A Backpacker's Tale

Backpacking
Italy

I want to turn you into a backpacking Italy maestro. Why? Well, because I have a mild (and by mild I mean major) obsession with Italy and I want everyone to experience it to the fullest.  

Ask yourself what would it be like if you knew the in’s and out’s of traveling the country before you even arrived. What if you knew exactly when to go for the best weather, where the places that peak your interest are located, and best things to do in Italy.

This is an in-depth backpacking Italy blog post, but more than that it is a toolbox. Your toolbox.  My job is to help you find the right tools and provide the blueprints. Your job is to take them and build your own unforgettable trip.

We will go over everything from budgets to coastal road trips, from itineraries to safety.

So no matter if you are in the final planning stages of your trip, or just tossing around the idea of traveling to Italy there is something useful for you.  

Backpacking Italy Guide

Table of Contents

Why you should
Backpack Italy

What makes Italy so special? What is it about the country that draws millions of travelers each year?

I can’t speak for the millions of others, but personally I find almost everything about the country enchanting. 

Whether I am wandering through the stony streets of Venice, hiking between the colorful cliff-side villages, or road tripping through mountainous landscapes I am overwhelmed with a sense of wonderment.

Italy is a land of vivid history, al dente pasta, red wine, and remnants of a culture long past. 

The world we see around us today is a result of ancient Italians contributions to society. It is a place that engulfs the senses and makes the imagination run wild.  

Another reason Italy is so popular is because it has a broad appeal. History lover? Places like the Colosseum or Pompeii bring history to life. Foodie? 

Do I even need to mention the vast about of pastas, breads, cheeses, and vino’s to fill up on? Or maybe you’re a beach bum? It is hard to beat the serenity of having a laid back beach day on the Amalfi coast.

As cheesy as it sounds Italy holds a massive piece of my heart. It was the destination of my first solo backpacking trip. It was a trip that flipped my world upside down and cemented travel as the main focal point of my life.

Since then I’ve spent over a year traveling around Italy on over a dozen trips. And I visit Italy consistently for the rest of my life. (See I told you I had a mild obsession)

italy
itineraries

Now, the fun part! Let’s talk about the popular itineraries for Italy

These itineraries will have something for you whether you are a seasoned traveler or wondering how to plan a first trip to Italy.

The first thing we should note is that the country has a mind-blowing amount of things to see and do. Because of this, it is easy to get over ambitious and try to fit everything in a single trip. That would be a monumental achievement but isn’t realistic unless you have months to tour the country. 

Instead, I suggest picking a few locations, traveling slowly (3-4 days in each place), and really root yourself in the culture and cuisine rather than airport terminals or train stations.

italy itinerary 2 weeks

With only two weeks in Italy, I would forgo trying to get off the beaten path and instead focus on hitting the incredible highlights of the country. This is counter-intuitive for me as I love getting off the beaten path. 

But the major attractions in Italy are so good that they can’t be missed (there is a reason why it is in the top 5 most visited countries in the world). Instead of straying too far I’d focus my attention on in the North. (Rome, Florence, and Venice). Or head to Southern Italy (Rome, Amalfi, Calabria, or Sicily).

Notice how Rome is on both lists. That’s because Rome is technically Central Italy which makes it a perfect launching point for going either North or South. 

Plus, a trip to Italy without seeing Rome is like a trip to Baskin Robbins without getting ice cream.  

Let’s take a quick, more detailed look.

italy itinerary for 2 weeks

2 weeks in Northern Italy

Fly into Rome and out of Venice.

4 – Days in Rome ( 1 Day Trip to Pompeii or Sorrento)

4 – Days in Florence (1 Day Trip to Siena)

3 – Days in Venice

2 –Travel Days (Days when you send most of the time training between cities)

2 weeks in Southern Italy

Fly in and Out of Rome ( Cheaper than flying out of Sicily)

4 – Days in Rome

3 – Day Amalifa Coast

3 – Days in Calabria

4 – Day Exploring Sicily

1 – Day to get back to Rome to catch your plane

italy itinerary for 3 weeks

Three weeks is an ideal amount of time to spend traveling across Italy. You’ll have enough time to hit all the major attractions with enough time left over to go see a couple of the smaller cities (which hold some of the best bits of Italy).

WIth three weeks in Italy, I would start and end the journey in either Venice or Sorrento and work my way between the two.  Note: If you start or end in Sorrento the best nearby airports are Naples and Rome.

3 – Days in Venice

3 – Days in Milan

2 – Day in Bologna

4 – Day in Florence (1 Day Trip to Siena)

2 – Days in Assisi

3 – Days in Rome

3 – Days in Sorrento/Naples

Italy Itinerary 1 month

Imagine all you could accomplish with one month in Italy! One thing I can almost guarantee is that your pants would get a little snug due to the influx of pasta to your diet. But if you ask me that’s a small price to pay.

If you are one of the lucky ones with around a month to travel then I would make a combination of the previous itineraries.

Or if you prefer to wing it and get as far from the tourist trail as you can, then head to the rarely visited east coast and see what you can discover.

Weeks 1 & 2

3 – Days in Venice

3 – Days in Milan

2 – Day in Bologna

4 – Day in Florence (1 Day Trip to Siena)

2 – Days in Assisi

Weeks 3 & 4

3 – Days in Rome

4 – Days in Sorrento/Naples (1 Day for Pompeii)

3 – Day Amalfi Coast

3 – Days in Calabria

2 – Days back to Rome to Catch Your Flight.

Cost of
Backpacking Italy

Now comes the question we all dread, “What is the price for traveling in Italy?”

It’s a smart question, and one of the most important things to know before hopping on a plane.  

Let’s look at the average daily price of traveling in Italy. We will also break it down so you can see each element you need to save for when backpacking Italy.

how much to save for a trip to italy

I’m going to skip the foreplay and just come out and say it. Italy isn’t the cheapest country to visit while backpacking Europe.

Sadly, it is one of the most expensive.

I know that it is hard to hear, and I might have just shattered some budget backpackers dreams, however, if you stick with me I will show you how to cut down on these expenses and make Italy much more affordable.

I also say “so what if Italy is expensive”.

We are backpackers and part of the fun is finding creative ways to save money while traveling.

I can also tell you in 100% honesty that I have never regretted one penny I’ve spent in Italy – minus my bad habit of having that last glass of wine that sends me into hangover territory- and I’ve spent enough pennies there to fill countless piggy banks.

If you fancy yourself a savvy backpacker and keep your wits about you then you can travel Italy on a shoestring budget of $40 – $70 a day.

Let’s breakdown the cost of traveling Italy.

Backpacking Italy Cost

STYLESLEEPINGEATINGGETTING AROUNDSIGHTSEEINGDAILY $
Backpacker$22 -32$20$10$20$60 -82
Flashpacker$35-$50$30$20$30$100 -130
Living Large$70+$40$30$50+$160+

3 Weeks in Italy Budget

So taking those numbers you will need  $1100-$1300 when traveling 3 weeks in Italy . This covers your food, trains, accommodation, and sightseeing. Don’t forget to add the price of your plane tickets, travel insurance, gear, and anything else you might need.

So your backpacking italy budget, but it is worth it! And if you really watch what you spend you can backpack Italy for much cheaper. 

Best Time to
Visit Italy

When you will want to go to Italy will depend on a combination of things. 

Factors like crowds, temperature, and prices, will affect the timing of your trip. 

Like everything else in this backpacking Italy guide I’ve broken it down in easy to use steps.

Peak season- (May- August)

Like many of its neighboring countries, the heavy tourist season in Italy is during the summer months, with July and August being the busiest. During these months expect larger crowds, longer lines, higher prices, and hot temperatures (mid 80’s °F)

After reading that you’re probably thinking, ” Why would anyone visit Italy in the Summer?”.

Well because for many travelers the pros outweigh the cons. The days are longer with lots of sun, fewer sights are under construction, and more travelers around to meet.

Since it is the busiest month is August a good time to visit Italy?

Yes, you will have to contend the lines are bigger, but there is also more festivals and events going on around the country. I’m saying this because if August is the only time you have to go, then get there! There is no bad time to visit Italy.  

