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Welcome! My name is Katy and ever since I first visited 20 years ago I have been plotting my next trip to Italy. From its historic cities to the mountains, lakes and coast, I fell in love with this beautiful country and want to help you do the same.
Planning a trip to Italy is one of my favorite things to do (I’ve been there more than 25 times!) so we created this guide to help you plan and book your trip with ease.
We hope you find our step by step guide on how to plan a trip to Italy useful.
What's in this article
- 1 When to go to Italy
- 2 How to get there
- 3 Passports and visas
- 4 Itineraries and planning
- 5 Travel booking timelines
- 6 Accommodation in Italy
- 7 How to get around Italy
- 8 Tickets, tours and attractions
- 9 Airport transfers
- 10 Money and budget
- 11 Internet access
- 12 Travel Insurance
- 13 Packing for your trip
- 14 Travel with kids in Italy
- 15 Italy trip planning done!
When to go to Italy
The best time to visit Italy is when it suits you and your schedule. However, you should be aware of a few seasonal variations:
- Italy is one of the world’s most popular destinations and is very busy (and more expensive) at peak periods – from May to September
- Summers can be very hot (especially in the south) and winters cold with ski resorts open in the northern alpine regions
- August is the busiest month with Italians and people from all over Europe on vacation. Coastal and lake areas are very busy with visitors
- Easter is a major holiday in Italy – expect demand for rail travel and accommodation to increase
For this reason we like to visit Italy in the shoulder months – April/May and September/October when the weather is sunny and mild, crowds are manageable and you can find great value flight and accommodation deals.
How to get there
Flying direct (or with a single stop) to Italy from most places in the world is easy. Most visitors fly into Rome Fiumicino [Leonardo da Vinci](FCO) international airport but you can also easily fly into Milan Malpensa (MXP) or Venice Marco Polo (VCE) airports from major hubs around the world.
There are many other airports throughout the country that can be accessed within Italy and Europe.
Best flight deals to Italy
- Skyscanner – portal where you can view cheapest days and routes to fly and set alerts for price drops
- CheapoAir – uncovers the best deals on first class flights around the world
- Google flights – great for checking schedules and airline routes
To find the best deals, set up alerts on Skyscanner for the month you wish to travel and wait for price drops. Be prepared to be a little flexible on dates and stopovers. It is often cheaper to fly into Milan rather than Rome but that is most useful for northern Italy itineraries.
Arriving by train from other cities in Europe
If you are traveling within Europe, train travel is easy with links to major Italian cities – Milan, Rome, Florence and Venice – from other capitals in Europe. Seat 61 is a great resource for planning train travel within Europe.
Bus travel to Italy
If you’re on a tight budget and traveling within Europe, then you might want to consider coming to Italy by bus. Low cost operator Flixbus covers 1,200 destinations in 26 countries.
Train and bus bookings
Go Euro is a useful site for booking a combination of train, bus and air travel within Europe
Passports and visas
Citizens of the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand can enter Italy and stay up to 90 days without a visa within an 180 day period. You must have 6 months validity on your passport.
All other nationalities should check this Italian government site that will walk you through whether a visa is required for your visit.
European Union and UK citizens can travel with photo identification.
Please note – this information is subject to change and it is always best to check with your local foreign office for the latest advice on travel to Italy.
Itineraries and planning
Where to go
Probably the hardest decision you need to make is which places you would like to visit. This is a very difficult task for many of us and it is a challenge for me to this day.
The most popular places to visit in Italy are listed below.
- Major cities – Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan and Naples
- Tuscany – large region known for hilltop towns, wineries and beautiful countryside
- Cinque Terre – 5 spectacular villages that hug the sides of cliffs on the Italian Riviera
- Amalfi Coast – picturesque coastal region near Naples – Sorrento, Positano, Capri
- Northern Italian lakes – scenic lakes close to alpine mountain ranges
As a general rule, for a 3-5 day trip choose one destination – a city or area. If you have a week to 10 days then 1-3 places in either the north OR south of Italy. For a 2 week trip you could cover 3-4 places and see both north and south.
