most known, averaging temperatures of 77 degrees Fahrenheit in July, shaping the hot, dry and long southern Italian days. Rain in the southern regions falls during autumn, winter, and spring, averaging between 19 and 23 inches a year. The southern coasts of Sicily and Sardinia are the driest areas of Italy. However, the mild seasons of Italy’s southern regions provide navigable climate year-round.
The climate throughout Italy varies by regions and seasons. The northern part of the country generally experiences longer, colder winters and milder (but more humid) summers than the south. For instance, in a northern city like Milan, the temperature can get down to the 20s during December and January. A southern city, like Palermo, can experience the 90s in the months of July and August. The central regions of Italy – Tuscany, Umbria, and Lazio, for instance – commonly have the best weather regardless of the season: you’ll be spared the heat of the south and the greater likelihood of rain in the north.
The Best Time to Visit Italy
Italy consistently ranks as one of the most visited countries in the world, rich in ancient history, magnificent art, and natural beauty. The best time to visit Italy is based on the types of activities you wish to pursue and the different areas of Italy you choose to explore. The cool waters of the Adriatic Sea will feel rigid if dipping your toes into the tide in winter instead of summer. The lush greenery and blossoming wildflowers of the alpine pastures in the Dolomites strike a profound contrast to the expectant reflective white of blanketing snow when staying in a ski during summer instead of winter.
Those who can travel to Italy outside of the “Peak Season” should, but remember, other travelers have the same concerns as you and hope to get the most out of their time in Italy with the least amount of hassle. Witnessing Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper or Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is a majestic experience. Standing up close to these masterpieces of western artwork allow you to view the intimate details photographs can’t capture, making you feel part of the work. That feeling of enchanting and gratitude disappears when surrounded by ten tour groups with chatty tour guides and other members who pass through the galleries taking pictures but otherwise not staying long enough to view the artwork away from the camera lens or phone screen.
Visit the fascinating statue of the Veiled Christ in Cappella Sansevero in Naples, and you feel as though you have the majestic work and the chapel to yourself. Tour the Colosseum in Rome at the beginning of August, and you might feel like a gladiator trying to wrestle free from the crowd; take a photo without featuring a tour guide’s umbrella, an idling bus, or strangers lingering near the entryway.
The peak travel seasons in Italy are late spring to early summer and early autumn. Normally, many prominent attractions will be busiest in May and June, so the best time to go to the best-known destinations – Florence, Venice, and Rome – is either in April or in October. However, smaller towns and more rural areas are generally less crowded even in the height of the season, which makes for a nice option in those months when the major cities are packed with tourists from around the world.
There are a number of great places to visit in Italy during the winter. Skiing is excellent in the north – the Dolomites and Alpine regions. Southern Italy (regions like Puglia, Campania, Sicily, and Calabria) is generally quite pleasant in the early and late parts of the year. It’s not unusual for Milan, in the north, to see snow while Palermo, in the south, can be in the 70s on the same day. Early March can be rainy (Venice, Cinque Terre, etc.) but the biggest and well-known cities start to clear up in late March or early April: this is the time to visit, before the influx of tourists come to experience the brilliant months of May and June. Christmastime brings a number of beautiful and unforgettable festivals and traditions throughout the country, though you’ll find the weather in the southern and central regions usually less harsh than in the north. The winter months are also the best time to visit for budget-conscious travelers, allowing you the chance to engage with Italy’s splendid cultural scene without the burden of large crowds.
Is There a Perfect Time to Visit Italy?
While hotels might offer deals or tour groups promote packages, there is no perfect to visit Italy. Rome does not stop as a popular destination outside of summer, nor do locals in Venice suddenly welcome you into their homes because you are the single visit to the lagoon in winter. The different times of year simply provide different experiences. The winter does not always mean the water along the southern shores of Italy is too cold to swim in, while the summer doesn’t mean you can trek the plains and mountains of the Italian Alps without caution.
Life in Italy has endured for over two millennia and will continue to feature history, culture, and natural wonderment rain, snow, or shine. Instead of the familiar four seasons of summer, winter, spring, and “autumn, there are only three seasons that matter when traveling to and around Italy: low season, shoulder season, and high season.
The High Season
Although summer is the best season for many people, especially families, to visit Italy, tourists on similar schedules--those shaped mainly by their child’s school system or the two-week vacation calendar their job allows them--crowd the main cities of Rome, Florence, and Venice. Italians take their vacation between August and September, with local shops closing during the holiday, leaving mostly tourist shops open between August 15th and as late as September 15th. The air in August across much of Italy grows humid and muggy, made worse by the tight crowds filling piazzas and narrow cobblestone streets.
Hotels and restaurants mark up their prices as a premium for staying home while their neighbors take a break on the coast or in the mountains. Less-visited cities, such as Turin and Milan, feel like ghost towns compared to the major attractions of Venice, Rome, and Florence, with fashionable restaurants and popular nightspots closed for the entire month. In these less-popular destinations, hotels often offer a discount during August, with the largest crowds passing through the popular triangle of cities between May and July. There are also various festivals in specific towns across Italy held during summer that are fun and unique experience in which visitors can take part, including, but not limited to, the Palio horse race in Siena and the Opera Festival in Verona.
Apart from the main season of summer, prices and crowds skyrocket at certain times of the year, mainly Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter, when Italians also like to vacation for the holidays and spend time with their families. When traveling to Italy to ski the Alps and the Dolomites or spend time in the snow, High Season begins in late November and ends in early March, consistent with the snowfall along the northern borders.
The Low Season
The low tourist season represents the opposite of the crowds and long lines of the High Season. Summer resorts along the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas have closed their doors. Family-run hotels and smaller seasonal museums shut down as well. Low Season provides the perfect opportunity to experience the cultural events of larger cities, such as touring popular museums, archeological sites, medieval towns. It is the best time to explore the canals of Venice, without the maddening packs of people clogging the waterways with gondolas.
It is also a great way to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David or traverse the halls of the Uffizi, both located in Florence. Fewer people mean less time waiting in line and provide ample opportunities to interact with locals in Italy, whether dining in a stylish trattoria in Padua or sampling cheese in a salumeria in Napoli.
