Italy is not an easy country for travellers with disabilities. Cobblestone streets and pavements blocked by parked cars and scooters make getting around difficult for wheelchair users. And while many buildings have lifts, they are not always wide enough for wheelchairs. Not a lot has been done to make life easier for hearing- or vision-impaired travellers either. However, awareness of accessibility issues and a culture of inclusion are steadily growing.
If you have an obvious disability and/or appropriate ID, many museums and galleries offer free admission for yourself and a companion.
Arriving in Italy
- Airline companies will arrange assistance at airports if you notify them of your needs in advance. For help at Rome’s Fiumicino or Ciampino airports contact ADR Assistance (www.adrassistance.it).
- To reach Rome from Fiumicino Airport, the wheelchair-accessible Leonardo Express train runs to Stazione Termini. Private wheelchair-accessible transfers are also available 24/7 from both Fiumicino and Ciampino airports – book online at www.transfers-rome-civitavecchia.com/wheelchair-rome-taxi-transfers.
- 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 urban buses are wheelchair-accessible; however some of the stops may not be – ask 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) Performs on-site audits of tourist facilities in Italy and San Marino. Most of the 67 facilities are accommodation providers, ranging from camping grounds to high-class hotels.
Tourism without Barriers (www.turismosenzabarriere.it) Has a searchable database of accessible accommodation and tourist attractions in Tuscany, with a scattering of options in other regions.
Fondazione Cesare Serono (www.fondazioneserono.org/disabilita/spiagge-accessibili/spiagge-accessibili) A list (in Italian) of accessible beaches.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/accessible-travel.
Accessible Travel Agencies
Rome & Italy This mainstream travel agency has 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 access many otherwise inaccessible archaeological sites.
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 Lazio, Tuscany, Umbria and Campania.
Accessible Italy (www.accessibleitaly.com) A San Marino–based nonprofit company that runs guided tours and provides services for people with disabilities, including equipment rental and adapted-vehicle hire, and can arrange personal assistants.
Sage Traveling (www.sagetraveling.com) A US-based accessible-travel agency that offers tailor-made tours to assist mobility-impaired travellers in Europe. Check out its website for detailed access guides to Florence, Naples, Rome and Venice.
Gentle haggling is common in street/flea markets (though not in food markets).
Haggling in stores is generally unacceptable, though good-humoured bargaining at smaller artisan or craft shops in southern Italy is not unusual if making multiple purchases.
Dangers & Annoyances
Italy is generally a safe country to travel in. Note, however, that petty theft can be a problem – pickpockets and thieves are active in touristy areas and on crowded public transport. In case of theft or loss, always report the incident to the police within 24 hours and ask for a statement.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer up-to-date travel advisories.
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.smartraveller.gov.au)
- British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
- Global Affairs Canada (www.travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories)
- New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Trade (www.safetravel.govt.nz)
- US Department of State (https://travel.state.gov)
Italy's state museums and sites are free to EU citizens under the age of 18. Discounts also apply to people aged 18 to 25.
Some cities or regions offer their own discount passes, such as the Roma Pass (www.romapass.it), which provides free public transport and free or reduced admission to many of Rome's museums.
In many places around Italy, you can also save money by purchasing a biglietto cumulativo, a ticket that covers admission to a number of associated sights.
Discount Cards Table
European Youth Card (Lazio Youth Card)
International Student Identity Card (ISIC)
International Teacher Identity Card (ITIC)
International Youth Travel Card (IYTC)
Electricity in Italy conforms to the European standard of 220V to 230V, with a frequency of 50Hz. Wall outlets typically accommodate plugs with two or three round pins (the latter grounded, the former not).
Emergency & Important Numbers
From outside Italy, dial your international access code, Italy's country code (39) then the number (including the first '0').
|International access code||00|
Entry & Exit Formalities
Entering Italy from most other parts of the EU is generally uncomplicated, with no border checkpoints and no customs thanks to the Schengen Agreement. Document and customs checks apply if arriving from (or departing to) a non-Schengen country.
On leaving the EU, non-EU citizens can reclaim value-added tax (IVA) on any purchases over €154.94. For more information, see www.italia.it/en/useful-info/rights-for-tourists/customs.html.
