Home to artistic treasures, renowned sights, celebrated fashion and some of the tastiest food on the planet, Italy will surely impress. From Rome's ancient streets to the romantic canals of Venice, be seduced by a slice of La Dolce Vita.
Italy Tours & Travel
All our Italy trips
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Take your family sailing along Italy’s Amalfi Coast, exploring the Bay of Naples, Capri, Amalfi and Procida Island -...View trip details
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Travel to Italy on a family holiday with a difference. Climb volcanoes, see ancient cities, experience island life and...View trip details
Articles on Italy
A perfect day in Italy
Posted on Mon, 10 Feb 2014 by Skye Gainey
So it’s my second time travelling to Italy and I’m so excited just to be in my favourite Italian city, Florence. Today we have time to explore at our own [...]Read more
Top 10 aquatic adventures
Posted on Fri, 02 Aug 2013 by Sue Elliot
As a holiday destination, we reckon the sea gets a bit of a rough deal. Together with its buddies (lakes, rivers and bays), the ocean makes up 70 percent of [...]Read more
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.
Depending on which trip you're on while in Italy, you may find yourself travelling by:
At a glance
- Trips Available:
- Capital city:
- Rome (population 3.8 million)
- 61 million
- Time zone:
- (GMT+01:00) Amsterdam, Berlin, Bern, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna
- Type C (European 2-pin) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth) Type L (Italian 3-pin)
- Dialing code:
Best time to visit Italy
Italy enjoys a temperate climate most of the year, with June, July and August being the warmest months. Popular tourist spots can get very busy and crowded during the European summer, but the sun is shining and the weather is hot so it's still a great time to go.
April - May and September - October (while not as hot) still offer great conditions for travel, with milder temperatures and fewer crowds at the sights and beaches.
It can get quite cold in the winter months, especially in the north, with cities like Milan, Turin and Venice often seeing snow, fog and rain in December and January. Major coastal tourist spots like the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre all but close (except to locals) during winter and are truly best seen in the warmer months.
Culture and customs
In general, Italians place great value on family, food and the enjoyment of life. Good quality food made with the best ingredients is preferred to processed, fast food. Eating is a pleasure to be enjoyed with friends and family, not a necessary inconvenience. Respect for the family unit is paramount, with many families choosing to live close to each other for life. Community is also an important element of Italian life and this can be seen with neighbours enjoying a passeggiata (an after dinner stroll and chat).
Italians certainly live their lives with passion and this is evident in their zealous approach to driving, passionate patronage of football (soccer) matches and exuberant social life. It's common to see Italians debate politics, fashion, sport and current affairs with ferocious verve, which can sometimes be quite confronting for people from meeker cultural backgrounds. But lying underneath the bold, animated exterior of most Italians is a deep, passionate love of life itself.
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways to experience a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
Italy is famous for its food and rightly so! Carb-addicts will enjoy the bounty of pasta and pizza on offer, foodies will love the parmesan and olives, and those with a sweet tooth won't be able to resist the desserts and sweets. From fine dining to street carts, aperitivo and family-run kitchens, Italy's got cuisine covered.
Things to try in Italy
A true favourite, gelato shops and carts can be found nearly everywhere in Italy. Try traditional Italian flavours like bacio (choc-hazelnut), amarena (sour cherry) and limone (lemon) - the perfect accompaniment to sightseeing on a hot summer's day.
Naples is the birthplace of pizza but you'll see it all over Italy. Gorge on a whole pizza in a restaurant or grab a slice from a street stall. Simple is usually the best - fresh basil and mozzarella are a top combo and a calzone is great to eat on the run.
This is your chance to try all shapes - tortellini, spaghetti, farfalle, linguine, rigatoni, fettucine - and all sauces, from a fiery arrabiata to a hearty bolognese or a tangy puttanesca.
4. Fresh Produce
Fruit and vegetables are sold in street stalls and carts on the side of the road, even in big cities. For a healthy snack, pick up some fresh berries, cherries, grapes or figs. There's no self-service here so ask for what item you want - Italian fruit sellers don't appreciate fruit being handled before purchase.
The quintessential Italian experience, sip an espresso while standing up at a cafe bar, just like the locals do. It's also cheaper.
Italy produces some of the world's best wine so savour a glass (or two!) of Sangiovese with dinner. Fans of white wine will love a crisp Pinot Grigio, a summer wine best served with seafood or chicken.
