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5 things you should know before visiting Italy for the first time

Italy is one of the most popular countries in Europe for tourists, and it’s ideal for people that love beautiful weather, world class food, amazing architecture, and a relaxed atmosphere. If you’re visiting Italy for the first time then read on!

Venice and Rome are the most popular cities and every year they attract thousands of tourists that want to see the rich history and the world famous sights that can be found in these cities.

Visiting Italy for the First Time: 5 things you should know!

But Venice and Rome are only a small part of what Italy has to offer and there are great experiences to be had wherever you go in the country.

If you are going to visit Italy, especially if you’re going outside of the popular tourist areas, it’s important that you plan your trip properly and you know a few important things. These are the best travel tips for somebody that is visiting Italy for the first time. 

Take some maps 

Street map.

You probably don’t bother with paper maps when you go away these days because you can easily get a map up on your phone. Plus you don’t normally need one anyway.

But in Italy, things are a little different.

When you are walking around Rome, things will be well signposted and you shouldn’t have much trouble finding your way.

But it’s so easy to get lost in the streets of Venice with their twists and turns all over the place. The same is true when you are driving in Italy because there are a lot of small roads, especially in the mountains, that are not well signposted. So it’s not always obvious where you are going.

One town in Sardinia even banned Google Maps because people were getting lost when trying to follow the directions it gave. The last thing that you want is to get lost up in the mountains with no phone signal and no way of finding out where you are.

That’s why it’s a good idea to print out some maps before you go and check out all of the routes so you have some idea of where you need to be going. 

Don’t just stick to the mainland 

Italian coastline in the evening sun.

When most people think of Italy, they think of the boot on the map. But we tend to forget that’s just mainland Italy, there’s more to it than that.

The mainland is great and you’ll find lots of beautiful cities, picturesque Italian lakes, and wonderful cafes and restaurants dotted around all over the place.

But it’s a mistake to stick to the mainland and neglect the islands that surround it when you are visiting Italy. There are a lot of islands, both small and big, that all have their own unique experience to offer.

Sardinia and Sicily are the most popular ones with tourists but the lesser known places like Levanzo are just as great. When you are planning your trip, make sure to set aside a couple of days to visit some of the islands while you are there. 

A lot of people also forget about the beaches when they visit Italy. It’s a country that is best known for its city breaks and people don’t really consider it when they are looking for beach destinations. But that’s a real shame because there are a lot of stunning beaches in Italy. So you should definitely make time to visit them while you are there.

Terracina is the best place to go if you want picturesque white beaches. Combining a few days of beach holiday with your city break is a great way to relax after a busy few days of sightseeing.

Leave plenty of time for dinner 

Visiting Italy for the First Time: 5 things you should know! a plate of pasta!

Food is a huge part of the culture in Italy and it’s probably one of the reasons that you are going. If you are visiting cities like Parma, you can sample some of the world famous Italian cuisine. It’s important that you get the whole experience!

It’s not just about the food itself, it’s about the occasion, and that’s very important in Italy.

Dinner isn’t a rushed affair. It’s a relaxed event and the Italians like to take their time with it. This is especially true in the south. If you want to get a true Italian experience, make sure to leave plenty of time for dinner. Expect the staff in restaurants to have the same relaxed attitude. If you are in a rush to get somewhere, don’t try to fit a quick meal in beforehand because it’s not going to happen.

And if you aren’t sure what to make – why not try this stunning Pasta with Strawberries and Cream – that’s bound to go down well with any Italian kids and adults that taste it!?!

Learn some basic Italian phrases 

Italian flag waving.

Learning the language when you go to another country is always hard and most of us are pretty bad at it. It’s tough because many Europeans speak perfect English anyway. So even if you try to use your basic language skills, people often just switch to English.

But when you go to Italy, it may be worth learning a few basic phrases. Unless you are in a very rural area, people will still speak English. But they really appreciate the effort if you try to speak some Italian. Especially if you’re visiting Italy for the first time.

You might not get it right, but the fact that you have tried will ensure a warm welcome from the locals. 

Be aware of dress codes 

A lot of the attractions in Italy are religious sites, which means that there are fairly strict dress codes at some of them.

For men, it isn’t really a problem but women need to be a bit more careful about what they wear. Most of the churches will ask women to cover their shoulders and legs before they go inside. If you’re visiting Italy for the first time this is something to be aware of.

A lot of tourists get caught out by this when they visit Italy in the summer because they don’t have anything to cover up with. Just make sure that you keep it in mind and bring along something that you can wear over your clothes should you need to.

The Vatican is particularly strict, while some other places are more relaxed. But even if they allow you inside, they may still find it offensive in some ways. It’s best to be cautious and always cover up if you are visiting a religious site so you don’t accidentally offend somebody. 

If you keep these important tips in mind, you will have a great first trip to Italy.

We do hope you like this article on Italy – do feel free to check out some of the other travel for families information that we have on the site. We have been to some lovely places, and have advice on those, and other destinations too. Some of our favourites are:

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See you in a bit – maybe after you’ve been to Italy?!!?

Visiting Italy for the First Time: 5 things you should know!

Helen is a mum to two, social media consultant, and website editor; and this site is (we think) the only Social Enterprise parenting magazine! Since giving up being a business analyst when juggling travel, work and kids proved too complicated, she founded KiddyCharts so she could be with her kids, and use those grey cells at the same time. KiddyCharts has reach of over 1.1million across social and the site. The blog works with big family brands (including travel) to help promote their services, as well as offering free resources to parents of kids under 10. It gives 51%+ profits to Reverence for Life, who fund a number of important initiatives in Africa, including bringing running water and basic equipment to a school in Tanzania. Helen has worked as a digital marketing consultant (IDM qualified) with various organisations, including Channel Mum, Truprint, Talk to Mums, and Micro Scooters. She loves to be creative in the brand campaigns she works on. Get in touch TODAY!

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