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Italy

Snapshot | Trip Planning | Things To Do | What To Eat | Places To Stay | Books To Read | Language | Latest
Snapshot

Due to its central geographic location in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Italy has historically been home to myriad peoples and cultures. A diverse country in terms of landscapes, history, culture and food, it is one of those dream destinations on many peoples bucket list.  From mountains and lakes, to clear crystal waters and rolling vineyard covered hills, there is so much to see and do.

Trip Planning

When To Go Summer (June - August) is the peak tourist season and can be quite busy.  To avoid the tourist overload, you might want to consider going towards the end of Spring or early Autumn.

Electricity Electrical sockets are usually two-pin 220V voltage

Weights and Measures The metric system is used in Italy

Insurance Make sure you have your travel insurance in place in case you are injured or ill. Better to be safe than sorry. There is a reciprocal health care agreement between Australia and Italy if you hold a current Medicare card.  The agreement may cover some of your medical costs in a public hospital. This is at the discretion of the Italian government.

ATM'sIn Italy, look for an Italian Bancomat with the ATM affiliations you need (Cirrus, Plus, etc.)  Bancomats are clearly marked and are generally found outside banks, or in behind a door that opens when you swipe your card. You can also find Bancomats in airports and at train stations

Shopping Major outlets, restaurants and hotels will accept Visa and Mastercard. It is always handy to carry euro for buying from smaller shops and villages

TippingYou are not expected to tip restaurants in Italy. A service charge is sometimes added to the bill,  and will range from 1 to 3 Euros, or 10% - 15%. This charge must be indicated on the menu.

Getting There Most major airlines offer flights to Italy, arriving in Rome, Florence, or Vienna. From these cities you can train or bus to your final destinations

Visa Generally, you will not need a visa to travel to Italy for a period of up to 90 days. Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Japan and many other countries can spend 90 days within a 180-day period in the wider Schengen area, including Italy and other countries in the EU.  EU citizens can travel around the Schengen area indefinitely.  Citizens of many other nationalities, including China, South Africa and Russia do need to apply for and obtain a Schengen visa before travelling to Italy and the EU.  For more information, contact an Italian embassy or consulate in your home country.

Things To Do

As well as all the well know tourist sites like the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, the Vatican City, Venice, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Tuscany just to name a few, why not immerse yourself in other experiences that are certain to become highlights of your trip. (Search for tours and tickets to top Sightseeing attractions and tours in Italy here)

Yummy Italy Food Experience If you are in the Emilia Romagna region, make sure you join a food experience with Yummy Italy. Yummy Italy was founded by Helena Kyriakides, who is passionate about authentic Emilian gastronomy. Yummy Italy organises cookery and gastronomy courses, from hand-made pasta to typical Bolognese ragù, meat dishes and traditional desserts as well as teaching how to select and taste DOP Emilian products such as Parmigiano Reggiano, Aceto Balsamico di Modena, Prosciutto Crudo di Parma as well as a host of other products. Yummy Italy's team of chefs and food experts teach you how to cook famous Emilian dishes true to their tradition as well as teaching you how to make wonderful, lesser known dishes, guaranteed to impress.  Find Yummy Italy's website here and their Facebook Page here

Pizza and Gelato Making Class in the Tuscan Hills - This was a definite highlight of our visit to Florence! If you love Italian food, wine, scenery and fun, then this tour is definitely a must!  Not only did we learn to create a range of delicious gelati and traditional pizza, we had so much fun doing this. After learning all about pizza and gelato making we created our gelato and pizza which then became our dinner.  From our welcome drinks and snacks overlooking the beautiful Tuscan hills, to collecting ingredients from the garden , learning authentic Italian recipes, sharing the experience with the talented and funny staff, to sharing our meal with amazing people in our class from all over the world, it truly was a unique and enjoyable experience and one I would definitely do again (just because it was such fun and the food was so good!) I can highly recommend Luca, Massimiliano and Luigi to provide a fun evening with great food in a beautiful setting.

Full Day Boat Trip Amalfi Coast To see the full beauty of the Amalfi Coast, spend a day out on the water as you pass by the beautiful villages of the Amalfi coast.  You will be able to stop and have a swim and snorkel, spend time at one of the local towns, and a delicious seafood lunch at a restaurant only reachable by boat.  A great way to spend a special day in this beautiful area.

For more food and cooking experiences search here

What To Eat

I have loved authentic Italian food since I was a child. Growing up next door to Italian immigrants, I was lucky enough to be included in many of their all night feasts and celebrations.  These memories are some of the happiest times of my childhood.  Travelling through Italy and sampling the amazing food, pastries and gelati brought all those memories rushing back.  No trip to Italy would be complete without sampling:

Gelato - our favourite was from Gelateria Dondoli in San Gimignano.  the taste and texture of the gelati we tried was the best we had in all of Italy (and believe we had a lot!)  The creator made sure he kept the long line of waiting customers happy with samples and tales, and the not too long a wait was definitely worth it.

