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ItalyView all tours
Travelling around Italy remains one of those rare experiences in life – like a perfect spring day or the power of first love – that can never be overrated. In few places do history, art, fashion, food and la dolce vita (“the good life”) intermingle so effortlessly. There are sunny isles and electric blue surf, glacial lakes and fiery volcanoes, rolling vineyards and urban landscapes harbouring more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country on Earth. Few places offer such variety and few visitors leave without a fervent desire to return.
The artistic and architectural treasures of Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples draw visitors to them like moths to a flame. Not content with Romans conquering most of the known world, the Venetians dispatched Marco Polo to uncharted lands off the map, while Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo kick-started the Renaissance in Western art and architecture.
Look around at all the splendid palaces, paintings, churches and monuments and wonder at the centuries of hard graft and the unswerving devotion to traditional techniques and terroir. Like the local art, wine is also designed to elevate your spirits. From the neatly-banded stone terraces of the Cinque Terre, which snake from sea level to terrifying precipices, to the blousy hillsides of Chianti, the riverine plain of the Po valley and the volcanic slopes of Etna, Italian wines are lovingly made to complement the carefully-sourced regional cuisine on your plate.
Much like its food, this country is an endless feast of experiences. No matter how much you gorge yourself, you’ll always feel as though you're still on the first course. Do you go skiing in the Dolomites, or cycling in wine country? Do you dive the sun-split waters of Sardinia, climb Aeolian volcanoes or stalk market stalls in Naples? The choice is dazzling and bewildering. So take the advice of the locals. Slow down, sit back, tuck in that napkin and get ready to begin.
Italy is a boot-shaped country situated in southern Europe. Jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea, it shares borders with France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia in the mountainous north, which contains some of the highest peaks in Europe.
In central Italy, Tuscany has a diverse landscape composed of fertile rolling hills, lush river valleys, minor mountain ranges and a long sandy coastline. To the east is Umbria, known as the ‘green heart of Italy'; hilly with broad plains, olive groves and pines, and Le Marche – a region of gentle mountains, rivers and small fertile plains.
Further south lies Rome, Italy's capital city. Within its precincts lies Vatican City, the world's smallest country (by landmass). The south of the country is hotter, wilder and much drier than the north, characterised by dry sierras, rocky mountain ranges and volcanic outcrops, including three of Europe’s most active volcanoes: Vesuvius, Etna and Stromboli.
Puglia, the ‘heel of the boot', is a mixed landscape of fertile plateaus, expansive olive groves and flat, ochre-coloured plains. The islands of Sicily and Sardinia lie offshore to the south-west and west respectively.Government:
Republic.Head Of State:
President Sergio Mattarella since 2015.Head Of Government:
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi since 2014.Electricity:
230 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs either have two round pins or three pins in a row.Timezone:
Central European Time: GMT/UTC +1 (GMT/UTC +2 from 29 March to 25 October 2015)
Euro (EUR; symbol €) = 100 cents. Notes are in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. Coins are in denominations of €2 and 1, and 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 cents.Credit Cards:
MasterCard, American Express, Cirrus, Maestro and Visa are widely accepted. Some restaurants charge an extra ‘service fee’ if you pay the bill by credit or debit card – ask the establishment whether this is the case before using your card. As of early 2013, Vatican City has imposed a temporary ban on use of credit cards in an attempt to thwart possible money laundering; only cash will be accepted.ATMs:
ATMs are widely available throughout Italy. Look for the ‘Bancomat’ sign for machines with multilingual interfaces. Pickpocketing and petty thievery can be problematic in tourist areas, so take care to keep belongings secure and be vigilant when making cash withdrawals. ATM withdrawals within Vatican City have been temporarily banned.Travellers Cheques:
Traveller's cheques are widely accepted. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Euros, Pounds Sterling or US Dollars.Banking Hours:
These vary from city to city but, in general, Mon-Fri 0830-1330 and 1500-1600.Currency Restrictions:
There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency. However, amounts exceeding €10,000 or equivalent must be declared if travelling from or to a country outside the European Union.Currency Exchange:
Traveller's cheques, cheques and foreign money can be changed at banks, railway stations and airports and very often at major hotels (albeit usually at a less advantageous exchange rate).Currencies: Exchange Rates:
- 1 AUD = 0.71 EUR
- 1 EUR = 1.00 EUR
- 1 GBP = 1.35 EUR
- 1 USD = 0.90 EUR
Given its long boot-like shape and varied geography, the weather in Italy varies considerably from north to south. In the alpine north of the country, cold, harsh winters with heavy snowfall are typical between December and March, while summers are sunny and fresh. Around the northern Italian lakes, however, a mild microclimate prevails, benefitting the olive groves and tropical gardens that surround the lake, most of which come into spectacular bloom between April and June.
In central Italy, beyond the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, the climate is milder and wetter with a less pronounced difference between summer and winter temperatures. Summer lingers longer and city centres, such as Florence, Siena and Rome can experience stifling humidity especially during July and August.
In the south, summers are far hotter and drier and temperatures more akin to those in North Africa prevail, often reaching above 30°C. Snow is rare and winter is especially mild, making the southern tip of the peninsula and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia ideal late season destinations.Best Time To Visit:
Italy is a great destination to visit year round, particularly if taking a city break, though for the warmest and most reliable weather April to June is the prime tourist season. Most Italians take their holiday in July and August so prices, and crowds, can soar during these months, which are also the hottest of the year. If you're keen to avoid the main scrum of peak season but still bank on mild weather, late September to October is a good choice.Required Clothing:
Lightweight clothes are worn during the summer, except in the mountains. Winter demands light- to mediumweights in the south, but warmer clothes elsewhere. Alpine wear is advised for winter mountain resorts.