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First Timer Tips When Traveling to Italy

Tourist travel couple by Florence cathedral, Italy looking at ma

Traveling to Italy is first and foremost an adventure. But like all adventures, it can be overwhelming. For a small country about the size of the state of Arizona, there’s an awful lot to see and experience here. For first-timers, it’s recommended that you concentrate your Italian holiday on visiting the Big Three Cities: Rome, Florence, and Venice.

Still don’t know where to start, even after you’ve seen all the videos and read all the guidebooks? Here are a few more reminders.

Interurban CoachesRome is the capital of Italy, and where most people arrive first. While it can feel a bit much at first glance, most of the major tourist hooks are contained in a relatively compact area, which means you can see all the sights everyone says you need to see in much less time than you think. Study your map well, and scope out a centrally-located hotel so you spend less time in transit and more time enjoying what the city has to offer. Also, take some time out to learn the basics of the Roman public transport system. The bus network is your best bet at getting around, with the subway system a distant second. The bus route is simply way more extensive.

Pick and choose your battles. It’s impossible to see every single attraction a major city has to offer, but seeing every major attraction without exhausting yourself is. Pace yourself and draw up a vacation itinerary prior to your trip to make sure you hit all the local spots, but give yourself some time to breathe and relax, and definitely don’t try going at a breakneck pace just to see everything. This is Europe – you’re allowed to slow down. In fact, some places encourage it.

Just because a hotel claims that it’s located in the “historic city center” doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a stone’s throw away from a major tourist attraction. Before you get too hyped over the deal you just found online for a sweet room, crosscheck the hotel’s location against a map to make certain that it’s actually strategically located to the places you want to visit. This historic city center they’re talking about is massive, after all, and you don’t want to be stuck in a place that’s on the opposite side of where you want to be.

Young urban businessman professional on smartphone walking in st

Pack well and dress appropriately for your trip. The weather in Italy can change at the drop of a hat, literally, so cram your suitcase full of pieces that you can layer and then discard depending on the temperature. If you’re visiting the Vatican, don’t wear clothing that’s too short, too tight, or shows too much skin: chances are, you won’t be allowed to go into the cathedrals and churches if you’re dressed for the Amalfi coast anyway.

There’s crime in any major city, and while you might not think you’re particularly susceptible to it, it’s still best to remain alert and aware of where your belongings are and how to keep them safe. Be aware of your surroundings, and try not to look like an easy mark. If someone offers you something that sounds entirely too good to be true, that’s because it probably is. Steer clear of sidewalk scams and make sure you’re cautious about where you store your money, your phone, and your passport and other documents.

Pasta with meat, tomato sauce, parmesan and vegetablesFinally, a few dining reminders: fettucine alfredo does not exist in Italy. Neither does meatball spaghetti. Spaghetti with meat sauce is the prevalent option here, called pasta al ragù, with polpette – that’s your meatballs – served as a second course. If you absolutely need cream pasta in your life, look for the word ‘panna’ on the menu. Italians only drink water or wine with their meals, and you should, too. Know the difference between a ‘peperoni’ and a ‘pepperoni’ – the first one is a vegetable that comes either in yellow or red, and the other is a word that does not exist in any self-respecting Italian pizzeria. If it’s the little sausage slices you want, look for “pizza al salamino”, “pizza diavola” or “pizza calabrese”.

If you need help planning out your trip, Tour Italy Now has a handy vacation checklist that you can use to organize your travels in Italy. Download it now and use it to plan that dream vacation that you’ve always wanted to take.

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By Priscila Siano (264 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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