Of all the countries in the world, there is none more magical than Italy. We have combed the cities and countryside of Italy, rejecting many, to offer our list of Italy hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, agriturismos and resortsn as well as other Italy lodging choices. These Italy accomodations reflect what we consider to be the best in their respective classifications. Our slections range fromn inexpensive farm stays to piggybank breaking luxury hotels in Italy. Each of our selections will provide a different experience of Italy travel.One of the reasons Karen Brown is considered among the best travel guides is her in depth itineraries throughout a country or region. Once again, Karen has outdone herself producing 7 wonderful and exciting itineraries throughout Italy. Each of the itineraries has been traveled as we describe them allowing the traveler to depend on their pacing and selection of sites to see and experience.n Italy is truly a tourist’s paradise–a traveler’s dream destination. No one could be so blasé that within Italy’s narrow boot there would not be something to tantalize his fancy. For the archaeologist, there are some of the most fascinating and perfectly preserved ancient monuments existing today, just begging to be explored. For the gourmet, there is the finest food in the world. For the outdoors enthusiast, there are towering mountains to conquer and magnificent ski slopes to enjoy. For the lover of art, the museums are bursting with the genius of Italy’s sons such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Raphael. For the architect, Italy is a school of design–you are surrounded by the ancient buildings whose perfection still inspires the styles of today. For the history buff, Italy is a joy of wonders–her cities are veritable living museums. For the wine connoisseur, Italy produces an unbelievable selection of wine whose quality is unsurpassed. For the adventurer, Italy has intriguing medieval walled villages tucked away in every part of the country. For the beach buff, Italy’s coastline and lakes hold the promise of some of the most elegant resorts in the world. For the religious pilgrim, Italy is the cradle of the Christian faith and home of some to the world’s most famous saints. The miracle of Italy travel is that all these treasures come packaged in a gorgeous country of majestic mountains, misty lakes, idyllic islands, wonderful walled villages, and beautiful cities. In addition, the climate is ideal and the people warm and gracious. Italy is truly a perfect destination.

Select a region in Italy, or choose one from the map below:


Italy



General Info and Resources

Itineraries:

In the itinerary section of this site you’ll be able to find an itinerary, or portion of an itinerary, that can be easily tailored to fit your exact time frame and suit your own particular interests. If your time is limited, you can certainly follow just a segment of an itinerary. In the itineraries we have not specified the number of nights at each destination, since to do so seemed much too confining. Some travelers like to see as much as possible in a short period of time. For others, just the thought of packing and unpacking each night makes them shudder in horror and they would never stop for less than three or four nights at any destination. A third type of tourist doesn’t like to travel at all—the destination is the focus and he uses this guide to find the perfect place from which he never wanders except for daytime excursions. So, use this guide as a reference to plan your personalized trip. Our advice is not to rush. Part of the joy of traveling is to settle in at a hotel that you like and use it as a hub from which to take side trips to explore the countryside. When you dash too quickly from place to place, you never have the opportunity to get to know the owners of the hotels and to become friends with other guests. Look at the maps in the front of this guide to find the places to stay in the areas where you want to travel. Read about each hotel in the Hotel Descriptions section of this book and decide which sound most suited to your taste and budget, then choose a base for each area you want to visit.



Airfare:

Karen Brown’s Guides have long recommended Auto Europe for their excellent car rental services. Their air travel division, Destination Europe, an airline broker working with major American and European carriers, offers deeply discounted coach- and business-class fares to over 200 European gateway cities. It also gives Karen Brown travelers an additional 5% discount off its already highly competitive prices (cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions). We recommend you click on Auto Europe under Travel Tools or make reservations by phone at (800) 835-1555. When phoning, be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to secure your discount.

Another option is to visit Flight Reservations under the blue Travel Tools tab on all of our web pages. Here, you will find a myriad of prices from different air carriers.

Europe now has several low-cost air carriers, the largest being Ryanair, offering excellent prices for air travel within Europe. If you are traveling long distances across Europe it might be advantageous to look into flying rather taking the train.

