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July 6, 2016

6 Things You Need to Know Before You Go to Italy

Given my recent tour through Venice, Florence, and Rome, I found myself qualified to give even more unsolicited advice. This time: what to expect the next time you visit Italy!


  1. The Doors are Crazy // By doors I mean the actual doors that allow you to pass through walls--not the Doors the musical group. A lot of banks have a crazy door system where you stand in front of a rounded glass door and it will automatically open for you. Walk in, one at a time!, and the door behind you will close. Another rounded glass door will then open and you can get into the bank. Other times you will require several keys to get out of your house and the gate (assuming you stay in an airbnb or privately hosted house) and you really can't worry about looking like a tourist when you don't know something. If you don't want to ask someone, quietly observe and copy their behavior. 
  2. Learn Italian // Outside of tour groups or restaurants/shops near popular tourist sites, you may run into trouble finding people who speak fluent enough English for you to ask the way to the number 17 bus. For this reason, you should at least try to learn a bit of Italian before you go. Learning the numbers is a big help as well as phrases like "How do I get to...?", "Where is...?", or "Excuse me, can you help me? Do you speak English?"
  3. Restaurants Nearest to City Centers and Tourist Areas are Majorly Overpriced // This is probably a no-brainer, but worth stating if you're traveling on a budget. The first restaurant you stumble upon, these establishments usually have someone standing outside waving down tourist-looking patrons, after a long day of touring Rome or exploring the canals of Venice is usually not the cheapest choice. Look at the menu before you sit down--if a plain cheese or margherita pizza is more than 8€, overpriced! You shouldn't be paying more than around 30€ for a meal for two for lunch. Also! Beware of the cover charge--a lot of restaurants in Italy will charge you an extra fee for just sitting down at one of their tables. For breakfast or a lunch on the go, don't sit at one of the cafe tables--grab your sandwich and go! Some restaurants will tell you when they don't have a cover charge with big bold type on their menus NO COVER!
  4. Use Public Transportation! // Public transportation is an easy way to get from your hotel/home to the center of the city, wherever you're staying! You can get bus tickets in any Tabaccheria store--you'll notice them because they have big black signs with a huge white T on them. Check out your city's bus ticketing before you get there or before you purchase tickets because in some cities you'll need a ticket on your way there and a ticket for your return trip and in some cities you can get a ticket that is valid for 100 minutes and can use it for any number of bus transfers. When you have your tickets, make sure you validate them once you get on the bus! If they're electronic tickets (noticed majorly in Venice) you can pass them in front of the validator machine, and if they're paper there is a machine to get them hole punched (noticed mainly in Florence). You can also purchase tickets on board the bus if you can't find a local Tabaccheria store, usually this costs about twice the normal price so instead of 1,50€ it will be 3€ for a ride. (Here's a little secret tidbit: on all the buses we took throughout our stay, there were people who got on and did not validate any tickets at all! If you can't find a tabaccheria store and don't want to fumble through rudimentary Italian with the driver to buy a ticket, you can actually get away with riding the bus without a ticket! If you're found out, of course, there is a fine you have to pay but if you seriously need to ride and don't have a ticket you should be okay.)
  5. Spend a Day Getting Lost // Of course, Rome is jam-packed with tourist centers and history seeping out of its every pore but if you really want to discover what Rome (or Venice or Naples or Florence or Palermo...) is like for the locals, take a day to just not have anything set in mind. Find a street and just walk! If that's too relaxed for you, pick a new neighborhood that isn't a big tourist attraction area, find a bus from the city center, and wander around there for a bit! Wander into local bookshops, candy stores, cafes. Live like the locals! This is easy to do when you stay in an airbnb that's not directly in the city center, as A and I did. I highly recommend that route so you can feel less like a tourist.
  6. In Rome, Eat Pizza Roman Style // The majority of the local pizzerias in Rome (aka not the pizzerias that play to the tourist market) serve pizza Roman-style. Meaning, you do not order a slice of pizza or even an entire pie--you tell the man behind the counter how much of the pie you want, he weighs it and charges you based on the weight of the slice. Also--these slices are not the traditional triangle slices we're used to, they'll be square. Make sure you eat at these type of establishments at least once because the kinds of pizza offered are different than the traditional. I fell absolutely in love with a cold pizza that had lettuce, dressing, and shrimp on it! Try it, you'll love it!
Overall, my biggest piece of advice for any trips you take: have fun! Traveling is a way to really expand your mind, take in new cultures, and even gain a new outlook and appreciation for life. I adore travel and look forward to taking lots and lots and lots of trips--and sharing it all with you here!

Traveling to Italy soon? Been there before? Do you have any Italian travel tips of your own? Share them in the comments below!

xx

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