Planning a trip to Italy need not be difficult. If you want to know how to plan a trip to Italy on your own then this is the post for you. If you are looking to visit Italy for the first time or looking to explore the different regions of Italy this post will offer an insight into to how to plan a trip to Italy in the way that I normally work through. I have had the pleasure of visiting many of Italy’s beautiful cities with more to come as I am in the midst of planning a trip that covers Italy, Malta and Tunisia and possibly more of Greece.
So, whether you are planning a trip to southern Italy, planning a honeymoon in Italy, or planning a family trip to Italy or just need a guide to planning a trip to Italy below are all the things to consider as I go through how to get around in Italy, where to stay, places to visit in Italy and generally things to keep in mind as you consider budget and style of travel. If you need help planning a trip to Italy, read on!
- 1 How To Plan A Trip To Italy – Regions of Italy To Visit
- 2 Pick Your Style Of Travel
- 3 How To Get To Italy And Getting Around – Transport In Italy
- 4 How To Plan A Trip To Italy On Your Own | Is Italy Safe To Travel Alone
- 5 Places To Visit In Italy – Where To Go In Italy
- 6 Where To Stay In Italy
- 7 Trip Budget – Money Matters How Much To Take To Italy
- 8 Best Time To Visit Italy
- 9 What To Pack For Italy | Weather In Italy
- 10 Other Things To Know When Planning A Trip To Italy
How To Plan A Trip To Italy – Regions of Italy To Visit
Italy is made up of 20 regions and each one is rich with its own landscape, history, and traditions. From unique cities like Venice with its magnificant floating palaces to Florence with its rich Renaissance history or Milan with its fashion influence as well as being home to Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper and last but not least Rome, the eternal city.
Each and every city offers something different. As beautiful as Italy is, its also quiet vast. Unless you are visiting over a month you cannot even begin to scratch the surface. You need to select a city to explore or if you have a week you can do 1 or even 2 regions. If you have a month in Italy you can cover a wide range of regions and get a taste of just how vastly different each region can be from the next one.
One of my favourite regions in Italy. Northern Italy covers Lombardy, Piedmont, Dolomites, Italian Lakes, Liguria and Veneto regions and boasts stunning and dramatic landscapes. This is where you will find Lake Como and Lake Garda, with Lombardy also being home to the fashion capital of Italy; Milan. Veneto is home to the amazing and timeless city that is Venice as well as the historical and Shakespearean city of Verona. If you are planning a trip to Venice this is the region you would be visiting. Northern Italy is also the home of Italian Riveria with the likes of Cinque Terre located in this region. Also to note that with this region neighbouring France, Switzerland and Austria, the culture and cuisines are also influenced by its neighbours.
This is considered the heart of Italy where you will find some of the world’s most renowned cities. Central Italy consists of regions: Lazio, Tuscany, Umbria, Le Marche, Abruzzo and Emila Romagna. Tuscany and Umbria are filled with beautiful rolling hills and stunning vineyards that look like paintings at sunset. You will find Pisa and Florence in Tuscany, while surrounding Rome is the Lazio region filled with ancient towns, gorgeous gardens and hill towns. Abruzzo and Le Marche lie between Apennine mountains and the Adriatic Coast. For food lovers, Central Italy or to be more precise, Emila Romagna is another paradise if you want a taste of Italy. Thing cheese, ham, balsamic vinegar and bolognese sauce are all from this region. As always Italy is beautiful and delicious.
This part of Italy is made up of Campania, Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily and Aeolian Islands and Sardinia. These regions are at the lower and toe part of Italy’s boot. Campania is of course where you will find the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Positano, Praiano, Ravello, Salerno and islands of Capri and Ischia.
Puglia is home to stunning views along the Adriatic Sea coastline. If you want a reach Italian experience with none of the touristy crowds this is where you head to. Basilicata region boasts mountain ranges and deep valleys and is matched by those found in Calabria with its rugged landscapes and stunning coastline with mesmerizing crystal blue Ionian and Tyrrhenian Seas. This region is so different compared to Northern Italy; it is hard to believe it is the same country at times. From the weather to the whole experience of the country and their differing cultural influences.
