Italy travel guide
Travelling around Italy remains one of those rare experiences in life – like a perfect spring day or the power of first love – that can never be overrated. In few places do history, art, fashion, food and la dolce vita (“the good life”) intermingle so effortlessly. There are sunny isles and electric blue surf, glacial lakes and fiery volcanoes, rolling vineyards and urban landscapes harbouring more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country on Earth. Few places offer such variety and few visitors leave without a fervent desire to return.
The artistic and architectural treasures of Rome, Venice, Florence and Naples draw visitors to them like moths to a flame. Not content with Romans conquering most of the known world, the Venetians dispatched Marco Polo to uncharted lands off the map, while Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Brunelleschi and Michelangelo kick-started the Renaissance in Western art and architecture.
Look around at all the splendid palaces, paintings, churches and monuments and wonder at the centuries of hard graft and the unswerving devotion to traditional techniques and terroir. Like the local art, wine is also designed to elevate your spirits. From the neatly-banded stone terraces of the Cinque Terre, which snake from sea level to terrifying precipices, to the blousy hillsides of Chianti, the riverine plain of the Po valley and the volcanic slopes of Etna, Italian wines are lovingly made to complement the carefully-sourced regional cuisine on your plate.
Much like its food, this country is an endless feast of experiences. No matter how much you gorge yourself, you’ll always feel as though you're still on the first course. Do you go skiing in the Dolomites, or cycling in wine country? Do you dive the sun-split waters of Sardinia, climb Aeolian volcanoes or stalk market stalls in Naples? The choice is dazzling and bewildering. So take the advice of the locals. Slow down, sit back, tuck in that napkin and get ready to begin.
301,340 sq km (116,348 sq miles).
59,801,004 (UN estimate 2016).
205.2 per sq km.
President Sergio Mattarella since 2015.
Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni since 2016.
Last updated: 22 February 2018
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
There will be no change to the rights and status of EU nationals living in the UK, nor UK nationals living in the EU, while the UK remains in the EU.
If you’re visiting a ski resort you should take advice on weather and avalanche conditions before you travel and familiarise yourself with local skiing laws and regulations. For more information about the avalanche risk, visit the European Avalanche Warning Service website.
Fires remain a risk throughout the summer. Forest fires are highly dangerous and unpredictable; check with local authorities if you’re considering travelling to affected areas. Take care when visiting or driving through woodland areas and report fires to the emergency services. You can also visit the website of the Civil Protection Department.
If you need to contact the emergency services, call 112 (police), 118 (ambulance) or 115 (fire). For severe weather warnings, visit the European Meteorological Services website
Several strong earthquakes were felt in central Italy in 2016 and 2017. For more about what to do before, during, and after an earthquake visit the Italian Civil Protection website.
Demonstrations may occur with little or no warning in cities. You should avoid any protests, political gatherings, or marches.
Approximately 3 million British nationals visit Italy every year. Most visits are trouble-free.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Italy. You should remain vigilant and follow the advice of local authorities.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
Crime levels are generally low but there are higher levels of petty crime (particularly bag snatching and pick-pocketing) in the big city centres, such as Rome. Be aware that thieves can use a variety of methods to distract you.
Take care on public transport and in crowded areas in city centres, particularly in and around Termini station in Rome and at other main stations.
Be particularly vigilant on trains to and from the main airports in Italy (especially Fiumicino airport) and when unloading your baggage from trains and coaches.
Use a hotel safe for valuables where possible.
Alcohol and drugs can make you less alert, less in control and less aware of your environment. If you are going to drink, know your limit. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Don’t leave food or drinks unattended at any time. Victims of spiked drinks have been robbed and sometimes assaulted.
Those in hire cars can sometimes be targeted by thieves, and robberies from cars have been reported particularly in and around Rome, Milan and Pisa and on the road from Catania airport as well as at motorway service stations. Always lock your vehicle, never leave valuables on show and avoid leaving luggage in cars for any length of time.
Make sure Euro notes received from any source other than banks or legitimate Bureaux de Change are genuine.
Only use officially licensed taxis. These will have a taxi sign on the roof. Make sure the meter in the taxi has been reset before you set off.
Tickets on public transport must be endorsed in a ticket machine before you start a journey. The machines are usually positioned at the entrance to platforms in railway stations, in the entrance hall to metro stations and on board some buses and trams. Officials patrol public transport and will issue an on the spot fine of Euros 100 to 500 (reduced to Euros 50 if paid immediately) if you don’t hold an endorsed ticket. Tickets can be purchased from shops displaying the ‘T’ sign, and are usually bars or tobacconists.
