Southern Italy is not easy for travellers with disabilities. Cobblestone streets and pavements blocked by parked cars and scooters make getting around difficult for wheelchair users. While many buildings have lifts, they are not always wide enough for wheelchairs. Overall, not a lot has been done to make life easier for hearing- or vision-impaired travellers either.
That said, awareness of the importance of accessibility and a culture of inclusion is steadily spreading, and a growing number of museums and archaeological sites are becoming more accessible, with wheelchair-friendly ramps and pathways. Among these are Pompeii in Campania and Villa Romana del Casale and Valley of the Temples in Sicily.
If you have an obvious disability and/or appropriate ID, many museums and galleries offer free admission for yourself and a companion.
- Airline companies will arrange assistance at airports if you notify them of your needs in advance.
- If travelling by train, you can arrange assistance through SalaBlu online (https://salabluonline.rfi.it) or by calling 800 90 60 60 (from a landline) or 02 32 32 32 (from a landline or mobile).
- Visit the information page of Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (www.rfi.it/rfi-en/For-persons-with-disability) for full details of services offered and barrier-free stations.
- Many buses in larger southern Italian cities are wheelchair-accessible; however some of the stops may not be – enquire before you board.
- Some taxis are equipped to carry passengers in wheelchairs; ask for a taxi for a sedia a rotelle (wheelchair).
- If you are driving, EU disabled parking permits are recognised in Italy, giving you the same parking rights that local drivers with disabilities have.
Accessible Travel Online Resources
- Village for All (www.villageforall.net/en) lists a small number of accommodation options in southern Italy suitable for those with limited mobility.
- Tourism without Barriers (www.turismosenzabarriere.it) has a limited database of accessible accommodation in southern Italy.
- You can find a list (in Italian) of accessible beaches at www.fondazioneserono.org/disabilita/spiagge-accessibili/spiagge-accessibili.
- Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/accessible-travel
Accessible Travel Agencies
Cosy for You A Naples-based organisation offering a number of services for travellers with disabilities, including equipment hire, transfers, accommodation and restaurant bookings, as well as sightseeing tours of Campania.
Rome & Italy A mainstream travel agency with a well-developed accessible tourism arm that offers customised tours, accessible accommodation, and equipment and vehicle hire. Its Wheely Trekky service, which uses a specially designed sedan/rickshaw with sherpas, allows wheelchair users to easily tour the ruins of Pompeii.
Accessible Italy (www.accessibleitaly.com) A San Marino–based non-profit company that specialises in holiday services for people with disabilities, including equipment rental, adapted vehicle hire and arranging personal assistants.
Fausta Trasporti Has a fleet of wheelchair-accessible vehicles that can carry up to seven people, including three wheelchair users. It’s based in Rome, but operates day trips to Naples, Pompeii, Caserta and the Amalfi Coast.
Sage Traveling (www.sagetraveling.com) A US-based accessible travel agency, offering tailor-made tours to assist mobility-impaired travellers in Europe. Check out its website for a detailed access guide to Naples and surrounds.
Gentle haggling is common in outdoor markets; in all other instances you're expected to pay the stated price.
Dangers & Annoyances
Despite mafia notoriety, southern Italy is generally not a dangerous place.
- Be vigilant for pickpockets in crowded areas, including at train stations and ferry terminals, on buses and at markets (especially those in Naples, Palermo and Catania).
- Don't carelessly leave purses, cameras or phones lying about, and don't keep valuables in plain view in a parked vehicle.
- If carrying a bag or camera in larger cities, wear the strap across your body and away from the road – moped thieves can swipe a bag and be gone in seconds.
- Always report thefts to the police within 24 hours, and ask for a statement, otherwise your travel insurance company won't pay out.
- In major cities, roads that appear to be for one-way traffic often have special lanes for buses travelling in the opposite direction, so always look both ways before stepping out.
Italy's state museums and sites are free for EU citizens under the age of 18. Discounts also apply to people aged from 18 to 25, and to seniors over the age of 65.
Some cities or regions offer their own discount passes, such as the Campania Artecard (www.campaniartecard.it), which provides free public transport and free or reduced admission to many museums and archaeological sites.
