♦Currency: Euro €
♦Zone: +1 GMT
♦Phone Code: +39
♦Best time to visit: April to June
♦Must eat: Italian Ice cream
♦Must drink: Limoncello
♦Don't miss: The Rome Colosseum
Number of times visited: 2
Getting there and transportation: Located in Southern Europe, Italy is a very convenient destination to travel to from everywhere in the world, thanks to important air links from Europe, USA, South America, Asia and more recently the Middle East.
Travelling to Italy from Europe has become very cheap thanks to the revolution in low cost airlines, airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet have an important presence at many Italian airports. You can now travel from Europe to much smaller Italian cities without the need to pay for ground transportation or expensive connections via Rome or Milan. When travelling from Europe you can enjoy direct services to many of Italy's renowned cities (Rome, Milan, Turin, Florence, Venice, Palermo, Bologna, Naples and Bari).
The national airline of Italy is Alitalia, which has undergone a big transformation thanks to the investment of partner airline Etihad Airways. Alitalia offers a traditional full service with frequent flights to Italy's main cities and good connections at Rome and Milan. As well if you are flying from out of Europe, Alitalia offers the best alternative to arrive direct to Rome from the USA, South America and Asia. Other national airlines also offer direct services to Italy via their respective hubs.
Once in Italy, travelling around is very practical via many transport options, South to North and vice-versa can take up to over 1 hour by plane, so it's worth checking flights if your time in Italy is limited. Ground transportation is affordable and convenient. Italy has well developed highways and a good infrastructure when travelling across the countryside. Trains are also popular when travelling between main cities, however smaller towns have limited train services and rely more on busses.
Weather and temperature: Italy's weather can change substantially depending where you are in the country, as the country is spread in various longitudes. Most importantly, the best months for travelling in Italy are from April to June and September to October when temperatures are usually comfortable, rural colours are richer, and the crowds aren't too intense. For the best temperatures around Italy, travel Spring or Autumn for a comfortable 15-25C.
The high season, from July to early September, you will find it expensive, very crowded, long queues to get into popular landmarks and a scorching heat which is only pleasant to be near the coastline. Summer's can reach easily to 40C in the interior of Italy (Rome for example) whilst by the coast it can be close to 32C. The climate is Mediterranean, which means it's dry most of the time with light winds by the coast. On the other side, Winter's are fresh but only really cold the further North you travel. Cities like Milan, Venice or Turin might not be pleasant to visit during the Winter but the south is popular year round. Winter's in the north can easily fall below freezing and it's no surprise to spot snow as the proximity to the Alps makes it ideal for those seeking winter sports.
Food and drink: When thinking of Italy you can't help to note the typical food which has made the country so famous, probably as much or more than it's landmarks! Italian food is renowned worldwide. It's one of the most sought after cuisines, when ever you feel like a meal, an Italian restaurant option always comes to mind! The rich ingredients used together with spices, seasoning and oils make the Mediterranean cuisine not only tasty, but also it's considered one of the healthiest diets in the world by the quality of it's products. The good weather factors and careful consideration for ripeness, texture and flavours are the secret to the Italian recipes.
Cooking concentrates mainly on vegetables and oils, like Olive Oil, Tomatoes, Green Peppers, Onions, Garlic, Cucumber etc but also meats and fish are widely used (salami, ham, pepperoni etc). Each region specialises in certain dishes and can find many variations of the most renowned dishes like pizza, , pasta dishes, cannelloni, lasagna etc when travelling from North to South.
Besides the more typical dishes mentioned, there are some regional specialities which we can highlight: Gnocchi alla Romana, known in English as Roman gnocchi, these dumplings are made from a rich semolina dough. Bagna càuda, a hot dipping sauce from the Piedmont region, made with anchovies, garlic, olive oil, butter and occasionally, cream too. Pesto, a classic Italian sauce combining basil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese. Parmigiano-reggiano, also known as Parmesan cheese, this hard cow’s milk cheese is often shaved over dishes. Ossobuco, a Milanese dish made with veal shanks cooked in a rich tomato and wine broth. Ragù, a thick, slow-cooked meat sauce from Bologna served in lasagne, with tagliatelle or other types of pasta. Porchetta, a succulent pork roast infused with herbs, garlic and fennel, and encased in a crackling skin. Panettone, a Italian Christmas cake with sultanas and candied fruit. Ice cream, discover the birth place of ice cream in Italy and taste the many natural flavours and combinations which can be found in the dedicated shops selling ice cream along every city.
As for drinks, Italians love their coffee. You will find many cafes and bars offering well made coffee, anytime is good to sit down and enjoy a cup of the dark aromatic flavours so characterised by Italians. Limoncello, a lemon-flavoured liqueur from Southern Italy, drank cold as a digestif. Campari, a ruby-red coloured aperitif with a bittersweet flavour. Wines are also very popular and are drunk in combination with meals or evening drinks. Celebrated Roman wines include frascati, pinot bianco and pinot grigio (whites); barolo, valpolicella, cabernet and pinot bero (reds).