Italy – a quick guide for beginners!

Procida, Italy

Today we want to talk to those who had never been to Italy (or a long time ago). Well, maybe everyone else will find something new, too. To be honest, we’re acting like some know-it-alls without even having lived in this country.

Actually we can’t believe someone hasn’t been to Italy yet. We grew up in Bavaria and Italy was one of the closest holiday destinations. By car, ‘Bella Italia’ is just a six hours drive. Accordingly our love for Italy was early formed and we’re lucky to have already discovered a few corners of this great country. Even if it doesn’t always work: We try to plan a trip to Italy once a year.

Purpose of this post: In an ideal world, you would immediately start planning your trip to Italy.

Piazza Garibaldi Gianicolo, Rome, Italy

Stay relaxed – especially in the traffic

This might be the best advice in almost every situation. But it’s especially true for Italy. We still don’t understand where, when and how Italians get their driving license from and why they are not consequently permitted to use motor vehicles in general. Of course that’s a little bit exaggerated but you know what I mean.

This means for you to take care on Italy’s streets. Italians are wild things on the road. Try to avoid Naples by car and Milan during rush hour. Those were crazy experiences which we don’t need again in the future.

If you’re on the road by car, you should stick to the speed limit: The little, nondescript grey boxes along the sides of the roads are so mean – disgusting speed traps.

Maiori, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Eating and drinking like God in Italy

There’s no one in the world who doesn’t love Italian food. We love the classics, but are often too grasping to try the meat dishes as they’re very expensive. But we’re sure they taste delicious. We tried all kinds of Pizza and Pasta and are absolutely in love.

In Rome and at the Amalfi Coast, we ate Gelato every day at least once. Never ever should you leave Italy without having a good Gelato. Never!

The same goes for the wine. Especially the house wine impresses us every time. You can enjoy some great wine for ridiculous prices. It’s like they say: A meal without wine, is like a day without sunshine. Good wine and Italy belong together.

Maiori, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Italians drink their Espresso at the bar and it shouldn’t cost more than one Euro. Of course, it differs in touristy places but even there it shouldn’t be more than 1,50€.

Back in the old days table water for free was common. Well, maybe still outside the tourist zones.

Furthermore: Outside of Southern Tyrol you don’t tip as it’s already included in the ‘coperto’. Maybe you just leave a few coins there but no more.

Try to eat away from the tourist places. Of course, it’s great having dinner with a lovely view at Mark’s Square in Venice. If it just wouldn’t be so crowded and full of pigeons and prices weren’t so exceptionally high.

Palazzo Caffarelli, Rome, Italy

Italy has it all

No matter if it’s beautiful beaches, dreamy islands, picturesque villages and landscapes as well as big city life – Italy is for everyone. I don’t think we glorify the country. We’re just talking about the beauty of its landscape and culture.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Cities in Italy

If you’re in Italy for the first time, you should focus on the Big 3: Rome, Venice and Florence. There are countless small and mid-sized Italian cities, which are all waiting for us to be seen and where actual Italian life happens. But really: Those three cities are Italy’s highlights. You should plan around three days for each city depending on which and how many museums you want to see. Italy is the country of sights.

Crete Senesi/ Chianti, Tuscany, Italy

Landscapes in Italy

When talking about Italian landscapes it’s always Tuscany that stands out. Especially in spring and with sunshine, this region reminds of landscape paintings of great artists. The cypress landscape in Crete Senese interrupted by villages and cities like Siena makes you doubt reality.

Of course, there are are also the Alps or the coastline of ‘Cinque Terre’ in Liguria and the Amalfi Coast south of Naples. All of them are very popular, too.

Cala Brandinchi, Sardinia, Italy

Italy’s beaches

You’ll find the most beautiful beaches in Sardinia and partly in Sicily. Apulia and Calabria are supposed to be very beautiful but we haven’t been there yet.

The Adriatic Sea is perfect for kids with its large beaches and warm water. Though, you won’t find picture perfect beaches here. If you like it calm, you should come here in off season as beaches here are very crowded.

The good thing is, you can often perfectly combine places: Venice with the Adriatic Sea’s beaches or hiking in the Alps. Tuscany with Florence and Rome and Naples with the Amalfi Coast.

Isola Bella, Taormina, Sicily, Italy

We highly recommend you Sicily. You won’t find the most beautiful beaches (Sardinia) or the most exciting cities here. But the island offers an amazing mixture of great landscapes (including the Etna Volcano), picture perfect villages, beautiful beaches and Italian lifestyle (including tasty food and exquisite wines). In one to two weeks you can see and experience more than you can imagine!

Enna, Sicily, Italy

The best time to travel

Well, it depends. We would avoid the time around Ferragosto. The first two weeks of August the country’s economy and bureaucracy life takes a break and Italians spend their time suntanning at the beaches of the country and it becomes overcrowded and expensive.

Apart from that, it depends on what you’re up to. City trips are always possible. Maybe you should avoid the summer heat. Spring is perfect if you want to explore the country side with its beautiful landscape. Swimming in the sea is possible from around May. In Sardinia the water was still warm enough at the beginning of October.

Siena, Tuscany, Italy

A little bit of Italian won’t hurt anyone

In our experience, you will always survive with some English skills. Especially outside the cities and tourist zones, it won’t hurt to learn a little bit of Italian as people here usually don’t speak English, though. In the Cilento region, we had the feeling of being in real Italy. It was a huge contrast to the Amalfi Coast though, geographically very close. We had some communication problems while being in a restaurant. But in the end it perfectly worked!

We definitely didn’t see everything in Italy: There’s still a lot on the list especially Apulia, Calabria, Umbria, Emilia Romagna, Liguria and the lakes in the north of the country.

What is your favourite place in Italy and why? Where did you find your ‘real’ Italy?

2 Responses

  1. FabioRosado

    Driving in Italy? You are brave!
    But I agree with your post, Italy is a beautiful place and the people are amazing. I lived with Italians when I came to the UK and was sharing a house, we always had a lot of fun and plenty of food – especially since one girl was from the south of Italy!

    Unfortunately, I haven’t explored much of Italy yet. But… like everything, is in my plans haha

    • Jan

      You don’t have to be too brave 😉 (at least outside from Rome, Milan, Florence…) Most of the time it’s OK.
      And yes, Italy has so much to offer for everyone. It’s just an amazing country and the food is delicious!
      Go and visit it soon 😉

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