Duty Free Allowances
Entering Italy from a non-EU country you can bring in the following duty-free.
|spirits & liqueurs||1L|
|wine||4L (or 2L of fortified wine)|
|other goods||up to a value of €300/430 (travelling by land/sea)|
- EU and Swiss citizens can travel to Italy with a national identity card. All other nationalities must have a valid passport and may be required to fill out a landing card (at airports).
- By law you are supposed to carry your passport or an ID card with you at all times in Italy.
- You'll need to present an ID card/passport when you check in at a hotel/B&B etc.
- In theory there are no passport checks at land crossings from neighbouring countries, but random controls do occasionally take place.
Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days (or at all by EU nationals). Some nationalities will need a Schengen visa.
- Italy is one of the 26 European countries making up the Schengen area. There are no customs controls when travelling between Schengen countries, so the visa rules that apply to Italy apply to all Schengen countries.
- EU citizens do not need a visa to enter Italy.
- Nationals of some other countries, including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the USA, do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days.
- Nationals of other countries will need a Schengen tourist visa – to check requirements see www.schengenvisainfo.com/tourist-schengen-visa.
- All non-EU and non-Schengen nationals entering Italy for more than 90 days or for any reason other than tourism (such as study or work) may need a specific visa. Check http://vistoperitalia.esteri.it for details.
- Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your departure date from Italy.
In July 2018, the European Parliament approved plans for an electronic vetting system for travellers to the Schengen area.
Under the terms of the European Travel Information & Authorisation System (ETIAS), all non-EU travellers will have to fill in an online form and pay a €7 fee before they can travel to a Schengen country.
The system is set to come into force in 2021.
For further details, see www.etiaseurope.eu.
Permesso di Soggiorno
- A permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay, also referred to as a residence permit) is required by all non-EU nationals who stay in Italy longer than three months. In theory, you should apply for one within eight days of arriving in Italy.
- EU citizens do not require a permesso di soggiorno, but are required to register with the local registry office (Ufficio Anagrafe) if they stay for more than three months.
- Check exact requirements on www.poliziadistato.it – click on the English tab and then follow the links.
- Further information is also available at www.portaleimmigrazione.it.
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.
- Asking for help Say 'mi scusi' (excuse me) to attract attention; use 'permesso' (permission) to pass someone in a crowded space.
- Dress Cover shoulders, torso and thighs when visiting churches and dress smartly when eating out.
- At the table Eat pasta with a fork, not a spoon; it's OK to eat pizza with your hands.
- Gifts If invited to someone’s home, traditional gifts are a tray of dolci (sweets) from a pasticceria (pastry shop), a bottle of wine or flowers.
A travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems is a very good idea. It may also cover you for cancellation or delays to your travel arrangements.
Paying for tickets with a credit card can often provide limited travel accident insurance and you may be able to reclaim payments if the operators don'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…
- Free wi-fi is widely available in hotels, hostels, B&Bs and agriturismi (farm stays), though signal quality varies. Some places also provide laptops/computers.
- Many bars and cafes offer free wi-fi.
- Numerous Italian cities and towns offer public wi-fi hotspots, including Rome, Milan, Bologna, Florence and Venice. To use them, you'll need to register online using a credit card or an Italian mobile number.
- A free smartphone app, wifi.italia.it, allows you to connect to participating networks through a single login. Released in summer 2017, it gets mixed reports.
The most likely reason for a brush with the law is to report a theft. If you have something stolen and you want to claim it on insurance, you must make a statement to the police, as insurance companies won’t pay without official 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 prison sentences of between two and 22 years.
- Possession for personal use is punishable by administrative sanctions, although first-time offenders might get away with a warning.
- The legal limit for blood-alcohol when driving is 0.05%; it's zero for drivers under 21 and those who have had a licence for less than three years. Random breath tests do occur.
The Italian police 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.
Italian Police Organisations
|Polizia di Stato (state police)||General crime and maintenance of public order and security|
|Carabinieri (military police)||General crime and public order (often overlapping with the polizia di stato)|
|Vigili Urbani (local traffic police)||Parking tickets, towed cars, municipal administration|
|Guardia di Finanza||Financial crime, 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 judge for you to be held in pre-trial custody (depending on the seriousness of the offence) within 48 hours of arrest.
- Once you've been arrested a lawyer is appointed by the state to assist you. Alternatively, you can appoint a lawyer for yourself at any time after your arrest.
- You have the right not to respond to questions without the presence of a lawyer.
