Italy is by far one of our favorite European countries. We have both visited numerous times and are always learning new tips to remember for our next trip. Here are a few of our top travel tips for Italy…
Italy Travel Tips:
1.) When you book an overnight train, make sure you specify Mr. or Ms. on your ticket
Our last overnight train experience made for a funny story, but we don’t recommend following in our footsteps.
Scott had accidentally booked my ticket under the Mr. salutation. The employee almost did not let us on the train since all of the compartments are separated male and female (unless you book a private compartment). Even after we convinced the train employee to let us on, our bunk mate was not happy and we couldn’t communicate with him since we didn’t speak the same language!
2.) Don’t order insalata verde and expect anything more than a bowl of lettuce
Take it from us and learn from our mistakes. You can read about our lost in translation experience here.
3.) Don’t make special requests when ordering at a restaurant
Italians usually take things as listed on the menu and you don’t want to be the annoying foreigner who asks for special items.
4.) Prepare to eat late
Many restaurants, especially the fancy ones, don’t open until 7pm or later.
5.) When browsing menus and deciding where to eat, pay attention to the “Il coperto” (cover charge)
The cover charge varies from restaurant to restaurant (usually a few Euros). This charge is often listed at the bottom of the menu. This way you won’t be surprised when you get the bill.
6.) ATMs & Money
It’s a good idea to exchange some money before you leave your home country. ATMs are the most economical way to exchange money while you are in Italy, but the airport ATMs may be empty when you land (especially on a weekend) and you don’t want to be forced to exchange your money at one of the expensive currency exchanges.
7.) Transportation strikes are common in Italy, so give yourself plenty of time if you need to catch a flight
Don’t be shocked if there is a strike of some sort that may affect your travel plans. It’s not uncommon for Italians to have train strikes, taxi strikes or bus strikes.
Strikes have become a part of the culture and way of life in Italy. Most strikes are announced ahead of time so you can usually plan around them. Just be sure to pay attention to signs in the local train stations about any upcoming strikes.
8.) Book accommodation outside of big cities to get the best deals and avoid crowds
If you don’t want to pay full price for your accommodation or if you prefer to avoid major crowds, oftentimes you can find a hotel, hostel or campground in a nearby town.
This came in handy during our Cinque Terre travels. There was a train strike and if we had stayed in any one of the 5 villages, we wouldn’t have been able to get a train out. A fellow traveler said it cost him 50 Euros for a taxi to the next town so he could catch his train. Thankfully there were no taxi strikes that day!
9.) Train Travel
Book your tickets at the train station with an actual person whenever possible. Some of the booking options are not available online or in the station kiosks. Tren Italia’s website is also notorious for not working correctly.
If you want to book ahead of time to get the best price, but you don’t know your exact dates or time of departure, then get an “Ordinary Ticket.” You will have the flexibility of open ended dates and times. Just keep in mind that it does have an expiration date, so make sure to ask the customer service representative before you purchase.
Also, don’t forget to validate your ticket before you hop on the train to avoid fines!
Do you have any Italy travel tips to add?
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