Pastries such as cannoli and sfoigliatelle, became our breakfast staple.  Lucky we were walking around all day to walk off the extra calories.  Any pasticceria will have an array of delicious pastries. If you want to enjoy like the locals do, order your coffee and pastry and stand at the bar or counter to eat. 

Pasta and pizza - it almost goes without saying, but you really do need to try these when in Italy.  Each region will have their own sauce and topping specialties, so you can enjoy an array of flavours as you move through the regions.

Places To Stay

There are unlimited choices when it comes to accommodation throughout Italy.  You can search a variety of accommodation types here. Below are some of my recommendations for different locations throughout Italy.

Hotel Ariston, Rome - Great location, just a couple of minutes walk from the Rome Termini and starting point for the Hop on hop off bus. Close to all major attractions with clean rooms and excellent service staff

Mercure Firenze Centro, (Firenze) Florence - Located a short walk from the Santa Maria Novella Train Station and walking distance to the main sights of Florence, this is a great hotel to stay. Clean and comfortable rooms, great breakfasts and lovely staff, well worth checking this hotel out.

Hotel Plaza, Salerno - If you are heading to Salerno to catch the ferry to the Amalfi Coast and have a stopover in Salerno, look for Hotel Plaza. Easy walk from the train station and within walking distance to the ferry.  restauarants and shops close by. Clean and comfortable rooms. While eating breakfast, enjoy browsing through the many Italian cookbooks and books in their dining room.

Hotel Le Fioriere, Praiano - This family run hotel was the perfect place to stay in Amalfi.  The local bus service stop is right outside the door, giving you access to all areas of the Amalfi Coast.  Very clean, comfortable and spacious rooms.  Make sure you enjoy a sunset drink and meal on their rooftop terrace with stunning views over the water.  Local shops and restaurants are within easy walking distance also.

Books To Read

Lonely Planet Italy provides important information, tips, sights to see and much more. You can also get Lonely Planet books specific to different regions you may be visiting.

Sicily, It's Not Quite Tuscany by Shamus Sillar. This is the story of an Aussie couple who sought a Mediterranean sea change only to find themselves in the sprawling Sicilian city of Catania - the 'anti-Tuscany' of Italy. There, any romantic visions they'd had of restoring a villa or stamping their entwined feet in vats of Chianti grapes disappeared faster than the chief witness in a Cosa Nostra trial.  Shamus and Gill's tiny apartment in Catania was located in a grim neighbourhood opposite a triple-X cinema and a shop selling coffins, nearby Mount Etna erupted soon after their arrival, a mystery ailment left Shamus in a neck brace, they crashed a Vespa and had regular dealings with at least one Mafioso.  This, then, is an Italian sea change with grit. But it's also a story of optimism, endurance and acceptance, an exploration of the minutiae of Sicilian culture, history, food and religion, and an example of how to find beauty - and humour - in the most unexpected of places.

The Little Italian Bakery by Valentina Cebeni.  Friendship, food and romance await on this magical Italian island. It's the perfect summer read.  The scent of freshly baked biscuits, lemon and aniseed reminds Elettra of her mother's kitchen.  But her mother is in a coma, and the family bakery is failing.  Elettra is distraught; she has many unanswered questions about her mother's childhood - Edda was a secretive woman.  The only clue is a family heirloom: a necklace inscribed with the name of an island.  Elettra buys a one-way ticket to that island, just off the coast of Sardinia.  Once there, she discovers a community of women, each lost in their own way.  They live in a crumbling convent, under threat from the local mayor and his new development plan.  It is within the convent's dark corridors and behind its secret doors that Elettra discovers a connection to her mother's past.  She also falls in love again: with friendship, baking and adventure.  This book also features real recipes throughout including aniseed bread, rose- and honey-infused wine and spiced biscuits

Frances Mayes Books - Known for her book 'Under The Tuscan Sun', Frances Mayes has also written other books based in the beautiful Tuscan region. Browse all of her books, including 'The Tuscan Sun Cookbook'.

If I were to add all of my Italian Cookbooks this page would go on forever! I've just included some of my favourite Italian cookbooks 

The Silver Spoon The Silver Spoon was the first English edition of the bestselling Italian cookbook of the last fifty years, Il cucchiaio d'argento. With over 2,000 recipes, its simple style and authenticity has made it the definitive, bestselling book on Italian cooking, for both gourmets and beginners. 

La Cucina: The regional Cooking of Italy Fifty years ago, a group of Italian scholars gathered to discuss a problem: how to preserve traditional Italian cooking. They formed the Italian Academy of Cuisine to document classic recipes from every region. The academy's more than seven thousand associates spread out to villages everywhere, interviewing grandmothers and farmers at their stoves, transcribing their recipes--many of which had never been documented before. This is the culmination of that research, an astounding feat--2,000 recipes that represent the patrimony of Italian country cooking. Each recipe is labeled with its region of origin, and it's not just the ingredients but also the techniques that change with the geography. Sprinkled throughout are historical recipes that provide fascinating views into the folk culture of the past. There are no fancy flourishes here, and no shortcuts; this is true salt-of-the-earth cooking. 