To fully experience the essence of Italy planning a 3 week trip or at a minimum, a 2 week trip to is always ideal especially if you are coming from afar. If you are already in Europe its preferable to sample a region every other month to experience the scenery, the art, the food, and the culture. The seasons offer a great variety as well. You could on the same day be skiing and sunbathing on two spectacular locations not too far apart if you choose the right month. Italy offers a unique variety of geography, culture and history. There is always more to experience.
Pick Your Style Of Travel
When you are planning a tour of Italy your style of travel will very much dictate how much you will spend on your trip or how much you need to save for your trip around Italy. If you are planning a trip to Italy on a budget, I have found that comparing package tours and DIY is the way to go.
If you are planning a luxury trip to Italy majority of what really eats at the budget is unique experiences or private experiences as well as of course luxury accommodation. Below I will describe some travel styles to help you figure out which one you might fit in as well as help you to give you a starting point based on your preferred style of travel.
Independent (and solo) Travel In Italy
This is where you book everything separately to match your preferred style of accommodation, mode of transportation; private helicopter or a taxi ride to your hotel dependant on your budget, you can as add any extras to your travel planning from tours to self-guided tours as well as plan your itinerary based on your likes and skip the rest. If you are visiting individual cities you also have the option of purchasing tourist cards that will give you access to the cities museums, and other tourist sights.
This is where you can have a private guide to take you around a city or around Italy. Your itinerary of Italy can be tailored to your liking and preferences. Majority of these tours are usually in the luxury category unless this is a basic city tour which can also be private but these are still usually above the £100 mark and into the thousands for a multi-day, multi-city tour.
Private Group Tours
If you are traveling with friends or family sometimes it may be cheaper to book a private group tour. Again with these types of tours, you have the option to have an itinerary tailored to you and your group’s needs and likes. Expect to pay a bit more compared to package tours but if you are of course within a group it can also be economical as you split the price of the guide between you. It also depends if the guide is also arranging transportation and accommodation so all that takes effort but well worth it.
Package Tours In Italy
If you are a little apprehensive about solo travel packaged tours also offer a great opportunity to meet other people on the tour. Packaged tours in Italy might be a great way to see lots of cities with ease as everything is all arranged for you, from guided city tours (usually at a fee) with the accommodation in each city as well as transportation already booked.
Escorted Group Tours Of Italy
If you are stuck when it comes to planning a trip through Italy then this might be an option for you as you can travel through Italy’s most beautiful cities as part of an escorted group tour. You will have a guide for much of the duration of your trip showcasing the highlights of Italy and providing insight into the rich history of the country and regions.
Picking A Tour Of Italy
There are so many tour companies offering amazing tours that allow you to travel based on the travel style above. If you are a lover of adventure and love cycling, walking, winter activities then check out Exodus tours. If you prefer to travel on small group adventures then G Adventures is work checking out. If you are between 18 and 35 and love travel but also want to experience Italy’s nightlife then Contiki tours is the way to go. They have a mix of multi-city tours in Italy as well as those that combine Italy and France with Germany and Spain and beyond.
For independent tours I would also recommend Viator Tours and Get Your Guide where you can book individual tours that can also supplement some of the package tours which mostly don’t come with a guide to take you through the city but will arrange, transport, hotels and flights. If you are on a strict budget I would also recommend checking out meetup which allows you to meet locals in the city who organise free meetups on a wide variety of interest, from photography to singing, to bar crawls and restaurant outings.
How To Get To Italy And Getting Around – Transport In Italy
Flights To Italy
If you are coming from the UK the flights to Italy are only a few hours of travel and beyond that may also require an overnight flight. I post monthly discounts for tours, flights and hotels; this month is a little late but will update that end of the week.
From the UK we have the option of using Eurostar to Paris and from there taking the train but that takes longer and only works if you are planning a trip to Italy and France and starting from London. Otherwise, it’s just easier to take a flight from London and other parts of the UK to Italy. If you are already on mainly Europe you also have access to cheap airlines like EasyJet, RyanAir, Wizz and sometimes Norwegian Air also has cheap flights.