Try not to pack too much in. It’s easy to underestimate transit times and getting in and out of airports and train stations.
For their first trip to Italy, many people will choose to start their journey in Rome and visit Florence and Venice. This 10 day Italy itinerary covers that route and includes detailed instructions on how to make the most of your time in Italy.
Alternative 10 day itineraries
- Rome + Amalfi Coast – Rome [4 nights], Amalfi Coast/Naples/Pompeii/Capri [5 nights]
- Rome + Florence and Tuscany – Rome [4 nights], Florence [3 nights], Siena [2 nights]
- Venice, Milan, Lake Como + Florence – Venice [3 nights], Milan [1 night], Lake Como [2 nights], Florence [2 nights]
- Sicily – deserves 2 weeks! – click for highlights and hidden gems
More itineraries coming soon!
Recommended group package tours in Italy
Package tours of Italy can be a fantastic way to avoid the stress of planning your own trip. They are also great if you would like some company along the way.
We like the tours offered by Intrepid Travel because they strike the balance between showing you highlights of a destination and allowing time for exploration on your own. Their premium brand Peregrine has some interesting hiking tours of the Cinque Terre and Amalfi Coast.
Group sizes average around 10 so you get personal attention when you need it. We also love that Intrepid has a commitment to responsible travel and leads the way in promoting animal welfare.
Top tours of Italy by Intrepid and Peregrine
- Best of Italy – 15 days covering Rome, Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre and more – click here for details
- Cinque Terre walking tour – 8 days walking the spectacular coastal villages – more information
- Italy real food adventure – 8 days of feasting in Venice, Tuscany and Rome – more details
Even as independent travelers we like to browse Tourradar – a market place for tours where you can browse hundreds of package tours by different operators, and by date. Then filter by your interests and age group and read detailed reviews.
There are various levels of support offered from fully organized tours to independent self drive or train itineraries.
Top tours in Italy found on Tourradar
- Highlights of Italy – 8 day train tour through Milan, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome – click for more info
- 3 Nights Venice, 2 Nights Florence & 5 Nights Rome – a self guided tour – click here for details
- Self guided walking tour of Tuscany – 8 days of fresh air, wine and views – click here for details
We plan trips using a wide variety of sources. If you can, choose a guide that is relevant for the region you are visiting as they are usually more detailed
Our favourite general guidebooks for Italy are:
Lonely Planet – Our favorite practical guide, Lonely Planet regularly updates guides for Italy | Florence and Tuscany | Venice and the Veneto | Naples, Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast | Italian Lakes | Sicily | Southern Italy
DK Eyewitness Guides – we love the illustrations and cultural and historical insight in these guides. They are perfect for those of us who respond best to visual cues.
Travel booking timelines
When should you book your travel, accommodation and tours in Italy?
As soon as possible is the straightforward answer when it comes to popular hotels, accommodation and tours especially for peak times in July and August. If you can, try to book 6-12 months in advance for popular areas such as the Amalfi Coast in summer.
Flight bookings will depend on where you are flying from. For long haul flights the best deals are generally found 6-12 months in advance while deals pop up regularly for travel within Europe.
Rail bookings can be made up to 4 months in advance on high speed intercity and standard intercity trains.
Accommodation in Italy
Choosing where to stay is an important part of planning your itinerary. Italy is well set up for tourists and you can expect the usual range of hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation as well as apartments and villas.
If you plan to spend any time in the country, consider staying at an agriturismo or farm stay – offered by Italian farmers who earn additional income by providing rooms and meals. This accommodation is very popular in Italy and ranges from budget to luxurious.
We’ve stayed in agriturismi (plural) with swimming pools, hammams and wine cellars and always try to build them into our itinerary. An added bonus is that the food served is farm fresh and generally excellent.
