Parco degli Acquedotti in Rome Italy

Top Italy travel tips (written by someone who lives there)

Sometimes I can’t believe I’ve lived in Italy for 12 years. In these years, I’ve learned a thing or two, and I’m really happy to share my top Italy travel tips with you in this post, based on what I’ve learned.

I love Italy, and I’ve discovered over my time living here that I really love helping people navigate it. Going beyond the Italy that’s been constructed for tourists isn’t an easy feat, but it can be done, and the work is more than worth the reward.

I’ve tried to narrow these tips down to things that I think are really essential. They consist of things that I’m asked about by friends and readers who are coming to visit Italy, things that I’ve seen in the media and on social media, and things that I haven’t seen already a squillion times in other articles and posts. 

I’ve also written this post because there is SO MUCH wrong information about Italy out there, posted by influencers and bloggers who parachute in and out, and who often go to the same place in the same city to eat the same thing and take the same picture or shoot the same video. I think it’s really damaging travel in general, and travel to Italy specifically, so this is my tiny way of fighting back.

You’ll see that most of these tips are geared towards city travel, because that’s what I know. That said, one of these tips is to avoid sticking just to cities! Check out #13 for more. 

I hope these Italy travel tips really genuinely make your trip better. If you have thoughts or questions, please share them in the comments!

Picture of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy at nightfall with text that reads 16 tips for visiting Italy
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Top Italy travel tips

  1. Book train tickets, tours and restaurants in advance

If you want to know how you should prepare for a trip to Italy, booking things in advance is a great place to start. You should, without a doubt, reserve train tickets, and book tours and restaurants before you arrive – as far in advance as possible, actually.

Booking train tickets in advance

Train travel is the most efficient way to travel around Italy. The country’s main cities are connected by high-speed rail lines, and there’s an extensive network of regional trains if you want to get off the beaten path (although a car can be handy if you’re sticking to lesser-known destinations). 

Booking high-speed train tickets in advance will save you A TON of money. They get more and more expensive the closer you get to the date of travel, and during the summer and various holidays throughout the year, trains can sell out. As soon as you know your itinerary, buy your tickets.

For more, check out my super-detailed guide to train travel in Italy.

Booking sights and tours in advance

Over this past summer, tickets to the Colosseum and Vatican Museums in Rome were completely booked out. It was not possible to get them, unless you were willing to purchase them at a ridiculously high markup through a third-party vendor (which the city has started fighting against for Colosseum tickets, thankfully).

When traveling in Florence with my family after my wedding in September 2022, my dad asked if we could go to the Accademia, which he loves. Because we left it to the last minute, the museum was sold out completely for the duration of our stay and beyond.

I don’t think I’m incorrect in saying that just about every monument or museum has an online booking option these days, so get your tickets in advance. The further ahead of time you book, the better, because you’ll have your pick of days and time slots. 

When it comes to booking, you might wonder if it’s worth getting a guide or not. Check out tip #2 for my thoughts on that.

Booking restaurants in advance

Thanks to the advent of online booking options in Italy, you can now secure a table at many places before your plane even takes off, and you should. Lots of popular spots book out in advance.

If your desired eatery doesn’t have an online booking option, you might have to call.

For details on booking online and via telephone, check out my guide to making restaurant reservations in Italy.

Note: If you want to have a cocktail at one of Rome’s many beautiful rooftop bars with a view, you should book there in advance too.

Carbonara in Rome Italy

  1. Hire a guide

When visiting Italy’s sights, a talented guide can really bring things to life. If you don’t have some kind of information to access while touristing, many things will just seem like a pile of rocks. A pile of rocks on their own are one thing, but a pile of rocks with a story, with some imagination, with a mental image, are entirely another. 

If it’s within your budget, consider booking one of these highly rated small-group tours with Walks (budget travelers, don’t worry, I’ve got tips for you, too, just keep scrolling).

Visiting Rome?

Book a premium tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum here, or how about this special visit, which includes the underground area of the Colosseum that’s not part of a standard tour, plus the Palatine Hill, Roman Forum, and Arch of Constantine?

Walks offers many cool-sounding guided Vatican tours that I will be extremely jealous if you take (let me know how it is!). 

This one allows you after-hours access to the Vatican Museums, which include the Sistine Chapel, with a guide and way fewer tourists! Note that St. Peter’s Basilica is closed in the evening, so this tour does not include the church.