In numerous places around southern Italy, you can also save money by purchasing a biglietto cumulativo, a ticket that covers admission to a number of associated sights.
Italian plugs have two or three round pins; travellers from countries with a different plug type should bring an adapter.
The current is 230V, 50Hz.
Emergency & Important Numbers
From outside Italy, dial your international access code, Italy's country code (39), then the number (including the '0').
|Italy's country code||39|
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Goods bought and exported within the EU incur no additional taxes, provided duty has been paid somewhere within the EU and the goods are for personal use.
Travellers entering Italy from outside the EU are allowed to import the following duty free: 200 cigarettes, 1L of spirits, 4L of wine (or 2L of fortified wine), 60mL of perfume, and other goods up to the value of €300 (€430 if travelling by sea). Anything over this limit must be declared on arrival and the appropriate duty paid.
On leaving the EU, non-EU citizens can reclaim any Imposta di Valore Aggiunto (IVA; value-added tax) on purchases equal to or over €155. The refund only applies to purchases made within the past three months in affiliated outlets that display a 'Tax Free for Tourists' or similar sign. You have to complete a form at the point of sale, then get it stamped by Italian customs as you leave.
Duty Free Allowances
|Spirits & liqueurs||1L|
|Wine||4L (or 2L of fortified wine)|
|Other goods||up to a value of €300/430 (travelling by land/sea)|
All passports should be valid for at least six months beyond your departure date from Italy.
Technically, all foreign visitors to Italy are supposed to register with the local police within eight days of arrival. However, if you're staying in a hotel or hostel you don't need to bother as the hotel will do it for you – this is why they always take your passport details.
By law you are supposed to have your passport or ID card with you at all times.
Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days (or at all for EU nationals); some nationalities need a Schengen visa.
For up-to-date information on visa requirements, see www.esteri.it/visti.
EU citizens do not need a visa to enter Italy. Nationals of several other countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and the USA, do not need visas for stays of up to 90 days.
Other people wishing to visit Italy have to apply for a Schengen visa, which allows unlimited travel in Italy and 25 other European countries for a 90-day period. You must apply for a Schengen visa in your country of residence and you cannot apply for more than two in any 12-month period. They are not renewable inside Italy.
Italy is a surprisingly formal society; the following tips will help avoid awkward moments.
- Greetings Greet people in shops, restaurants and bars with a buongiorno (good morning) or buonasera (good evening); kiss both cheeks and say come stai (how are you) to friends. Use 'lei' (formal 'you') in polite company; use 'tu' (informal 'you') with friends and children. With older people, only use first names if invited.
- Asking for help Say mi scusi (excuse me) to attract attention; use permesso (permission) to pass someone in a crowded space.
- Religious etiquette Cover shoulders, torso and thighs when visiting religious sites and never intrude on a church service.
- Dining out Dress smartly when eating out at restaurants.
- At the table Eat pasta with a fork, not a spoon; it's OK to eat pizza with your hands. Summon the waiter by saying mi scusi (excuse me). When dining in an Italian home, bring a small gift of dolci (sweets) from a pasticceria (pastry shop) or wine, and dress well.
- Scheduling Take official opening hours and timetables with a grain of salt.
A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is highly recommended. It may also cover you for cancellation of and delays to your travel arrangements.
Paying for your ticket with a credit card can often provide limited travel accident insurance, and you may be able to reclaim the payment if the operator doesn't deliver. Ask your credit-card company what it will cover.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Public wi-fi hotspots are fairly common in cafes, bars and eateries, and most hotels and B&Bs offer free wi-fi. In accommodation listings the internet icon is used to indicate that there is a computer available for guest use, while the wi-fi icon indicates that there is wi-fi access. Wi-fi is specifically mentioned in reviews only when charges apply.
Southern Italy is relatively safe and the average tourist will only have a brush with the law if they need to report a theft. If you do have something stolen and you want to claim it on insurance, you must make a statement to the police; insurance companies won't pay up without proof of a crime.
