Not Quite North's Essential Italy travel guide
Travelling to Italy is way up there as far as bucket list countries are concerned. Whether you want to go for an Italian city break, an Italian road trip or two, or ‘to do Italy’, it is a country that is just packed with beauty – be it the stunning dolomite mountains, the historical cities, the glorious architecture or the delicious food – Italy really does have it all!
This handy Italian travel guide will give you all the practical and essential information that you need to know before you go!
Key Facts - Our Italian Essentials
When to Visit Italy
The Italian weather is generally cold in the winter and hot in the summer. In August, the Italians empty out and the tourists flock in!
South of Italy and Sicily have pretty good weather from March – November – so this makes a good potential spring visit. The north of Italy – May and June are great times to visit – and September and October.
For great skiing in the winter – head around the north west and the northern areas to the Alps and the Dolomites (check out the winter tyres requirement in the next section).
As with anywhere else, this is subject to climate change and the unusual weather patterns that are happening globally. In May 2023 – the weather was the wettest they had had for 100 years, with floods in several areas causing loss of life.
driving in italy
Starting with the basics: Drive on the right and overtake on the left. Give way to the right. Compulsory seatbelts – on the spot fines are given. Headlights always dipped for motorway driving – even in the daytime. A-frames not legal for towing in Italy (as advised by the Italian Department of Transport). Crash Helmets compulsory if you take a scooter/moped.
Drink drive limits are lower than the UK – (other than Scotland). 50mg per 100ml of blood. Be aware and careful when doing the wine trail road trips!
Many of the roads in the mountains require winter tyres from 15th October until 15th April. In the north west region of Aosta Valley, this is compulsory. Snow chains should also be carried. If you can not pass another vehicle on a road, the descending vehicle must reverse to a passing point or priority should be given to the heavier vehicle.
The driving speed for your motorhome under 3.5 tonnes are:
- Urban – 50km/h
- Minor roads – 90km/h
- Major roads – 110km/h
- Motorways – 130km/h
The driving speed for your motorhome over 3.5 tonnes are:
- Urban – 50km/h
- Minor and Major roads – 80km/h
- Motorways – 110km/h
Essential Driving Requirements for Italy
The following items are those which are either legally required (M) or advised (A):
- Current passport (M)
- Valid Drivers Licence (M)
- Proof of Insurance (M)
- Registration documents for the motorhome or camper (M)
- Reflective vest (for each person in the motorhome) – you can get a fine if you are not wearing one if you breakdown on a motorway. (A)
- Warning triangle in case of breakdown or accident (M)
- UK number plate sticker (post Brexit rule) (M)
- Headlight beam converters (already fitted to the motorhome) (M)
- Reflective metal backed board to fix to bikes on the back (M)
- First Aid Kit (A)
- Spare bulbs and fuse box (A)
Italy since Brexit - What's Changed?
Since Brexit, a number of things have changed with regards to travelling to Italy.
The legal requirements for entry are obviously the biggest one. Italy is part of the Schengen Region. This is not the same as the EU or Europe! These are common mistakes people make.
Being part of the Schengen means that UK citizens with British passports can only be in the Schengen region for 90 days out of 180 days. It can be difficult to keep track of – but thankfully there are many apps that can help you with that. It is more complicated than it first sounds – and the penalty for this is can be a ban – a pretty significant event, considering there are 27 member countries of the Schengen. Check out our article for ‘The Schengen Shuffle’ to find out how to manage the impact of this for fulltime travellers. Try and keep a few days in your back pocket just in case something goes wrong.
You don’t need a visa as of now, but in 2024 you will need an EITAs – an online registration system that is being introduced.
You will need to apply for a GHIC health insurance card to cover you for basic hospital cover either free or low cost – but you should get yourself a travel policy anyway – that is the advice that Not Quite North give! Not that we are qualified in any way!
As a result of Brexit, your mobile phone roaming fees will likely be affected. So you will need to either pay a daily roaming fee (in most cases) or swap out your sim card for a local card which will give you access to data/calls etc.
Last but not least – the pet passports have changed. Instead of a pet passport, you will need to apply for an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) which confirms that your pet is microchipped and has an up-to-date rabies vaccination. You need to get a new certificate each time you travel within 10 days of your travel date. This will be valid for 4 months.
Italy in Pictures
Local Foods In Italy
Oh, the gastronomic delights of Italy. A food lovers heaven. A haven for all things scrumptious from the wealthier north to the more humble south. Welcome also to the expanding waist line.
It is impossible to capture the local foods in Italy in an essentials post – each region has its own speciality, so do your research if you are keen to try the local dishes as you road trip around Italy in your motorhome! We have been very generic in the Italian Essentials Food listing!
We did a particularly enjoyable road trip around the north in Emilia Romagna which is the place to go for exceptional food. The best region to go for wine tasting is Piemonte – and yes – it was fabulous! In Veneto, they are known for the invention of tiramisu and we also tried the traditional local dish served only on 21st November in Venice – the castradina soup (castrated ram and cabbage) – it was really good!
So – lets get on with it.
Pizza – everyone knows what a pizza is! The culinary delight of Italy. Although Pizza has been around for 1000’s of years – the birth place of pizza is Napoli in 1535. A true Napoli pizza is actually a DOP product – the cheese used on a Napoli pizza MUST be certified Mozzarella di Bufala Campana and the tomatoes must be either be San Marzano or Pomodorino Del Piennolo del Vesuvio and the crust will be thick and fluffy. That’s it! If you don’t go to Napoli on your road trip – you can find the pizza served everywhere – in slices, triangles, thin or thick crust – just eat it!!
Pasta – Although it is believed that the chinese were making pasta 3000 BC, the popular belief is that Marco Polo bought the recipe back from the far east to Italy at the end of the 13th century. With over 350 different types of pasta – one of them is sure to have your name on it! The biggest thing about the pasta and the sauce – it is mixed in the sauce and not put on top! After our road trip in Italy – we had pasta coming out of our ears! Every place did its own regional speciality – normally stuffed with what ever that region produced!!
Antipasti – again covers a wide range of things – in the UK we call it a starter before your ‘primi’ or ‘secondi’ dish. Antipasti covers everything from olives and artichokes to parma ham and cheeses. The snack size bruschetta dishes are great snacks when walking round towns to get some renewed energy! From anchovies and onions to the classic diced fresh tomato. Antipasti is a great way to try out small local meats and cheeses.
Coffee – of course this is not really a food – but Italians are very precious over their coffees. There are rules you know! Rules for coffee drinking. Never have a milky coffee after 11am. Of any style. If you would like an espresso, simply ask for ‘Un Caffe’. You will get an espresso. DO NOT ASK FOR EXPRESSO! If you want to really do things properly, you should drink it standing and shot it! Regularly!
Gelato – thought to come from Florence in the 16th century, differs from ice-cream in that it is made with more milk than cream, and as you go further south, they even drop the egg yolks out of the mix. It is churned slower so it is lighter than ice-cream, but it melts faster too – so you just have to eat it really quickly! Hardships hey?
We have given you the basics to start planning your road trip to Italy. Why not check out our blog posts for our Italian road trips itineraries – and get some inspiration.