Gastronomy of Italy by Anna Del Conte. There are over 200 recipes, including the great dishes from every major region of Italy. Variations on the classics - pasta, polenta, gnocchi, risotto and pizzas - sit alongside Anna's recipes for versions of Italian favourites, such as peperonata, lamb fricassee, ossobuco and less well-known regional specialities.

The Vatican Cookbook by David Geisser.  The Vatican Cookbook, presented by the Pontifical Swiss Guard,the Vatican's exclusive chefs, reveals for the first time the favorite dishes and personal menus of Pope Francis, Pope Benedict XVI, and St. John Paul II.  Enjoyed daily by Vatican dignitaries and guests from around the world, the more than 80 gourmet recipes included here range from the simple to the sublime, and from everyday staples to perfect meals for holiday feasts.  Many of these recipes have been served at Vatican tables for centuries, and represents some of the finest cuisine in all of Rome.This one-of-a-kind book features over a hundred full-color photographs of these dishes, beautiful behind-the-scenes shots of daily life at the Vatican, dinner prayers and more, making this gorgeous cookbook nothing short of divine.

Pasta Grannies by Vicky Bennison. Inspired by the hugely popular YouTube channel of the same name, Pasta Grannies is a wonderful collection of time-perfected Italian recipes from the people who have spent a lifetime cooking for love, not a living: Italian grandmothers.  Featuring easy and accessible recipes from all over Italy, you will be transported into the very heart of the Italian home to learn how to make great-tasting Italian food.  Pasta styles range from pici - a type of hand-rolled spaghetti that is simple to make - to lumachelle della duchessa - tiny, ridged, cinnamon-scented tubes that take patience and dexterity.  More than just a compendium of dishes, Pasta Grannies tells the extraordinary stories of these ordinary women and shows you that with the right know how, truly authentic Italian cooking is simple, beautiful and entirely achievable.

Venetian Republic by Nino Zoccali.  The food of the Venetian Republic is steeped in stories from the days when Venice and its surrounds controlled the silk, saffron and spice trading routes from East to West. But how did such a small place enjoy unrivalled opulence for so long also play a defining role in shaping the culture and cuisine of its Mediterranean neighbours and the rest of the world?  To tell this story, respected writer and restaurateur Nino Zoccali focuses on the four key regions that geographically encapsulate the Venetian Republic, each of which has its own distinct cuisine: Venice and its lagoon islands; the Veneto, of which Venice is the capital; the Croatian coast and the Greek Islands formerly under Venetian rule. The 80 dishes he has selected all have strong traditional Venetian roots or influence, celebrating ingredients and techniques that show how, to this day, food in this magnificent region continues to be influenced by neighbouring cultures.

Amalfi Coast Recipes by Amanda Tabberer.  Flying squid and potato stew, Fish in crazy water, Spaghetti of the convent.  Already the food of the Amalfi Coast is intriguing. The star is fresh produce from the sea, complemented by sun-kissed local ingredients - cherry tomatoes, artichokes, garlic, seasonal herbs and the famous Amalfi lemon.  Aussie Amanda Tabberer spent two decades living on the Amalfi Coast, and was made welcome at the tables and in the kitchens of passionate local cooks.  Here she shares authentic Amalfi recipes that have been passed down through the generations.

Gennaro's Italian Bakery by Gennaro Contaldo.  Making bread has always been a natural passion for Gennaro Contaldo.  Ingrained since childhood with memories of his mother's weekly bread-making and visits to his uncle's village bakery, it is a skill which has followed him throughout his career as a chef.  In this book, Gennaro takes you onto a journey into the magical world of Italian bread and baking, giving you his secret tips on making the perfect dough to create wonderful Italian breads for all occasions.  And not only bread - have you ever walked into an Italian panetteria (bakery) and marvelled at the amazing variety of freshly baked goods?  Not only filone, filoncini, ciabatta, campagnia, panini, but also amazing focaccia, pizzette, biscuits and cakes.  Included is Gennaro's fabled focaccia made in different regional varieties as well as mouth watering torte salate (Italian savoury pies) using seasonal ingredients such as spinach & artichoke oozing with fontina cheese for spring or escarole, black olives & anchovy for winter.  There is also a section of rustic pane dolce (sweet breads) as well as delicious crostate (sweet pastry tarts), biscuits and traditional homemade cakes just like Nonna used to make.  This book will be your ultimate in Italian bread and baking - it will be your Italian panetteria bible where you will be able to almost smell that dreamy, irresistible aroma of fresh baking as you flick through the pages.

Language

If you would like to learn Italian before heading off on your holiday, try Rosetta Stone. You can choose month, year or lifetime subscriptions to get your language learning underway.

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