Cheap flights to Italy

Italy dips down out of Europe and into the Mediterranean like a lady's leg firmly planted in a sleek stiletto, so it's hardly surprising that Italians are known for their impeccable style and fashionable dress sense. They're also known for once having an empire that stretched across the globe, and for having the most spectacular churches, frescos, sculptures and Renaissance paintings in all of Europe.

The Italy of today is littered with the relics of more than 3,000 years of history, and an atmosphere that ranges from the Armani-wearing, scooter-driving, espresso-drinking buzz of its cities to the quiet, pastoral existence of its hillside olive farms and seaside fishing villages. Italy is also home to more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country on earth, with an incredible 47 sites of global historical significance dotted around the country.

From the depths of the canals in Venice, which floats on a series of islands in an Adriatic lagoon, and the bleached sands of San Remo on the Riviera, to the rocky crags of the Alps, Dolomites and Apennines, Italy has everything from beach holidays to luxury mountain ski resorts.

Italy's cities reveal awe-inspiring architecture from the curved arches of the Ponte Vecchio in Florence to the crumbling magnificence of the Colosseum in Rome. Home of da Vinci, Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Botticelli, its artworks are a visual delight to all visitors.

Nestled into the outskirts of Rome is the independent Vatican City, the seat of the Pope and home to the famous St Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. The influence of the Holy Catholic Church on the people of Italy is still evident today in a series of holy festivals, carnivals, and parades involving young and old alike in almost every city, town and village.

Money

The Euro (EUR) is the official currency, which is divided into 100 cents. Those arriving in Italy with foreign currency can obtain Euros through any bank, ATM or bureaux de change. ATMs are widespread.

Attractions

Littered with more than 3,000 years of history, Italy is a sightseer's paradise. Spend some time in Rome taking in famous sites like the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel, and the Pantheon. With artworks on display from the likes of da Vinci, Caravaggio and Botticelli, it's a visual buffet for all visitors.

Head north to explore the canals of Venice by gondola, or indulge in the wonderful shopping in the fashion capital of Milan. A little further is the magical city of Florence, teeming with culture and Italian flair. Or one can continue south past Rome to Naples and explore the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, destroyed by Mount Vesuvius, which can be seen standing sentinel over the city. Italy takes a lifetime to explore properly because there is so much on offer for visitors. From the gondola-lined canals of Venice to the white sandy beaches of San Remo, to the Alps, Dolomites and Apennines, Italy has everything from beach holidays to luxury mountain ski resorts and a whole lot more in between.

The most popular time of year to visit Italy is during the summer months when most of the country can be enjoyed like a fine Italian wine - slowly. A trip to the rolling hills of Tuscany is in order to sample some fine wine and olive oil, as well as plenty of old style Italian cuisine, while taking in the scenery of cypress trees, lush vines and olive groves. But if you've got a skiing holiday in mind, head to the Italian Alps and visit the resorts of Courmayer and Brevil Cervinia which boast world class skiing.

Climate

Italy has a largely temperate climate with regional variations. In summer the northern parts of Italy are warm with occasional rainfall, the central region is somewhat stifled by humidity, and the south scorches under the dry heat. In winter, conditions in Milan, Turin and Venice are dominated by cold, damp and fog and Tuscany's winter temperatures approach freezing, while temperatures in the south of the country are more favourable, averaging 50 to 60ºF (10 to 20ºC). Most people visit Italy in the summer months between June and August; however, we think the best time to visit is in spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October) when the weather is good and there are fewer tourists. Travel is also cheaper off-season. The sea is warm enough for swimming between June and September. Visitors should note that most Italians take their vacation in August and many shops and restaurants are closed during this period; it also means that during August the coastal resorts are crowded with locals. The ski season runs between December and April and the best time to walk in the Alps is between June and September. The best time to visit Italy will vary depending on region and desired activities.