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The Ultimate Guide to Italy: Top Places to Visit, Interesting Facts, and More

Plan your dream trip to Italy with us here at Closer Lives! From the Colosseum of Rome to the incredible canals of Venice, we've got all the top places to visit covered. Learn interesting facts about Italy, like how it's home to the world's oldest operating pizzeria, along with important things to know before visiting, such as visa requirements and travel safety. And don't forget to check out our latest curated blog posts and videos from Jenn and Leon Travel Blog, so you can be fully prepared for your trip!

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Introduction to Italy
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Here are a few interesting facts about Italy that may surprise you!

✓ Italy is home to the Vatican City, the world's smallest independent state and the spiritual center of the Roman Catholic Church.

✓ The total population of Italy is estimated to be a little over 60 million. This makes Italy the 23rd most populous country in the world. The largest city in Italy is Rome, with a population of over 2.8 million people. Other major cities in Italy include Milan, Naples, Turin, and Florence. 

✓ In 2019, Rome was the 17th most popular destination in the world with 10.32 million foreign tourists

Italy has the most UNESCO World Heritage sites in the world, with a total of 58. These include historical centers of cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice, as well as archaeological sites such as Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Pizza, one of the most beloved foods worldwide, originated in Naples, Italy. It was initially a simple dish made with flatbread and topped with tomato sauce and cheese.

Italy has a diverse landscape that ranges from snowy mountains in the north to beautiful coastlines in the south. The country is known for its picturesque lakes, such as Lake Como and Lake Garda.

The Colosseum in Rome, an iconic symbol of the Roman Empire, is the largest amphitheater ever built. It could hold between 50,000 to 80,000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and other public spectacles.

Italy is famous for its fashion industry and is home to renowned designers such as Gucci, Prada, Versace, and Armani. Milan, the fashion capital of Italy, hosts prestigious fashion events like Milan Fashion Week.

 Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest polymaths in history, was born in Vinci, Italy, in 1452. He made significant contributions to art, science, engineering, and many other fields.

Italy is known for its long history of producing world-class wines. It is the largest wine producer in the world, and regions like Tuscany, Piedmont, and Veneto are renowned for their vineyards and winemaking traditions.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is one of Italy's most famous landmarks. Its famous tilt is due to an unstable foundation, and despite the lean, the tower has managed to stand for over 800 years.

The Italian language has had a significant influence on other languages, particularly in the field of music. Many musical terms, such as soprano, piano, and aria, are derived from Italian.

Italy has a rich tradition of opera, with composers like Verdi, Puccini, and Rossini having created some of the most enduring and beloved operatic works.

The invention of the piano is credited to Bartolomeo Cristofori, an Italian musical instrument maker who lived in the 17th and 18th centuries. The piano revolutionized music and became one of the most popular instruments worldwide.

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Things to know when visiting Italy

Things to know when visiting Italy

Here are a few stats and tips that we picked up in our time here. Let us know if there is anything we should add!

Total Population: 60.2 million

Capital City: Rome (2.8 million)

Currency: Euro (EUR) | Driving: Right Side

Measurement Standard: Metric (km)

✓ Entry requirements:

The visa requirements for Italy vary depending on your nationality and the purpose of your visit. However, in general, you will need to provide the following documents to apply for a visa to Italy:

 

  • A valid passport

  • A visa application form

  • One passport-size photograph

  • Proof of accommodation

  • Proof of financial support

  • A travel itinerary

  • A medical insurance policy


You may also need to provide additional documents, such as a letter of invitation from a host in Italy, a letter from your employer, or a student visa if you are planning to study in Italy.

 

The visa application process for Italy can be completed online or at the Italian embassy or consulate in your country of residence. The processing time for a visa to Italy varies, but it can take up to several weeks. For more information on visa requirements for Italy, please visit the website of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


✓ Language:

While many Italians speak English, it's helpful to learn a few basic Italian phrases to show respect and communicate more effectively, especially in smaller towns or rural areas.​

✓ Currency:

The currency of Italy is the euro (EUR). It is subdivided into 100 cents and the symbol for the euro is €. The euro was introduced in Italy on January 1, 2002. It replaced the Italian lira, which had been the country's currency since 1861. The euro is one of the most widely used currencies in the world behind the United States dollar.  Convert your currency here.

While cards are widely accepted in larger cities and tourist areas, it's advisable to carry some cash, especially in smaller establishments or when visiting local markets.

✓ Weather:

Italy has a Mediterranean climate, which means that the summers are hot and dry, and the winters are mild and wet. The coastal areas are generally warmer than the inland areas, and the mountains are cooler.

 

The hottest months in Italy are July and August, with average temperatures of 25-30 degrees Celsius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit). The coldest months are January and February, with average temperatures of 5-10 degrees Celsius (41-50 degrees Fahrenheit).

The best time to visit Italy is during the shoulder seasons, which are spring (April-May) and autumn (September-October). During these times, the weather is still warm and sunny, but there are fewer tourists. If you are planning a trip to Italy, it is important to pack for all types of weather. You should pack light clothing for the summer, and warm clothing for the winter. You should also pack rain gear, as it can rain at any time of year.

✓ Cultural Etiquette:

Italians value politeness and good manners. It's customary to greet people with a handshake or kiss on the cheek (in some cases both cheeks), especially when meeting friends or acquaintances.

✓ Siesta:

Many smaller shops and businesses close during the afternoon for a siesta, particularly in smaller towns. Plan your activities accordingly and be aware of the different opening hours.

✓ Dining Customs:

Italians take their food seriously. Meals are often lengthy and consist of multiple courses. Don't rush through your meal and try to enjoy each course. It's also customary to ask for the bill; it won't be brought automatically.

