Getting Around the Bel Paese

by Brian Alex | November 19, 2022


Italy is renowned as the Bel Paese, or beautiful country, and it absolutely merits that title. It’s got some of the most breathtaking vistas in all of Europe, if not the world.

But, getting around in order to appreciate it can present a bit of a challenge.

In today’s post, we want to dig deep to uncover how to navigate this Mediterranean beauty with delight and not dread.


The Layout

With well over 600 miles in length, there’s nothing else like this in Europe.

Starting where the peninsula departs from the rest of the continent (about where the Po River divides a few of the northern regions), Italy extends like a leg jutting into the mediterranean. For this reason, Italy can feel a little isolated (or protected), having beautiful beaches and pristine waters on all sides.

And at its widest point, about 150 miles across, hills and mountains abound. It’s no small feat getting from Point A to Point B without a headache. And what’s great about hilltop towns, sweeping vineyards, and breathtaking views, can also be a hassle to traverse.


The Barriers

The isolation of this narrow peninsula offers some huge advantages! It means that Italian culture, language, and cuisine is virtually all in tact (even if difficult to unravel at times). But, there are some downsides to be aware of.

  • There are very Italian ways of doing things, from coffee culture to haute couture. The same things that attract at first can also repel after a while.
  • Language can be a barrier. Italians have some of the fewest English speakers in Europe. Every region and even some cities retain their unwritten dialects.
  • Transportation is better in the industrialised north, closer to Italy’s European borders, and tourists tend to be more welcomed and catered to there.

None of these things should deter you from enjoying La Dolce Vita, but they can present the winsome traveller with a dilemma. How to travel.


The Solution

You know that here at Italy With Bella we are advocates of taking an Italian approach to travelling in Italy. Makes sense, right? And this necessarily means abandoning any one-size-fits-all approach that you might have.

We’ve mentioned before that the “When In Rome” model is a product of Italy and it’s not limited to one’s experience while in Rome. The same could be said of Milan, Naples or Palermo. It’s a good idea to take a look at the region that you’re in and understand how locals prefer to get around. Then, fall in line right behind them!

For sake of simplicity, let’s reduce Italy to three major sections: North, South, and a rather ambiguous midsection, middle country, or hinterland.


In the north, do as the northerners do

  • Public transportation is superior in the north, meaning that it tends to be quite reliable, relatively cost-effective, and not terribly crowded.
  • Thus, most northerners (commuting in and out of the larger cities) will rely on the metro, trains, and bus lines to get around.
  • It’s not terribly complicated, and can even be a bit of a respite from having to navigate every single step of the way.

In the south, do as the southerners do

  • Public transportation exists in the south, but it does tend to be less reliable, less effective at getting to those smaller destinations, and a little crowded.
  • For the adventurous souls who don’t mind braving the rapids, you might actually enjoy the challenge of public transportation in the south!
  • For those who want to have more options (and more control), when it comes to destinations, then renting a car might just be the ticket.
  • The caveat to that might be that driving in Naples or Palermo will test your sense of adventure and could end up being more stressful than necessary.

In the middle, well, it’s a bit of a mix

  • Getting in an out of regions like Abruzzo, Umbria, and Le Marche can take longer, as public transport tends to slow down, but is rarely crowded.
  • You might just as well drive yourself through regions like Lazio and Campania, especially if you’re aiming to visit some proper Italian beach towns.
  • Those splendid, but pesky, hilltop towns rarely have public transportation. That means, it’s up to you to do as the locals do. Rent a car and enjoy!


Insider’s Guide “Pro Tip”

Taking all that in mind, here’s the bottom line. There’s no perfect way to travel across Italy, as there might be in other European countries. No “one-size-fits-all” will get you from here to there without a care.

The seasoned traveller knows when to change modes of transport in order to enhance one’s experience of the beauty that is all over Italy. Go to Italy with an open mind. Stay flexible and you’ll be poised to enjoy La Dolce Vita all along the way.


That said, do yourself a favour. Go to Italy With Bella. We’ll help you avoid the stress and exhaustion, have a richer experience, and enjoy the sweet life.

So, what are you waiting for? Sign up for your FREE Italy Consultation today!