If you are traveling from the US to Italy or China and mainland Asia you will most likely be coming through via larger airlines and will stop at some of the other bigger airports in Italy. Below I have tips on branching out to trains when exploring cities in Italy. For the best deals I usually use Google flights and just put in the cities I am leaving from and then see which cities in Italy have the cheapest flights. You can click on the different cities and that will show you the cheapest city to land in Italy. For more deals I also check Expedia, Kiwi, or Lastminute or eDreams.
Bus and Train Travel In Italy
Italy offers a wide range of transportation to easily get around Italy and explore. Buses are plenty as well intercity coaches and trains. I have shared tips on how to get from Verona to Venice, Verona to Lake Garda and Milan to Cinque Terre and more to come. All these include tips on how to get from the airport to the cities as well as using trains and buses.
If you are travelling between cities in Italy, trains are really the way to go. They are reasonably priced compared to those in London also really easy to navigate. There are plenty of train operators in Italy operating intercity as well as regional. I would highly recommend checking online beforehand because there are slow trains that pass through regional stops as well as fast trains which easily shave an hour on journey times.
Use Omio to check journey times and service route for trains and coaches. It lists prices as well. The site gives you a list of train operators but you can also book directly with the likes of Trenitalia which is one of the main operators in Italy.
You don’t have to book in advance for most of the trains but I have found that some of the faster trains sometimes sell out. Trains are frequent so you can always wait for the next one. If unsure just ask the ticket office if the next train is a fast one or not. To give you an idea of travel times between cities see below.
- Rome to Naples: 1 hour 10 minutes and costs £18 on Italo. Trenitalia takes 1 hour 7 mines and costs £27 and £30 during peak times.
- Rome to Venice: 3 hours 23 minutes fastest or 7 hours for a slow and cheap train. Fastest train is £49 versus £29 for the slow train.
- Milan to Venice: 2 hours on the fastest train and costs £29 on Trenitalia Frecciarossa. Cheapest is 2 hours 25 minutes and costs £18.
- Florence to Rome: 1 hour 32 minutes for the cheapest train at £17 on Italo and the fastest at £27 and takes 1 hour 11 minutes on Trenitalia Frecciarossa.
- Pisa To Florence: Only 48 minutes for the cheapest train with Trenitalia at £8 the same prices for the slower train at 1 hour 19 minutes.
- If you have a EuRail pass you can travel throughout Europe by train on many of the operators in Italy and other countries in Europe. From the UK you can use InterRail.
Car Rentals In Italy
If you are visiting Italy’s biggest cities, you will not need to rent a car as most cities can be explored on foot as well as easily by buses. You can easily get around from Airport to hotel by taxi, bus or train. Renting a car in Italy will only cause more hassle in looking for parking as well as getting used to driving on the other side of the road if you are coming from the UK where we drive on the left. I have got by with trains in Italy and have only ever had to rent a car when travelling to Italy’s skiing region in Northern Italy. This is because the trains and coaches take long because they have to drop people off different skiing areas. Other things to bear in mind when renting a car in Italy:
- If possible bring your own mobile phone holder for the car so that you can use your phone as GPS. This will save you at least £8 for every day of rental to use their GPS.
- Make sure you reserve a car booking traveling as they usually sell out during busy periods.
- Automatic transmission cars are more expensive sometimes twice as much if not more. Much cheaper to rent a manual car.
- Check insurance coverage when reserving your car online as some rentals might want you to buy additional insurance when you collect your car, in most cases this is unnecessary.
- Also, bear in mind the size of car you rent, small cars might look cute but make sure you can fit your luggage in them.
- Also check the type of gas the car needs as you will have to fill it up on the way back to avoid incurring charges which can be much higher than the market rate.
- Check out EasyCar, or Europcar. Both are good, I have used EasyCar for Italy, and Europcar I have used for Ireland, Iceland and Norway as well.
How To Plan A Trip To Italy On Your Own | Is Italy Safe To Travel Alone
I have traveled around Italy with my family, my husband as well as on my own, I have used trains, rented cars on my own and flown around Italy on my own and never feared for my safety. Majority of Italians are friendly and very helpful if you are lost. Whether planning a trip to Italy on your own, you really don’t have to feel apprehensive Italy is very welcoming in most major cities.