Italian Food:

Italy offers a rich variety of traditional foods that are a must-try for any visitor. Start with the iconic Pizza Margherita, a Neapolitan classic topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil. Indulge in Pasta Carbonara, a creamy delight of pasta, eggs, cheese, and pancetta from Rome. Sample the creamy Risotto alla Milanese flavored with saffron, or savor the comforting layers of Bolognese sauce and cheese in Lasagna. Treat yourself to the smooth and flavorful Gelato, or relish the crispy pastry tubes filled with sweet ricotta in Cannoli. End on a sweet note with the famous Tiramisu, a coffee-soaked dessert layered with mascarpone cheese. Other delights include Prosciutto di Parma, Caprese Salad, Osso Buco, Focaccia, and the festive Panettone. Italy's culinary wonders are bound to satisfy any food lover's palate!

✓ Coffee Culture:

Italians have a distinct coffee culture. Order your coffee at the bar and consume it standing up. Milk-based coffee like cappuccinos are typically consumed in the morning and rarely after a meal.

✓ Transportation:

Italy has an extensive public transportation system, including trains and buses, which are efficient and convenient for getting around. Be mindful of pickpockets in crowded areas and always validate your ticket before boarding.

✓ Health & Safety:

Italy is generally safe for travelers, but it's always wise to take precautions. Keep an eye on your belongings, be cautious in crowded places, and be aware of common scams targeting tourists.

For tourists visiting Italy, access to healthcare is available through the national health service, the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale (SSN). In case of emergencies or urgent medical needs, tourists are generally eligible for treatment at public hospitals and emergency rooms. However, it's important to note that tourists may be required to pay for the medical services received. The costs can vary depending on the specific treatment provided and the individual's insurance coverage. It is highly recommended for tourists to have travel insurance that covers medical expenses to ensure financial protection in case of any unforeseen medical circumstances.

✓ Dress Code:

Italians generally dress well, so it's advisable to dress smartly, especially when visiting churches or upscale establishments. Avoid wearing shorts and sleeveless tops in conservative areas or religious sites.

✓ Must-See Places:

Italy is a country filled with must-see places that cater to a wide range of interests. Start in Rome, where you can marvel at ancient wonders like the Colosseum and Vatican City. Journey to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, and soak in its artistic treasures. Experience the enchantment of Venice with its canals and historic landmarks. Explore the stunning Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre for coastal beauty. Immerse yourself in the rolling hills of Tuscany and visit iconic landmarks like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Step back in time at the ancient ruins of Pompeii and delve into the rich history of Sicily. Discover the fashion and design hub of Milan. Finally, unwind on the pristine beaches of Sardinia. Each destination offers its own unique charm, making Italy a captivating and diverse country to explore for sure!

✓ Festivals and Events:

Italy has a national day, which is called Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day). It is celebrated on June 2 each year, and commemorates the birth of the Italian Republic in 1946.

 

Italy was not always a republic. It was originally a monarchy, ruled by the House of Savoy. However, after World War II, a referendum was held to decide whether Italy should remain a monarchy or become a republic. The majority of voters chose to become a republic, and June 2 was declared a national holiday to commemorate this event.

 

On Republic Day, there are many celebrations held throughout Italy. These include parades, military displays, and public festivities. The main celebration takes place in Rome, where there is a large parade that starts at the Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) and ends at the Piazza Venezia. Republic Day is a public holiday in Italy, so most businesses and schools are closed. It is a day for Italians to celebrate their country and its democratic institutions.


✓ Driving:

In Italy, drivers drive on the right side of the road. The speed limits are generally lower than in other countries, with a speed limit of 130 kilometers per hour (81 miles per hour) on highways and 50 kilometers per hour (31 miles per hour) in built-up areas. Drivers should be aware of narrow roads and give way to pedestrians and cyclists, who have the right of way. Drivers should also be aware of the traffic signs, which are similar to those in other countries but may have some differences.


✓ Tipping:

Tipping culture in Italy is not as strong as in other countries. Tipping is not expected in general, but it is appreciated if you do leave a tip for good service.  In restaurants, if you do want to tip, 10-15% of the bill is fine. Just do check if a service fee has already been included. You can round up the bill or leave the change as a tip. In bars, it is not customary to tip. However, you can leave a small tip if you feel the service was good.

 

Note that for taxi drivers, it is customary to round up the fare or leave a tip of a few euros and for tour guides, it is customary to leave a tip of 10-15% of the tour price.


✓ Connectivity:

Overall, connectivity in Italy is very good, and you should be able to stay connected easily while you are there. 5g is widely available in most major cities, and cell reception / WiFi is good and stable in most rural areas.

Buy a local SIM card: If you are staying in Italy for more than a few days, it is a good idea to buy a local SIM card. This will give you a local number and you will be able to get better deals on data and calls. Here are some of the major operators -

Vodafone: Vodafone is the largest mobile operator in Italy, and it offers a wide range of plans to suit different needs.
TIM: TIM is another major mobile operator in Italy, and it also offers a wide range of plans.
Wind Tre: Wind Tre is a smaller mobile operator in Italy, but it offers some very competitive plans.


Use public Wi-Fi: There is free Wi-Fi available in many public places in Italy, such as airports, train stations, and cafes. However, be aware that public Wi-Fi can be insecure, so you should only use it for browsing the web and not for anything that requires sensitive information, such as online banking or shopping.


Use a VPN: If you are concerned about security, you can use a VPN when you are connected to public Wi-Fi. A VPN will encrypt your traffic so that it cannot be intercepted by third parties.​

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