Drugs & Alcohol
- If you’re caught with what the police deem to be a dealable quantity of hard or soft drugs, you risk a prison sentence.
- The legal limit for blood alcohol when driving is 0.05% and random breath tests do occur. Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol can be severe.
The Italian police force is divided into three main bodies: the polizia, who wear navy-blue jackets; the carabinieri, in a black uniform with a red stripe; and the grey-clad guardia di finanza (fiscal police), responsible for fighting tax evasion and drug smuggling. If you run into trouble, you’re most likely to end up dealing with the polizia or carabinieri. If, however, you land a parking ticket, you'll need to speak to the vigili urbani (traffic wardens).
To contact the police in an emergency, dial 112 or 113.
|Polizia statale (state police)||Thefts, visa extensions and permits|
|Carabinieri (military police)||General crime, public order, drug-law enforcement|
|Vigili urbani (local traffic police)||Parking tickets, towed cars|
|Guardia di finanza||Tax evasion, drug smuggling|
|Corpo forestale||Environmental protection|
- You should be given verbal and written notice of the charges laid against you within 24 hours by arresting officers.
- You have no right to a phone call upon arrest, though the police will inform your family with your consent. You may also ask the police to inform your embassy or consulate.
- The prosecutor must apply to a magistrate for you to be held in preventive custody awaiting trial (depending on the seriousness of the offence) within 48 hours of arrest.
- You also have the right to a lawyer. If you do not know of any local lawyers, the police should ask the local bar council for a state-appointed lawyer (difensore di ufficio) to be appointed.
- You have the right not to respond to questions without the presence of a lawyer. If the magistrate orders preventive custody, you have the right to contest this within the following 10 days.
Homosexuality is legal (over the age of 16) and same-sex civil unions are recognised in Italy. Although attitudes towards LGBT+ people have improved significantly in southern Italy in recent times, it remains fairly conservative and discretion is still wise. Overt displays of affection by LGBT+ couples can attract a negative response, especially in smaller towns.
You'll find gay scenes in Naples, Catania, Palermo, Syracuse and Bari. Both Taormina in Sicily and Gallipoli in Puglia are popular gay holiday spots in the summer.
Summertime pride parades take place annually in Naples (www.napolipride.org), Bari, Palermo (www.palermopride.it), Catania (www.facebook.com/Cataniagaypride) and Syracuse (www.facebook.com/siracusapride).
Online resources include the following (mostly in Italian):
Arcigay (www.arcigay.it) Italy's largest gay organisation, with branches in numerous southern cities, including Naples, Salerno, Lecce, Bari, Reggio Calabria, Messina, Catania, Syracuse, Ragusa and Palermo.
Coordinamento Lesbiche Italiano (CLR; www.clrbp.it) The national organisation for lesbians, holding regular literary meetings, film festivals and other events.
Gay.it (www.gay.it) Website featuring LGBT+ news, feature articles and gossip.
Guida Gay Italia (www.guidagay.it) Details on gay-friendly bars, clubs, beaches and hotels.
Pride (www.prideonline.it) National monthly magazine of art, music, politics and gay culture.
Spartacus World (www.spartacus.gayguide.travel/goingout/europe/italy) Lists male-only venues in southern Italy and further afield.
Touring Club Italiano (www.touringclub.com) Italy's largest map publisher offers a comprehensive 1:200,000, 592-page road atlas of Italy (€54.90), as well as 1:400,000 maps of northern, central and southern Italy (€8.50). It also produces regional maps at 1:200,000 (€8.50), as well as a series of walking guides with maps (from €14.90).
ATMs widely available. Credit cards accepted in most hotels and restaurants.
- ATMs (known as 'Bancomat' in Italy) are widely available throughout the country and most will accept cards tied into the Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro systems. The Italian term for international cash withdrawal is prelievo internazionale, although most ATMs have multilingual screens.
- Every time you withdraw cash, you'll be hit by charges. Typically you'll be charged a withdrawal fee as well as a conversion charge; if you're using a credit card, you'll also be hit by interest on the cash withdrawn. Fees can sometimes be reduced by withdrawing cash from banks affiliated with your home banking institution; check with your bank.