Homosexuality is legal (over the age of 16) and even widely accepted, but Italy is fairly conservative in its attitudes and discretion is still wise. Overt displays of affection by LGBTQ+ couples can attract a negative response, especially in smaller towns.
There are gay venues in Rome, Milan and Bologna, and a handful in places such as Florence and Naples. Some coastal towns and resorts (such as the Tuscan town of Torre del Lago, Taormina in Sicily and Gallipoli in Puglia) are popular gay holiday spots in summer.
Arcigay Bologna-based national organisation for the LGBTQ+ community.
Circolo Mario Mieli di Cultura Omosessuale Rome-based cultural centre that organises debates, cultural events and social functions.
Coordinamento Lesbiche Italiano The national organisation for lesbians holds regular conferences, literary evenings and cultural events at its Rome headquarters.
Gay.it (www.gay.it) Website featuring LGBTQ+ news, features and gossip.
Pride (www.prideonline.it) Culture, politics, travel and health with an LGBTQ+ focus.
The city maps provided by Lonely Planet, combined with the free local maps available at tourist offices, will be sufficient for most needs.
For more specialised maps, try bookseller Feltrinelli (www.lafeltrinelli.it).
Touring Club Italiano (www.touringclubstore.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 15 regional maps at 1:200,000 (€8.50), as well as a series of walking guides with maps (€14 to €16). Discounts are available for online purchases.
Tabacco (www.tabaccoeditrice.com) Publishes 1:25,000 scale walking maps (€9.20), covering the northeast Alps and Dolomites.
Kompass (www.kompass-italia.it) Publishes 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scale hiking maps of various parts of Italy, plus a nice series of 1:70,000 cycling maps.
Stanfords (www.stanfords.co.uk) Excellent UK-based shop that stocks many useful maps, including cycling maps.
Newspapers Key national dailies include centre-left la Repubblica (www.repubblica.it) and its conservative rival Corriere della Sera (www.corriere.it). For the Vatican's take on affairs, L'Osservatore Romano (www.osservatoreromano.va) is the Holy See's official newspaper.
Television The main terrestrial channels are Rai 1, 2 and 3, run by Rai (www.rai.it), Italy's state-owned national broadcaster, and Canale 5, Italia 1 and Rete 4, run by Mediaset (www.mediaset.it), the commercial TV company founded and still partly owned by Silvio Berlusconi.
Radio As well as the principal Rai channels (Radiouno, Radiodue, Radiotre), there are hundreds of commercial radio stations operating across the country. Popular Rome-based stations include Radio Capital (www.capital.it) and Radio Città Futura (www.radiocittafutura.it). Vatican Radio (www.radiovaticana.va) broadcasts in Italian, English and other languages.
ATMs are widespread in Italy. Major credit cards are widely accepted, but some smaller shops, trattorias and hotels might not take them.
- ATMs (known as bancomat) are widely available in Italy, and most will accept cards tied into the Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro systems.
- Beware of transaction fees. Every time you withdraw cash, you'll be hit by charges – typically your home bank will charge a foreign-exchange fee and a transaction fee. These might be a flat rate or a percentage of around 1% to 3%. 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.
- Major cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Eurocard, Cirrus and Eurocheques are widely accepted. Amex is also recognised, although it’s less common than Visa or MasterCard.
- Virtually all midrange and top-end hotels accept credit cards, as do most restaurants and large shops. Some cheaper pensioni (pensions), trattorias and pizzerias only accept cash. Don’t rely on credit cards at smaller museums or galleries.
- Note that using your credit card in ATMs can be costly. On every transaction there’s a fee, which can reach US$10 with some credit-card issuers, as well as interest per withdrawal. Check with your issuer before leaving home.
- If your card is lost, stolen or swallowed by an ATM, phone to have an immediate stop put on its use.
- Always inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid your card being blocked for payments made in unusual locations.
Italy’s currency is the euro. The seven euro notes come in denominations of €500, €200, €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5. The eight euro coins are in denominations of €2 and €1, then 50, 20, 10, five, and two cents, and finally one cent.
- You can change money at a cambio (exchange office) or post office. Some banks might change money, though many now only do this for account holders. Post offices and banks offer the best rates; exchange offices keep longer hours, but watch for high commissions and inferior rates.
- Take your passport or photo ID when exchanging money.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
Italians are not big tippers. The following is a rough guide.
Taxis Optional, but most round up to the nearest euro.
