Culture (modern, old and ancient), fabulous food, historic sites,
varied and stunning scenery, beaches, jagged coastline,
architecture, skiing, opera, water sports, health and beauty spas,
ruins and shopping for clothing, shoes and designer goods.
Those who want a diverse, fairly informal vacation, who are
romantics and who love art, history and lovely settings will enjoy
Italy. It's probably not for those who demand the correct, crisp
efficiency of northern European countries: In Italy, timetables are
seen more as romantic ideals than as attainable goals.
WHEN TO GO
We prefer going from mid-April to mid-June or mid-September to the
end of October, when the days will generally be in the 70-80s, with
nights in the 50-60s. July, August and the first half of September
are generally quite hot (high 90s), humid and very crowded with
tourists. The winters in the north are chilly -- 50s or colder in
the day and much colder at night (often below freezing). In the
south, winters are milder, but it is too cool to lie on the beach
or too drizzly to tour happily. The best time to drive the Amalfi
Coast is May to mid-June and mid-September to mid-October, when
there are fewer cars on the road. Bring a sweater for evenings
WHAT TO EAT
Most visitors need little introduction to Italian cuisine; all we
can say is that however much you like it at home, you'll probably
like it even more in Italy. Always eat the regional specialties
being offered in restaurants; there's quite a difference in
seasonings, style and presentation in different parts of Italy.
Among the local dishes to taste are risotto (Milan), risi e bisi
(peas and rice), polenta (fried cornmeal mush, often with cheese --
Venice), buffalo mozzarella cheese (Rome), fresh fruit and pastries
(Sicily), many varieties of fish, vegetables, fruit and, of course,
pasta. The pizza that's sold by the slice in shops and bakeries is
generally quite different from what most North Americans are used
to. It ranges from the very simple pizza bianca (baked crust with a
bit of salt and olive oil) and pizza rossa (tomato sauce only) to
margherita (tomato sauce and cheese) and quattro stagioni (all
sorts of things). Many restaurants offer international cuisine, but
when in Rome...
There are three categories of restaurants; from most expensive
to least, the classes are ristorante, trattoria (more home cooking,
in style) and osteria. Eat a meal in each category -- just because
it's cheap doesn't mean it's bad, and each has its own
DOs and DON'TsDon't be surprised by the excessive hotel taxes, additional
charges and requests for payment for extras such as air
conditioning. Sometimes these taxes/service charges are included in
room rates; check upon arrival...Do save receipts from hotels and car rentals, as 15% to 20% of
the value-added taxes (VAT) on these services may be
refunded...Do dress appropriately when touring churches and cathedrals.
Shorts, short dresses or sleeveless shirts are not allowed in
Italy's churches...Don't be surprised to receive a telephone token for change.
It's worth 200 lire and can be spent as money as well as to make a
local call from a phone booth...Don't be surprised by Italy's two-hour lunch breaks (generally,
1:30 to 3:30 p.m.)...Don't forget to take your receipt with you when you leave a
restaurant; if you don't have it, you can legally be charged for
your meal again...Do keep your currency-exchange forms if you plan to change
money back to another currency...Don't plan on finding public restrooms everywhere, and when you
do, you'll probably have to pay to use them. Bring change in 500
lira coins...Do plan on doing a lot of walking...Tipping: Do expect a 10%-15% gratuity to be added to your
restaurant bill (they also expect you to leave more). Tip the taxi
driver at least 500 lire or 15% of the fare, whichever is
Contact the Italian Government Tourist Office:
Chicago: 500 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 2240, 60611; (312)
644-0996, fax (310) 644-3019.
Los Angeles: 12400 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, 90025; (310)
820-0098, fax (310) 820-6357.
Montreal: 1 Place Villa Marie, Suite 1914, H3B 2C3; (514)
866-7667, fax (514) 392-1429.
New York: 630 Fifth Ave., Suite 1565, 10111; (212) 245-4822, fax
(212) 586-9249; travel agents: (212) 245-4961.