Firsthand Italy Travel Recommendations

Planning a trip to Italy may seem a little overwhelming for first timers. Based in Italy, we know our destination inside and out and we would love to share our knowledge and create an Italian vacation that is perfect for you!

Our unrivalled knowledge of the country based on over 10 years’ of expertise helps you go beyond the guidebooks. We are on hand to guide you when needed but to help you get started here are some insider travel tips from our specialists!

Italy Travel Tips & Expert Advice for an Amazing Trip

Here a list of things you should know including when to go, what to take with you, where to stay, what to do, and more to help you have the best travel experience ever. We sincerely hope our first-hand advice and recommendations introduce you to our home country and help you on getting ready for your journey.

PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO ITALY: FIRST STEPS

Decide When to Visit

The good news for travelers is that Italy is truly a year-round destination. Yet this makes it difficult to decide when to visit, as each season brings its own special highlights! Because of this, we typically recommend taking advantage of any chance to visit Italy. On the other hand, if your dates are flexible it’s worth traveling in the off season to avoid the crowds and save money on accommodations, airfare, and train tickets. Main tourist attractions such as museums and art galleries are open year-round; just make sure to check times as some might have shorter opening hours during the off-season.

Where to Go: Italy’s Best Destinations
Most first-time visitors plan their Italian holiday around the three major iconic cities of Rome, Florence and Venice. And there is no doubt that these beautiful places have a lot to see and do. However, yet, much of the country remains relatively unexplored. Italy is made up of 20 regions, each one with its own history and traditions. Besides, Italy’s classic “big three” there are other wonderful towns, beautiful beaches, breathtaking mountains, and an amazing variety of landscapes.

For instance, everyone knows about Pompeii but you do not hear much about Ostia Antica excavations in Rome. Similarly, you hear a lot about the Florence’s Academia Gallery, but not much about Naples’ Archaeological Museum. Go off the beaten path and consider the walled town of Lucca, the medieval village of Matera tucked away along the cliffs of the Basilicata region, the traditional fisherman town with colorful houses of Camogli, and the delightful town of Bologna. To name just a very few. If you’re after some inspiration, check out our unique sample Italy itineraries.

Where to Stay: Stay Central – Walk Everywhere
Before booking your hotel/apartment check whether the area is close to the places you want to visit. If you are in for a very limited time do not choose a place on the edge of town, as you definitely do not want to spend hours on commuting in order to save a few bucks.

Stay Longer in One Place – Do Not Try To See It All!
Traveling to Italy for the first time will be so exciting and you are going to want to see as much as you can. Italy is filled with so many bucket list sights screaming to be visited! Unless you are staying in Italy for a month or two, do not try to see it all in one trip!

Staying in one place longer can allow you to experience the city or neighborhood like a local. It always feels more rewarding to stay in one place for a few days rather than city hopping every other day. Not only does that mean less packing and unpacking, but you will also have the chance to get to know a neighborhood, find a favorite cafe, and even make a few friendships.

Do not Over-Plan – Do Not Plan to See It All!
This is your first to Italy trip and we know you want to see as much as possible. However, that is a common mistake. While it is important to plan your trip, do not to overload it trying to pack everything in. Instead, leave some unscheduled time in your Italian itinerary! Do not feel pressured to see and do everything. Chances are you will not be able to fit in EVERYTHING you want to see even more so if you are traveling as a family. Simply put less is more. When it comes to memory and travel, it is more about quality than quantity.

Make Reservations in Advance
Making reservations in advance is the best way to secure accommodations and tours, especially during peak travel season. Booking airfare and train tickets in advance also ensures that you are getting the best deals.

PRE-DEPARTURE: PREPARING FOR YOUR TRIP

Check Passports and Visas
A valid passport for 6 months beyond your return date is required to enter Italy. Make sure your passport meets validity requirements. As of June 2019 US travelers do NOT need a visa to enter Italy and can travel within Europe/Schengen area for 90 days without issues. One guaranteed way to ruin your trip is being denied entry into the country you are visiting because you do not have a valid passport and/or tourist visa. Double-check important details with your local Embassy or Consulate at least 2 months prior to your trip.

Consider Vacation Insurance before you Travel
Travel insurance is one of the most important aspects of trip planning. Protect your travel investment. Between missed connections, lost or delayed luggage, or medical emergencies, you want the peace of mind that your vacation investment is well protected.

