I adore Italy. It is hard to resist Italy’s incredible food and wines, the diverse scenery and awesome architecture. With so many possibilities, it can be overwhelming for visitors, especially for those making their first trip to Italy. Many first-time travelers are left wondering where to go, which foods to try, what are the best options for homes for rent in Italy and how to travel. To help, we’ve written this brief guide that offers important tips for those traveling to Italy for the first time, including basic information on Italy, how to get around, where to stay, what to see, where to eat, and more.
Getting to Italy
First things first, how do you plan to get to Italy? Browse search engines like Skyscanner for cheap flights and fares to Italy. Keep in mind that flying to Italy from the US is more expensive than many other places in Europe, so try to book your trip in a couple of segments. It can be some hassle, but it saves a couple of hundred dollars. In winter prices can also be much lower (except for Christmas) so keep an open mind for when to travel too.
What to Pack for Italy
What about packing? It all relies on the kind of weather in Italy and there are certainly regional weather differences in the country which has snowy mountains and beaches! Before you pack your suitcase, it is a good idea to check the weather forecasts about the whole country as well as the region you are headed for. Weather can be different in Italy at different times of the year.
Italy is well connected with a great rail network, and the fares are cheap, so the best way to explore the country is by train. You can also look for super-budget airlines between key cities to see if you can grab a bargain. However, some remote spots can be accessed only via buses or cars. The mode of transportation you pick will rely on where you plan to go while in Italy.
Where to Stay in Italy
Next, you should have a good idea of where to stay in Italy. As there are different kinds of options for accommodation in Italy, you can pick one according to your needs and budget. There are many beautiful homes available for rent all over Italy. There are plenty of hotels and budget hostels to choose from too, and you can also browse vacation rentals in Italy.
Learn the Lingo
As you move across Italy, you will, of course, will need to converse with the locals, asking for directions, ordering in restaurants, or having a friendly conversation. Italians are very warm and forgiving if they see foreigners making mistakes when trying to speak Italian. You can learn a few phrases, for example, say “Buongiorno” for hello, “Grazie” for Thank You and “or per piacere” for Please. Say “Quanto costa?” for How much and “Posso” for May I? While it is not essential to become fluent in Italian before your trip to Italy, it does help if you can say a few commonly used phrases. Still, English is fairly widely spoken in the main tourist areas, but learning a few key expressions in Italian can be helpful in the in rural areas – and definitely helps to break the ice when you meet locals! Check out Duolingo or get a phrase book to help you.
Where to Go & What to See in Italy
When it comes to where to go and what to see, there is no shortage of places worth seeing in Italy. Italy is insanely popular especially in summer with attractions such as the Uffizi Gallery in Florene, the Vatican, and the Colosseum in Rome. The three major and most popular cities are Florence, Rome, and Venice. First-time visitors can explore the famous spots and regions but shouldn’t shy away from that less-visited regions and towns for a unique Italian experience. You could head to Lake Como, Amalfi, Orvieto, Milan, Naples, or rural Tuscany. There are thousands of charming little villages scattered all across the Italian countryside. There are so many little-known gems strewn across the rugged coastline of northern Sardinia, in the little fishing ports in Calabria or across the ancient marketplaces in Bologna that are just begging to be explored!
Trying Local Food
With all that traveling and exploring, you are sure to get hungry. And Italy will not disappoint when it comes to food. Now you can have some real “Italian food”! As the cuisine of Italy varies greatly from region to region, you are likely to come across unique dishes and tastes, and be able to sample different local specialties in addition to pizza and pasta. The best thing about Italian food is that it is delicious, as it is always made from fresh, seasonal and regional ingredients. Italians eat simple food, and it is fresh and healthy too!
Take a Break
As some regions of Italy get hotter, especially further south, siestas are much more common, and every afternoon whole towns go to sleep for a nap. This can be annoying, especially if you have plans for the afternoon and step out to see everything closed. However, the place becomes alive soon – and in the heat it can be best to stay out of the sun, and take a rest too.
What to Take Home
Now that it is time to say good bye, you might wonder which souvenirs to take back home. Handmade leather-soled sandals from the Amalfi Coast are very popular among tourists, or another highly sought-after product along the Amalfi Coast are the handcrafted ceramic goods. As Italy is famous for its wine, take home a bottle of wine, or, even better, Italian lemon liqueur – Limoncello. Florence is a mecca for high-quality authentic leather goods, and in Venice, handmade Venetian paper goods and stationery also make excellent souvenirs.
Have you been to Italy? Do you have any more tips for a first-time traveler to Italy? Let me know in the comments below.
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This post was written in collaboration with Luxury Retreats.