Off Season - (November through March)

Off Season is perfect for those who like smaller crowds and can deal with colder temperatures. 

Off season means less tourist roaming around during the winter months (although Christmas time in Rome is packed)

Italy is a long country so temperatures also vary wildly depending on where you are. 

Off Season is also the cheapest time to visit Italy on a shoestring budget.

Shoulder Season (April - early June / mid-September - October)

Personally, I think this is the best time of the year to visit Italy as it combines the perks of both the peak and off seasons. Crowds are moderate, prices are average, and the temperatures mild.

The spring months are particularly beautiful as the Italian countryside is coming to life with thousands of flowers in bloom.

On the other hand, the fall is grape harvest season and the landscape turns vibrant shades of golden brown that most people associate with Italy.

Perhaps September is the best month to visit Italy. Why? Well, the crowds have just left and the weather isn’t to overbearing. The weather in Italy in September is 55-75°F (13-24°C)

Withdrawing
Cash in Italy

For the most part, I never tell my bank that I’m traveling, and most of the time I don’t have any issues. However, I always tell them before I head to Italy. This dates back to my first solo trip. I stepped off the plane, jet-lagged, and tipsy. Staggering to the first ATM in sight I inserted my card, entered my pin, hit withdrawal cash, and got…. nothing but an error

My bank blocked my card, and I was stuck wandering around the airport for a few hours. 

Until an older lady noticed me and became my guardian angel. She bought me a phone card to call my bank, called a hostel and explained my problem, and put me on a train to said hostel. Ever since that fateful day I’ve always let my bank know I am traveling to Italy! And I suggest you do as well,  

It is a 2-second decision that can save you hours of stress.

Be aware that while in Europe ATM fees are high (around 2.5 Euros). Plus whatever foreign transaction fees your bank might charge. If you’ve read similar post I’ve written like this, then you know what is coming – Open an account with Charles Schwab. They reimburse you ALL the ATM fees. 

And as a gift. If you sign up using this link, you get $100 when you open a new account. Make sure to open a free brokerage account to claim the offer. (This is not commission based, I get nothing for this other than being helpful). 

There you go, you can’t say I never gave you anything. And if we meet someday on the road, I expect a beer.

Current Exchange Rate for Italy

The Euro and Dollar are always battling it out. 

However, the Euro has been winning for a long time now. 

This means the USD doesn’t go as far in Italy as it used too.

To the right is the current USD to EURO Exchange rate.

 



Best Places to visit when
Backpacking Italy

Where to begin! Italy has so many places to see and experience. 

But most of us don’t have the lifetime it would take to explore every nook and cranny of the country. 

Below we will discover some of the best places to visit when backpacking Italy.

Italy Travel Placeholder
Italy Travel

Rome

Backpacking Rome

Ah, Rome, even thinking of the Eternal City puts a grin on my face. But not everyone loves Rome as much as I do. And I get it. Rome is a little rough around the edges.

But I love Rome, warts and all. I’ve visited Rome at least a dozen times, and I still can’t get enough.

There are so many things to do in Rome you could spend your entire vacation there, and it would not be a wasted trip. The city is teeming with history, art, cuisine, nightlife, and sightseeing. 

When it comes to things to do in Rome, the first two questions shouldn’t be Where to stay in Rome“, or “What should I do?”. But rather What should I do first!?”

There are also some of the best day trip from Rome

THings to do in Rome

  1. The Colosseum
  2. Augustus Palace Tour ( Walks of Italy Exclusive)
  3. Roman Forum,
  4. Trevi Fountain.
  5. The Vatican ( Sistine Chapel)
  6. Piazza Navona
  7. Pantheon
  8. Castel Sant’ Angelo
  9. Spanish Steps
  10. Palatine Hill

(If you are planning on visiting most of these sights then the Roma Pass can save you money)

Or if you want to be a part of my oldest travel tradition then at sunset head to the Colosseum and buy a Peroni at the nearby metro station.

Then sit on the ruined columns and stones, and watch the Colosseum turn fiery red as at sunset.

Quick Tips for ROME

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEEING
The YellowRistorante Casette di CampagnaThe Colosseum
Alessandro Downtown HostelGooseThe Vatican
Grappoli di Sole Osteria BonelliTuscany in a Day

Venice

Does Venice need an introduction? It is a city that’s so extraordinary and different that the entire old town of Venice is a UNESCO world heritage site.  

The sinking city draws millions of visitors each year who come to wander the maze of alleyways, take romantic gondola rides, and adorn Carnival masks.

Make no mistake, Venice is touristy, but I don’t care. Its charm and elegance keep me coming back every single time I visit Italy. 

Budget for Venice

Being so popular it is easy to guess that La Serenissima is one of the more expensive cities in Italy. The biggest blow to your Venice budget is going to be the price of accommodation. 

Personally, I think Venice hostels are fantastic and would recommend picking them over an Airbnb or Hotel which will save you some mula.

Things to do in Venice

  1. Rialto Bridge
  2. Saint Mark’s Basilica
  3. Doge’s Palace
  4. Grand Canal
  5. Bridge of Sighs
  6. Burana Island
  7. St Mark’s Campanile
  8. Murano Island,
  9. Gondola Ride
  10. Kayak the Canals
  11. Piazza San Marco

Where to ..... in Venice

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEEING
Generator VeniceOsteria alla StaffaRialto Bridge
B&B Da Nina VeniceTrattoria Alla RampaSaint Mark’s Basilica
LaGare Hotel VeneziaAntica AdelaideDoge’s Palace

Florence

Things to do in Florence

Florence, the city that sparked the Renaissance and brought a new wave of art to Italy. Hidden throughout its stony streets is a world of art, music, and museums. 

As the sunsets, the iconic Tuscan buildings turn amber red, an event that can only be truly appreciated from the top of Piazza Michelangelo.  

Being the home of world-renowned artists like Da Vinci, Raphael, and Botticelli most of the highlights in Florence lie in the cities art and museums. Ironically the cities most famous piece of art, Michelangelo’s statue of David, wasn’t created by any of them.  

Florence on a Budget

Florence has 16 museums, some are big, such as the Galleria dell’Accademia, while others, like DaVinci’s House, are small. 

Not only will rushing between 16 museums in a few days leave you burnt out, but all those tickets will blow a massive hole in your travel budget. 

One thing you can do is invest in a Firenze Pass, it gives you access, and lets you skip the line to a lot of the major attractions

But first, make sure the pass has enough sites you want to see and that you have enough time to see them or it is just wasted money.    

One thing you need to do is decide where to stay in Florence on a budget. Hotels are expensive, but you can find some really good Airbnbs and Hostels.

Things to do in Florence Italy

  1. Galleria dell’Accademia
  2. Basilica of Santa Croce
  3. Palazzo Vecchio
  4. Sunset at Piazza Michelangelo
  5. Pitti Palace
  6. Palazzo Vecchio
  7. Ponte Vecchio
  8. Basilica of Santa Croce
  9. Uffizi Palace and Gallery Piazza della Signoria
  10. DaVinci’s House

Florence Travel Advice

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEEING
Hostel Gallo d’OroTrattoria Da Burde FirenzeCathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore
Tornabuoni ViewOsteria de’ CicaliniUffizi Gallery
B&B Residenza San Gallo 79 Culinaria BistroGalleria dell’Accademia

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast is littered with whitewashed villages, remote beaches nestled along the rocky coast and groves of lemons. There is nowhere on earth that is quite like the Amalfi Coast. Someday, when and if I retire from traveling, I always imagine growing old – errrr older –  in a small small red-tinted house on the Amalfi coast. But I’m not that picky, I could settle for retiring on the coast of Cinque Terre as well

Because of its undeniable beauty, this region’s a hotspot for vacationist during the summer season (especially in July and August).

The postcard-worthy setting also comes with a price as Amalfi can quickly become expensive. For budget travelers, like myself, the best base for Amalfi Coast is Salerno. The easiest way to get to Salerno is by train which takes an hour and a half to get from Naples to Amalfi coast, and two and a half hours from Rome.