- If an ATM rejects your card, try another one before assuming the problem is with your card.
- Though widely accepted, credit cards are not as ubiquitous in southern Italy as they are in northern Europe, the UK, the US or Australia, so always have some cash on hand. Some small guesthouses, trattorie and shops don't take credit cards, and you can't always use them at petrol stations, parking meters or motorway toll booths.
- Major cards such as Visa, MasterCard and Eurocard are accepted throughout southern Italy. Amex is also recognised but is less common.
- Before leaving home, make sure you advise your credit-card company of your travel plans. Otherwise, you risk having your card blocked – as a security measure, banks block cards when they notice out-of-the-ordinary transactions. Check also any charges you'll incur and what the procedure is if you experience problems or have your card stolen. Most card suppliers will give you an emergency number you can call free of charge for help and advice.
Italy's currency is the euro (€). The euro is divided into 100 cents. Coin denominations are one, two, five, 10, 20 and 50 cents, €1 and €2. Note denominations are €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500.
Money can be exchanged in banks, post offices and exchange offices. Banks generally offer the best rates, but shop around as rates fluctuate considerably.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
Italians are not big tippers. Use the following as a rough guide:
- Bars In cafes, locals often place a €0.10 or €0.20 coin on the bar when ordering coffee. Consider leaving small change when ordering drinks.
- Hotels Tip porters about €5 at high-end hotels.
- Restaurants Service (servizio) is generally included in restaurant bills – if it's not, a euro or two is fine in pizzerias, 10% in restaurants.
- Taxis Optional, but most people round up to the nearest euro.
Opening hours can vary throughout the year, especially at tourist attractions. 'Summer' times generally refer to the period from April to September or October, while 'winter' times generally run from October or November to March.
Banks 8.30am to 1.30pm and 2.45pm to 4pm Monday to Friday.
Restaurants noon to 3pm and 7.30pm to 11pm or midnight; many close one day per week.
Cafes 7am to 8pm, later if offering evening bar service.
Bars and clubs 10pm to 4am or 5am.
Shops 9.30am to 1.30pm and 4pm to 7.30pm or 8pm Monday to Saturday. Some also open Sunday and several close Monday morning.
Poste Italiane, Italy's postal system, is not particularly efficient, though letters and packages do generally arrive sooner or later.
Stamps (francobolli) are available at post offices and authorised tobacconists (look for the official tabacchi sign, a big 'T', often white on black), which you'll find in every town and village.
For more important items, use registered mail (posta raccomandata) or insured mail (posta assicurata); the cost depends on the value of the object being sent.
Postal Rates & Services
The cost of sending a letter by aerea (airmail) depends on its weight and size and where it is being sent. Most people use posta prioritaria (priority mail), Italy's most efficient mail service, guaranteed to deliver letters sent to Europe within three working days and to the rest of the world within four to nine working days.
Using posta prioritaria, mail up to 50g costs €3.50 within Europe, €4.50 to Africa, Asia and the Americas, and €5.50 to Australia and New Zealand. Mail weighing 51g to 100g costs €4.30 within Europe, €5.20 to Africa, Asia and the Americas, and €7.10 to Australia and New Zealand.
Most Italians take their annual holiday in August, deserting the cities for the cooler seaside or mountains. This means that many businesses and shops close for at least part of the month, especially around the Feast of the Assumption (Ferragosto) on 15 August. Easter is another busy period, with many resort hotels opening for the season the week before Easter.
Italian schools close for three months in summer, from mid-June to mid-September, for two weeks at Christmas and for a week at Easter.
Individual towns have public holidays to celebrate the feasts of their patron saints.
National public holidays include the following:
New Year's Day (Capodanno) 1 January
Epiphany (Epifania) 6 January
Easter Sunday (Pasqua) March/April
Easter Monday (Pasquetta) March/April
Liberation Day (Giorno della Liberazione) 25 April
Labour Day (Festa del Lavoro) 1 May
Republic Day (Festa della Repubblica) 2 June
Feast of the Assumption (Ferragosto) 15 August
All Saints' Day (Festa di Ognissanti) 1 November
Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Festa della Immaculata Concezione) 8 December
Christmas Day (Natale) 25 December
Boxing Day (Festa di Santo Stefano) 26 December
- Smoking Banned in enclosed public spaces, which includes restaurants, bars, shops and public transport. Also banned in private vehicles carrying children or pregnant women. Allowed (and very popular) at outdoor restaurant and bar tables.
