Most travelers flying in from abroad land in Rome, Florence, Milan, or Venice. Once you’ve landed, you can easily head to other destinations from the airport. Taxis can be pricey. Taking a bus or train is generally a much cheaper option, depending on which city you touch down in. All major cities in Italy have efficient public transportation, both buses and metros or underground train lines. Remember to validate your bus or train tickets using one of the validation machines once you’re on board, or you'll face a fine. In Venice, jump aboard one of the small public transport ferries to reach your destination.
Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world, welcoming some 46 million foreign visitors annually. It’s also the fifth most populous country in Europe.
In some countries, the best travel experiences are those far from the well-beaten path. In Italy, there is great potential for a life-changing encounter no matter where you choose to go. Italy is about the same size as California. It's better to immerse yourself in a smaller number of outstanding experiences than to squeeze in a large number of famous sites just to tick them off your list. Follow your interests. Car enthusiasts can get their fix in Modena with a tour through the Lamborghini, Pagani, or Ferrari factories. If you're a foodie, discover the regional flavors from cuisines across Italy. Consider one of the intriguing food tours or cooking classes in Rome. Or, arrange a truffle-hunting expedition in San Miniato.
To fit in with the locals, learn some Italian before landing in the country. When entering a shop or restaurant, Italians greet the proprietor, host, or hostess with "buongiorno" for "good morning" or "buona sera" for "good evening." Learn to fit in with the rhythm of the local population. Many Italians prefer a laid back lifestyle. Rushing from one place to the next is not a part of their everyday routines. Enjoy sleeping in and try to adapt to this more relaxed way of life while you're visiting Italy. Don't be alarmed if a local greets you with a kiss on each cheek. This is a common practice among Italians. Most shops and restaurants in Italy close down for a few hours in the midday, a break called "la pausa." Take advantage of this time to grab a nap and re-energize.
Tourism is a huge industry in Italy. Enjoy your time exploring, but remember that there are local customs and expectations for visitors here. Believe it or not, some people make a big mistake during conversations with Italians: they ask about the mafia. Italians consider this to be a rude, uncomfortable topic. Avoid major faux pas such as being loud, or rude, or putting your feet on a table or chair. You'll likely see signs outside of religious buildings regarding attire. When visiting a church or cathedral, cover your legs and shoulders. Don't depend solely on your credit card. Always carry some cash, in small denominations.
The island of Poveglia is so haunted that public access is prohibited.
Italy can be an expensive adventure, but there are free options that will help you stretch that travel budget a bit further. Take advantage of free admission days on the first Sunday of each month at many of Rome's local museums, galleries, parks, and archaeological sites. Don't forget to stop by the Trevi Fountain and toss a coin over your shoulder. Tradition says this ensures a return to Rome is in your future. In Tuscany, enjoy a peaceful stroll through the ancient, rampart-encircled town of Lucca, a colony the Romans founded in 180 BC. Lake Garda is a picturesque lake that lies in northern Italy, near Verona. Nearby attractions cost a bit, but a leisurely walk in the sunshine or a dip in the clean, sparkling waters of the lake are free.
Instagram-worthy photo opportunities are everywhere, with spectacular views and vibrant colors to enhance every shot. Grab a selfie on Accademia Bridge in Venice, one of the less-crowded bridges crossing the Grand Canal and the perfect selfie spot. Board a ferry in Naples and head for the gorgeous island of Capri, the destination of the stars. As you approach the island, the picturesque view of colorful buildings perched atop the Faraglioni rocks makes for a momentous pic for your Instagram feed. When the clock strikes midnight in Capri, it's time to head out to one of the island's small clubs or discos. Leave your phone behind and enjoy a night out, dancing and enjoying live music.
Dine where the locals do to experience the most authentic cuisine, and avoid the restaurants closest to the big tourist attractions. Breakfast in Italy is simple and usually consists of a cookie or pastry and coffee. Italians drink cocktails before and after dinner only. Aperitivo is a meal locals serve between lunch and dinner, after 5 p.m. and before 8 p.m. It's also a time for socializing in Italy. Evening meals don't begin until after 7 p.m., and always include wine and a bottle of sparkling water. In Naples, try the famous pizza margherita, a delicious layering of tomato sauce, mozzarella, and basil. Don't leave Italy without indulging your tastebuds with risotto alla Milanese in central-northern Italy, ribollita — a rustic Tuscan-style soup — in Florence, and tiramisù in Venice.
When dining in Italy, don’t ask for salad dressing or other condiments. Olive oil is the only acceptable “condiment” in Italy.
There's no shortage of year-round festivals celebrating food, music, and religious figures throughout Italy. The most famous is likely the Carnevale in Venice in February, a two-and-a-half week celebration where attendees don colorful, elaborate costumes and masks and enjoy water shows, acrobatic performances, parades, live music, and, of course, Venetian food. Three million people attend the festival each year. The International White Truffle Fair in Alba in October is a foodie's paradise, with cooking demonstrations by great chefs, wine tastings, and the opportunity to purchase the world's best truffles. In July, plan a trip to Vinci near Florence to attend the Unicorn Festival, a weekend event that includes cosplay and creature competitions, magic battles, and an elvish parade.