10 Tips For Those Travelling to Italy

10 Tips For Those Travelling to ItalyItaly is an wonderful country to visit. I'm in Iceland now, but I miss Italy. While it's all still fresh in my mind, here are ten tips for those traveling to Italy.

Airplane Mode is Your Friend
When I board the plane at Toronto's Pearson airport, I put my phone on airplane mode and leave it there until I return. While abroad, airplane mode is your best friend and will ensure you don't get any unhappy surprises from your telecom vendor. Most accommodations will include wifi as will many restaurants / bars in Italy.

Airbnb for Accommodations
We didn't stay in a single hotel or motel during our stay in Italy. Instead, we scouted and booked rooms via airbnb.com with great success. Be sure to read the reviews and book a room in the heart of the city within walking distance of the main attractions.

TripAdvisor Offline City Guides
For every city we visited, excluding Cinque Terre, we downloaded an "Offline City Guide" app from TripAdvisor. This app, available for both iOS and Android, will not require a data connection and will help you scout and locate the best attractions, restaurants and gelaterias (see below!). They're awesome.

Always Leave Room for Gelato
I had gelato every day I spent in Italy, except for my time in Cinque Terre. You'll learn the best gelaterias from the aforementioned TripAdvisor app and you'll find amazing flavours available for €1-€2. Some gelaterias will even let you combine two flavours. Never order dessert in a restaurant, always walk to a nearby recommended gelateria instead.

Beware the Service Charge
Many restaurants will charge a service charge per person. This is typically €2-€2.50. This is in lieu of tipping. All the food in Italy is amazing, by the way, but you already know that! This pizza fan is still smiling...

Crosswalks are Suicide
Rome in particular is full of dangerous drivers and motorcyclists. They don't signal, they drive fast and they ignore crosswalks. If you treat the crosswalks in Rome as you do crosswalks in Canada and wait for cars to stop, you'll be waiting forever. Wait for a chasm and run before you get run over. Good luck!

Beware the Euro Sharks
In the touristy parts of the big Italian cities you'll find many people with one agenda: to suck Euros from your wallet. They'll do this in a variety of ways: by giving your girl a "free" rose or silk, by "helping" you and then demanding payment or even by posing for you in a gladiator outfit. If you're naive you'll think they're being kind to tourists. They just want your money.

You Don't Need to Know Italian
In the places I visited (Rome, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre and Milan) you can get by perfectly fine without a stitch of Italian, but it 's fun to try. My most used Italian words were: grazie, buongiorno, ciao, si, prego and scusi.

Italy is Safe
In my experience, Italy was very safe. I walked the big cities both day and night and never felt unsafe, but it's wise to remember pickpocketers thrive in busy tourist areas. Be aware of that unfortunate fact and don't give your safety a second thought.

It's Okay to Get Lost
You'll have your TripAdvisor app and a good old fashioned paper map, but you'll still get lost, and that's okay. We got lost so many times in the beautiful labyrinth that is Venice but it all becomes part of the experience. Be prepared for long walks because your mapped out 12km route could easily become 15-20km by the time your day is done.

Milan


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Comments (14 - click here to join in!)

Dan

Ten Tips For Those Travelling to Europe

/fixed

October 21, 2013 @ 6:32 AM

Argie

@Mike
I have a dumb question: What's the picture of? Looks incredible.

October 21, 2013 @ 8:37 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Argie

This is the big cathedral in Milan: Duomo di Milano.

We were there Saturday.

October 21, 2013 @ 9:03 AM

Derrick

I disagree with your comment re: crosswalks in Rome. If crossing the street you need walk with confidence and they will stop. The cars won't stop just because you're waiting there.

I drove in Rome last month and yes, the other drivers don't signal, but they are courteous. If you need to get over 3 lanes to make your right turn they will let you get through without honking horns and getting mad. You just needed to keep an eye on the scooters. They can come on you pretty quickly.

October 21, 2013 @ 9:09 AM

Oakville Wally

Happy to hear you enjoyed your time in Italy. It is a fantastic country with some great people.

