How To Make Your Italian Holiday The Trip of Your Life?
Are you also planning your Italian adventure?
Well, I’m not surprised!
Italy is one of the most visited places in Europe and every year thousands of tourists spend their holidays in the beautiful south european country.
If you want to avoid the most common “tourist mistakes” this post is your guide to making your holiday in Italy the trip of your life.
Food & Drinks
Let's start with the most important thing - the FOOD! Almost everybody loves the Italian food and I am pretty sure you’re really excited about la cucina italiana (the Italian cuisine). Ready to eat lots of pasta, pizza & gelato and drink lots of vino and prosecco?
Before going to Italy there are some very important things that you should know:
- coffee or il caffè is extremely important for the Italian people and it's incredibly delicious, no matter where you go. Always drink your coffee standing, it will cost you no more than 1,00€ for an espresso (at some really "fancy" places it might cost you 1,20€) but if you sit down at a table and order an espresso, the price might go up to 4,00€ for just 1 coffee. In almost every coffee place you would have to pay at the cassa when you enter, then take the receipt (it's called "lo scontrino") and then order at the bar. Remember in Italian a coffee place is called il bar and a bar is called il locale.
- aperitivo: have you ever heard about it? It's amazing and it's my favourite! It's what Italian people do before they go to dinner...Basically all you have to do is order an alcoholic drink, most of the times is a prosecco, aperol spritz, vino or a cocktail and then you get a lot of cool stuff to eat for free, amazing isn't it?! Some places even have a buffet, where you can take unlimited food and pay only for the drink (which more often won't cost you more than 6,00 - 7,00€).
- restaurants: a quick note about the restaurants in Italy...Never sit at a restaurant that has a touristy name like "Il colosseo" or "Il Duomo", basically all the places in front of the main tourist attractions. How to recognise them? Just look around, do you see any Italian people? If the answer is no, then run away! These are the worst places to eat, the food is not nice, the prices are double or even triple and the service is bad. If you are not sure where to go for dinner you can always ask at the reception of your hotel or your host if you are staying at a B&B I love just following the local people and sitting wherever they sit!
Well, we all know that Italy is the country of fashion and that Italian people are always well dressed and super elegant. While in Italy, you might want to dive into the fashion abundance, who wouldn’t? But sometimes, this adventure can turn out very pricy and have an unhappy ending. So here are my tips about shopping in Italy:
- tourist shops: don't shop there! 90% of the shops next to the main tourist attractions are Chinese and the quality of the products is really bad...
- local market: instead, go to the markets or the so-called bancarelle, these are the stalls where very often you can find good quality clothes, shoes and bags for only 10 to 20 €, not bad right? Every Italian city has a lot of these markets, if you don't see them around you just ask some local people saying "Mi scusi, dove posso trovare le bancarelle?" and they will direct you to the right place.
- afternoon break: the shops are closed from 1pm to 3/4 pm for lunch break. Don't be surprised if a lot of the shops around you are closed during the Italian pausa pranzo (lunch break). It's very common in Italy, of course excluding the big brands like H&M, Zara and etc., so if you are planning on doing some local shopping, either go the market or just have a nice and long Italian lunch and then continue with the shopping (in most cities the shops are open until at least 8 pm).
When travelling in Italy you will probably have to use the public transport at some point. It isn't scary at all! Here are the most important things to consider:
-train tickets: when travelling by train one very important thing that you should always remember is to validate your tickets before going on the train! At each station you will find little yellow machines where you have to insert your ticket and it will put the date and the time. Don't even think about going on the train without doing that because the conductors are not the nicest people in Italy. You don't want to be having an argument with them, trust me on that, it happened to me once and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy!
Attention: At some really small stations the little yellow machine might not be working or there won't be any, like at the Castel Gandolfo's station (it's where the Pope lives in the summer). Then what you have to do is: go on the train and immediately look for the conductor and ask him to validate your ticket. Don't just sit down and wait for him to come because in 99% of the scenarios, when he comes he will either give you a fine or ask you to leave the train (this is what happened to me and I can assure you that it wasn't a nice experience!).
