Looking for important travel information while backpacking in Italy? Here you will find information on working in Italy, entry visas, Italy hostels, and much more.
Table of Contents
- Facts About Italy
- Top Things to Do
- How to Travel Around
- Italy Hostels & Budget Accommodation
- Know before you go: Visas, Health, & Safety
- Work Permits and Backpacker Jobs
Facts About Italy
Birthplace of the Roman Empire, home of the Catholic church and spiritual home of the pizza, Italy is understandably one of the most popular places to visit in the world. With the industrialised and cultured north considered a centre of high fashion, high living and high prices, and the rustic south packed with its own share of heritage and charm, Italy has something to offer everyone.
However, such qualities don’t come cheap. Depending on when you go and where you stay, Italy can be an expensive proposition, so make sure you budget well before travelling and expect to spend no less than €30 a day. Indeed, if you want to stay in a high-class hotel and really take advantage of Italy you probably want to budget at least €75 a day.
- Currency: Euro (€) 1 euro = 100 cents
- Time Zone: GMT + 1
- Language: Italian
- Telephone Services: Country code +39 (N.B. Don’t drop the zero for city codes but do drop the zero for Italian mobiles), International access code 00
- Emergency Numbers: 112 for all services
Climate in Italy and the best time to go
When deciding the best time to visit Italy, weather certainly plays a large role. Italy has a hot, Mediterranean climate. The weather becomes hotter further south, and winter can be relatively dry and warm in these southern regions.
Mountain regions are colder and endure heavy snowfall during the winter months. The best time to visit Italy is either in Spring or in Fall, while the weather is still beautiful but the crowds of summer tourists are much less.
Things to do in Italy
A major city in its own right and the capital of Italy, Rome is unsurprisingly also one of the country’s major attractions. Split in two by the River Tiber, with the world’s smallest country – the Vatican City – overlooking the historic centre of the city, Rome’s incredible history and culture are attested to by the many phenomenal edifices.
The most famous of these structures is, of course, the Colosseum, but be sure to look beyond the old arena and check out other amazing sights like the Forum, the Castel Sant’Angelo and the Pantheon. You should also make the trip across the river to the Vatican City at least once, as the tiny state boasts the immense Vatican Museums (home to the Raphael Rooms and incorporating the monumental Sistine Chapel), and the world-renowned Basilica di San Pietro (containing Michelangelo’s fabulous Pieta).
If that’s not enough, Rome also boasts an impressive number of bars, restaurants and clubs, particularly around the area of Trastevere on the west bank of the Tiber, and the student district of San Lorenzo, near Termini station.
Since Rome is one of the most visited cities in the world, it is wise to book tickets to popular attractions (landmarks, museums) ahead of time to avoid the lines. GetYourGuide sells entrance tickets at face value and you can avoid waiting in line. You might also see ‘Skip the Line‘ tickets on their site. This actually refers to a separate entrance for a higher ticket price. It can be a worthwhile cost for mega attractions like the Colosseum, which can have a 2 hour-long wait time for General Entrance during peak tourist season.
Perhaps the most unique attraction in Italy is the ancient Roman town of Pompeii. Situated just 10 minutes from Naples, this town used to be a wealthy Roman country retreat. In 79AD, however, Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the village in volcanic ash.
Fortunately for tourists today, Pompeii has since been excavated and restored, with a range of ancient villas as well as a temple and the old forum on display. From nearby Ercolano or from Naples it is possible to take the bus to Mount Vesuvius itself and visit both of these spectacular sights in one day.
Another famous Italian attraction is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Constructed in 1174, the reason for the tower’s unique prefix is the swampy ground on which the tower was built, which gradually caused subsidence and meant one side of the tower was 5 metres lower than the other. As well as its aesthetic appeal, the tower is also historically significant, having been used by Galileo to demonstrate his theory of motion whilst he held the Chair of Mathematics at Pisa University.
Of course, these sights represent but a snapshot of what you can expect to see should you visit Italy. Whether you confine yourselves to the beautiful sights and museums of major cities like Florence, Rome and Milan, or venture out into the fine countryside of Tuscany and Umbria, you will always find plenty to keep yourself occupied.
Unique Activities in Italy
Another good way to get an idea of top things to do in Italy is to scan the activities offered by Get Your Guide or Viator. They work directly with local tour operators, so you won’t have to scour the internet or roam around town trying to find the best deal.
If you know your schedule ahead of time, a great insider tip is to buy tickets for major tourist attractions ahead of time. Tiqets has entrance tickets and skip the line passes for major tourist attractions in Italy so that you can avoid the lines and save that precious time for more exploring.
How to Travel Around Italy
If you’re flying to Italy or plan to take short flights within the country, we recommend using a few different flight comparison search engines. Kiwi is a new favourite among travellers. On average, we have found the cheapest flights to Italy with them compared to the other websites out there.