Good tips. I would like to elaborate on tipping:
1. Often there is a charge on the bill for 2-3 Euros called "coperto" which literlly means cover charge. This goes to the establishment, not the wait staff.
2. Sometimes there is another charge called "servicio" (service charge) which can range from 10-15% of the bill. If that is charged, no additional tip is necessary, although it is common practice to round up to the next Euro and leave this change for the wait staff.
3. If servicio is not explicitly mentioned on the bill, no tip is included, and it is common to leave 10-15% for good service.

October 21, 2013 @ 9:55 AM

Ryan G

When I went to see the Coliseum in Rome, some gypsy kids ripped me off for 50 bucks. They danced in front of me and put a piece of cardboard up to suggest i give them some money, but the cardboard was just distration and cover for them sticking their hands in my pocket.

Of course, when I tell people that story I say they were midgets, not kids. Nobody wants to be outsmarted by a nine year old homeless child, which is why I had to return the next day and murder them.

October 21, 2013 @ 10:11 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Derrick

If you walk with confidence they might stop, or you might die.

October 21, 2013 @ 11:02 AM

Douglas

Two families/friends of mine visited Italy this year for their vacations. Your comments very much parallel yours. Both fathers in those families being unable to live without using their cell phones, though, had their phones unlocked and bought pay-as-you-go cards. €30 covered them for two weeks of (unlimited, but remember it's not LTE and sometimes not even 4G) data and calls.

I must get to Europe, the continent, some time. I do have two France passport stamps, but they're for Tahiti/French Polynesia and St. Pierre.

October 21, 2013 @ 11:15 AM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

@Douglas

It's never too late to start exploring Europe.

I made my first trip here less than two years ago when I was 37. This is now my fifth trip to Europe and I've enjoyed walking the following cities:

Berlin
Amsterdam
Paris
Dublin
Frankfurt
Rome
Venice
Florence
Cinque Terre
Milan
Reykjavik

We were just laughing because these past two weeks were far less expensive than a visit to Eastern Canada would be. It's relatively cheap to travel in Europe...

October 21, 2013 @ 11:27 AM

Malcolm

I agree. Travel to Europe is far cheaper then travelling in our own country. We have been to Europe 3 times in the last 3 years, ranging from 2 to 3 weeks at a time. Our thing is we rent a car and drive and find a place to stay when we get to wherever we end up. All we use is a GPS perloaded with maps, free wifi in the hotel at night for tourist info and our trusty Lonely Planet travel guide.
Our first trip we did Hibach, Germany, Salsburg, Austria, Solvania, Venice, Florence, Rome, Pisa, Monaco, Nice, Paris, Dieppe, Normandy,Antwerp and Amsterdam.
Our second was Hamburg, Berlin, Dresdan, Prague, Budapest,Plitvice National Park, Croatia, Dubrovnik, Bari, Serra San Bruno, The Amalphi coast, Pompeii, Verona, Monza, Milan, Torino, Interlakken Switzerland, and Fussen, Germany.
And this past year we did London, Stratfort-upon-Avon, Snowden Wales, Liverpool, the Lake District, Hadrian's Wall, Edinburgh, the Scottish highlands, Isle of Skye, Glasgow, Giants Causeway and coastal route, London Derry, Belfast, Dublin, Blarney, Stonehenge, Brighton Beach and Dover.
All cheaper then a road trip through Canada to Vancouver and back would of been.

October 21, 2013 @ 3:18 PM

elvis

I want to hear how you say cinque tomorrow.

October 21, 2013 @ 3:58 PM

Brad

I loved Rome when I was there a few years back, glad you enjoyed it too.

I really like the idea of Airbnb but any time I search a major city (Chicago, New Orleans) the prices are higher than the hotels listed on Hotwire.

October 22, 2013 @ 12:16 AM

Sam from England

Damn mainlanders!!!

October 22, 2013 @ 8:22 AM

Douglas

@Sam from England - When I was in Cape Breton last year, I heard a similar epithet from several Capers, fortunately not directed at me. It was more like F'in mainlanders, as I recall.

October 22, 2013 @ 1:24 PM

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