holiday in Italy?
This is a monster of must-sees, the richest collection of ancient
buildings, museums, art and culture in Europe with an amazing history to
Rome is a stunning, lived-in art gallery, with more tourist sights
than any other city in the world, while Venice is uniquely water-based and strangely enticing, Florence packed with art and architecture in all forms and even small towns such as fortified Lucca offer magical experiences.
The country embraces spectacular and varied landscapes from northern lakes through rolling hills of Tuscany, dramatic cliffs of Amalfi and on to the emerald coasts of Sardinia, fair beaches (the best are unquestionably on Italian islands), good
food and drink at reasonable prices, a relaxed lifestyle and effervescent
- Heavy traffic and borderline insane drivers in some places, though
- Pickpockets and bag snatchers are active in big cities, particularly
Rome, Naples and Palermo.
- Too many tourists in the summer and too much heat.
- The Italian mainland has a distinct shortage of big, beautiful, sandy
beaches - in spite of the lengthy coastline; most good stretches are taken over by pay-parasols.
- There is an oversupply of pizza and pasta joints and a distinct lack of non-Italian resaurants for tourists who need variety. See Italian cuisine
Codacons, the Italian consumer watchdog reports mass tourist scams ranging from Rome taxi drivers charging €130 from the airport when the fixed fee is €40; fake parking attendants in Florence, double-charging tourists for water bus tickets in Venice, and generally overcharging foreigners just about anywhere, from bars and restaurants to hairdressers.
However, bars, restaurants and taxis are legally obliged to display tariffs (somewhere!) so ALWAYS check before you order!
Best seasons: March- November for sightseeing, June-September
for beach resorts, January-March for skiing.
Worst: December-February, it can be bitterly cold in the north, unless for winter
sports, though look out for carnivals in February/March, especially Venice.
St Peters, the Vatican
Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights: Rome - a two day romantic
Recommended: At least 2 weeks to briskly visit Rome and a couple
of other cities such as Florence, Venice, Siena, or some country/mountain/beach
Photos of Italy: Venice
Carnival | Rome | Florence | Sardinia | Genoa | Lucca | Siena | Italy Beaches
Basilica of San Michele in Foro, plus Prosecco, Lucca
Hiking/Climbing: the official hiking
season is from June 20th to September 20th and most ski resorts
become excellent bases for walking and mountain biking in summer
Marked trails and paths are well provided.
Resorts have detailed maps, itineraries and various treks with our
without guides can be arranged easily.
The most obvious trekking zone is
the Alps in the north, but less challenging trails can be found
in Tuscany and Umbria.
The islands like Capri, Sicily or Sardinia have plenty of hiking
Unlike Britain hikers in Italy have unlimited access to the land.
Moneglia beach, Liguria
Beaches: the mainland's beaches tend
to be small, pebbly and crowded. The few really good strands of sand, such as in northwest Tuscany on the Italian Riviera, an area known as the Versilia Coast, tend to be overcome by pay-parasol zones, though with occasional narrow strips of free sand for the hoi-polloi.
In other words if you're driving by and want a dip in the Med you'll have diffculty finding a place to park your car and a a place to park your butt. However, if you're ready to pay for a parasol and sun bed then enjoy, though there's still a parking issue.
Diving and snorkelling: popular in
Sicily and off most of the little islands, among the best is Ustica
in the Tyrrhenian Sea, with the first Italian underwater natural
reserve (75 minutes from Palermo in Sicily by hydrofoil).
Some of the country's best dive sites can be found in Sardinia,
with diving schools, courses and equipment hire are readily available.
Other possible locations include the Trémiti Islands in the
Adriatic sea, with crystal clear water and along the coasts of Tuscany
Sailing: suggested sailing routes with
guides and maps around the south are available at tourist offices. One of Europe's most popular sailing locations, especially for small
boats and windsurfers is the lake country in the north Lake
Garda, Lake Como, Iseo, Lugano and Maggiore. Lake Como is especially spectacular and safe holiday sailing destination.