- Italian area codes begin with 0 and consist of up to four digits. They are an integral part of all phone numbers and must be dialled even when calling locally.
- Mobile-phone numbers begin with a three-digit prefix starting with a 3.
- Toll-free numbers are known as numeri verdi and usually start with 800.
- Some six-digit national-rate numbers are also in use (such as those for Alitalia and Trenitalia).
- To call Italy from abroad, dial your country's international access code, then Italy's country code (39) followed by the area code of the location you want (including the first zero) and the rest of the number.
- To call abroad from Italy dial 00, then the country code, followed by the full number.
- Avoid making international calls from hotels, as rates are high.
- The cheapest way to call is to use an app such as Skype or Viber, connecting through the wi-fi at your accommodation. Wi-fi is also available at numerous cafes and bars.
Local SIM cards can be used in European, Australian and some unlocked US phones. Other phones must be set to roaming.
- Italian mobile phones operate on the GSM 900/1800 network, which is compatible with the rest of Europe and Australia but not always with the North American GSM or CDMA systems – check with your service provider.
- The cheapest way of using your mobile is to buy a prepaid (prepagato) Italian SIM card. TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile; www.tim.it), Wind (www.wind.it), Vodafone (www.vodafone.it) and Tre (www.tre.it) all offer SIM cards and have retail outlets across southern Italy. You can then top up as you go, either online, at one of your provider's shops, or at tobacconists and bars selling recharge cards (ricariche).
- Note that by Italian law all SIM cards must be registered in Italy, so make sure you have your passport or ID card when you buy one.
Italy is one hour ahead of GMT. Daylight-saving time starts on the last Sunday in March, when clocks are put forward one hour. Clocks go back an hour on the last Sunday in October. Italy operates on the 24-hour clock, so rather than 6.30pm, you'll see 18.30 on transport timetables.
Beyond major tourist sites, archaeological parks and train stations, there are few public toilets in southern Italy. If you're caught short, the best thing to do is to nip into a cafe or bar. The polite thing to do is to order something at the bar. You may need to pay to use public toilets at some venues (usually €0.50 to €1). In many places public loos are pretty grim; go armed with some tissues.
The quality of tourist offices varies dramatically. One office might have enthusiastic staff, another might be breathtakingly indifferent. Most offices offer at least a few brochures, maps and leaflets, even if they're uninterested in helping in any other way. Outside major cities and international tourist areas, it's fairly unusual for the staff to speak English.
Four tiers of tourist office exist: local, provincial, regional and national.
Local & Provincial Tourist Offices
Despite their different names, provincial and local offices offer similar services. All deal directly with the public and most will respond to written and telephone requests for information. Staff can usually provide a city map, lists of hotels and information on the major sights. In larger towns and major tourist areas, English is generally spoken.
Main offices are generally open Monday to Friday; some also open on weekends, especially in urban areas or during peak summer season. Subsidiary information booths (at train stations and airports, for example) may keep slightly different hours.
Regional Tourist Authorities
Regional offices are generally more concerned with planning, budgeting, marketing and promotion than with offering a public information service. However, they still maintain some useful websites.
Tourist Offices Abroad
The Italian National Tourist Office (www.enit.it) maintains offices in 28 cities on five continents. Contact information for all offices can be found on its website.
Travel with Children
Southern Italians adore bambini (children) and fawning locals are as common as espresso, olive groves and Vespas. On the flip side, Italy's southern regions offer few special amenities for little ones, which means a little planning goes a long way.
- Naples & Campania
Subterranean ruins and secret passageways in Naples will intrigue those over five. Kids under 10 may need a piggyback for part of the walk up Mt Vesuvius, though most kids and teens will enjoy exploring ancient Pompeii and Herculaneum. Ischia's bubbling beach and thermal pools have wide appeal.