 



Car Rental:

Readers frequently ask our advice on car rental companies. We always use Auto Europe―a car rental broker that works with the major car rental companies to find the lowest possible price. They also offer motor homes and chauffeur services. Auto Europe’s toll-free phone service, from every European country, connects you to their U.S.-based, 24-hour reservation center (ask for the Europe Phone Numbers Card to be mailed to you). Auto Europe offers our readers a 5% discount (cannot be combined with any other offers or promotions) and, occasionally, free upgrades. Be sure to use the Karen Brown ID number 99006187 to receive your discount and any special offers. You can make your own reservations online by clicking on Auto Europe under Travel Tools or by phone (800-223-5555).

DISTANCES: Distances are indicated in kilometers (one kilometer equals 0.621 mile). As you drive through the countryside, you will be astonished at how dramatically the scenery can change in just an hour’s drive.

DRIVER’S LICENSE: It is advisable to have an international driver’s license which can be purchased for $10 in the USA at your local AAA office. A current license from your home country is valid for driving throughout Italy if you are on holiday and renting a car. However certain age limits apply. Please check on the age limit policy with the car rental company.

GASOLINE: Gas prices in Italy are the highest in Europe, and Americans often suspect a mistake when their first fill-up comes to between $55 and $100 (most of it in taxes). Most stations now accept Visa credit cards, and the ERG stations accept American Express. Besides the AGIP stations on the autostrada, which are almost always open, gas stations observe the same hours as merchants, closing in the afternoon from 12:30 pm to 4:00 pm and in the evening at 7:30 pm. Be careful not to get caught running on empty in the afternoon! Many stations have a self-service pump that operates on off-hours (€ 10 or € 20 and € 50 bills, and sometimes credit cards are accepted).

ROADS: The Italian roads are nothing short of spectacular, including some of the finest highways in the world. In fact, the Italians are absolute geniuses when it comes to their engineering feats (which actually is not such a surprising fact when you consider what a fantastic road system the Romans built 2,000 years ago). Nothing seems to daunt the Italian engineers: you would think the mountains are made of clay instead of solid rock, the way the roads tunnel through them. Sometimes a roadway seems endlessly suspended in mid-air as it bridges a mountain crevasse. Names of roads in Italy are as follows: Autostrada: a large, fast (and most direct) two- or three-lane toll way, marked by green signs bearing an “A” followed by the autostrada number. (See “Toll Roads” below.) Superstrada: a one- or two-lane freeway between secondary cities marked by blue signs and given a number. Speed limit: 110 kph. Strada Statale: a small one-lane road marked with S.S. followed by the road number. Speed limit: 90 kph. Raccordo or Tangenziale: a ring road around main cities, connecting to an autostrada and city centers.

ROAD SIGNS: Before starting on the road prepare yourself by learning the international driving signs so that you can obey all the rules. There are several basic sign shapes: triangular signs warn that there is danger ahead; circular signs indicate compulsory rules and information; square signs give information concerning telephones, parking, camping, etc. Yellow signs are for tourists and indicate a site of historical or cultural interest, hotels, and restaurants. Black-and-yellow signs indicate private companies and industries.

TOLL ROADS: Italy has a network of super expressways that makes any spot in the country an easy destination by car. Once you are on the toll roads, you can go quickly from almost any area of Italy to another, but be forewarned—these toll roads are expensive. However, every cent is well spent when you consider the alternative of creeping along within a maze of trucks and buzzing motorcycles, taking forever to go only a few kilometers. Use the toll roads for the major distances you need to cover, and then choose the small roads when you wish to meander leisurely through the countryside. Toll roads are mystifying until you learn the system—even then it is confusing because just when you think you have the operation down pat, you find it varies slightly. This is the most common routine: first follow the green expressway signs toward the toll road. Sometimes these signs begin many kilometers from the expressway, so be patient and continue the game of follow-the-sign. Each entrance to the expressway handles traffic going in both directions. As you enter into the tollgate, there is usually a red button you push and a card pops out of a slot. After going through the toll station you choose the direction you want to go. As you leave the expressway, there is a toll station where your ticket is collected and you pay according to how many kilometers you traveled. (If you lose your card, you will have to pay the equivalent amount of the distance from the beginning of the autostrada to your exit.) Tolls on Italian autostrade are quite steep, ranging from $15 to $28 for a three-hour stretch, but offering the fastest and most direct way to travel between cities. A Viacard, or magnetic reusable card for tolls, is available in all “toll-way” gas stations for € 20–€ 50, or a MasterCard or Visa card can now be used in specified blue lanes (the lines for these automatic machines are always the shortest).