Pedestrians should take care at Zebra crossings. Vehicles don’t always stop, even though they are required to under the Italian Traffic Code.
Transport strikes are often called at short notice. For more information visit the Ministry of Transport website (in Italian).
You can drive in Italy with a UK driving licence, insurance and vehicle documents. If you are driving a vehicle that does not belong to you then written permission from the registered owner may be required. On-the-spot fines can be issued for minor traffic offences.
In 2016 there were 3,270 road deaths in Italy (source: Department for Transport). This equates to 5.4 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 2.8 road deaths per 100,000 in 2016.
Private and hire cars are not allowed to enter the historic centre of many Italian cities without an official pass. If your hotel is in the centre of one of these cities, you can buy a pass from most car hire companies. The boundaries of historic centres are usually marked with the letters ZTL in black on a yellow background. Don’t pass this sign as your registration number is likely to be caught on camera and you will be fined.
There is a congestion charge for Milan city centre. For further information see the Milan Municipality website.
To reduce pollution, the city authorities in Rome sometimes introduce traffic restrictions on specific days whereby vehicles with odd or even number plates are not allowed on the roads in the ‘fascia verde’ area (covering most of Rome). For further information, including exceptions, see the Rome Municipality website.
Trucks over 7.5 tonnes (75 quintali) are not allowed on Italian roads (including motorways) on Sundays from 7:00 am until midnight, local time. These restrictions don’t apply to trucks that have already been granted an exception (eg those carrying perishable goods and petrol supplies).
If you are planning a skiing holiday, you should contact the Italian State Tourist Board for advice on safety and weather conditions before you travel. Address: 1 Princes Street, London W1R 9AY. Telephone: 020 7355 1557 or 1439.
Off-piste skiing is highly dangerous. You should follow all safety instructions meticulously given the dangers of avalanches in some areas. Italy has introduced a law forcing skiers and snowboarders to carry tracking equipment if they go off-piste. The law also obliges under-14s to wear a helmet. There are plans for snowboarders to be banned from certain slopes.
Read more about how to stay safe on the slopes.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Italy. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners.
There are isolated cases of domestic terrorism. Attacks carried out by the extreme left-wing and secessionist groups have generally been aimed at official Italian targets, mainly in the form of small bombs and incendiary devices. The Italian authorities have made a number of arrests of individuals with links to Daesh and other extremist groups.
There is a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
Local laws and customs
By law you must be able to show some form of identification at all times. In most cases a photocopy of the data page of your passport should suffice, but you may be asked to accompany the police to collect the original document, or to produce it within 12 hours. The police will normally ask for your full passport if you are stopped while driving.
In the Rome area, restaurants must display a menu outside the restaurant, only charge for bread if the customer specifically requests it, inform the customer of the prices being charged before he/she orders, give a proper receipt and not make any cover charge (coperto).
In some Italian towns and cities you may be fined for dropping litter and in some towns or cities it’s an offense to sit on monument steps or to eat and drink in the immediate vicinity of main churches, historic monuments and public buildings. It’s also an offence to enter or bathe in public fountains.
Illegal traders operate on the streets of all major Italian cities, particularly tourist cities like Florence, Venice and Rome. Don’t buy from illegal street traders. You could be stopped by the local police and fined.
Many major cities in Italy now impose a small tax on tourists. The tax is levied by hotels and is usually not included in any pre-paid arrangements or package deal. The rate of tax varies from city to city, and can depend on the star rating of the hotel. Hotels often ask for payment of this tax in cash. Make sure you get a receipt. For more information check with the local tourist information office.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British nationals don’t need a visa to enter Italy. For more information about entry requirements, contact the Italian Embassy.
Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Italy.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
If you’re visiting Italy you should get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. The EHIC isn’t a substitute for medical and travel insurance, but it entitles you to state provided medical treatment that may become necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Italian nationals. If you don’t have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, you can call the Department of Health Overseas Healthcare Team (+44 191 218 1999) to get a Provisional Replacement Certificate. The EHIC won’t cover medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment or non-urgent treatment, so you should make sure you have adequate travel insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 118 and ask for an ambulance. If you are referred to a medical facility for treatment you should contact your insurance/medical assistance company immediately.
Many parts of Italy lie on a major seismic fault line. Minor tremors and earthquakes are a regular occurrence. To learn more about what to do before, during, and after an earthquake visit the Protezione Civile website.
The currency of Italy is the Euro.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.