Here is a rough guide to help you plan your accommodation budget. Prices are average for a double room though this will vary with prices higher in popular areas at peak times
Upscale / Luxury – €200+ [USD $230+] per night
Midrange / Boutique – €110-250 [USD $125-285] per night
Budget / B&B – €60-120 [USD $70-140] per night
Ultra budget / Hostel or shared room in AirBnB – €20-35 [USD $25-40] per night
Best accommodation sites
Our favorite site for booking lodging is Booking.com because it has a huge range of options from hotels and resorts to bed and breakfast, apartments and farm stay accommodation.
You can easily compare prices and amenities and take advantage of their generous cancelation policies to find the right accommodation for you. We’ve also found their concierge service helpful and get better deals because we use them regularly.
Other sites we use and recommmend
VRBO – the best site for long stay villas and apartments – click here to browse VRBO
AirBnB – for longer stays in apartments and villas – first time users can claim free credit here
Tripadvisor – mainly to read reviews but you can sometimes find good deals on there too
Our guides on where to stay in Italy
We created these guides with specific recommendations of where to stay in the major tourist areas in Italy in response to questions from our readers and in our Italy Travel Planning Facebook Group.
Florence – district and accommodation guide – click here
Milan – district and accommodation guide – click here
Amalfi Coast – towns and accommodation guide – click here
Rome – coming soon
Venice – coming soon
We also created a guide on how to find the right accommodation for your trip that includes a printable checklist – click here to access the article.
How to get around Italy
As a general rule, if you are traveling between cities and major towns then the best way to travel around Italy is by train. If you want to explore the countryside and small villages you will need to rent a car.
Train travel in Italy
The train system in Italy is modern and efficient with fast speed services linking the major cities and regional trains connecting smaller towns and villages. Two major train networks operate throughout Italy – Italo and TrenItalia.
Advance bookings are advised for high speed intercity services where seats are allocated. You can save money booking in advance if you purchase non-flexible tickets.
Recommended train booking site – ItaliaRail
You can book directly with these operators or an easier way is with ItaliaRail – a dedicated English language site where you can book and pay in US dollars, Australian dollars, GB pounds or Euros. ItaliaRail accepts all international credit cards – unlike some Italian sites.
To use your tickets you will need to quote your booking reference on board the train or collect them from the self-service machines found at all main stations in Italy.
High speed train intercity travel times on popular routes
Rome to Florence – 1 hour 30 minutes
Rome to Naples – 1 hour 15 minutes
Rome to Milan – 3 hours
Rome to Venice – 4 hours
Florence to Venice – 2 hours
Florence to Milan – 2 hours
Driving in Italy
With a bit of forward planning and common sense, renting a car and exploring the back roads of Italy is easy. We wrote a full guide to driving in Italy but here are our top tips
- You are required to carry an International Drivers Permit – these can be arranged in your home country at minimal cost
- Standard transmission on cars is manual or stick shift. If you want to rent an automatic car expect to pay extra, if you can find one available
- Rent the smallest car you can to fit you and your luggage – roads are often narrow and you don’t want to get stuck!
- Heavy fines apply if you enter ZTL zones – historic districts where driving is not allowed
We use Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals in Italy including one way options. They search both international and local providers so you get a wide variety of choice and there is 24/7 support if you need it.
If you want to travel very long distances or to visit the islands of Sicily or Sardinia, flying makes the most sense.
Check on Skyscanner or Google Flights for routes and prices. Remember to set alerts for those routes you want to fly and book early for flights in the summer months.
Tickets, tours and attractions
We source and book tickets and tours via GetYourGuide and Viator. They are tour and ticket aggregators so there is lots to choose from. I like the fact you can read reviews, book everything in the one place and keep your tickets and vouchers on their apps too. You can also pay in your own currency and with international credit cards which can be a challenge when using Italian websites.
