Italian Travel 101 by Travelista73

April 15, 2013

Planning a trip to Italy can be one of the most exciting times, but with so much to see and do it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Here are some tried and true travel tips to ensure you get the most out of your Italian adventure.


Be present. The best advice for any trip is to be present! Don’t spend all your time with a gadget in your hands or overthinking things; be fully present in the moment, especially when wandering through Italy because you will discover that much of the character and charm of this country is found among its people and its streets.

Eat where locals eat. Italy is a culinary wonderland with a plethora of flavours to be enjoyed in its food and wine. Try to avoid tourist traps by asking locals where they eat and go enjoy a great meal, but don’t eat to the point where you feel sick or heavy. You want to feel ready to take on the day’s adventures.

Find time to relax. After all, Italians are the ones who invented the term “Dolce Far Niente,” which means “the sweetness of doing nothing.” Enjoy long leisurely meals, evening strolls, and find a great café to sit and enjoy an aperitivo or good wine. Take time to soak in the atmosphere and savour its beauty.

Get off the beaten path. There is no harm in knowing what things you’d like to see or do, but speak to locals and find out what they also recommend and set off on your own adventure. This allows you to immerse yourself in the culture and have a more authentic experience.

Don’t over pack. The last thing you want is to waste time unpacking, re-organizing and lugging stuff around, especially if you are travelling around Italy and getting on and off trains. If you forget something, don’t worry, you can buy it in Italy!

Leave room in your luggage. Italy is home to some of the world’s most prominent fashion houses so don’t be surprised if you end up going home with an additional suitcase or bag filled with shoes, scarves, jewellery, purses and clothing. It happens all the time, even to those who set out with the best of intentions.

Don’t look like a tourist. Keep your money and valuables in a safe place out of reach from pickpockets, especially when you’re in tight, crowded spaces.

Don’t try to see or do too much. There really is so much to see and do in Italy. Rather than visiting 10 cities in a rushed amount of time, choose a few and split your time between them.

Walk a lot. The best way to explore Italy is by foot, so make sure to pack comfortable shoes. Between the walking and cobblestoned streets, stilettos are not recommended footwear. Set off and don’t worry about getting lost. Some of the best things you’ll discover will probably be by accident.

Try every flavour of gelato. Eating Italian gelato is one of the greatest pleasures you will experience in Italy, so enjoy lots of it!


Travel voltage converter. Bring a voltage converter so you can recharge your electronic equipment, i.e., iPhone, cell phones, laptop, blow dryers, etc.

Wi-Fi. Put your smart phones on airplane mode and connect to the Internet using local networks. Hotels usually provide you with a password for free wi-fi and some cafés also offer it. This way you can post all your Instagram and Facebook pictures for free, or browse Trenitalia’s website to schedule your next train ride.

Travel apps. Another great idea is to download useful travel apps before your trip. Apps like Free Wi-Fi Finder, Kayak, FlightTrack Pro, and Around Me can save you lots of time and money when travelling.

Rent a villa. If you are staying for a few weeks, consider renting a villa. It’s more affordable than a hotel and allows you to live like a local.

Stay at an agriturismo. Experience the real Italy on a rustic farmhouse where you can eat, drink, relax and stroll through the Italian countryside.

Know how to order coffee. In Italy, going to the local bar for caffè (kah-FE) is a national pastime; while there, you should take part in this ritual too. There are many popular coffee drinks served in Italian bars, so try to familiarize yourself with them. And remember, Italians never order cappuccino after 11am! Enjoy an aperitivo. Early evening is the perfect time to go enjoy a drink. Bars, cafés and enotecas, usually serve free snacks and finger foods along with your drink. This is also a great opportunity to mingle with locals who stop for an aperitivo after a day’s work.

Tipping. Tips are not common practice in Italy as service is usually included in the price. This charge is referred to as a “coperto” and you will usually see this additional charge on most restaurant bills. It generally is about 2/3 Euro per person. However, you are always welcome to leave an additional tip for great service. Some cafés also charge two different prices; one for ordering and consuming at the bar, and another for sitting down at a table.

Siesta time. The majority of Italian cities become deserted from 1 pm to 4 pm when they close for their afternoon “siesta” break. Less so in Rome and Milan yet still pretty frequent across the country, so be sure to keep this in mind each day. Also note that most stores are closed on Sunday.

Learn a bit of Italian. It’s always a good idea when travelling to learn a few basic phrases before going. Here are some useful Italian ones:

Airport . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Aeroporto
Bathroom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Bagno
Do you speak English? . . . . . . . . . . . . Parla inglese?

Excuse me. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mi scusi

Good evening . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Buona sera

Good morning / afternoon . . . . . . . . . Buon giorno

Good night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Buona notte

Hello / Goodbye . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ciao

How much does it cost? . . . . . . . . . . . Quanto costa?

Please. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Per piacere

Thank you . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Grazie

Where can I find a…? . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dove posso trovare un…?

Where is…? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dov'è ...?

You are welcome . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Prego

Take the train. The perfect way to sit back and enjoy Italy’s ever changing landscapes. Make sure to buy your tickets in advance and reserve a seat, especially if you are travelling during the peak seasons of Christmas, Easter or summer. Save time buying your tickets through the train station self-service machines or pre-book online before leaving if you know your travel dates.

Travel by bus. If you travel by bus make sure you have the right schedule and that you reserved your seat; otherwise, if the bus gets full they may ask you to get out of the bus to leave room to those that reserved their seats.

Book in advance. There are many different companies and it can become confusing. Use local travel agencies to make sure you buy your tickets in advance if you are in a remote place. It is also helpful to discuss this with your local travel agent.

Double check schedules. Keep in mind that schedules change on Sunday and that trains and buses are less frequent, so double check schedule information before heading to the terminals.

Rent a car. Driving is a great way to get around Italy, but note that automatic cars are rare in Europe so learn how to drive standard. You can rent automatic cars but know that they cost more to rent. Also, Italians love to drive fast and shall we say a little crazy, so you need to be extra cautious when driving in Italy.


Credit cards. Credit card payments are less frequent in smaller Italian cities and local stores, so be sure to always have cash on hand for smaller purchases. It is also a good idea to contact your credit card company prior to leaving to let them know when and where you will be travelling so they can put a note on your account. This will avoid any issues when you make a payment overseas.

Interac. Many of the larger stores now take Interac payments. You can also withdraw cash from your bank account through most instant teller machines, but speak to your local branch ahead of time for more information.

Pre-order Euro. Local currency shops and credit cards usually charge a higher exchange rate than the bank, so it’s a good idea to pre-order Euro from your local Canadian bank before travelling.

Psychology 101. The exchange rate is more or less .75 Euro for a dollar. This makes a big difference when you pay your hotel bill or buy expensive clothes, so keep this in mind when making larger purchases.

So relax...let go and let God!

Wishing you always love & light on your travels,

My article can be found in the current issue of Panoram Italia Magazine.

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