Out in the open sea
the best is probably Archipelago
della Maddalena, located between Sardinia and Corsica (France),
zig-zagging around 60 islets, although it is not ideal for beginners.
Fishing: Sardinia and Sicily have excellent
sea waters, while rivers in Umbria and Tuscany offer the most scenic
fishing. Fishing boats can be easily hired.
River canoeing/rafting: The Alps in
the north is the place to go for dramatic scenery and river rides.
Cycling: this is one of the most popular
sports but beware lunatic drivers (the signs are all there, including a car dealership in Lucca called 'Lunatici').
Camping: There's plenty of choice of
places and facilities from basic campsites to luxury holiday parks
throughout the country.
Golfing: Excellent golf courses
carpet the country, from Lombardy, Trentino in the north to Tuscany and Lazio.
Also on Calabria and Sardinia.
Spectator sports: It's a special thrill
to watch games with excitable Italians. The three most popular sports
are football, cycle racing (the Giro dItalia), and motor-racing
(at Monza near Milan).
Skiing: a great improvement in facilities
in recent years has made Italy one of Europe's finest destinations
for both downhill and cross-country skiing.
Other: Italian language, cooking and
art courses are widely available.
Being a Catholic nation, Italy has religious events throughout
out the year but particularly at Christmas and Easter.
Furthermore there are probably more mad celebrations, historic events
and art festivals in Italy than in any other European country - with the possible exception of Spain - especially in the summertime.
February/March: Carnevale (Carnival), although the one in Venice is
the most extraordinary for its costumes, atmosphere, and huge crowds,
Verona is the best place to go for authenticity. Viareggio (Tuscany) and Arcireale (Sicily) are also good.
Easter: Lo Scoppio del Carro, (Explosion of the Cart), fireworks
display on Easter Sunday in Florence at the Duomo of Santa Maria
early May: Cocullo L'Aquila, the Festival of Snakes to celebrate
Saint San Domenico.
May: Corsa dei Ceri, (Gubbio), a bizarre medieval event held
annually, with a group of men carrying three ceri (20 ft wooden
pillars) and racing up to the Basilica.
mid June-August: Verona Opera Season takes place in the Arena, a
huge Roman theatre and is perhaps the best-known open air opera
in the world. Fantastic performances in a fantastic environment.
Tickets start at €10(£6).
early July and mid Aug: Palio in Siena, a mad, medieval bare-back
horse race in the 12th century square. Crazed, colourful and crowded.
late Aug: Venice Film Festival, the world's oldest international
September: La Regatta di Venezia (Venice regatta), historic
gondola race along the Grand Canal, with people in medieval costumes.
Oct: Olive Oil Festival, (Nationwide).
some precise dates see: European
Festivals or Arts
Lucca's medieval Piazza Anfiteatro.
Price wise this country is no longer brilliantly cheap due to the
€uro's strength, but Italian style and taste is still irresistible.
For big labels and sophistication, Milan and Florence are the places
to go. If that is not your thing, try Italian eccentricity at smaller
boutiques, or fine workmanship in city backstreets.
Visiting local open-air markets for good value clothes and
regional foods, especially in Tuscany, as a fun way to absorb local
EU citizens do not need visas, nor do many other country residents
- including USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Israel,
and Japan for visits up to 90 days.
Electric sockets are 230v and take 2 round pin plugs.
Violent crime is rare, but pickpockets and bag snatchers may take
advantage of carelessness, especially in cities, so use common sense
and check Bugbog's safety pages.
Locals in small towns do not speak much English. Although they will
try to understand whatever you say, a few Italian survival words
are very useful.
Since food is one of Italy's long-running obsessions along with 'bella figura' (looking good, for example, certain Heads of State are totally useless at their jobs but at least have a bella figura themselves and a healthy interest in the bella figuras of all young people) or 'passeggiata' (the
stroll), Italian cuisine is excellent but limited in range unless you have a fat wallet.
Map | Italy Pictures
Italy's Main Attractions | Italian Walks | Italian islands