Tickets for major attractions
Rome, Florence and Venice are some of the busiest cities for tourists in the world thanks to their famous attractions – the Colosseum, Vatican Museums, Uffizi Gallery and Doge’s Palace.
Unless you want to spend precious vacation time standing in lines to enter these sites we strongly advise you to prebook advance skip the line tickets for the following attractions. [In winter months booking in advance is not as necessary]
We have given you the official booking sites and an alternative for approved ticket partners should you have trouble using the official site – unfortunately that happens a lot! The direct sites are usually cheaper but the partner sites are generally more user friendly.
- Colosseum – official ticket site OR buy Colosseum tickets on Get Your Guide
- Vatican Museums – official ticket site OR buy Vatican Museum tickets on Get Your Guide
- Omnia pass – Colosseum + Vatican + one other museum + hop on, hop off bus – click here for details
- Uffizi Gallery – official ticket site OR buy Uffizi tickets on Get Your Guide
- ‘David’ statue [Accademia Gallery] – official ticket site OR buy Accademia tickets on Get Your Guide
- Doge’s Palace – official ticket site OR buy Doge’s palace tickets on Get Your Guide
- San Marco basilica – official skip the line tickets OR buy a tour of San Marco including tickets on Get Your Guide
- ‘Last Supper’ painting – official ticket site OR buy Last Supper tickets on Get Your Guide
- Duomo rooftop – official ticket site OR buy Duomo tickets on Get Your Guide
Day tours in Italy
We love doing guided tours. Not those huge group ones where you follow the flag waving guide around in a herd trying to keep up. No, we especially like small group and food tours where you learn and discover all about the culture and history of the places we visit. Plus it’s so much more fun than reading plaques and you get to ask questions.
So make sure to build in a couple of tours when you are planning a trip to Italy.
We highly recommend the fun team at The Roman Guy. They offer interesting small group and private tours throughout Italy including late and early entry to the Colosseum and Vatican. We especially loved their food tour of the Trastevere district in Rome.
Recommended day tours by destination
- Rome in day – tour includes Vatican and Colosseum – great if you have limited time – click for details
- Colosseum virtual reality tour – brings the arena to life with 3D effects and sound – more information
- Rome by night – discover the beauty of the Eternal City after dark on this 2 hour tour – click for details
- Vespa tour – pretend you’re Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday on this vintage vespa tour – more details
- Uffizi Gallery + Palazzo Vecchio – 3 hour combined tour of the city’s must see sights – more information
- Florence Dome Climb – climb the famous dome for spectacular views of Florence – more details
- A day in Tuscany – full day tour to San Gimignano and Siena from Florence – click for more info
- Doge’s Palace and Basilica tour – 2 hour tour of the major attractions in Venice – more information
- Burano, Murano and Torcello – half day outer islands of the lagoon escorted tour – click for details
- Street food tour – discover Venetian cicchetti and visit the famous Rialto market – click for details
Naples, Sorrento and Amalfi Coast
- Boat trip from Sorrento to Capri – one of the highlights of my life! Full day tour – click for details
- Pompeii and Amalfi Coast tour from Naples – full day tour if you are short on time – more info
- Amalfi Coast – small group tour to Positano, Amalfi and Ravello from Sorrento – more information
Recommended experiences in Italy
Sightseeing, soaking up the atmosphere and visiting major monuments (plus eating!) will take up most of your time on your trip to Italy. However, if you have a little more time, we recommend seeking out unique Italian experiences that are sure to be the highlight of your trip.
Food festivals are so much fun. We stumbled on a sagra (food festival) near Lake Como and had a great time tasting all the local dishes. On another trip we managed to be in Florence during the finale of the Gelato Festival (how did that happen I wonder?) and were able to taste some incredible flavours.
You can check this site for information on food festival dates in Italy.