Early bird? Check out this tour, which is Walks’ flagship Rome tour, and, in their own words, “put them on the map.” It includes St. Peter’s Basilica and early morning access to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel – it must be incredible to visit the chapel with a small group before the crowds take over. 

Not an early bird or a night owl? Here’s the daytime tour, which still allows you to skip the line at both St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums with your small group and expert guide.

If you want the top-to-bottom tour of St. Peter’s Basilica, this is the tour for you. It includes early entry and a visit to the basilica itself, as well as the crypt and dome.

If you’re interested in Renaissance and Baroque art, consider booking this guided tour of Galleria Borghese, which has a maximum of 15 participants. You’ll see masterworks by two of Rome’s biggest names – Bernini and Caravaggio – and many, many others, with an expert guide.

Visiting Florence?

This “best of Florence” tour includes the David, the Duomo, and more. With a small group, you’ll be able to skip the line to enter and ask questions.

This tour of Florence includes David and the Duomo too, but also has exclusive access to the terraces of the Duomo. If you’re looking for a VIP experience, this might be the one for you.

If you’ve got a bit more time on your hands and also want to visit the Uffizi Gallery, check out this one.

If a guide is out of your budget, don’t worry – a good guidebook, app or audioguide can do the trick! You can book tickets to all of the sights I mentioned above and others at the links below, without the added cost of a personal guide.

Tickets to Rome’s major sights for travelers on a budget

Book the Colosseum here.

Book the Vatican Museums here.

Book the Galleria Borghese here.

Unfortunately, the site to book tickets to enter the Pantheon wasn’t working at the time of writing. You can book a skip-the-line ticket here (which costs more than the standard 5E), or try your luck and go to the ticket office to buy your ticket directly there.

Tickets to Florence’s major sights for budget travelers

Book the Uffizi here.

Book the Accademia here.

Book the Bargello here.

Book the Medici Chapels here.

Book to climb the Duomo in Florence (Santa Maria del Fiore) and visit the Baptistry and Bell Tower here.

  1. Don’t come to Italy in the summertime

Yes, you heard me right. I’m on a personal mission to cancel #EuroSummer.

Thanks to climate change, like the rest of the world, Italy is getting hotter and hotter, and more and more miserable in June, July, and August every year. Beach clubs were authorized to reopen in OCTOBER this year, that’s how hot it was and for how long.

Getting from my air conditioned home onto the air conditioned metro to my air conditioned office is bad enough; I genuinely cannot imagine setting off for a day of sightseeing in 100-degree heat.

So, what’s the best month to visit Italy? In my opinion, April, May, October and November are all dreamy. You might hit some rain or fluctuating temperatures, but it’ll be much more pleasant in general at any time during those months.

Venice Italy
Venice in the springtime

4. Avoid public transportation at rush hour

Avoiding public transportation at rush hour will do two things: save you from an unpleasantly crowded ride, and earn you the respect of locals. Allow me to elaborate.

If you’re in a city, locals are going to be heading to or heading home from work between, say 7 and 9 am and 5 to 7 pm. In larger cities, it would really help out if visitors did their best to avoid taking public transit at these times.

In Rome, for example, they’ve been doing extensive work to upgrade the A and B metro lines, which has resulted in abbreviated hours and some trains being taken out of service for maintenance. Consequently, traveling by metro at rush hour has been hellish for the last year and change, for both tourists and locals alike. Reducing passenger numbers at peak times can make a huge difference, so please, if you can avoid traveling at those times, do so!

This also applies to the two-euro gondola in Venice. I know that it’s a great way to save 88 euros, but don’t take it at rush hour when the few locals left there actually have to get to work. Here’s more on being a good visitor in Venice, which is one of the most overtouristed cities in the world.

  1. Dress and act appropriately to avoid sticking out

How can you avoid sticking out in Italy? This is a really common question. A lot of this has to do with how you dress. Here’s a quick list:

  1. Don’t wear hiking gear (unless you’re hiking).
  2. Don’t wear flip flops and/or a sunhat (unless you’re going swimming).
  3. Don’t wear summer clothes unless it’s June, July, August, or early September.
  4. Don’t dress in an overly casual way.
  5. Wear a coat in the spring, fall and winter.
  6. Follow dress codes when going sightseeing or to a formal restaurant or bar.

Before I break these down a little, yes, saying that Italians “never” wear X or “always” wear Y are generalizations, so you’ll probably find exceptions to these “rules”. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t mostly applicable.

