If you’re dreaming about visiting La Bella Italia, but need some tips on the practical stuff, you’ve come to the right place! As a local, I will give you some useful practical tips before visiting my Italy!
Italy is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world (and more importantly, my beloved country!) and its reputation is well deserved. It has something for everyone and there’s a charm to Italy unlike anywhere else.
Culture, history, and art are around every corner. Not just in galleries and museums, but hidden around the cities in such a way that you could just stumble upon the foot of a giant Roman statue by chance.
The scenery is also to die for with sandy beaches lapped by the Mediterranean Sea, like my beautiful Sardinia beaches, dramatic coastlines, picturesque lakes, and some of the tallest peaks in Europe. Old villages of all colors, shapes and sizes can also be found all over and are a must if you want to get under the skin of the country.
And of course, one of Italy’s most prized attractions is the food! This is an unforgettable part of any trip, not only for the delicious home-style cuisine but the whole culture and tradition surrounding food. Each meal is an experience in itself.
So, are you ready to set off to Italy?
Before packing your bag and rushing to the airport to jump on the first flight out, you should really check whether you need to get a visa. You wouldn’t want to turn up at the border just to be sent straight back home.
This is especially important because a new system is being introduced and nationalities that previously didn’t require a visa, may now need to get an ETIAS. You can find out more about the Italy ETIAS at Byevisa.com. There are currently around 60 nationalities that will need to get an ETIAS to visit Italy, including the USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Let’s take a look at how it works…
About the New ETIAS Visa Waiver
The new ETIAS visa-waiver system will be introduced in 2022 facilitating travel to Italy and to Europe in general. In fact, the visa will be valid for the whole of the Schengen zone, which makes traveling to multiple countries super convenient.
What’s more, the process is entirely online, so arrivederci to long embassy queues and endless paperwork. It also means you can apply from anywhere in the world and from any device, in a few simple steps. After submitting your application, you just need to wait a couple of days for it to be approved before the ETIAS conveniently appears in your email inbox!
Once you have your visa-waiver on your phone (best to print a copy too just in case), you can eat gelato in Florence or the beautiful Cinque Terre, marvel at Venetian canals, and tour the ancient ruins in Rome to your heart’s content… or more precisely for up to 3 months in any 6 month period, and it’s valid for 3 years in total.
If you want to know more about the beauty of Italy, check out these articles:
Which nationalities need to get an ETIAS to visit Italy?
Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Federated States of Micronesia
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Trinidad and Tobago
United Arab Emirates
This is the list of current countries that are part of the ETIAS program. However, as it’s a new system, more countries may be added to the list once it’s rolled out. It’s expected to be available from January 2022, and there will be a period of around 1 year in which it won’t be mandatory.
About the Schengen Visa
If you’re not a citizen of a Schengen country and you’re not eligible for the ETIAS, then you will need to get what’s called a Schengen visa. Just like the ETIAS, the visa won’t be specific to Italy, but it will cover the entire Schengen zone.
To get one, you will need to visit your nearest Italian embassy or consulate in person (get an appointment beforehand if possible) to submit an application.
At the embassy/consulate, you will need to present the following documents:
- A completed application form.
- Two passport-size photos.
- A passport with two blank pages (valid for at least 3 months after your planned exit date).
- Proof of accommodation.
- Proof of onward travel (e.g. flight tickets in and out of the Schengen zone).
- Travel insurance covering the whole Schengen area.
- Proof of sufficient funds to cover your trip.
- A cover letter outlining why you are visiting.
Make sure you have everything ready before you go to the embassy to make the process smoother and avoid any issues.
It generally takes around 2 weeks for the visa to be processed, but it could take longer in some cases, so it’s best to apply about a month or two before your trip to be sure you get it on time.
Once you have your Schengen ETIAS or visa where can you go?
As I mentioned, you will be able to visit any of the 26 countries in the Schengen area with a visa or ETIAS. That means any of the following countries:
Countries you can visit in the Schengen Area with a Visa or ETIAS
- Czech Republic
- A further five countries are in the process of joining as well. These are:
- Republic of Cyprus
In fact, the Schengen zone was founded for many reasons, including facilitating movement between European countries. It’s a huge advantage for travellers, as before you needed to have your passport checked every time you crossed a border, which took up time you could have spent exploring a new place.
