Lonely Planet Italy by Lonely Planet, Abigail Blasi, and Cristian Bonetto - Read Online
Lonely Planet Italy
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Summary

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Italy is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Take in a gondolier's sweet song while gliding past Venetian palaces, sample olives and wines as you traverse Tuscany's storybook hills, or be humbled amid thousands of years of Roman history and art; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Italy now!

Inside Lonely Planet Italy Travel Guide:

Full-colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - including history, art, literature, cinema, music, architecture, politics, cuisine, wine, customs Free, convenient pull-out Rome map (included in print version), plus over 137 colour maps Covers Rome, Turin, Piedmont, the Italian Riviera, Milan, the Lakes, Dolomites, Venice, Emilia-Romagna, Florence, Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo, Naples, Campania, Puglia, Sicily, Sardinia and more

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

Downloadable PDF and offline maps prevent roaming and data charges Effortlessly navigate and jump between maps and reviews Add notes to personalise your guidebook experience Seamlessly flip between pages Bookmarks and speedy search capabilities get you to key pages in a flash Embedded links to recommendations' websites Zoom-in maps and images Inbuilt dictionary for quick referencing

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Italy , our most comprehensive guide to Italy, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

Looking for just the highlights of Italy? Check out Lonely Planet Discover Italy, a photo-rich guide to the country's most popular attractions. Looking for a guide focused on Rome, Florence or Venice? Check out our Lonely Planet Rome guide, Florence & Tuscany guide, and Venice & the Veneto guide for a comprehensive look at what each of these cities has to offer; Lonely Planet Discover Rome, a photo-rich guide to the city's most popular attractions; or Lonely Planet Pocket Rome, a handy-sized guide focused on the can't-miss sights for a quick trip.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

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ISBN: 9781760340223
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Italy

Contents

Plan Your Trip

Welcome to Italy

Italy's Top 18

Need to Know

First Time Italy

What's New

If You Like...

Month by Month

Itineraries

Eat & Drink Like a Local

Outdoor Experiences

Travel with Children

Regions at a Glance

On The Road

Rome & Lazio

Rome & Lazio Highlights

Rome

Sights

City Walk

Museum Tour

Museum Tour

Courses

Tours

Festivals & Events

Sleeping

Eating

Drinking & Nightlife

Entertainment

Shopping

Lazio

Ostia Antica

Tivoli

Cerveteri

Tarquinia

Viterbo

Castelli Romani

Palestrina

South Coast

Isole Pontine

Turin, Piedmont & the Italian Riviera

Genoa

Around Genoa

Riviera di Levante

Cinque Terre

Around Cinque Terre

Riviera di Ponente

Turin

The Milky Way

Southern & Eastern Piedmont

Varallo & the Valsesia

Aosta

Courmayeur

Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso

Valtournenche

Milan & the Lakes

Milan & the Lakes Highlights

Milan

Around Milan

The Lakes

Lago Maggiore

Lago d'Orta

Lago di Como

Lago d'Iseo

Lago di Garda

The Po Plain

Bergamo

Brescia

Mantua

Cremona

Trento & the Dolomites

Trento

Rovereto

Brenta Dolomites

Val di Non, Val di Sole & Val di Rabbi

Val di Fiemme

Val di Fassa

Bolzano (Bozen)

Merano (Meran)

Val Venosta (Vinschgau)

Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio

Val Gardena (GroedenGherdeina)

Alpe di Siusi & Parco Naturale Sciliar-Catinaccio

Val Badia & Alpe di Fanes

Val Pusteria (Pustertal)

Venice & the Veneto

Venice

The Veneto

Brenta Riviera

Padua

Vicenza

Verona

Verona's Wine Country

Prosecco Country

Veneto Dolomites

Friuli Venezia Giulia

Trieste

Muggia

Il Carso

Gorizia

Palmanova

Aquileia

Grado

Around Grado

Laguna di Marano

Pordenone

Udine

Cividale del Friuli

San Daniele del Friuli

North of Udine

Tolmezzo & Carnia

Tarvisio & the Giulie Alps

Emilia-Romagna & San Marino

Emilia-Romagna & San Marino Highlights

Emilia-Romagna

Bologna

Modena

Reggio Emilia

Parma

Busseto & Verdi Country

Piacenza

Ferrara

Ravenna

Rimini

San Marino

Florence & Tuscany

Florence & Tuscany Highlights

Florence

Central Tuscany

Siena

Chianti

Val d'Elsa

Val d'Orcia & Val di Chiana

Southern Tuscany

Massa Marittima

Citta del Tufa

Central Coast & Elba

Livorno

Isola d'Elba

Northwestern Tuscany

Pisa

Lucca

Pietrasanta

Eastern Tuscany

Arezzo

Sansepolcro

Cortona

Umbria & Le Marche

Perugia

Torgiano

Lago Trasimeno

Todi

Assisi

Spello

Gubbio

Spoleto

Norcia & the Valnerina

Orvieto

Ancona

Parco del Conero

Urbino

Pesaro

Grotte di Frasassi

Macerata

Ascoli Piceno

Monti Sibillini

Sarnano

Abruzzo & Molise

Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga

Sulmona

Around Sulmona

Parco Nazionale della Majella

Scanno

Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise

Pescara

Chieti

Vasto & Around

Campobasso

Saepinum

Isernia

Around Isernia

Termoli

Albanian Towns

Naples & Campania

Naples & Campania Highlights

Naples

Bay of Naples

Capri

Ischia

Procida

South of Naples

Ercolano & Herculaneum

Mt Vesuvius

Pompeii

Sorrento

West of Sorrento

Amalfi Coast

Positano

Praiano & Furore

Amalfi

Ravello

South of Amalfi

Costiera Cilentana

Agropoli

Parco Nazionale del Cilento e Vallo di Diano

Puglia, Basilicata & Calabria

Bari

Around Bari

Promontorio del Gargano

Isole Tremiti

Valle d'Itria

Lecce

Brindisi

Southern & Western Salento

Matera

Metaponto

Potenza

Appennino Lucano

Basilicata's Western Coast

Northern Tyrrhenian Coast

Cosenza

Parco Nazionale della Sila

Ionian Coast

Parco Nazionale dell'Aspromonte

Reggio di Calabria

Southern Tyrrhenian Coast

Sicily

Sicily Highlights

Palermo

Tyrrhenian Coast

Cefalu

Aeolian Islands

Lipari

Vulcano

Salina

Stromboli

Ionian Coast

Taormina

Catania

Mt Etna

Syracuse & the Southeast

Syracuse

Driving Tour

Noto

Modica

Ragusa

Central Sicily & the Mediterranean Coast

Agrigento

Archaeological Walking Tour

Western Sicily

Marsala

Selinunte

Trapani

Erice

Segesta

Sardinia

Sardinia Highlights

Cagliari

Around Cagliari

Villasimius

Costa Rei

Costa del Sud & Chia

Iglesias & the Southwest

Iglesias

Costa Verde

Oristano & the West

Oristano

Tharros & the Sinis Peninsula

North Oristano Coast

Alghero & the Northwest

Alghero

Around Alghero

Stintino & Parco Nazionale dell'Asinara

Sassari

Olbia, the Costa Smeralda & the Gallura

Olbia

Costa Smeralda & Around

Santa Teresa di Gallura

Palau & Arcipelago di La Maddalena

Nuoro & the East

Nuoro

Supramonte

Golfo di Orosei

Ogliastra

Understand

Understand Italy

Italy Today

History

Italian Art & Architecture

The Italian Way of Life

Italy on Page & Screen

The Italian Table

Survive

Directory AZ

Accommodation

Customs Regulations

Discount Cards

Electricity

Embassies & Consulates

Food

Gay & Lesbian Travellers

Health

Insurance

Internet Access

Language Courses

Legal Matters

Maps

Money

Post

Public Holidays

Telephone

Time

Tourist Information

Travellers with Disabilities

Visas

Volunteering

Women Travellers

Transport

Getting There & Away

Getting Around

Language

Our Writers

Table of Contents

Behind the Scenes

Special Features

Cinque Terre

Truffles Food of the Gods

Fashion

Design

Venetian Artistry

Shakespeare's Veneto

Coffee Culture

Like... Try...

