Planning a trip to Italy and don’t want to look like a tourist? Check out these 10+ essential Italy travel tips for an amazing holiday!
Oh, Italy! One of the most beautiful countries on Earth, home to the best pizzas, breathtaking scenery, delicious wine, and delightful people.
No wonder it’s on your bucket list and you’re thinking of traveling there soon, well done!
I’ve visited over 20 countries so far and I can definitely say that Italy is one of the most gorgeous places to travel to in the world.
If you’re looking for inspiration on other amazing destinations, I’ve got a great list for you right here:
But let’s talk more about Italy now and EVERYTHING you need to know about your first trip there.
Italy Travel Tips You’d Want To Know
I know FOR A FACT that this list of Italy travel tips will be useful for you because they are things we’ve come across during our many visits to this wonderful country, but also a few pointers from my Italian friends.
You’d really want to be paying attention to those, as they showcase some of the most frequent mistakes I see tourists making ALL THE TIME. And we don’t want you looking like an (inexperienced) tourist.
1. Pick the optimal season to visit Italy
I mean, don’t get me wrong, Italy is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS no matter what time of the year you visit.
But there are definitely months when your visit will be a lot more enjoyable than others. This is due to the weather.
Italy gets REALLY HOT in summer. Temperatures can easily get up to 40-45C / 104-113F in cities, such as Rome, Napoli, or Milan. Needless to say, this is NOT the time you want to be strolling down the streets, sightseeing, or hiking in the mountains (yes, it gets hot there too).
The best time to visit Italy in my (experienced ;))opinion, is spring – April- May, (even June), or autumn, September – October.
I would avoid the summer peak season, July and August, not only for the high temperatures but also for the tourist crowds.
July and August are school holiday months and Italy is one of the top tourist destinations for most Europeans.
So unless you want to be driving behind a Dutch caravan for miles or not find ANY PARKING SPOTS on the Amalfi Coast, you’d opt for an off-season month.
Having said that, most of my trips to Italy have actually been in July, because I REALLY LOVE celebrating my birthday in a new place every time and Italy is just too beautiful not to.
So yes, I’ve definitely sweated my a** off on the streets of Rome, Florence, and San Gimignano, sightseeing under a VERY HOT sun.
If you do decide to visit Italy in summer here is what you absolutely need to pack:
- a good hat
- SPF 30+ or higher sunblock
- light, airy clothes
- comfortable sandals
- reusable bottle water
2. Visit Italy by regions
Every region of Italy is SO beautiful and unique that it truly deserves time to be properly explored.
My advice, pick one or 2 regions to visit and make the most of it. Especially if you only have a few days available. Here are some ideas:
- A long weekend in Tuscany: visit San Gimignano, Florence, and Chianti
- Spend a week on the Amalfi Coast: Positano, Amalfi, Capri, Furore, Praiano
- A weekend getaway to Cinque Terre: Vernazza, Monterosso.
- A shopping trip to Milan and the Como lake
- Have a relaxing beach holiday in Sardinia
As covid is still very much in the picture, have a look here for Tips on How To Travel Safely In 2021.
3. Travel by car or train
In my opinion, the best way to travel through Italy is by car or by train.
I’d definitely recommend the first one. Renting a car is so easy and I love the flexibility it offers.
Oh, and take my advice and ditch the highways! Italian villages are spectacular, so unless you want to get somewhere fast, I would definitely recommend taking the longer, scenic route.
Trains are always a good option too. They are fast, clean and air-conditioned.
4. Drive carefully in Italy
One of the most important travel tips about Italy that I can give you is to drive carefully.
Depending on your destination, there can be very narrow roads, bordering the cliffs (Amalfi Coast) or winding along through Tuscany in a one-lane road.
You should know, Italian drivers are not the most patient ones, so do expect some takeovers and even some “pressure”. I’ve once seen an Italian car driving millimeters behind the one he was trying to overtake, for a least an hour long. Don’t fall for the pressure and stay within the speed limits.