The colder air also makes the sporadic crowds of Rome more bearable, but keep in mind, the metro system in Milan and Rome do not have air conditioning. When exploring the major cities by foot and utilizing the public transportation, you will notice locals wearing gloves, scarves, and heavy coats outdoors and inside the trains, which creates sweltering body heat in the non-air-conditioned train cars during rush hour. From certain perspectives, visiting Italy in Low Season is ideal. The cities are quieter, the lines are shorter, and you can have the chance for a more immersive Italian experience.
The Shoulder Season
The shoulder season flanks both low and high tourist seasons, encompassing spring and autumn, mainly from April to June and September to October. The large crowds generally depart Italy early September to return home, while the summer resorts in the south remain open until mid-September. It is also still warm enough to enjoy the beauty of the famous shorelines and towns of the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre before the cold sets in.
The main festivals of the regions begin in spring coinciding with cultural celebrations, produce cultivation, and religious events. The fall ushers in the favored grape harvest across much of Northern and Central Italy. Temperatures remain cool in both spring and autumn, while the colors of the landscape change from winter white to emerald green, or from the lush summer landscape to a shimmering tawny and burnt sage.
Every October Perugia celebrates chocolate with a week-long festival and Bari pays homage to the harvest with a food festival dedicated to vineyards, olive groves, and the season’s bountiful culinary pleasures. The Shoulder Season provides a stable amount of tourists across the country with many visitors focusing on the three most popular destinations of Rome, Florence, and Venice. This is still the best time to visit these major destinations, along with the various regions of Italy.
If you prefer a beachside getaway, you should visit Southern Italy or wait until the warmer months of summer, as the weather and water will not be warm enough in the Northern or Central Italy until late May, cooling by early September. You could enjoy the serene gold sands and warm water lapping against the southern edges of the country as late as early November, depending on how far south you choose to travel.
Nothing will heighten your Italian experience like the perfect hotel, and Italy has a huge range of accommodation that is as eclectic and exciting as the country itself. Families will revel in the condo-style hotels that can be found off the winding canals of Venice, or the charm of a private villa deep in the hills of Tuscany. Couples will cherish the romance of a cliff-hugging suite near the Blue Grotto of Capri, and rave about that quaint hotel room right next to that incredible pizzeria and the sprawling Spanish Steps. Nor do the options stop there: you can step into the Renaissance splendor of a former castle, indulge in bubbly and room service at a posh Rome hotel, or charter a luxury motor-yacht to cruise along the Amalfi coast.
There are also, of course, a number of international hotel chains with an extensive presence in Italy – offering you all of the comforts and familiarities of home while you’re an ocean away. Be advised that rooms in European hotels tend to be smaller than their American counterparts, and many older hotels in the country do not have elevators to the higher floors. When considering a particular type of hotel, it’s wise to remember that room sizes in Italy tend to be smaller than those of an equivalent rated American hotel.
The Quality of Accommodation
Boutique and eco-lodges have become popular in Italy over the years, along with luxurious villas, elegant castles, and even quiet monasteries. The travel industry has moved away from the bland accommodations and brand names of the past, revealing dedication to quality, distinctiveness, and fashion to make your accommodations in Italy as part of the travel experience. Brand hotels, such as the Marriott or Hilton, the Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons are names affiliated with grandeur and luxurious rooms. The most common brand hotels in Italy are Jolly and Hilton. However, smaller boutique hotels have created a movement capturing the leisure and Italian culture tucked in behind hidden bakeries and along private palaces. There are approximately 40,000 hotels in Italy, each with a fixed price in association with the Provincial Tourist Board.
The ways in which grand hotels now have distinctive designs more connected to their locations is a symbol of the effort's strength, which demanded unique style inspired by tradition, history, and heritage from the local furnishings to particular colors often associated with royalty or the former aristocracy. Erecting new structures in the heart of a historic city can be challenging, necessitating accommodations to use what was readily available, following in the longstanding tradition of renovating to upgrade the state of antique, and in some instances derelict, buildings or renovating and retrofitting seasoned edifices in need up updating but not major repairs. Ingenuity accompanies style in design, with different private hotel owners finding ways to personalize their accommodations, reflecting a region, town, or city more than the elusive culture of Italy.
It is easy to imagine four- and five-star quality lodges decorating the landscape of Italy, both in the cities and across the rural expanse. From mountain lodges in the Alps to seaside resorts overlooking the Adriatic or the Mediterranean, you are unlikely to find an ironing board in your room, and you will most likely open the door with an actual key as opposed to an electronic swipe card. In older hotels, the bathrooms can be narrow, but the windows in the bedrooms look out to the bustling life of the city, providing the soundtrack of daily life adding to the historic charms of the accommodation and its setting along cobblestone streets or olive groves, undulating hills or vineyards.
When contacting an accommodation, you should always hold onto an email or receipt of confirmation for your reservation. If you have traveled to a hotel without a reservation, it is considered normal to ask to see a room before booking. Italy has a variety of names for their accommodations across the country, with some words strictly in Italian. There are also six classifications for accommodation in Italy ranging from 1-star to 5-star deluxe, which is considered the very best. This guide can help you better understand the different types of lodgings you might prefer when traveling through Italy.
The common travel accommodation is a great way to save money across Europe and the world. The Italian name for a Hostel is ostello. They often have dorm-style rooms, along with rooms for couples or individuals. These rooms often still share a common bathroom with the other rooms on a given floor. A hostel can also call itself a hotel in Italy. Just because a lodging has the word hotel does not mean it will be the fanciest or most luxurious establishment. However, hostels do remain popular amongst international travelers on gap years, university students, and those looking for cheaper accommodation options during their travels through Europe.
In English, the term translates to “farm holiday,” however, in Italian the word has a much deeper meaning. The accommodation is located on a working farm with experiences ranging broadly across the country. Options for low-budget travelers often include working on the farm to subsidize accommodation, while other visitors can enjoy the unique qualities of the rural landscape through hiking, cycling, or cooking classes for insight into life, culture, and the traditions of Italian farmers. Agriturismo could also mean staying on an olive estate or vineyard, with some properties providing enchanting and lavish grounds for their clientele to enjoy outside of the major cities and towns.