Don’t wear hiking gear (unless you’re going hiking)

I see a lot of people in Rome dressed in hiking gear. Like, with walking sticks and those little hats with patches of netting. I guess it’s because people do a lot of walking when they’re here (see tip #10).

I’m all for comfort and personal style, but dressing like a hiker is an obvious way to out yourself as a tourist. I recommend avoiding it, especially when in a city.

If you’re wearing this gear to stay cool, try loose-fitting linen or cotton. It’s much easier to fit in when wearing these materials, and they’ll keep you cool in the hot weather (although you’re not coming in summer, right?).

Don’t wear flip flops or a sunhat (unless you’re going swimming)

Italians tend to wear flip flops only to a lake, beach and pool – essentially, when there will be swimming involved. Outside of this, they’re not typically worn. If you want to avoid being clocked as a tourist immediately, don’t wear flip flops unless you’re near a body of water.

Another dead giveaway is someone wearing a sunhat in the city. This is a classic tourist move. In fact, I was going to the beach one day and stopped at a café for brunch before hopping on the train, and I popped my wide-brimmed hat on my head (because nobody likes a premature wrinkle, bb). The server, who I know, greeted me by saying “Oggi sei turista!” (Today, you’re a tourist!)

Save the flippy floppies and the hats for the beach if you want to fit in.

Dress for the season, not the weather

When I was studying abroad in Rome, it got really hot in early May. One day to go to class, I put on a long skirt, a sleeveless top and sandals, and my host mom gasped when she saw me. “Oggi sei tutta estiva!” she exclaimed – “Today, you’re all summery!”

I hadn’t thought much of what I was wearing beyond the fact that it was hot and that the outfit would keep me cool. But as I walked to class, I noticed that I was getting some strange looks, and that I was decidedly the only person dressed for hot weather on the sidewalk.

Over the years, I’ve heard a similar refrain among foreigners living in Italy regarding how Italians “dress for the season, not for the weather.” What they mean is that, even if it’s hot in April or May, Italians tend to still dress for chillier temps. There’s even a saying about it – “Aprile, non ti scoprire” – which basically means, “Don’t uncover yourself in April.” That’s why, usually until June, Italians don’t wear sandals, shorts, or other summer-weather garb. 

The same is true in the autumn. Jeremy wears t-shirts well into November in Rome, and people consistently comment on how he must be cold, etc. He’s not, but for Italians, wearing a coat of some kind is essential pretty much between mid-September and summertime. Again, you’ll always find exceptions to every rule (especially with the ever-increasing temperatures), but these are pretty common norms.

If you want to fit in, save the summer gear for June, July, August and early September (oh wait, you won’t need any summer clothes because you’re not coming in the summer, right?), bring a light jacket for spring and fall, and a heavy one for winter. Save flats for the spring, sandals for summer, and bust out your best boots for autumn and winter. You can probably get away with nice sneakers year round (unless you’re going to a bar or restaurant with a dress code – more on that below).

I think that lots of people think that Italians walk around wearing couture in their day-to-day lives, which, sure, might be the case in some instances, but generally people just wear nice but normal clothes – jeans are common everywhere. You’ll find a mix of anything and everything, especially in big cities like Rome and Milan.

Don’t dress too casually

This is a tricky one – in fact, I’m hesitant to include it at all, because it’s not uncommon in Rome to see people wearing tracksuits, and athleisure appears to be taking hold in Italy as a whole, too – I’ve seen lots of leggings lately. Anyway, here goes: It’s probably best to dress up a bit more than a bit less. 

I’m not saying you have to wear a dress or a suit and hobble around cobblestoned streets in heels every day, but I’m saying that it’s a probably good idea not to wear clothes that you would wear to the gym or to bed when you’re out and about in Italy.

Follow dress codes 

It’s important to note that, like many religious buildings elsewhere in the world, you should be reasonably covered up to enter churches in Italy. Some have a clear dress code posted, and others don’t, but it’s a good idea to cover your shoulders and knees (and this goes for both men and women).

I’m not sure what the recent return of crop tops has done to this policy, but presumably bellybuttons are a no-go in the house of any deity. 

How can you avoid getting caught out when visiting a church? Carry a scarf and/or a cardigan in case you need to whip either of them on to cover up.