Learn Some Key Italian Phrases
It’s not required, but learning a few Italian phrases can enhance your travel experience. It’s a fascinating language, and Italian people really appreciate the effort – even if only the most basic of phrases!

Read Books 
Prepare yourself before you leave home reading books related to the country’s history and culture. It can make your trip so much more meaningful when you have some connections.

Pack Light
Navigating Italy is much easier with a small, easily portable suitcase or backpack. Can’t pack light? Here our packing tips:

Bring Comfortable Shoes to Walk Everywhere
When traveling to Italy, you should always expect to be walking quite a lot, whether it is through the cobbled streets of Rome, narrow alleys in Venice or the vineyards in Tuscany. Opt for a pair of comfortable sandals or sneakers, or both. After a long day of walking around your feet will thank you.
Dress comfortably
Light, loose-fitting clothing that provides comfort when exploring the sights is essential. A sun hat, sunglasses and a sturdy pair of walking shoes or sneakers are recommended for sightseeing. It is always a good idea to be prepared for any eventuality; a lightweight sports jacket and emergency rainwear are advised.
Dress modestly
Remember that bare legs and shoulders are not allowed in churches or other religious sites. Entrance may be denied on this basis.

YOU’VE ARRIVED! TIPS FOR YOUR TIME IN ITALY

Getting Around

Even though it is so easy to travel around Italy, do not spend all of your time on a train or car! Trust us: On a weeklong vacation stick to two or three cities. Minimize one-night stays. Do not underestimate how exhausting it can be to change hotels every night. Travel burnout is a thing. The best way to travel Italy is slowly! Take your time and trust you will come back.

Traveling by Train
Most Italy travel guides recommend using the train when traveling from one city to another. We strongly support this advice. Traveling by train in Italy is way easier, hassle-free and economical than air travel. For instance, if you are traveling from Venice to Florence, taking a flight is difficult and quite expensive. Instead, if you will book high-speed train tickets with either Italotreno or Trenitalia you will reach Florence in about 2 hours. For the best deals, book three months in advance otherwise be aware that you can buy your ticket minutes before departure.In addition, most railway stations offer some kind of luggage storage service if you are planning to stop midway on your journey and want to do some sightseeing before your next train departs. Due to security reasons luggage lockers are no longer available but in all major railway stations there are offices with staff where you can leave your bags for a fee.

Avoid Driving – At Any Cost
With extensive public transportation, driving in Italy is truly unnecessary. Driving in Italy can be a stressful experience that requires bravery, stamina, and a lot of patience. If you insist on renting a car be aware that you will be dealing with crazy driving, expensive parking, and will certainly, receive a ticket for some road violation you did not even know you committed. Unless you have a specific reason forget driving and never drive in Rome. Really though, do not drive in Italy unless for some unforeseen reason you have to.

Avoid Crowds by Timing Your Sightseeing Right
It’s no secret that many of Italy’s landmarks, such as Rome’s Colosseum, can get crowded. If you can, time your visits at quiet times of day, such as in the early morning or evening.

Wake Up Early
The early bird. The earlier you start, the more you will get out of your day. This is especially true for Venice and Rome, which can be magical places in the morning light. It may seem obvious but this is probably one of our best Italy travel tips!

Do Not Plan on Using Credit Cards Everywhere
While most of the world now accepts credit cards, it is not uncommon for places in Italy to only accept cash. Having euros on hand for tips, taxi, coffee, gelato and daily activities will make your transactions go smoother and it will save you money on foreign transaction fees.

ITALIAN ETIQUETTE, EATING, AND DRINKING 

Always keep your ID on you
Italian law states you must carry your identification at all times. In general, across Europe you should always carry your passport. Pro Tip: Carry a color copy of it and keep the original in your hotel safe.

Tipping
Gratuities are appreciated but not mandatory. Tipping is at your discretion and depends on the level of service you have received.

Try All the Food!
Italy is a culinary paradise: splurge on traditional Italian dinner, enjoy a lively market, and sample these foods.

Local restaurants
We highly recommend that you make restaurant reservations in advance of your trip. If you are looking to reserve Michelin star restaurants, we advise you do this as soon as possible as some may even take reservations more than one year in advance.

Need More Travel Tips?

For more recommendations, visit our blog. At Nancy Aiello Tours, we have an in-depth knowledge of traveling in this welcoming country and as a result, we have a huge collection of insider travel tips for Italy to share!

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