The Amalfi coast starts just after Sorrento and consists of a total of thirteen different towns and villages. The most popular is the town of Amalfi, but each and every city has its own reason to visit. This is also a good spot to take a day trip to Capri

List of Towns on the Amalfi Coast

Let’s take a look at the different towns on the Amalfi Coast that will help you create your own adventure.

Salerno – Known for its beautiful architecture, and gardens. And a haven for people backpacking Italy.

Vietri sul MareThis sun-kissed seaside city is famous for its charm, the bright domed church of San Giovanni Battista, as well as, its handmade ceramics and porcelain.

Cetara and Maiori – Popular for their resorts and seashores. There are also resorts on the incredible Capo d’Orso just outside Maiori. These cities are also famed for the rock craved abbey of Santa Maria de Olearia.

Tramonti – This town is a little further inland, but it is known for its pizza and wine. Both are colossal selling points ( at least for me) to head there asap!

Minori – Is known as a place to sit back, unwind, and soak in the sun. And as being home to the impressive antiquated Roman villa of Villa Marittima Romana

Atrani – Atrani Is built high in the surrounding hillsides and bluffs which gift you with unparalleled panoramas of the coastline. It also has superb beaches, including a black sand beach! This is the least touristy point on the Amalfi coast.

Amalfi – The namesake of the coast is arguably the most well-known village to tour and is often called the heart of the coastline. It is known for its churches, old history, and limoncello liqueur.

Ravello – Known for its hillside villas, epic viewpoints, and its lovely town centre. Here you can find some of the best stretches of the coastline that have drawn everyone from us, the humble regular travelers, to the rich and famous.

Positano – People have been vacationing in Positano since ancient Roman times. Positano is littered with resorts, whitewashed homes, and has become known as the most remarkable town along the coast. The area is full of postcard-worthy sunkissed beaches, untouched landscape, and epic views of the seaside.

Praiano – Known for its beaches, laid back atmosphere, and beautiful city which is a maze of tiny streets and alleyways. Local shops line these streets peddling handcrafted wares. Praiano is also known as the best sunset spot on the coast.

Scala – Beautiful and old. This is a spot for history lovers.

Hiking the Amalfi Coast

For people interested in hiking around the area I would plan on visiting the Amalfi Coast in October. The temperatures are much more bearable, and you won’t have huge crowds to contend with. 

The most well-known hikes are Punta Campanella, Monte Tre Calli, and Villa Jovis. 

The con to Amalfi coast hiking (and there is always at least one con, isn’t there!) Is that most of the hiking is actually in the surrounding mountains and not on the coastline itself. Unlike Cinque Terre which has some coastal hiking trails.  

CInque Terre

CINQUE-TERRE

Speaking of Cinque Terre, this is another incredible stretch of Italian coastline that draws throngs of luxury travelers, but don’t get discouraged it’s possible to backpack Cinque Terre on a budget. There are also a lot of hostels in Cinque Terre area. 

Most people choose between either Amalfi or Cinque Terre, and while they are very similar there are significant differences. Perhaps the most obvious is that Amalfi has over a dozen villages, Cinque Terre has only five. 

In fact, the name itself “Cinque Terre” means “five lands”:  Cinque Terre also gets more backpackers than Amalfi. One reason could be the location. 

Lying just off the Tuscan coast it is easy to get to the region from Florence. Hiking is also a major difference (as I mentioned above). Cinque Terre has better coastal hiking.

The 5 Towns of Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore – Travelers love the food, wine bars, and pubs around Riomaggiore. This is the biggest town in the area and is usually the starting point for backpackers around Cinque Terre. For hikers, there is around 120 KM of coastal trails between the five different cities. So this is a great homebase for people hiking the Cinque Terre region.

Monterosso – Now divided into two sections this town is now known for the tunnel connecting the two different sides. There are a couple of cool things to see in Monterosso other than the beautiful beaches, like the massive statue of Neptune, now slightly ruined, yet, still breathtaking.

Vernazza –This well-protected town was known throughout history as a fortified military defense that was used to scare off invading pirates. The city is known for its natural port and elegant houses. It is an utterly gorgeous piece of our planet.

Corniglia – Corniglia is known because of its age and history of wine. Today sightseers are in love with its small alleyways and cobblestone lanes. And one of the most well-known beaches in Cinque Terre, Splaggione, is in Corniglia.

Manarola – – Most postcards you’ve seen of Cinque Terre probably feature Manarola. This village full of vibrant buildings lie so close to the coast that you feel a strong gust of wind would send it all tumbling down into the sea. Throughout history, and even until this day, Manarola is famed for its wine. But tourist flock here mainly for the pictures, and the scenery.

Bologna

Sadly Bologna is often overlooked. Lost in the huge shadow of Italy’s other destinations. It wasn’t until my 5th trip to Italy that I finally visited Bologna, and wow, I wished I’d visited the city earlier. 

This historic city holds a lot of charm, long archwayed walks, fresh local markets, a massive leaning tower (not Pisa) and great food. 

Because Bologna isn’t on the main tourist trail it is easy to visit Bologna on a budget and if you have a couple extra days backpacking Northern Italy I highly recommended heading here.

Things to do in Bologna Italy

  1. Piazza Maggiore
  2. Basilica di San Petronio
  3. Fountain of Neptune
  4. Sanctuary of Madonna di San Luca
  5.  Torre Garisenda

Explore Bologna

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEEING
Dopa HostelMercato delle ErbePiazza Maggiore
Casa Isolani Santo StefanoOsteria dell’OrsaBasilica di San Petronio
B&B VajoletTrattoria DanioSanto Stefano

Assisi

ASSISI

Assisi is the best of Umbria points of interest. Assisi always reminds me of Gondor from Lord of the Rings. The white city stretches out over the top of a striking hillside. 

Everything in Assisi is bright white from the pale stone walkways to the large medieval churches. From the top of the massive battlements of Rocca Maggiore, an 800-year-old castle, you get a sweeping view of the surrounding landscape. 

The crowning jewel of the city is the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. My favorite time to visit this Assisi is in the fall. Plus it has some of the finest tuscany hiking in the country. 

Fun Assisi Facts

  1. Assisi is the birthplace of St. Francis
  2. Legend has it that Assisi was founded around a holy spring
  3. Assisi was once a rival to Rome
  4. hiking spello to assisi takes 2 1/2 hours
  5. The Black Death in the 14th century started the decline of the city.
  6. Assisi has many UNESCO sites.

Quick Guide to Assisi

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEEING
Hotel Ristorante La TerrazzaTrattoria PallottaBasilica di San Francesco
Ostello Bello Assisi BevagnaOsteria Piazzetta dell’ErbaRocca Maggiore
Sogni d’AssisiEat Out Osteria GourmetCathedral of San Rufino

Milan

Milan is a devise city among people traveling through Italy. Some people absolutely love it, others despise it. I fall somewhere in between. It has some of the best nightlife, aperitivos, and art in Italy. You could easily spend a week in Milan and not be bored for a second. On the other hand, Milan doesn’t have the best reputation among travelers.

Whatever way you lean after visiting there is no disputing all the great things to see in Milan. Sights like the Duomo di Milano, San Bernardino alle Ossa, and the Last Supper Painting who many argue is Da Vinci’s finest work, make this a city worth visiting. 

Pro Tip: that to see the Last Supper you need to make reservations online months before visiting Milan or chances are you won’t get a spot. Even if you didn’t make a reservation there is a chance you will get lucky.

When I visited someone didn’t show up, which made room for me. So it is worth crossing your fingers and checking.

Is Milan Expensive?

Being that Milan is a fashion mecca a lot of people have the impression that Milan is expensive. But by Italy big city standards Milan isn’t crazy expensive. 

Unless of course, you plan on going shopping at the high-end fashion stores. 

But since we are talking about backpacking Italy I am betting that isn’t the case. So it is possible to see Milan on a budget.