Formal restaurants and fancy rooftop bars, especially those found atop Rome’s chicest hotels, may have a dress code. This will generally be posted on their website. Usually, flip flops, shorts and sports gear are prohibited, including baseball hats.

If you’re planning a swanky outing, check the website of the place you’re going to avoid wearing vestiti vietati.

How to act to avoid sticking out in Italy, or la bella figura 101

There’s a cultural concept in Italy known as “la bella figura,” which sort of corresponds to the concept of making a good impression in public. If you want to “fare una bella figura,” you should dress appropriately, be polite, not call too much attention to yourself, and otherwise avoid being rude or inappropriate. 

What does this mean as a tourist? To me it means following local norms in terms of dress (see above) and dining (see below), saying excuse me, please and thank you (ideally in Italian!), treating wait and service staff respectfully, even if they’re brusque (see tip #7),  keeping drunken foolishness to a minimum, and not being super loud, especially if you’re staying in an AirBnb. Your neighbors probably have to work in the morning.

On that last point about not being overly loud, I’m looking at my fellow Americans. This is a generalization, but many Americans’ voices tend to carry. No matter where I am in the world, I can hear American tones over others. I thought for a while that this is because I’m American, too, but friends of other nationalities notice it just like I do, because lots of Americans are just loud. One of my Australian friends says it’s because we all have main character energy, but try to avoid treating Italy like the backdrop to the movie of your life. 

7. In Italy, the customer is not always right

This is another tip for Americans. Our culture of customer service doesn’t exist to the same extent in Italy (or possibly elsewhere in the world).

As a tourist, you’ll probably encounter the difference in customer service mostly in restaurants. You can expect reasonable politeness from your server, and you might find one that likes to joke around (my favorite brand of server anywhere), but don’t expect the same level of courtesy/familiarity that you might be accustomed to in the US. This boils down to one simple difference: Italian servers don’t depend on tips to make up the majority of their wage. 

Your server probably won’t introduce themselves by name, make conversation, refill your drink, bring more bread or the bill without being asked, or otherwise go out of their way to make a tip. That being said, they certainly appreciate tips, and leaving a euro or two per person is generally sufficient. If you’re in a big group or have truly outstanding service, feel free to leave more.

At a bar, there will usually be a tip jar. Feel free to tip there, too.

In other customer service situations, in a shop, for example, it’s good to know that you generally can’t return things for a refund. In the States, it seems like most places accept returns for most reasons, but that’s not the way things go in Italy. Store credit might be possible in some cases, but it’s not a guarantee.

  1. Beware of pickpockets

I’m including this tip because a lot of people ask about pickpockets. Here’s the deal: They are real, and they know exactly who to target.

Often found in touristy areas, pickpockets are talented, fast, and generally, pretty rotten. Recently at the Stazione Termini in Rome, a pickpocket snatched a man’s phone, and when someone caught her, she threw it onto the tracks, possibly to feign innocence, but also maybe just to be a jerk.

I’ve written about avoiding them in this post I wrote all about public transportation in Rome, but in short, you should be especially aware of your surroundings and belongings when getting on and off the metro, especially at Termini, on bus routes that hit major tourist hotspots, or in crowded areas around monuments and famous museums. Wear a cross-body bag, and put it in front of you. Making your backpack into a frontpack may draw some attention, but who cares – your things will be protected.

The orange garden in Rome Italy

  1. Let go of expectations

It seems like recently, there have been a lot of people writing and posting about how their expectations weren’t met when they came to Italy. This is because they are negative, naive, or they look for inspiration in the wrong places (i.e. the vast majority of social media accounts).

Some things to keep in mind:

Italy is full of really old things. And those really old things have changed since they were built a really long time ago. And they weren’t built with scores of tourists in mind, so they’re often really crowded (especially in you-know-when).

There are stairs here.

Even if you have main character energy, Italians don’t exist to be extras in the movie of your life.

Ok, so I was extremely homesick at the beginning of each semester when I studied abroad in Italy. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing by leaving my family and friends for a year. I briefly dated a guy who turned out to be a loser. But overall, it was one of the best years of my life. That last article really got me, because the description of what she hoped for was pretty close to my experience:

“I imagined fun potluck dinners with my roommates, summer flings with people who called me “bella,” gelato that dripped down my fingers in the heat, and natural wine that paired effortlessly with good conversation and better prosciutto.” 

I did and had all that, and I learned to speak Italian fluently, too. Actually, I wasn’t drinking natural wine as a student – I was on more of a house-wine-and-Peroni budget – but the rest of it is pretty much spot on.