Although if you are a minority you may get a few questionable stares in smaller cities I never let that phase me. I go about my business – that is the nature of the times we are in right now. As a female traveler in Italy, again this is something that I have done comfortably but where ever I go, whether exploring in the UK, Asia or in Europe just practice common sense and if it doesn’t feel right, try to get out of the situation as quickly and safely as possible.
Places To Visit In Italy – Where To Go In Italy
Places and Cities To Visit Italy
I shared a post on some of my top cities to visit in Italy with more details on places to visit in Italy. Below is a mix of cities and places to make sure you dont miss out on when decided which part of Italy to visit:
- Rome: Colosseum, Rome Forum, Palatine Hill for more check out my Rome itinerary.
- Florence: Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral, Uffizi Gallery, Michelangelo’s David, Piazzale Michelangelo. For more, I have tips on how to see Florence in one day as more posts on the best sights to check out.
- Milan: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, The Last Supper at Dominican Convent plus easy access to tours to Lake Como from Milan.
- Vatican City: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Basicilia and Vatican Museums. For more, I have tips on visiting Vatican City.
- Venice: gondola at sunset, Burano, San Marco Basilica and Campanile. For more check out my posts on Venice.
- Amalfi Coast: Positano, Praiano, Ravello, and Salerno seaside clifftop towns.
Places To Eat And Experiences Not To Miss
There are so many unmissable experiences and places in Italy, below are a couple that are well worth experiencing at least once.
- Riding on a Gondola in Venice
- Exploring Italy’s amazing lake towns in Lake Garda and Lake Como
- Visiting The Sistine Chapel in Vatican City
- Taking an Italian cooking class.
- Seeing the viewing from Giotto’s Campanile in Florence
- Visiting Italy’s coastal and colorful towns in Southern Italy.
- Exploring Miracle Square in Pisa.
- Eat Italian gelato in all its flavors.
Where To Stay In Italy
I have sampled Airbnbs, hotels, B&B, villas in Italy and where you stay really depends on your budget as well as the intention of your trip. Are you visiting to relax and get away from it all, are you visiting for city exploring and want to make the most of your stay? Are you on a budget or flexible budget or have no budget. I have shared posts on the best areas to stay in Rome and the best area to stay in Venice. which include hotel recommendations.
I haven’t shared a post on our stay in Florence yet but we chose to use Airbnb as we book the trip last minute but there are plenty of budget hotels as well as super luxury hotels in Florence like Four Season Hotel or even the amazing Montebello Splendid. You can also opt to stay at a villa like Villa Cora which is luxe but you can also find really cheap holiday homes and villas within reasonable budgets too.
I have paid anything from £40 per night to as much as £200 per night. My budget will vary depending on my trip length, whether I have a quick budget getaway or if I want a little treat and splurge. My recommendation is to check out Booking.com, Hotels.com, TripAdvisor Rentals and Airbnb. I also have a comprehensive post on Airbnb tips, from first-time users to how to be a great Airbnb guest or host as well as how to get the Airbnb discount code and how to use it.
Trip Budget – Money Matters How Much To Take To Italy
Many Italian cities are reasonably cheap to explore and the price of food in Italy tends to be reasonable. Depending on where you are coming from, the majority of your expenses will be on flights and accommodation. You can eat as cheaply or as expensively as your budget allows.
There are amazing Italian delis, cafes, and restaurants that cater to budget travelers as well as luxe food experiences that are enough to make a budget travelers eyes start to water. For most of my trips I usually have one splurge and then stick to what I can afford for that trip, whether that is doing a food tour in Italy, doing a cooking class in Italy or having a private tour and Italian city. Let the locals show you the hidden gems.
Best Time To Visit Italy
Just like Paris, anytime is a good time to visit Italy. There is no good or bad time to visit Italy. I have been in November, I have been to Italy in Spring and Summer but what I can say is that between June and September in Italy, these are the busiest times especially popular cities like Venice, Rome, Pisa, Naples and Amalfi Coast.
I have found the best time to visit Italy is in the shoulder months of April, May as well as October. Kids are still in school and their parents are still counting down for summer breaks. This means fewer crowds at tourist spots in Italy as well as trains. I also loved Venice in the Winter much more than I did in Summer. It was misty and less crowded, still just as beautiful even in cold weather.