- Puglia, Basilicata & Calabria
Valle d'Itria in Puglia and Matera in Basilicata intrigue with otherworldly abodes. Puglia's countless soft, sandy beaches suit all ages, while its relatively flat terrain makes for easy cycling adventures. The national parks of Basilicata and Calabria offer hikes, skiing and white-water rafting for active teens.
Fire up the imagination of primary (elementary) and high-school students with ancient temples and glittering Byzantine mosaics. Younger kids will love Sicilian puppet shows, while teens will get a kick out of climbing a volcano. Young and old will appreciate Sicily's irresistible desserts.
Southern Italy for Kids
Southern Italy's extraordinary history offers a wealth of unforgettable family adventures. One day you're snooping around ancient shops and villas on chariot-grooved streets, the next you're daydreaming about kings, queens and knights in a medieval castle. To engage young travellers more fully, verse them up on the history of the sights you're planning to visit. On the ground, guided tours, audioguides or smartphone apps also help bring those ancient ruins, churches and monuments to life.
Natural thrills are also in plentiful supply thanks to the south's varied landscapes. Beach-rich Puglia, the Amalfi Coast and Sicily sizzle with family fun on and off the sand, from splashing about in child-friendly waters, to snorkelling and diving in protected marine reserves. Volcanic landscapes in Sicily and Campania offer thrilling hikes, while Calabria's rugged mountains deliver everything from white-water rafting to river tubing for older kids.
Always ask tourist offices about any special family activities or festivals, especially in the high-season. Also, check out Lonely Planet's Travel with Children book.
- Discounted admission for children is available at most attractions.
- At state-run museums and sites, admission is free for under-18s; EU citizens aged between 18 and 25 pay €2 for tickets.
- Many other museums and monuments offer reduced admission for children, usually from the ages of six to 18.
- To cut costs, try to take advantage of free admission days. All state-run museums and sites are free for 20 days a year: the first Sunday of each month between October and March, for a special week of openings (dates vary from year to year), and for a further eight days at the discretion of the individual museum or site.
- Hungry kids are welcome pretty much everywhere, especially at pizzerie and casual, family-run trattorie.
- While dedicated children’s menus are rare, it’s perfectly acceptable to order a half-portion (mezza porzione) or a simple plate of pasta with butter or olive oil and Parmesan. High chairs (seggioloni) are occasionally available, but if your toddler needs to be strapped in, bring your own portable cloth seat. Also note that southern Italians eat late and few restaurants open their doors much before 7.30pm or 8pm.
- Pizza al taglio (sliced pizza), arancini (rice balls) and crocchè (potato croquettes) all make for tasty on-the-run bites. Local markets, delicatessens and grocery stores are ideal for self caterers, offering everything from fresh bread, salami, cheeses, to olives and fresh produce for a picnic or home-cooked feast.
- Baby requirements are easily met (except on Sundays when most shops are closed). Pharmacies and supermarkets sell baby formula, nappies (diapers), ready-made baby food and sterilising solutions. Fresh cow's milk is sold in cartons in supermarkets and in bars with a 'Latteria' sign. Breastfeeding is common, and attitudes are relaxed.
- Aeolian Islands Seven tiny volcanic islands off Sicily with everything from spewing lava to black-sand beaches.
- Mt Vesuvius Play 'spot the landmark' from the summit of Naples' formidable, slumbering volcano.
- Ischia Catch a water taxi to a bubbling thermal beach or pool-hop at a verdant spa resort.
- Parco Nazionale del Pollino Kids over 10 can join the grown-ups for white-water-rafting adventures in Calabria's wilds.
- Maratea Shallow, sandy beaches and a very walkable town centre.
Brushes With History
- Tunnel Borbonico Escape routes, hideouts and vintage smugglers' cars bring wartime Naples to life.
- Herculaneum Smaller and better preserved than Pompeii, Herculaneum is easier to visit in a shorter time.
- Valley of the Temples Agrigento's astounding Greek temples come with picnic-friendly grounds and space to move.