-bus tickets: always buy your bus tickets before going on the bus. In most of the cases you won't be able to buy a ticket on the bus and if there is a conductor you will get a fine, which is not the best experience for a holiday. You can buy your tickets at all the stations or at the Tabaccheria (a tiny shop where you can buy cigarettes, lighters and tickets!).
-transport strike: oh well, this is something very common in Italy, especially in Rome. What does it mean? There is no public transport because all the employees went on a strike and when I say no public transport, I am being really serious! Most of the cases there will be some specific times where some mezzi (Italian for public transport) will be in service but it's not guaranteed. If you have to go to the airport always check the Trenitalia website for some updates (they will usually specify if there is a planned strike, which in Italian is called sciopero). It has happened to me, more than once, to have to go to the airport but the mezzi weren't in service because of the sciopero...In those cases is always best to check for the private companies that provide transport to the airport. You could also ask at the the reception of your hotel for some help, they are normally informed and should be able to find a solution for you.
If you happen to need some medical assistance in Italy, there are a couple of things that you can do, besides calling 118:
- pronto soccorso: go to the pronto soccorso or the Emergency, every hospital has it but be prepared to wait for some time…At the Italian emergency room people are divided into different "colours" - rosso for red, giallo for yellow and verde for green. They will give you a number depending on the "urgency" of your situation and if you get a green number you might end up waiting for hours.
- Guardia Medica Turistica: the other option is to go to the Guardia Medica Turistica, it's sort of an emergency place where you can go and there aren't almost any people waiting. It's alway open and there is always a doctor that can help you and speaks English (most of the times). Most big cities have it but you will have to check for the address online, I have been to the one in Rome and I had absolutely no problems. The staff was friendly and helpful, so if you have a problem and you don't want to wait a lot at the pronto soccorso try going to the Guardia Medica Turistica.
Learn a little bit of Italian
- everybody knows that Italian people don't speak English that well, so before going to Italy I would really recommend learning some Italian. If you speak a few words of Italian (you don't have to know everything!) it will be very easy for you to get around and you will be able to enjoy your holiday to the fullest.
Plus the Italian people are beyond themselves when someone speaks Italian, even if you know just 50 words! They usually get so enthusiastic that they will treat you much better that other tourists – in fact they’ll treat you like a local and you’ll be able to experience the real Italian culture!
These are some practical tips, that everybody should know before leaving for Italy:
-cash: always have cash with you.... In a lot of places in Italy cards are not accepted, especially in smaller towns. Stay on the safe side and don’t run out of cash!
-tickets: if you want to visit a museum or a monument always buy your tickets in advance in order to avoid the long lines. Sometimes you could be waiting for more than 2 hours and who has that much time to waste on their dream holiday?
*You can buy your tickets online or you can also book them on the phone and pick them up at the museum just before you enter. It will cost you just a couple of extra euros but it will definitely save you some valuable time.
- how to deal with the warm weather: attention to the warm weather... be really careful with the heat in Italy especially from 1pm until 4 pm. In some places it can get pretty hot, so it's very important to drink lots of water. You don't need to buy all of it – you can get drinkable water from the fontanella (drinking water fountain). If you are really warm you can always go into a church where it is usually quite cool, just remember to cover your knees and shoulders.
-late dinner: dinner in Italy is late, meaning nobody eats before 8pm, so if you go to a good local restaurant (not a touristy one) at 7pm and you want to oder, you might not be able to, as they won't be ready to serve, plus you will probably be the only one at the restaurant...
- electricity adapters: make sure that you bring with you the correct electricity adapter otherwise you may not be able to use some of your things like: chargers, hair straightener and etc. Don't worry if you forget to bring one, just go to the first Chinese shop and you will be able to get one for just a couple of euros.
-wifi: don't rely too much on wifi as it's probably not going to work well... In Italy the Internet is not the best and if you are expecting a great wifi connection I am afraid that it's very unlikely to happen.
-free gifts: be careful with the "free gifts" from people who sell on the streets, give you, as they are not going to be free...Don't accept anything they try to give you because if you do, they will probably force you to buy it and they won't leave you alone until you do. Best things is to simply ignore them and don't talk to them at all.