Wine Tour of Chianti (4 days)

The Saint of Assisi

Historical Riches

Surprises of the South

Delightful Desserts

A Graeco-Roman Legacy

The Renaissance

Architectural Wonders

Welcome to Italy

Italy is an extraordinary feast of heart-thumping, soul-stirring art, food and landscapes rivalled by few and coveted by millions.

Geisler Gruppe, Alto Adige (Südtirol)

Friedrich Schmidt/Getty Images ©

Cultural Riches

Epicentre of the Roman Empire and birthplace of the Renaissance, this sun-kissed virtuoso groans under the weight of its cultural cachet: it's here that you'll stand in the presence of Michelangelo's David and Sistine Chapel frescoes, Botticelli's Birth of Venus and Primavera and da Vinci's The Last Supper. In fact, Italy has more Unesco World Heritage cultural sites than any other country on Earth. Should you walk in the footsteps of saints and emperors in Rome, revel in Ravenna's glittering Byzantine treasures or get breathless over Giotto's revolutionary frescoes in Padua? It's a cultural conundrum as thrilling as it is overwhelming.

Bella Vita

In few places do art and life intermingle so effortlessly. This may be the land of Dante, Titian and Verdi, but it's also the home of Prada, Gualtiero Marchesi and Renzo Piano. Beauty, style and flair furnish every aspect of daily life, from those immaculately knotted ties and perfect espressos, to the flirtatious smiles of striking strangers. The root of Italian psychology is a dedication to living life well and, effortless as it may seem, driving that dedication is a reverence for the finer things. So slow down, take note and indulge in a little bella vita.

Buon Appetito

It might look like a boot, but food-obsessed Italy feels more like a decadently stuffed Christmas stocking. From delicate tagliatelle al ragù to velvety cannoli, every bite feels like a revelation. The secret: superlative ingredients and strictly seasonal produce. And while Italy's culinary soul might be earthy and rustic, it's equally ingenious and sophisticated. Expect some of the world's top fine-dining destinations, from San Pellegrino 'World's Best 50' hotspots to Michelin-starred musts. So whether you're on a degustation odyssey in Modena, truffle hunting in Piedmont or swilling powerhouse reds in the Valpolicella wine region, prepare to swoon.

Luscious Landscapes

Italy's fortes extend beyond its galleries, plates and wardrobes. The country is one of Mother Nature's masterpieces, its geography offering extraordinary natural diversity. From the north's icy Alps and glacial lakes to the south's volcanic craters and turquoise grottoes, this is a place for doing as well as seeing. One day you're tearing down Courmayeur's powdery slopes, the next you could be riding cowboy-style across the marshes of the Maremma, or diving in coral-studded Campanian waters. Not bad for a country not much bigger than Arizona.

Why I Love Italy

By Cristian Bonetto, Author

Italy's 20 regions feel more like 20 independent states, each with its own dialects, traditions, architecture and glorious food. From nibbling on knödel in an Alto Adige chalet to exploring souk-like market streets in Sicily, the choices are as diverse as they are seductive. Then there's the country's incomparable artistic treasures, which amount to more than the rest of the world put together. It's hard not to feel a little envious sometimes, but it's even harder not to fall madly in love.

Italy's Top 18

Eternal Rome

Once caput mundi (capital of the world), Rome (Click here) was legendarily spawned by a wolf-suckled boy, grew to be Western Europe's first superpower, became the spiritual centrepiece of the Christian world and is now the repository of over two millennia of European art and architecture. From the Pantheon and the Colosseum to Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel and countless works by Caravaggio, there's simply too much to see in one visit. So, do as countless others have done before you: toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain and promise to return.

St Peter’s Basilica

Andreas Strauss/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Virtuoso Venice

Step through the portals of Basilica di San Marco and try to imagine what it might have been like for a humble medieval labourer glimpsing those glittering gold mosaic domes for the first time. It's not such a stretch – seeing the millions of tiny gilt tesserae (hand-cut glazed tiles) fuse into a singular heavenly vision can make every leap of human imagination since the 12th century seem comparatively minor. Indeed, one visit is never enough; the basilica's sheer scale, exquisite detailing and ever-shifting light promising endless revelations.

Basilica di San Marco

H & D Zielske/LOOK-foto/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Touring Tuscany

Italy's most romanticised region, Tuscany (Click here) was tailor made for fastidious aesthetes. From Brunelleschi's Duomo to Masaccio's Cappella Brancacci frescoes, Florence, according to Unesco, contains 'the greatest concentration of universally renowned works of art in the world'. Beyond its blockbuster museums, jewel-box churches and flawless Renaissance streetscapes sprawls an undulating wonderland of regional masterpieces, from the Gothic majesty of Siena, to the Manhattan-esque skyline of medieval San Gimignano, to the vine-laced hills of Italy's most famous wine region, Chianti.

Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Slow Images/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Ghostly Pompeii

Frozen in its death throes, the sprawling, time-warped ruins of Pompeii hurtle you 2000 years into the past. Wander through chariot-grooved Roman streets, lavishly frescoed villas and bathhouses, food stores and markets, theatres, even an ancient brothel. Then, in the eerie stillness, your eye on ominous Mt Vesuvius, ponder Pliny the Younger's terrifying account of the town's final hours: 'Darkness came on again, again ashes, thick and heavy. We got up repeatedly to shake these off; otherwise we would have been buried and crushed by the weight'.

Statue at the Casa dei Vettii, Pompeii

Witold Skrypczak/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Amalfi Coast

Italy's most celebrated coastline blends superlative beauty and gripping geology: coastal mountains plunge into creamy blue sea in a prime-time vertical scene of precipitous crags, sun-bleached villages and lush forests. Between sea and sky, mountain-top hiking trails deliver Tyrrhenian panoramas fit for a god. While some may argue that the peninsula's most beautiful coast is Liguria's Cinque Terre or Calabria's Costa Viola, it was the Amalfi Coast that American writer John Steinbeck described as a 'dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and...beckoningly real after you have gone'.

Positano

Richard I’Anson/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Mighty Masterpieces

A browse through any art history textbook will no doubt highlight seminal movements in Western art, from classical, Renaissance and mannerist, to baroque, futurist and metaphysical. All were forged in Italy by a red carpet roll call of artists including Giotto, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, Bernini, Caravaggio, the Carracci brothers, Boccioni, Balla and de Chirico. Find the best of them in Rome's Museo e Galleria Borghese and Vatican Museums, Florence's Uffizi, Venice's Gallerie dell'Accademia, Milan's Museo del Novecento, and Naples' Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte.

Galleria degli Uffizi

Visions Of Our Land/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Tackling the Dolomites

Scour the globe and you'll find plenty of taller, bigger and more geologically volatile mountains, but few can match the romance of the pink-hued, granite Dolomites. Maybe it's their harsh, jagged summits, the vibrant skirts of spring wildflowers or the rich cache of Ladin legends. Then again, it could just be the magnetic draw of money, style and glamour at Italy's most fabled ski resort, Cortina d'Ampezzo. Whatever the reason, this tiny pocket of northern Italy takes seductiveness to dizzying heights.

