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Italy

A guide to its main attractions
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Selected by piero scaruffi | Back to the travel page | Photos | Email
This page provides a list of the main things to see in Italy. "++" identifies the top attractions.

The list is divided according to the 20 official regions of Italy.


Val D'Aosta
Piemonte
Lombardia
Veneto
Trentino
Friuli
Emilia
Liguria
Toscana
Umbria
Marche
Lazio
Abbruzzo
Basilicata
Puglia
Campania
Calabria
Sardegna
Sicilia

(click to enlarge)

Calendar of main events

  • Carnival: Parade, Viareggio (near Pisa)
  • Carnival: Orange battle, Ivrea (near Torino)
  • Carnival: Gondola parade, Venezia
  • Easter Day: Papal blessing "Urbi et Orbi" in St Peter Sq, Roma
  • May: Maggio Musicale, classical musical festival, Firenze
  • May (second sunday): Sagra del Pesce, Camogli
  • June-July: Music and Theatre Festival, Spoleto
  • June-September (alternate years): Biennale art exhibition, Venezia
  • July-August: Opera Festival, Verona
  • August-September Film Festival, Venezia
  • August 16: Palio delle Contrade, Siena
  • September (first sunday): Regatta (parade of gondolas), Venezia
  • September 19: Miracle of San Gennaro (liquefaction of blood), Napoli
  • December: Market of nativities, Spaccanapoli, Napoli
  • Christmas Day: Papal blessing "Urbi et Orbi" in St Peter Sq, Roma
    Warnings

  • (2018) If you rent a car: the vast majority of important signs/notices are only in Italian; you will probably get at least one fine for speeding or entering a restricted-traffic area because it's so difficult to read signs; each gas station uses a different system to pay, which requires re-learning the system at every stop; avoid any gas station that doesn't have human beings because an incredible number of them will take your money and not deliver any fuel; most highway tollboots are automated, i.e. with no humans; roads can be narrow and poorly maintained and your navigator software will send you precisely on those roads; tolls are often automated and therefore not easy for foreigners; and that's not counting the stress of parking in cities that have absolutely no parking space. If you do rent a car, at least rent a very small one. Italy's roads were not designed for big cars.
  • Tickets (2017)
    Italy has a way of complicating the simplest things. Bus tickets: you don't buy them on buses, you buy them at places that are totally unrelated to buses (such as "Tabaccaio" or "Edicola", that sell respectively cigarettes and newspapers) and sometimes at bars. Each city has a different system to buy and use tickets, so you have to re-learn the system in every city. In fact, it is relatively easy to find out which bus to take and where to take it, but the real challenge is to find out where to buy the bus ticket. Late evening or on a sunday it might literally be impossible. Train tickets: you do buy them at train stations but you must "validate" them at a special red machine which is hidden somewhere in the train station (failure to do so may result in a steep fine). In general, you cannot just take a train: you need to reserve a seat beforehand. The ticket is sold only if there is a seat available, not like in the old days when you could just board the train. It's called "progress". This is now the main reason to rent a car: travel by train is too complicated.
  • Pickpockets and scammers are ubiquitous, especially in train station next to the machines that sell tickets.
  • You will see very few museums while in Italy, even if Italy has thousands of them and they are now open till late. Reason: the price. Remember that most museums are closed on mondays.
  • The lunch break is a killer in Italy: you never know when monuments are open. Many churches and monuments open late, close early, and also close at some point for lunch, sometimes for 3-4 hours.
  • (2008) Assume that credit cards will be accepted only at major hotels, fancy restaurants and a few stores downtown. Even most train stations don't take them. (Get used to the store owner telling you that your credit card "does not work", meaning that his machine for credit cards does not work).
  • (2008) Hotels have the bad habit of holding your passport for the night (yes, even if you pay upfront). That means that eventually you will forget your passport at a hotel, and will have to travel all the way back to retrieve it. Make photocopies: some hotels are willing to hold the photocopy, not the original. Other hotels are determined to make you lose your passport.
  • (2008) The bill of a restaurant always includes a charge for "coperto" (which is meant to cover the cost of the bread, and it is often 10 times the cost of buying much better bread at a bakery) and the tip, often called "servizio" (which is usually between 12% and 15%). Needless to say, this is bad news: waiters have no motivation whatsoever to provide good service, since you are going to pay their tip anyway, whether you like it or not.
  • (2008) Water is not free in Italian restaurants, and can be quite expensive
  • (2021) If you decide to travel by car, keep in mind that highway tolls are expensive (border tunnels are even more expensive) and that gasoline is one of the most expensive in the world.
  • (2021) Speed limits are the funniest in the world. I saw a speed limit of 30 km/h on a freeway (yes, 30). Of course, everybody was driving at least 100 km/h. If you drive at the speed limit, you are likely to upset the drivers behind you. But the fines for speeding are very steep and police do occasionally check. Worse: in many places (that only locals know) there are machines checking your speed and you'll receive your speeding ticket only much later.
  • (2021) Probably the most disappointing aspect of Italy is that... it is not as beautiful as they describe it at all. The first impression when you cross the border and enter Italy overland is of a "run-down" country: the landscape is not well-tended and often ruined by horrible buildings; roofs and facades are decaying; traffic signs are fading; the infrastructure is aging. You have to reach the historical downtown areas to see the Italy of the postcards. Towns are usually very ugly masses of houses of different styles, with a manic preference for huge, tall, shapeless buildings. Whatever beauty was in those towns, it has been destroyed by the excesses of modern construction.
  • (2014) Prices in Italy can be mindboggling. I left two pieces of luggage at the cloak room in Verona (a small town in the northeast) and paid 12 euros (almost $20). Storing the same luggage in Vienna (Austria) cost me 2 euros. Verona was actually cheap compared with Florence: 12 euros each piece of luggage for 12 hours. Walking up to the tower of Trani (not exactly the most important cathedral in the world) costs 5 euros. To visit Castel del Monte in Puglia you have to pay 5 euros for parking and then 10 euros each for the entrance ticket (in 2014). What do you get for these prices? In the main train station of Florence there is no tourist information, no waiting room for the passengers and no power outlets for your electronics (and don't sit on the floor because birds love to shit inside the station).
  • Italy's old trains are rapidly being replaced (2014) by "fast" trains. The disadvantage of "fast" trains is that you need to book the seat. Stations and websites won't sell you a ticket if seats are sold out.
  • (2008)Traveling in Italy is a lose-lose proposition. If you take public transportation, it is expensive, slow, inefficient, unreliable and the opposite of comfortable (and beware of pickpockets) (and, sooner or later, you will forget to "validate" your train or bus ticket, a heinous crime for which the maximum fine is hundreds of euros). If you drive a car, 1. Don't forget to factor in the price of gasoline and highway tolls in your budget; 2. Parking signs are almost impossible to understand; 3. Speed limits are ridiculously low and speed checking machines are ubiquitous (and speeding tickets very expensive).
  • Brief summary of Italian Artists