This lemon liqueur is super strong and usually served after dinner. Native to southern Italy, Limoncello can be found everywhere in Italy but especially on the Amalfi Coast.
Geography and environment
Home to mountains, volcanoes, islands, beaches, spectacular cliffs and expansive stretches of coastline, the natural landscapes of Italy provide dramatic scenery as well as popular places to explore and relax for locals and visitors alike.
The major cities of Italy, although industrialised, still retain buildings, churches and relics from the past. It's quite common to see modern shops housed in historic cobblestone streets and new Vespas perched in ancient piazzas. In smaller cities and more isolated areas, rural life is a whole lot slower and simpler. Permaculture remains popular, with many Italians growing fruit and vegetables in their backyards. The traffic and frenetic pace of the cities give way to idyllic olive groves, vineyards and farmhouses.
History and government
The rise of the Roman Empire has been the subject of much fascination, intrigue and interest from scholars, artists, travellers and students around the world, and through the ages. Dominating the world for many centuries, the modern world can pay great respect to the fruits of this mighty civilisation, with many important scientific inventions, art movements, architectural triumphs and philosophical ideas being born during Roman civilisation - most notably during the Renaissance.
Founded sometime around 750 BC, Rome endures as one of the most important cities in the world. Home to such famous citizens as Julius Caesar, Emperor Augustus, Claudius, Nero, Mark Antony and Marcus Aurelius, Rome has enjoyed the great highs of dominating the Mediterranean region and the artistic triumphs of the Renaissance, but also the lows of the Great Fire of Rome, which ended up destroying a large part of the city. Rome has survived natural disasters, political turmoil, feuding families, the plague, war and more, to be the great city that is it today. Still a cultural and political powerhouse, any visit to Italy needs to include Rome's major sites in order to understand the birth of this nation. The Colosseum, The Pantheon, Circus Maximus and Palatine Hill are all great places to start.
Lasting centuries, the amazing history of Ancient Rome is full of dramatic twists and turns, and we suggest you read up on it before visiting.
After the Renaissance, Italy was unified with Sardinia in 1861, becoming the Kingdom of Italy. After World War I, Italy came under the fascist rule of Benito Mussolini, who ruled until 1943. Siding with Nazi Germany in World War II, the Italian Army suffered many losses and ultimately surrendered in 1945. After a referendum in 1946, Italy became a Republic and flourished well during the 1950s and 1960s. The post-war period marks a time of economic progress for Italy, also largely reflected by the rest of the world's increased economic stability during this period of relative peace.
From the 1970s, Italians have lived with political upheaval and uncertainty. Corruption, organised crime, terrorism and government debt have created times of turmoil and concern. In 1994, media mogul Silvio Berlusconi was elected into office as Prime Minister but was forced to step down later in the year after losing support from his political partners. Undeterred, Berlusconi regained power in 2008 and has continued to rule Italy amid much controversy and scandal.
Top 10 Iconic Italian Landscapes
1. Captivating Capri
Be blown away by the shimmering beauty of this sun-bleached island that sits in the middle of a mass of blue-green water. Home to luminous sea caves, stunning cliff faces and whitewashed buildings, Capri is the perfect setting for a romantic escapade, relaxing boat ride or some serious sun worshipping.
2. Tuscan Hills
An enchanting mix of rolling green hills, vineyards, simple farmhouses and charming villages, Tuscan landscapes are effortlessly beautiful. Whether you're cycling around vineyards, hiking through the countryside or lying in a field of golden grass, Tuscany is made for life in the slow lane.
3. Luscious Lake
Picturesque Lake Como is considered one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy and any visitor will tell you why. A vast expanse of azure water set to a stunning mountainous backdrop, dotted with rustic villas and wildflowers, Lake Como is the sparkling jewel of Italy's north, naturally polished to perfection.
4. Mighty Mount Vesuvius
Sitting on the Bay of Naples, the austere beauty of brooding Mt Vesuvius offers a contrast to the luscious, green landscapes of the Mediterranean. A reminder of the raw power of nature, Mt Vesuvius is still active - yet a hike to the summit is possible and worthwhile for the sweeping views of the bay below.
5. Wonderful Waterways
No trip to Italy is complete without taking in the canals of Venice. A truly unique spectacle to behold, these classic waterways have served for centuries as a transport route for Venetians. Nowhere else in the world will you find a place such as this - hop onboard a gondola and ride the canals for an up close look at this fascinating city.
