Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in Southern Europe, famous for its sea beaches, smoking volcano cones and centuries-old history. It is a country that attracts millions of tourists. People of different nationalities live here, but all of them are very open, friendly and independent. Welcome to Italy, the country is looking forward to you!
Italy on the map
Geographical location of the country
Italy is located in the central part of Southern Europe on the Apennine Peninsula, which juts deep into the Mediterranean Sea. On a map, the country is easily recognizable by the distinctive shape that the peninsula has. For this shape, the Apennines are often called a boot.
At the toe of the Apennine boot is the ball – the largest island of the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily. In addition to it, Italy includes the island of Sardinia, the second largest in the region. And thousands of small, often uninhabited islands.
In total, the coastline of Italy stretches for 7600 kilometres. The country is washed by the Mediterranean Sea and a number of its marginal seas: Tyrrhenian, Ligurian, Adriatic and Ionian.
Italy is bordered by France, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia to the north. Besides inside the territory of the country there are two dwarf states: the capital of Catholic Church Vatican and the oldest republic in the world – San Marino.
The country is characterized by a complex relief. In the north there are southern spurs of the Alps, the highest mountain system of Western Europe. To the south, the Alps are replaced by the Padana Plain, beyond which begin the Apennine Mountains, stretching across the entire peninsula. They are interrupted only by small river valleys.
Italy is also famous for having the only active volcanoes in mainland Europe – Etna on the island of Sicily, and the famous Vesuvius above Naples.
Safety for tourists
Italy is on the 34th place in the global index of the world, which takes into account not only the safety of tourism, but also the attitude of residents to the guests of the country. For Europe this is not the highest index, nevertheless, staying in the republic usually does not cause trouble for its guests.
Petty theft is rampant in the country’s big cities. Pickpockets are often organised in groups and while one is distracting you, another will steal your wallet. Very often bags and backpacks, expensive jewellery are snatched here. Therefore, tourists should be very careful in a crowd of people.
The most dangerous for tourists are considered the neighbourhoods of emigrants. There the crime rate is many times higher, and after dusk it is better not to appear in them.
Other dangers of Italy are usual for European countries. Road traffic is organised competently and safely, there are special rules, for violations of which may face a fine. For example, it is not allowed to swim or even wet your feet in fountains or leave the beach in a swimming costume. By the way, such fraud as a fake policeman is widespread in the country. Someone can introduce himself as a policeman and start extorting money from a tourist for an imaginary offence. It should be remembered that police officers in the republic always wear uniforms of the same cut and colour.
The Italian sun is very hot, and a tourist from a northern country can easily get a blow or a burn. In the sea there are poisonous animals, the coast is often strewn with splinters. Sometimes there are underwater currents and water near the shore.
Almost all Italians are very sociable and cheerful people. They love songs, dances and noisy celebrations. Many tourists specially choose the time to visit the most famous carnivals and festivals.
The official days off in the country are several days. These are New Year’s Day, the Days of Liberation from Fascism, Labour Day and the Proclamation of the Republic.
There are many more church holidays in the country, which are also days off. These are Christmas, Easter, Ascension, St Stephen’s Day and a number of others.
In addition, Italy loves costume processions and carnivals, timed to one or another church date.
For example, the famous Venice Carnival is timed to the beginning of Lent, that is an analogue of the Orthodox Pancake Day.
Besides Venice Carnival, carnivals in Ivrea, Tricarico, Tuscany, Cento and a number of other cities are popular. The end of February is the peak of the carnival season.
What fun things to do in Italy
From beach holidays and sightseeing to alpine skiing and comfortable yachts, Italy has plenty of activities to suit every taste and wallet.
- Beaches and amusement parks. The country is characterised by a huge number of comfortable beaches, so appreciated by lovers of a beautiful tan. Here you can have a rest with children, because most beaches have a gentle descent into the water and soft sand. And those who want to get a thrill can visit any of the famous Italian amusement parks, for example, Gardaland, spread on the shores of the lake of the same name.
- Diving and surfing. Despite the fact that there are no coral reefs off the coast of the country, diving is very popular here. In the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, you can admire beautiful fish and sunken ships or even cities. The best places for diving are the Ligurian Sea and Sicily, and for surfing – Sardinia.
- Yachting. On any beach in Italy there is an opportunity to book a yacht or boat trip, visit nearby picturesque islands, go fishing.
- Visiting architectural sights. Italy is one of the centres of the origin of ancient civilisation and colourful antiquities are scattered everywhere. The sights of Rome are especially appreciated by tourists. Venice, Florence, Naples.
- Visiting natural attractions. One of the symbols of the country is the majestic cone of Vesuvius. It is the duty of every tourist to visit it. In addition, Italy has many other marvellous places: the island of Capri, lakes Como and Garda, the Alps and many others.
- Skiing. The Italian Alps are a favourite training place for the world’s skiers. The most popular resort is Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomite Alps. In 1956 the Winter Olympic Games were held there.
