In today’s post we want to share with you all the tips, peculiarities and interesting things that we’ve learned about travelling in Italy. We’ve been staying in Italy for almost three months and we feel like we have quite a lot to tell you. This post will be especially useful if you’re a backpacker and it’s your first time in the country. We are going to talk about the Italian people, delicious food, hiking and wild camping, public transportation and many other things.
First of all Italy is a very big or rather say long country and there’s so much to see in it. You will be fascinated by the amount of wonderful coastline and beaches, mountain adventures, old history and overall cultural and traditional heritage is huge. We spent one of the best summers in our lives here and just had time to visit several regions like Liguria, Toscania, Aosta Valley and South Tyrol. But we still have a lot of places left to discover and even a summer long adventure wasn’t enough. So count to have a lot of time to explore it otherwise you will regret it.
Italy shares the borders with 4 countries: France, Switzerland Austria and Slovenia. We have been at 3 of its borders except Slovenia. And the most obvious language differences were at the borders of Austria where the majority of people spoke German which was a discovery to us. So Italy is a very multicultural country.
Language most widely spoken of course is Italian but a lot of people can actually speak and understand English. Even in some remote locations we’ve been to there were people like that. Also we noticed that a lot of information everywhere is doubled in English. So as a tourist you will have little trouble trying to explain yourself in English. Even in the cases when some elder people didn’t speak a word in English the knowledge of the Spanish language came in handy. We realized that these languages share a lot of common words and you can be understood by Italians if you speak Spanish. And vice versa we understood a lot of words and could guess the main idea of what the people were talking about thanks to Spanish. So the more languages you speak the better. It always helps a lot.
We think we can talk about Italian food for hours now because we are so in love with it. As you may know about us we like to cook everything ourselves but in Italy it wasn’t always necessary. It is so tasty and filling that you can easily skip your usual meal. Apart from excellent fruit and vegetables our main food discovery was Italian pastry and baking stuff like pizza, pasta, focaccio, Tarallini, Grissini, Ravioli, etc. And plenty of different desserts that we don’t even remember the names of and didn’t even have time to try them all. But what we truly could appreciate and taste a lot is the ice cream. Now we honestly believe that Italian ice cream is the best in the world by how delicious it is and how natural and creamy it is. Our most favorite variety was a cherry ice cream that we couldn’t find anywhere else but just in Italy- you have to try it – it is sooo good. Of course you can gain some extra weight with it easily too if you take it too seriously. Overall everything we tried here was tasting very natural even the simple cookies from the supermarket and there’s plenty of choice there. And most importantly it’s not necessary to go to a fancy shops for it, all of above mentioned things you can find in the local supermarkets for reasonable prices and you get an excellent quality products. So from now on we really need to learn how to bake it ourselves because we are going to miss it a lot.
Hiking in Italy is very diverse. You can choose from plenty of trails at the coast, in the mountains and in the fields. Italy has it all. We hiked Via Francigena through Tuscany, Cinque Terre in Liguria and did several hikes in Dolomites in South Tyrol. We feel like mountains are of course the best destination to hike simply because there’s so many interesting spots to visit and paths to choose from for any taste and level. We still haven’t been to the south of Italy, we want to hike the Amalfi coast, Sicily and Sardinia. So we’ll be back here another time for sure.
The laws about wild camping are very confusing in Italy. In different provinces they treat it differently. But most of the times it’s not allowed especially in Dolomites where it’s very difficult anyway due to the extremely rocky terrain. But we still did it sometimes and just made sure that it’s not a private land and the place is secluded enough out of sight from the car roads. And it worked just fine. Be aware that in some places there is a lot of private land so pay attention to the signs.
There is lots of payable things and services for tourists. Especially in the heavily touristic places like Cinque Terre and Dolomites. The parking, the tickets can get quite expensive and only for locals they make some exception. This fact may be true for other touristic places in the world but the thing like payable bathrooms was a little bit too much. Almost every train station we’ve been to had a payable bathroom. On the beaches the situation is the same. So it’s just something to be aware of.