Anyway, maybe this was because I didn’t really imagine anything about being in Italy, other than meeting cute boys (which I did) and eating good food (which I did) and speaking Italian (which…I did). Perhaps the vagueness of my expectations allowed them to be surpassed.

Feel free to daydream, but remember that your experience might not be exactly what you think it’s going to be, and it probably isn’t going to be like a movie.

A good way to temper expectations is to look for the right kind of social media accounts – in other words, people who actually live here, not those who come in and out or are only here for a short time. See tip #15 for more.

  1. Don’t order something that’s not on the menu

I’ve written about this in other posts, but I’m addressing it again, because it’s something I see and hear about all the time.

In general, food in Italy is prepared to be eaten the way it is, that’s why you don’t typically find condiments on the table in restaurants (although this isn’t always the case). 

Simple requests can be granted, but in general, don’t order something that’s not on the menu. If you came to Italy to have chicken parm with a side of spaghetti and red sauce, you’ve come to the wrong place. Basically don’t ask for something that Carmela Soprano would have served for Sunday lunch (here’s more on “Italian” foods that don’t exist in Italy).

Order what’s on the menu (ask questions, by all means, and if you have an allergy or an intolerance, let your server know). If you don’t like it, order something else next time, or maybe just accept the fact that you prefer Italian food outside of Italy to the real thing.

10. Familiarize yourself with the cuisine of the region(s) you’ll be visiting

This will help out with tip #9. Because food in Italy is regional, familiarizing yourself with the foods of the place you’re going will help you to enjoy the best of the best, and it’ll also help you to avoid expecting a spaghetti-supper-style menu (unless you’re in the Teramo area of Abruzzo or the parts of southern Italy where they eat pasta with meatballs).

People often ask what’s the one thing they should eat in Italy, or what the best food in Italy is. The truth is, each region of Italy has its own traditional recipes, so the best thing to eat will entirely depend on where you’re going to be. 

11. Don’t try to do too much 

When people ask how to make the most out of their time in Italy, I tell them not to do too much. That may seem counterintuitive, but if you treat your trip to Italy like a to-do list, not only will you end up exhausted, you’re also going to just scratch the surface of each place you visit.

Italy is a country to be savored, with every city and region offering something different. Treat your trip like a delicious meal and linger over every course.

Parco degli Acquedotti in Rome Italy
Parco degli Acquedotti in Rome

12. Step up your walking before you come

You’re bound to do a lot of walking in Italy, probably more than you’re used to (especially if you normally drive everywhere). It’s not uncommon to hit around 20,000 steps a day when sightseeing!

If you don’t walk a lot, start now. Your feet, ankles, knees, hips and heart will thank you.

If you become accustomed to uneven terrain, that’s even better. Remember that most Italian cities are old, so you’ll be coming up against cobble and other stones and uneven pavement. 

13. Prepare to be hot in the summertime

You’re not going to come in the summer, I know, but if you do, it’s good to know that Italian attitudes towards air conditioning are generally not the same as they are in other parts of the world, especially in the US, where you can go into pretty much any coffee shop in the middle of July and enjoy a boiling hot brew because the air conditioning is at a sub-zero temperature. I’m at the point now where I bring a cardigan to the supermarket with me in the US, because the produce and frozen food areas are just too damn cold.

You may have gathered that I try to avoid generalizing, but I think it’s fair to say that most Italians think that air conditioning makes you sick, or that it’s unhealthy to sit in cold air all day. This is why many shops will have the air conditioning running, but leave the door open (send help), or have it set to a high temperature (I’m pressing charges). A friend’s boss used to set the air conditioning in their office to 29 degrees Celsius, which is just over 84 degrees Fahrenheit, because hey, it was 95 outside, so that’s gotta be at least a little better (seriously, someone call the police). 

Anyway, don’t expect to be “nice and cool” pretty much anywhere, especially if you come in the warmer months, because it’s probably not going to happen. Maybe luxury hotels that cater to an international crowd are better about this – I cannot say because, unfortunately for me, I do not frequent luxury hotels.

The same is true for ice. For most Italians, cold on the throat also presents a health risk (as does air on the belly, wind on the neck, going out with wet hair, and swimming too soon after eating). Don’t expect a full cup of ice with your soft drink (you’ll probably get more ice in a cocktail). 