Typo-Graphics/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Devouring Emilia Romagna

They don't call Bologna 'la Grassa' (the fat one) for nothing. Many of Italy's belt-busting classics call this city home, from mortadella and tortellini to its trademark tagliatelle al ragù (pasta with meat sauce). Shop the deli-packed Quadrilatero, and side-trip to the city of Modena for world-famous aged balsamic vinegar. Just leave room for a trip to Parma, hometown of parmigiano reggiano cheese and the incomparable prosciutto di Parma. Wherever you plunge your fork, toast with a glass or three of the region's renowned Lambrusco or sauvignon blanc.

A display of prosciutto and other cured Italian meats

IgorDutina/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Neapolitan Street Life

Nowhere else in Italy are people as conscious of their role in the theatre of everyday life as in Naples (Click here). And in no other Italian city does daily life radiate such drama and intensity. Naples' ancient streets are a stage, cast with boisterous matriarchs, bellowing baristi (bartenders) and tongue-knotted lovers. To savour the flavour, dive into the city's rough-and-tumble Porta Nolana market, a loud, lavish opera of hawking fruit vendors, wriggling seafood and the irresistible aroma of just-baked sfogliatelle (sweetened ricotta pastries).

Tony C French/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Murals & Mosaics

Often regarded as just plain 'dark', the Italian Middle Ages had an artistic brilliance that's hard to ignore. Perhaps it was the sparkling hand-cut mosaics of Ravenna's Byzantine basilicas that provided the guiding light, but something inspired Giotto di Bondone to leap out of the shadows with his daring naturalistic frescoes in Padua's Cappella degli Scrovegni and the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi. With them he gave the world a new artistic language, and from there it was just a short step to Masaccio's Trinity and the dawning light of the Renaissance.

Mosaics at Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna

Russell Mountford/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Living Luxe on Lake Como

If it's good enough for George Clooney, it's good enough for mere mortals. Nestled in the shadow of the Rhaetian Alps, dazzling Lake Como is the most spectacular of the Lombard lakes, its Liberty-style villas home to movie moguls, fashion royalty and Arab sheikhs. Surrounded on all sides by lush greenery, the lake's siren calls include the gardens of Villa Melzi d'Eril, Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello, which blush pink with camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons in April and May.

Bellagio

Francesco Iacobelli/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Hiking the Italian Riviera

For the sinful inhabitants of the Cinque Terre's five sherbert-coloured villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – penance involved a lengthy and arduous hike up the vertiginous cliffside to the local village sanctuary to appeal for forgiveness. Scale the same trails today, through terraced vineyards and hillsides smothered in macchia (shrubbery). As the heavenly views unfurl, it's hard to think of a more benign punishment.

Hiking near Corniglia, Cinque Terre

Andrew Peacock/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Sardinian Shores

The English language fails to accurately describe the varied blue, green and, in the deepest shadows, purple hues of Sardinia's seas. While models, ministers and perma-tanned celebrities wine, dine and sail along the glossy Costa Smeralda, much of Sardinia remains a wild, raw playground. Slather on that sunscreen and explore the island's rugged coastal beauty, from the tumbledown boulders of Santa Teresa di Gallura and the wind-chiselled cliff face of the Golfo di Orosei, to the windswept beauty of the Costa Verde's dune-backed beaches.

Cala Goloritzè

Aldo Pavan/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Piedmont on a Plate

Piedmont is Italy's gastronomic powerhouse, a lust-inducing, knee-weakening Promised Land of culinary highs. At it best in the autumn, this is the place to trawl through woods in search of prestigious fungi, to savour decadent cocoa concoctions in gilded cafes, not to mention swill cult-status reds in Slow-Food villages. Stock the larder at Turin's sprawling food emporium Eataly, savour rare white truffles in Alba, and compare the nuances of vintage Barolo and Barbaresco wines on the vine-graced slopes of the Langhe Hills.

Truffles at the market in Alba

Franz Marc Frei/LOOK-foto/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Escaping to Paradiso

If you're pining for a mind-clearing retreat, wear down your hiking boots on the 724km of marked trails and mule tracks traversing 'Grand Paradise'. Part of the Graian Alps and the very first of Italy's national parks, Gran Paradiso's pure, pristine spread encompasses 57 glaciers and Alpine pastures awash with wild pansies, gentians and Alpenroses, not to mention a healthy population of Alpine ibex for whose protection the park was originally established. The eponymous Gran Paradiso mountain (4061m) is the park's only peak, accessed from tranquil Cogne.

Andrew Peacock/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Savouring Sicily

'Leave the gun. Take the cannoli.' Even the mobsters in Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather couldn't resist a Sicilian bite. Sour, spicy and sweet, the flavours of Sicily (Click here) reflect millennia of cross-cultural influences – Greek, Arab, Spanish and French. Tuck into golden panelle (chickpea fritters) in Palermo, fragrant couscous in Trapani and chilli-spiked chocolate in Modica. From Palermo's Mercato di Ballarò to Catania's Pescheria, market stalls burst with local delicacies: Bronte pistachios, briny olives, glistening swordfish and nutty Canestrato cheese. Just leave room for a slice of sweet Sicilian cassata.

Traditional cassata

Tanuki Photography/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Baroque Lecce

There's baroque, and then there's barocco leccese (Lecce baroque), the hyper-extravagant spin-off defining many a Puglian town. Making it all possible was the local stone, so impossibly soft it led art historian Cesare Brandi to claim it could be carved with a penknife. Craftspeople vied for ever greater heights of creativity, crowding facades with swirling vegetal designs, gargoyles and strange zoomorphic figures. Queen of the architectural crop is Lecce's Basilica di Santa Croce, so insanely detailed the Marchese Grimaldi said it made him think a lunatic was having a nightmare.

Basilica di Santa Croce

Danita Delimont/Getty Images ©

Top Experiences

Scaling Mount Etna

Known to the Greeks as the 'column that holds up the sky', Mt Etna ( %tel, info 095 91 63 56) is not only Europe's largest volcano, it's one of the world's most active. The ancients believed the giant Tifone (Typhoon) lived in its crater and lit the sky with spectacular pyrotechnics. At 3329m, it literally towers above Sicily's Ionian Coast. Whether you tackle it on foot or on a guided 4WD tour, scaling this time bomb rewards with towering views and the secret thrill of having come cheek-to-cheek with a towering threat.

DEA/R. C ARNOVALINI/Getty Images ©

Need to Know

For more information, see Survival Guide

Currency

Euro (€)

Language

Italian

Visas

Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days (or at all for EU nationals); some nationalities need a Schengen visa.

Money

ATMs at every airport, most train stations and widely available in towns and cities. Credit cards accepted in most hotels and restaurants.

Mobile Phones

Local SIM cards can be used in European, Australian and some unlocked US phones. Other phones must be set to roaming.

Time

Central European Time (GMT/UTC plus one hour)

Room Tax

Visitors may be charged an extra €1 to €7 per night 'room occupancy tax'.

When to Go

High Season (Jul–Aug)

A Queues at big sights and on the road, especially in August.

A Prices also rocket for Christmas, New Year and Easter.

A Late December to March is high season in the Alps and Dolomites.

Shoulder (Apr–Jun & Sep–Oct)

A Good deals on accommodation, especially in the south.

A Spring is best for festivals, flowers and local produce.

A Autumn provides warm weather and the grape harvest.