Bed and Breakfast
The term Bed and Breakfast has become more popular in recent years in Italy’s hotel industry. While the words conjure a warm image of countryside cottages or seaside bungalows, Bed and Breakfasts in Italy do not always fit the same criteria. Many of these types of accommodations serve traditional Italian breakfast in the morning, which consists of espresso and a pastry. This meal often leaves non-Italians desiring eggs, bacon, or traditional dishes of a breakfast from western English-speaking culture. The accommodations themselves are of good quality, with fresh flowers decorating the room and a cocktail welcoming guests upon their arrival. In Italy, a Bed and Breakfast could be viewed as a guest room located in a private home, as well as inside a working villa or an apartment.
The religious grounds have long histories of serving as hostels for traveling pilgrims or knights searching for a bed for the evening. The tradition continues in many monasteries and convents across the Christian world, especially in Italy, with the historic edifices offering inexpensive options for tourists or glamorous stays on refurbished grounds now housing elegant accommodations. Staying at a working monastery or convent can shape your experience through exposing you to the same type of rules and regulations to which monks and nuns are subjected. The doors to the grounds are locked at a certain hour, instating a curfew. Separate sleeping quarters are imposed on men and women regardless of their marital status. The grounds are safe, quiet, and offer a distinctive understanding of monastic life that has remained unchanged for centuries.
The words are interchangeable in Italy, with some accommodations using one, the other, or both when advertising to visitors. The star system in Italy can vary more wildly than what you may be accustomed to while traveling. The amenities a hotel has differs not only between stars but between cities, towns, and villages. Options like elevators, air conditioning, and gyms depend upon the age of the building, with more lavish amenities common in larger cities such as Rome, Venice, or Florence.
Swimming pools are common at hotels in the countryside where space is not an issue. The star rating is not as standard as would suggest from other countries. 1- and 2-star properties may not be substandard and are instead smaller, family-run inns brimming with character and friendly owners eager to help perfect your travel experience. Their rating could be due to a lack of Western-English style amenities, such as an elevator or American breakfast. 5-star hotels will offer the types of amenities and comforts for which travelers familiar with American or English standards will expect and appreciate.
There are different ways to appreciate the villas and palaces of Italy. Many former aristocratic mansions or estates have been renovated and revitalized as private accommodations. While some villas provide unique rental opportunities, similar to renting an apartment or vacation home, others fit into the category of hotel. The most common place utilizing former palaces as hotels is in Venice, where images of the Republic continue to decorate the elegant halls and grand lobby, leading to enchanting rooms overlooking the quiet canals. A region popular with tourists for renting private villas is Tuscany, providing a base to make day trips into the surrounding countryside to visit the medieval villages.
Staying in a castle is also an option when visiting Italy. The accommodation is also considered a hotel but offers a unique perspective on the ways in which Italy has transformed its history for contemporary use while simultaneously representing its heritage. The types of castles range from 14th-century masonry reminiscent of a storybook overlooking a small town to 11th-century strongholds in the countryside in view of lush vineyards. The architectural style and age of the castles depend on the region in which the edifices are located, providing fabulous insight into the different families that shaped the various regions of Italy, promoting the distinct cultures connected more to the former city-states than to the country as a whole.
What was once considered a rustic alternative to hostels or luxury hotels has become a luxury excursion in its own right across the world. The word “glamping” embodies the beauty of the countryside, the quiet of rural life, and the luxury of a five-star hotel. A variety of campsite around Italy provides shuttles to the nearest city throughout the day for visitors to tour monuments and culture while still reveling in nature and comfort. Glamping is gaining in popularity due to its ability to combine discovery and seclusion, comfort, and nature with accommodations ranging from elegant tents to gorgeous bungalows, quiet lodges to fascinating caves, and even treehouses and yurts.
Top 10 Unique Lodgings in Italy
The accommodations in Italy can add to the allure and luster of one of the most visited countries in the world. Villages around Lake Maggiore in the north could have just as interesting and luxurious lodgings as the quiet towns of Lecce, located on Italy’s heal in the region of Puglia. The country’s treasures go beyond the monuments of Rome and the art of Florence with perfectly preserved mountains, reflective waters, grand architecture, enrapturing history, and unique accommodations from which you can view it all.
1. Trulli Hotels – Masseria Torricella is a trullo on the outskirts of the town of Alberobello and is surrounded by clay, olive, and prickly pear, providing an eco-friendly luxury experience with a heated pool, hot tub, and cycling paths crisscrossing the landscape. A trullo is a unique architectural design in the Puglia region. The whitewashed walls and conical roofs resemble a fairytale dwelling. The distinctive shape helped locals of the southern region keep their homes cool in against the summer heat and warm in the dry winters. A number of the antique homes have been modernized over the years and turned into vacation apartments or boutique hotels. The rooms offer a private bath, and a stunning experience found only in Puglia and Southern Italy.
2. Sassi Hotels – Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita has 18 lavish rooms in the oldest area of the cave dwellings to feature a composition of traditional design made with local materials, along with minimalist contemporary touches. The sassi zone of Matera refers to the caves dwellings in the region located in Southern Italy. Locals dug homes and churches out of the soft tufa stone and utilized the subterranean dwellings for centuries until as recently as the 1960s. A number of the cave-homes have been refurbished and modernized with designer touches and contemporary luxuries. The wild ambiance touches on the history of the city and the Basilicata region while providing guests the unforgettable chance to reinterpret their ideas of authentic Italian tradition.
3. Treehouse Glamping – Italy is drawing visitors from around the world with new and different perspectives on the unique contours of the country’s topography, with tourist finding more than just the art and architecture of the big cities. In Sicily’s Madonie Adventure Park, located in the province of Palermo. Tents are suspended from the trees at more than 20 feet above the forest floor, allowing couples, families, and individuals to feel as though they are nesting with the birds. The grounds also provide local food, a collection of nature trails, and captivating adventures for family fun activities.