This lack of cold drinks seems to perturb many Americans all over Europe – I once saw an American man in a cowboy hat at train station in France order a Diet Coke and then yell “IF. IT. IS. NOT. COLD. I. DO. NOT. WANT. IT.” Très charmant, n’est-ce pas?

14. Get out of the city

Italy’s cities are dazzling. They sparkle with history during the day and glow with activity at night. I’ve made three of them my home, and I have loved my urban experience of living here.

That being said, get out of town. The more time I’ve spent here, the more I’ve realized that Italy is so much more than its cities, monuments and museums. It’s also waterfalls and hot springs, vineyards and mountains, beaches and campgrounds. 

Don’t just stick to the Tuscan countryside, either. She’s gorg, for sure, but Abruzzo, Umbria, Le Marche and other regions have just as much to offer, with scenery that’s equally as beautiful, food that’s just as delicious and waaaaay fewer tourists.

If you want to take a unique trip that takes you to lesser-known parts of Italy, check out Little Roads Europe, a company run by an American husband-and-wife duo that specializes in itineraries that get travelers off the well-worn tourist tracks and into the rest of the country.

Bassano del Grappa Italy
Bassano del Grappa in Veneto

15. Don’t listen to parachute bloggers or influencers

There is SO MUCH misinformation about Italy online, it’s crazy. People watch a TikTok, pick up one shred of something, and distort it into another thing that isn’t even true. Content creators with large followings are the most dangerous, because they can post a garbage video about “the five best restaurants in Rome”, which will be five places that anyone who lives here has never even heard of, and the algorithm will do its thing and get that video in front of the eyes of many, many unsuspecting travelers. 

This seems to happen a lot with food. I’m not going to even touch the two places that everyone with a TikTok account lines up at in Rome. I’ve never been to either of them, and I don’t plan on going. I just cannot imagine that they’re that much better than many other nearby places.

Recently, a video about “the best pizza in Rome” went viral…but the creator was at a Neapolitan pizza place. The best pizza in Rome is not Neapolitan, I promise you that.

Ditto “the best sandwich in Rome”, which always inevitably features All’Antico Vinaio – a sandwich shop that originated in Tuscany. I don’t eat a lot of sandwiches, but I’d say some of the best are at Mordi e Vai and Trapizzino (which is kind of a sandwich?).

So, what are you to do when planning your trip? It’s actually pretty easy – avoid parachute bloggers and influencers, cioè, people who come in for a few days, gain a surface-level understanding of a place, and then convert everything they did into “best of” content just so they have something to post. Follow people who actually live here (I’ve got a list for you below).

Another type of online personality to avoid are people who speak in absolutes. People who don’t leave room for nuance don’t fully understand that culture is an amorphous, evolving phenomenon that is enacted in both individual and collective ways, and that there are always exceptions to every “rule”. Seek out guidance from people who get that.

The following are all common tropes that people love to repeat, and they all also happen to be untrue. 

“Italians all wear high-fashion clothes.” Tell that to the people I see in tracksuits every day (see Tip #4 for more on dressing appropriately on your trip to Italy).

“Italians live la dolce vita.” Don’t get me wrong, the lifestyle here is incredible in many ways, and I consider myself lucky to be living it, but life in Italy isn’t all smooth sailing by any means – it’s a real place with real people and real problems. Anyone who claims that life in Italy is all sweetness is probably extremely wealthy and doesn’t have to engage with the realities of living here that can make it challenging.

“Italians don’t drink milky coffees after 11am.” I’ve been told by Real Italians™️ that it’s acceptable to have a caffè latte or cappuccino in the afternoon, between lunch and dinner – I’ve even seen it referred to online as “il culto del cappuccino merenda” (the cult of cappuccino for afternoon snack), so there. It’s the proximity to mealtime that’s important, not the drink itself – Italians believe that drinking a lot of milk directly after a meal affects digestion, that’s why it’s not typical to order big, milky coffee after lunch or dinner.

“Italians never eat fish and cheese together.” Tell that to the chef serving you pasta con cozze e pecorino, or burrata and anchovies.

“You should only eat gelato out of covered metal containers.” Wrong again! While storing gelato this way is often an indicator of quality, there are other ways to identify good gelato that do not include a cover. Gelato should be low and flat in whatever container it’s in. If it’s piled high, it’s probably full of additives that help it maintain its shape. Gelato’s coloring should be natural. A good way to check for this is to look at the pistachio – if it’s bright green, it’s been dyed. If it’s more of a subtle gray-green color, it probably hasn’t been.

