If this is your first time in Italy, there are a few things you need to know before you go that can make your visit the most enjoyable it can be.
Summer in Italy can be very hot.
You will find that most buildings are not air conditioned to the same degree of cold as you may find in America, in fact most places will not have air conditioning at all. Tour Italy Now has a number of insider tips and tricks to help you keep your cool in the Italian heat.
Churches – These large marbles structures are a haven of cool and quiet. Step inside (with arms and legs covered, of course, have a light scarf in your bag) and take in the art, history, and architecture.
Go underground – There are catacombs, cisterns, and crypts all over Italy that have offered cool relief for centuries.
Fountains – A dip in Fontana di Trevi like Silvia’s in la Dolce Vita will only get you a large fine and not cool relief, but there are plenty of spots with cool flowing water to drink. In Rome, look for the famous Nasone, which are always flowing with very cold, clean, drinkable water.
Head for the Hills (and mountains) – The air is cooler on the hilltops in Umbria and Tuscany and in Alpine mountain towns.
Shop Until you Drop - The many outlet malls near Rome and Florence are air conditioned and full of fashion bargains.
Have a Spa Day – Treat yourself to a day at the spa, these spaces are usually well air conditioned. You will cool off and relax.
Take a Dip (in the Hot springs) – No really! The first time we saw this it seemed crazy, but the many natural hot springs all over Italy, particularly in Tuscany, paradoxically cool you terrifically well.
Parks – Take a break is the vast green spaces like the Villa Borghese in Rome or the Boboli Gardens in Florence.
Head to the beach – Most Italians try to spend as much time as is possible by the sea. Luckily with almost 5,000 of miles of coastline, you are never far from a sandy spot.
Slow down – Do as the Italians do; Rest in the afternoon when the temperature is the hottest.
Wait Until Dark – Italy’s major cites and towns look absolutely beautiful at night when the sun goes down, with their many monuments and fountains lit.
Gelato – a cold cup of gelato or an icy granita is a perfect anytime snack. Look for a Sicilian bar and you can even order it for breakfast with your gelato or granita served in a fresh brioche.
What’s up with the towels?
In some of the more old school hotels you are not going to find a stack of fluffy towels. You are more likely to see crisp, freshly ironed, sheets of cotton, or sometime linen. Give one a tr. They are much ore absorbent than they look. We promise.
What Time to Eat
Meal times in Italy are pretty strict. Breakfast, (usually just a cappuccino and a pastry at the bar) is from 8:00-11:00. Lunch is from 1:00-3:00 and Dinner 8:00 -11:00. It can be quite difficult to find somewhere to sit down and eat outside of these hours. If you need a snack in between, look for a slice of pizza (pizza a taglio) or some gelato. From 6:00pm many wine bars will offer aperitivo, where you can get a glass of wine and a plate of some light snacks.
Taxi Rates in Italy
Taxi rates in Italy’s major cities are fixed and must be displayed at all times
Always take a taxi from a taxi stand or have your hotel call one for you. Italian taxis are not flagged down from the street.
Make sure the meter is running. If the driver says it is broken, ask to stop and leave the taxi.
Have a general idea what your fare should cost, so you know if the driver is trying to charge too much. There are different rates for daytime and nighttime.
Rome - The fees for a trip to and from the airports is fixed and must be posted. The current rate is €48.00 from Fuimicino and €30 from Ciampino. A current listing of taxi fares in rome can be found here.
Florence - The fixed fare from the airport is €20.00. A current listing of taxi fares in Florence can be found here.
Venice – In Venice you have watery canals instead of roads, but there are still taxis, it’s just that they are boats! From the airport you can take the Alilaguna water bus for €25 or you can hire a private taxi for approximately €110. There is also land options to the airport that leaves from Piazzale Roma. A Taxi will cost approximately €30. To move around in Venice you will want to take a Vaporetto. A single 60 minute fare card is €6.50. With this card you may change lines, but you can not change direction.
Tips for women traveling alone to Italy
Italy is, for the most part, a very safe travel destination. The small amount of crime that does occur is usually of the petty variety. Pickpockets are everywhere and you need to be on your guard for that. Make sure you have a purse that zips and even better a long strap that you can wear across your body. If you are in one of Italy’s cities be careful walking alone very late at night.
Don’t walk around with your travel documents, make copies of your passport and ID’s and credit cards. Scan them into a secure google or dropbox account or make photocopies that you keep in a separate place.
Health care in Italy
Italy has some of the very best trained medical professionals in the world. Leaders in cancer research and ranked by the World Health Organization as the second best in the world.
While the team at Tour Italy now hopes that you will never need medical attention here are a few of our tips to keep you healthy.
Don’t let jet-lag get you down. Try and walk around and sit in the sunshine on your first day in Italy. This will help you get on Italian time and make the most of your trip.
Bring any medicine you need or might need. Over the counter remedies like Advil (called Moment in Italy) and cold medicine (ask for Reactin) can be expensive. This post has the Italian equivalents for 10 popular over the counter medicines.
Drink, drink drink – we don’t mean wine (this time) Keep hydrated in the warm weather. These fountain are free flowing with cold, clean water. On the rare occasion you may see a sign that says “Non Potabile” or “Acqua Non Potabile” This water is not safe to drink.
Traveling to Italy for the first time
Italy is a very friendly and welcoming place to visit. A smile and a buongoriono will help with a language barrier. Our number one tip is be patient and flexible. Don’t try to see every single town and every monument and artwork. Take your time, take a break in the piazza and watch the world go by, like the Italians do.
Have you traveled to Italy? Do you have tips to share? What would you add to Italy – things you need to know before you go ?