We’ve gathered the best Italy travel tips to help you plan your next trip; here’s everything you need to know before visiting 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. Normally, house or green salads in the States have varied vegetables included, so I was not prepared for just a bowl of romaine lettuce..
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. However, they are becoming more accustomed to vegans and vegetarians, so this shouldn’t be an issue when ordering at most of the restaurants frequented by tourists.
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
One of our best tips for traveling to Italy: 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 travels in Cinque Terre. (To learn more about The 5 Villages, read our Cinque Terre Travel Tips and our guide on the Best Hotels in Cinque Terre.) 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!
A trip to Italy is not complete without visiting one of this country’s most beautiful wine regions. Villa Cozzano is set in Pozzuolo in the Tuscany Region — in a restored 17th-century building surrounded by 28 hectares of olive groves and vineyards.
9.) Train travel tips
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, one of our best tips for Italy is to REMEMBER to validate your ticket before you hop on the train to avoid fines!
10.) Don’t stand in lines
Most visitors to Italy want to visit the iconic sites like the Colosseum, which means the lines can get VERY long — especially in the summertime. You have a few options for booking skip-the-line tickets to many attractions in Italy; you can either book a tour, book online, or call the attraction once you are in Rome to inquire about booking tickets ahead of time. Trust me, this is a HUGE time saver!
11.) Don’t visit in summer
I realize many people only have limited vacation time and you may want to travel when your kids are out of school, but if you can avoid it, I don’t recommend visiting Italy in the summertime. Spring and fall are my favorite seasons — for both the weather and the lack of crowds.
12.) Wear comfortable shoes
This is not the time for stilettos, ladies. You can easily find a pair of stylish, yet comfortable shoes (see packing list below). Italy’s cities are best explored by walking and you don’t want to be uncomfortable your entire trip!
Packing Essentials for Italy
In addition to the usual Europe packing list, make sure to bring these essential items:
Travel Umbrella: It’s always a good idea to pack a small travel umbrella — especially during the winter and spring.
Mosquito Repellent: I did not experience too many mosquitos, but mosquitos are not uncommon during the spring/summer months in many areas of Italy. This travel size spray pump won’t take up much room in your suitcase.
Earplugs: Bring your earplugs just in case you end up in a noisy location.
Nice Clothes: Many Italians are stylish, so don’t be afraid to bring some nice clothes. For the women, jeans and a cute pair of boots will be fine. For more travel packing tips, visit our guide on how to stay stylish while traveling.
Daypack: You’ll need something to carry around your camera gear and souveniers. Ladies, this oversized purse is stylish, comfortable, and it fits everything I need for a day of exploring Italy.
Do you have any Italy travel tips to add?