Things to do in Milan

  1. Last Super
  2. San Bernardino alle Ossa (Church made of bones)
  3. Duomo di Milano
  4. Sforzesco Castle
  5. Galleria Vittorio
  6. Teatro alla Scala

Quick Guide to MILAN

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEEING
Ostello Bello GrandePizDuomo di Milano
BeHome – Porta RomanaTrattoria MirtaBone Chapel
B&B Hotel Milano Central StationBerberéLast Supper

Sorrento

Sorrento

Sorrento is another city that doesn’t get enough credit and is often pushed to the side by nearby Amalfi and Positano. And since it doesn’t get as many visitors as its neighbors alot of travelers wondering “is Sorrento Worth Visiting”. 

In a word, Yes!  

I believe ignoring Sorrento is a massive mistake. This quaint city is full of stunning views. However, the real charm is found in the Sorrento town centre which is lined with shops and stores ( many of which are selling Limoncello)

If your ideal morning in Italy is sitting on a balcony and sipping on espresso while the azure waves of the Tyrrhenian Sea crash against the rocks below you then Sorrento is your place!

Where to .... in Sorrento

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEEING
Florida Hostel & HotelSorrento Ristorante & PizzeriaPompeii
Casa a MareLa Cantinaccia del PopoloVilla Comunale
Ulisse DeluxeChantecler’s TrattoriaScenic Views

Verona

If you are wondering what Verona is like “Charming” is the first word that comes to mind.

The name itself probably jogging your memory searching for “what is Verona famous for”. Notably, it is the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. And you can see the balcony from the famous play in Verona.

Although, this is really a tourist trap as there is no “real” Romeo and Juliet balcony.

Nowadays many people who want to escape the overcrowded streets of Venice head the quieter Verona.  Verona is a lovely, artistic, and energetic town in northern Italy. Like a lot of cities in this region, Verona is known for its wine country.

However, the city has a great Opera, coffee, and a regional cuisine scene. (They make mean gnocchi) and there is an awesome Verona food market.  The city also has great ruins and art.

While I still prefer Venice if are looking for a less touristy holiday then this medieval city is a great choice.

Top Verona Experiences

  1. Juliet’s House
  2. Lake Garda
  3. Osteria Sottocosta
  4. Castelvecchio
  5. Torre Dei Lamberti
  6. Basilica Di San Zeno Maggiore

Where to .... in Verona

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEEING
The HostelloVerona Angilo’s PizzaLake Garda
Appartamento”Alba” Osteria la FontaninaVerona Arena
Truly VeronaVecio MacelloJuliet’s House

Turin

Turin Italy City Center

I like Turin because it is off the beaten path Italy as most people usually choose Milian over Turin.

However, both offer exceptional experiences and a holiday in Turin is definitely worth it. For one thing, Turin is much less touristy than many of the other cities in Italy. It has a dedicated Coffee culture (I’m a caffeine addict). It is also known for its wine, especially just south in the cities near Turin like Alba and Asti.

Turin has a lot of history as well, and because it is so easy to get to and travel around it makes is a hassle-free way to get off the tourist trail in Italy.

You don’t even need to stop here long 3 days in Turin is enough.Or even a weekend in Turin will give you a great overview of the city.

The Best of Turin

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEEING
Attic Hostel TorinoVerona Angilo’s PizzaLake Garda
Appartamento”Alba” Osteria la FontaninaVerona Arena
Truly VeronaVecio MacelloJuliet’s House

Siena

When exploring Tuscany, I highly recommend backpacking through Siena. This medieval city is full of rustic buildings, dark stony walks, small lanes flanked by red brick archways and buildings. 

The city has a simple infectious atmosphere. Siena’s claim to fame comes from the Palio, a giant horse race (more on this later), and the colorful Duomo that sits at one of the highest points in the city.

Things to do in Siena ITaly

  1. Piazza del Campo
  2. Duomo di Siena
  3. Pubblico Palace
  4. Tower of Mangia
  5. Basilica Cateriniana
  6. San Domenico
  7. Fonte Gaia
  8. Piccolomini Library

Quick Guide to Siena

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEEING
Albergo Tre DonzelleTre CristiPiazza del Campo
Villa Tuscany SienaSienna on the SquareDuomo di Siena
Siena Hostel GuidoriccioTaverna San GiuseppeAntinori nel Chianti Classico

Naples

Pompeii Naples Italy

I might catch some flack for this, but Naples is last on this list for a reason. Mainly because it is my least favorite place I’ve visited in Italy.

In my opinion, other than the pizza, there isn’t anything special about Naples.

It is just a big city, and it has one of the highest robberies rates in Italy. So I would choose nearby Sorrento any day of the week over Naples.  

However, if you are traveling to Italy for the food, you might not want to skip Naples, as it is the birthplace of pizza, and the city does have some of the best restaurants in Italy.

Best of Naples

SLEEPEATSIGHTSEEING
Hostel of the SunL’Europeo Di MattozziPompeii
La Casa Di Bruno SorbilloNaples National Archaeological Museum
Hotel La Fayette
Decumano 31
Ovo Castle

20 Fun things to do
& See in Italy

All right! So now we know how to get around Italy, where to go, and how to stay safe! But, what do you do in Italy once you get there? 

There’s so much ruin roaming, beach hopping, city exploring, and eating across Italy that it can make your head spin. But in the interest of keeping our heads intact (or my thumbs from falling off from all the typing) let’s just focus on the top 20 things to do in Italy.

Roam Rome

walking rome

Yes, we are talking about Rome again, but as they say All roads lead to Rome”. No trip to Italy is complete without roaming Rome (I’m not apologizing for the pun).  

Most of the city’s major sites – the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, and Augusta’s Palace – are all located within a small area downtown. 

So for those of you who want to avoid big cities, or don’t have much time in Italy you can easily spend 3 days in Rome and still get a solid overview.

Valley of the Temple

Down in Southern Italy is an incredible temple and group of monuments that most travelers don’t even know exist. (It took me multiple trips to Italy before I learned about it). This temple complex, located in Agrigento, dates back over 1,500 years.

\Sitting on a hill this impressive site also has some epic views of Sicily.

Wander Pompeii

Most of us know the tragic history of Pompeii. This city was a casualty of Mount Vesuvius erupting. Over 19 feet of volcanic ash covered within hours. 

This ash protected the city from natural elements keeping it in pristine condition. Pompeii is mother nature window into the ancient world. The stores, roads, homes, and bathhouses are extremely well preserved. You can even see advertisements for ancient brothels and markets.

One mistake many travelers make (at least I did) is that they think Pompeii is small. Wrong! Pompeii is huge . It would take an entire day to explore half the city. The easiest way to get to Pompeii is from either Naples or Sorrento.

Pro tip: If you are visiting Pompeii is the summer make sure to bring water, sunscreen, and some sort of protection from the sun. It gets HOT!

 

Climb Mount Vesuvius

Speaking of Vesuvius one of the more adventurous things to do in Italy is to climb this massive Volcano that destroyed Pompeii.  This isn’t an easy hike, but the view alone makes it worth it.

Road Trip the Amalfi Coast

amalfi-coast

I have made a couple two-week road trips through Italy, and it is an exhilarating way to see the country. The Amalfi Coast is an excellent first road trip through Italy because it doesn’t entail hours of driving each day. 

Plus, as we all know by this point, this is one of the best coastlines in Europe. One perk to this is that car rentals are CHEAP in Italy. I’m talking like 8-10 Euros a day cheap. The biggest annoyance is that there is a lot of toll roads in Italy, and the tolls are a little pricey (3-5 Euros). This is one of my favorite things to do in central Italy.

Visit the 5th Smallest Country in the World

San Marino is a microstate in Italy and the 5th smallest country in the world. But you’d be wrong to underestimate San Marino just because of the size. 

San Marino is a scenic mountainous region in the central north of Italy. In this wild and rugged landscape, you will find old medieval towns, as well as ancient city walls, citadels, and towers. And because of its location visitors to San Marino are rare.