Hotels Tip porters about €5 at high-end hotels.
Restaurants Service (servizio) is generally included – otherwise, a euro or two is fine in pizzerias and trattorias, and 5% to 10% in smart restaurants.
Bars Not necessary, although many leave small change if drinking coffee at the bar, usually €0.10 or €0.20.
Opening hours vary throughout the year. We've provided high-season hours, which are generally in use over summer. Summer refers to the period between April and September (or October); winter is October (or November) to March.
Banks 8.30am–1.30pm and 2.45pm–4.30pm Monday to Friday
Bars & cafes 7.30am–8pm, sometimes to 1am or 2am
Clubs 10pm–4am or 5am
Restaurants noon–3pm and 7.30pm–11pm (later in summer)
Shops 9am–1pm and 3.30pm–7.30pm (or 4pm to 8pm) Monday to Saturday. In main cities some shops stay open at lunchtime and on Sunday mornings. Some shops close Monday mornings.
- Italy’s postal system, Poste Italiane, is reasonably reliable.
- To locate a post office and check postage rates see www.poste.it (in Italian).
- Opening hours vary but for large post offices they are typically 8.20am to 7pm Monday to Friday, to 12.35pm Saturdays. All post offices close two hours earlier than normal on the last business day of the month.
- Stamps (francobolli) are available at post offices and authorised tobacconists (look for the official sign: a white ‘T’ on a black background).
Letters up to 20g cost €1.10 to destinations in Italy, €1.15 to Zone 1 (Europe and the Mediterranean basin), €2.40 to Zone 2 (other countries in Africa, Asia and the Americas) and €3.10 to Zone 3 (Australia and New Zealand). For more important items, use registered mail (raccomandata), which costs €5.40 to Italian addresses, €7.10 to Zone 1, €8.40 to Zone 2 and €9.05 to Zone 3.
Most Italians take their annual holiday in August. Many businesses and shops close for at least part of the month, particularly around Ferragosto (Feast of the Assumption) on 15 August. Settimana Santa (Easter Holy Week) is another busy holiday period.
National public holidays include the following.
Capodanno (New Year's Day) 1 January
Epifania (Epiphany) 6 January
Pasquetta (Easter Monday) March/April
Giorno della Liberazione (Liberation Day) 25 April
Festa del Lavoro (Labour Day) 1 May
Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day) 2 June
Ferragosto (Feast of the Assumption) 15 August
Festa di Ognisanti (All Saints' Day) 1 November
Festa dell’Immacolata Concezione (Feast of the Immaculate Conception) 8 December
Natale (Christmas Day) 25 December
Festa di Santo Stefano (Boxing Day) 26 December
- Smoking Banned in enclosed public spaces, which includes restaurants, bars, shops and public transport.
Taxes & Refunds
A 22% value-added tax known as IVA (Imposta sul Valore Aggiunta) is included in the price of most goods and services. Tax-free shopping is available at some shops.
Non-EU residents who spend more than €154.94 in one shop at a single time can claim a refund when leaving the EU. The refund only applies to purchases from stores that display a ‘Tax Free’ sign. When making the purchase, ask for a tax-refund voucher, to be filled in with the date of the purchase and its value. When leaving the EU, get this voucher stamped at customs and take it to the nearest tax-refund counter where you’ll get an immediate refund, either in cash or charged to your credit card. For more information, see www.taxrefund.it.
- 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 hotel/B&B etc.
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 the country. You can then top up as you go, either online or at one of your provider's shops.
- 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.
- All of Italy occupies the Central European Time Zone, which is one hour ahead of GMT. When it is noon in London, it is 1pm in Italy.
- Daylight-saving time (when clocks move forward one hour) starts on the last Sunday in March and ends on the last Sunday in October.
- Italy operates on a 24-hour clock, so 3pm is written as 15:00.
Besides in museums, galleries, department stores and train stations, there are few public toilets in 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 some public toilets (usually €0.50 to €1.50).
Italy's national tourist board, ENIT – Agenzia Nazionale del Turismo, has offices across the world. Its website, www.italia.it, provides both practical information and inspirational travel ideas.
- Most cities and towns in Italy have a tourist office that can provide maps, lists of local accommodation and information on sights in the area.
- In larger towns and major tourist areas, English is generally spoken, along with other languages, depending on the region (for example, German in Alto Adige, French in Valle d'Aosta).
