Italy, a European country with a long Mediterranean coastline, has left a powerful mark on Western culture and cuisine. Its capital, Rome, is home to the Vatican as well as landmark art and ancient ruins. Other major cities include Florence, with Renaissance masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s “David” and Brunelleschi’s Duomo; Venice, the city of canals; and Milan, Italy’s fashion capital.
South African nationals who wish to travel to Italy must be in possession of a visa, in order to cross external borders for stays in the Schengen Area of no more than three months (90 days) in a period of six months (180 days) from the date of entry into the Schengen Area.
Please apply for your visa at the consulate or embassy of the country of your main destination.
Visa Cost: EUR90 excluding service fee
Compulsory Vaccinations Required: No.
Please note: Visa and vaccination information is correct at time of publish and are subject to change
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
The best time to enjoy sightseeing throughout Italy is typically April and May (other than Easter week), and around mid-September through mid-October. These periods are when you can expect some of the most pleasant weather, and crowds won’t be at their peak. June/July is peak period as well as summer heat.
AREAS TO VISIT AND THEIR MAIN ATTRACTIONS
The Colosseum or Colosseo is the largest monument from Imperial Rome still in existence today. The enormous amphitheatre once housed fierce gladiator contests and wild animal fights. It’s best approached from Via dei Fori Imperiali to get the full effect of its grandeur.
The Roman Forum, a huge complex of ruined temples, basilicas, and arches, was the ceremonial, legal, social, and business centre of ancient Rome.
See the magnificent Trevi fountain, completed in 1762. Toss a coin in the fountain to ensure your return to Rome.
Vatican City, the home of Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, is the world’s smallest city-state. Geographically located within Rome, but not actually part of it, St. Peter’s is the second largest church in the world and houses important works by Michelangelo and Bernini. The Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) is a massive complex that contains an impressive art collection spanning 3,000 years—from Classical to modern eras. It’s here that you can see the Sistine Chapel featuring Michelangelo’s renowned frescoed ceiling.
Visitors come to Florence for its high Renaissance art and architecture, including masterpieces of Italian painting and sculpture by artists such as Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Donatello, and Ghiberti.. Florence is also known for its leather goods, which can be purchased in open-air markets or small shops. Florence is also foodie heaven, with wine bars, trattorias, fine dining restaurants, and street food vendors tempting visitors with the bounty of the Tuscan countryside, including its hearty red wines.
The Accademia Gallery is home to Michelangelo’s sculpture of David, one of the most iconic in the world. The Bargello, Museo di San Marco and the Pitti Palace also contain famous, priceless collections.
Florence’s most popular site is its Duomo (cathedral), the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction on the Duomo began in 1296, but it wasn’t consecrated until 1436. Its exterior, made of green, pink, and white marble, has several elaborate doors and interesting statues.
Walk across The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge), built in 1345, was Florence’s first bridge across the Arno River and is the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days (others were destroyed in World War II).The always-crowded Ponte Vecchio is still lined with shops selling gold and silver jewellery. From the bridge, you’ll have a great view of the Arno River and beyond.
The capital of northern Italy’s Veneto region, built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. It has no roads, just canals, including the Grand Canal thoroughfare.
Saint Mark’s Square: Piazza San Marco is the main square of Venice surrounded by chic sidewalk cafés and fancy shops. While it’s a great place to take in the scenery and people, you will definitely pay top euro to sit at an outdoor table. In the evening, you can listen to live music, too. Walking in the piazza and taking photos is, of course, free.
Doge’s Palace: Palazzo Ducale, also on St. Mark’s Square, is the most impressive building in Venice and well worth a tour. It was the political and judicial hub of Venetian government until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797. The palace was connected to its prisons by the famous Bridge of Sighs.
Rialto Bridge (Ponte di Rialto): This is the main bridge crossing the Grand Canal in the heart of Venice and it’s more than 400 years old. Nearby is the Rialto Market, an interesting and lively food market with lots of little shop
Venice’s Islands: Visit one or more of the 118 islands on a day trip. Two of the most popular are Murano, famous for its exceptionally beautiful handmade glass products, and Burano, famous for its lace and colourful houses.
As gritty and chaotic as it is beautiful and vibrant, Naples, or Napoli in Italian, is a city of many contradictions. Located in Southern Italy, or the Mezzogiorno (land of the midday sun), its bustling seaport sits on the edge of the Bay of Naples, in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed nearby Pompeii.
It was built on a spur formed by a prehistoric lava flow to the north of the mouth of the Sarnus (modern Sarno) River. Pompeii was destroyed, together with Herculaneum, Stabiae, Torre Annunziata, and other communities, by the violent eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. The circumstances of their destruction preserved their remains as a unique document of Greco-Roman life. Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Torre Annunziata were collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997.
Sorrento is the official starting point of the Amalfi Coast and the easiest town to reach. This accessibility is both a blessing and a curse because it places Sorrento firmly on the Amalfi Coast itinerary of most day trippers – meaning its population swells to the bursting point during the summer high season.*