Planning a vacation to Italy

How to plan a trip to Italy

There's a lot to do when planning a trip to Italy, which is why this page consists mainly of a long list of subsections and sub-subsections below to help you do just that.

There is, however, a shortcut: The top 7 things you need to know and do when booking an Italian vacation.

Top 7 things to do to book a trip to Italy

I tried to stretch this out to a full "Top 10" list but, really, you don't need to do all that much. Take care of each of these major details, and you're on your way. Everything else is just nuance.

Heck, if you're truly free-spirited you can even boil the list down to three crucial items:

That's it. Once you arrive in Italy, hit an ATM in the airport to get some euros, hop the train downtown, find some place to stay, and you're off.

  1. Get a passport. This travel document is vital. They won't let you board the plane (let alone enter Italy) without it. If you already have a passport, make sure it is valid for at least six months beyond your planned trip (customs and immigration officials sometimes won't let you into a country with a passport that's about to expire).

    If you don't have a passport, make sure you start the paperwork at least six weeks in advance of your departure (it'll probably only take 3-4 weeks, and there are ways to expedite it for a fee, but don't tempt fate). » more

  2. Book airfare. Hard to get to Italy without a plane ticket. » more

  3. Decide how you're going to get around. Will you use primarily trains and buses, or rent a car? Hint: the best kind of trip usually combines both: a rental car for exploring hilltowns plus trains for covering longer distances. » more

  4. Pack. Yes, you can just shove a few sets of clothes and a toothbrush into a bag and be done with it, but I find it helps to use a list. A quarter century of Italian travel has taught me to winnow down my personal packing list to just the essentials, everything I need for a perfect vacation—and it all fits easily in a carry-on–sized bag with room to spare for souvenirs. I'm happy to share this Ultimate Packing List with you. » more

  5. Decide on at least a rough itinerary. You don't have to nail down where you'll be each and every day (though you can if that's your style; here are tips for doing so and some sample itineraries for perfect Italian vacations), but you should at least get a sense for how much you can—or want to—cram into the time you have available. » more

  6. Figure out the kinds of places you want to stay (hotels and/or alternatives). It pays to book at least your first and last nights' lodgings. You should also get a sense of what kind of lodging options there are out there—not just what Italian hotels are like and how much they charge, but also any alternative accommodations you might use—agriturismi (farm stays), B&Bs, monasteries, couchsurfing, castles, mountain huts, apartments, villa rentals, affittacamere (rental rooms), etc.—to spice up your trip and save some money at the same time. » more

  7. Learn some basic words and phrases. OK, so pretty much everybody in Italy speaks English—or at least enough that you can get by with that plus pantomime. Still, it always pays to be polite and break out the local lingo; memorizing a few key words and phrases will go a long way in making you feel even more welcomed. » more
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