Low Season (Nov–Mar)

A Prices up to 30% less than in high season.

A Many sights and hotels closed in coastal and mountainous areas.

A A good period for cultural events in large cities.

Websites

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/italy) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.

Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) Italian railways website.

Agriturismi (www.agriturismi.it) Guide to farm accommodation.

Enit Italia (www.italia.it) Official Italian-government tourism website.

The Local (www.thelocal.it) English-language news from Italy, including travel-related stories.

Important Numbers

From outside Italy, dial your international access code, Italy's country code (39) then the number (including the '0').

Exchange Rates

For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than €100

A Dorm bed: €15–30

A Double room in a budget hotel: €50–110

A Pizza or pasta: €6–12

Midrange: €100–250

A Double room in a hotel: €110–200

A Local restaurant dinner: €25–50

A Admission to museum: €4–15

Top End: More than €250

A Double room in a four- or five-star hotel: €200–450

A Top restaurant dinner: €50–150

A Opera ticket: €40–200

Opening Hours

Opening hours vary throughout the year. We've provided high-season opening hours; hours will generally decrease in the shoulder and low seasons. 'Summer' times generally refer to the period from April to September or October, while 'winter' times generally run from October or November to March.

Banks 8.30am-1.30pm & 2.45-3.45 or 4.30pm Monday to Friday

Restaurants noon–2.30pm & 7.30–11pm or midnight

Cafes 7.30am–8pm

Bars and clubs 10pm–4am or 5am

Shops 9am–1pm & 4–8pm Monday to Saturday, some also open Sunday

Arriving in Italy

The following local transport options will get you from the airport to the city centre.

Fiumicino airport, Rome %06 6 59 51; www.adr.it/fiumicino)

Express train €14; every 30 minutes, 6.23am to 11.23pm

Bus €5 to €7; 5am, 10.55am, noon, 3.30pm, 7pm (Sunday only), plus night services at 1.15am, 2.15am and 3.30am

Taxi €48 set fare; 45 minutes

Malpensa airport, Milan

Express train €12; every 30 minutes, 6.53am to 9.53pm

Bus €10; every 20 minutes, 5am to 10.30pm, then hourly through the night

Taxi €90 set fare; 50 minutes

Marco Polo airport, Venice (VCE; %flight information 041 260 92 60; www.veniceairport.it)

Ferry €15; every 30 to 60 minutes, 6.15am to 1.15am

Bus €6; every 30 minutes, 8am to midnight

Water taxi €110; 30 minutes

Capodichino airport, Naples ( %081 789 61 11; www.aeroportodinapoli.it)

Shuttle bus €3 to €4; every 20 minutes, 6.30am to 11.40pm

Taxi €19 set fare; 30 minutes

Getting Around

For much more on getting around, see (Click here)

Transport in Italy is affordable, quick and efficient.

Train Reasonably priced, with extensive coverage and frequent departures. High-speed trains connect major cities.

Car Handy for travelling at your own pace, or for visiting regions with minimal public transport. Not a good idea for travelling within major urban areas.

Bus Cheaper and slower than trains. Useful for more remote villages not serviced by trains.

First Time Italy

For more information, see Survival Guide

Checklist

A Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months past your arrival date

A Check airline baggage restrictions

A Organise travel insurance

A Make bookings (for popular museums, entertainment and accommodation)

A Inform your credit- or debit-card company of your travels

A Check you can use your mobile (cell) phone

A Check requirements for hiring a car

What to Pack

A Good walking shoes for those cobblestones

A Hat, sunglasses, sunscreen

A Electrical adapter and phone charger

A A detailed driving map for Italy's rural backroads

A A smart outfit and shoes

A Patience: for coping with inefficiency

A Phrasebook: for ordering and charming

Top Tips for Your Trip

A Visit in spring and autumn – good weather and thinner crowds.

A If you're driving, head off the main roads: some of Italy's most stunning scenery is best on secondary or tertiary roads.

A Speak at least a few Italian words. A little can go a long way.

A Queue-jumping is common in Italy: be polite but assertive.

A Avoid restaurants with touts and the mediocre menu turistico (tourist menu).

What to Wear

Appearances matter in Italy. Milan, Italy's fashion capital, is rigidly chic. Rome and Florence are marginally less formal, but with big fashion houses in town, sloppy attire just won't do. In the cities, suitable wear for men is generally trousers and shirts or polo shirts, and for women skirts, trousers or dresses. Shorts, T-shirts and sandals are fine in summer and at the beach, but long sleeves are required for dining out. For evening wear, smart casual is the norm. A light sweater or waterproof jacket is useful in spring and autumn, and sturdy shoes are good when visiting archaeological sites.

Sleeping

Book ahead for the high season, especially in popular areas, or if visiting cities during major events.

A Hotels All prices and levels of quality, from cheap-and-charmless to sleek-and-exclusive boutique.

A Farm stays Perfect for families and for relaxation, agriturismi range from rustic farmhouses to luxe country estates.

A B&Bs Often great value, can range from rooms in family houses to self-catering studio apartments.

A Pensions Similar to hotels, though pensioni are generally of one- to three-star quality and family-run.

A Hostels You'll find both official HI-affiliated and privately run ostelli , many also offering private rooms with bathroom.

Money

Credit and debit cards can be used almost everywhere with the exception of some rural towns and villages.

Visa and MasterCard are widely recognised. American Express is only accepted by some major chains and big hotels, and few places take Diners Club.

ATMs are everywhere, but be aware of transaction fees. Some ATMs in Italy reject foreign cards. If this happens, try a few before assuming your card is the problem.

For more information, see (Click here)

Bargaining

Gentle haggling is common in markets. Haggling in stores is generally unacceptable, though good-humoured bargaining at smaller artisan or craft shops in southern Italy is not unusual if making multiple purchases.

Tipping

Tipping is customary in restaurants, but optional elsewhere.

A Taxis Optional, but most people round up to the nearest euro.

A Hotels Tip porters about €4 at high-end hotels.

A Restaurants Service ( servizio ) is generally included in restaurants – if it's not, a euro or two is fine in pizzerias, 10% in restaurants.

A Bars Optional, though many Italians leave small change on the bar when ordering coffee. If drinks are brought to your table, a small tip is generally appreciated.

Etiquette

Italy is a surprisingly formal society; the following tips will help avoid awkward moments.

A Greetings Shake hands and say buongiorno (good day) or buona sera (good evening) to strangers; kiss both cheeks and say come stai (how are you) to friends. Use lei (you) in polite company; use tu (you) with friends and children. Only use first names if invited.

A Asking for help Say mi scusi (excuse me) to attract attention; and use permesso (permission) when you want to pass someone in a crowded space.

A Religion Dress modestly (cover shoulders, torsos and thighs) and show respect when visiting religious sites.

Language

English is not as widely spoken in Italy as it is in some other European nations. Of course, in the main tourist centres you can get by, but in the countryside and south of Rome you'll need to master a few basic phrases, particularly when interacting with older generations. This will improve your experience to no end, especially when ordering in restaurants, some of which have no written menu.

What's New

Farm-to-Table Deli Dining, Florence

Slow Food comes naturally in agricultural Tuscany, but a new take on the concept has been spawned with the arrival of urban deli dining spots like Mercato Centrale, Eataly and Michelin-starred La Bottega del Buon Caffè. Counter hop at the market or deli, then grab a table and watch your lunch being freshly prepared. Produce is seasonal, local and invariably organic. Beyond Florence, try Local Food Market in Lucca.

Museo Egizio, Turin

A major renovation of the city's world-renowned Egyptian Museum delivers dramatic new spaces and almost twice as many objects on display.