- Most tourist offices will respond to written or telephone requests for information.
- Office hours vary: in major tourist destinations, offices generally open daily, especially in the summer high season. In smaller centres, they generally observe regular office hours and open Monday through to Friday, perhaps also on Saturday mornings.
- Affiliated information booths (at train stations and airports, for example) may keep slightly different hours.
- Tourist offices in Italy go under a variety of names, depending on who they're administered by (the local municipality, province, or region), but most perform similar functions. On the ground, look for signs to the Ufficio Turistico.
Types of Tourist Office
Informazione e Accoglienza Turistica (IAT) or Azienda Autonoma di Soggiorno e Turismo (AAST)
Municipal tourist office in larger towns and cities
Town-specific information only (bus routes, museum opening times etc)
Local tourist office in smaller towns and villages
Similar to IAT and AAST
Regional Tourist Authorities
Regional offices are generally more concerned with marketing and promotion than offering a public information service. However, they have useful websites.
Friuli Venezia Giulia (www.turismo.fvg.it)
Le Marche (www.turismo.marche.it)
Trentino-Alto Adige (www.visittrentino.it)
Valle d'Aosta (www.lovevda.it)
Travel with Children
With everything from ancient treasures to dreamy beaches, snowy mountains and the world’s best gelato, Italy is made for family travel. Whether you’re into history, outdoor activities or seaside fun, there are plenty of adventures to be had in the bel paese (beautiful country). To make the most of your time, plan ahead.
Best Regions for Kids
- Rome & Lazio
Ancient Roman ruins, creepy catacombs and sensational sliced pizza make Rome an exciting prospect for older kids.
- Naples & Campania
Gold for every age: subterranean ruins in Naples, gladiator battlefields in Pompeii and natural high drama – think volcanoes, thermal pools and coastal caves.
- Puglia, Basilicata & Calabria
Blissful beaches, whitewashed towns, islands loaded with swashbuckling adventure and glorious food add up to summer fun for all the family.
Summit volcanoes with sporty teens, laze on the beach with sand-loving tots, explore ancient ruins, enjoy traditional puppet theatre – Sicily has inspiration and entertainment for one and all.
A natural paradise overflowing with dazzling beaches, water-sports action, horse riding and scenic hikes suitable for all ages and abilities.
- Trento & the Dolomites
Ski or snowboard at some of Italy's best family-friendly ski resorts. Summer ushers in mountain hiking and biking for all ages.
Italy for Kids
Family travel in Italy offers a wealth of different experience. The nation's cities are crammed with historic sights and cultural riches, and with the aid of audio guides, smart-phone apps and inventive guided tours, parents can find kid-appeal in almost every museum and monument.
Outside cities, the pace slows and the appeal of the great outdoors kicks in. Hit the coast for sandcastles, swimming and easy beachside ambles – beach-rich Puglia, the Amalfi Coast, Sardinia and Sicily sizzle with family fun on and off the sand. Inland, mountains and lakes demand immediate action from kids aged five and over – the older the child, the more daredevil and adrenalin-pumping the activity gets.
Museums & Monuments
When it comes to learning about art and history, Italy's museums and monuments beat school books hands down. Few organise specific tours and workshops for children (though there are exceptions in Florence and Venice) but many cater to young minds with multimedia displays, touchscreen gadgets and audio guides; some even have augmented-reality headsets.
To get your kids in the mood for sightseeing, prep them with tales of Italy’s legendary past such as volcanic destruction at Pompeii and brave gladiators at the Colosseum. As well as ancient ruins, there are also creepy catacombs to explore, (leaning) towers to climb and castles to clamber over.
Feature: Discounts & Free Admission
Discounted admission for children is available at most attractions.
At state-run museums and sites, admission is free for under-18s and EU citizens aged between 18 and 25 pay €2 for tickets.
Many other museums and monuments offer reduced admission for children, usually from age 6 to 18. Family tickets are also sometimes available.
To cut costs, try to take advantage of free admission days. These could potentially save you a fair bit, particularly in museum-laden cities such as Rome and Florence. 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.
Eating out is one of the joys of travelling in Italy and with gelato, pizza and pasta on the menu your children will be just as excited as you are.
Kids are welcome pretty much everywhere, especially in casual, family-run trattorias. These places are usually pretty informal with friendly, indulgent waiters and menus of simple pasta dishes and grilled meats. Pizzerias are another option and once you’ve gotten to grips with the Italian approach to toppings (often just one or two ingredients plus tomato and mozzarella) you’ll be a fan for life.
