When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie… That’s Amore! Is this the song that comes to your mind when you think of this country? Amore is the Italian word for love and yes, it’s easy to fall in love with Italy! We’ve all seen it in the movies, in our history books and if you’re like us, on our dreams! We’re not the only ones who dream about travel destinations, are we? We finally made our dreams come true and a lot of things were exactly how we imagined… Some were not. In the great spirit of sharing, here are some things you should know before you visit Italy!
To start with the important stuff…
Yes, the food really is that good
There are many things to make you want to visit Italy and if you’re anything like us, the food is certainly one of them. Pasta, pizza, lasagna (it’s a sort of pasta, but we think it deserves its own category), polenta,… The list goes on and on! Oh, and the deserts! Don’t get us started on those, or this post will be fully dedicated to food. Plus, we’ll spend our month’s budget ordering Italian food for tonight.
Italian cuisine is many people’s favorite and there’s a good reason why… it really is that good! Actually, one of our biggest regrets when we visited was not finding the time to eat more. We’re totally being serious! There’s so much to try out and so many ways to delight our taste buds that the hardest part is choosing. We went with the classics and were absolutely not disappointed.
The country is not the most vegan-friendly, but vegetarians will find delicious options in most places.
And it is actually quite affordable
Compared to most of the main tourist destinations in Europe, Italy is still one of the most affordable. This is especially true when it comes to eating out and buying food at the supermarkets. We were surprised to find out that most items were only slightly above the price in Portugal. In the tourist center things obviously get more expensive, but you’ll still be able to find budget-friendly options. One good thing to do, especially if you are on a budget, is to check on the menu if the restaurant charges a cover charge (il corperto, in Italian).
The pane al cioccolato you see in the picture was less than 1€ and it was seriously the best we’ve ever had. We’ve been dreaming about since. Yes, we also dream about food, especially when it is this memorable!
You’ll need free space for souvenirs
This come directly after the food section because yes, 99% of our souvenirs were food. We told you, we didn’t eat enough there, so we brought all we could back home with us. We honestly believe that food makes the best souvenirs – I mean, is there anything more useful than that? Everybody knows Italy for its cuisine, so we’re sure your friends will be delighted to get some of it as gifts.
Of course Italy is also known for its art, so you fill a ton of souvenirs on that as well. Art supplies are everywhere, and you can easily find unique designer pieces. Each region is known for its own specific products, so choose wisely.
Souvenirs are not a key part of traveling, so obviously we’re not saying you have to buy them when you visit Italy. We do see them as great ways to bring memories home, and we can’t walk away when they are this tasty.
Many museums offer discounts and even free entries
There is an endless amount of attractions to visit in the country, and it can get pricey when you add it up. As in any country, there are many free things to do! However, be aware that even paid attractions offer good discounts and even free entries in specific times and/or circumstances. You’ll get reduced tickets almost everywhere if you are under 18 or/and a student. In case you are traveling with family, there are also family tickets available.
Check everything online before you visit and plan accordingly. When possible, do book online to avoid lines. Italy is the third most visited country in Europe so most likely yes, there will be lines.
It is bound to get crowded
So you want to visit Italy? You’re certainly not the only one. Tourism in Italy is booming – the country received a record number of people last Summer, and numbers are expected to continue to rise. You know how you keep seeing so many photos of ceilings in Italy? Reason 1: they are some of the most beautiful you’ll see in the world. Reason 2: if you point your camera forward you’ll most likely end up photographing a whole lot of random people. There are a lot of crowds in Italy!
One way to avoid the crowds when you visit Italy is to wake up early and visit the main tourist attractions first. During the rest of the day you can get a bit off the beaten path and on to less crowded areas. For example, when we visited Milan, the famous Piazza del Duomo was absolutely crowded, even though it was during the low season. However, there was plenty to see outside of this center and lots of space for everyone.
Look for the underrated gems
When you think of Italy you probably think of the same cities everybody else does. Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence and maybe Naples. These cities are famous for good reason, but there are still many gems to be discovered by tourists in Italy.