Hidden Secrets Walking Tours, Milan

Milan is more than catwalks, couture and cash. Just ask Città Nascosta Milano, an outfit that runs cultural tours that dig deeper into the city, revealing lesser-known angles and cognoscenti secrets.

Accademia Carrara, Bergamo

After a seven-year facelift, one of northern Italy's most respected art galleries has re-opened, its enviable collection of Italian masters including works by A-listers Botticelli, Raphael and Titian.

Ghetto restorations, Venice

In honour of its 500th anniversary in 2016, Venice's Ghetto quarter is shining brighter after the restoration of its Museo Ebraico and synagogues Schola Italiana ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ), Schola Tedesca ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ) and Schola Canton ( MAP GOOGLE MAP ).

New Moon Walking Tour, Volterra

Twilight fans are skulking around ancient alleyways in the Tuscan town of Volterra, the setting of Stephanie Meyer’s New Moon novel and proud possessor of a new vampire-themed walking tour.

Barberini Gardens, Castel Gandolfo

Once off limits, the immaculate gardens of the pope's summer residence are now yours to explore on a 90-minute guided tour. Explore everything from on-site ancient ruins to labyrinthine hedges.

New metro stations, Naples

Naples' metro Line 1 is wowing commuters with its latest showpiece stations: Duomo, designed by Massimiliano Fuksas, and Municipio, designed by Àlvaro Siza and Eduardo Souto de Moura. The latter features unearthed ancient ruins and a video painting by Israeli artist Michal Rovner.

Urban renewal, Matera

Matera is sprucing up for its upcoming role as European Capital of Culture in 2019. The top new sight is Casa Noha, a multimedia exhibit documenting the town's social history and extraordinary cave dwellings.

Sublime Sleeps, Sicily

Sicily is bidding sogni d'oro (sweet dreams) with a string of fetching new slumber spots. Among our favourites are waterfront Henry’s House in Ortygia (Syracuse) and Ostello degli Elefanti in Catania.

If You Like…

Masterpieces

Sistine Chapel More than just Michelangelo’s show-stealing ceiling fresco, this world-famous chapel in Rome also features work by Botticelli, Ghirlandaio and Perugino.

Galleria degli Uffizi Cimabue, Botticelli, da Vinci, Raphael, Titian: Florence's blockbuster art museum delivers a who's who of artistic deities.

Museo e Galleria Borghese A perfectly sized serve of Renaissance and baroque masterpieces in an elegant villa in Rome.

Giotto See just how Giotto revolutionised art with his masterly works in the Cappella degli Scrovegni and Basilica di San Francesco.

Ravenna Take in some of Italy's finest early-Christian mosaics at the Basilica di San Vitale and the Basilica di Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, two of eight World Heritage sites in town.

Museo del Novecento Modigliani, de Chirico, Kandinsky, Picasso, Fontana: a first-class 20th-century art museum in modernist Milan.

Pompeii The Dionysiac frieze in the dining room of the Villa dei Misteri is one of the world's largest ancient frescoes.

Palazzo Grassi The exceptional contemporary collection of French billionaire François Pinault is showcased against Tadao Ando interior sets in Venice.

Museion Bolzano's contemporary collection highlights the ongoing dialogue between the Südtirol, Austria and Germany.

Pinturicchio Perugia and Spello showcase the work of Umbria's home-grown Renaissance talent, Pinturicchio.

Fabulous Food

Bologna Nicknamed la grassa (literally ‘the fat’), Bologna straddles Italian food lines between the butter-led north and the tomato-based cuisine of the south.

Truffles Sniff around Piedmont, Tuscany and Umbria for the world's most coveted fungi.

Osteria Francescana Rave about Massimo Bottura's ingenious flavour combinations at the world's second-hottest restaurant.

Seafood So fresh you can eat it raw in Venice, Sardinia, Sicily and Puglia. In Campania, order a plate of spaghetti alle vongole (spaghetti with clams).

Pizza Italy’s most famous export, but who makes the best: Naples or Rome?

Parmigiano Reggiano Parma’s cheese is the most famous. Just leave room for Lombardy's Taleggio, Campania's buffalo mozzarella, and Puglia's burrata (cheese made from mozzarella and cream).

Eataly Eat, drink and stock larder and cellar at this giant emporium of top-notch Italian food and drink, with locations including Rome, Turin, Genoa and Florence.

Tuscan T-bone Carnivores drool over Florence's iconic bistecca alla fiorentina (T-bone steak), hailing from Tuscany's prized Val di Chiana.

Sicily Buxom eggplants (aubergines), juicy raisins, fragrant couscous, and velvety marzipan – cross-cultural Sicily puts the fusion in Italian cuisine.

Medieval Hill Towns

Asolo This cosy, elegant hilltop town in Veneto is home to one of the region's best-loved antiques markets.

Umbria and Le Marche Medieval hill towns galore: start with Spello and Spoleto, and end with Todi and Urbino.

Montalcino A pocket-sized Tuscan jewel lined with wine bars pouring the area's celebrated Brunello wines.

Erice Splendid coastal views from the hilltop Norman castle make this western Sicily's most photogenic village.

San Gimignano A medieval Tuscan Manhattan, studded with skyscraping towers from centuries past.

Ravello Lording over the Amalfi Coast, Campania's cultured jewel has wowed the best of them, from Wagner to Capote.

Maratea A 13th-century borgo (medieval town) with pint-sized piazzas, winding alleys and startling views across the Gulf of Policastro.

Puglia From the Valle d’Itria to the sierras of the Salento, Puglia is dotted with biscuit-coloured hilltop villages.

Wine Tasting

From Etna’s elegant whites to Barolo’s complex reds, Italian wines are as varied as the country’s terrain. Sample them in cellars, over long, lazy lunches or dedicate yourself to a full-blown tour.

Tuscan wine routes Discover why Chianti isn’t just a cheap table wine left over from the 1970s.

Festa dell’Uva e del Vino In early October the wine town of Bardolino is taken over by wine and food stalls.

Vinitaly(www.vinitaly.com) Sample exceptional, rarely exported blends at Italy’s largest annual wine expo.

Museo del Vino a Barolo Explore the history of vino through art and film at Barolo’s wine museum.

Colli Orientali and Il Carso International oenophiles revere these two wine-growing areas in Friuli Venezia Giulia for their Friuliano and blended ‘superwhites’. Taste test at an osmize (rustic pop-up).

Valpolicella and Soave Wine tastings in these two Veneto regions include blockbuster drops both white and red.

Alto Adige's Weinstraße A valley trail where native grapes Lagrein, Vernatsch and Gewürztraminer thrive alongside well-adapted imports pinot blanc, sauvignon, merlot and cabernet.

Villas & Palaces

Reggia di Caserta As seen in Star Wars; the Italian baroque's spectacular epilogue.

Rome Don’t miss Galleria Doria Pamphilj( gVia del Corso), Palazzo Farnese and Palazzo Barberini.

Palazzo Ducale The doge’s Venetian palace comes with a golden staircase and interrogation rooms.

Villa Maser Andrea Palladio and Paolo Veronese conspired to create the Veneto’s finest country mansion.

Reggia di Venaria Reale%011 499 23 33; h9am-5pm Tue-Fri, to 7pm Sat & Sun) Piedmont's sprawling Savoy palace inspired French rival Versailles.

Palazzi dei Rolli A collection of 42 Unesco-protected lodging palaces in Genoa.

Villa Romana del Casale%0935 68 00 36; h9am-6pm Apr-Oct, 9am-4pm Nov-Mar) See where the home decor obsession began with this Roman villa’s 3500-sq-metre mosaic floor.