 



Currency:

Banking hours are Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm and 3 to 4 pm, with some city banks now opening on Saturday mornings. Cash machines accepting U.S. bank cash cards and credit cards are widely distributed throughout Italy. An increasingly popular and convenient way to obtain foreign currency is simply to use your bankcard at an ATM machine. You pay a fixed fee for this but, depending on the amount you withdraw, it is usually less than the percentage-based fee charged to exchange currency or travelers’ checks. Be sure to check with your bank or credit card company about fees and necessary pin numbers prior to departure. Cambio signs outside and inside a bank indicate that it will exchange traveler’s checks or give you cash from certain credit cards. Also, privately run exchange offices are available in cities with more convenient hours and comparable rates. All pricing, including room rates, is quoted in euros, using the € symbol. The euro is now the official currency of most European Union countries, including Italy, having completely replaced national currencies as of February 2002.

Many establishments accept one or more credit cards. If possible, pay using your credit card as the exchange rate is usually quite favorable. Paying by credit card reduces the need to carry large sums of cash and thus reduces potential loss in the case of theft. Keep a record of your credit card numbers at home as well as with you separately from your cards in case of loss or theft. Also, it is a good idea to contact your card issuer and inform them of your travel plans.



Driving:

DISTANCES: Distances are indicated in kilometers (one kilometer equals 0.621 mile). As you drive through the countryside, you will be astonished at how dramatically the scenery can change in just an hour’s drive.

DRIVER’S LICENSE: It is advisable to have an international driver’s license which can be purchased for $10 in the USA at your local AAA office. A current license from your home country is valid for driving throughout Italy if you are on holiday and renting a car. However certain age limits apply. Please check on the age limit policy with the car rental company.

GASOLINE: Gas prices in Italy are the highest in Europe, and Americans often suspect a mistake when their first fill-up comes to between $55 and $100 (most of it in taxes). Most stations now accept Visa credit cards, and the ERG stations accept American Express. Besides the AGIP stations on the autostrada, which are almost always open, gas stations observe the same hours as merchants, closing in the afternoon from 12:30 pm to 4:00 pm and in the evening at 7:30 pm. Be careful not to get caught running on empty in the afternoon! Many stations have a self-service pump that operates on off-hours (€ 10 or € 20 and € 50 bills, and sometimes credit cards are accepted).

ROADS: The Italian roads are nothing short of spectacular, including some of the finest highways in the world. In fact, the Italians are absolute geniuses when it comes to their engineering feats (which actually is not such a surprising fact when you consider what a fantastic road system the Romans built 2,000 years ago). Nothing seems to daunt the Italian engineers: you would think the mountains are made of clay instead of solid rock, the way the roads tunnel through them. Sometimes a roadway seems endlessly suspended in mid-air as it bridges a mountain crevasse. Names of roads in Italy are as follows: Autostrada: a large, fast (and most direct) two- or three-lane toll way, marked by green signs bearing an “A” followed by the autostrada number. (See “Toll Roads” below.) Superstrada: a one- or two-lane freeway between secondary cities marked by blue signs and given a number. Speed limit: 110 kph. Strada Statale: a small one-lane road marked with S.S. followed by the road number. Speed limit: 90 kph. Raccordo or Tangenziale: a ring road around main cities, connecting to an autostrada and city centers.

ROAD SIGNS: Before starting on the road prepare yourself by learning the international driving signs so that you can obey all the rules. There are several basic sign shapes: triangular signs warn that there is danger ahead; circular signs indicate compulsory rules and information; square signs give information concerning telephones, parking, camping, etc. Yellow signs are for tourists and indicate a site of historical or cultural interest, hotels, and restaurants. Black-and-yellow signs indicate private companies and industries.

