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Experienced Italy Travelers...add your most helpful planning tips here!

Experienced Italy Travelers...add your most helpful planning tips here!

Jan 19th, 2005, 07:57 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 341
Experienced Italy Travelers...add your most helpful planning tips here!

I have gotten such great adivce on this site that I want to share things that really may help other people planning a trip to Italy. Here are my key learnings and tips..everyone else, please add to the thread. This could really help others have a hassle free trip! Ciao!


Always plan how to get from the airport or train station to your hotel in advance. It reduces your stress. I always locate my hotel on a map before I leave the US. I locate the train station or airport on the map too. I email the hotel ahead of time and ask for directions including any info on the metro that may be applicable. I print their directions and I highlight the map so when I arrive I am all set and don't look "lost" in the train station or airport.

I always research restaurants BEFORE I leave. I search all the websites I can find. I copy and paste the name, address, phone number and any reviews of the restaurants into a MS Word Document and print it. I organize the restaurants by city and refer to it when we are in that city. I ask the hotel to make reservations for us in advance. This has saved us time and money in addition to helping us avoid the touristy restaurants. We did this on our 2nd trip to Italy and our dining experience was much better than winging in on our first trip to Italy. It was less expensive and we had better meals in very unusual and interesting places.

If I don't have a lot of time in a city and I want to avoid waiting in a line for tickets to a museum, I purchase tickets in advance from the US. I have purchased tickets through www.selectitaly.com. It may cost more money, but if I have limited time in a city it is worth it to me. Some that were particularly worth it were the Vatican (an english tour was included and we avoided the longest line I have ever seen!) and the Last Supper painting in Milan (it is often sold out).

Regarding train tickets. I always buy tickets when we arrive in Italy. They have been usually less expensive than purchasing here. I usually look up the train schedules on www.trenitalia.com before we leave and print them for the days we will be travelling. When we arrive in our first city in Italy, I go to the train station and buy all of the tickets at one time. I highlight my first choice on the printed out sheet and hand it to the ticket clerk. If they don't speak english, this really helps. I book all the train tickets at one time and it is hassle free. Having the print out really helps if there is a language barrier.

If traveling to Chianti and planning to visit wineries for tours/wine tasting, I suggest advanced reservations. We did not make any reservations and we were turned away at a few places. See if your hotel can help make arrangements or contact wineries directly via phone/internet before you go for reservations. This way you won't be turned away or disappointed.

If in the train station in Naples, there is a lounge you can wait in if you hold a first class train ticket. You may have to ask, but it is better than waiting in the main train station since Naples can be a bit seedy. It is not labelled, so you may have to ask, but it is there. There are tables and chairs and room for your luggage. We felt more comfortable there than waiting in the main station in Naples.

Also regarding train tickets. If you go to the train station in a major city, you may want to look for a travel office. We found in Naples the travel office had ticket agents that spoke perfect english and they also sold train tickets and other travel related services. We avoided the long lines at the main ticket counter where the locals go and got great service in english. They also told us about the first class lounge. It may be worth looking for in main train stations.

These are the main things I have learned through experience. I hope it helps someone plan the trip of a life time!
mgfit is offline  
Jan 19th, 2005, 05:48 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 413
Generalizing on what you said, mgfit, at least take a rough crack at studying the logistics of getting from Point A to Point B before you get to Italy. You've offered some very good but very specific ways of doing that, but even basic stuff of just looking at the map to familiarize yourself with the town/city/area, even if not necessarily getting down to the level of mapping a route from the train station to the hotel, will help. Pay close attention to big landmarks, parks, highways, etc. for reference points if you need them.

Train stations usually have the best cappuccino in town.

If you're prone to motion sickness, stop into any farmacia and ask for Travelgum (brand name) as early as you can. It's an anti-motion-sickness gum that helped cure seasickness while waiting in choppy seas to get into the Blue Grotto in Capri or driving on "Bubba's Bus" through the twisting, turning hills of Tuscany with no air conditioning or ventilation, and sitting near two dozen people reeking of sulfur from the baths of Montepulciano.

tdyls is offline  
Jan 19th, 2005, 06:00 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14,710
Travelgum is good, but I like the Xamamina caplets much better. This is my favorite motion sickness medicine, and it never causes me side effects, like the scopolamine patch did.
tuscanlifeedit is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2005, 05:34 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 39
I found it invaluable that I'd memorized enough common phrases to get along. Not everyone speaks english - even a popular restaurant in Rome we went to, our waitress didnt speak it which was kind of funny in that when I asked for olive oil she brough me a bowl of olives.

One place where it was frustrating was the train station. We didn't know which track our train was departing from (there were MANY tracks) and I had to ask 3 people before finding a ticket guy who spoke English (if I had it to do over I'd make sure to peruse the section of the travel book for English to Italian phrases under the 'transportation' section.

Don't eat in restaurants that are very close to major tourist attractions, ie St. Peters. Worst meal I've ever had - wasn't even warm (we were desperate and hungry).
beanie0300 is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2005, 01:27 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 341
May most useful tip for Italy - -bring along several rolls of toilet paper that are almost gone - maybe 1" of paper left on the roll. They can be flattened to pack. every day -I threw one in my backpack when setting out. I cannot tell you how many Italian toilets we found with no paper! I was always prepared with my little stash and most times helped out others who needed someone to "spare a square" !
Dorgal is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2005, 10:23 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 373
1. If taking the train always purchase 1st class. The $ difference is not much but it reserves you a seat which can save you having to stand in a cramped aisle for 2 hours after walking around Sienna all day(from experience)
2. If renting a car ask for one with GPS. It saves hours off back tracking and you never have to say " I think that was the exit". Although some of the best times we've had were when we got lost.
3. If traveling by car remember to fill up with gas before siesta ( anywhere from 1-3) in most of italy.
4. If going site seeing in a town for just a few hours remember siesta again as most shops will be closed.
weasel is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2005, 12:27 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 121
I would learn as much Italian as possible.

Don't wear jewerly.

Watch yourself in Naples.

Don't let people help you.
mnatella is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2005, 12:32 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 107
1) Spend some time reading up about the sites you are going to see and about Italian history before you leave. It will make your trip all the more interesting.

2) Watch out for scam unauthorized cab drivers in Rome. They will try to rip you off in every possible way.

3) Impara l'italiano! (Learn Italian!)

4) Don't try to cram too much into your schedule each day. Italy is to be savored, not gulped.
AllisonK is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2005, 12:41 PM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 107
Another one: Purchase 2nd class tickets on Eurostar unless you want to splurge. They are quite a bit cheaper than 1st class with minimal difference in comfort. On intercity trains pay extra to reserve seats. Your money will be well-spent.
AllisonK is offline  
Mar 13th, 2005, 06:57 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 20
Again..Beanie was unhappy....hmmmm...Maybe it is Beanie????Europe had "issues" for beanie and so did Barbados...hmmmmm...It must be Beanie...
Moogalah is offline  
Mar 13th, 2005, 07:54 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 16,525
I am sure this topic has been done before, but here are 22 tips that may help:http://www.slowtrav.com/europe/bob_tips.htm
bobthenavigator is offline  
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