Surrounded by the sparkling Mediterranean on one side and the crystal blue Adriatic on the other, Italy is a land of beautiful seascapes, mountains, villages, history and wonderful food! Check out our top rewards and risks for travelling there.
Italy has some of the best slopes in Europe for beginners and experienced skiers alike. The Dolomites, the main mountain range between Italy and Austria, has many ski towns with resorts ranging from five- to three-star. Try Cervinia, home of the Matterhorn, on the border, for reliable snowfall, or Passo Tonale for more character – stay at La Mirandola, a wonderful old hospice built in the 12th century, for a special treat. Trentino also caters for experienced beginners and is great for families – check out the night skiing! Arabba is good for those seeking a bit more of a challenge, with many black diamond runs. If your budget is limited, Hotel des Guides is a pleasant three-star hotel in the middle of town in Cervinia, and Cervinia also has many backpacker resorts. The best time to go is usually January as November and December can be rainy rather than snowy.
Italy is famous for its wonderful food. Truffle season is in Autumn, and September is usually the best time to enjoy them. Try pasta with fresh truffle pesto, or scrambled eggs with shaved white truffles for that fresh, earthy taste. The pizza is wonderful anywhere you go – even at airports and train stations it will be fresh and tasty. Anytime and anywhere is good for pasta. Try exploring some of the ones you might be less familiar with rather than sticking to your old favourites like Carbonara or Bolognese – experiment with the local specialities which vary from region to region, such as pizzoccheri (cabbage and potato pasta) in the north, or spicy tomato with salami and chilli in the south. Home-made gelato is everywhere too – forget the waistline for a little while and enjoy some cherry, tiramisu or baci indulgence in a cone.
Italy’s beautiful scenery has long inspired many famous snaps and paintings. The colour, the clear light and the natural beauty of the country, as well as the many wonderful examples of Renaissance and classical architecture, mean a striking photo opportunity almost round every corner. It’s almost too easy to take beautiful shots here. At sunset the light is uniquely beautiful – the red sun sinking into the Mediterranean, crumbling stone buildings covered in bougainvillea bathed in apricot light, long shadows across piazzas bustling with people – all beautiful, all unique.
Any time is festival time! Wherever you go, for most of the year there will be a festival somewhere. Visit during the more famous ones such as Carnevale or the Venice Film Festival. Or visit your favourite spot when there is a little local saint’s day or other commemoration, for a charming festival usually with a parade to the local church, fireworks and feasting.
One of the biggest rewards of visiting Italy is the people – warm, friendly, helpful and hospitable wherever you go. People-watching is one of the great delights of any travels, and Italy is no exception. Watch the young people parade of an evening in the village piazza, closely guarded by the nonnas dressed all in black. We loved to see the teens singing folk songs on the trains at the end of the day too. Everywhere there are families talking and celebrating, and you can be sure of a warm welcome to their trattoria or café.
Small earthquakes and tremors are quite common, especially in the north, due to the fault lines that lie directly underneath Italy. While there has not been a major quake for many years, it is still wise to familiarise yourself with what to do if an earthquake occurs.
Mt Etna, one of Italy’s active volcanos, smokes and grumbles from time to time, and though it is unlikely that you will be buried like an unfortunate Pompeiian, volcanic ash can disrupt your travel plans so ensure that you have insurance to cover any unforseen cancellations and delays to your trip.
Sicily is well-known as the original home of the Mafia, and though it is highly unlikely that a tourist would be caught up in a gang war, they do still occur occasionally and it is wise to be prepared – by avoiding known hot spots and ensuring you have insurance to cover anything unforseen.
Petty crime is low, but passports and travel documents have been stolen from villas and hotel rooms, so ensure yours is locked away in the safe and that you have a copy securely stored elsewhere. Bag snatchers and pickpockets also work in the larger towns and especially on public transport. Look out for bag snatchers travelling on Vespas in crowded places too. Gypsies can also approach you and try to engage you in conversation while others pick your pockets. As with any town, if you are walking after dark, avoid badly-lit or dead-end alleyways and other places where you would not normally go if at home.
Italy’s medical centres are usually very good, but some will require travel insurance certification before treating you. Also, ensure you have your standard vaccinations up to date (check with your GP before you travel). Medical treatment in Italy can be expensive, so make sure you get a travel insurance quote from Worldcare before you go.
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