Planning a Trip to Italy? Things to Know Before Visiting Italy
Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, and maybe the world. It is one of my personal favorites among the many travel destinations I have visited. It is not only diverse, but has beautiful scenery, interesting towns, villages, and cities, gorgeous beaches, and loads of history.
There is a lot to love about Italy, and many reasons that it is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Understandably, it gets lots of visitors. If this is your first time, then this post will tell you the things you need to know before going to Italy and important Italy travel tips.
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The main language of Italy is, obviously, Italian. As for English, it is not spoken very well here, but the locals try their best to understand you when you use it. Don’t be surprised if you hear lots of people speaking German in the northern part of the country.
It’s best to try to master some basic Italian words to make your visit easier, such as grazie (thank you), ciao (informal hello), and bella (beautiful).
Before starting your Italy trip, you should know that the people here are incredibly open and warm-hearted. Don’t be surprised if people come up to you to touch and compliment your children or pets (if you’re traveling with some). Italians are loud, passionate, and exuberant people, much more so than those coming from other countries, like Germany. Personally, I love that but some might have to get used to that.
As a woman, you are often approached by men. It doesn’t matter whether you are gorgeous or homely, they just love and appreciate women. So, don’t read too much into it, but don’t be surprised if it happens.
3. Best Time to Visit
If you’re traveling to Italy, you should know that summers can get really hot and crowded. I suggest not visiting in July or August. While Italy is busy all year round, those months are the absolute craziest.
Fall and spring are a little less crowded, but the weather is also less predictable.
Personally, if you are totally flexible, I suggest visiting in April, May, or in September or early October. Of course, it depends where you want to visit and what you want to do but this is generally a good rule.
If you enjoy winter sports, then you might want to consider December (it always gets busier around Christmas and New Year´s Eve), January or even February.
If you are going to Italy in the winter, be aware that the temperatures can differ by as much as 20ºC (about 40ºF) from the north to the south. Summer is hot, but there is less weather variation.
Personally, I never enjoyed the summer times in Italy – July and August are really hot, sticky, and unpleasant – even in Northern Italy. I cannot even imagine how Southern Italy will be like at that time (it is not colder there).
For a beach vacation, June or September can still be fine.
5. Public Transportation
One of the things you should know when visiting Italy is that public transportation is very good. It is reliable and a great way to get around – much better than in Germany. So, take advantage of the buses and trains to save money, and also the hassle of driving.
Tip: Don’t forget to validate your ticket when you get on a train. You must do this before riding.
If you are visiting Italy and plan to drive, be aware that this can be a real challenge. You are often not allowed to drive in certain areas (like city and town centers), even if your GPS sends you there. If that happens, you will get a fine sent to you later.
Driving can be fun in Italy, but also horrible. Parking is a pain. Gas is expensive. And just the act of driving in Italy can be frustrating and a little nerve-wracking. In the north, for instance, you have to contend with narrow mountain roads where people pass you as high speeds. Fender benders are not uncommon.
Before you decide to road trip in Italy, you should know that gas/petrol is extremely expensive. This is another great reason to use public transportation whenever you can. Also, there is a toll for many highways which can get quite expensive. You pay for around $8-10 for 100 km (prices vary a bit). You can use toll-free streets but it might take much longer to get to your destination.
Also, driving in Southern Italy can be challenging – I have only driven in Northern Italy and believe me, that was time-wrecking at times. However, I will drive in Italy again, because, to me, it is still worth it.
7. Getting Around
Walking is big here, despite the cobblestone streets. While the Italians will still wear high heels while walking on these roads, I don’t recommend it. A lot of your Italy trip will require walking, especially in the city centers, so good shoes are a must. My tip for your trip is to bring along stylish, yet comfortable, shoes that you can walk around in all day.
Italians are the most beautiful people in the world….in my opinion. They are incredibly fashionable, especially in northern and central Italy. Even if you think you are dressed up, you may still feel frumpy when standing next to an Italian.
Before you pack for your trip to Italy, consider bringing some dressier clothes to fit in with the locals. If you are looking to have a more casual holiday, then this may not be the best location.
9. Skip the Lines
Italy is one of the busiest countries in the world when it comes to visitors and attractions – off-season or on. There are always lines and crowds – as you can expect in such a beautiful and popular country. But because of this, skip the line makes the most sense here.
When I buy tickets in advance, I mostly use GetYourGuide. I love the fact that I can cancel up to 24 hours without any costs if something else comes up. And if I want to avoid the lines…Whether you need skip-the-line-tickets for Venice, Rome, Florence or or or. You will find most tours and tickets here.
Electricity in Italy is generally reliable throughout the country. In Italy the standard voltage is 230 V – you can use your electric appliances if the standard voltage in your country is in between 220 – 240 V, so you shouldn’t have any trouble plugging in your chargers and curling irons.
Remember that if you are an American traveling to Italy, you will need to have an adapter since the voltage is different and could fry your electronics. Italy also has some two-pronged outlets (though they are mostly three-pronged these days), so to be on the safe side, buy the adapters that have only two prongs.
