When you do what we do, everyone you know and their mothers ask you to help them with their trip to Italy. This is great, I love Italy and I want everyone to experience the real Italy, so I try my best to help my friends-boyfriends-cousin plan their perfect trip to Italy.
Recently, a friend of mine had some time off of work and some credit card miles to use and asked me if he should go to Italy during this time off. Naturally, I said yes, that is the only answer to that question. What followed surprised me a little bit but is not uncommon at all. He didn’t know anything about Italy.
He asked what the weather was like in Italy in November.
Italy is an entire country with many different climates. It could be snowing in the north, raining in Florence, cloudy in Rome and sunny in Sicily all at the same time.
Other questions like “where should I go?” “What is there to do in Italy” “What are some places in Italy” “Do I need vaccines or a visa” and “What is the Vatican” are also questions we get asked a lot. So I am going to give you a crash course on Italy and answer all the questions we get asked, just in case you’re wondering, too.
Where do I go in Italy?
Well the first and best answer to this, in my completely unbiased opinion, is to come on a Culture Discovery Vacation with us. But, if you want to go on your own, that’s okay, too. I’ll split Italy up into three sections: Northern, Central, and Southern.
Northern Italy popular destinations
Venice is known as one of the most romantic cities probably in the world. Dressed with canals, bridges, gondolas, churches, and the water, just about everyone has Venice on their bucket list. We actually spend a whole day in Venice on our Bologna Vacation week.
Milan is the second largest city in Italy by population, but often overlooked in tourism. With renowned high end shopping, and rich history and culture, this city has something for everyone.
The northern lakes in Italy are a huge destination for tourists and locals alike. Lake Garda is the largest of these lakes and absolutely stunning.
Lake Como is well known for its beauty, many celebrities frequent this area. The town of Como sits on the lake and is packed with amazing scenery and 14th century architecture. You can even take a funicular ride to really soak in the vistas.
Cinque Terre gets asked about A LOT, and for good reason. It literally means 5 lands and that is because it is made up of 5 small towns along the coastline. Cinque Terre is not very well connected to larger cities in Italy by train, it takes multiple stops and train changes to arrive here, but it is well worth it. I’ll have to make a whole post about Cinque Terre, because I honestly found it so confusing, but very well worth the trouble.
Bologna is the home base to one of our tours. Bologna is one of Italy’s most iconic cities for food, art, and architecture, yet it is not often visited by mass tourism. It is home to the world’s oldest university, the tallest tower in Italy, is the birthplace of Bolognese Sauce, and is considered the food capital on Italy!
Central Italy popular destinations
Rome is the Capital of Italy and probably the most known city in Italy. It is said that Rome has over 25,000 archeological points of interest, some of the most iconic being The Coliseum, The Spanish Steps, Circus Maximus, The Pantheon, The Vatican, and the Trevi Fountain. We use the Rome airport as an entry point for our Soriano vacation because it’s only a 30-minute train ride from Rome to Soriano.
Florence is known for being the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. Packed with rich history, stunning architecture, and popular art, Florence is an easy, clean, and classy city. Some of the most notable points here are The Statue of David, The Uffizi Gallery, The Cathedral, and the Old Bridge. We spend a whole day in Florence with a special food tour of the city on our Chianti vacation.
Pisa itself isn’t a huge destination, but it is largely known for its leaning tower. Pisa is a short train ride from Florence, so if you’re spending several days in Florence, you can take a half day trip to Pisa to see the tower and cross that off your bucket list.
Siena is a beautiful city in Tuscany and should be on every tourist’s list for a stay in Tuscany. We visit Siena on our Chianti Vacation and get an insider’s view into some of Siena’s “Contrade”,- the neighborhoods that compete for the coveted Palio di Siena. Don’t forget to visit the Siena Cathedral and the famous Piazza del Campo with its wonderful architecture and scenic cafes.
Southern Italy popular destinations
The Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast is everything you’ve ever wanted out of a postcard destination. Sheer cliffs, lush greenery, colorful architecture, bright blue ocean, amazing seafood, delicious limoncello, warm weather, The Amalfi Coast has it all. We have an entire Vacation week based in the Amalfi Coast, and it is one of our most popular vacations for a good reason. Who wouldn’t want to be here?
Capri is a small island off the coast of Naples, very easily reached on an unforgettable boat ride from The Amalfi Coast. This small island is rich in history and mythology as well as breathtaking vistas, fine shopping, and unforgettable gelato. We take a day trip to Capri from our Amalfi Coast vacation week, we take private boats around the grottoes, have a private lunch on the water and go for swims in the sea.
