Visit Italy

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, MilanStretching from Switzerland in the north to approximately 100 miles from Africa on the southern coast of Sicily, Italy is a diverse country with an enormous amount to offer the holidaymaker. Adventure, relaxation, culture, sightseeing, sports, shopping… pretty well whatever you want you can find in Italy.


Before booking your holiday, it’s worth doing a bit of research to find out what goes on in the part of Italy you’re aiming at, or which is the best place to go for the activities you’re interested in pursuing.


There is a strong north-south divide in Italy and you will find the pace of life different depending where you go.  The north is prosperous, efficient and, in stereotype, perhaps more like Switzerland than the image of laid-back Mediterranean Italy so often associated with the country. Milan is a commercial and industrial city, renowned for high fashion and high achievement. In the north, timetables are more or less the same as we are used to in Britain - and it gets very cold in the winter. The south has a different climate and a different atmosphere - and this is where you will find things closing after lunch for the traditional siesta and then opening again in the evening.


Italy has been a united country since 1861 but still retains strong regional characteristics.  All this diversity means more choice for the visitor, but it’s useful to know in advance a bit about what to expect.


Regions of Italy

Italy is divided into 20 regions, each with its own character. Five of these regions have special statutes that give them a high degree of autonomy from the central government in Rome. They are the two big islands, Sicily and Sardinia, and three of the northern border regions, Valle d'Aosta, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and (to a lesser extent) Trentino-Alto Adige. Whether a region is autonomous, semi-autonomous or administrated from Rome makes no direct difference to the visitor to Italy; it's when you live there that you'll notice variations in tax and so on.


Click on the links below to find out more about each region of Italy. Where English has slightly different names for the regions, they are in brackets.


Piemonte (Piedmont)

Valle d'Aosta (Aosta Valley)

Lombardia (Lombardy)

Trentino-Alto Adige (Trentino-South Tyrol)


Friuli-Venezia Giulia



Toscana (Tuscany)


Marche (Marches)

Lazio (Latium)




Puglia (Apulia)



Sicilia (Sicily)

Sardegna (Sardinia)

Map of Italy by Tourizm Maps © 2006

Before you go to Italy

Plan your trip

After you’ve identified which area of the country you’d like to visit, the next decision to make is whether you’re going to travel to Italy independently or with a tour company.


If you're travelling independently, I recommend you have a look at Alastair Sawday's Special Places to Stay in Italy.


Plan your holidays in Italy with hotel reviews and travel tips on


Cottages to Castles is an independent family-run business, founded over 28 years ago to specialise in providing high quality hand-picked Italian villa apartments and cottages in Italy. Their collection includes cottages in Tuscany, Umbria, Sicily, Sardinia and many more regions in Italy; especially perfect for those looking for a romantic getaway. They take pride in choosing the finest cottages and villas in the most romantic country in the world.


Pack what you need

Just in case you can’t find them easily once you arrive in Italy, it’s a good idea to take a few essentials with you. For example:


Having a map of the area where you’re staying can make all the difference, particularly if you want to explore.  A map of Italy will give you a general idea but you really need something smaller-scale to show you the local roads and villages.  Recommendations for maps and more localised guide books, where available, are on the page for each region.


I would suggest you also buy your euros in advance.  The airport is well known for giving stingy rates and, once you’re in Italy, you won’t necessarily have the same wide choice of travel agencies, banks, post office, etc to shop around for the best deal.  To check the current exchange rate between sterling and the euro, click here.


Learn to speak Italian – at least a little bit

Although many Italians, especially in the more touristy areas, speak English, it’s much better not to rely on this.  It’s certainly worth learning some Italian before you go, for three reasons: firstly, the locals really may not know any English and you may be struggling to communicate; secondly, it’s more polite; and thirdly, it’s much more fun to speak Italian!


If you’ve still got two or three months before your trip to Italy and you really want to get to grips with the language, the instantly downloadable e-course Accurate Italian is what you need. Speaking Italian will vastly enhance your experience of Italy and allow you to penetrate the surface of the country.  Italian is an extremely satisfying language to speak and, for native English-speakers, it’s among the easiest foreign languages to learn.


If you lack the time or inclination to learn Italian thoroughly, if you at least take a phrase book and a dictionary with you, you won't be completely lost for words.


The Learn to Speak Italian page on this website gives you an introduction to the sounds and spelling of Italian, with audio so you can listen to the pronunciation of a native Italian.


And when you come home from Italy…

Print the fantastic photos you’ve taken and/or do interesting things with them such as making a calendar or a collage or transforming your pictures into postcards.  You can do all this easily through Photobox.




Then book your next trip to Italy!

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