Italian families eat late and few restaurants open their doors much before 7.30pm or 8pm. Some serve a menu bambino (child’s menu), but if not it’s perfectly acceptable to order a mezzo porzione (half-portion) 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.
Pizza al taglio (sliced pizza), panini from delicatessens, and gelato are tasty on-the-run snacks. And markets everywhere burst with salami, cheese, olives, bread, fruit and other inspiring picnic supplies.
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.
- Sardinia Horse riding, rock climbing, caving adventures and water sports on some of Italy's top beaches.
- Aeolian Islands Seven tiny volcanic islands off Sicily with everything from spewing lava to black-sand beaches.
- The Dolomites Hit Alto Adige's Alpe di Siusi and Kronplatz for abundant blue and red ski runs, or cycle through orchards and farmland on family-friendly trails in Val Venosta and Val Pusteria.
- Venice Glide across Venetian waters on a sailing or kayaking tour, or learn how to row standing up like a bona fide gondolier.
- Lago Maggiore & Lago Garda Lakeside beaches, water sports, climbing, mountain biking, canyoning (from Riva del Garda), swimming, horse riding, easy cycling etc.
- Grado A kid-friendly island on the Friulian coast with safe, sandy beaches, a water park, tons of water sports and cycling.
- Abruzzo Take to central Italy's first zipline for a thrilling ride over the village of Pacentro in the Parco Nazionale della Majella. Kids can use it if their parents agree and they're over 35kg.
Colosseum, Rome Conjure up the drama of ancient Rome with tales of brave gladiators and ferocious wild beasts at this, the city's iconic arena.
Palazzo Comunale & Torre Grossa, San Gimignano Slip on augmented-reality glasses in this Tuscan town to learn about frescoes and its medieval past.
Matera, Basilicata One of the world's oldest towns set around two rocky gorges riddled with sassi (habitable cave dwellings).
Museo del Monte San Michele, Friuli The Italian front in WWI is brought to life through digital displays and an excellent, immersive Virtual Reality experience.
St Peter's Basilica, Rome Climbing the dome of the Vatican's largest and most spectacular church is an unforgettable experience.
Duomo, Florence Summit Brunelleschi's legendary red cupola (dome) in Italy's favourite Renaissance city. (Best for kids over five.)
Catacombe dei Cappuccini, Palermo Duck down into Palermo's eerie catacombs, packed with mummies in their Sunday best. Find more catacombs in Naples and beneath Via Appia Antica in Rome. (Recommended for kids over 12.)
Napoli Sotterranea, Naples A secret trapdoor, wartime hideouts, sacred catacombs and ghoulish cemeteries make this guided tour of subterranean Naples gripping. (For kids over eight.)
Leaning Tower, Pisa The bare interior of this pearly-white icon is accessible to children aged eight and up; otherwise snap your kids propping up the tower.
Torre dell’Orologio, Venice Climb Venice's celebrated clock tower to examine its Renaissance mechanisms and the two bronze Moors hammering out the hour. (For kids over six.)
Stromboli, Aeolian Islands A guided trek to the firework-spitting crater of this volcano is a total thrill for active teenagers.
Faro della Vittoria, Trieste Trieste's spectacular 1930s lighthouse with sweeping views across the bay.
Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia, Milan Italy's best science and technology museum makes budding inventors go gaga.
Museo Nazionale del Cinema, Turin Multimedia displays and movie memorabilia make this museum a winner for kids and adults alike.
Museo Archeologico dell'Alto Adige, Bolzano Drop in on Iceman Ötzi, Europe's oldest natural human mummy.
Teatro dei Pupi di Mimmo Cuticchio, Palermo Ornate Sicilian puppets are brought to life at this hidden theatre in Palermo.
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence Theatrical tours for children and families through secret staircases and hidden rooms, led by historical figures.
PAFF! Pordenone Dedicated to the art of comic books and illustration, this unique museum is the only one of its kind in Europe.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice Free Sunday workshops (mainly in Italian) introduce kids to contemporary art at this fabulous canalside museum. (For four- to 10-year olds.)
Pasta Challenge your child to taste different shapes and colours of pasta: strozzapreti ('priest strangler' pasta) is an Umbrian highlight, while in southern Italy Puglia's orecchiette con cima di rape (small ear-shaped pasta with turnip greens) is the perfect way of ensuring your kids eat some vegetables.
