>> Italy & Sicily <<

Introduction

Italy is a diverse country guaranteed to charm all its visitors. The landscapes, food, people, culture and history will amaze even the most experienced travelers. Italy's Roman cultural heritage lives today and can be seen in the spectacular cities of Rome, Venice, Pisa, Naples and Florence, some of the most beautiful cities in Europe. Map of ItalyMap of Italy
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What to See


Rome
Visit our page dedicated to the Eternal City and read our guide on traveling to Rome.

Venice
Find out more about the city on water in Northeastern Italy that will charm all visitors by visiting our guide on Venice.

Florence
View of Florence
Florence is a cultural powerhouse on the Arno river. The city is buzzing with all it has to offer its’ visitors. You would need at least a week if you were to visit all the galleries and museums. All of these are within walking distance of one another but be prepared to queue. We recommend the Palazzo Pitti and their surrounding gardens. Take a walk from there across the river along the Ponte Vecchio bridge. This used be a market for meat and fish but is now home to several jewellery stores. Take a left at the end of the bridge and go up to see Loggia dell’Orcagna, home to the most notorious statues you are ever likely to see. It is here too that you will see the copy of David. The real David can be seen in the Galleria Dell'Accademia. Walk about a block further North to the Duomo (Cathedral). It is extremely big in size and a must-see.

Tuscany

Tuscan Vineyards
This Etruscan area of Italy includes Siena, Florence, San Gimignano and other cities. It is the Italian version of Provence in France and a must see if you have rented a car and enjoy driving in the country. The little towns have excellent markets with delicious traditional Italian foods and Tuscan wines. The rolling hills are covered in wheat and vineyards and are an excellent bit of respite from the sometimes overcrowded tourist hubs.

Siena
The Main Square
This must be one of Italy’s hidden secrets. The old town is situated on the top of the hill and only accessible by foot. In the centre is the Palazzo Comunale e Torre del Mangia translated as the Municipal Palace and Mangia’s tower. This magnificent square is surrounded by restaurants and cafés and should you visit in the beginning of July, you may be lucky enough to squeeze near the square to see their annual horse race. The horses are ridden bareback and are representative of the different districts in Siena. Take a walk up behind the Palazzo to see the Cathedral and take in all the little stores and cafes along the way.

San Gimignano
This little provincial town is well worth a visit and is in the heart of Tuscany a short drive between Pisa and Florence. The most interesting part of the town is in the old quarter surrounded by the fortified walls. Here you’ll walk down the main street, Via San Giovanni, lined with artisan shops, tratorrias, cafés and clothing stores. All the shops are well presented and have a variety of interesting articles on sale. However, do beware as the prices are on the high side.

Besides the cute little lane full of interesting shops, the town also has a wealth of historical buildings to visit.

Genoa
This is the biggest Port in Italy and therefore has a town that spreads over quite a few miles. Visit the old town to enjoy the beautiful architecture of the buildings, meandering little roads and have a view of the sea. The Basilica o Santissima Anunciatta is of particular intricacy inside.

Piedmont
Located in the Northwest corner of Italy and the Alps. Piedmont is full of stunning green forest, mountains, waterfalls and rivers, regional parks, protected wildlife areas and the main city of Torino with it’s famous Soccer team and home of Ferrari.

Mountains
There are a number of mountains you can discover by going on hikes but we do recommend you do your research before going. Some walks can be done in a day but if you are planning to go for extended periods be well prepared, the sun goes down early and it gets very cold. One particularly nice walk can be taken from the town of Fenestrelle and lasts about an hour. Ask the locals to point you in the right direction.

Pisa
Pisa and the Leaning Tower
Follow the tourist busses and you will be in the heart of the town where you can take in one of the wonders of the world – and rightly so! In the square you will be faced with three magnificent buildings – The Baptistery, the Cathedral and the famous leaning Tower of Pisa. It is possible to go into all three – the Baptistery costs €6 and you will be able to have panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, the Cathedral costs €2 and the Tower will set you back approximately €15 in 2002.

Sardinia
To read more on this beautiful island please read our Sardinia travel guide.