Visit the World's Smallest Country

best neighborhood to stay in rome

Why settle for just visiting the 5th smallest country in the world when you can visit the 1st. Sitting inside Rome lies the Smallest Nation in the world, the Vatican. Yes, the Vatican is tiny and only has a population of 1,000

Small but powerful it has some of the best sites in Rome in the form of the Vatican Museum (Sistine Chapel) and St. Peter’s Basilica. It is worth spending at least a day exploring the smallest country in the world

Experience the Coast

Beach bum, sun soaker, lazy holidaymaker, or hiking addict? It doesn’t matter which category you fall into the rugged and sandy Italian coastline has everything you’re looking for, and more! Dotted along the seashores are colorful coastal cities, sandy beaches, caves, pristine waters, and coastal treks.

For active adventurers, there is caving, kayaking, boat tours, and road trips that keep people coming back to the Italian coast over and over again. But there is also nothing wrong having a nice and relaxing beach vacation.

Chill on Lake Como

This massive lake on Northern Italy is known for its dramatic landscapes, lakeside towns, and big resorts. This gives you a few viable options on how to spend your holiday in Como.

You can wander around the quaint villages, live in luxury at a resort, embark on a lake cruise, or explore the surrounding nature.  

Whatever you choose you are sure to have a lot of fun at Lake Como. This is one of the popular things to do in Italy for couples.

Wander the Stony Streets of Siena

SIENA​

Siena is of the most well preserved and charming medieval towns I’ve ever seen. 

The most popular thing in the city is the impressive Duomo in Siena sitting at a high point in the city. Another notable place is the Piazza del Campo. This quaint city square is famous for its summer horse race (more on that later)

If you are an adventure addict then this slow-moving medieval Tuscan town is probably not for you. 

But if you are a fan of history, architecture, and old cities than Siena is right up your alley.  

Learn to Cook Like an Italian Momma

You can’t visit Italy without taking a cooking class right? 

 I say that if you are going to gain weight while trying everything Italy has to offer then why not gain the skills to recreate the epic cuisine back home, and wow your friends in the process.

The food (pasta, bread, cheese, and wine) are all so good that my belly always grows in Italy. But I don’t care! 

A cooking class is a great way to experience the culture, meet other travelers, and return home with some skills. This is also one of the best things to do in italy in december because it is inside and lets you escape the bitter cold.

Take a Wine Tour

Italy and Wine are two peas in a pod. It is definitely worth taking a day to tours to some wineries in Italy Especially, Tuscany region. You will get to learn,  and more importantly, sample some of the best wines in Italy.

Leaning Tower of Pisa

leaning-tower-of-pisa

Everyone needs the photo of holding up the leaning tower of Pisa, am I right?

I was surprised to find out that Pisa is more than just an off-center tower. The tower is surrounded by a grass-covered square lined with statues. 

Here other travelers and locals picnic, hang out, and, of course, snap some hero photos of them holding the tower up.

Visit the Newly Opened Austuga's Palace

This is a newly open site in Rome that takes you through the well-preserved home of one of Rome’s most famous emperors. The palace dates back almost 2,000 years, and amazingly enough, you can still see the original paintings and frescoes on the walls.

Since it is so well preserved – and the powers that be in Rome want to keep it that way – the only way to see this palace is through a Walks of Italy tour. But I highly recommend it!

The tour is more than the Palace, you also get a tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum, and as an added bonus you get to SKIP all the lines.

Visit the Italy's Acropolis

Paestum

Move your butt over Athens! You’re not the only country on the Mediterranean with an Acropolis.

While the Acropolis is admittedly it is not as glorious as the one in Athens it is still worth your time! This antiquated site was the center of the life of the Selinunte world. This is a great off the beaten path site that not too many people traveling Italy visit!

Stare in Awe at the Sistine Chapel

I know this sounds cliche, but it is true; my jaw literally dropped the first time I visited the Sistine Chapel! This gorgeous ceiling showcases Italy’s art at its finest. It is massive, colorful, and beautiful. 

Being one the most famous pieces of art in the world I bet you can guess that the crowds are out of control. 

If you want to bathe in the beauty of the Sistine Chapel with only a few people, then I recommend taking this Walks of Italy Tour which gets you into the Vatican before the majority of other travelers.

Escape the Costal Crowds at Tellaro

Tellaro is my new favorite city to visit on the coast. There are a couple of significant reasons why I love Tellaro, but first and foremost is that the city isn’t touristy, and has a refreshing authentic feel to it.

Now, you should be aware that this old village doesn’t see many tourists, however, there are some good seafood restaurants, as well, as a couple of epic Airbnbs.

If you constantly need to be on the go, then the slow life of Tellaro will bother you. This coastal city is all about a slow pace of life and relaxing. There is no nightlife, parties, or really anything to do once the sunsets.

However, you if you road tripping up the coast then Tellaro is a great day trip to add to your itinerary.

Palio in Siena

The Palio in Siena is one of the biggest horse races in Italy and happens in the Medieval square of Siena every August. One cool fact about Siena is that the city is divided into different quarters and sections. (You can see which section you are in by the flags hanging over the buildings)

Each section is very competitive with other areas of the city. Their competition between quarters comes to a head during the Palio in Siena, and each part of the city enters a horse in the race. It is important to note while the horses have riders, they are not the hero. The hero is the horse. The horse wins the race, not the rider. A horse who has lost his rider can still win! 

So what does the horse win? Well, bragging rights and a “Drappellone” – large drape,

Take a Fiat 500 Tour in Rome

This is a fun 3-hour tour of Rome as you get behind the wheel of a vintage Fiat 500 and zoom down the historic streets of the city.

This enjoyable tour takes you past the major sites of the city like the Colosseum and is a memorable adventure in Rome.

Or be like on Conan in the video above and do a road trip in a Fiat 500. 

Hike the Iron Way

If you are skittish of heights you might want to stay away from Italy’s “Iron Way”, aka the Via Ferrata. This treacherous hike is not for the faint of heart or for novice hikers as this trek puts you face to face with sheer cliff edges and narrow paths. 

This day-long trek is an incredible experience however, make sure you have the abilities to complete this risky undertaking.

Scuba Dive Blood Cave

Far away from the heavily touristed dive spots of the Amalfi Coast are some underwater caves that rival any diving spot across Europe. 

There are numerous caves around the Cilento coast although the most unique dive spot is perhaps Gratta Del Sanque, or better known as “blood cave”. As you scuba dive through the cave you will see rare red algae that bear a striking remembrance to dripping blood.  One of the most unique things to do in Italy

Where to Stay on Your
Italy Trip

If you are looking for where to stay in Italy on a budget, then hostels are king. But just because hostels are the cheapest option doesn’t mean you are sacrificing luxury.   

I strive to find the middle ground between being frugal while still maintaining a certain level of comfort. What this means is that I’m willing to shell out a few extra bucks a night to stay in a much better hostel.  

Throughout my travels around Italy, I have stayed in hostels, Airbnbs, and hotels.  But there are also farm and home stays and well are rural B&B’s to choose from.

But let’s take a look at the few pro and cons of each one, and you can make that decision for yourself.

Hostels in Italy

Italy has some of my favorite hostels in the world, I’m looking at you Yellow Hostel. Although, the quality of hostels varies a lot around the country so I would rely on Hostelworld Ratings and reviews before booking a hostel.

The cost of hostels in Italy also ranges a lot, but expect to pay somewhere around $20 -$30 for a mixed dorm room.

Are hostels safe in Italy

Yes, hostels are incredibly safe in Italy. The greatest things you will have to worry about is theft, which is most likely to happen when you leave your valuables lying on your bed and go out sightseeing.

Any good hostel will have lockers to help prevent this from happening!

Hotels in Italy

I’ve stayed in a lot more hostels and Airbnbs then hotels in Italy.

But the hotels I have stayed in have all been top notch. The bedrooms are nice, clean,, and the reception has always been helpful!

Expect to pay at least $80 – $120 a night in tourist hotspots.

In more off the beaten path cities, I have seen hotels for as little as $60.

Airbnbs Italy

There are some great Airbnbs in Italy. Airbnb’s are anywhere and everywhere, and you can find them in little towns and villages that might not have good hostel or hotel options. 

Another good thing about Airbnb’s is that lets you escape the touristy areas and instead stay in local neighborhoods.

