Italy is a country that holds dear to my heart, not only have I travelled it extensively but my big brother also got married here in August 2016. Italy really is the most beautiful country and one of the most authentic places that you’ll see- yes some places can be really touristic but it is also so easy to find yourself off the beaten track a little. A really romantic, ancient country with deep roots in culture and history, Italy is not one to miss- it’s Mediterranean location means you’ll almost certainly catch a sunkissed tan and eat some out of this world cuisine. Come on people, it’s the home of pizza- what’s not to love?
Places to See
- The Amalfi Coast (Sorrento, Minori, Amalfi are my favourites)
- Lake Como
- The Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain
- Pompeii,Herculaneum and Mt Vesuvius
- Piazzale Michelangelo
- Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica
- The Sistine Chapel
- Venice’s Grand Canal
Local Currency- Euro
Italy makes a fabulous holiday destination, but it is possibly the most expensive country I came across on my travels. It was almost impossible to find a decent hostel in the summer months under £15-£20 a night…and that’s for a dormitory bed! Joe and I took a two man tent with us on our trip and stayed in local campsites whilst in Italy, but let me tell you; they were still not cheap (and also not comfortable in 40 degree summer heat). Food can also be really expensive; especially if you want to try authentic Italian restaurants.
We travelled Italy for close to 3 weeks and it was way too much and we spent far too much money. If you have an unlimited budget then excellent-Italy is the place for you. If not, then head to Italy for 1-2 weeks.
Big Spender-£60-£70 p/p a day. This would include staying in luxury hostels, eating in restaurants at least 2 meals day, visiting all top attractions and experiencing the nightlife.
Sensible Thinker-£50-£55 p/p a day. This would mean staying at okay hostels, eating out for at least one meal a day, visiting some top attractions and sometimes experiencing the nightlife.
Shoestring-£35 p/p a day. Staying in mainly campsites, cooking your own food and getting local transport.
How to get around
The best way to get around Italy is by train, but like all things Italian- it can be quite pricey. Your interrail ticket will become practically void here, you HAVE to buy a reservation for every single train you get in Italy, if you don’t you will be charged with a pretty hefty fine and trust me when I saw that they are really vigilant on this. Most of the time it’s cheaper to buy a stand alone ticket than a reservation on top of your interrailing one, so if Italy is the only destination you have in mind, don’t bother interrailing.
There are various levels of luxury with Italian trains, which obviously come with various levels of cost. The super high speed trains with air conditioning can be really expensive, having said that there are local train available with no air con, hard seats, can get really (and I mean really) cramped and take double time to get there- but these are the more affordable options.
Larger cities like Rome and Naples also have an under/over ground train system which is surprisingly affordable.
- If you go to the Colosseum make sure you book your ticket online!
The Colosseum is everything people say it is and more, it really is woth a visit if you’re in Rome. However, the queue is always HUGE, I’m talking 3-4 hours long huge. Now when we arrived we were begrudgingly about to join the back of the line when a sign caught out eye. IF YOU BOOK YOUR TICKET ONLINE YOU GET TO SKIP THE QUEUE! Well, hallelujah. so that’s exactly what we did, book online and you’ll be in within minutes, how more people don’t know this I have no idea? You can even wait to do this whilst there and scan the QR code on the entrance sign as we did.
- The best pizza is in back alley takeaways
When I was in Italy, I expected to find great Pizza everywhere, oh how I was wrong. In fact I had some of the worst pizza I’ve ever had in my life whilst here. I tried top-notch fancy restaurants, middle class places and honestly they weren’t the taste sensation I was expecting. Until…one day we were so skint (Italy is really expensive did I mention that?) we had no more than €10 for dinner for both of us, so we found ourselves in the greasiest, dingiest takeaway I’ve seen. The place was filled with locals and honestly, it was the nicest pizza I have ever tasted. Seriously, these are the places you need to visit, I sometimes still dream about that pizza.