Of course, it is always worth checking Skyscanner to guarantee you’re getting the best deal. Both websites offer great flexible search options, allowing you to search the whole country of Italy to find the cheapest airport to fly into, and also see prices for a full month if you’re flexible on travel dates.
Train vs. Bus in Italy
Train and long-distance bus are the standard modes of transport for getting around the country. Buses are the more economical option, nevertheless, they are well-equipped with the usual modern conveniences that expect when travelling in Europe. Train travel, on the other hand, is the fastest way between two cities and the train stations are conveniently located right in the centre of town.
It depends on your preference, and certain routes are better suited to one mode of transport than the other. To compare your options for journeys from A to B, you can try Omio. They compare trains, buses (and even flights) so you can decide for yourself the tradeoff between cost and travel time.
Train travel in Italy
The Italian train system, while cheap and quite extensive, is unfortunately incredibly slow and somewhat poorly managed. Trenitalia runs the network and imposes a bizarre set of supplements which are chargeable on seemingly random trains. These supplements are paid on top of the ticket price and are usually printed in red on timetables, although there seems to be no rhyme or reason as to which trains charge supplements and which don’t.
Despite this, Italy is one of the few countries where ticket prices are actually cheap enough that you might want to consider buying single tickets, so don’t fret too much about the price.
Where you have the option, you should always pay the surcharge to make a reservation on Italian trains. Some services are extremely busy and those without a reservation may need to stand for the duration of the journey. Reservations can be made up to three hours before departure, with some particularly modern services allowing reservations up till 30 minutes before departure.
The country is a part of the Eurail network, which is a good choice if you plan to take multiple train journeys in a short period of time. Eurail offers both multi-country passes and One Country Passes. To decide whether you should buy individual tickets from A to B, or whether you should purchase a Eurail pass, read our Travelling Europe by Train guide.
Bus travel in Italy
Much like the trains, the bus system in Italy is of questionable quality, being largely fragmented into lots of competing private services. That said, however, it is usually cheaper and faster than the rail network. The most extensive operator, STAM, operates buses calling at most major Italian cities, including Naples, Rome, Venice and Florence.
Driving in Italy
If you want the flexibility to stop in smaller Italian towns between the major cities, check AutoEurope or Europcar to compare offers from the major car rental agencies in the region. Before deciding, read more about what to expect of driving in Europe.
Backpacking Tours in Italy
Though part of the fun of backpacking Italy is exploring on your own, there are situations, especially when venturing off the tourist trail, when it does make sense to go with a guide or a small group. For these times, a popular option among backpackers is G Adventures. They hand-select local guides to ensure authenticity and quality. This is especially a good option for those travelling Italy alone who would like to meet up with like-minded travellers. Their most popular trips in Italy are their 10-day Trekking Mont Blanc tour through Switzerland, Italy, and France, or their 14-day Ultimate Italy Tour from Venice to Rome.
Italy Hostels & Budget Accommodation
There are tens of thousands of hotels spread throughout Italy to suit whatever budget you have in mind. Naturally, what you can expect from your money will differ from place to place but, in general, the most economical options will offer board only. Conversely, the most luxurious hotels will require advance booking and offer premium location and the option to eat in should you wish.
A popular hostel site among backpackers is HostelWorld, and for good reason. They have the largest inventory of hostels worldwide, and with over 10 million reviews and ratings from other travellers you know exactly what to expect.
Another good way to find accommodation in Italy is by checking hotels.com and booking.com. With both sites, you’ll not only find hotels, but also homestays, hostels, and other unique accommodation. We have discovered some great finds and have appreciated the ability to book ahead. You can use their advanced filtering to narrow your results by budget, location score, overall review score, and amenities. Many of the places on booking.com also offer free cancellation, which takes the pressure off the planning phase of your trip.
Entry Visa Requirements for Italy
A valid passport is required by all except for EU nationals bearing a valid national ID card. A tourist visa is not required for EU or USA nationals for stays of up to 90 days. For stays longer than this, or if you intend working in Italy, you should contact your local Italian Embassy or Consulate.
The Italian Embassy should be contacted if you have any visa or immigration related enquiries.
Health and Safety in Italy
The health service in Italy is good, and possession of an EHIC card and comprehensive travel insurance will guarantee you treatment without it being a financial burden to you.
The drinking water is considered safe and there are no recommended vaccinations required for visiting Italy.
Work Permits and Backpacker Jobs in Italy
EU nationals do not have to obtain a visa before they enter Italy. However, if intending to stay for longer than three months, you will need to apply for a residence permit (permesso di soggiorno) from the police and sometimes an employment book (libretto di lavoro) from the local town hall (municipio). Before this time, you must apply to the police for a ricevuta de segnalazione di soggiorno, which authorises your three-month stay whilst looking for work.
Teaching English in Italy
There are many language schools around Italy, mostly in city areas such as Milan, Rome, and Naples. The best way to find jobs is to go in person to the schools. Without a qualification such as the CELTA or CertTESOL, however, you are likely not to be noticed.