The cons are that they are not cheap and can take more work to get to; while most cab drivers know the routes to the popular hostels and hotels they might struggle to find a tiny apartment located down a small alleyway.

Average Price of Airbnb's in Italy

I always cringe a little bit telling people the average price of Airbnb’s because the average is usually much higher than what you will actually pay.  So take these numbers with a grain of salt

However, it is a good starting point, just know you can get a fantastic Airbnb for cheaper than the average price.

You can also sign up to Airbnb using this promo code and save $40 off  your first stay

Rome – $89

Florence – $102

Venice – $94

Milian – $95

Bologna – $72

Assisi –  $82

Naples – $100

Sorrento – $280

Cinque Terre – $120

Verona – $92

Turin – $64

Calabria – $62

Best ways to Get
Around Italy

getting around italy

There are a lot of options for getting around Italy. Let’s gain some insights on them and then you can choose the best way for you. If you want my opinion (in which case I am flattered) I would say take trains 100% of the time.  Although, you can’t go wrong road tripping through Italy.

Trains

I’m obsessed with taking trains in Italy. The country has an awesome train network. It is easy to use, fast and is extremely reliable – most of the time. 

Ticket prices are pretty cheap if you book a couple days in advance.  If you just show up at the train station and then you’re playing roulette, you might get a cheap fare, but from my experience, it is usually more expensive as fares tend to skyrocket a few hours before departure. 

The trains in Italy are nice and comfortable and lets you take is some of the landscape as it whizzes past the window. Rome2Rio is my go-to website to book plane tickets in Italy. 

Or if you are doing a whole Europe tour you might want to invest in a Eurail Select Pass or use it to get an Italy Train Pass. (Which is my favorite way to backpack Europe)

Buses

Full disclosure I’ve not taken to many buses in Italy other than using buses getting around inside cities. 

City buses are super easy and cheap to use. In some cities like Siena and Florence, there is no metro so buses are the only way to get around. 

If you looking to travel across the country by bus then Flixbus is a great option, but honestly, I don’t have much experience traveling Italy with buses.

Budget Airlines

If your short on time and don’t have hours to drive, bus, or train the country then budget airlines are the way to go.

The biggest budget airline is Ryanair and they have a few ports in Italy.

If this option sounds more appealing I wrote a whole guide to budget airlines in Europe.  Make sure to read and follow the rules when using Ryanair or you will get slapped with hidden fees.

Road Trip

If you have an international drivers license then Italy is a wonderful country to road trip across. The highways are nice, and even driving in cities like Rome isn’t too stressful. 

Make sure you have a travel credit card that covers your rental car insurance which will save you lots of money. Other than trains I like to travel around Italy by car is my favorite way to explore the country.

Is Italy
Safe?

backpack through italy

So Italy sounds great! But is Italy safe for travelers? In a word. Yes.

Italy is a safe country to travel in Europe. But every single country in the world has rough areas, and there are places to avoid in Italy. The safest cities in Italy to visit are Florence, Coastal Cities, Venice, Rome, and Verona and Milan.

Actually, pretty much every town in Italy is safe to visit. Naples arguably has the worst reputation among travelers when it comes to safety. And while I don’t love Naples, I’ve never felt in danger on my visits. The biggest worry you will have in Italy is theft.  

In this respect, it is no more dangerous to backpack through Italy than any other country in the Western World.

Let’s look at some basic safety tips for Italy

1: Lock Up Your Valuables – You don’t want to carry all your valuables and passport around with you on a big day of exploring. And locking up your belongings is always a good idea. That’s why I always book accommodation that has a locker or safe so I can protect my valuables.

2: Don’t Be Flashy – Don’t flaunt your wealth, if you wander around wearing the latest Prada outfit, have an expensive watch, or fancy jewelry you are just making yourself a target for getting pickpocketed or robbed.

3: Women Wear Your Purse Across Your Body – Instead of having your purse on one shoulder wear it across your body. This makes it harder for someone to grab and run.

4: Men Carry Your Wallet in Your Front Pocket – Pickpockets are good, extremely good. However, if your wallet is in your front pocket it is a lot harder to steal.   I’ve carried my wallet in the front of my pants for so long on my travels that now I couldn’t even imagine having it in my back pocket and I’ve never had any issues with my wallet being stolen. ( knock on wood)

5: Beware of Scams – Most likely the biggest danger in Italy is falling for a scam. Scammers are very savvy and concoct brilliant schemes to get your email or some money. Don’t give them either and if something seems to good to be true….it is!

6 : Be Aware – This is the biggest safety tip for Italy. Know your surroundings and trust your gut. It always knows best so make sure to listen to it.

7: Don’t Arrive at Night – I always time my arrivals so I don’t arrive in a new city or country in the middle of the night. I made this a habit after one time when I arrived in Athens at 3 in the morning. If you ever been to Athens then you know this is a nightmare. Walking around aimlessly with all your personal belongings while trying to find your hotel can draw a lot of unwanted attention.

Hiking in
Italy

Most people travel to Italy for the history, food, and art. The truth is that Italy has some gorgeous hikes, with dramatic scenery and views. Yet, most travelers aren’t even aware that they exist. 

If you are an outdoor addict, then this is a section for you. Let’s take a look at some of the best hikes in Italy.

The Dolomites

hiking in the dolomites

The Dolomites are best known for their rugged mountainous landscape and grand viewpoints.

Personally, I think this is the most beautiful hiking in Italy.

Best Hikes in the Dolomites

The Dolomites also has some of the best easy hikes in Italy that reward you with incredible scenery, and these mountains are best hiked in the summer months.

Adolf Munkel Trail

This a 9km hike for both people at beginner to moderate level. The hike host some great views, picturesque mountain huts, and little ponds.

Seceda to Pieralongia

One of the most leisurely hikes in the Dolomites. 4km and has several huts and restaurants to eat and to rest in.

Tre Cime di Lavaredo

A popular hike in the Dolomites. This is a little harder hike than the others, yet there are places to eat and rest along the way. This is a bigger hike that traverses 9.5 km.

Hiking Gran Paradiso

GRAN-PARADISO​

Another mountain range worth hiking in Italy is Gran Paradiso. This national park has high mountains, grassy meadows, and low valleys.

Best Hikes in Gran Paradiso

This national park has high mountains, grassy meadows, and low valleys.

Traverse Chabod Hut to Refuge Vittorio Emanuele II

This trail travels between the two major mountains of Gran Paradiso. It has some great views of Gran Paradiso and can either be a day hike, or if you would rather go slow and take your time, it can be turned into a multi-day trek.

Dres Lake

This scenic lake takes a lot of work to get to (over 2 hours) and lies at over 2,000 meters high. The trail to this lake starts in Orco Valley – Villa Poma.

Sylvenoire to Gontier

This dirt path follows a mule trail through the mountains. It is a nice hike that takes you from Sylvenoire to Plan Pressey. Taking some snacks is recommended.

Hiking Cinque Terre

CINQUE-TERRE-2

We’ve already talked about hiking through Cinque Terre a little. And it is home to some of the most beautiful and easy hikes in the whole country. Here are the most popular hikes in Cinque Terre.

Hiking in Cinque Terre

Many of these hikes are traveling between the 5 cities in the area. And  since the hikes are relatively short you can combine them a couple of them into a single day or take your time and turn this into an entire trip. 

Riomaggiore - Manarola (Lovers Lane)

This is an easy 30-minute hike that only spans 1.5 km.

Manarola - Corniglia

3 km of easy hiking that only takes around a 1 hour.

Corniglia - Vernazza

One of the more strenuous hikes in Cinque Terre, yet, still at the easy level. This trail spans 4 km and takes less than 2 hours.

Vernazza - Monterosso

Probably the hardest hike but still in the moderate skill level. The hike is 3.5 km long and can be done in under 2 hours.

Hiking the Amalfi Coast

Another place we already touched on is Amalfi. Most of the hikes are not on the coast, rather they lie in the surrounding landscape.

Hiking in Amalfi

These are some of the best hikes around the Amalfi Coast.