- Castel del Monte Puglia's octagonal 13th-century castle boasts Europe’s very first flush toilet.
- Villa Romana del Casale Mosaics of wild beasts and youthful gymnasts capture young minds at Piazza Armerina's ancient Roman hunting villa.
- Cimitero delle Fontanelle Tour Naples' bizarre Fontanelle Cemetery, stacked with skulls, shrines and fantastical tales.
- Alberobello Was that Snow White? Imagination runs riot in this World Heritage–listed town in Puglia, famous for its cone-roofed trulli abodes.
- Matera Relive the Flintstones exploring Matera's Unesco-protected sassi (stone houses carved out of caves and cliffs).
- Piccolo Teatro dei Pupi Syracuse's little Sicilian puppet theatre brings old Sicilian tales to vivid life.
- Catacombe dei Cappuccini Palermo's eerie catacombs are neatly lined with mummies in their Sunday best.
When to Go
Spring, early summer and autumn are generally best for families with small children. High summer temperatures can make life miserable for little ones – although good beaches and the occasional gelato should make this more bearable.
- Generally, apartment rental is easy to find and works best for families who want to self-cater. Many hotels and pensioni (guesthouses) offer reduced rates for children or will add an extra bed or cot on request (usually for an extra 30% or so).
- Agriturismi (farmstays) and masserie (fortified farmhouses) are excellent for children because they're always in a natural setting and often offer activities for guests, whether it be horse-riding, feeding animals or cooking. In high season (July and August), many camping grounds also offer activities for kids.
- Another interesting option for young travellers are Puglia's traditional, conical-roofed trulli. Looking like the homes of storybook gnomes, they're especially prolific in the towns of Alberobello and Locorotondo.
- Arrange car rental before leaving home. Car seats for infants and children are available from most car-rental agencies, but should always be booked in advance.
- Public-transport discounts are sometimes available for children. In some cases, young children travel free if accompanied by a paying adult. Check details in specific destination coverage or ask at the tourist office. Inter-city trains and buses are safe, convenient and relatively inexpensive.
- Cobbled stones and potholes can make stroller use challenging. Consider purchasing an ergonomic baby carrier before leaving home.
Italia Kids (www.italiakids.com) Family travel and lifestyle guide to Italy, packed with practical tips and accommodation listings.
Context Travel (www.contexttravel.com) Superb guided walks for families in Naples.
Ciao Bambino (www.ciaobambino.com) Tours, activities, recommendations, and planning advice, put together by family-travel experts.
Baby Friendly Boltholes (www.babyfriendlyboltholes.co.uk) Search for stylish, child-friendly accommodation in Puglia and Sicily.
Concordia International Volunteer Projects (www.concordiavolunteers.org.uk) Lists opportunities for short-term community-based projects covering the environment, archaeology and the arts.
European Youth Portal (http://europa.eu/youth) Has various links suggesting volunteering options across Europe. Navigate to the Volunteering page.
Legambiente (http://international.legambiente.it) Italy's best-known conservation group offers numerous environmentally focused volunteering opportunities.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (www.wwoof.it) For a membership fee of €35 this organisation provides a list of farms looking for volunteer workers.
In general, southern Italy is a welcoming and safe place for women travellers, including those travelling solo. Cultural stereotypes of Italian men harassing lone foreign women are largely outdated and exaggerated.
That said, eye-to-eye contact remains the norm in Italy’s daily flirtatious interplay, and with some men this may segue into overt staring. Usually, simply showing a lack of interest is enough to nip unwanted attention in the bud. If ignoring such behaviour doesn’t work, politely say that you’re waiting for your marito (husband) or fidanzato (boyfriend) and, if necessary, walk away. If you are visibly in distress, people near you or passersby will generally step in to assist.
If you feel yourself being groped on a crowded bus or metro, a loud 'che schifo!' (how disgusting!) will draw attention to the incident. Otherwise, take all the usual precautions you would in any other part of the world; avoid wandering around alone late at night, especially in parks and desolate urban areas.
You can report incidents to the police, who are required to press charges.