In relation to this topic we wanted to point out that there are a lot of private and closed beaches along the coastline. The entrance is not necessarily payable but all of the space is occupied by chairs, chaise longues and umbrellas that are for daily rental. So there’s not really the space for you to be. There are pieces of coast left for free entrance but normally it is very small and sometimes doesn’t have a shower on it. Compared to the Spanish beaches which are all free, here this fact that you don’t have the choice is just disappointing.
Public transportation is quite developed here in Italy, you can get even to the most remote locations thanks to it. Buses are the cheapest options as always. The trains are more expensive. Be aware that both buses and trains can arrive late and do it regularly. When we had to do quick changes from one train to another it was simply Impossible sometimes because of the 5 to 10 min. delay. So timetables are approximate and better to avoid planning to take different types of transportation in a row.
We want to warn you about the ticket and fine system in trains which can be different from what you’re used to in your country. That was our case when we didn’t have time to buy the ticket and just quickly hoped on the train hoping to buy the ticket directly from conductor. But when he came to check the tickets he was really mad at us saying that you can’t just sit on the train without ticket and you have to search for a conductor right away in order to buy it. We didn’t know it because in Spain this situation is quite normal when you buy a ticket on board without a problem. So he threatened us with 100 euros fine but fortunately in the end we were able to just buy the tickets but we had to pay a double price for it. So it was the best lesson to always buy tickets in advance because on board you will always pay extra.
With the bus the situation is similar – it’s always better or even necessary to have your tickets in advance because some drivers refuse to sell tickets on board or it will cost you extra. We had several times when we just stopped the bus and the driver refused to take us without the tickets which again hasn’t ever happened to us in Spain. The tickets can be bought at the bus stations, tobacco shop “tabaccheria” or in some tourist offices as well.
In some regions like South Tyrol there are season tickets which allow you to take any public transport during limited amount of time which is very convenient and can save you up some money.
Developed road system
Talking about developed road system as convenient as it seems there’s a huge downside of it all – is the bad traffic and a lot of pollution. In comparison to Spain and France where we lived, it seemed to us that there are more roads and thus more cars on them in Italy. Even if the road seems secondary or dirt road there are still quite a lot of traffic on it. And when you are hiking and simply don’t have a choice you have to walk along with cars. Also the speed limit signs are usually serve for nothing as nobody cares much about them.
Because there’s so many car roads the service Bla bla car can be a great alternative to a public transport. This is an app that connects drivers and passengers where you can find a trip to almost anywhere you need to go. We’ve been using it quite frequently and it’s one of the best discoveries of this year too.
Hitchhiking is believed to be not very common in Italy at least by the opinion of many locals we met. We personally did it only once when it was getting dark and there was no other choice for us. We had luck and one kind guy picked us up. So we guess it will depend on the place you’re staying and just pure luck.
Many inhabitable villages
Another thing that surprised and amazed us quite a lot was the amount of inhabitable villages and almost complete lack of neglected places. From the very first day of our hiking we started seeing small old villages consisting of 3 houses that were still full of life. As well as most of the touristic places are full of local people and are not just left for hotels and villas. That is definitely a cultural specialty that made every visit to the villages more cozy and home like.
And we want to end our video by telling you about the Italian People – one of the most important characteristic of every country. To us they were very reminiscent to Spanish people. They are very easy going and always eager to help literally directing you and almost taking you to the place you need to get. They can spend hours explaining you the directions or anything you need to know. They really try to understand you and your situation whatever it takes. These people are very talkative and thus you can connect to them very easily. But of course they like to talk loudly expressing all ranges of emotions very passionately by their voice and even the simple conversation can seem a quarrel sometimes. They like and can cook very well in the family as well as appreciate a homemade food that with such varieties of good products is no surprise. They have big families and often gather for a family dinner especially on weekends. Overall they are very open good people with lots of positive energy with whom you can become great friends.
On that positive note we want to end this post. For us it was an amazing and fascinating journey in Italy, absolutely unforgettable summer that we wish everybody could experience. We hope that it inspires you to come to Italy as soon as you can and then share your own experience with us in the comment section below. Let us know if there is something you don’t agree with or have a different opinion about we are always open for new information. Make sure to check out the full trip reports from Italy that you can find here on our website.