Valle delle Ferriere

Also called the valley of the ironworkers. This name is a throwback to the trail that the iron wheeled carriages that merchants used to transport goods during medieval times. The path is known for its towering waterfalls and lush fauna.

Punta Campanella

This two-hour hike has grand views of the coast and the towns of Praiano and Positano. This hike takes you through where the Gulf of Sorrento meets the Amalfi Coast.

Monte Tre Calli

This is a little harder trek on the coast. And for the best experience start right before sunrise. While the Monte Tre Calli is only around 3km round trip, it does take over 2 hours to complete.

Hiking the Apennine Mountains

hiking in apennine mountians

The last place we are going to talk about when it comes to hiking in Italy is the Apennine Mountains. There are another incredible place to see and enjoy some of the best landscape the country has to offer.

Hiking in Apennine Mountain

The last place we are going to talk about when it comes to hiking in Italy is the Apennine Mountains. There are another incredible place to see and enjoy some of the best landscape the country has to offer.

Madonna del Riposo

This hike is around 3km and has a decent and accent of 300 meters (1,100 ft). It takes around 4 hours to complete this hike.

Anwesen von Weinanbauern - Traumblick auf Herbstpracht Loop

This loop takes around 4 hours and travels a distance of around 4 km. This is an intermediate level hike that an accent and decent of over 300 meters (1200 ft).

Blick in den Krater - Blick nach Capri Loop from Ercolano

This hour-long hike takes has slight inclines and declines making it one of the most accessible hikes in the mountains and only covers a couple miles.

Best Tour
Companies in Italy

Being so popular it should come as no surprise that Italy is littered with tour companies trying to sell you day trips, “world-class” tours, or early access to sites. 

But which tour companies can you trust? Which ones provide the best experience? 

Here are a few of my favorite tour companies in Italy.

Walks of Italy

Hands down my favorite tour company in Italy. Walks of Italy is the best. 

In fact, every time I am in Italy I do a tour with them. 

This company knows how to treat its customers, they combine history and knowledge with a fun laid back atmosphere. They even have exclusive access to some sights.

My personal Favorite tours are ……

Italy Travel Tours

This is a great company that has tours in Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, Naples, Turin, Pisa, Siena and more. They are a great company with even better prices. Definitely give them a look!

Vatican Museum – Vatican Museum Tours – One of the best ways to see the Vatican is on a tour. Vatican Museum has a lot of tour options that cover everything from skipping the line to seeing the Vatican under the stars.

Planning A
Trip To Italy

italy travel guide

So now you are ready to plan a trip to Italy. But where to start?

Here of course, here.

Things you Need Before Backpacking Italy

Let’s get into the nitty gritty  go over everything you get when planning a trip to Italy. 

Passport

No explanation needed. If you are from outside the EU you need a passport to enter Italy.

Travel Insurance

You might think that since you are traveling in Europe you don’t need insurance. Wrong! 

I have been to the hospital without it while traveling in Europe a couple times. 

On my first visit to the hospital my one hour visit cost around 300 Euros

The second cost even more. And I was only severely dehydrated. 

The cost of a hospital visit greatly outweighs the price of ponying up and getting insurance.   

But it is YOUR choice. 

I Always Use WorldNomads Get A Free Quote Below!

 

 

Packing List for Italy

Of course, this will change depending on the time of year you are visiting Italy.

Osprey-Farpoint

Osprey Farpoint – It’s hard to backpack Italy without a backpack! Personally, the Osprey Farpoint is my weapon of choice.

It comes with an unzipable day pack, lockable zippers, and a nice internal frame!

You can check it out on Amazon or REI

  • 2- Pair of Jeans
  • 6– Shirts
  • 5 – Pairs of Underwear
  • 2 – Sets of Swim Trunks
  • 1 – Flip Flops
  • 4- Pairs of Socks
  • 1- Shoes
  • 1- Microfiber Towel
  • 1- Money Belt
  • 1 Light Jacket/Hoodie
  • All Necessary Toiletries
  • Camera and/or Go Pro
  • Go Pro Hero 7

Visa's For Italy

Italy is in the Schengen Zone. This is a collection of 26 countries, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland, that have borderless travel between them.

One visa covers all these countries, and you can travel between them freely. The visa operates on a 90 day in, and 90 days out policy. From the first day you enter the Schengen Zone, the 6 month clock starts ticking. One Benefit even if you leave the EU your days in clock stops, while the 6 months keeps going.  

My guess is most of you reading this post won’t need to apply for a Schengen Visa, instead, you get it at customs in the form of a stamp when you arrive.

Countries that don’t need to apply for a Schengen Visa Before Arrival

  • Albania*
  • Andorra
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina*
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominica
  • El Salvador
  • Georgia
  • Grenada
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Hong Kong
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Kiribati
  • Macao 
  • Malaysia
  • Marshall Islands
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Micronesia
  • Moldova
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro*
  • Nauru
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • North Macedonia*
  • Palau
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Peru
  • Saint Kitts / Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent
  • Samoa
  • Serbia*
  • Seychelles
  • Singapore
  • Solomon Islands
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Timor Leste
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tuvalu
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United States of America
  • Uruguay
  • Vanuatu
  • Venezuela

Countries that DO need to apply for a Schengen Visa

  • Afghanistan
  • Algeria
  • Angola
  • Armenia
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain
  • Bangladesh
  • Belarus
  • Belize
  • Benin
  • Bhutan
  • Bolivia
  • Botswana
  • Burkina Faso
  • Burma/Myanmar
  • Burundi
  • Cambodia
  • Cameroon
  • Cape Verde
  • Central African Republic
  • Chad
  • China
  • Comoros
  • Congo
  • Cote D’ivoire
  • Cuba
  • Dem. Rep. Of Congo
  • Djibouti
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Eritrea
  • Ethiopia
  • Fiji
  • Gabon
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Guinea
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Jamaica
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kosova
  • Kuwait
  • Kyrgyzstan
  • Laos
  • Lebanon
  • Lesotho
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Maldives
  • Mali
  • Mauritania
  • Mongolia
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • Niger
  • Nigeria
  • North Korea
  • Northern Mariana’s
  • Oman
  • Pakistan
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Philippines
  • Qatar 
  • Russia
  • Rwanda
  • Sao Tome And Principe
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Suriname
  • Swaziland
  • Syria
  • Tajikistan
  • Tanzania
  • Thailand
  • Timor-Leste
  • Togo
  • Tonga
  • Tunisia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • Uganda
  • Uzbekistan
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Italy is unique because it has massive tourist hotspots, while on the other hand there are many parts of the country rarely every sees tourism.

Central/Northern Italy

The Central/Northern part of Italy cities like Rome, Florence, Siena, Milan, and Venice is the most popular area to visit in Italy.  Most of these hotspots I.E Rome Florence, Siena, Cinque Terra, and Amalfi Coast lie on the western side of the country. 

Eastern Italy

While the Eastern part of Italy isn’t even touched by the wave of western tourism. This is great for those looking for to get off the beaten path. And everyone else’s loss is your gain! 

But just because these regions along the Adriatic Coast like Bari, Foggia, Pescara, and San Marino aren’t popular doesn’t mean that they don’t have a lot of offer.

Southern Italy

Southern Italy is more of the same. The number of travelers is reduced significantly after the Amalfi coast region. 

Places like Sicily, Basilicata, and Calabria  do get their share of tourist, but it is nowhere near the number of travelers of Central and Northern Italy

Backpacking Italy alone? Don’t worry! Like I mentioned above it was my first solo trip. It is an easy country to travel and there are always other backpackers roaming about (even in the off season).

How to Plan a trip to Italy on Your Own

Here are a few tips that I wish someone would have told me before I embarked on my backpacking Italy solo trip.

1: Start In a Big City – More people speak English, and you can find direct trains to your next location. (This also gives you time to figure out the best ways to get around the country) 

2: Take Your Time –  Give Yourself a couple days to get your bearings. If you star running all over the country right off the bat then you are more likely to make some mistakes.  Stick to one city for a least a couple days to get the feel of the country.

3: Stay in Hostels  It is a great way to meet like minded travelers,and travel buddies. I’ve stayed in hundreds of hostels all around the world and they have fiven me some of the greatest memories of my life and some of my closest friends. 