- Thermal resorts. There are a lot of therapeutic resorts and spa centres in the country, where you can not only improve your health, but have a wonderful rest and regain your strength. The most famous resorts are Montecatini Termo and Abano Terme.
- Carnivals. Often tourists specially go to Italy to enjoy the atmosphere of its famous carnivals. Similar to them can be seen only in Brazil. The most famous is the carnival in Venice.
- Gastrotours. Italian cuisine is renowned as one of the most delicious and exquisite on the planet. A lot of amazingly tasty dishes from pizza to ice-cream should definitely be tried here. Italy is also famous for its wines.
- Hiking. This popular active tourism destination is widely represented in Italy. There are dozens of trails of varying difficulty. One of the most popular is the Blue Trail in the Cinque Terre National Park, which is 12 kilometres long.
What’s important to know about Italy
If you are planning to visit Italy, here are some of the most important things to know:
The country’s official language is Italian, not Latin as is sometimes mistakenly thought. Latin was spoken by the ancient Romans, who carried the light of civilisation to barbaric Europe, but it is now a dead language of scholars and archaeological sites. Modern Italian bears little resemblance to classical Latin.
Italian itself is divided into several dialects: northern, central and southern. In addition, French, German and Slovenian are recognised as official languages in a number of border regions.
A total of 65 million people in the world speak Italian.
The country is currently home to just under 59 million people. Among them, the overwhelming majority are Italians – 93.5%. Just over 1% are Romanians and North Africans, as well as diasporas of Chinese, Albanians, Latin Americans and many other peoples.
More facts about Italians, their character and local flavour can be found in this article.
The national currency of the country is the euro.
Until 2002, the currency of the republic was the lira. And even earlier, Roman gold coins solidi and monetary units of Charlemagne’s empire were used in this land.
Like euro coins of other EU countries, Italian coins have their own distinctive features. The 1 euro coin features Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, while the 2 euro coin features a portrait of Dante Alighieri. The euro cents depict historical and cultural monuments: the Colosseum, the castle in Puglia, the Turin Tower.
Italy is a secular country, i.e. religion is separated from the state. Nevertheless, about 97% of the country’s population are members of the Roman Catholic Church. This is the predominant religion in the republic, which is not surprising, because in Rome is the residence of the Pope, the head of all Catholics in the world.
The second religion by the number of believers in the country is Orthodoxy. The number of Orthodox Christians is increasing due to the influx of migrants from Eastern Europe, and now totals almost 1.5 million people.
The country lies almost entirely within the Mediterranean tropical climate zone. Only in the north of the country there are zones of temperate climate, alternating with areas of altitudinal belt. Because of this, Italy is characterised by a strong gradation of average monthly temperatures depending on the region.
In the north of the country, the air temperature is much lower than on the hottest southern tip of the peninsula. In winter, frosts as low as -2 degrees are possible here. At the same time, the temperature in the south does not fall below +7 even at night.
In summer at the foot of the Alps the average temperature is +22 degrees, in the extreme south – up to +30. Autumn in the country is quite warm, and the summer heat is in no hurry to retreat. The average temperature in October is about +22 degrees.
Italy’s weather is greatly influenced by seasonal winds. In autumn and winter in the foothills of the Alps, dry and warm fen blows from the north. In Sicily, the heat is brought by the African sirocco. Cold weather in Sardinia is provided by the north-western mistral.
The rainy season in the country falls between October and November, but heavy precipitation is not uncommon in winter, with snowfalls in the north.
The most favourable time for beach holidays in Italy is May-June and September, when the heat is not so strong.
Sea water temperature
The average temperature of sea water in Italy varies significantly by seasons of the year. In winter, it drops to +8-11 degrees, in summer it can rise to +25 degrees.
- Water temperature in winter, December-January: from +8 to +11. The coldest month is February.
- Water temperature in spring, March-May: from +9 to +17 degrees. In the second half of May, the bathing season begins in most resorts of the country.
- Water temperature in summer, June-July: from +22 to +25 degrees. The water warms up most of all in August.
- Water temperature in autumn, September-November: from +24 degrees in September to +15 degrees in November.
Italy is often in the news as the site of another natural disaster. Natural disasters happen here almost more often than anywhere else in Europe. But this does not mean that life in the country is so dangerous. Rather, it is interesting.
The Republic has often been the epicentre for devastating earthquakes. It is located in a tectonically active zone where crustal movements are commonplace. One of the most devastating earthquakes, the Messina earthquake, occurred in 1908 in the strait between Sicily and Italy. Its victims were more than 100 thousand people.
Another famous disaster of the country are volcanoes. Vesuvius and Etna are among the active ones and constantly show volcanic activity. There are active volcanoes on some islands of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Therefore, the risk of volcanic eruption here is an order of magnitude higher than in neighbouring countries.
Other typical disasters on the peninsula include seasonal floods and heavy rainfall, natural fires, which particularly affect mountain forests, avalanches in the snowy Alps, sea storms and even tsunamis on the coast.
You can read about the most devastating disasters in Italy’s history in this article.