Wine tastings and tours are popular activities in Tuscany and there is a great selection to choose from on Viator – click here to view
If you want to recreate the delicious dishes you tasted on your trip, why not take a cooking class. We learned so much from our class and market tour in Florence and enjoy making fresh pasta at home.
For those who love football or soccer there could be no greater thrill than watching a football match in an Italian stadium. You’ll need to book tickets well in advance and we found the best site to do just that – click here to book Italian Serie A tickets.
No matter where you fly into Italy you will need to transfer from the airport to your accommodation and vice versa. Most of the airports are a fair way out from the city center – and in the case of Venice, in the middle of a lagoon! So preplanning your arrival is advised.
You can compare different transfer services on Hoppa – a website that specializes in transfer options from major airports. They have options to suit all budgets and prices for coach, mini bus, private car and limo services.
If you know you want to book a car service we use and recommend Blacklane transfers.
Rome – transfers from Fiumicino airport
Taxis are fine, there is a set rate into Rome of €48 and the ride takes around 45 minutes. Or, if you’re like me, and need some comfort when you arrive you can pre-book a transfer on Blacklane
This would also be the best option if you are traveling with more than 2 people and have several items of luggage.
The most popular way to get into Rome is the Leonardo Express train – a non-stop service between Fiumicino and Rome Termini (the main station). Trains depart every half hour from 6:23 to 23:23, and the trip takes 32 minutes. The cost is €11. Unless you are saying close by you will then need to get a taxi to your accommodation.
The cheapest transfer option – this bus goes direct from the airport to Termini – €6 one way
The water bus company Alilaguna runs regular shuttles (every 15 -30 minutes in peak season) to and from the islands on the lagoon and the airport stopping at San Marco and Rialto (main stops). The fare is €8 one way €15 return and the journey takes 1½ hours – you can book online here
For a glamorous arrival hire a private boat transfer or shared transfer in a water taxi – journey times and prices increase depending on number of people and exclusivity. A direct private transfer to the airport takes around 45 minutes.
- Private transfer – around €200 for 6 people – book here
- Shared water taxi transfer – around €30 per person – book here
You can also take a taxi or express airport bus to Piazzale Roma and then take a vaporetto (ferry) or walk your hotel/accommodation. A one way trip on the ferry costs €7 per person and is valid for 60 minutes.
The taxi will cost around €25 and the bus will cost around €8 and take around half an hour – for advance bus bookings (recommended in summer) go here
Florence transfers from Florence airport
Florence airport is very close to the city center and a 15 minute taxi ride away. There is also an airport bus that takes around 20 minutes – more information
Florence transfers from Pisa airport
Many people fly to Pisa to reach Florence as it is a larger airport. If you arrive during the day take the PisaMover train to Pisa Centrale train station – journey time 5 minutes. Then take a train to Florence. The last train departs at 21.30
On our last visit we arranged a transfer with Blacklane as we arrived too late for the last train. There is also a coach transfer option.
Amalfi Coast transfers from Naples airport or train station
We recommend hiring a driver. The train, ferry and bus via Sorrento can take 4 hours while a car service is around 1.5 hours. You can compare different services on Hoppa – a site specializing in airport transfers or we use and recommend Blacklane transfers.
You may find sites or groups where specific drivers are recommended. I do NOT recommend booking a driver this way for safety reasons – how do you know that the person recommending the driver is reputable, let alone the driver? And also for practical reasons – small operators may not have capacity or availability.
Money and budget
The local currency in Italy is the € Euro.
There is no need to carry too much cash when you are in Italy. Credit and debit cards VISA and Mastercard are widely accepted while American Express is not as popular.
Be aware of foreign currency charges and ATM withdrawal fees applied to your account when you are abroad. You may want to review the cards you are taking with you prior to your trip. We always take two – one as a back up for emergencies.
