Italy is one of the most oft-visited countries in Europe for Americans. So it should come as no surprise that with throngs of people discovering la dolce vita for the first time year after year, the same questions often pop up. To get the most common questions answered once and for all, we turned to the Italy experts in the Fodor's Forums to see which questions they have to answer the most.
From "How much time should we spend in Tuscany," to "Is Naples really that dangerous," and "Is the Leaning Tower of Pisa worth it," we discovered that most travelers need help tackling similar issues. The experts delivered not only with questions, but with indispensible answers. Here are their rules, tips, and opinions on the most common questions that pop up when planning a trip to the Motherland.
Rules of Thumb
"You cannot see Italy in one trip. Choose a spot or region to explore." bardo1
I get asked all the time 'Is Naples dangerous?' Only certain neighborhoods, which are easily avoidable." Weadles
"Don't say 'ciao' to strangers—it is overly familiar. Say 'arrivederci' to most and 'arrivederla' to older folks to show highest respect." TDudette
"Either decide how many days your trip can be (based on work, budget, etc.) and learn what's possible in that time frame... Or figure out how much time you need to see everything on your list. For example, don't plan a trip that requires 2 weeks or more when you only have 10 days. Don't buy your airline tickets until you've resolved this basic issue." Jean
Packing light came up often in this Forum. Forum's user fmpden said that people often ask to see their packing list. They reply, "'You mean that is all you take?' We have for fifteen years and it works well for us. It is learned behavior. Our first trip 20 years ago was a disaster for luggage. Never again." Weadles added, "Also leave the high heels at home! You'll be walking on cobblestone streets."
"Some secrets of a good trip: learn a little Italian (top 50 words may do). Slow down, you are on holiday not in an insane movie about touring Italy. And world class museums require research, any guide book will have some advice at least." bilboburgler
"Before you buy airline tickets, consider whether flying into one city and out of another will work to your advantage. For example, a round-trip fare in and out of one city may be cheaper, but consider the cost (in time and money) of returning to the original city at the end of the trip. When comparing air fares, don't search two one-way fares but, rather, a "multi-city" ticket." Jean
Forum's user fmpden said that questions about security and pickpockets often come up. "Are they really that bad? No, I've been to Rome a total of four weeks in the last six years and have yet to see a pickpockets. Wear a money belt and forget about it."
"Is it possible to visit Pompeii from Rome? Yes, but probably not enjoyable. It's about a 3 hour ride and makes for a very long day. You'd be better off visiting it from either Naples or Sorrento." Weadles
One thing our Italy experts said over and over was that Italy is more than just Rome, Florence, and Venice, and you're really limiting yourself if you don't spend a few days just getting lost and exploring. Italy's small towns are packed with charming squares, delicious food, and unexpected finds. Forum's user bilboburgler chimes in, encouraging travelers to move beyond "the big three: Rome, Florence, Venice." He presses on, saying that even "once you get beyond the next 4 of Naples, Pisa, Siena, and the Cinque Terre there are [still] so many great cities to see."
User fmpden also gets asked "How should I dress? Can I wear shorts? Tennis shoes?" The advice? "I would not... When a pickpocket is looking for his mark, we think [dressing better than the average American tourist] shifts his attention to someone else." We also answered this question on the blog, though more from a style point of view than a safety one. Here's our guide to what men should (not) wear in Europe, and what women should wear.
Matters of Opinion
Forum's user Weadles is often asked about the best sights to see in Rome. "I like the famous "Aventine Keyhole," in one of Rome's most exclusive neighborhoods. If you look through the keyhole of the green door in the villa, you'll see St. Peter's Basilica, framed by two rows of trees. It's worth taking a cab there to see it. Also check out the Bocca Della Verita, made famous by Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn in the movie Roman Holiday. Tradition says that if you are telling a lie about something, and you stick your hand in the mouth it will bite you."
One question that crept up a few times was "Is the Leaning Tower of Pisa really worth it?" though no one yet ventured to answer it. What do you think?
"It is possible to spend a week (or longer) in virtually anywhere in Italy and not run out of things to do." annhig
"Yes, it costs more to stay in Venice proper—suck it up. Staying outside the city is not even worth considering. A hotel in Venice, even with a shared bath, no A/C, no elevator, etc., is an infinitely better experience than a stay in a larger room with all the extras in Mestre." bardo1
More Classic Questions
We asked our experts about this once before and got some great, timeless advice you can peruse here!