What to Know About Italy

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Italy is my favorite destination!

If I have the time and funds for a vacation, it’s very difficult for me to NOT pick Italy as the trip. I’m here to tell you what to know about Italy. It’s such a wonderful country full of great food, culture, and fashion. I will never forget my first trip to Italy, sighhhh. It was a dream come true. I don’t know if any moment in my life will ever compare to the feeling I first felt when I landed in Rome, not having any idea what I was about to experience or how my love of Italy would truly shape the rest of my life. Italy is my heart’s home, but even with that said, there are some things I wish I’d known before visiting. So with the benefit of my experience, here are my recommendations.

jillian travel and wellness influencer and what to do in italy

What to Know About Italy:

Trim Down Your List of Destinations  

If it’s your first time to Italy you’re going to want to hit up quite a few different cities–but try to trim down your list. What I wish I knew before going to Italy is that you don’t need to try to go everywhere and do everything or you’ll miss the magic of Italian culture. You may have heard of la dolce vita, Italian for the sweet life. La dolce vita is the magic that makes Italy so special. Italy isn’t a huge country, but it’s big enough that if you have two weeks or less, you should stick to three spots max. You can always pick somewhere that has the option for day trips, but don’t try to see southern Italy and Tuscany and Venice–it’s too much and you’ll spend your time traveling instead of in a piazza sipping an aperol spritz. 

Research the Lesser Known Activities & Free Things To Do

Something else you need to know about Italy, research the lesser known activities. You’ll see fewer tourists and get a taste for what the local culture is really like, and a taste of the little things. Also, it can save you money. My favorite things in Rome are the free ones. Sure, the Colosseum is gorgeous and you need to see it once, but you know what’s even more breathtaking? Giardino degli Aranci, the orange garden, a green space park full of orange trees and killer views. The view from that garden is hands down one of the most breathtaking things I have seen in my life. It sits atop the aventine hill, one of the seven hills ancient Rome was built on. A whimsical, romantic place, it’s a beautiful spot for a picnic.

Another image that’s etched into my heart are the views in Ravello, where I didn’t spend a dime. Ravello is a gorgeous city on the Amalfi Coast. One of the best memories of my entire life is sitting at a wine bar in Monopoli, Italy watching and listening to the rain on the beach. Read about that story here.

jillian travel and wellness influencer in rome and what to know about italy

If you don’t feel confident creating your own itinerary, of course, there are guided tours. Although I’m not usually a fan of guided tours, I did discover a few that made me rethink that opinion. You can read about them on my trips to Alberobello here and Irpinia here

Make Time for the Little Things

If you’re spending time traveling between destinations rather than at just a few, you’ll miss the true magic of Italy, which lies in the time when you’re sitting around sipping a spritz. In Italy, la dolce vita is about enjoying the little things. It’s about spending quality time with your companions and loved ones, it’s about savoring each bite of food.

Some especially sweet aspects of Italy are the lesser known la passigiata and la pausa. La passagiata is the slow stroll before dinner. It’s when locals stop and chat with one another, take in the fresh air, and wander the streets dressed for dinner, enjoying life. La pausa is a time during the day to stop and enjoy a coffee and a snack. These small things are what to know about Italy, because they are how you truly experience the magic of the country. 

Prepare to relax and allow hours for leisurely dining in Italy–it’s an experience very different from what you might be used to in America. If you sit down at a restaurant, expect to be there for a few hours. You may see the waiter leave and sit down for a coffee and a cigarette even if your water glass is empty. This is typical and the Italians don’t look at this as bad service, they believe that this is how you enjoy your meal, and they enjoy their job–with leisure! If you’re looking for a quick bite, the street food is to die for. I would highly suggest trying something you may not recognize or normally order, you may be pleasantly surprised.

small carafe and glass of table wine in italy

Order the Table Wine

When you’re at the restaurant, order the table wine. Sure, it’s cheap and you’re used to reading the wine menu, I get it. While happy hour or the cheap wine in America is whatever was on sale from the distributor or what the restaurant needs to get rid of, in Italy, table wine is delicious and a great value. Speaking of wine, ship some home. Finding small unique wineries, blends, and reserves is part of the fun in Italy if you’re a wine drinker. I would recommend adding to your budget some funds to ship yourself your favorite bottles. 

La Siesta and Feriae Augusti

With this magic and enjoying the small moments, you need to know that Italians enjoy their sleep. The pace of life in Italy, especially away from the bigger cities like Rome and Milan, is very different from what it is in America. Nearly everything in Italy shuts down in the afternoons. If you’re in a smaller town, you need to be prepared to entertain yourself for this siesta that can stretch between 1pm and 4pm. Also, you need to know not to travel to Italy in the first two weeks of August unless you’re traveling for feriae Augusti, which translates to rest day in August. The first two weeks in August (sometimes the whole month) many Italians take vacation and businesses are closed. 

You Need Sneakers!

Pack your walking shoes! And be sure to break them in beforehand. There’s so much walking to be done in Italy, and you aren’t going to enjoy it if your feet hurt. One of the things I love about Italian women is that they’re fashionable yet practical, they don’t mind wearing sneakers with their dresses. 

jillian travel and wellness influencer in sicily and what to know about italy

Leave Room in Your Luggage 

Allow lots of suitcase room for shopping. Whether it’s  art, knick knacks, or fashion, you’re going to want to bring a piece of Italy home…maybe more than a piece. Italians value art and craftsmanship, so it’s highly likely you’ll find a handbag, a pair of shoes, an art piece, glassware, a Venetian mask, or even some fast fashion that you can’t live without. 

The best things in life are free, and Italy and the Italian lifestyle truly captures that. I love Italy and I think everyone should go at least once in their life. As you can tell, the pace of life in Italy is very different from what you might be used to. So mostly what you need to know about Italy is that the true magic lies in that time where you’re sitting around sipping a spritz, enjoying la dolce vita.

jillian travel and wellness influencer enjoying la dolce vita and an aperol spritz in italy

Let me know what you think of my tips and if you’ve ever been to Italy.

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