TOLL ROADS: Italy has a network of super expressways that makes any spot in the country an easy destination by car. Once you are on the toll roads, you can go quickly from almost any area of Italy to another, but be forewarned—these toll roads are expensive. However, every cent is well spent when you consider the alternative of creeping along within a maze of trucks and buzzing motorcycles, taking forever to go only a few kilometers. Use the toll roads for the major distances you need to cover, and then choose the small roads when you wish to meander leisurely through the countryside. Toll roads are mystifying until you learn the system—even then it is confusing because just when you think you have the operation down pat, you find it varies slightly. This is the most common routine: first follow the green expressway signs toward the toll road. Sometimes these signs begin many kilometers from the expressway, so be patient and continue the game of follow-the-sign. Each entrance to the expressway handles traffic going in both directions. As you enter into the tollgate, there is usually a red button you push and a card pops out of a slot. After going through the toll station you choose the direction you want to go. As you leave the expressway, there is a toll station where your ticket is collected and you pay according to how many kilometers you traveled. (If you lose your card, you will have to pay the equivalent amount of the distance from the beginning of the autostrada to your exit.) Tolls on Italian autostrade are quite steep, ranging from $15 to $28 for a three-hour stretch, but offering the fastest and most direct way to travel between cities. A Viacard, or magnetic reusable card for tolls, is available in all “toll-way” gas stations for € 20–€ 50, or a MasterCard or Visa card can now be used in specified blue lanes (the lines for these automatic machines are always the shortest).



Electricity:

If you are taking any electrical appliances made for use in the United States, you will need a transformer plus a two-pin adapter. A voltage of 220 AC current at 50 cycles per second is almost countrywide, though in remote areas you may encounter 120V. The voltage is often displayed on the socket. Even though we recommend that you purchase appliances with dual-voltage options whenever possible, it will still be necessary to have the appropriate socket adapter. Also, be especially careful with expensive equipment such as computers—verify with the manufacturer the adapter/converter capabilities and requirements.



Shopping:

Italy is definitely a shopper’s paradise. Not only are the stores brimming with tempting merchandise, but also their displays are beautiful, from the tiniest fruit market to the most chic boutique. Each region has its specialty. In Venice items made from blown glass and handmade laces are very popular. Milan is famous for its clothing and silk wear (gorgeous scarves, ties, and blouses). Florence is a paradise for leather goods (purses, shoes, wallets, gloves, suitcases) and also for gold jewelry (you can buy gold jewelry by weight). Rome is a fashion center—you can stroll the pedestrian shopping streets browsing in some of the world’s most elegant, sophisticated boutiques. You can buy the very latest designer creations and, of course, religious items are available, especially near St. Peter’s. Naples and the surrounding regions (Capri, Ravello, Positano) offer delightful coral jewelry and also a wonderful selection of ceramics. For purchases over € 155 an immediate cash refund of the tax amount is offered by the Italian government to non-residents of the EU. Goods must be purchased at an affiliated retail outlet with the “tax-free for tourists” sign. Ask for the store receipt plus the tax-free shopping receipt. At the airport go first to the customs office where they will examine the items purchased and stamp both receipts, and then to the “tax-free cash refund” point after passport control. U.S. customs allows U.S. residents to bring in $800-worth of foreign goods duty free, after which a straight 10% of the amount above $800 is levied. Two bottles of liquor are allowed. The import of fresh cheese or meat is strictly restricted unless it is vacuum-packed.



Tourism:

Italian Government Travel Offices (ENIT) can offer general information on various regions and their cultural attractions. They cannot offer specific information on restaurants and accommodations. If you have access to the Internet, visit the Italian Tourist Board’s websites: www.italiantourism.com or www.enit.it. Offices are located in:

Chicago: Italian Government Travel Office, 500 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 2240, Chicago, IL 60611 USA; email: enitch@italiantourism.com, tel: (312) 644-0996, fax: (312) 644-3019.

Los Angeles: Italian Government Travel Office, 12400 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 550, Los Angeles, CA 90025, USA; email: enitla@italiantourism.com, tel: (310) 820-1898, fax: (310) 820-6357.

New York: Italian Government Travel Office, 630 5th Ave., Suite 1565, New York, NY 10111, USA; email: enitny@italiantourism.com, tel: (212) 245-4822, fax: (212) 586-9249.

Toronto: Italian Government Travel Office, 175 Bloor Street East, Suite 907, Toronto, Ontario M4W 3R8, Canada; email: enit.canada@on.aibn.com, tel: (416) 925-4882, fax: (416) 925-4799.

London: Italian State Tourist Office, 1 Princes Street, London WIB 2AY, England; email: italy@italiantourism.co.uk, tel: (020) 7408-1254, fax: (020) 7493-6695.