4. Ultimate Luxury – Italy’s star-rating system ranges between 1 and 5 stars, with an extra emphasis on luxury hotels rated as 5-star deluxe. However, the ultimate in glamor, comfort, and extravagance appears in the form of Milan’s Townhouse Galleria, which classifies itself as a 7-star establishment. High-end services are tailored to satisfy each guest and included amenities such as personal butlers versed in the guest’s native language, a wellness area, concierge services, and private limousine transfers. The hotel also hosts The World of Leonardo da Vinci Museum, a gallery dedicated to models, machines, and works of the artist and inventor. The hotel is located amidst the grandeur of Milan’s premier shopping corridor, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which was erected in the 19th century.
5. A Village Resort – Erase whatever image you have of when thinking of the word “resort,” because one of the truly unique establishments in Italian accommodations is the idea of restoring and transforming abandoned villages into something new, exciting, and welcoming to visitors from across Italy, Europe, and the world. One such resort is Sagna Rotonda, which was a small mountain village in Piedmont. The eco-friendly estate is powered by renewable resources and low-energy light bulbs. Wide windows and marvelous vistas offer views to the Valle Maira, which remains little known to visitors outside of Italy, providing a perfect escape into nature or an extravagant romance in view of the mountains.
6. A Chocolate Lover’s Dream – Chocolate is more than candy in the region of Umbria and its capital Perugia, but is a sweet obsession, embodied in the nearly 100-room Etruscan Chocohotel, which is dedicated to the popular confection. The restaurant carries a chocolate-themed menu, and three floors of the hotel are dedicated to different types of sweets with Milk Chocolate, Gianduja—a popular sweet spread with chocolate and hazelnut, and Dark Chocolate floors. The Etruscan motif emanates from the heritage frescoes decorating the rooms of a particular floor, combining the ancient history of the Umbria region with the contemporary culture of Perugia through its chocolate delights. There is also a panoramic terrace offering views of the Umbrian plains and hills leading to Assisi, with a swimming pool filled with crisp, cool water, as opposed to thick, creamy chocolate.
7. Mountaineer’s Paradise – Rifugio Bella Vista provides a luxurious eco-friendly experience inside an igloo at over 9,300 feet above sea level in the South Tyrol region of Italy, also known as Alto Adige, an autonomous, German-speaking province in the Alps separating Italy from Austria. The sustainable lodging is only offered in winter with three authentic igloos carved from snow and ice. 100 percent of the electricity derives from renewable sources and the accommodation offers the luxury of soaking in the highest outdoor sauna in Europe with panoramic views of the Oetztal Alps. Fans of winter sports have options such as skiing, snowboarding, or glacial hikes in the winter. In the summer, although the igloos are not available, the landscape provides exceptional scenic hiking and boating on the glacial lake.
8. Exceptional Charm – The overlooked region of Marche houses a quaint bed and breakfast known for its unique rooms located inside remodeled wooden barrels. The eco-friendly establishment is situated on family-owned farmland, which grows its own organic food used in the meals prepared for guests. The windows overlook the terrace for views of the enchanting landscape of the region known for its rugged mountains, lush forests, and stretches of glistening beach. The tranquil accommodation is located near the church of Santo Stefano and the sandy shores of San Benedetto del Tronto, an active fishing port on the Adriatic coast.
9. A Hidden Tower – Torre Prendiparte is one of the last remaining 12th-century towers in the city of Bologna, the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region. Over 100 towers once created the lavish skyline of the city and served as fortresses or refuge for the noble families who funded their assembly. The tower has been fully restored with all 12 stories open to visitors, with a single room adorning the top floor. The tower stands nearly 200 feet tall and provides a breathtaking view of the city known for its captivating cuisine. The stairwell wraps around the walls leading upwards for a dizzying climb, reflecting the impregnable stronghold built to protect and defend the Prendiparte family in the Middle Ages.
10. In the Tradition of Napoleon - Rome is known for boasting lavish accommodations and elegant palaces dating back to the times of emperors and Roman legions. However, the 16th-century Roman palazzo Residenza Napoleone III captures the imagination of guests with remarkable 16th-century luxury. The boutique hotel known as Palazzo Ruspoli has hosted many distinguished guests since its creation in the mid-1700s and served as the home of Napoleon III in the 1830s.
Only three of the palace’s rooms are open to visitors with the most coveted being the Napoleon Suite. Guests immediately feel the wealth of the former nobility upon entering the grounds decorated with massive wooden doors and a stunning marble staircase. The Napoleon Suite is decorated with antique furnishings, giant oil paintings, parquet floors, hand-stenciled walls, and original 16th-century tapestries. There is also an exquisite marble bathroom that feels like a palace onto itself.
11. An Eco-Friendly Bonus – A yurt is not something visitors to Italy, nor Italians, would associate with the traditions of the country. Yet the accommodation connected to the heritage of Central Asia, most notably Mongolia and Turkey, have made a big impact on the luxury camping industry of Italy. Maremma, a province of Southern Tuscany, hosts a unique bed and breakfast situated on 210 acres in the heart of the hills near a selection of traditional medieval villages.
Goats, sheep, horses, and cows graze on the grass allowing guests to experience farm life and organic produce is grown on the property. Guests of the yurt can explore Tuscany, lounge on the secluded beaches of Maremma, or partake in the daily activities of the farm to learn more about the agricultural history the region. There are also plenty of medieval towns and hot springs to visit, representing greater Tuscany and the unique properties of the particular province.
Visa and Passport Requirements
Italy is a member of the European Union, so Americans don’t usually need a visa or any other entry requirements unless you plan to work here or to stay longer than 90 days. Should you require a visa for either of these reasons, you can apply for one at the nearest Italian consulate: much of the process can be done over the phone, but you will need to visit a consulate in person before you receive your visa to travel.
Traveling through Italy is harder than people think. When visiting a country known for ancient Roman relics, Renaissance art, romantic canals, you could easily get stuck in the tourist route consisting of Rome, Florence, and Venice. This is by no means a bad experience of Italy, but the country is so much more than these three popular destinations. Each region has its own customs and cuisine, cultural history and flair. Traditions, flavors, and even rivalries become more intricate on the micro-level, looking beyond the country as a whole and the united regions to find distinctive provinces and proud communes.
