Italy Travel Guide

italy travel guide

Il ricordo di te vivra nel mio cuore (the memory of you will live in my heart). These were my words when I left Italy for the first time. I couldn’t have said in any other way as Italy is a cradle of European civilization with a rich cultural heritage and a vivid history of the Renaissance. Italy has so much to offer not just for newbies but for sophisticated travelers as well. Immerse yourself in the vibrant street life of large cities or get off the beaten path to explore remote places by creating your own route.

Italy has everything one may ever want to see or try. From the ancient streets of Rome and romantic canals in Venice to diverse landscape and charming mountain villages. While all these features are so well-combined, it is sometimes hard to comprehend what was created by men, and what was by the ancient gods. Italy is the country that most of us have heard about many times and it is almost impossible not to form any opinion long before you actually visit it.

Getting Around Italy

Train travel is one of the best ways to get around Italy. With services frequent and quite cheap tickets, slower regional trains can be best bet for travelers on a strict budget. Trains like Eurostar are more expensive with prices ranging from 30-70 EUR. Not only railroads run through dramatic scenery, but also provide a more convenient way of linking between cities than air travel. However, when you are short on time, consider flying with EasyJet and Ryanair by getting cheap tickets.

Almost all Italian cities and large towns have several bus routes. These are reasonably priced usually not exceeding 2 EUR for a one-way ticket. Subway in Milan is more efficient. Since most cities have pedestrian areas in the center, walking is a great way to explore ItalyТs historic spots. The best times to walk are in the cool of the morning, or in the early evening, when you can join in the predinner stroll known as the passeggiata. Traffic can be a nightmare, especially in the narrow streets of Rome.

Food in Italy

Even though Italian cuisine is world renowned, food is no joke here. With a rich food culture, Italians may spend many sociable hours around the table. While exploring regional variations of pasta, pizza, and cheeses, you can find out that food can be cheap too. It is quite easy to get a decent meal in Italy for under 15 EUR a day. Most local osterias and trattorias offer great food with prices much lower than the nearby international restaurant. In this way, to get traditional Italian food on the cheap, get off the beaten track, otherwise add about 10 EUR to your final bill. Some restaurants may charge Coperto service fee, which means you have to pay for the fact you visit them. Expect to pay around 9-10 USD for a fast food and 3-8 EUR for snacks like pizza by the slice and paninis.

Accommodation in Italy

Large cities and tourist areas provide a dazzling range of budget accommodation. However, even the cheapest dorm rooms cost around 19-25 EUR per night. You can save money and get decent service by staying at a campsite, however, this option isn’t always available for large groups of young people, especially in summer. In that case book in advance. You should expect paying 5-17 EUR per night at a campsite. Accommodation in the suburbs, if it has great linking to the city center, can be an option when staying in major cities. Airbnb offers a way to forget about hotels and get your own room or even entire apartment. Shared room usually costs around 25 EUR, while studio apartment will set you back around 45 EUR.

How To Do Italy On a Budget

Attend a Free Walking Tour

All major cities like Rome, Florence, Milan and Venice have guided walking tours, which can be attended for free. They are great as give you a general idea of the main sights you want to go back to. Some hostels offer free walking tours as well. It is recommended to tip your guide at the end.

Refill Your Bottle for Free

With several drinking fountains throughout Italy, you don’t have to buy expensive bottled water. While you can also find these in the form of wall mounted faucets, never attempt to drink from public fountains. Search for a sign or drink where the locals do.

Rent a Bike

A great way to explore any city in Italy and not walk too much is to rent a bike. Prices start from 15-20 EUR per day and go up from there. Besides, it allows you to travel much faster than on foot.

Visit Museums for Free

Some museums have a certain day of the week when they open their doors for free. For example, Rome Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill offer free admission on the first Sunday of the month. Expect very long lines to stand in.

Drink Wine

No, no, not that expensive bottled wine that you usually buy in the supermarket. Most local trattorias and osterias offer cheap wine from a cask or container where the wine is fermented. So why it is cheap? Because you don’t have to pay for brand name and fancy bottle. In fact, it is often the same customary bottled wine that tastes really great.

Get a City Pass

The city pass totally worth the money you spend. It not only allows you to use public transportation for free, but can get you to the bulk of the museums and archaeological sites without standing in a line. Which is priceless.

Top Things To See and Places to Visit in Italy

Florence

The capital of Tuscany is usually described as a vast open-air museum. With enormous amount of museums, galleries, magnificent churches and ancient buildings, Florence is totally worth being on your bucket list. I only had four days in Florence, but I also knew I should have spent two weeks there to see everything this city has to offer. I really love Florence. With lots of things to do there, apart from sightseeing, you can attend free walking tours, go on an eating spree or hit the countryside searching for amazing Tuscan wines.

The Eternal City

Rome is a city steeped in history, where every corner, every house and every stone has its own unique story and it seems that you can almost hear it. With so many places to visit here, Rome can be overwhelming. Take your time, stick not only to ancient sites and Roman ruins, but also wander through the piazzas, historic streets and parks. Go people watching. Do as the Romans do in the Trastevere student district to enjoy awesome pubs, cheap food and unique spirit of this place.