Sicily
Sicily is the island below Italy and almost a country on its own. The island is large with many sights to see including Roman Ruins in and around small remote Sicilian villages; beautiful pebble beaches crystal clear waters and of course the bustling capital city of Palermo.

Aeolian Islands
The Aoelian Islands are islands in the Mediterranean sea off the coasts of the Italian mainland and Sicily. The best known islands are Stromboli, Vulcano, Lipari, Panarea, Salina and Filicudi.

These volcanic islands off Sicily can be reached by ferry or hydrofoil from both the Mainland and Sicily. The ferries run from several places on the mainland, most notably Naples, and from the town of Milazzo in Sicily and you can choose the island you wish to visit. You can find out more about ferries to the islands by visiting - www.gruppotirrenia.it

Stromboli is most famous with its active volcano, Salina for the wine and Panarea for the wealthy visitors and villa owners.

Lipari is the most populated island. The town of Lipari is quite quaint with a few shops, restaurants and hotels catering to the many visitors. Sites of interest in Lipari include the Spanish fort, the town itself and the coastline dotted by decent beaches. When you arrive you will be approached by boatmen. They are there to take you to the beaches - these can only be reached by boat. They will arrange a pick up time with you. Be sure to take a picnic lunch with you and plenty of water – the beaches are far from everything, wonderful if you fancy a day out away from the crowds.

Below are the main features of Eastern Sicily

Taormina
The Isola Bella bay
This is a popular beach spot for tourists and locals alike. There are various beaches to choose from – all with their own beauty. For an extra special day visit Isolabella. There is a large rock formation creating something of a “lagoon”- wonderful for snorkelling. It is a fair walk from the road above but there are loungers to rent for the day as well as great shop for food and drink. For some culture, be sure to visit the ancient Greek Theatre where Gladiators once fought.

Just outside Taormina are the beautiful gardens of Giardini Naxos. These are worth a look if you enjoy a bit of history. Giardini means citrus gardens and Naxos was the name of the first Greek Colony to settle Sicily. There is a pretty beach there and many small cafés lining the waterfront.

Mount Etna
Lava Rocks on Mount Etna
This active volcano is a must see and a good day trip. You can either walk up the mountain or you may want to catch the cable car. The craters on the surrounding mountains are splendid and the molten rock formations are fascinating.

Zafferana Etnea
This is a little village below Mount Etna. It is comprised of narrow roads, traditional Mediterranean homes and some lovely old churches. If you fancy a night out with the locals, go down into the town square on Friday night where you will see families out enjoying a meal or treat under the stars. Of particular architectural interest is the Cathedral in the centre of town opposite the main square.


What to Do


Go hiking in Piedmont
With the Alps as a background, almost all the small villages you may visit have several marked trails for hikers. Bring plenty of food, water and warm clothing as the weather can change awfully quickly in Piedmont. Look out for snakes, the ones in the Alps are venomous and not to be toyed with.

Hire a Gondola
When in Venice it is just one of those things. Although it isn't cheap, it is the only place you can do it and your gondolier will narrate the details along the way as you admire Venice's beautiful architecture.

Scuba diving
Italy has a fine scuba diving and snorkeling pedigree. With so many diving equipment manufacturers, miles of coastline, Italy has some good diving. Visit our pages on diving in Sardinia and Sicilian dives.

 
In Sicily

Mount Etna
If there is one thing that you do on the East side of Sicily it should be to visit Mount Etna. The drive up to the mountain from Zafferena Etna (the town below) takes about 30 minutes. The scenery comprises of spectacular large molten rock formations and prepares you for what is to come. You can choose to walk up the mountain or take the cable car. As it is an active volcano you will not be able to get too close but it is certainly worth a visit.

Visit the Roman ruins
There are Roman ruins scattered all around Sicily. If you want to visit some ruins we would recommend that you go out for a day and move from village to village. This way you will be able to compare what you see and get to see some of the little remote villages and its people too.

Spend the day at the beach
The beaches are lovely. Choose a secluded beach if you wish to sunbathe and snorkel. We recommend Taromina. If you are feeling adventurous take a trip out to one of the Aeolian Islands and spend a magical day on a remote beach out there. See “What to See” above.