If you are serious about wanting to pursue a job abroad then check the TEFL website listed below for details of qualifying before travelling. If you would like to qualify in Italy, there are institutions around which can accommodate you as well, so look around.
Au Pair Programs in Italy
Childcare International Ltd and Home from Home are just two organisations that organise placements for those wanting to work as au pairs in Italy. Host families in Italy will provide accommodation, meals, and personal expenses such as travel. As an au pair, you will be expected to work five days a week, taking care of the children, as well as general domestic duties.
As in a lot of other countries, au pairs are required to attend a language or vocational course locally and will be given time to do so. However, although your job will be in the form of an au pair, you are more likely to be hired as a ‘nanny’ or ‘domestic help’ because the UK is not part of the European agreement of au pair placements and Italian au pairs are required to have a permit specifically for au pair employment.
This permit can only be received after the Provincial Labour Office has approved. As a result, many families choose to by-pass such laws and most often instead regard their employees as nannies. Whatever your job title, duties will be similar across most vacancies, and you can expect to be paid between €208 and €312 (approx. €146 to €219) per month.
Working at campsites in Italy
Eurocamp and Canvas Holidays operate on campsites throughout Europe, including Italy. Most jobs with these companies and other similar organisations do not differ greatly. Eurocamp employs couriers, administrators and children’s helpers during the peak tourist summer months.
Workers can expect to receive about €95 per week. It is advantageous, both for your job application and job satisfaction, to know a European language, at least on a conversational level, as jobs will usually involve interaction with customers from far and wide.
Working at holiday resorts in Italy
Summer or winter, holiday resorts in Italy offer a good chance of finding some casual work for the willing traveller. Coastal resorts and well-known tourist areas and cities are a good place to start looking for casual work during the summer months.
Types of jobs include waitressing, bar work, and DJing, and wages depend on the type of job and the employer. However, bear in mind that working in the tourist trade can be demanding because you will be expected to deal with customers of all nationalities at the peak time of the tourist season.
Check the Club Mediterranee website for details of jobs in their holiday village in Milan which range from dancers to lighting technicians. As with work for campsite operators, specific jobs in holiday villages may require you to have knowledge of a foreign language and good interpersonal skills will also work to your advantage.
As well as having a busy summer tourist industry, winter in Italy means peak season for the many ski resorts around the Alps, Dolomites, and Apennines. PGL Ski Holidays and Crystal Holidays are good places to consult for opportunities of employment in ski resorts.
As with summer holiday resorts, the type of jobs in ski resorts are numerous and it is best to get there early in the tourist season to secure yourself work. Mark Warner is a recruitment agency that can locate you with seasonal jobs, both summer and winter, similar to those already mentioned, including work in the Alps, their contact details are listed below.
Volunteering in Italy
A whole host of volunteer jobs can be found and applied for with EIL, whether it is community, environmental, or conservation work you are interested in. Their European Voluntary Service (EVS) can place you on a six to twelve-month project in Italy as well as other European countries. Accommodation is provided by EIL as well as food, training, travel expenses, and pocket money.
Agriculture and Farm Jobs in Italy
Occupied far and wide by vineyards, Italy is a good place if you are looking for outdoor casual work. Fruit pickers are needed throughout the year, not only picking grapes in vineyards, but picking lemons, oranges, olives, and other local produce.
However, although the harvest may be fruitful, the same cannot always be said of the wages. Farmers may pay depending on how much you can collect, the quality and worth of produce, or the time it takes, but don’t expect to be earning a great amount from this kind of work.
If this type of work appeals to you, WWOOF is a voluntary organisation that provides work on organic farms and includes board and accommodation for a membership of €10 per year, check their website for more information.
Useful Links for Backpacking in Italy
- Trenitalia runs Italy’s rail network
- Eurail – Rail Passes for travellers who plan on doing lots of train travel in a short period of time. Single-Country and Multi-Country passes available
- Omio – Train, bus, and flight search for Italy and all of Europe. Offers online booking and mobile tickets
- Auto Europe – Europe’s leading rental car search engine to find a rental car in Italy
- Kiwi, Skyscanner, and Opodo – Flight comparison search engines to find the cheapest flights to Italy and within the country
- GetYourGuide and Viator – a collection of local tours and things to do in Italy. Also offers Skip the Line tickets for crowded attractions
- Tiqets – Website selling entrance tickets and skip the line tickets for major tourist attractions in Italy
- G Adventures – small guided backpacking tours in Italy, great for solo travellers or for those interested in a more adventurous trip which would require a guide
- HostelWorld – #1 hostel search website to find budget accommodation in Italy. Thousands of hostels and millions of reviews from fellow travellers
- Booking.com – commonly used accommodation booking site in Italy. Hostels, hotels, and other unique accommodation with advanced filtering and millions of reviews
- Travel Insurance – read our comprehensive overview of Travel Insurance and some recommended providers for your backpacking trip to Italy
There you have it, the ultimate Italy backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Italy.
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