Sydney: Italian Government Travel Office, Level 4, 46 Market Street, Sydney NSW 2000, Australia; email: italia@italiantourism.com.au, tel: (61292) 621.666, fax: (61292) 621.677.

Rome: ENTE Nazionale Italiano per il Turismo (Italian Government Travel Office), Via Marghera, 2/6, Rome 00185, Italy; email: sedecentrale@cert.enit.it, tel: (06) 49711, fax: (06) 4463379.



Weather:

Italy is blessed with lovely weather. However, unless you are a ski enthusiast following the promise of what the majestic mountains have to offer in the winter, or must travel in summer due to school holidays, we highly recommend traveling in spring or fall. Travel at either of these times has two dramatic advantages: you miss the rush of the summer tourist season when all of Italy is packed and you are more likely to have beautiful weather. In spring the meadows are painted with wildflowers. In fall the forests are a riot of color and the vineyards are mellow in shades of red and gold. Although the mountains of Italy are delightfully cool in summer, the rest of the country can be very hot, especially in the cities. NOTE: Many hotels are not air conditioned. Those that are sometimes charge extra for it.



Cooking Classes:

We have all experienced the incredible cuisine offered at many of Italy’s fine hotels, inns and bed & breakfasts. Italian cuisine is considered some of the world’s finest both in culinary art and presentation. From family style meals to full-service restaurants, often what we sample as a guest are some of our most memorable dining and travel experiences.

Wonderfully, many Italian hosts/chefs of the places we recommend in Italy have introduced cooking classes for guest participation.  The programs vary from day classes to week-long stays; most are “hands on” requiring that you don an apron and test your own culinary talents and many include instruction not only in the kitchen but at the markets, bakeries and butcher where you will learn of local products that both influence and define the regional specialties.  These Italian cooking classes allow us to challenge the “chef” in all of us.



Spa:

Health and fitness are important to us all, but we don’t necessarily have the time and or the energy to follow through with our resolutions during our day to day routines. However, an Italian vacation affords the luxury of time lacking from our daily lives, and many of the places we recommend in Italy provide spa and fitness facilities and programs to enable guests to pursue a healthy regime.

More and more Italian resorts, hotels, inns and even bed & breakfasts are responding to the demands and requests of their guests. Many places in Italy offer spa and fitness facilities that range from a room with basic exercise equipment to a full-service spa with staff to provide massages, mud baths, wraps and even personal trainers.



Long Term:

Many of the hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts we recommend in Italy, in addition to rooms rented on a nightly basis have an apartment, a cottage, a manor, a farmhouse or a villa that they offer on a long term vacation rental basis.  Often these accommodations do not offer the same services as the traditional overnight rentals.  Many, for example, are termed “self-catering” which basically translates to “limited service”: breakfast may or may not be included; maid service may be provided once a week as opposed to daily; heating charges may be additional based on your usage, and in some cases it may even be necessary to provide your own linens.

Historically our research in Italy has focused our evaluation of properties based on their traditional overnight accommodation. However, there is so much information you will want to consider before committing to a long term vacation rental that we have encouraged the Italian hotels, inns and bed and breakfasts that we recommend to share information on long term rentals. It almost seems more important to understand just what you are renting in Italy when you commit to a rental of a week as opposed to a one or two night reservation.



Wedding Facilities:

Many dream of establishing their vows in a country synonymous with romance-Italy!andnbsp; Italy offers every desirable setting for a memorable wedding. Imagine getting married on a vineyard in Tuscany or Umbria; in a hillside village perched on the Amalfi Coast the with a backdrop of a sparkling blue sea; in the beautiful lake district, or being serenaded as your gondola travels the canals of Venice and delivers you to your wedding or reception.andnbsp; For every wonderful setting and landscape, Italy also offers a wealth of fabulous inns, villas and hotels to host your Italian wedding, reception and offer romantic overnight accommodation for your guests and honeymoon. Deciding to get married in Italy turns what is traditionally a one-day event into a memorable vacation not only for the bride and groom but for the fortunate wedding party. However, it is important to note that many countries, including Italy, and often even regions within a country, have their own legal, religious and documentation requirements that you must adhere to and provide before you can be legally married.andnbsp; It is important to research what is necessary and the time frame involved in advance of making your arrangements for your Italian wedding or reception. The properties in Italy that host weddings and receptions are a great source of reference.