The longer you plan on staying in Italy, the better you can experience the true nature of a culture defined by the history of their towns as opposed to the past of the region. Witness a unified country with centuries of city-states vying for power, writers and poets performing their works in regional dialects, and artists commissioned by local lords to create unforgettable masterworks that surpass time and carry the nobles’ names into history.
Traveling through Italy walks you through a larger-than-life course in European history exceeding the Roman Empire, showcasing the Middle Ages, and connecting Byzantium with the Renaissance, the Baroque with ancient Greek settlers. Step beyond the surprise of learning there is more to Italy than Rome, Florence, and Venice. These three cities have gained a remarkable reputation over the centuries as grand tourist destinations for a reason, however, beyond the obvious lies the illustrious.
Planning a trip to Italy can be overwhelming. You could spend years traveling through the different regions and still not have enough. It is one of the reasons Italy is such a popular destination for tourists year-round from all around the world. Some visitors choose to return to Rome each year or spend their October in a villa in Tuscany on their anniversary. The following list is a compilation of the regions of Italy with a number of well-known and lesser-known cities, towns, and villages to explore during your first time or 100th time visiting Italy.
Health and Safety
Italy has long been a destination for travelers across the globe, whether pilgrims eager to visit St. Peter’s Basilica in the Middle Ages, Greek merchants headed to ancient Rome, or tourists eager to view the wealth of history, Culture spans the boot-shaped country nestled between the Mediterranean and Adriatic Seas to the South, East, and West, with the rugged Alps bordering the north. The image of fashionable locals, famous artwork, and pristine coastline draws visitors with the promise of lavish excursions and relaxing getaways. The following information is intended to offer practical considerations when preparing for a trip to any part Italy’s nearly 116,500 square miles.
Italy has a more diverse landscape than people realize. Although Italy is only Europe’s 10th largest country in terms of landmass, visitors can ski on the mountainous terrain, lounge on the bright sands of the coastline, sip wine or delight in olive oil sustained by the Mediterranean climate, or traverse a semi-arid desert. Most visitors to Italy associate the lush rolling hills of Tuscany and the indigo waters of the Amalfi Coast with the country’s diverse setting. The dry climate of Southern Italy has caused serious droughts, keeping farmers in the rural region of Calabria from irrigating their fields, while in the north, floods have caused evacuations in the Liguria and Piedmont regions during heavy autumn rains. It is important to keep destination and time of year in mind when traveling to any country, accounting for the intensity of weather conditions and the possibility of emergencies.
Vaccinations while in Italy
Italy has a westernized culture emphasizing the importance of health facilities, vaccines, and medicines in large cities and villages across the country. The Center for Disease Control, along with the U.S. Department of State does not suggest any inoculations beyond the routine vaccinations recommended before leaving your country of residence. These include:
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
The suggested vaccines for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B are meant as precautions, especially if you might come in contact with contaminated food or water while in small towns or rural villages. You should discuss any vaccination with your doctor based on your destination and the amount of time you will travel. If you do not have a personal doctor, you could visit a travel clinic. You can find the nearest your travel clinic by visiting Passport Health.
The Euro was established as an official unit of currency in Italy on January 1, 1999. It officially replaced the lira as legal tender on February 28, 2002. The move benefitted travelers across the European Union and travelers wishing to explore a variety of countries by not having to exchange different monetary units between countries, simplifying travel, transfers, and banking in the region.
ATMs are prevalent across Italy. Restaurants, hotels, and shops in large cities or tourist areas often accept major credit cards. Small shops, hotels, and restaurants located in villages or towns outside of major tourist destinations may only accept cash. Local businesses, from hotels to restaurants, will quote their prices in euros. The exchange rate from dollar to euro can fluctuate daily.
Money exchange is easy across Italy. It can be done at kiosks located in any international airport or the bureau du change prevalent near the tourist areas of major cities. Rates can vary between the kiosks dependent upon the location in town versus the airport. British pounds and American dollars are the easiest currencies to exchange. You can also exchange currency in a bank if you have your passport.
Traveler’s checks are not as readily accepted by businesses in Italy. If an exchange company does accept the traveler’s check, they may charge a large commission. If you feel safer traveling with traveler’s checks, there are American Express offices in Milan, Florence, and Rome, which offer easy and accessible currency exchange when dealing with traveler’s checks. It is best to use traveler’s checks as an emergency currency. They are replaced if stolen and provide an extra source of money if bank computers, ATMs or credit cards malfunction.
Italians are not known for tipping. Many members of the service industry enjoy visitors from the US due to the tipping culture, however tipping is not necessary when eating at a cafe, taking a taxi, or enjoying an espresso at a traditional bar. If you do feel the need to tip but are not sure how much to give each time, you can use the following as a rough guide to how and when to tip:
- Taxis are optional. Most people round up to the nearest euro if they felt the ride had a measure of quality,
- Hotel porters often receive up to 5 at high-end hotels. It is okay to give a porter 1 per bag if the bags are heavy.
- Restaurants usually include gratuity on the check listed as Servizio. If the charge is not included, it is customary to leave 1 or 2 euro at a pizzeria or up to 10 percent in a restaurant.
- If you drink a coffee or espresso at the bar like Italians often do in the morning, leaving small change is the custom. If you take drinks at the table, the bartender appreciates a small gratuity.
Is Italy Safe to Visit?
Horror stories while traveling has become ubiquitous in the travel industry, almost as common as the stories people share about their love affairs with a charming villa in Tuscany or a hidden gem on the Adriatic Coast. All-encompassing generalizations can leave a negative stamp on the growth of the tourism industry across Italy. The country is a safe destination for travelers from around the world but does have instances of petty theft centered on heavy tourist destinations.
Crime rates in the United States rank above those in Italy, accounting for more violent crimes occurring annually. However, it is important to remain safe and keep yourself out of harm’s way whenever possible, including when protecting your personal belongings. Keep your valuables hidden or in a safe place on your body while in large crowds to avoid theft. If using a money belt or travel satchel, use one made to hide under a shirt, jacket, or in the inseam of the pants, as opposed to protruding around your waist.