Il Vittoriale degli Italiani Gabriele d’Annunzio’s estate would put a Roman emperor to shame.

Palazzo Ducale A crenellated, 500-room palace lavished with frescoes in Mantua.

Markets

Porta Nolana Elbow your way past singsong fishing folk, fragrant bakeries and bootleg CD stalls for a slice of Neapolitan street theatre.

Rialto Market Shop for lagoon specialities at Venice’s centuries-old produce market.

Mercato di Ballarò Fruit, fish, meat and veg stalls packed under striped awnings down cobbled alleys: Palermo’s market is more African bazaar than Italian mercato.

Porta Portese A modern commedia dell’arte takes place every Sunday between vendors and bargain hunters at Rome’s mile-long flea market.

Arezzo On the first weekend of every month, Arezzo hosts Italy’s oldest and biggest antiques market.

Luino Straddling the eastern shore of Lake Maggiore, Luino is home to one of northern Italy's largest flea markets, held weekly on Wednesdays.

Porta Palazzo Turin's outdoor food market is the continent's largest.

Antiques market, Arezzo

Juergen Richter/LOOK-foto/Getty Images ©

Islands & Beaches

Counting all its offshore islands and squiggly indentations, Italy’s coastline stretches 7375km from the sheer cliffs of the Cinque Terre, down through Rimini’s brash resorts to the bijou islands in the Bay of Naples and Puglia’s sandy shores.

Puglia Italy’s best sandy beaches, including the gorgeous Baia dei Turchi near Otranto and the cliff-backed beaches of the Gargano.

Aeolian Islands Sicily’s seven volcanic islands sport hillsides of silver-grey pumice, black lava beaches and lush green vineyards.

Borromean Islands Graced with villas, gardens and wandering peacocks, Lake Maggiore's trio of islands are impossibly refined.

Sardinia Take your pick of our favourite beaches, including the Aga Khan’s personal fave, Spiaggia del Principe.

Procida Pretty, pastel-hued Procida has seduced many a cinematographer.

Rimini Swap high culture for thumping beats and raves on the beach in Rimini.

Elba This island sits at the heart of the Parco Nazionale Arcipelago Toscano, Europe’s largest marine park.

Cala Goloritzè, Sardinia

Bernard van Dierendonck/LOOK-foto/Getty Images ©

Gardens

Italy’s penchant for the ‘outdoor room’ has been going strong since Roman emperors landscaped their holiday villas. Renaissance princes refined the practice, but it was 19th-century aristocrats who really went to town.

Reggia di Venaria Reale Take a botanical, cultural or gastronomic tour to explore the 10 hectares of the Venaria’s gardens.

The Italian Lakes Fringed with fabulous gardens such as those at Isola Madre, Villa Balbianello and Villa Taranto.

Villa d'Este Tivoli’s superlative High Renaissance garden dotted with fantastical fountains and cypress-lined avenues.

Ravello View the Amalfi Coast from the Belvedere of Infinity and listen to classical-music concerts in romantic 19th-century gardens.

La Mortella A tropical paradise inspired by the gardens of Granada’s Alhambra.

Giardini Pubblici Venice’s first green space and the home of the celebrated Biennale with its avant-garde pavilions.

Villa Rufolo, Ravello

Michele Falzone/Getty Images ©

Unspoilt Wilderness

Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso Spectacular hiking trails, Alpine ibex and a refreshing lack of ski resorts await at Valle d'Aosta's mountain-studded wonderland.

Parco del Conero Lace up those hiking boots and hit this protected pocket of Le Marche, laced with fragrant forest, gleaming white cliffs and pristine bays.

Selvaggio Blu Sardinia's toughest hiking trek doesn't shortchange on rugged beauty – from cliffs and caves to spectacular coastal scenery.

Parco Nazionale dei Monti Sibillini Head for the border between Umbria and Le Marche for forests and subalpine meadows dotted with peregrine falcons, wolves and wildcats.

Northern Lagoon, Venice Take a boat tour of Venice's World Heritage–listed lagoon; it's Europe's largest coastal wetland and home to a bounty of migrating birds from September to January.

Riserva Naturale dello Zingaro( h7am-7pm Apr-Sep, 8am-4pm Oct-Mar) Dip in and out of picturesque coves along the wild coastline of Sicily's oldest nature reserve.

Month by Month

Top Events

Settimana Santa, March–April

La Biennale di Venezia, June–October

Estate Romana, June–September

Il Palio di Siena, July & August

Truffle Season, November

January

Following hot on the heels of New Year is Epiphany. In the Alps and Dolomites it's ski season, while in the Mediterranean south winters are mild and crowd-free, although many resort towns are firmly shut.

z Regata della Befana

Witches in Venice don't ride brooms: they row boats. Venice celebrates Epiphany on 6 January with the Regatta of the Witches, complete with a fleet of brawny men dressed in their finest befana (witch) drag.

2 Ski Italia

Italy's top ski resorts are in the northern Alps and the Dolomites, but you'll also find resorts in Friuli, the Apennines, Le Marche and even Sicily. The best months of the season are January and February.

February

'Short' and 'accursed', is how Italians describe February. In the mountains the ski season hits its peak in line with school holidays. Further south it's chilly, but almond trees blossom and herald the carnival season.

z Carnevale

In the period leading up to Ash Wednesday, many Italian towns stage pre-Lenten carnivals, with whimsical costumes, confetti and special festive treats. Venice's Carnevale (www.carnevale.venezia.it) is the most famous, while Viareggio's version (viareggio.ilcarnevale.com) is well known for its giant papier-mâché floats.

z Sa Sartiglia

Masqueraded horse riders and fearless equestrian acrobatics define this historic event (www.sartiglia.info), held in the Sardinian town of Oristano on the last Sunday before Lent and on Shrove Tuesday.

5 Mostra Mercato del Tartufo Nero

An early-spring taste of truffles from the gastronomic Umbrian town of Norcia. Thousands of visitors sift through booths tasting all things truffle alongside other speciality produce.

March

The weather in March is capricious: sunny, rainy and windy all at once. The official start of spring is 21 March, but the holiday season starts during Easter.

5 Taste

For three days in March, gourmands flock to Florence for Taste (www.pittimmagine.com), a bustling food fair held inside industrial-sleek Stazione Leopolda. The program includes culinary-themed talks, cooking demonstrations and the chance to sample food, coffee and liquor from more than 300 Italian artisan producers.

z Settimana Santa

On Good Friday, the Pope leads a candlelit procession to the Colosseum and on Easter Sunday he gives his blessing in St Peter's Square. In Florence, a cartful of fireworks explodes in Piazza del Duomo. Other notable processions take place in Procida and Sorrento (Campania), Taranto (Puglia) and Trapani (Sicily).

April

Spring has sprung and April sees the Italian peninsula bloom. The gardens of northern Italy show off their tulips and early camellias, and as April edges towards May, the mountains of Sicily and Calabria begin to fill with wildflowers.

1 Salone Internazionale del Mobile

Held annually in Milan, the world's most prestigious furniture fair (salonemilano.it) is joined in alternate years by lighting, accessories, office, kitchen and bathroom shows too.

3 Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Established in 1933, Italy's oldest art festival (www.operadifirenze.it) brings world-class performances of theatre, classical music, jazz and dance to Florence's sparkling new opera house and other venues across the city. Events run from late April to June.

1 Settimana del Tulipano

Tulips erupt in spectacular bloom during the Week of the Tulip, held at Lake Maggiore's Villa Taranto; the dahlia path and dogwood are also in bloom in what is considered one of Europe's finest botanical gardens.