Go hiking or take a drive
The roads are very well built and maintained and it is possible to drive all over the island. There are tollgates on the main roads. Do not be deceived by distances – the island is very big and extensive so be prepared for a long day behind the wheel should you decide to venture West towards Palermo, the capital city of Sicily. If you fancy a walk or hike there are many mountains and hills for you to explore, all with the guarantee of stunning scenery for you to feast your eyes on.


What to Eat


Beer
Peroni and Nastro Azzurro are popular local beers.

Pasta
Raviolli, penne, spaghetti, tagliatelle. The list goes on. This is it’s home- served the way mamma would like it!

Pizza &
Calzone
Need I say more - thin base topped with tomatoes…. and the rest is up to you. These are done in clay ovens and are scrumptious. Calzone can be described as a “pizza pie” and a good alternative to a pizza.

Pastries
Decadence is the name of the game. Try a chocolate filled pastry as an accompaniment to an espresso.

Cheeses
Some of the more popular Italian cheeses are mozzarella, ricotta, provolone, parmesan and pecorino.

Gelati
The Italian word for Ice Cream. Italians pride themselves on their Ice Creams.

Coffee
Cappuccino, latte and espresso, all excellent caffeine jolts. If you would like a western long coffee with milk, ask for an Americano.

Wine
Italians enjoy wine with their meals – red or white or try a rose on a hot summer evening. There are many wine growing regions, Venezia, Sicily and most notably Tuscany for Chianti.

Prosciutto
Italian dry-cured ham.

Pannini
Italian toasted sandwich available with a variety of fillings and popular worlwide.


Where to Sleep


Hotels
You can find excellent hotels in Italy. Many of the main hotel sites will have listings for you in Italy. Find Hotels.

Hostels
There are loads of hostels in Italy. Prices vary from hostel to hostel but are generally affordable. Search and book a hostel in Italy.

Camping
Camping is very popular in Italy, especially with large families wishing to avoid the extra expense of hotel rooms. There are many campsites located in the suburbs or within a short distance of the major city centres. The link below will lead you to the web site for a network of campsites in Italy - www.magicitalyonline.it

Camping
Find out about camping in Italy on our page about Camping in Italy.


How to Move


Airports
There are airports in the major cities of Italy at Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence, Genoa, Bologna and Torino as well as several smaller airports served by local flights and small carriers.

The main airport for Sicily is in Palermo is on the west side of the Island. There is also a small airport on the East Coast in Catania.

Train
You can travel through Italy by train with the trains being reliable and on time.

There is also a train network that runs through Sicily. This is a good way to get around if you want to travel across the island but do not want to drive or catch a bus. The track runs along the water and at certain points providing beautiful scenery.

Car
This is the best, and recommended way, of getting around in the countryside or when in Sicily. It is a bit trickier within the major cities but is doable, we do not recommend driving in Rome. The Italians may drive fast at times but they are not reckless so you should not feel threatened, just force your way a bit and you will get on just fine. Car rental is affordable and is the best way for you to be sure to see all the want to see.

Bus
The major cities of Italy have excellent bus services that run spot on time. Most fares are for under €1 or less. You have to validate your ticket yourself after you get on the bus with one of the machines located at the front or the rear of the bus. You can buy your tickets in many locations in the cities and also from the bus driver. Although you can get away with not validating your ticket, it is best you pay your way and respect the honour system the Italians pride themselves on.

Ferry
There are a large number of destinations accessible by ferry from the mainland. These include the Isle of Capri, Sicily, the Aeolian Islands and Sardinia. You can bring your car on the larger ferries to the bigger Islands but it may not be worth it on the smaller islands. You can find out mor at www.gruppotirrenia.it or www.mobylines.com.


Locals


Expressive
Italians are constantly trying to express themselves with their body, language, clothing and hair styles. They love to look good and have a chat. Although they can seem fiery and animated at times, it is the way they speak. As a visitor you will find Italian warmth and charm on almost every occasion you interact with them. This however may not be the case while in the metropolis of Rome.

Language
Italian

Time Zone
GMT +1

Useful Links
Euro





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