Pickpockets are notorious in Rome around the railway hub of Termini, along with the crowded tourist centers of the Colosseum, Piazza di Spagna, and the popular nightspots in the Trastevere neighborhood. Always make sure purses and backpacks are zipped tight before entering a crowd. Hold tight to any loose bags, including backpacks, as persistent thieves may try to cut holes in the bottom of a pack or purse to let the valuables fall out on their own, with the perpetrator trailing behind to collect any spoils.
If you choose to wear a purse or backpack, or are carrying a bag from a day of shopping, keep the item close to you when walking through a popular tourist area. In the same regard, you should keep a constant eye on active groups of gypsies who frequent tourist stops. Women and children work in tandem on unsuspecting tourists using a common scam.
The baby toss is an example when a woman wraps a doll like a baby and throws the “baby” at a victim. While the person attempts to catch the high-flying doll, the gypsy and her accomplices loot the victim. Another type of swindle to keep an eye on is the “Rose Scam.” Vendors walk around the romantic areas of a city carrying bouquets of roses. They compliment a woman on her looks before handing her a gorgeous flower. The vendor then hounds the boyfriend or husband to pay for the rose. If the boyfriend or husband does not pay, the vendor will force the woman to return the rose, making everyone look bad in the process.
Visit your doctor to receive any prescription drugs used consistently before departing for your trip. You can attempt to take with you’re a surplus of your medication as long as you carry the doctor’s perspiration in concurrence with the treatment. Health care is readily available across the country with standards varying by the size of the city and location, with Southern Italy often seen as more disadvantaged.
Pharmacists offer a range of valuable advice and over-the-counter medication good for minor illnesses. Pharmacists can also offer advice on seeking more specialized help from doctors or a hospital in the area. Pharmacies keep the same hours as regular shops in Italy, including closing its doors on Sundays. If for any reason you need an ambulance, the number for general emergencies across Italy is 112. Pronto Soccorso is the emergency section of the hospital, which also offers immediate dental treatment when necessary.
Food and Water Safety
Food and water standards in Italy are similar to those in the United States, and therefore it is not necessary to take food or water precautions when traveling, beyond any precautions you would take at home. Ancient springs continue to feed cities and towns across the country, allowing for crisp, clean, and refreshing water springing from Nasoni, free fountains. These water fountains are tested for purity several times a year and are a much better way to cool off during a Roman or Florentine summer than dunking your head into Trevi Fountain and receiving a more than $275 fine.
Whether worried about your gluten-free diet or suffering from an autoimmune disorder that affects the way you can digest wheat, Italy is the perfect destination for those who still want to indulge in the delights of Italian cuisine. The Italian government learned that one percent of its citizens suffer from celiac disease. Regulation has ensured the majority of restaurants across the country have gluten-free options, including pizza and pasta. Even when ordering a gluten-free option, it is important to confirm the pans, floured surfaces, and doughs were not cross contaminated.
There are gluten-free restaurant guides to Italy available, which helps someone otherwise unable to partake in the more than 600 varieties of pasta in Italy learn about Italian culture through the cuisine. For more information about gluten-free in Italy, you can visit the Italian Celiac Association or download the Mangiare Senza Glutine app for your iOS device. The app is offered in Italian or English.
Hygiene in Italy
When traveling through Italy, you should expect Western-style toilets in accommodations across large cities, small towns, and even in secluded villages. This also applies to campsites, lodges, national parks, and refurbished historic buildings such as monasteries or castles. The unique properties of ancient villages hidden in the mountains and structures hundreds of years old can mean the pipes might not be thick enough or new enough to allow for flushing toilet paper. In these instances, a note is often left inside the bathroom, visible to remind you not to flush the paper. A small trashcan will also be set beside the toilet as the place to deposit the paper after use.
Outside of department stores, trains stations, and museum galleries, there will be few opportunities in Italy to use public restrooms. If you must enter a café, restaurant, or bar, it is polite to order a drink or snack before using the facilities. If a public restroom is available for use somewhere in town, it is often contingent upon payment of between .50 to 1.50. In smaller towns and villages, these public toilets could also be what is referred to as “squat toilets,” which can consist of porcelain footprints bordering a hole or just a hole for which to aim.
Visa and immigration requirements for Italy are the same as for other members of the European Union. With US, Canadian, Australian, or New Zealand passports, travelers can enter Italy for up to 90 days without any need for a visa. You can travel through the Schengen Zone, which accounts for 26 European countries, as long as you have six month’s validity in your passport and two clean pages.
Travelers hoping to stay longer than 90 days in Italy must apply for a permesso di soggiorno, a permit to stay. The residence permit pertains to any person of non-European Union citizenship wishing to stay longer in Italy to study, work, or relocate. Before arriving in Italy, you must have proof of onward or return travel within 90 days of your arrival readily available for immigration officers to view.
Electricity and the Metric System
The electricity in Italy adheres to the European standards of frequency and voltage, ranging from 220V to 230V with a frequency of 50Hz. Thus, converters for other European countries will work while in Italy. Wall outlets accommodate plugs with two or three round pins. You will not be able to charge your accessories while in Italy without a converter or adapter due to the different plug shape of European sockets, along with the possibility of electrical fire or damage. Voltage can also make a difference when deciding to use an adapter versus a converter.
Adapters do not convert electricity but allow a dual-voltage appliance to access electricity through the socket. You should always check the device to ensure it can withstand the difference in voltage. Common dual voltage devices are iPhone chargers, laptops, iPads, and cameras. A stamp on the power label will say if the device is single or double voltage. If the device was sold in North or South America, the voltage would state 110V or 120V AC along with 220V to 230V if the device allows for double voltage. If the device is a single voltage (110V or 120V), a converter is recommended to keep the device from damage. Examples of a single electric product are:
- Non-travel hair dryers
- Steam irons
- Non-travel electric shavers
- Non-travel electric toothbrushes
- Small fans
Italy, like the rest of Europe, uses the metric system instead of the United States Customary Units (USCS). The alternative measurements used in most countries around the world use the base unit uses meters, liters, and grams as the base units of distance, volume, and weight. The system applies the idea that units get larger or smaller by units of 10. The basic conversions between the metric system and the USCS are:
- 1 Meter = 3.28 feet
- 1 Liter = 33.81 ounces
- 1 Kilogram = 2.2 pounds
Like most of Western Europe, the official currency in Italy is the euro. Changing money is very easy, although you generally get the best exchange rates if you withdraw cash from an ATM rather than exchanging bills at a currency exchange. (Many American banks have sister banks in Europe, allowing you to use their ATMs without incurring a fee.) For most of its history, the euro has been more valuable than the dollar, so keep that in mind when making your purchases. Restaurants tend to add a ‘service charge’ of up to 15% on their bills, so tipping is not necessary or even expected. (If you do want to add a tip for exceptional service, you can always leave a small amount of cash on the table.)