6 Vinitaly

Sandwiched between the Valpolicella and Soave wine regions, Verona hosts one of the world's largest and most prestigious wine fairs, Vinitaly (www.vinitaly.com), with over 4000 international exhibitors. Events include wine tastings, lectures and seminars.

May

The month of roses, early summer produce and cultural festivals makes May a perfect time to travel. The weather is warm but not too hot and prices throughout Italy are good value. An especially good month for walkers.

z Maggio dei Monumenti

As the weather warms up, Naples rolls out a mammoth, month-long program of art exhibitions, concerts, performances and tours around the city. Many historical and architectural treasures usually off-limits to the public are open and free to visit.

3 Ciclo di Rappresentazioni Classiche

Classical intrigue in an evocative Sicilian setting, the Festival of Greek Theatre (www.indafondazione.org), held from mid-May to mid-June, brings Syracuse's 5th-century-BC amphitheatre to life with performances from Italy's acting greats.

6 Wine & The City

A two-week celebration of regional vino in Naples (www.wineandthecity.it), with free wine degustations, aperitivo sessions, theatre, music and exhibitions. Venues span museums, castles and galleries to restaurants, shops and yachts.

June

The summer season kicks off in June. The temperature cranks up quickly, beach lidos start to open in earnest and some of the big summer festivals commence. Republic Day, on 2 June, is a national holiday.

z Napoli Teatro Festival Italia

For three weeks in June, Naples celebrates all things performative with the Napoli Teatro Festival Italia (www.napoliteatrofestival.it). Using both conventional and unconventional venues, the program ranges from classic works to specially commissioned pieces from both local and international acts.

z La Biennale di Venezia

Held in odd-numbered years, the Venice Biennale (www.labiennale.org) is one of the art world's most prestigious events. Exhibitions are held in venues around the city from June to October.

3 Estate Romana

Between June and October Rome puts on a summer calendar of events that turn the city into an outdoor stage. Dubbed Estate Romana (www.romeguide.it/estate_romana), the program encompasses music, dance, literature and film, with events staged in some of Rome's most evocative venues.

z Ravello Festival

Perched high above the Amalfi Coast, Ravello draws world-renowned artists during its summer-long Ravello Festival (www.ravellofestival.com). Covering everything from music and dance to film and art exhibitions, several events take place in the exquisite Villa Rufolo gardens from late June to early September.

z Giostra del Saracino

A grandiose affair deep-rooted in neighbourhood rivalry, this medieval jousting tournament sees the four quartieri (quarters) of Arezzo put forward a team of knights to battle on one of Tuscany's most beautiful and unusual city squares, Piazza Grande; third Saturday in June and first Sunday in September.

z Spoleto Festival dei Due Mondi

Held in the Umbrian hill town of Spoleto from late June to mid-July, the Spoleto Festival (www.festivaldispoleto.it) is a world-renowned arts event, featuring international theatre, dance, music and art.

July

School is out and Italians everywhere are heading away from the cities and to mountains or beaches for their summer holidays. Prices and temperatures rise. While the beach is in full swing, many cities host summer art festivals.

z Sagra della Madonna della Bruna

A colourful procession escorts the Madonna della Bruna in a papier-mâché-adorned chariot around Matera on 2 July. The Madonna is carried into the Duomo and her chariot is left to be torn to pieces by the crowd, taking home the scraps as souvenirs. Fireworks add to the frenzy.

z Il Palio di Siena

Daredevils in tights thrill the crowds with this chaotic bareback horse race around the piazza in Siena. Preceding the race is a dashing medieval-costume parade. Held on 2 July and 16 August.

3 Taormina Arte

Ancient ruins and languid summer nights set a seductive scene for Taormina Arte (www.taormina-arte.com), a major arts festival held through July and September. Events include film screenings, theatre, opera and concerts.

3 Giffoni Film Festival

Europe's biggest children’s film festival (www.giffonifilmfestival.it) livens up the town of Giffoni Valle Piana, east of Salerno, Campania. The 10-day event includes screenings, workshops, seminars and big-name guests such as Mark Ruffalo and Robert De Niro.

z Festa di Sant'Anna

The Campanian island of Ischia celebrates the feast day of Sant'Anna to spectacular effect on July 26. Local municipalities build competing floats to sail in a flotilla, with spectacular fireworks and a symbolic 'burning' of Ischia Ponte's medieval Castello Aragonese.

August

August in Italy is hot, expensive and crowded. Everyone is on holiday and, while not everything is shut, many businesses and restaurants do close for part of the month.

z Ferragosto

After Christmas and Easter, Ferragosto, on 15 August, is Italy's biggest holiday. It marks the Feast of the Assumption, but even before Christianity the Romans honoured their gods on Feriae Augusti. Naples celebrates with particular fervour.

z Mostra Internazionale d'Arte Cinematografica

The Venice International Film Festival (www.labiennale.org/en/cinema) is one of the world's most prestigious silver-screen events. Held at the Lido from late August to early September, it draws the international film glitterati with its red-carpet premieres and paparazzi glamour.

September

This is a glorious month to travel in Italy. Summer waxes into autumn and the start of the harvest season sees lots of local sagre (food festivals) spring up. September is also the start of the grape harvest.

z Regata Storica

On the first Sunday in September, gondoliers in period dress work those biceps in Venice's Historic Regatta. Period boats are followed by gondola and other boat races along the Grand Canal.

6 Chianti Classico Wine Fair

There is no finer opportunity to taste Tuscany's Chianti Classico than at Greve in Chianti's annual Chianti Classico Expo (www.expochianticlassico.com), the second weekend in September. Festivities begin the preceding Thursday. Buy a glass and swirl, sniff, sip and spit your way round.

5 Festival delle Sagre

On the second Sunday in September more than 40 communes in the province of Asti put their wines and local gastronomic products on display at this appetite-piquing, waist-expanding culinary fest (www.festivaldellesagre.it).

5 Couscous Fest

The Sicilian town of St Vito celebrates multiculturalism and its famous fish couscous at this 10-day event in late September (www.couscousfest.it). Highlights include an international couscous cook-off, tastings and live world-music gigs.

October

October is a fabulous time to visit the south, when the days still radiate with late-summer warmth and the lidi (beaches) are emptying out. Further north the temperature starts to drop and festival season comes to an end.

3 Romaeuropa Festival

From late September to early December, top international artists take to the stage for Rome's premier festival of theatre, opera and dance (romaeuropa.net).

5 Salone Internazionale del Gusto

Hosted by the home-grown Slow Food Movement, this biennial food expo ((www.salonedelgusto.it) takes place in Turin in even-numbered years. Held over five days, appetite-piquing events include workshops, presentations and tastings of food, wine and beer from Italy and beyond.

November

The advent of winter creeps down the peninsula in November, but there's plenty going on. For gastronomes, this is truffle season. It's also the time for the chestnut harvest, mushroom picking and All Saints' Day.

z Ognissanti

Celebrated all over Italy as a national holiday, All Saints' Day on 1 November commemorates the Saint Martyrs, while All Souls' Day, on 2 November, is set aside to honour the deceased.

5 Truffle Season

From the Piedmontese towns of Alba (www.fieradeltartufo.org) and Asti, to Tuscany's San Miniato and Le Marche's Acqualagna, November is prime truffle time, with local truffle fairs, events and music.

3 Opera Season

Italy is home to four of the world's great opera houses: La Scala in Milan, La Fenice in Venice, Teatro San Carlo in Naples and Teatro Massimo in Palermo. The season traditionally runs from mid-October to March, although La Scala opens later on St Ambrose Day, 7 December.

