Best time to visit
Savour melting gelatos in Capri during summer, take a pasta-making class in Bologna in autumn, ski down the Dolomites in winter and explore the gardens of Villa Borghese in spring. Every season is a good one in Italy, the country where la dolce vita (the sweet life) never takes a break.
Winter (Dec –Feb)
Be blown away by the most overlooked travelling season – winter. You’ll have room to move and indulge in an entirely different experience to those who only see summer. From exploring the Christmas markets in Bolzano to experiencing Carnevale in Venice, winter is when you get to live like a local. You won’t catch a tan (and some of the sea-side towns shut up shop), but you can still sport stylish shades – it is Italy after all…
Spring (Mar – May)
You can’t go wrong with Spring. There’s a sense of renewal in the air as towns spring back to life. Enjoy warm days sipping chianti in the hills of Tuscany, stroll through the park surrounding Sforza Castle in Milan, and dine alfresco on the cobblestoned streets of Rome. All this plus glorious temperatures make travelling in Italy carefree during spring.
Summer (June - Aug)
August is Europe’s summer holiday month and the sun burns late. Even the bambini in prams get involved in the passegiata, that lovely tradition of strolling the piazza long into the evening. There’s a reason travellers want to come : the sun, history, romance and unbelievable food in Italy are too tempting to resist. Many locals migrate to the Mediterranean, leaving the main cities emptier, giving you more room for you to roam the big cities.
Autumn (Sept – Nov)
Smoke curling from Milanese chimneys, the smell of Tuscan grapes being crushed for barrelling, the taste of roasted chestnuts on the streets of Rome: autumn in Italy is a feast for the senses. Autumn is when travellers reap rewards (literally) as harvests are gathered, resulting in astounding local produce. Bring your appetite and mangia bene (eat well).
Culture & customs
Pucker up, kisses are coming your way. Italians greet each other with two cheek kisses and expect to get caught in kiss crossfires on the daily. It’s just part of their passionate hospitality, so go with the flow. Siestas tend to stop the action from 12 – 4pm while most of the country takes a little nap, and dinner tends to happen around 9pm, with locals kicking on in public piazzas until the early hours. Did we mention la dolce vita already?
Electronics & devices
Like Australia, Italy uses 220-240 volt power, so you won’t need a voltage converter.
You will however, need a plug adaptor. Like most other European countries, Italy uses a round 2 or 3 prong plug.
A universal adaptor, that converts Australian plugs to fit any outlet globally, will make your life easier. Or you can carry individual adaptors for each country. Country specific adaptors can be bought individually or in set, which is great if you’re going to more than one place, and don’t want to travel with a universal adaptor.
It can be difficult to find adaptors for Australian appliances once you leave Australia, so make sure you have what you need before you leave home. Adaptors are easy to find at here. Department stores, electronic stores, luggage stores, large chemists and many stores at Australian airports carry them.
Health & safety
When it comes to staying safe in Italy, be aware that pick pocketing is common. Be extra careful in transit areas, such as train stations and on buses – one too many iPhones have disappeared from handbags on Roman trams. This is another good reason to have travel insurance wherever you go.
While no specific immunisations are required for Italy, a pre-departure visit to your GP doesn’t go astray – they’ll let you know what you should take with you in case of illness. Also, be sure to visit http://smartraveller.gov.au for current safety and travel information.
Language & useful phrases
Even the most experienced travellers find themselves lost in a foreign land. While you shouldn’t have a problem in big cities Rome and Milan, English can become quite sparse in regional Italy. Dov’è (where is) followed by the name of the place you’re looking for will see locals enthusiastically throw directions at you. Try it with us: dov’è il colosseo? (Where is the Colosseum?) Dov’è il bagno? (Where is the toilet?)
When it comes to greeting locals, with ciao handily meaning both hello and goodbye, it’s like two words for the price of one. Throw in a come stai (how are you?), and you’re on the fast track to friendship.
Money & costs
Your dollar stretches like a hot piece of mozzarella cheese in Italy, especially with meals. While 10 euros wouldn’t buy you hot chips in some Scandinavian countries, here it could buy an entire riverside picnic. A sit-down lunch starts at 10-15 euros but anywhere near a major site will cost a few extra (location, location, location).
Why do all the locals stand at the bar to have their morning coffee? It costs half the price. When in Rome, do like the Romans do and throw that espresso down like it’s a post-dinner grappa (with just a little less flame). And a cappuccino after breakfast? Well, it’s not tradition, but no one will mind (much).
When it comes to tipping, it is appreciated but not expected in Italy. Most places that offer table services will include a service charge on your bill called copperto, which literally means ‘cover.’
Visas & insurance
Luckily for us, Australians and New Zealanders don’t need a visa to visit Italy for holiday stays under 90 days.
We strongly recommend travel insurance, because the real travel magic happens when you’re worry free. We hope you don’t lose a bag or need a doctor (that’s not in our travel plan either!) but if the worst happens it’s good to have backup. Travel insurance is an easy way to take the worry out of travelling, so you can Go Live It.