- Don’t stay in Naples city centre. Naples really is a lovely, bustling city with plenty to keep you occupied; but it’s also dirty, filled with crime and can be really expensive. My advice would be not to stay there, but stay somewhere between Naples and Sorrento- look into Fabric Hostel in Porici. There are great, cheap transport links which makes it far easier to not only get into Naples, but visit Pompeii and some southern beaches too.
Things to look out for
- Be careful of the crazy driving. I’m currently in Asia, which is renowned for bad driving, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything as bad as the way the Italians do it. Every car you see will have some form if massive dent in it and make sure you look twice before crossing the road. Cities, surprisingly aren’t that bad- the worst places are tiny, winding, country roads in Amalfi where people drive 40mph, don’t brake when turning and will drive straight through a crowd of people and expect you to move out of the way.
- Watch your money. I know I probably sound like a broken record, but Italy is very pricey. Of course it is possible to travel fairly cheap, but it’s not easy. This is a country of great sacrifice and you won’t be able to afford to do everything you want to do here- not if you’re planning on travelling long term anyway. The great thing is, a lot of attractions are free- you can go to the Trevi Fountain, explore the Amalfi Coast and spend hours looking at the view from Piazzale Michelangelo for absolutely nothing-just make sure you don’t splurge too much on fancy dining and hotels.
- Be careful of tourist traps. There are a LOT of cafe’s, bars and restaurants which look absolutely stunning and you will want to spend some time in them. My advice- don’t! Eateries in the main squares of Italian cities may look nice but they are SUPER expensive and the food is bland, and low quality- not what you’ll be expecting of Italian cuisine. Instead, stroll a few streets back from the city centres, this is where you find the good food- look for where the locals eat, that’s always a good sign.
Best Time to Visit
If you want to get some Sun and experience fantastic festivities and celebrations then Summer is the best time to visit Italy. Having said that the worst possible time to visit is the peak of high Summer-the end of June-July mainly as it is FAR too hot. This is when I came the first time and I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it was to camp in 40 degree heat and walk around cities all day with no solace from the burning Sun.A lot of places are also shut during this time- it’s even too hot for Italians if you can believe it.
Think late May-early June, or Late August-early September, the sun is shining and the weather is great, but it’s a lot more bearable.
Best Vegan eateries
Well my fellow vegans- we have a problem in Italy. Italy is very meat friendly-most don’t even understand what a vegetarian is so you will come across some issues here. Most touristic restaurants will offer some vegetarian options but these will almost always include cheese, will be very pricey and most of the time will be blander than bland. Of course you can ask for things without cheese- most city folk do speak good English, but make sure you know key words in Italian before you go. Having said that, I once asked for a pizza with no cheese and apparently ‘they felt so bad I couldn’t eat cheese that they put some tuna on for me to enjoy instead’ absolute face palm.
My advice would be to search happycow, but don’t be too disheartened when you discover the eatery you’ve spent the past hour trying to find is shut down- vegetarian places just don’t seem to do well here. Cook as much yourself as you possibly can and be forceful with waiters when you tell them your dietary requirements.
Since I visited Italy there is a lot of talk in the News on Turin now being a vegetarian city-so now you all know where needs to be the top of your list!
|Good Afternoon||Buona Sera|
|Good Night||Buone Notte|
|Sorry||Mi scusi/ scusa|
|My Name is||Mi Chiamo|
|Cheers!||Chin Chin/ Salute|
|Have a good meal||Buon Appetito|
|Do you speak English?||Parla inglese?|
|How much is this?||Quanta costa?|
|I love you||Ti amo|
As much as I love Italy- the country really is like any other; it’s history, beauty and architecture is like no other, I just can’t score it very highly in the travelling stakes. Italy is really expensive, too hot in peak summer and it is really difficult to eat as a vegan here. My advice would be to come here on holiday- or just for a short period of time whilst backpacking