December

The days of alfresco living are firmly at an end. December is cold and Alpine resorts start to open for the early ski season, although looming Christmas festivities keep life warm and bright.

z Natale

The weeks preceding Christmas are studded with religious events. Many churches set up nativity scenes known as presepi. Naples is especially famous for these. On Christmas Eve the Pope serves midnight mass in St Peter's Square.

Itineraries

Italian Highlights

9 Days

A perfect introduction to Italy, this easy tour ticks off some of the country's most seductive sights, including Roman ruins, Renaissance masterpieces and the world's most beautiful lagoon city.

Start with three days in mighty Rome, punctuating blockbuster sights like the Colosseum, Palatine and Sistine Chapel with market grazing in the Campo de' Fiori and late-night revelry in Trastevere.

On day four, head to Renaissance Florence. Drop in on Michelangelo's David at the Galleria dell'Accademia and pick your favourite Botticelli at the Uffizi Gallery. For a change of pace, escape to the Tuscan countryside on day six for a day trip to Gothic Siena.

The following day, continue north for three unforgettable days in Venice. Check off musts like the mosaic-encrusted Basilica di San Marco, art-slung Gallerie dell'Accademia and secret passageways of the Palazzo Ducale, then live like a true Venetian, noshing on the city's famous cicheti (Venetian tapas), and toasting with a Veneto prosecco (sparkling wine).

Itineraries

Northern Jewels

2 Weeks

Like a jewel-studded necklace, this route takes in some of northern Italy's most extraordinary assets, from cultural powerhouse cities to one of Italy's most arresting stretches of coastline.

Begin with three days in Venice, its trading port pedigree echoed in the Near East accents of its architecture and the synagogues of its 500-year-old Ghetto. On day four, continue to Ravenna, former capital of the Western Roman Empire and home to eight Unesco World-Heritage-listed sites. Among these are the basilicas of San Vitale and Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, adorned with extraordinary Byzantine mosaics.

Spend days six and seven in erudite Bologna, home to the world's fifth-largest church and its oldest university. The university district is the location of the Pinacoteca Nazionale, its powerhouse art collection including works by regional master Parmigianino. One of Bologna's fortes is gastronomy, a fact not lost on its deli-packed Quadrilatero district.

Dedicate the next three days to Florence. It's here that you'll find many of Western art's most revered works. The city's Renaissance credentials extend to its architecture, which includes Filippo Brunelleschi's show-stopping Duomo dome. Even the city's gardens are manicured masterpieces, exemplified by the supremely elegant Giardino di Boboli.

On day 11, pit-stop in Pisa to eye-up the architectural ensemble that makes up the Piazza dei Miracoli, then continue to nearby Renaissance show pony Lucca. Spend the following day exploring Lucca's elegant streets, picnicking on its centuries-old ramparts and meditating on Tintoretto's soul-stirring Last Supper in the Cattedrale di San Martino. Human ingenuity merges with natural beauty on days 13 and 14, where your sojourn ends among colourful fishing villages and weathered vines of Liguria's fabled Cinque Terre.

Itineraries

The Grand Tour

4 Weeks

From salubrious northern cities and lakes to bewitching southern seas and dwellings, this grand tour encapsulates Italy's incredible natural and cultural diversity.

Start in style with two days in Milan. Shop its coveted boutiques, dine its hotspot restaurants and demand an encore at its gilded La Scala. Come day three, continue to Lago di Como (Lake Como), basing yourself in Como or Bellagio and spending two romantic days among its sublime waterside villas and villages. If you haven't been wooed by Hollywood royalty, continue to Venice on day five, where the following trio of days burst with Titians and Tintorettos, artisan studios and convivial bacari (Venetian-style bars). On day eight, shoot southwest to Florence, allowing three days to tackle its blockbuster art and sink your teeth into its legendary bistecca alla fiorentina (T-bone steak). Gluttonous acts are forgiven on day 11 as you travel to the pilgrimage city of Assisi, its Gothic basilica lavished with Giotto frescoes. Head southwest to Rome on day 13 and spend three full days exploring its two-millennia-worth of temples, churches, piazzas and artistic marvels.

On day 17, slip south to Naples and its explosion of baroque architecture and subterranean ruins. Day-trip it to the ruins of Pompeii on day 19, then sail to Capri on day 20 for three seductive days of boating, bucolic hikes and piazza-side posing. If it's high season, catch a ferry directly to laidback Sorrento on day 23, spending a night in town before hitting the hairpin turns of the glorious Amalfi Coast. Allow two days in chi-chi Positano, where you can hike the heavenly Sentiero degli Dei (Walk of the Gods). Spend day 26 in deeply historic Amalfi before continuing to sky-high Ravello, long-time haunt of composers and Hollywood stars. Stay the night to soak up its understated elegance, and spend the following morning soaking up its uber-romantic gardens. After an evening of bar hopping in upbeat Salerno, shoot inland to Matera on day 28 to experience its World Heritage-listed sassi (former cave dwellings) and dramatic Matera Gravina gorge. Come day 30, continue through to architecturally astounding Lecce, the 'Florence of the South' and your final cross-country stop.

Itineraries

Venice to Milan

2 Weeks

Aristocratic villas, renegade frescoes, star-struck lovers and cult-status wines; this easy two-week journey serves up a feast of northern highlights.

In the 16th century the Venetian summer began early in June, when every household loaded onto barges for a summer sojourn along the Brenta Riviera. You too can make like a Venetian on a boat trip along the Riviera after spending a few days in Venice. Marvel at the Tiepolo frescoes of Villa Pisani Nazionale, drop in to the Shoemakers' Museum at Villa Foscarini Rossi and stop in at Palladio's Villa Foscari.

Boat trips along the Brenta Riviera end in Padua where you can overnight overlooking the Basilica di Sant'Antonio. With advance booking, you can see Padua's crowning glory, Giotto's frescoed Scrovegni Chapel.

On day six hop on the train to Vicenza. Spend the afternoon watching sunlight ripple across the soaring facades of Palladio's palazzi (mansions) and illuminate the Villa Valmarana 'ai Nani', covered floor-to-ceiling with frescoes by Giambattista and Giandomenico Tiepolo, then head on to Verona for three or four days.

Here you can view Mantegnas at Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore, and explore modern art at the Galleria d’Arte Moderna Achille Forte. Then listen to opera in the Roman Arena and wander Verona's balconied backstreets where Romeo wooed Juliet. From Verona, consider a day trip northwest to Valpolicella to sip highly prized Amarone (red wine) by appointment at Giuseppe Quintarelli, or back east to Soave for a sampling of its namesake DOC white wine at Azienda Agricola Coffele.

On day 11 dip southwest to regal Mantua for an impressive display of dynastic power and patronage at the Gonzagas' fortified family pad, the Palazzo Ducale. Finish up with a two-day stop in Cremona where you can chat with artisans in one of the 100 violin-making shops around Piazza del Comune before hearing them in action at the Teatro Amilcare Ponchielli and then heading on to end your tour in Milan.

Itineraries

Central Italian Escape

10 Days

Revered vineyards, medieval hilltop towns and Unesco-lauded artwork: this trip takes in evocative landscapes, from well-troden Tuscany to lesser-known Umbria and Le Marche.

Begin with two cultured days in Florence, then enjoy two decadent days in Chianti, toasting to the area's vino and indulging in lazy lunches and countryside cycling. On day five, head east, pit-stopping in tiny Sansepolcro to meditate on Pietro della Francesca's trio of