In 79 AD Mount Vesuvius erupted and famously destroyed the city of Pompeii. Today we can visit the ruins of the town and those who refused to flee the volcano. We visit Pompeii one day on our Amalfi Coast Vacation.
Naples is the third largest city in Italy, and infamous for crime and mafia presence. But also well known as the birthplace of pizza, its edgy attitude and its proximity to Mount Vesuvius, the only still active volcano in Europe.
Sorrento is a very tourist friendly Italian city, it is easily reached from Naples, offers gorgeous views of the ocean, amenities tourists find useful, and amazing food, although there are no beaches, you can take a boat tour to visit Capri and still spend time on the water.
Sicily is a large and very well known island off of the mainland of Italy. There are so many things to do in Sicily, we actually have dedicated two separate vacations to visit this rich area of Italy. One of our vacations is based on an Island off the coast of the main Island of Sicily, Favignana, and the other is a tour of mainland Sicily. Sicily is filled with both natural beauty as well as man-made, some notable cities include Taormina, Agrigento, Catania, Palermo, Ragusa, Trapani, and Catania. You could spend a month in Sicily and still not see all there is to see.
Do I need Vaccines or a Visa to visit Italy?
Italy is not an unsafe country and special vaccines are not required in order to visit, however, it is always a good idea to be up to date on routine vaccines for any trip out of the country.
- Measles Mumps and Rubella
- Chicken Pox
- Flu shot
US citizens do not need a visa for travel to Italy that lasts 90 days or less. US, Canadian, British, and Australian passport requirements dictate that your passport must be valid for 6 months beyond the length of your stay. So if you plan on leaving Italy by June 1st, your passport must be valid through December 1st of that year. This passport rule is relatively new and we have had guests be held up at the airport because of this. Please make sure to check your passport before your trip to Italy.
What is the weather like?
This is such a common question and is so hard to answer. Besides the fact that Italy is a country with many different climates, weather is fickle and impossible to predict further than the weather app can show. Generally, summer is pleasant in Italy from the end of May until the middle of September. Snow rarely falls in Italy unless in the mountains. Slightly cooler, but still very pleasant weather is usually in April, May, September, and October. I would suggest to book your trips around that information and pack your bags once you can check the weather report. Accuweather is widely used and quite accurate in predicting the weather in Italy. Just type in the city you will be visiting, and you can check the weather forecast up to a month in advance.
How do I get around in Italy
The best way to get around Italy is almost always by taking the train. For longer distances, sometimes a plane would be a better option, but you can take a train all the way from Naples to Milan. The train system in Italy is very extensive and connected. You can pre-book your tickets for rail travel at TrenItalia or Italo.
Driving in Italy is stressful, confusing and sometimes lawless. I would not suggest driving as your number one choice unless you are very comfortable in a manual car, very comfortable throwing all rules out the window, and also okay with probably getting a few traffic violations in the mail a few months after your trip.
What kind of plug adapter do I need?
Electricity in Italy, as in the rest of Europe is 220 Volts. In the US, it is 110 Volts. Not only is the voltage different, but the plug sockets are also different. This means that some of your electronics will not work in Italy, even with an adapter, they’ll need a converter to work. The photo above is what Italian wall sockets look like, in order to plug your devices into this, you’ll need an adapter that looks like this:
These devices do not covert the voltage, so some of your electronics that only run on 110V will likely explode or start to smoke if plugged into a European outlet without a voltage converter. some electronics that often do not work in Italy are hair straighteners and blow dryers. You can purchase these items in “dual voltage” meaning they will work with both voltages, otherwise, do not even try, you’ll completely trash your blow dryer. Some electronics that still work well with only the above adapters are most laptops chargers, phone chargers, speakers, and electric toothbrushes. If you are not sure about your device, check online or with the manufacturer before packing it with you for your trip. You can purchase these adapters at Target, Walmart or even on Amazon.
Can I use American Dollars?
American Dollars are not accepted in Italy. The currency used throughout all of Italy is the Euro. You can ask your bank to order some Euros for you before your trip so you arrive in Italy with Euros in hand. You should notify your bank as well as your credit cards that you will be traveling to Italy so that you may use your credit cards to pay or debit cards at the ATM to get cash. I would not suggest using the currency conversion companies at the airports and train stations because they take a large percentage of the conversion and you end up losing a lot of money unnecessarily.
Do they speak English?
In the larger cities, many people that interact with tourists will speak some English, or at least enough to get by. In smaller cities, you will find it harder to find people who speak English. The official language is Italian, but even if you don’t speak Italian, you’ll find that most people are very friendly and will try their very best to communicate with you.
So, that’s it. These are the most common basic questions we get asked. Are there any other questions you wish we had answered? Leave them in the comments and we can make a follow-up post with more common questions answered.