What To Pack For Italy | Weather In Italy
You can wear almost whatever you want in Italy – within reason of course. What you pack when planning a trip to Amalfi coast in Italy and what you pack when heading to Northern Italy in January, February, March, and April will differ very much. For sightseeing around major cities in Italy, I would highly recommend having layers. This is because when visiting Italian churches many of which are the main tourist spots like the Duomo in Milan, St Pauls’ Basilica in Vatican City, many churches in Italy expect you to at least cover the upper body due to strict dress codes in many places of worship. Dresses and skirts must reach the knee. Italy is a Roman Catholic country and despite what you believe, it is respectful to cover shoulders and knees when in church or sacred places.
I have shared tips on what to pack for Europe in Spring, perfect if you are planning a trip to Italy in April, May and beyond. I will be sharing more for other seasons. In the summer lightweight cool clothing is always best but depending on which region you are traveling make sure you check the weather temperature but remember to be respectful when visiting churches. Also for men and women, hats are usually meant to be taken off too.
Another must is packing footwear that is comfortable as many Italian cities and towns require exploring on foot. Check out my post on comfortable and stylish travel shoes. Remember that Italy has many cobbled streets which are not exactly friendly to heels also plenty of stairs is something to bear in mind when thinking about shoes to pack for Italy.
Other Things To Know When Planning A Trip To Italy
Phone Use: If you are visiting from the UK and many parts of Europe you should be able to use your mobile phone with your country’s tariff minutes. Due to the changes of EU laws a few years ago, if you are traveling from the UK you can use your mobile minutes in much the same way as you would at home. If you are in from the USA or any other country and travelling long term I would suggest you use a local sim or stick to free wifi to avoid incurring a bill.
Shopping: Every region of Italy has its own amazing products produced within that region alone so make sure you don’t miss out on amazing souvenirs from Italy to bring back from your trip. From beautiful ceramics in Umbria, Tuscany and Faenza, to glass and lace in Venice or shoes and textiles in Florence and Milan. In some cities you can even visit factories or studios where traditional crafts are produced. Also note that if you live outside of the EU you can claim back VAT of upto 20% when you spend more the 150 Euros.
Travel Insurance: I cannot stress enough how important this is. You really never know when you are going to need it. I never travel without travel insurance. Even more so now considering the recent skiing accident my husband had in Italy. Never travel without it. Also depending on your style of travel, if you are doing anything adventurous you will need different insurance to someone just going on a normal city break. If you live in the UK the Post Office insurance also covers most trips. If you are traveling for a long period I would also consider Alpha Travel Insurance who specialise in long stay and backpacker insurance policies. If you already have a medical condition then check out Travel Insurance 4 Medical who specialise in insurance for those with a medical condition. For all others especially if I am looking for additional cover for gadgets and taking part in hiking, climbing or anything extreme that is not usually covered in simple city break insurance I usually use Travel Supermarket.
Currency: Italy uses Euros but also widely accepts credit cards, travellers cheques(there is a fee for using them), and in some places may also accept dollars too but be careful of higher exchange rates. There are also plenty of ATMs in Italy but bear in mind that your bank may charge you for each time you use the cash machine.
Language: When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Speak a little Italian. English is widely spoken throughout Italy and in Northern Italy, many are versed in multiple languages. When we were in Bolzano, Trento region, many people spoke at least 3 languages. German, Italian and Austrian. Learning basics like, ‘excuse me’, ‘do you speak English’, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ goes a long way.
Tipping In Italy: Tipping in Italy is not compulsory although its common practice to leave 10-15% of the bill if you are happy with the service.
Opening Times For Tourist Sights: As you would expect, most museums and tourist sights have different opening times but note that most are closed on public holidays as well as Mondays. Places like the Vatican Museum is closed on public holidays and every Sunday except the last Sunday of the month. Also, most museums in Italy charge a fee to enter so depending on which city you are visiting it’s always worth buying one of the tourist cards in Italy.
- A Travel Guide For Lake Garda
- Exploring Rome Through Its Fountains
- Unmissable Sights In Florence
- A Weekend In Pisa
- Exploring Santa Croce In Florence
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