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Like its capital city, Italy is a place of eternal beauty and incomparable charm. From delicious cuisine to painting-worthy landscapes, it’s no surprise that locals have favoured Italy with the nickname Il Bel Paese – The Beautiful Country. Some of the world’s greatest cities can be found here, from Florence, Italy’s Renaissance gem, to Venice, the romance capital of Europe. Yet there are countless smaller towns too, rich with atmosphere and medieval heritage. From the awe-inspiring towers of Tuscany’s San Gimignano, to the lakeside delights of Malcesine by Lake Garda’s shore, Italy’s smaller towns are some of its very best assets.
It’s easy to get transfixed by the beauty of the inner regions, but if you draw yourself away from Italy’s rolling hills and dramatic peaks, you’ll discover a spectacular coastline boasting more than 280 Blue Flag beaches. Dotted amid these sandy sweeps are stunning seaside towns, including picture-perfect Positano, and the colourful villages of the Cinque Terre. Don’t overlook Italy’s islands, either – from diverse Sicily and beachy Sardinia, to dramatic Vulcano and chic Capri, there are plenty to discover.
Flying is the quickest and easiest way to get to Italy from the UK and there are plenty of direct flights available to most airports within Italy. The biggest choice of flights are available from London and Manchester but you'll also be able to fly to certain destinations from regional airports. Flights take from 2 to 4 hours depending on where you fly from/to.
At the current time, British citizens do not require a visa to visit Italy.
Tipping isn’t expected in Italy and most Italians do not leave a tip for a service they receive from any of the following places: restaurants, salons, pubs or bars and taxis. However, by leaving a tip, you may receive quicker and more pleasant service.
Listen to our Learn Italian podcast, where we cover everything from basic to intermediate phrases.
Italy is synonymous with excellent food, going far beyond the much-loved pizza and pasta. Every region has its own traditional specialities, all using the freshest local produce. Many recipes have been passed on from generation to generation – much like family, cuisine is a huge part of the Italian lifestyle.
Up in the north, it’s all about rice, polenta and potatoes. Risotto-like recipes feature on many menus in this area, from Venetian risi e bisi (rice and peas) to risotto alla Milanese. We also have northern Italy to thank for spaghetti Bolognese – the sauce comes from the historic town of Bologna in Emilia-Romagna. Another regional speciality to add to your must-try list is osso buco, Milan’s cross-cut veal shanks with vegetables.
Travel further south to Tuscany and things get a lot more hearty and rustic. Ingredients include fresh vegetables and lots of grilled meats. Two of the region’s signature dishes include bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak) and ribollita (a chunky vegetable soup).
Menus in coastal areas of southern Italy are dominated by seafood. As well as fish, southern areas of Italy also feature ingredients such as couscous and aubergine, thanks to Greek and Arabic influences. If you’re around the Neapolitan Riviera, sampling pizza is a must – the city of Naples was the birthplace of the famous Margherita. For more to get your teeth into, read our guide to Italy’s regional cuisine.
Italy is also celebrated for its great range of high-quality wines, with more than 350 grape varieties being produced – you can find out more in our guide to Italy’s wine regions. Aside from wine, you can also sample grappa, a strong brandy, and limoncello, a sweet lemon liqueur.