My brother and SIL moved to Italy about two years ago where my brother was teaching at an American school! I hoped and prayed that I would get to visit them before they moved, and a couple of weeks ago, my dreams came true! Today on the blog, I worked with my brother and SIL to curate a list of the top travel tips when visiting Italy! I am certainly no expert, but after living here for two years, they were the best travel guides!
I carried my water bottle all over on our trip! We filled it with ice and water in the morning before we left for our adventures! Throughout the different cities we visited, there were several places where bottles could be refilled for free!
While you can rent a car in Italy, there are also many public transportation options! We rode the bus, the tram, the train, and the bullet train! Driving can be crazy – the streets are so narrow, drivers are crazy, and traffic gets so busy! We took the bullet train from Rome to Florence, and what would take three hours to drive took a little less than an hour and a half. You can also take taxis to and from anywhere you want to go! We took one a couple of times, and it was less than 30 Euro each way for our journey of about 40 minutes. If possible, avoid Termini! That station can be incredibly busy. While masks were not required in buildings while I was there, masks were required on all public transportation we took.
If you plan on visiting any churches (such as the Vatican or Pantheon), plan on wearing a longer skirt, dress or pair of pants with a top that covers your shoulders. You will not be allowed in with a short spaghetti strap dress or top. I also carried this shawl with me in my bag to throw on if I was wearing a top or dress with no sleeves.
This was news to me, but many public restrooms in Italy cost money to use! My suggestion is to make sure you use the restroom at any restaurant you may be eating at! I think you should also note that the “handle” to flush may be in a strange place! Most of them I used had a button to push on the wall. Also…. they don’t all have toilet seats so be prepared for that! There are also restrooms in every monument that you pay to enter. While washing your hands, be aware that you may have to turn on the water by stepping on a pedal on the ground to turn the water on! I won’t tell you how long I had to search!! Ha!
Buying any ticket you can ahead will save you SO much time! You can buy transportation tickets (bus, train) and tickets to monuments and museums ahead of time. This will allow you to skip the lines saving you a ton of time.
It goes without saying that you will need comfortable shoes while visiting Italy! Each day we walked 15,000-20,000 steps a day! These Reef sandals were the shoes I wore the most on our trip! I got these sandals because they are waterproof, have an arch support, are comfortable, and look dressy enough to pair with just about any outfit I wore! I also brought these Sorel sandals and loved them as well!
This Rick Steves Audio Europe app was AMAZING! I highly recommend downloading it before you leave for your trip! Then before you visit each monument or museum, you can download the “episode” for that specific place. Rick Steves then give you an amazing tour telling you where to turn while giving you the history of that place! This app will save you so much time and money! There is no need to pay for a private or group tour! Just download the episode you need, pop in your ear buds, and enjoy the tour! I learned so much!
I visited Italy in July! And let me tell you, there was no point in doing your hair! It was incredibly hot and humid! My SIL and I rocked these hats most days! This hat and this hat are my favorites! I love that they both have an adjustable brim and have an additional strap you can attach to prevent the wind from blowing the hat off your head! The hat also protected my face from the sun and kept me a little bit cooler!
There are three types of bags that I think are perfect for Italy – a crossbody, a belt bag, and a backpack! I think it is good for at least one person that you are traveling with to carry a backpack! Then you have an easier way to carry water! I packed this packable backpack that folds up so small and easily fits in my luggage! I alternated between my crossbody and belt bag most days! They were an easy way to be hands-free!
You may have heard to not visit Italy in August because that is the month that Italians typically take off for their own holiday! But if your trip is already planned, don’t worry! While some cafes and restaurants may be closed, virtually every tourist destination on your bucket list will be open during the month of August. Another reason to possibly avoid August – the heat! Wowza, it is hot in August!
It is good to have a small amount of Euros with you to use for tipping and JUST IN CASE your card doesn’t work! Most American banks can provide an exchange for you, but it can take 1-2 weeks. To avoid extra charges, don’t exchange when you get there.