Stand in awe of Colosseum

You can’t miss Colosseum, while in the Italian capital. The huge Amphitheater used to be a battle site of gladiators that fought to the death, now it is one of the major landmarks in Rome. The ancient building stands in contrast to the modern outlook of the city and reminds everyone how great and the extensive the history of Rome is. You can visit the Colosseum for free every first Sunday of the month, but the lines are really long. Colosseum can easily be reached from the metro line B stop, or from tramway line 3.

Take a Boat Ride through the Canals in Venice

One of the most romantic places to visit in Italy, Venice is a beautiful city surrounded by the Adriatic Sea. Situated across a group of more than a hundred small islands, Venice has its entire territory divided into two parts by the Grand canal. No trip to Venice would be complete without a gondola ride. Riding a gondola is like strolling the streets here, but since canals are numerous and the streets are few, it is among the best ways to explore Venice. Carnival is another reason to visit Venice. Check out Jewish Ghetto for cheap drinks and trendy pubs.

Head to Pompeii

An ancient Roman metropolis that was buried with its inhabitants by a volcano, but preserved infrastructure beneath a thick layer of ash. Visit homes, baths, markets and amphitheaters as they were the day the volcano erupted. Due to the lack of air and moisture alluring frescoes still keep their handsome colors. Exploring Pompeii can be truly captivating and eerie, so you can spend an entire day wandering through this site.

Toss a Coin Into Fountain

As you stroll through the maze of winding streets in Rome, you can discover an entrancing Trevi Fountain. The marble sculptures of horses and men may look differently at a certain time of the day, so be sure to see them at night as well. According to legend if you toss a coin into the water you will return to Rome, if you throw two coins you can expect going for a date. I should have known that before!

Find Out Why the Leaning Tower of Pisa Lean

Virtually, the Leaning Tower isn’t the only attraction to see and visit in Pisa, but it has become so popular due to its flaw that the Cathedral Square can be very crowded on some certain dates. Most tourists come here to take creative photos and climb up the Tower. Make sure to leave enough time for this. Don’t miss the Cathedral. It is often underrated by travelers but it offers very impressive interior decoration, you definitely need to see!

Hike Near Lake Como

This is one of the most picturesque areas in Italy with mountains around the lake and the shoreline dotted with small villages. Hiking, cycling, canoeing and kayaking are the main activities here. Generally, a getaway destination for the rich, the lake has several budget guesthouses and a hostel in Menaggio. Along with Varenna and Bellagio, these three towns make up a triangle in which you can travel by ferry quite easily.

Relax At the Amalfi Coast

The picturesque cliffs of Amalfi lining the Coast for about 40 km between the Gulf of Salerno and the Bay of Naples. While the entire area is known as a Road of 1000 bends, it is better to skip the car and explore the Amalfi Coast with its secluded corners on foot. Hiking trails are available throughout the coast. I visited the Amalfi coast in May and it was amazing. Not too hot with lovely sunny days. During the high season in July and August you can expect high temperatures and crowds.

Try Limoncino in Cinque Terre

Located in the Liguria region, the Cinque Terre national park is another place to go hiking in Italy. Backed by steep oceanside cliffs and vineyards, the five villages of Manarola, Corniglia, Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza and Riomaggiore are only connected to each other by a scenic narrow road and hiking trails. I love Cinque Terre. With several trails of all levels of difficulty, great seafood and extraordinary limoncino, be sure to visit all these five villages as each of them has something different to offer.

Vatican City

A place that doesn’t need any introduction, a country within another country and the residence of the Pope, the Vatican is also home to St Peter’s Basilica and St Peter’s square. The Vatican museums contain some of the world’s most priceless and splendor art collections. It can take an entire day to see all of them. To avoid long lines during high season book online tickets in advance. To catch a glimpse of the Pope, visit the Wednesday service (tickets required) or at noon on Sundays.

Feel the History By Walking Through the Roman Forum

Once a political and cultural center of Rome, now you may need a little imagination or an audio guide to get an idea of how this place looked like two millennia ago. Located between the Colosseum and Capitoline Hills, the Forum offers a chance to stroll along the streets that remember their ancient inhabitants. With very little information about the site actually displayed here, consider bringing a guidebook or joining a tour.

Visit Siena

Nestled among the three hills in the heart of Tuscany, Siena gives a chance to take a dip into the past. A well-preserved historical center, Piazza del Campo is the venue for the spectacular Palio horse races. Apart from it, you can stroll the maze of narrow streets around the main square to explore the cultural highlights like the Palazzo Salimbeni, the Duomo and the Palazzo Salimbeni.

Stay in a Trulli House in Alberobello

The prehistoric dwellings of Alberobello look quite fantastic and can be found among UNESCO World Heritage sites. These neat-looking buildings stretch along narrow alleyways and usually offer great accommodation to stay in. The tiny city of Alberobello is like a magnet for tourists that flock here in summer, so the period between November and April is the best to avoid crowds. With several nice museums and olive groves just outside of Alberobello, I have spent 4 days exploring Trulli houses!

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