If you’re planning a road trip through Italy, check out my 43 Road Trip Essentials | Your Ultimate Checklist For Packing Like A Pro.
5. No matter what, DO NOT order a cappuccino after 11 AM 😉
I promised you some advice from my Italian friends, and here it is!
Italians are obsessed with their coffee and quite the connaisseurs, so believe them when they tell you to not drink any milky-based coffee after 11 AM.
This is a big no-no in Italy yet I see SO many people making this mistake.
Don’t worry, you’ll still get your cappuccino if you order it, but you won’t look like a real Italian. 😉
6. No CUTTING the pasta either! 🙂
Since we are on the same topic, another tip you need to know is related to food.
Who doesn’t want to try the famous and delicious Italian pasta? Of course, you do! But once the dish arrives, no matter what, DO NOT CUT THE PASTA with your knife! Italians literally c.r.i.n.g.e when they see this. Use your fork and spoon instead.
Since we’re at it, don’t eat your pasta with bread. And also, don’t ask for ketchup for your pizza! 🙂 You will offend the chef.
7. Expect the “COPERTO” charge in the restaurants
This is another super important tip for your travels to Italy!
The coperto charge is a fee the restaurant charges you for sitting at the table basically. (I know it sounds strange) It generally covers tablecloths, silverware, etc and most restaurants display it clearly at the entrance.
So have a look for it, and know to expect it on the bill.
To us, we’ve always treated it like the tip is already included, so we’d only tip extra to round up the amount, which is common in Italy.
8. Pack your most stylish clothes 😉
Italy is home to one of the top fashion capitals of the world, so it’s no wonder most Italians dress impecably!
I will never forget going out for a drink on a beautiful terrace overlooking the sea in Cagliari, Sardinia, and instead of admiring the view, I couldn’t take my eyes of all the elegant Italian women and their gorgeous outfits!
So take my advice, and pack your most beautiful, stylish clothes for your trip to Italy. You will fit right in!
No time to read? PIN for later 😉
9. Leave room in your suitcase for some shopping
Whether it’s a gorgeous pair of shoes, an elegant dress, some Italian wine, or pasta, there will be SO much you’d want to bring back home with you.
Keep this in mind when you’re packing and don’t overfill your suitcase. Leave some room for a little memory from Italy!
10. Book everything in advance
Whether it’s tickets to the famous Colosseum in Rome or a great restaurant you always wanted to try, make sure to book them in advance. The sooner the better.
In summer, the most popular tourist attractions become packed, so having your ticket already purchased online is a big time saver (no more cues!).
Oh, and don’t fall for those “agents” who want to sell you tickets on the spot. They are often MUCH higher in price than a regular ticket at the cashier.
11. Always carry some cash with you
While in Italy you can pay by card in most places, it really isn’t the case everywhere.
The best thing to do is to always have some cash on you (kept in a safe place, of course) for those parking meters, some delicious gelato while you’re sightseeing, or for paying at a restaurant.
12. Watch out for the tourist traps
I’m sure this is valid no matter where you travel in the world but it applies to Italy as well.
Often, restaurants and cafes located in the center, next to famous tourist attractions are HIGHLY overpriced.
So watch out if you don’t want to be paying 20 EUROs for ice cream as we did in Florence (the ice-cream place at the end of Ponte Vecchio) or 9 EURO for an orange juice in Piazza del Duomo of Milan 😉 (the view was worth it though).
13. Not everyone speaks English
While Italians are incredibly friendly and welcoming, you should know that no everyone speaks English.
This is usually the case in smaller villages, as in the big cities and around famous tourist attractions, you can always find an English speaker.
I’ve definitely made use of the few words I know in Italian, but you can always rely on Google Translate to help you out. The voice option is awesome!
Hope you found these travel tips to Italy useful and hope you’ll have a wonderful holiday there!