Planning a trip to Italy you say? Stupefacente! Here’s everything you need to know before you travel to Italy, including a quick language lesson, what you need to know about the food and the best places to visit in this beautiful European country…
Do I need a visa?
Visa requirements vary from country to country but it’s likely you’ll need one for Italy unless you hold a UK or European passport. Even if a visa is not required, all non-residents are required to complete a declaration of presence when entering.
Should I learn the language?
Unless you already speak Italian (good for you!) you may want to learn a few key phrases in Italian. It’s SO much fun ordering your coffee in the local language, even if you don’t understand the reply.
Hello – Ciao
Goodbye – Arrivederci
Please – Per favore
Thank you – Grazie
You’re welcome – Prego
Where is the bathroom? – Dov’è il bagno?
How much is this? – Quanto costa?
Can you speak English? – Parla inglese?
What flavour is that gelato? – Che sapore è quel gelato?
One cappuccino please – Un cappuccino per favore
Delicious! – Delizioso!
What are the must-see places in Italy?
We’ve never been to an area of Italy we didn’t like, but if you only have a limited time, we recommend hitting these popular spots:
Rome – Italy’s capital and an ancient (yet somehow modern) metropolis steeped in history, art and culture.
Amalfi Coast – A stretch of coastline in Italy’s south with pastel villages, hidden beaches and delightful vineyards.
Pompeii – Famous for the volcanic disaster, this city near Naples is perfect for history lovers.
Florence – The stunning capital of the Tuscany region and home to countless priceless artworks.
Cinque Terre – A string of beautiful seaside villages with to-die-for seafood and endless swimming and hiking options.
Lake Como – George Clooney. That is all. Kidding! The azure lake has a stunning vista of the Alps and some of the best food you’ll find in the entire country.
Milan – A global capital of fashion, design and taste. Milan is high end!
Pisa – Famous for the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Best as a quick stop rather than an overnight stay.
Bologna – Sprawling plazas and medieval towers and architecture make this city very ‘Gram worthy.
Venice –Ahhh the floating city! Make plans to get lost in the labyrinth of streets, and enjoy the uniqueness of this amazing place.
How much do I need to budget?
We can’t comment on your shopping habits, and Italy will be a trust test of even the sternest anti-shopper, but a quick budget idea for food is roughly €40 per day. Breakfast will be covered by the Contiki stays, but that price should cover you for lunch, dinner, snacks and a couple beers and wines. Keep in mind big cities are ALWAYS more expensive, so if you’re on a tight budget, have street pizza in Rome for lunch. If you think you’ll be catching a lot of taxis or public transport, you may want to increase it to €60.
Do I need cold, hard cash?
Italy has card facilities of course, but a lot of shops, cafés and restaurants accept cash only. Since a cappuccino will only cost you a euro or two, it makes sense to carry cash for small purchases, so be prepared.
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Is the public transport reliable?
Buses and trains are quick and easy ways to get around BUT they can often run to their own timetable so don’t cut your trip too close to the wire or you may be left frustrated when you can’t make it back to your hotel in time for dinner.
Pro tip: always remember to validate your train or bus ticket. Buying a ticket is not the end of the process, you must also stamp or scan it when you board.
What do I need to know about the food?
Italy was unified as a country in 1871, and before that each of its 20 regions was completely autonomous and today they still retain much of their unique culture. This includes food! Your much-loved Spaghetti Bolognese may not be on the menu everywhere, and even pizza will differ from place to place. Be prepared to try anything and everything. If in doubt, just ask the waiter what is local and a translation of what it is in English if possible (tripe is a very popular Roman dish on Sundays…).
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What should I pack?
Besides your regular clothes, underwear and toiletries, here’s some essentials and items you may be trying to decide between:
- Euros in cash (for the reasons mentioned before) and a reliable debit card so you can access more.
- A European two-pronged round pin travel adapter and a power board for maximum charging fun.
- Your student I.D. if you have one. Yep, even though you’re not an EU citizen, Italy accepts most student cards from around the world and you can get some great discounts at monuments and museums with one.
- A backpack instead of suitcase is recommended simply because of cobblestone streets in many parts of Italy. You have never seen a frustrated person until you’ve seen someone drag a bag over cobbled ground.
- Comfortable shoes. Similar to the suitcase thing, cobblestones will not be forgiving with stilettos! Wear cute ballet flats, sandals or sneakers, and if you must wear heels, opt for wedges.
- A light scarf or shawl. It’s considered polite and respectful to cover up in churches or places of religious significance, so carry one with you so you don’t risk being turned away.