Italy is one of the world’s top travel destinations, the fifth most-visited according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization 201 Tourism Highlights Report. If you’re planning your first trip to this fabulous country, these travel tips will help you make the most out of your experience.
Don’t Try to Squeeze in Too Much
It would be impossible to see it all with just one visit to Italy. If you try to squeeze in too much, you’re going to spend most of your time traveling and not really experiencing. With two weeks, limit yourself to three or four destinations max, taking it a slower pace. Perhaps focus on northern Italy, doing some Dolomites hiking on a tour through this region with its majestic peaks and charming alpine villages, heading to the romantic canals of Venice and exploring Florence with its museums, churches, and palaces home to some of the world’s greatest artistic treasures. Or combine a trip to Rome, with Naples and Sicily, visiting places like Mount Vesuvius and extraordinary Pompeii, the city that was famously buried under several feet of volcanic ash for nearly 1,700 years after Vesuvius’ cataclysmic eruption, in between.
Learn a Few Italian Phrases
While many Italians in the major tourist areas speak English, outside of that you’ll probably want to learn some Italian phrases that will allow you to enjoy a more authentic experience and get around easier too. Even an attempt at the local language will be appreciated by most.
Book Admission for Popular Sites in Advance
Unless you’re traveling in the winter, outside of the holiday season, you’ll experience long lines at all the popular sites and attractions which will waste quite a bit of your time. Most museums and landmarks like the Roman Colosseum and Vatican Museum in Rome and Florence’s Uffizi Museum can be booked in advance, allowing you to avoid the lines.
Plan Your Trip During One of the Shoulder Seasons
Spring and fall are generally the best time to visit Italy, allowing you to avoid the biggest crowds and the peak of summer’s heat. You may find better rates on airfare and accommodation too. July and August in Southern Italy can be scorching, and coastal towns and resorts will be packed with Italians on holiday.
Italians are very fashion forward and care about appearance, something you may want to keep in mind, especially when visiting big cities. Women should leave sneakers at home, bringing wedges or low-heeled walking shoes instead, and avoid showing off too much flesh. Shorts are considered beach or resort wear. Men might opt for tailored jeans while women may want to wear skirts, dresses, cotton pants or capris. Keep in mind that when visiting churches and other religious sites, appropriate attire that includes covered shoulders and legs is required.
Travel by Train
Train travel is cheap and trains in Italy will get you to just about anywhere you want to go, with schedules easy to decipher and routes simply to understand. Driving here, especially in the cities, can be a big challenge.
Be Wary of Pickpockets and Scams
In the big cities, petty crime is common, particularly pickpocketing and scams. That means using common sense, keeping your backpack or purse in front of you, your wallet inside a zipped pocket or in a bag. When approached near famous landmarks or train stations, be cautious of people offering to help, take your photo or give you a pretty trinket as they may be trying to scam or rob you.