To British tourists booking flights to Italy, the country epitomises la dolce vita. Cafés set among Roman ruins; sun-drenched cities filled with scooters; rolling Tuscan hills; vaporetti on the Venetian canals; arguably the greatest art collection of the world, both in galleries and churches; and everywhere you travel exquisite food and wine. Italians revel in the good things in life: eating, drinking and good conversation reigning above all else.
There is something to see and do in Italy year-round. There is skiing in the mountains at winter, endless sightseeing in the large and small towns throughout the year (the Leaning Tower alone is worth the cost of cheap flights to Pisa) and in the summer sunbathing on the beaches of the Amalfi Coast, the South and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
The country is easily accessible from the UK and Ireland, making it perfect for a short break. Flights to Italy take a few hours and are available to a huge array of towns throughout the country. Each region, city and village has its own distinct feel, culture and food. You could travel for years in this stunning country and still find something new.
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Italy’s climate changes with the region. Summers in northern Italy are warm and sometimes rainy. It’s humid in central Italy and hot and dry in the south. Winters are cold, damp and foggy in the north, near-freezing in the centre of the country and mild in the south. Temperatures on the coast are the same regardless of their location. The mountain areas have a much bigger difference between summer and winter and snow can start falling as early as mid-September.
When to fly to Italy
Seaside hotels in Italy are packed from June into September. The mountain ski season is December through April. Despite the heat and humidity, the cities are busy April through October, particularly June and July, and Christmas and New Year’s. Venice is also packed during Carnival (February).
The crowds are less intense and the weather perfect April through May and September through October.
The low season usually runs from November to mid-December, and December 25 to March 31. Most attractions go on shorter winter hours or are closed for renovation. This can be a good time to find a cheap Italy flight and discounts on hotels. August is when most Italians take their vacations and close their shops and businesses.
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Getting around Italy
Travelling around Italy is easily done by bus, train, car, or plane. There are a number of airports serviced by domestic and international airlines in Italy, so flights are frequent and convenient.
Country driving requires nerves of steel, and city driving is not recommended. City drivers are aggressive and impatient, and parking spaces are rare and costly. Several cities add to the problem with confusing patterns of one-way streets. Most Italian cities’ historic centres are best covered on foot. When walking around Venice, allot extra time for getting lost — it’s bound to happen. For all cities, bring comfortable and sturdy walking shoes as there are lots of cobblestones. Public transport is the best way to travel in a city. Rome and Milan have underground trains, buses, and trams, and Florence and Bologna have buses. Venetian public transport is water buses and ferries.
Taxis are available in most cities in Italy, and water taxis in Venice. Either call for one or get one at a taxi stand. In Bologna, the network of one-way streets is so convoluted that taking a cab can be very expensive.
Mopeds are popular in Rome and Florence.
Italy insider information
- From Romulus and Remus to the Holy Roman Empire to modern day, Rome’s history is rich with political intrigue, grandeur, infamy, papacy, and artistry. The streets of Rome reflect its past: the Forum, Farnese Gardens, Pantheon, Colosseum, and Vatican City. Museums house masterpieces created and accumulated throughout Rome’s history. Fine dining and shopping can be had on any budget.
- More beautiful than in the movies, Venice was Europe’s main trading post between the West and East for a thousand years. Merchants from a host of countries conducted business here, and everywhere you go are vestiges and relics of the past. Authentic Venetian glassware, lace, and Carnival masks are still produced here, and there’s always a concert going on somewhere.
- Italy’s financial and business centre, Milan is rivaled only by Paris as a fashion centre. Dining, the theatre, and the nightlife are as popular as shopping. Italy’s most populous and prosperous city, Milan is not just glitz — La Scala opera house is here as are masterpieces like da Vinci’s Last Supper, grand architecture, and two famous football clubs.
- Florence is considered Italy's most beautiful city, and the museums are even better. The development and growth of the Renaissance are reflected in the paintings, frescos, statues, cathedrals, and chapels. Michelangelo’s David, Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and Raphael’s Madonnas are here. For a change of pace, take a stroll in Dante’s neighbourhood, have a Florentine gelato, or browse the shops and markets.
- Another beautiful city, Bologna has a medieval centre, old brick palaces, porticoed streets and squares, but without the enormous crowds of other Italian cities. As Italy’s gastronomic capital, just eating is sheer pleasure. Home to the oldest university in Europe, Bologna guarantees an interesting mix of performing arts and exhibits. The large student population also means a vibrant and diverse nightlife.
- Trivago is a useful website for user reviews and recommendations on accommodation in Italy. The site has information on all the main cities, including hotels in Rome, hotels in Venice and hotels in Milan.