    Firenze/Florence:
  • arch: Arnolfo di Cambio (12xx-1302)
  • Giotto (1266-1337)
  • Giovanni Cimabue (12xx-13xx)
  • arch: Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446)
  • sclp: Donatello (1386-1466)
  • Fra Angelico (1387-1455)
  • Paolo Uccello (1397-1475)
  • Masaccio (1401-1428)
  • arch: Leon Battista Alberti (104-1472)
  • Filippo Lippi (1406-1469)
  • Sandro Botticelli (1444-1510)
  • Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494)
  • Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)
  • Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564)

    Venezia/Venice:

  • Domenico Veneziano (1400-1461)
  • Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516)
  • Padova: Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506)
  • Vittore Carpaccio (1460-1526)
  • Tiziano Vecellio (1477-1576)
  • Giorgione (1478-1510)
  • arch: Andrea Palladio (1508-1580)
  • Jacopo Tintoretto (1518-1594)
  • Paolo Veronese (1528-1588)
  • Giovanni Tiepolo (1696-1770)
  • Canaletto (1720-1780)

    Roma:

  • arch: Bramante (1444-1514)
  • Raffaello (1483-1520)
  • Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680)
  • Francesco Borromini (1599-1667)
  • Annibale Carracci (1560-1609)
  • Caravaggio (1573-1610)

    Others:

  • Piero della Francesca (1420-1492)

    20th Century:

  • Giorgio De Chirico (1880-1978)
  • sclp: Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920)
  • arch: Pier Luigi Nervi (1891-1979)
  • sclp: Giacomo Manzu (1908-19##)

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