It is more than coincidence that Italy, home of high fashion, is shaped like a boot. The Italians have a great sense of style and a flair for life. They celebrate, almost daily, with festivals and parties in typical Mediterranean style. Italians place great value on family and community and spend a great deal of their time in public places. One of the greatest joys of backpacking in Italy is sitting in a Piazza on a warm summer evening and being instantly emersed in the rich local culture.
The geography of Italy varies greatly from the Northern Alps bordering France, Switzerland and Austria to the coastlines of the Mediterranean Sea. There are economic and cultural distinctions as well. Officially, the country has nineteen defined regions but the most recognizeable difference is between the industrialized, prosperous north and the economically deflated south. Italians tend to identify themselves by their home region and value the preservation of their local dialects and traditions.
English is fairly well understood in the north, but lesser so in the south. However, it is respectful to at least demonstrate an attempt at Italian and most Italians will appreciate it if you do.
Italy belongs to the European Union (EU) and uses the Euro as its currency. Click the currency converter to see current rates.
Trains are by far the easiest way to travel around Italy. Eurail passes are valid throughout the entire network although supplements must be purchased for travel on high speed trains.
Budget accommodation is decent in Italy but tends to be a bit pricey for what it is. Popular backpacker destinations such as Rome can completely book up so you are best to book your accommodation in advance. In rural areas, which are still very influenced by the Catholic Church, it is common for males and females to be segregated in hostel accomodation. Also, most everything but restaurants will be closed on Sundays, so plan your arrival accordingly.
Italian food and wine are recognized worldwide for their quality and they will not disappoint. Every region has its own local dishes made with seasonal local produce and there are many cheap local wines to taste.
Italy has many highlights. There are more classified historical monuments in Tuscany alone, than in any other country in the world. Rome, the capital city of Italy, is full of places of historical significance from the Forum and the Collosseum of the Roman Empire to St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums of the Catholic Church. Other popular destinations for backpackers include, but are not limited to, the art rich cities of Florence, Pisa and Siena, the Grand Canal of Venice, and the ancient ruins of the ash buried town of Pompei.
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