Here’s my list of favorite Italy accounts to follow. Some of them are fellow bloggers, some are influencers, some are travel and food writers, and some are just doing some really cool and fun things. 

These are the accounts I consult when looking for tips on new places to go, when I want to marvel at Italy’s beauty, drool over its food, reflect on living here, and daydream about my next trip. Many of these people offer travel planning services or lead tours, so if you’re in the market for either of those things, check them out!

Follow these people who actually live in Italy

General Italy content

  1. Kaci Rose – You probably already follow her if you’re interested in Italy. She’s great for a few reasons. Her content is accurate, first of all, and she presents everything with a sense of humor. The best part about it is that she’s managed to create a welcoming space for cultural exchange on her channels, which is no easy feat. I’m sure she gets nasty comments sometimes, but whoever is nasty to her is probably just jealous. 
  2. Sarah L. Thompson – An American who is married to an Italian and lives near Sorrento, Sarah is the CEO of a travel company, and she makes entertaining and informational videos about living on the Amalfi Coast and raising two little ones in Italy. 
  3. Laura Itzkowitz – A journalist and Substack newsletter writer (follow her at The New Roman Times), Laura’s Instagram takes you around Italy with her – to new restaurants, chic cocktail bars, fabulous hotels, and many places in between.
  4. Gillian Longworth McGuire – Having moved from Rome to Venice recently, Gillian has tips and plans trips to the Eternal City, La Serenissima and the Italian coast. You can sign up for her Substack newsletter here.
  5. Stellavision Travel – Offering private travel planning and all-inclusive, size-inclusive tours for women, nonbinary and transgender travelers, Stellavision’s blog and Instagram accounts are full of travel tips and other great content. If you sign up for their mailing list, you can download a free guide to a city of your choice, too.
  6. Almost Fiorentina – Lisa is perhaps one of the internet’s most endearing personalities. She gives snippets into her life in Florence and her travels, narrating it all in her signature mix of English and Fiorentino.
  7. Questa Dolce Vita – Jasmine, who is originally from Canada, shares Italy memes and stories about raising two babies in Italy. She also wrote a book called Wander(lust) about love, loss, and travel.
  8. Regions of Italy – Written in dazzling detail by my friend Samantha, who has traveled to every single region of Italy, this is a great resource for anyone who is looking for guides to many of Italy’s well-known cities, and the lesser-known ones too.
  9. Lauren Mouat – A friend and former colleague of mine, Lauren runs a tour company called Unlock Italy. If you’re looking for a guide in Rome, Florence, or beyond, start with her.
  10. Yours truly – Hi! I’m recommending that you follow me, obviously, for food pics, rambling, and hot tips on Rome and Italy in general.

Veneto

  1. My Corner of Italy – Laura’s blog is a treasure trove of information for anyone visiting Padua, Venice or the region of Veneto. Packed with tips and trivia, it’s an excellent resource for exploring her corner of Italy.

Florence

  1. Girl in Florence – Georgette Jupe shares details about her life in Florence alongside tips about where to go and what to eat. She has a column called “Locals I Love,” which features interviews with cool people doing cool things. 

Sicily 

  1. The Cheeky Chef – Linda Sarris is the woman behind this account, which is full of gorgeous food shots and what I can only think of describing as Sicily porn. Did I mention that she does a collab trip with Stellavision travel through the Aeolian islands? Can you say “viaggio da sogno?” Because I can.