Now, you will only have your passport checked when you enter and exit the Schengen Zone, and once you’re in, you’re as free as a bird and you can hop from country to country without wasting time at border controls.
And if you’re already a citizen of one of these countries, then you can visit the rest without the need for any kind of visa or permit.
What about the UK?
Since the United Kingdom left the European Union in 2020, it has adopted new travel policies, so if you want to visit the UK while you are in Europe, make sure you check the rules and visa policies specific to the UK before you travel.
How to Travel to Italy
Now we have the visa and ETIAS sorted, let’s have a look at the best ways to reach Italy. With tourism representing around 13% of the Italian economy, they have made sure it’s well connected internationally. In fact, you can enter Italy by air, land or water, so depending on where you are coming from, you may have several options.
Air Travel To Italy
Most of Italy’s 50 million yearly visitors arrive by plane. There are several major airports, so when you are looking at flights, don’t just look at Rome but explore your options, as there may be a more direct or better value flight to a different city.
You could even look into flying in and out of different cities to maximize your time in-country. This might cost a little more than a return flight, but then again you’re saving time and money by not returning to the place you started.
Here are some of Italy’s best-connected international airports:
- Palermo (Sicily)
Traveling To Italy by Land
If you are travelling from a nearby European country, it’s easy to jump in your car and road-trip over to Italy. Most of the country is surrounded by water so you would be coming in from the north and most likely you will be rewarded with stunning scenery.
This is because Italy shares a land border with France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, and Slovenia, and a large part of their northern international border cuts across the breathtaking Alps.
If you are looking to explore more remote areas, having a car would be a great asset, as it will allow you to get off the beaten track easily and give you the freedom of stopping wherever you feel like it.
However, driving in Italy can get a little crazy at times, especially in the cities, so if you are mainly visiting Rome, Naples, Florence or Venice, then you might prefer to take a flight and save yourself the effort on the roads.
You can also travel by train to Italy, as it’s well connected to the rest of Europe. If you are planning to visit several European countries, it might be a good idea to look into getting a Eurail or Interrail Pass.
Traveling To Italy Via Ferry/Sea
Italy has 7,600 km of coastline so ferries are a popular way to travel from neighbouring Mediterranean countries. There are connections from Spain, France, Croatia, Montenegro, Greece, as well as Morocco and Tunisia.
Although it generally takes much longer than a flight, it’s a pleasant way to travel and a great option if you are bringing a vehicle. Plus, you can opt for an overnight ferry and book a cabin to be more comfortable.
These are the main international ports in Italy:
Getting Around Italy
The next question is… once you’re there, how do you get around?
It depends a little on what your plans are in the country. Whether you want to see the highlights or if you want to experience local Italy, there are several options available.
Visit Italy using Trains
Trains are the most popular way to travel between the big cities. Although they have a bit of a reputation for delays, they are generally on time with regular departures between the main attractions. It’s a great way to travel as the train stations are quite central, so you’ll find yourself in the heart of the city when you arrive.
There are slower regional trains that can be a little old but are definitely the cheapest option, or if you’d like to save time and travel more comfortably, you can opt for a Freccia, the fast trains. Rome, Venice, Florence, Naples and Milan are all incredibly well connected by train.
Don’t forget to validate your ticket! If you want to avoid a fine, you need to stamp your train ticket at one of the yellow machines on the platforms or in the station before you jump on the train.
Italy by Car /Road Trips
Although we may not recommend it for the big cities, renting a car is a great option if you are more interested in taking in the natural scenery and the picturesque small towns. It’s also a great way to explore some of the scenic coastlines like the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre.
You can find a ton of car rental companies at every airport. Just make sure you’re extra careful when driving in Italy as drivers can be somewhat unpredictable at times.
Traveling Italy by Bus
You can also opt to take a bus between destinations, which is one of the cheapest ways to travel and can be a good option when trying to reach more remote locations without a car. Bear in mind that in smaller locations, the services might be quite sporadic and even more reduced at weekends.
Now that we’ve dealt with all the practical stuff, are you ready to travel to Italy and explore this beautiful country? Don’t forget to eat everything in sight and let yourself be swept away by the Italian charm!