Italy is a parliamentary republic of unitary type. The head of state is the President. The executive power is represented by the Government and the Council of Ministers, the legislative power – by the bicameral parliament. The upper chamber is called the Senate, the lower one – the Chamber of Deputies.
Administratively the republic is divided into 20 regions and 110 provinces. Even smaller administrative formation are communes, there are more than 8 thousand of them in the country.
The capital of the country is the city of Rome.
Major cities and resorts
Rome is the country’s capital and largest city. It is home to 2.8 million people. Rome is rightfully called the Eternal City. It was founded in 753 BC. For a long time, Rome was the capital of the empire that conquered most of Western Europe. There is a huge number of tourist attractions: Colosseum, St Peter’s Cathedral, Pantheon, Forum, Trevi Fountain and many others.
Naples is an ancient city that traces its history back to the VI century BC. It is here that you can climb Vesuvius and admire the ruined cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Milan is the second most populous city in Italy. It is home to over 1.3 million people. Milan is an industrial and tourist centre of the north of Italy. It is home to the famous La Scala theatre and hosts Fashion Weeks. It is only a little younger than Rome, because it was founded in 600 BC.
Venice is an ancient city known for its canals. It was built on an island in the 5th century AD and for a long time was the centre of the merchant republic. Now it attracts tourists with its ancient architecture and special atmosphere created by the canals and gondoliers’ boats running along them. It is also known as the venue of the most colourful festival.
Florence – founded in 59 AD. It is widely known as the capital of the Medici. There are many of the most famous ancient cathedrals, museums and palaces, where masterpieces of the great masters of antiquity and the Middle Ages are collected. Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Michelangelo and others created their works here.
Rimini is the largest and most popular resort of the Republic. It is located on the Adriatic coast. It is famous for its luxurious sandy beaches stretching for 15 kilometres. In addition, it is an ancient city, founded in the III century BC, which has many monuments of antiquity.
Symbols of Italy
Pizza – this is probably the association that every person has when they hear the word Italy. The famous flatbread comes in more than 2000 variants.
The daisy is the national flower of Italy. It symbolises purity and innocence.
The Capitoline she-wolf is a mythical animal that is said to have nursed Remus and Romulus, the legendary founders of Rome.
The five-pointed star of the Stella d’Italia is a symbol of individual and state freedom.
Cosa Nostra – the Sicilian Mafia, which long held control over the entire country.
Leaning Tower of Pisa – one of the architectural symbols of the country. The famous leaning tower in Pisa attracts more tourists than other Italian cities.
How to get to Italy
You can get to Italy by almost any form of transport.
Most tourists arrive in the country via airports. There are 51 international airports in the country, the largest of which are: Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci, Marco Polo in Venice, Amerigo Vespucci in Florence, Hugo Niuta in Naples and Malpensa in Milan.
Airports connect the country with any continent and are the most convenient way to get to the Republic.
The second option, railway transport, is suitable for residents of the European Union. For example, you can get from Paris to Rome by train in just a few hours, and it will be cheaper than travelling by air.
You can also travel in Italy by car. Excellent motorways connect this country with France, Slovenia, and are part of the network of European transport corridors.
In addition, Italy is a maritime country. There are many large ports here, including those receiving passenger liners. Among the leaders in passenger traffic are Milan, Naples, Genoa, Venice, Trieste and Palermo.
How much money to take with you
Prices for holidays in Italy can fluctuate quite widely depending on the season. The cost of tours to the country starts from 1300 euros for 7 days and can exceed 3-4 thousand euros. Excursion tours in Italy of the same duration are offered separately. Their price without taking into account the flight ranges from 400 to 500 euros. Dinners and excursions are paid separately.
In the country itself, tourists will incur the following expenses:
- Meals: will cost from 20 to 40 euros a day for those who like to save money, and can be an order of magnitude higher for connoisseurs of cookery. For example, dinner for two in a good restaurant will cost 50 euros.
- Sightseeing: from 10 to 40 euros per entrance. The most you will have to pay for visiting museums and monuments is in Venice and Florence. The cheapest, 2 euros, is a visit to Milan Cathedral.
- Water parks, entertainment, excursions: 250–500 euros. For example, a popular tour to Vesuvius will cost you 120 euros.
- Souvenirs: from 40 to 100 euros. Taking into account shopping, the sum can increase many times over.
- Transport: the cost of one trip on a city bus or metro in Rome is 1.5 euros. A weekly pass will cost 24 euros per person. The situation is similar in other cities of the country, only in Venice you have to use a boat. A two-day boat pass will cost 32 euros. Tickets for intercity trains cost 25 euros on average. Thus, you will have to spend between 24 and 100 euros for a week.
Thus, taking into account the reserve amount for unforeseen expenses, a holiday in Italy for two will cost from 1500 to 3000 thousand dollars for 7 days. And of course, the maximum amount of the holiday can be much higher.
If you have already visited this country, please share your impressions in the comments. Please write a few words, what you liked most of all in the country, what moments remained in your memory forever, and what you would recommend to other tourists. We will be very grateful for your recommendations!