Italy is a modern nation with contemporary sensibilities, but it is also a country with a strong conservative past. Shorts are more common now than they were even fifteen years ago, but everyday fashion is, generally speaking, slightly more formal in Italy than it is in the States. The most important considerations when it comes to Italian etiquette relate to churches and other places of worship: many of Italy’s churches will ask that you cover at least your shoulders – and often your upper legs as well – before entering. There will usually be a sacristan at the door to inform you if you need to cover yourself further, and they’ll generally offer a large piece of fabric to wrap around you while you’re inside the church.
Finally, while most Italians – particularly in the service sector – can speak English reasonably well, every Italian appreciates an effort to try to converse with them in their own language. Memorizing everyday words and phrases like “hello”, “please” and “thank you” (as well as the ever-important “do you speak English?”) will not only make you easier to understand, but will also demonstrate a respect for Italy, its language and its people that natives are sure to appreciate.
Italy remains rather formal in its etiquette, at least compared to other western countries, such as the United States, Canada, and members of the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand. Casual greetings are enthusiastic but retain a sense of formality in the way familiar friends or business partners or strangers shake hands while making direct eye contact and a small smile. After a relationship develops, friends will kiss both cheeks, starting with the left. Men also add a pat on the back as a formality. However, Italians will not refer to one another by their first name until invited.
First impressions are important in Italy and can shape the entire relationship between people, making propriety and respect important. Punctuality is not considered an important part of etiquette in Italy, with friends or acquaintances arriving between 15 and 30 minutes later than the specified time. When invited to a home, guests bring gift-wrapped chocolates or wine, preferring to spend more for a smaller amount with better quality than for a larger amount of a less delicious product.
The Dos and Don’ts of Respectful Travel in Italy
Traveling to another country can be an enriching experience that teaches you about other cultures, spectacular history, and fascinating contemporary lifestyle, or it could lead to awkward glances, anxiety, and unfortunate misunderstandings if not adhering to simple social norms of Italy. While traveling Italy, it is important to use common sense in terms of what is considered respectful and what might be taken as rude. As a member of the European Union, many of the traditions and cultural conventions of Italy adhere to the standards you might be familiar with if living in an English-speaking westernized country such as the United States or Canada. However, there are still certain aspects of the Italian tradition that might be considered strange or overlooked.
Italians do not walk while eating or drinking. They may stand at the bar or inside a café but will not stroll down the street eating lunch or sipping a coca cola. Italians stop for their meals, even when in a rush, to enjoy a small pleasure during their busy day. An exception to the rule is for children who are often seen with a breadstick or piece of pizza while wandering the city at any time of day.
Dinner is eaten later in Italy than what you may be accustomed to back home. Most traditional restaurants in Italy do not open until 7 pm, with many Italians not sitting down for dinner until 7:30 or 8 pm. The best way to keep the hunger pains at bay is to partake in an aperitivo, a type of Italian happy hour, when small snacks, such as sandwiches, olives, or cheeses, accompany your cocktail order. Friends, families, and couples meet between 5 and 7 pm to chat about their day before heading home or to a restaurant for dinner.
Do not use your fingers when eating, and use a fork instead to pick up pieces of fruit and a knife to pick pieces of cheese is polite and considered more sanitary. Wine is served with meals when visiting a person’s private home. It is rude to refuse a glass of wine. Rather, if you do not want anymore or do not wish to imbibe at all, you can leave your glass relatively full.
The Best Walk in Italy – The Passeggiata
La Passeggiata is one of the few traditions to permeate the culture across the entirety of Italy. The simple act of walking through town becomes an art form when couples, families, and friends arrive on the boulevards to see and be seen. The daily pre-dinner activity translates to the “little walk” takes place between five and seven pm. Locals window shop while walking up and down the street before bumping into friends and acquaintances.
In smaller cities and towns, the passeggiata can be the social event of the weekend as people represent the personification of fare la bella figura, cutting a beautiful figure. Via del Corso in Rome provides an elegant panorama of the luxury boutique shops and window-shopping pedestrians. The narrow lanes of Florence lead locals to the public square of Piazza della Repubblica. Locals of Siena return to their medieval streets after the crowds of daily tourists retreat, winding around the shell shape of the main square Il Campo.
Italians are known for their passion, whether in business, love or with personal interests. Their enthusiasm spreads to their communication, leading to wordy, eloquent, and emotional illustrations accentuated by facial expression and hand gestures. While traveling in Italy, you should be aware of your hand movements so as not to offend those around you and better understand a heated situation.
Clenching your middle and ring fingers against your thumb, while extending your index and pinky is known as The Horns. When made with both hands, this gesture is used to ward off curses or bad luck. However, the gesture is also an insult, used to accuse someone of being a cuckold.
A gesture often made when imitating Italian hand gestures shows the thumb and fingertips brought together upright, while simultaneously waving the hand up and down. The animated gesture is frequently used in heated conversation, whether in person or on the phone and means “what do you want,” or more often, “what the heck do you mean?”
A classic gesture involves the hands loosely in front of the body, shaking from the wrists. The movement means that you have had enough or give me a break, reflected in an attempt to imitate testicles exploding. It is associated with the colloquial Italian phrase “non rompere le palle,” which roughly translates to “don’t break my balls.”