Gelato Museum Carpigiani, Anzola Gelato-themed tours with lots of tasting, or make your own with masters from the neighbouring Gelato University; 30 minutes from Bologna in Anzola.
Cook in Venice Kid-friendly food tours and cooking classes by Venetian mamma of two, Monica Cesarato.
Casa del Cioccolato Perugina, Perugia Perugia's 'House of Perugina Chocolate' offers Wonka-esque guided tours.
Eataly Torino Lingotto, Turin Food counters at this temple to Slow Food allow every member of the family to dine on a different cuisine.
Florence Town, Florence Gelato classes or pizza-making with a professional pizzaiolo for all the family.
When to Go
The best time to go largely depends on what you want to do. A seaside holiday and you’ll be wanting June to early September. Beware August, though, when prices (and temperatures) soar and what seems like Italy’s entire population decamps to the beach.
For city sightseeing, spring (April and May) and early autumn (September and October) are best. Likewise, spring and autumn are ideal for exploring the countryside.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Italy's agriturismi (farm stays) are perfect for families: think self-catering facilities, mountains of green space to play in, and stacks of outdoor activities (swimming, tennis, horse riding and mountain biking).
Italian campgrounds generally offer family-friendly facilities, ranging from swimming pools to playgrounds and on-site restaurants.
In Puglia, you can treat your kids by staying in a whitewashed trullo (a traditional conical-roofed stone house) or a masseria (a farm stay like the luxurious, family-friendly Masseria Torre Coccaro near Alberobello).
In Sardinia, you’ll find plenty of seaside accommodation in resort towns such as Cala Gonone, Stintino and Santa Teresa di Gallura. In Sicily, consider Cefalù, Taormina, the Aeolian or Egadi Islands.
In cities and towns, family and four-person rooms can be hard to find and should be booked in advance. Alternatively, a number of hotels and boutique B&Bs offer family-friendly self-catering apartments – check out Hotel Campo de’ Fiori in Rome and Palazzo Belfiore in Florence.
- 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 Rome, Naples, Milan, Venice, Florence and other Tuscan cities.
- 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 kid-friendly accommodation in Le Marche, Puglia, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany and Umbria.
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 (www.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 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.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures Italy uses the metric system.
Italy is not a dangerous country for women to travel in. That said, solo women travellers may occasionally be subjected to unwanted attention and harassment.
Intense staring is common in Italy, though note that this is not necessarily limited to women travellers.
If ignoring unwanted male attention doesn't work, tell your interlocutor that you're waiting for your marito (husband) or fidanzato (boyfriend). If necessary, walk away.
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.
You can report incidents to the police, who are required to press charges.
Due to the presence in certain areas of African women who have been trafficked into prostitution, there have been reports of some black travellers being mistaken for sex workers.
EU citizens and nationals of Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein are legally entitled to work in Italy. To stay in the country for more than three months you are simply required to register at your local registry office (ufficio anagrafe).
Non-EU citizens will need a work visa to enter Italy, and a permesso di soggiorno per lavoro (permit to stay for work) to stay in the country.
For the visa, you’ll first need to secure a job offer. Your prospective employer will then apply for work authorisation for you. If the application is successful, your local Italian embassy or consulate will be informed and you will be issued with a work visa. Note, however, that Italy operates a visa quota system for most occupations, so a visa will only be offered if the relevant quota has not been met by the time your application is processed.
Once in Italy, you’ll need to apply for a permesso di soggiorno (permit to stay). You’ll have to do this within eight days of arriving in the country. See www.poliziadistato.it for details on the application process.
Italy has reciprocal working-holiday visa agreements with Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. With this type of visa, you can stay in Italy for one year and work for six months. To be eligible you must be aged between 18 and 30. Contact your local Italian embassy for more information.
Popular jobs in Italy include English teaching, either at a language school or as a freelancer. While some language schools take on teachers without professional qualifications, the more reputable (and better-paying) establishments will require you to have a TEFL (Teaching of English as a Foreign Language) certificate.
Useful job-seeker websites for English-language teachers include ESL Employment (www.eslemployment.com) and TEFL (www.tefl.org.uk/tefl-jobs-centre).
Au pairing is another popular work option; check www.aupairworld.com for more tips and information on work opportunities.