Love history? Take a look at the Roman Forum. Love food? Then you can't miss pizza in Naples. Prefer natural wonders? Then consider sailing in the Mediterranean, visiting the alps or biking through the fields of Tuscany.

Read on for some ideas for your trip to Italy.

  • A historical and cultural centre of Europe

    Along with Greece, Italy is known as one of the birthplaces of Western civilisation.

    With this in mind, it isn’t surprising that this rich, diverse country has something to appeal to travellers of all ages and interests. Just some of the highlights include fabulous food and wine, Renaissance art and architecture, opera, fashion, and, of course, historical monuments and archaeological sites.

  • World records

    • The world’s largest pizza measured in at 1.5km long (2015)
    • The world’s biggest cup of cappuccino was 4,250 litres (2013)
    • The world’s largest tiramisu weighed in at 3,015kg (2015)

Travel tips

Top 5 cities to visit

  1. Rome: The capital has a history dating back nearly 3,000 years and is filled with sites that tell the history of this ancient city.
  2. Milan: Milan is the lively home of high fashion in Italy, and features exclusive shopping boutiques and dining venues.
  3. Florence: Florence is home to the Renaissance, and is brimming with world-famous art and architecture.
  4. Venice: The floating city is a unique experience – a maze of canals and alleyways, where every wrong turn unveils a new café, boutique, or crumbling building.
  5. Naples: Attention all pizza lovers – Naples is the official birthplace of the world’s favourite food! Like Rome, is also one of Western civilisation’s most ancient cities, and offers easy access to the ruins of Pompeii.

Best travel experiences

  • The ruins of Pompeii

    If you’re a history buff, be sure to schedule a trip to Pompeii on your holiday. A tour of the historic site will give you an overview of how the Romans lived 2,000 years ago, before Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

    When the volcano erupted, it covered the city of Pompeii in molten ash, effectively preserving it. Over the past 300 years, archaeologists have been excavating the site, uncovering bodies and buildings that remained intact.

    Easily accessible from Rome or Naples, there are guided tours aplenty as well as audio guides.

  • Explore the Alps

    The highest and most extensive mountain range in Europe, the Alps stretch about 1,200 kilometres across eight countries, one of which is Italy.

    If you love winter sports, this makes northern Italy the ideal destination for skiing, snowboarding and glacier walks, not to mention the option of choosing between a quaint chalet or five-star resort.

    If you prefer warmer weather, the Alps also provide plenty of rock climbing and hiking opportunities in the warmer months. And in all weather you can enjoy the medieval churches and castles dotting the peaks.

  • Sail through the Mediterranean

    With its iconic shape, like a boot kicking into the Mediterranean, it can be easy to forget that Italy has a range of islands to explore. So why not charter a sailboat to see Elba and Sardinia, or Capri and Ischia, or Sicily and its surrounds?

    For experienced sailors, basic rental boats are available, or you can hire a craft with a full crew. When you arrive at your destination, you can either stay on board or book into a luxurious beach resorts, all the while enjoying architecture that dates back to the 14th century.

  • Italy by bike

    With its mild climate and bicycle trails, Italy is the perfect cycling destination. In Tuscany in particular, there are a range of bicycle trails leading through Florence and Pisa, where you will see fields of wildflowers and streets of terracotta houses, not to mention plenty of wineries and museums where you can stop for a culture break.

    If you enjoy solitary rides, you can look up a range of self-guided trails online. Otherwise, there are plenty of day tours you can join if you feel like company.

  • Wine tastings and vineyards

    Wine has an ancient history in Italy, with viticulture introduced to southern Italy by the Mycenaean Greeks, and becoming established after Greek colonisation around 800 BC. Since then, wine has remained an integral part of the culture, with several regions throughout the country that produce distinct varieties and tastes.

    If wine is your thing, consider a tour through the wineries of Veneto, Tuscany or Piedmont (for red wine lovers), or the Fruili region (for white wine lovers).

  • Go to a local soccer game

    Soccer is Italy’s most popular sport, with more than 4 million people playing it every year, and the Italian national football team is considered to be one of the best in the world, having won the FIFA World Cup four times. If you go to a match, you’ll see that the fans are often as lively as the players themselves, so it’s quite an experience!

    Football season runs from August to May, and you can buy tickets online or at club outlets.

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Famous foods

Italy is famous for its food, and in any city enticing aroma of lunch or dinner being prepared will pull you like a magnet. Just some of the foods that have made Italian cuisine famous include:

Staying safe

Italy is a secure country for travellers. However, there are still risks, including petty theft, dangerous traffic, and scams that target tourists, which may occur in larger cities. As always, the best way to prepare is to protect yourself by having the proper travel insurance for your needs.

Here are some helpful tips on how you can stay safe on your travels.

  • Be wary of ‘gifts’ and favours

    A common scam is to offer a tourist with an item (such as a ring or a flower), and then  demand payment for it. Another common scenario is when one person will ‘accidentally’ spill a drink or smear ice cream on your clothing, and a second person will rush courteously to your aid only to steal from you when your defences are down.

  • Pay attention in crowded areas

    Stay aware in crowded areas to protect yourself against pickpockets and bag snatchers, especially in peak tourist season (from June to August), and high-traffic areas like major metropolitan train stations.

  • Ask first

    If someone claiming to be a plainclothes cop asks to see your passport or search your bag for illegal possessions, ask for their ID. Chances are this ‘policeman’ isn’t one after all, and they will make a run for it.

  • Withdraw money safely

    Only withdraw money from mainstream vendors in bustling shopping areas. Better yet, only use ATMs in banks – this will help prevent your card being skimmed.

  • Hide your valuables

    Some thieves will break into parked rental cars to rob valuables, like electronic gadgets or shopping bags. So never leave anything on the seats or in view.

  • Take out travel insurance

     If you’re planning on driving, make sure you get cover for rental car accidents. Even if an accident is not your fault, you may be responsible for repairs.

Medical care

If you run into medical trouble, the good news is that Australia has a reciprocal healthcare plan with Italy, so you can receive medical attention from a public hospital if necessary. However, your treatment will only address the primary medical issue, which means you might find yourself paying privately for emergency transport and/or additional care. Depending on your insurance policy, this may be covered by your travel insurance, so be sure to read the fine print before you head off.

If you seek treatment from a private hospital, you will probably need to provide payment upfront.

Unpredictable and unavoidable events

Italy is prone to some natural disasters, so it’s best to be prepared. The most common one is earthquakes, with many regions lying on fault lines, meaning it is common to feel small tremors throughout the year. In the case of a major earthquake, this could close public transport and infrastructure in the afflicted region.

Italy is also home to Mt. Etna, Europe’s most active volcano, which most recently erupted in March 2017. When it erupts, the resulting ash clouds close airports until visibility improves.

Other natural disasters that may occur in Italy include heavy storms that can cause flooding and landslides, and tropical-like cyclones that may blast the coastline.

 

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