Italy is an amazing country, full of flavours, history, and hidden corners. From the canals of Venice to Florence’s elegance; the pizzas of Naples to the espressos available everywhere — a trip to Italy is sure to be a feast for all your senses.
Once you’ve decided to head to Italy (and let’s be honest, that’s not a hard decision to make) you have to consider Italy transport: how will you get there, and how will you get around?
Getting to and from Italy
If you’re coming from outside Europe, air is your best option. There are direct flights to Rome and other major Italian cities from many North American and Asian countries; we once found a ridiculously cheap flight from Rome to Malaysia with Sri Lankan Airlines. You might find yourself transiting through another European hub like London or Frankfurt, depending on price and flight connections.
If you’re already in Europe, you’re in luck. Most European airlines fly into Italy, and budget carriers like Ryanair, Easyjet, and Wizzair provide very affordable flights if you book in advance. Plus, their networks are extensive — we flew from Milan to Moldova recently! We use Skyscanner to find flights, but Google Flights and Momondo are also useful.
If you’re travelling by road, you’ll find the borders are quite easy to get through: Italy is part of the Schengen open-border agreement with most of its neighbours. Be aware that Switzerland isn’t, so you may find border controls there (but they’re mainly checking for tax payment). If you hire a car outside Italy and plan to travel into the country, make sure to ask if border crossing is allowed: many car-hire companies limit cross-border travel or charge extra for it.
Another great way to arrive in Italy is by ferry, which is likewise quite simple. Regular ferries ply the Mediterranean and the Adriatic, transporting people, cars and cargo around the region. Just check the journey time, as many ferry trips are surprisingly long — you might prefer to fly!
Our favourite way to arrive in Italy is by train. Train travel in Europe is fast and efficient, and it’s a great way to enjoy the gorgeous landscapes this continent has to offer!
Getting around Italy
We tend to travel Italy by train, and have found that train travel in Italy is cheap and effective. Journeys can be slow, and many travellers (though not us) have found them to be frequently unreliable, especially in the south.
We don’t recommend you use a Eurail or Interrail pass in Italy, as train travel is so cheap that these passes don’t provide good value. If you’ve got a continuous pass, consider starting or ending your Eurail journey in Italy, and while in the country, pay for tickets as you use them. If you’ve got a pass that gives you so many days of travel within a period of time, don’t use those days in Italy — save them for more expensive countries like Switzerland, Austria, or Germany.
If you can sleep on trains, it’s worth considering travelling by sleeper trains from Sicily to Rome, or the north to Rome or Naples — this can be a good way to fit more into your visit. Just make sure you buy a ticket for a couchette compartment, or at least reserve a seat. On our very first journey to Italy, we ended up on the last overnight train from Palermo before the new university term — and we hadn’t reserved a seat. Getting on was a scrum, and we found ourselves crushed into first class with a bunch of other people who also didn’t have first-class tickets. Somehow we made it to Rome without being fined, but it was stressful!
Intercity coach travel throughout Italy is relatively fast and very convenient, as many bus stations are located near the centre of the city.
Eurolines and other local bus services operate throughout the country, you can check their websites for pricing and timetable details — though it might be just as easy to go to the bus station and ask! In some cases, bus will be your only public transport option, especially if you’re heading to a small town — not every village has a train station.
Car and camper rental
If you think you can handle driving in the mad Mediterranean traffic, then car hire is no problem at all. Confirm with your car-hire company if you want to cross any international borders and take all the usual precautions when it comes to pre-rental checks.
One major benefit of having your own car is the freedom to go wherever you like and see whichever corner of the country takes your fancy. Stop for a day to do some wine tasting or a cooking course, or hire a villa in some out-of the way place — there are many Italy vacation rentals to choose from.
Cycling and hiking
Cycling and hiking Italy is absolutely stunning. While I wouldn’t want to be dodging traffic in Rome or Naples, the coast, farmland and mountains provide excellent touring grounds. Sicily would have to a favourite, with everything within easy reach. Plus, the Cinque Terre is famous for its gorgeous walks. Also consider hiring a bike for day trips if you don’t want to make cycling your principle mode of transport.
Italy is one of the Mediterranean’s main cruise stops, so expect large cruise ships in harbour cities. Hiring your own boat can be great fun, especially in the warmer waters of the south.
Ferries run from the mainland to Sicily. If your train is travelling there, expect the whole train to roll onto the ferry itself — so even if you’re travelling by train, you might get a boat trip too!
Go to Italy!
However you plan to travel, go! Italy will reward you with its amazing ruins, enthusiastic people, and delicious food. Take it slowly, adjust your speed to the slower Mediterranean pace, and you’ll have a great time.