Apart from major transport, accommodation and activity costs (eg custom tours and experiences) expect to spend around €30 – 50 per person per day on food and snacks. We allocate another €50 per adult for tours, tickets, day travel and other items. This is a generous budget and it is possible to travel much more cheaply in Italy.
Note – a tourist tax is collected at hotels and accommodation throughout Italy. The rate depends on the city, class of hotel and number of nights you are staying.
Have a good think about how much internet access you will need on your trip. Some people are happy to disconnect and use paper or offline maps while others need that online connection.
Italy has high speed internet and there are many options to stay connected depending on your needs. If you use minimal data and are happy using offline maps and guides then you should be able to get by using wifi at your accommodation. It would be unusual to find accommodation that did not offer wifi. You still need to check though.
Do not expect wifi connections to be available in restaurants and cafes – in Italy restaurants are for eating.
Make sure to turn off international data roaming before your trip to avoid unpleasant bill surprises
If you have an unlocked phone you can purchase a tourist SIM before your depart or when you arrive that has enough data for map navigation and research – will not extend to streaming movies or any other heavy upload or download activity. I haven’t used it myself but this local SIM from Italian provider TIM comes highly recommended.
Portable wifi device
If, like me, you need to be online and connected throughout the day, you should consider renting or buying a portable wifi device like this one from Skyroam. It connects to the local network in Italy and many countries around the world. You then buy day passes for $US 9 per day that give you unlimited data.
I’ve been testing out Skyroam and it offers fast speeds – at least 4G. You can connect up to 5 devices and it also acts as a battery charger. The battery itself lasts a day.
You just need to set it up before you depart on your trip and learn how to use it as it is not as straightforward as I would like. Even so, I like having my usual SIM in my phone and the data running separately.
Yes you need travel insurance for Italy. Even if your home country has a health care agreement in place with the Italian government. These agreements do not cover emergency repatriation or trip cancelation so make sure you are covered well before you depart.
Packing for your trip
What to pack will depend on the season and places you visit in Italy. We created a full packing guide with printable checklist that you can access on this page. It covers everything from seasonal capsule outfits to tech items and beauty need.
Absolute must have items for your trip
- Collapsible water bottle – stay hydrated and fill up at free water fountains all over Italy
- Camera – for your vacation snaps – I use an Olympus Pen – it’s lightweight and takes great photos
- Packing cubes – these make packing and unpacking so easy.I love them!
- Power cube – don’t bring lots of bulky converters. This one has 3 USB ports
- Battery pack – keep your phone and/or camera charged
- Converter – you will need one!
Travel with kids in Italy
We think Italy is one of the best places in the world to travel with kids. Children are welcomed and enjoyed wherever you go. There are not too many challenges that you would not experience at home.
Probably the hardest thing we find is that we fend off many kind offers of sweets and treats on a daily basis from well meaning grandmas/nonnas on our trips. There is a limit to how much chocolate a 4 year old can eat!
Restaurants will feed your kids first so you can enjoy your meal later. It’s such a brilliant move, I have no idea why this doesn’t happen in most countries. At any venue you can always order a plain pasta with red sauce beloved by children world wide.
Kids travel at greatly reduced prices on Italian trains. Children under 4 ride free, no ticket required. Those under 15 can travel on the child rate on national trains and the child fare applies to children under 12 on regional trains.
If you are visiting museums and attractions such as the Vatican Museums and Uffizi Gallery we recommend hiring a guide that specializes in bringing these places alive for kids.
Our twins have been all over Italy with us. Their favorite city to visit is Venice – you can read our popular guide to Venice with kids here.
Italy trip planning done!
We hope you now feel confident to plan your Italy trip and are counting down the days until you leave. If you haven’t already done so we’d love you to join our Italy Travel Planning Facebook group where you can ask lots of questions and get advice on your planned itinerary.
We also have a regular newsletter with inspiration, tips and deals for your trip to Italy. You can sign up here and we’ll send you our FREE Italy travel tips ebook.