Italian Coffee Culture
Coffee has its own culture in Italy, and with that culture comes its own rules. Coffee in each region mirrors the predominant heritage, personifying distinctive features of a city or region. Therefore the names of Italy’s different types of coffee are an expression of flavor and a connection to one’s customs. There are eight common types of coffee in Italy:
- Caffé – a shot of espresso
- Cappuccino – a cocktail of one-third espresso, one-third steamed milk, and one-third foam
- Macchiato – an espresso with a drop or two of hot milk. You can also order a Latte macchiato, which rotates the ratios of milk to espresso
- Marocchino – a shot of espresso with a layer of foam dusted with powdered cacao. It is milkier than a macchiato
- Caffé Latte – Latte in Italian means milk, therefore if wanting a latte traditional in the English speaking world, you must order a caffé latte, which is one-third espresso and two-thirds heated milk, topped with a light foam
- Shakerato – Espresso poured over ice and shaken until frothy, basically an Italian version of an iced coffee
- Caffé al Ginseng – Espresso brewed with ginseng extract to increase the nutty flavor with a natural sweetener
- Caffé d’Orzo – A roasted grain beverage made from ground barley and served as an espresso. However, the coffee substitute is caffeine free and often considered an alternative for children or those looking for decaf. It is often enjoyed with the bright citrus of a fresh orange peel
The time of day has a heavy influence on the type of drinks Italian will order. Espresso is acceptable at any time of day, but ordering a cappuccino or a caffé latte is considered unfashionable after 11 am. Even though an Italian would never order the drink after lunch due to its milky properties, you are allowed to order one from a café or bar despite rumors about prejudiced bartenders or judging glances from other diners. Caffé al Ginseng is also considered a great digestive aid, with many Italians ordering the nutty and spiced drink after lunch or dinner.
Ordering a caffé doppio will get you a double shot of espresso. This type of drink is not common for Italians to order, however visiting the local barista multiple times a day for coffee breaks is normal behavior for most Italians. In the evening you can relax with a caffé corretto, an espresso served with a splash of alcohol, most often grappa or Sambuca.
Each region of Italy boasts its own special flavors of coffee, adhering to the local palates shaped by the cuisine and cultural history over the centuries. In the late 17th century Vienna exiled the occupying Ottomans with the help of the Venetian Republic. The retreating army abandoned approximately 500 bags of coffee, beginning the coffee drinking tradition in Austro-Hungarian Empire and Italy, most notably Venice.
Coffee in Venice continues to in the traditions of its heritage with well-rounded aromatics of a Middle Eastern and Central Asian vanilla fragrance. Milan coffee is light, delicate, and fine, connoting the high-speed pragmatism of the industrial city. The fast-paced urbanites drink their espresso quickly before heading to the office. The regions of Piedmont and Liguria produce sweet and delicate coffee shaped by the world wards, turning coffee into a small luxury in which to indulge. Neapolitans prefer their coffee intense and dark, with Neapolitan espresso becoming the worldwide embodiment of Italian coffee standards in style and quality.
Italians tend to order their drinks al banco, which means “at the bar,” preferring to stand with their colleagues and friends near the bar with their caffé in hand. The nomenclature of coffee changes between cities as well, with the city of Trieste claiming the most creative terms for its most popular beverage. Locals refer to espresso as Nero but order “Nero in B” if desiring an espresso in a small glass. However, if you were to place a simple order at the bar while in Trieste, Turin, Milan, or Naples, such as ordering an espresso, cappuccino, or macchiato, the bartender would understand even without the local terminology unless you ask for “coffee.”
The official language of Italy is Italian. However, there exist many different dialects dependent upon the region. The traditional national dialect is the original dialect of Tuscany as popularized by Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem La Divina Comedia, The Divine Comedy, which today is remembered around the world mostly for the first book in the epic, Il Inferno, Dante’s Inferno. Sicily’s dialect is so strong that Italians from other areas of the country have trouble understanding due to a long influence of Arabic, Greek, and Spanish on the island.
Groups along the northern border of France speak with an accent heavily influenced by a history of French occupation, along with the fluidity of the border connecting republics to the French monarchy. German is also spoken with prevalence in the mountains along the Swiss and Austrian borders due to deep border connection with former German-speaking monarchies and the occupation of eastern Italy by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Beyond language, Italians remain loyal more to their hometowns than to their country, with ancient feuds continuing to draw families together or wedge them apart. The national anthem of Fratelli d’Italia is played with pride during international sporting events but while in the United States or the United Kingdom, politicians build fervor through a call of patriotism to “God and Country,” Italian politicians create passion by stressing ties to loyalty to the family and the historical ties to the country.
Leisure matches you to top travel specialists working to plan your dream vacation, allowing you to tour Italy through the conservation of historic sites, giving new life to cultural heritage and traditions, or basking in the Mediterranean sunlight on the Riviera or southern coastline of the Western European peninsula. There is more to traveling in Italy than the ruins of Rome, the art in Florence, and the canals of Venice.
Many travelers think that they have to choose between a pre-packaged group tour versus self-planned independent travel. The former offers hassle-free convenience while the latter offers flexibility. However, we recommend a third option: Customized tours of Italy.
With this option, you have the best of both worlds and you’ll enjoy a variety of unique and authentic experiences on a handcrafted Italy itinerary, customized just for you. You’ll travel independently, but your trip will be carefully planned for you to ensure hassle-free logistics, perfect hotel selections, and most importantly, authentic experiences that are most meaningful to you. For example, food lovers can have their trips designed around the foods of Italy or explore Tuscan cuisine in one of Leisure's Tuscany tours. If you're interested in discovering an eclectic world of Italy, our Sicily tours section offers a wide range of ideas. Or if you’re into art and fast cars, or any unique combination of special interests, your trip can be designed accordingly.
While the major cities on the Italian Peninsula provide the staples of understanding Italy’s beauty, traveling the Leisure way takes into account the aromas, tastes, and colorful charms waiting around every corner of a historic village or along the hidden museums of a bustling city, whether with unseen natural wonders, lavish ski and beach resorts, or cultural experiences taking you into the homes of a life-long chef. An Italy tour with Leisure allows you to experience all the must-see sights, including those destinations you had never thought of or never before knew existed.
All you have to do is tell us about your dream trip by filling out a Trip Request. We’ll then match you with 2 – 3 Italy travel specialists who will work with you to customize a tour package—designed just for you.
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