There is so much to fall in love with in Italy it is difficult to know where to begin. For the country which gives the world the paradigm of the ‘belle vita’, life and the living of it is synonymous with the enjoyment of art, architecture, good food and wine, fashion and anything that involves living life well, and doing it in style. Hardly surprising that this is the country that produced the Roman Empire, was at the very heart of the Renaissance, and gave the world some of its greatest artists of every description.
But you can’t talk about Italy without mentioning the food, it is as if all the passion, all the obsession with detail and the flair for artistry that defines the Italian personae is focused solely into creating some of the most intensely sensuous feasts you will ever come across. It is hardly surprising that Italian food is popular the world over!
So despite the cost, and the infamous Italian haughtiness, you must visit Italy at least once in your life. From the lavish displays of artistic beauty that lays within the walls of the Vatican to the rustic charm of the Italian countryside, there is something for everyone in this country that holds no shame in its quest for the god life!
Italians are as well known for their vivacious passion as much as they are for their love of good living, yet surprisingly one thing that surprises many visitors is the supreme indifference with which they are met by many people within the service industry. Don’t mistake this for rudeness or arrogance, think of it instead as tempered fervour.
Apart from this, Italy is very used to visitors and are as tolerant in their attitudes as any of their European neighbours. Most visitors will have very few problems here beyond the initial time it takes to get used to the Italian manner of talking wildly with their hands and tendency to be very tactile in conversation.
Citizens of the EU, including the UK, require no visa to enter, stay or work in Italy. Italy is part of the Schengen agreement and citizens of those countries will not require any visa to arrive, stay or work here. Citizens of most other countries will have to apply for a specific Schengen visa which allows you to visit any of the countries in the Schengen zone, including Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden for up to 90 days.
There are no recommended vaccinations for visiting Italy, but it is still strongly recommended that all travellers are up to date with their routine vaccinations including tetanus and polio.
All EU and UK citizens are entitled to free healthcare in Italy thanks to reciprocal arrangements, but will still need an EHIC card to access it. Everyone else should ensure that they have adequate insurance as any medical treatment outside immediate emergency trauma care will come at a very high cost.
Crime and Safety.
Italy on the whole is as safe as any European country. Crime does exist but reasonable common sense precautions will reduce the risk of most travellers becoming a victim of any crime or mishap.
Travellers should pay particular attention in transit stations or major tourist sites thanks to a large problem with pickpockets and petty thieves. There is no reason to be paranoid, but vigilance is advised. Beggar scams are also quite common too with old women and large gangs of children being the main culprits, so again just be vigilant.
Costs and money.
The unit of currency in Italy is the Euro. There is no real way around it, Italy is expensive. Very expensive. Backpackers will have to set realistic expectations on their budgets here, where budget travel is relative. The most basic dorm room will set you back at least £15 a night, with a private room starting at £50 – £100 GBP with the sky being the limit. You can find slightly cheaper places outside of the main cities or major tourist spots such as Rome and Venice, but not by much. Food, internal transport and activity costs will all add up too. A midrange traveller looking at a private room, a few street food snacks with a few nice meals too, plus transport costs and a few activities will not see much change from £100 GBP a day.
When to go.
As with much of Europe the worst times to visit anywhere in Italy is July and August when the heat is at its fiercest, the tourist season is in full swing and prices go through the roof.
Undeniably expensive, but worth seeing for a few days. Particularly if you are travelling with a partner, as gondola rides and candlelit dinners here are unbelievably romantic. It is a great destination for solo travellers too, take an aimless wander down the side streets and back alleys, and discover small courtyards where a group of classical musicians are playing a free impromptu concert or a hidden atmospheric church or two, and avoid the crowds by getting to the Piazza San Marco early, the atmosphere is beautifully peaceful.
You haven’t seen Italy until you have been to Rome! You can almost soak up the thousands of years of history just by wandering around and exploring, and it is impossible to do more than scratch the surface in just one visit. The remnants of the Roman Empire are evident everywhere, whilst dozens of museums and galleries display a fraction of the cultural heritage left over from the Renaissance, not to mention the unbelievable state within a city that is the Vatican itself (which is yet another absolute must see destination). But don’t view Rome as a tick box exercise, you will never get through it all. Simply pick off a few of the highlights depending on your own tastes and how long you are there, and explore them in the time honoured Italian tradition of slow, relaxed intensity. It is an expensive city to visit, but these tips on free things to do should help the budget travellers out there.
Pompeii and Herculaneum.
For anyone interested in classical history, these are two of the grandest and best preserved ancient Roman sites in the country, not to mention some of the most fascinating. If you are unfamiliar with your history, read up on the history of Pompeii before you visit, it will add a whole new dimension to your visit!
Hike and swim in the lakes.
The North of Italy is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the country, beautiful countryside interspersed with lakes, picturesque villages and gorgeous villas. Hike, swim, relax. You will wish you could stay forever!
Eat, eat and eat!
Italian food needs no introduction or promotion. Enjoy some of the finest food in the world in its spiritual and practical home.
Soak up the sun on the beach in Sardinia.
A beach holiday isn’t the first thing many people have in mind when they think of Italy, but the coastline and beaches at Sardinia are absolutely sublime. If you have enough time on your visit, it is well worth heading here for at least a few days.