Restaurants in Italy are definitely different than the ones in America – and I am not just talking about the amazing food you will consume in Italy! Tipping at restaurants is not necessary because servers make a decent salary! Most restaurants do not even have an additional line for you to sign to add a tip. You also purchase water that you drink – still or sparkling! Water is not free! Also, ice in drinks is not common like it is in America!
While I did a few Rosetta Stone lessons before my trip, I certainly do not speak fluent Italian! Luckily, most places have both Italian AND English making it so nice for tourists! In the summer months, the announcements on the train are even in Italian and English! I also found that almost every Italian I had a conversation with knew at least SOME English.
We had NO bad meals in Italy! My brother and SIL told me to avoid the restaurants VERY close to the tourist spots. Those typically do not have the food that is as good a little further away!
You should never be in a rush! While it is not uncommon to be in and out of a restaurant in an hour here in America, most of the time in Italy, meals took closer to two hours because no one is in a rush! Honestly, it was refreshing! However, if you have a tour scheduled for a certain time, don’t expect to be able to bop in and out of a restaurant quickly! Plan accordingly, and allow yourself plenty of time.
I really enjoyed drinking cappuccino in Italy! I found it so funny that if you asked for a latte, odds were pretty good that you would end up with a glass of milk! And if you want to blend in, all drinks with milk should be ordered before 11:00 am! If you want coffee after that, try an espresso!
There were tons of vendors set up everywhere – especially outside of the monuments and museums! My brother and SIL told me not to touch anything they tried to put in my hand. Once you touch it, they will say you bought it and want money. Avoid eye contact and ignore them!
Scooters and Fiats RULE the roads in Italy! A road you would think would just be for tourists and shops will randomly have a vehicle come down! If you are driving, scooters and motorcycles will pass you on all sides, so be alert! If you are walking, be aware because, while the vehicles may slow down, they truly are everywhere! I am not sure you could pay me to drive in Italy! Between the narrow roads and crazy drivers, I may have had a panic attack! Ha!
Hotels and AirBNBs are all around! I stayed with my brother and SIL in their apartment in Rome the majority of the nights were were there, but we did stay at a darling AirBNB in Sorrento one night! Things to note….. Hotel rooms are typically much smaller than the average US hotel room. Most AirBNBs have a washer, but you probably will not find a dryer! You will probably need a converter to plug in things you brought! Not all AirBNBs have air conditioning or WIFI! If that is a necessity for you like it is for me, make sure you look that up!
With international travel, make sure you call your credit card company to let them know that you will be traveling outside of the country for certain dates! This will save you some hassel!
I can’t imagine not having cell phone service in a foreign country where I don’t speak much of the language! I have AT&T for my phone company, and it was about $10 a day ($5 for each additional person) for service while I was in Italy – totally worth it for me! You can also purchase a SIM card at the airport or various shops to use while you are there too. And how cute is this phone case? Totally reminded me of Italy!
While we typically eat dinner like a pair of senior citizens around 5:00 pm, this is not the case in Italy! Most restaurants do not start serving dinner until 6:30 pr 7:00 pm. They do however have something fun called “aperitivo”! This is a fun pre-meal drink that has several appetizers included! These aperitivo treats are a great little snack to tide you over! The restaurant we went to to try this had about 7-8 small appetizers served in small bowls one after the other! They were SO delicious! They are typically served in the early evening hours between work and dinner.
While having a server split a bill in the US is pretty common, it is not really a thing in Italy! So if you are traveling with a group, the bill will more than likely be one bill for the table! You can download the app Splitwise to easily keep track of who owes what!
While most of the time, I try to eat healthy, I highly recommend indulging while in Italy! The food was probably the best food I have ever eaten! I had a different flavor of gelato every single day! And hey…. with all the walking, you are definitely balancing out all you eat, right!?
And don’t forget to be respectful of the culture! In churches, use a quiet voice and dress appropriately! I was surprised at how many people (mostly Americans) were so loud in all the churches. Quietly take in all the beautiful wonder!
Buon viaggio! I hope this post has been helpful! See everything I packed that fit into a carry-on suitcase here!
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