When we planned our trip to Italy we wanted to avoid the crowds and to make it as affordable as possible, so we ended up on Google Maps looking at cities to visit. We did not regret our decision! Most places in Italy are stunning, and the experience will most likely be more pleasurable if you get to avoid the crowds and visit a place not many people know of. Even if you are visiting famous attractions, such as Lake Como, you can choose to see it from other cities around the lake, instead of the most known towns of Bellagio or Menaggio, for example. We randomly discovered Lecco on Google Maps and it turned out to be the perfect city to enjoy the Italian mountains and the beautiful Lake Como.
The photo you see below is from Bergamo, in the North of Italy. We got this view all to ourselves and it was really not that early (it was Winter, so the sun rises quite late). It was amazing to enjoy it with all the calm in the world! We did not have to rush anything for other people to see it next, and we truly got to appreciate the moment and the beauty around us.
You don’t need a car to explore the country
So, maybe you were already planning to visit lesser-known cities when you visit Italy, but you are afraid you’ll have to rent a car to do it. Fear not! Renting a car has a lot of advantages: you don’t need to follow a schedule, can easily change your plans and stop wherever you want. However, not everyone can do it. Plus, it comes with a lot of responsibilities and quite often a hefty price.
Italy has great public transportation links, both for short and long distances. There are many bus companies you can check out, but we ended up using the train to visit other cities. We found it surprisingly affordable, mostly on time, quite frequent and comfortable. All the things we look for! If you enjoy some flexibility when traveling you’ll be glad to know that there are apps available where you can buy your ticket on the spot. This means that you don’t have to decide on a specific time beforehand, even when ticket-boots are closed. The system worked perfectly for us in the low season, but of course availability depends on where you are going and when you are going. Connections between the main cities get very busy during the Summer, so we recommend you book with some time.
One of our dreams is actually to do an ItaliaRail! This means exploring Italy using an Interrail Italy Pass ticket. They are not the most affordable things in the world. However, it seems like the perfect way to see the country from North to South. There is certainly a lot to see! Even though Rui can drive, we hate looking for parking! We also hate paying for it. Most importantly, using trains is one of the most environmentally-friendly ways to travel.
The country is known for art but lookout for the nature
Most people who visit Italy do it for the breathtaking architecture and some of the world’s best known artists. These are great reasons to visit! Indeed, there is plenty to marvel at in the cities, even the lesser-known ones, as we mentioned above. The Italian Renaissance period was a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe, and it’s very much very worth learning about.
However, one thing many people don’t know is that Italy is also filled with natural gems, from the lakes and mountains in the north to the paradise-like beaches in the south of the country. Whether you love hiking, seeing wildlife or just soaking in the sun, there’s something wonderful waiting for you!
We are self-proclaimed mountain-addicts so we could not resist to the snow-covered peaks in the northern region of Lombardia. We absolutely cannot wait to have more time in the country to include even more nature-related activities to our plans. Italian National Parks are considered to be some of the best in Europe, and it’s easy to understand why after a small search or a short stay. So what is the most visited one? The Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, only 90 minutes outside of Venice. It is easy to combine nature and architecture on a single visit!
Learn some Italian
We encourage you to learn a bit of the local language before you visit, no matter the place you are visiting. This will make you feel less lost and you’ll be more respectful of the local culture. The truth is that, no, not everyone has to know English.
This is a very touristic destination, so many people are prepared to speak in English. However, that should not prevent you from making an effort when you visit Italy. Plus, due to the number of people exploring the country, some locals are a bit tired of tourists. If you live in a city getting a lot of visitors, you’ll most likely sympathize with this feeling. So making an effort and learning at least the basics will probably make you feel more welcomed. It will also gather you a lot more smiles once the locals realize you are doing your best. We’ve gathered some of the basics below. For more, and to find the correct pronunciation check out this site or get a phrasebook to take with you.
- Ciao – Hi
- Arrivederci – Goodbye
- Grazie (Mille) – Thank you
- Per favore – Please
- Scuzi – Excuse me
- Mi dispiace – Sorry
- Sì – Yes
- No – No
- Buon giorno – Good morning
- Buona sera – Good afternoon
- Buona notte – Good night
- Va bene – Ok
Do you also dream of going to Italy? If you have already been, let us know in the comments what else you think people should know before they visit Italy! Also, we would love to know if you agree with us.
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