From catapulting Western civilisation out of the dark ages with the Renaissance to the gilded empire of the ruling Romans, Italy has always been influential and steeped in history. Before the country’s unification, Italy was ruled by differing kingdoms. From the Venetians, the Papal States, the Florentine Republic and many more conglomerations. These eventually became the well-known cities that we now know like Venice, Rome, and Florence. Is it any wonder that today these cities feel like a whole world in themselves? While there’s one modern Italian identity, each region holds their own customs, art, and even cuisine speciality - leaving a vast diversity for you to discover when travelling around Northern Italy through to the South.
One cannot talk about Italy without Italian cuisine - the two are inseparable. Even the country’s flag inspires the popular ingredients used all over Italy - the red of tomatoes, the white of mozzarella and the green of basil. Across the 20 regions of Italy, there are cuisine specialities exclusive to that region that have been passed down for generations. You may think you know of pasta and pizza - but that’s just the tip of the iceberg regarding Italian food. There’s a menagerie of favours, dishes and treats to try out. The lemons of Amalfi may be great for fresh limoncello made right on the spot from a vendor off the hiking path, while Sicily’s brioche con gelato is biting into heavenly delights. Italian cooking may be simple - but the key that separates it from the masses is the ingredients. High-quality ingredients are to be respected and prioritised - which elevates any simple dish to the tastebuds.
The landscapes of Italy are like a kaleidoscope of vast distinct natural beauty. Well-known that the country is a natural boot-shape, the peninsula impends out into the Mediterranean sea, as well as the Adriatic sea and other heavenly bodies of water. Carving out the country to the North are the Dolomites and the alps, while the further you get down the country, a central region like Tuscany encompasses poetic hills while down in Sicily, Mount Etna makes an impact on how volcanic the land is. This varying topography of Italy makes it a country that is lovable for all seasons - whether you’re a summer child (swimming along the coastline) or a winter sports enthusiast (skiing in the Italian alps). No matter what type of activity you’re seeking out, this is a land that you can revisit over and over since there’s an abundance of things you can do indoors and outdoors.
Italy is a country that celebrates and heralds the things in life that make living beautiful - from an appreciation of the arts with world-class museums, to the love of homemade food using locally grown produce, a devotion to the wide nature, to the well-dressed and always fashionable. It’s a nation that prides itself on its own identity while not taking itself too seriously - as the saying goes, the locals live by “Il dolce far niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing).
It’s also a country of fascinating contrast - where Catholicism has a strong hold even though the locals straddle between sultriness and piety. Where Rome is over 2000 years old while Italy as a country is one of the youngest nations in Western Europe (having only been unified in 1861). No matter where you go, you’re bound to come across nonnas peering out of laundry-hung window sills and little bambinos playing football in a town square.
For a country that doesn’t seem that big on a map - it’s packed with treasures to be explored. That includes the 55 UNESCO World Heritage sites (the most than any other country!) from the ever-famous Trevi Fountain to lesser explored sites like the Sassi of Matera. While there needs no explanation as to why this is repeatedly one of the most frequently visited countries in Europe (about 65 million tourists per year), there are still plenty of off-the-beaten spots, up-and-coming regions and hidden gems to be explored in Italy. After all, it’s a country that encompasses so much in such a slice of land, that whether you’re a local or a traveller, anyone can experience la dolce vita.
Three major geographic regions in Italy
The administrative regions of Italy is divided into 20 regions that each have something unique to offer.
Household names like Galileo Galilei, Michelangelo, Catherine de’ Medici, and Leonardo da Vinci are only the very first ones that may come up when you think of legendary Italians. No matter what the century is, the arts and design within this nation always produce new greats and influential creatives, ala Miuccia Prada and Donatella Versace among today’s contemporaries. Whether you’re wearing art, looking at art, or eating art - Italy and the Italians know how to express themselves and capture an essence of beauty in whichever industry they’re in. In a way, this appreciation that brings so much pleasure to the eyes has intertwined with Italian culture and can’t be separated from one another.
Home to some of the most greatest museums in the world - spanning the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to the Vatican Museum, structures that have been etched into our minds since we were little like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Colosseum - this jewel of a country is boundless. While many associate the roots of Italy’s culture with the Roman Empire, different regions of this land has had multi-faceted inspirations and influence from other cultures. The alps to the north has had a great impact on Italian culture, with France, Austria and Switzerland (who shares an Italian-speaking part) tying into the makings of modern-day Italy. Then in the south, Sicily and Sardinia being a crossroads for Arabic, Greek and Byzantine culture over centuries.
No matter which month you visit Italy, there will always be something to do. During the warmer months like Spring and Summer, the Mediterranean and the Adriatic Sea are absolutely temptatious to not dive right in. The winter months are perfect for skiing up north, or any other winter sport you please. Autumn is when the whole country settles down, transitioning between the days.
Italian is a romance language, that falls under the same family tree as Spanish and French (with some words noticeably crossing over). Having descended from the Latin fof the Roman Empire, today the modern Italian language is spoken by over 85 million people. While it’s the official language of Italy, the Italian language is also official in Switzerland, Vatican City and San Marino (as well as in the Istria region of Slovenia and Croatia).
Since Italian is the official and predominant language, some travellers may be at first surprised to find out that even in the big cities, you may run into a situation where no English is spoken or understood. Here, we have a simple guide for you to use some quick and easy words in Italian.
There are several international airports throughout Italy serving flights coming in from Continental Europe and all over the world. The biggest airports are the ones in Milan, Rome and Naples. Milan - Malpensa Airport Rome - Leonardo da Vinci International Airport Naples - Naples International Airport
All major towns have train stations. Smaller towns often have one too.
Getting to Italy via the bus or coach is a super affordable option.
In Italy, people drive on the right side of the road and overtake the left. Visitors driving in Italy have to be aged 18 and older, holding a full valid driving licence.
Italy has a solid public transport system. For travel within the country, Italy has a well connected railway system and you can get to pretty much anywhere by just a few connections. In the cities, You can stick to the buses and for bigger cities there’s underground metro as an option too.
Going on foot is the easiest way to get around the cities. Use our map to find out what’s near you and walk or combine it with the tram or metro for an easy, hassle-free day out.