Italy ranks as the fifth most visited country in the world, receiving more than 43 million tourists a year, according to a 2008 report by the World Tourism Organization. Known for its rich culture as well as its scenic landscapes, Italy offers travelers a diverse array of settings to explore.
Italy brims with famous attractions. The capital city of Rome features the Vatican and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel as well as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Venice enchants with its maze of canals and gondola boats. Florence has the stunning Duomo cathedral, and nearby Assisi has the impressive Basilica di San Francesco. Other iconic sights include the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Siena’s Piazza del Campo. Mediterranean beach resorts abound on the sunny Amalfi Coast, and travelers looking to visit more remote shores and countryside can visit the southern islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
Getting Around the Country
Italy has over 30 airports in major cities and towns. Domestic airlines like Alitalia run flights all across the country. Trenitalia operates the national rail network, which connects Italy’s biggest cities with high-speed trains and reasonable fares. The iExplore Travel Guide recommends saving money by looking into a Rail Europe pass when planning extensive travel here. Coach buses also cover myriad routes between cities and towns, and iExplore cites SITA as one of the best Italian coach bus lines. Additionally, tourists have the option of traveling via ferry boats and hydrofoils along Italy’s coasts and out to its islands. Italy’s main ports include Cagliari, Livorno, Naples, Ancona, Catania and Venice.
Weather and Tourist Seasons
Italy has warm summers, which last from June to August, with particularly hot temperatures in the south. The winter months of December through February are cold and sometimes snowy, especially the northern mountains. Frommer’s recommends the fringe seasons of spring and autumn as the best times to travel to Italy. The weather during these periods is moderately warm and comfortable, and the tourist crowds aren’t as big as they are in the summer when lines swell and prices on hotels and guest services skyrocket.
Italian cuisine has earned a reputation among the world’s finest, and with good reason. Specialty dishes vary from region to region, but the focus on “slow food” remains a constant. For instance, the food in Tuscany typically features strong cheese like Gorgonzola, while Sicily is known for its aromatic meat sauces. Classic Italian dessert items include Gelato ice cream, cannoli pastries and caffè macchiato. Italy also produces more wine than any other country in the world, according to Frommer’s, and fine wines can be found in virtually every restaurant and grocery store.
Art and Architecture
Since the time of the Estruscans and Romans Italy has been blessed with masterful artists and architects. Byzantine and Romanesque styles eventually gave way the Renaissance period in which immortal talents like Donatello, Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci created their legendary works. Numerous contemporaries would follow, continuing Italy’s long line of artistic innovation to this day.
Entry and Exit Requirements for US Tourists
American citizens may enter Italy for up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes without a visa, according to the U.S. Department of State. U.S. citizens should make sure their passports are valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay to be granted entry.