Water in Italy is free from the various drinking fountains found throughout the cities and towns. This water is safe and delicious. To save money on your Italy trip, bring along a reusable water bottle to fill wherever you go.
12. Northern Italy vs. Southern Italy
These two parts of Italy are significantly different, despite being part of the same country. But they are both charming in their own right.
Before you make your Italy itinerary, you should know that the northern part of Italy is renowned for its spectacular mountains and lakes. Southern Italy is famous for its luxurious beaches. But each is stunning and worth visiting.
Here are my favorite places in Northern Italy – find out which places blew me away!
If you’re planning your Italy vacation, make sure to account for the daily practice of siesta. Italians take a siesta every day from 1-4pm. Restaurants and shops may be closed during this time, so plan to either take a siesta yourself or pack a picnic to enjoy while you wait for things to open up again.
14. Public Restrooms
Another piece of important Italy travel info is to always have some change on you in Italy. The public restrooms here charge about 1 euro, so always have some cash on hand for when you need it.
15. Credit Cards/ Cash
Speaking of money, an important thing to know when going to Italy is whether credit cards will often be accepted. Often but not always. Even though you can use your credit card, I do suggest always having cash on you. Some places don’t take credit and it will save you a lot of trouble if you have cash on hand.
Luckily, they are widely accepted throughout the country, although American Express is less frequently taken than Visa and MasterCard.
16. Religious Sites
Italians take religion very seriously (somehow). With the Vatican located within Rome, there is a heavy Catholic influence on the country and people.
When visiting religious sites and churches, make sure to show the proper respect, and cover up and wear appropriate clothing. Observe any rules and customs, and you will have a great time visiting these stunning cultural and historic sights.
When dining out at a restaurant in Italy, you will most likely encounter a fee called a coperto. This is something that is added to your bill by the restaurant. How much it will depends on where you are dining, but usually, it is between 1 and 3 euros per person. If this is included on your bill, then you don’t need to leave a tip. Sometimes, a service fee is also charged.
What more do you need to know about Italy? Well, about the food, of course!
There is a big difference between food in the north and in the south of Italy. The south has the healthier fare, which is more my kind of food. In the north, there is more of an emphasis on meats and cheeses, so not vegetarian-friendly. This is more of the stereotypical Italian food we see elsewhere.
As for pizza, I have heard that it is best in Naples, which is located in the southern part of Italy. But I have had good pizza in the north, too.
Some people consider breakfast the most important meal of the day – but not in Italy. Breakfast is just not a big deal here. Even if you are at a restaurant (unless it is a big chain), you will only have a few small cakes and sweets for breakfast, but nothing special.
Although I don’t drink, Italy is the perfect place to visit if you love wine. As the largest producer of wine in the world, there are tons of vineyards for you to visit during your Italy holiday. Some of the best and oldest wines come out of Italy, especially reds. You are absolutely in wine heaven here.
Italy is an interesting and diverse country. There is so much to see, taste, and try here. Hopefully, this post has helped you learn the things that you’ll need to know before visiting Italy, offering valuable tourist tips and important information to make your trip the best it can be.
Good news if you are a coffee drinker – cappuccinos are rather cheap in Italy, about 1.50 euros. But it’s important to know that in Italy, they only drink it until 11 am. This is because it contains milk, and milk is considered a morning-only drink.
I still drink it after this time, but apparently, I am a rebel (uhhh, it seems I am a big rebel).
Bad gelato supposedly exists in Italy – but I have never had any. My Italy travel advice for you is to try this sweet and indulgent treat while you are exploring this fun and colorful country.
22. Hotels and Accommodations
You should know before staying in Italy that there is a service fee charged by the hotels if you stay overnight. The fee is usually 1-3 euros for each room, on top of the hotel price. This service charge may not be included in the price of the room when you book, however.
I, personally, almost always book with booking.com. I prefer them because they allow me to last-minute cancel most of the time without a charge (yes, flexibility is very important to me). Click here to check out prices via Booking here.
23. Hidden Gems
While Italy is one of the most popular travel destinations in Europe (or probably all over the world) there are a few hidden gems that are not overrun by tourists. One of them is Trento – another one is Bergamo but no worries there are more places that are still underrated and less busy.
24. Traveling With a Dog
Traveling with a dog in Italy is great – at least if you have a smaller dog.
First of all, Italians love dogs and show their affection. My dog is not always a fan of it (sometimes he is) but as a proud dog mommy, I am happy people react so friendly to my dog.
Second, most hotels do not charge extra if you bring a dog. A big, big plus (unlike many other countries where you have to pay up to 20 or even 30€ A NIGHT for bringing your dog).
Third, you can bring your little dog even into some castles or museums – this might not always be the case but at least quite many places allow it when you have your dog in a bag or if you carry him (this is not common in Switzerland or Germany etc.).
You can take your dog on boats, cable cars – but you need to bring a muzzle (even the smallest ones need a muzzle in closed places…but somehow understandable since the smallest are often the most dangerous).
So, these are my travel tips for Italy – I am sure, you will love it as much as I do and hope, you will have a wonderful time there.