Italy for foodies

  1. Memento Martina – Half-Florentine-half-Californian Martina Bartolozzi is an Italian food expert who leads tours and provides travel services. If you want to experience Florence with the guidance of a local, she is your woman. 
  2. Curious Appetite – Founded by Coral Sisk, food blogger, writer and sommelier, Curious Appetite offers food and drink tours of Florence and Bologna that look absolutely dreamy. I dare you to look at her feed and not get hungry.
  3. Elizabeth and Sophie Minchilli – Mother-daughter duo Elizabeth and Sophie Minchilli run food tours in Rome and other regions of Italy (including, for 2024, Umbria, Sicily, Puglia, Basilicata, and Parma). I’d love to take a tour with them someday, but in the meantime, I’ll be drooling over the food pics they post and learning from their feeds. They have both authored books about Rome and Italy, which you can find here and here.
  4. Livguine – An Australian who has made her home in Italy, Liv has a blog and operates a company specializing in small-group food and wine tours. She’s also the co-founder of Italian Wine Tails, an Italian wine blog for beginners.
  5. Emiko Davies – Australian-Japanese Davies is a food writer, cookbook author and photographer who is married to a Tuscan sommelier. She also has a Substack newsletter. 
  6. Saghar Setareh – In addition to a successful food and photography blog and bylines in some of the best-known travel and food publications, Saghar Setareh recently penned a cookbook that traces her journey from her native Iran to Italy, where she lives and teaches cooking classes.
  7. Skyler Mapes – On top of offering travel planning services, Mapes runs an olive oil company with products that have been on Oprah’s Favorite Things list twice. She and her husband also recently wrote a book called The Olive Oil Enthusiast, which combines information about olive oil with recipes.
  8. Full Belly Tours – Nesim Bekalti’s posts are a dream for lovers of Roman food. He has great tips that will help you eat your way through the Eternal City, and he offers food tours.
  9. Hookd on a Bite – A marketing agency for food tourism and events, this account also shares tips for lovers of Italian food and travel.

Rome

  1. An American in Rome – Natalie has created a veritable encyclopedia of the Eternal City. If you want tips on where to eat, what to see, where to go, and how to do it all, her blog is a must-read. 
  2. Posticini – Giulia’s posts, in Italian and English, take her audience to all kinds of “little places”. Most of them are in Rome, but she also regularly gets outside of the city, and even outside of Italy. She also started a Supper Club, which would be a super fun thing to do in Rome, especially for solo travelers who are looking to socialize.
  3. Roman Gal Goes Around – Elisa Colarossi often transports her audience to Rome’s suburbs that typically don’t get as much love as the historic center. Her videos are a window into the kind of everyday Roman life that you don’t see if you stick solely to the touristy areas. She offers tips and info on Rome’s culture, and makes adorable drawings of her cat, Stanis, on adventures around the city. You can read the book she co-authored, “Experience Rome,” or sign up for her Substack newsletter here.
  4. Archeorunning – Doing a running tour of Rome with Isa Calidonna is probably number one on my Roman to-do list. As a licensed tour guide with a PhD in Art History, these tours are sure to be good for both the body and the brain! If running’s not your thing, she offers walking tours, too. Check out all the details on her website.
  5. Testaccina – Journalist Isobel Lee is the perfect person to follow if you want to know about new restaurant openings or other insider tips on Rome and elsewhere.
  6. Romewise – After falling in love with a Roman, Elyssa Bernard eventually made Rome her home. I love her blog’s homepage – it’s like a FAQ section for visitors to Rome.
  7. Live Virtual Guide – This is another account I’m always learning from. I’m not sure who’s behind it, but whoever it is is an absolute star at finding Rome’s most hidden gems.

Rome for Italian speakers

  1. Anna Scrigni – Anna’s feed is one of the most beautiful on my Instagram. Her photos are stunning, and her blog posts are informative and interesting. She mostly produces content on Rome, but her travels take her elsewhere, and she takes her audience along for the ride.
  2. Misteruniquelife – Fabrizio Politi has a huge number of followers who love his content on free things to do in Rome, and in other places too. I’ve gotten many a tip from this digital storyteller, and I’m sure I’ll be bookmarking many more of his videos in the future!

Moving to Italy

33. Colline Montagne – A fellow American who has set up shop in Italy, Evelyn is chock-a-block full of guides and resources for anyone who wants to do the same. If you’re dreaming of moving to Italy, start with her. She also has a blog, offers travel planning services, and sells guides.

16. Don’t do anything stupid in Italy that you wouldn’t do at home

It seems like every year, tourists come to Italy, especially Rome, and appear to lose all sense of what is appropriate behavior. They act like they’re camping in the middle of a city, they jump into fountains, they carve their name into monuments, hell, they might even drive down one.

For the love of God, I hope no one reading this would do any of those things, but in case you’re thinking about it, please don’t. Again, Italy is a country with laws and rules and norms and people live here. Monuments are public works of art, and yes, fountains are monuments. I know it’s hot and that water looks tempting to some of you, but would you jump into a fountain in your home country? Would you touch or otherwise desecrate a work of art? Would you drive down Mount Rushmore? Please, just don’t.

So there you have my top Italy travel tips, based on my 12 years of experience living here. Thoughts? Questions? Share in the comments!

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