4: Tell Your Bank Your Traveling –  This is to avoid your card getting blocked when they see it trying to be used overseas, which is what happened to me on my first trip to Italy.

Oh, mama mia! It’s time for learning some sweet Italian travel phrases. Learning some basic local phrases is a key that will open unexpected doors, shows a level of respect, and is a lot of fun. 

Here are 18 phrases in Italian that will make your life easier!

Best Italian Phrases For Travelers

Grazie Mille – Thanks so much

Buongiorno! (bwohn-johr-noh) – Hello! and Good morning!

Arrivederci! (ahr-ree-veh-dehr-chee) – Goodbye!

Ciao! (chou) – Hello! and Good-bye! (Informal)

Mi chiamo…(mee kyah-moh) (My name is. . .)

Bene – Well / Good

Come sta? – How are you?:

Mi Scusi – Excuse me

Bagno – Bathroom

 

Stazione ferroviaria – Train Station

Treno – Train

Autobus – Bus

Biglietto – Ticket

Conto – Check

Spiaggia – Beach

Ristorante – Restaurant

Vino – Wine

Birra – Beer

Top 4 Medieval
Cities to Visit in Italy

Medieval Cities In Italy

Really this list should include Siena, Bologna, and Assisi, but since we have already discussed these cities at length we are going to exclude them from this grouping and focus on new places.

If you are looking to avoid the big cities and blaze your own trail then these are 5 medieval cities to add to your itinerary.

Bova

The natural beauty, and lush landscapes have led to some people calling Bova the jewel of Italy.  This medieval village sits at 3,000 feet in the mountains and has sweeping views of the surrounding scenery and on a clear day, you can see as far as the Ionian Sea or Mt Etna. 

This might explain why this area has been occupied by people since neolithic time.

Altomonte

Altomonte lies in the Southern Region of Cosenza. It is an impressive village that overlooks the Esaro River valley. This village has become popular among couples as a romantic getaway, and has even been dubbed the “wedding city”.

SIghtseers love the Dominican Monastery and the gorgeous renaissance library within.  

Badolato

Civita di Bagnoregio is one of the most convenient medieval cities to explore since it is less than two hours from Rome.  This village sits on a cliff top and the only way to visit is via a footbridge. 

This is a fairy tale village with big archways, and stony streets.

Civita di Bagnoregio

Badolato has stood the test of time for over a thousand years. This village is tiny and has only around 200 residents for most of the year. Badolato shows local village life at its finest and is a maze of fun alleyways to explore.

 In recent years, the village has become popular with expats, and foreigners who have moved to Italy.

Italy
Islands

With a couple of exceptions, most of Italy’s Islands are overlooked for the Greek or Spanish Islands. I believe this is a big mistake as Italy has some incredible islands to visit.

Many of which are devoid of western tourists, large crowds, and traveler traps.

Sardinia

This is the 2nd largest island in the entire Mediterranean and holds all the appeal that you would expect. Sardinia is known for its food, culture, and charm.

Procida

We mentioned is island earlier when talking about the Amalfi coast. But this is the smallest of the islands located right of the coast of Naples. The buildings are colorful and a perfect spot for a chill vacation along the seaside.  

Ischia

This island is famous for its stunning beauty, terrain, and hot springs. This is a volcanic island also off the coast of Naples. Travelers can find a lot of restaurants, bars, and shopping on Ischia (which is also the main city of the Island).

Elbia

This island of the coast of Tuscany has its roots in history. This was the island that Napoleon was exiled.  And since Elbia has over 150 beaches, coves, plus the crystal clear waters I am sure his life in exile was all bad. 

You can exile me here any day of the week!

Sicily

Of course, Sicily is Italy’s most famous Island.

Known for its rustic charm, and architecture, this island is the most popular place to visit in Southern Italy.

Top 5 Festivals
Across Italy

Carnival Festival Italy

Italy has some great festivals to partake in depending on when and where you are traveling across the country. Let’s take a closer look at 5 of the most popular festivals across Italy.

Carnival

Carnival is a blast. This celebration runs more late January to early February in Venice. The entire city is transformed into a masked ball.  

This celebration has its roots in the Catholic tradition of Lent. Basically, it is a celebration to overindulge in pleasures before giving them up 40 days before Easter. 

The word Carnival comes from the Italian word Carnevale, which mean “meat” which is one of the most common sacrifices for Lent. Nowadays there are shows, balls, parades, and more.

Battle of Oranges

Imagine being in a warzone, but instead of guns and bullets are replaced with oranges and vitamin C then you have a good idea of what the Battle of the Oranges is like. This funny Italian festival has its roots in the 12th century. As Mrs. Doubtfire would say “It is a drive by fruiting.”.

Gelato Festival

Did the word Gelato grab your attention!

Well, this is a massive ice cream festival that will entertain and delight your taste buds. This is actually a traveling festival that goes across Italy, Europe, the USA, and Japan. 

So if it is coming to a city near you then you might not have to wait until your trip to Italy to experience it.

Il Palio di Siena

We talked about this bad boy, above already! In case you missed it, then check it out here. 

L'Ardia di San Costantino

One of the biggest festivals on the island of Sardinia. This is another massive horse race that takes place during the summer months.

This one dates back to celebrating the victory of Constantine at the Mulvian Bridge over 1,800 years ago.

What to Read and Watch
Before Backpacking Italy

I love fueling the hype for a trip with movies and books that relate to where I am about to go! For Italy these are some of the best books and movies to watch before leaving home or on the plane.

The Talented Mr. Ripley

This book takes place in the fictional town of Mongibello, however, it was inspired by the Amalfi coast. It is a dark thriller, that is extremely well done. The movie version has an impressive cast that stars Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cate, Blanchett, and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The Leopard

This novel is highly considered to be one of the most important literary works of Italy. It follows the story of a nobleman from Sicily wading his way through political turmoil and civil war.

Eat Pray Love

Of course, Eat Pray Love makes the list. This popular book highlights some of the great neighborhoods in Rome and Naples. The movie version which star Julia Roberts was a world wide hit. 

The Godfather

Read or watch this classic, both are insane work of art. While most of the story takes place in America there are important events that place out in Southern Italy.

Spectre or Quantum of Solace

I’m a Bond fan so I hop on any chance to watch a 007 Movie and see places I’ve visited I take it. Numerous Bond movies have sections of Italy. However, the most recent ones are Spectre or Quantum of Solace with feature Rome and Siena.

The Roman Empire

This is a Netflix series is a historical reenactment that covers some of the most important events in the rise and fall of the Roman empire. It is extremely well down and will give you a new appreciation of many of the sites you are about to see.

Where to go
after Italy

 After Italy your options on the Mediterranean are endless. Backpacking Greece, Spain, Portugal are all good options. Another choice would be to head north to Skopje, Macedonia and start exploring Eastern Europe

Fun
Italy Facts

Whew! I think I broke my thumbs on this epic backpacking Italy guide. But I have a little more in me so let’s end on a fun note and look at some fun Italy facts. If you are interested in more you can check out my Italy facts post.  

Italy is in the top five most visited countries in the entire world.

Italian is the closest romantic language to Latin.

Placing a hat on the bed in Italy is bad luck.

The Phrase “In bocca al lupo” which is wishing someone good luck translates to into the wolf’s mouth.

Italy has all 3 of Europe’s active volcanoes.

Naples in the home of Pizza! 

Pasta has been a part of Italy since the 4th century B.C. Yep, they have been making Pasta for almost 2,500 years.

Italy has more earthquakes than all the other countries in Europe.

Italy has the 5th and 1st smallest countries in the world.

Italy has the most UNESCO sites in the world. There are over 50 across the country.

Italy is one of the first six countries that founded the European Union.

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean.

Surprise, Surprise, Italy exports the most wine in the world.

The Italian Island of Poveglia is so haunted that it is forbidden for the public to visit.

And we are done!  I hope you learned everything you ever wanted to know about Italy – and then some. If you liked this post or have any backpacking Italy suggestions leave me a comment below. 

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