6. The Romantic Road
A journey along the winding roads of the Amalfi Coast offers panoramic ocean views, alluring towns perched on cliffs and beaches bathed in sunlight. Admire the luscious landscapes dotted with fragrant lemon trees and olive groves, feel the soft touch of a gentle sea breeze and fall in love with this spectacular corner of the world.
7. Authentic Italian Island
Sitting under the watchful eye of moody Mt Etna, Sicily is a place where you can experience a taste of authentic Italy and see spectacular views at the same time. Surrounded by a sea of turquoise water speckled with volcanic islands, Sicily possesses diverse landscapes of rocky mountains, rural pastures, ancient ruins and villages steeped in history.
8. The Pleasures of Piedmont
While not as famous as other regions of Italy, the quiet, pastoral beauty of Piedmont is definitely pleasing to the eye. With classic vineyards, simple home-grown gardens, sleepy villages and divine cafes, Piedmont rewards visitors with attractive scenery and a serene vibe to match.
9. The Dolomites
Verdant green and carpeted in wildflowers during summer, and covered in a blanket of white snow during winter, the Dolomites are a breathtakingly beautiful sight to behold in any season. Whether you're scaling the epic slopes during summer hikes or skiing downhill during winter, making the most of these mountainous landscapes is too easy.
10. The Five Lands
A quintessentially beautiful Mediterranean landscape, the Cinque Terre is a destination to be cherished. Walk the rocky path over steep cliffs and pass character-filled villages perched over a brilliant blue ocean. Wander past shady trees, gardens and groves as the ocean reflects the radiance of the sun. This is panoramic perfection!
Italians are known for their style and this is reflected in the designer fashion and furniture of Italy. Be prepared to part with money - shopping in Italy can get quite expensive - but the quality of handmade and tailored items is generally exceptional.
It's a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.
Things to buy in Italy
Milan, Rome and other big cities are packed with high-end designer fashion boutiques, chic chain stores and tailors. Either way, when in Italy you're guaranteed to get the latest fashions straight from the catwalks of Europe.
2. Colourful Ceramics
Vibrant, hand-painted ceramic bowls, jugs and glasses can be found in the shops and markets of the Amalfi Coast and Sicily. A perfect reminder of the Mediterranean.
Venice is filled with shops selling elaborate, handcrafted masquerade masks. These colourful creations look great hung on walls and are a true Venetian keepsake.
4. Leather Footwear, Bags and Accessories
Florence and Rome are hot spots for sourcing gorgeous handmade leather items. Splash out on an 'investment purchase' - a leather handbag that will last a lifetime.
Festivals and Events in Italy
Beautifully decorated shop windows, colourfully painted eggs, church services, parades, feasts and fireworks make Easter a wonderful time to visit Italy and be immersed in Italian culture.
Venice Historical Regatta (Regata Storica)
Held on the first Sunday of September and dating back to the 13th century, this historic event sees the canals of Venice turned into a competitive rowing race between colourful, carved boats. Passionate supporters line the banks of the canals and street performers and artists come out to celebrate too.
FAQs on Italy
A glass of beer = 5 Euro
Bottle of wine in a restaurant = 16 Euro
Small gelato cone = 3 Euro
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Jan 6 Epiphany
April 1 Easter Monday
April 25 Liberation Day
May 1 Labour Day
June 2 Anniversary of the Republic
August 15 Assumption
November 1 All Saints' Day
December 8 Immaculate Conception
December 25 Christmas Day
December 26 St. Stephen's Day
Please note these dates are for 2013. Local feast days in honour of patron saints are also held in Italy and aren't listed here.
For a current list of public holidays in Italy go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/italy/public-holidays
Australia: No - Not required
Belgium: No - Not required
Canada: No - Not required
Germany: No - Not required
Ireland: No - Not required
Netherlands: No - Not required
New Zealand: No - Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: No - Not required
UK: No - Not required
USA: No - Not required
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
Italy Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for Italy
1. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
2. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
3. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.
4. Try to use public transport wherever possible.
5. Refrain from touching or interfering with ancient monuments, relics or historic sites.
6. Learn some Italian and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.
7. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
|Naples 44||Norman Lewis|
|The Sicilian||Mario Puzo|
|Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire||Simon Baker|
|The Name of the Rose||Umberto Eco|
|A Thousand Days in Venice||Marlena de Blasi|
|The Divine Comedy||Dante Alighieri|