Travelling around Italy remains one of those rare experiences in life – like a perfect spring day or the power of first love – that can never be overrated. In few places do history, art, fashion, food and la dolce vita(“the good life”) intermingle so effortlessly. There are sunny isles and electric blue surf, glacial lakes and fiery volcanoes, rolling vineyards and urban landscapes harbouring more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country on Earth. Few places offer such variety and few visitors leave without a fervent desire to return.
The artistic and architectural treasures of Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples draw visitors to them like moths to a flame. Not content with Romans conquering most of the known world, the Venetians dispatched Marco Polo to uncharted lands off the map, while Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo kick-started the Renaissance in Western art and architecture.
Look around at all the splendid palaces, paintings, churches and monuments and wonder at the centuries of hard graft and the unswerving devotion to traditional techniques and terroir. Like the local art, wine is also designed to elevate your spirits. From the neatly-banded stone terraces of the Cinque Terre, which snake from sea level to terrifying precipices, to the blousy hillsides of Chianti, the riverine plain of the Po valley and the volcanic slopes of Etna, Italian wines are lovingly made to complement the carefully-sourced regional cuisine on your plate.
Much like its food, this country is an endless feast of experiences. No matter how much you gorge yourself, you’ll always feel as though you’re still on the first course. Do you go skiing in the Dolomites, or cycling in wine country? Do you dive the sun-split waters of Sardinia, climb Aeolian volcanoes or stalk market stalls in Naples? The choice is dazzling and bewildering. So take the advice of the locals. Slow down, sit back, tuck in that napkin and get ready to begin.
When to Go
The best time to travel to Italy is from April to June and in late September to October. At these times the temperatures are the mildest and there aren’t huge crowds. From June to the middle of September, the summer crowds can be busy. August is when the heat is intense and many Italians take a vacation for the entire month.
- Wear comfortable shoes, as you will be doing a lot of walking on your holiday.
- There aren’t many public toilets. You can find some in large railway stations. Sometimes you have to pay for their use. And carry some toilet paper with you, as many public toilets won’t have any available.
- When traveling on the train, ensure you get your ticket stamped at a yellow machine along the track. If you fail to get it stamped, the conductor on the train can hand-stamp it for you if you explain the situation.
- Making phone calls within Italy will require a telephone card, which can be purchased from a tobacco shop with sign of a white letter T on a black background.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Italy has one of the most comprehensive UNESCO site listing, with 49 inclusions; four natural sites and 45 cultural sites;
– 18th-Century Royal Palace at Caserta
– Sacri Monti of Piedmont and Lombardy
– Archaeological Area and the Patriarchal Basilica of Aquileia
– Archaeological Area of Agrigento
– Archaeological Areas of Pompei, Herculaneum and Torre Annunziata
– Assisi, the Basilica of San Francesco
– Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico) of Padua
– Castel del Monte
– Cathedral, Torre Civica and Piazza Grande at Modena
– Church and Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie (includes the “Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci)
– Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park
– City of Verona
– City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto
– Costiera Amalfitana
– Crespi d’Adda
– Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna
– Etruscan Necropolises of Cerveteri and Tarquinia
– Ferrara, City of the Renaissance
– Genoa: Le Strade Nuove
– Historic Centre of Florence
– Historic Centre of Naples
– Historic Centre of Rome
– Historic Centre of San Gimignano
– Historic Centre of Siena
– Historic Centre of the City of Pienza
– Historic Centre of Urbino
– Late Baroque Towns of the Val di Noto
– Mantua and Sabbioneta
– Medici Villas and Gardens in Tuscany
– Piazza del Duomo, Pisa
– Portovenere, Cinque Terre and Islands
– Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps
– Residences of the Royal House of Savoy
– Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes
– Rock Drawings in Valcamonica
– Su Nuraxi di Barumini
– Syracuse and the Rocky Necropolis of Pantalica
– The Trulli of Alberobello
– The Sassi and the Park of the Rupestrian Churches of Matera
– Val d’Orcia
– Venice and its Lagoon
– Villa Adriana, Tivoli
– Villa d’Este, Tivoli
– Villa Romana del Casale
– Isole Eolie (Aeolian Islands)
– Monte San Giorgio
– Mount Etna
– The Dolomites