If we could just choose a place to live, Venice would be that place. We have a certain connection to the Italian culture, and we feel like our heart is at home in Italy. So, here are some of ours tips for first time travellers heading to Italy.
Avoid travelling to Italy during high season, especially in summer months. Be prepared to find bigger crowds, higher prices, and shops closed for holidays.
Make the effort to wake up early! Cities like Rome or Venice are tourist hot spots and tend to get very crowded during the day. You can avoid this by waking up early to do some sightseeing and, as a bonus, you might get to see the sunrise.
Take some time to include smaller towns your travel itinerary. You’ll be surprised with the beautiful villages all over Italy. If you’re visiting Venice, go to Murano and Burano Islands. You’ll not regret it.
Restaurants and food
Avoid restaurants near tourist areas, as they are normally more expensive and of less quality. Don’t mind TripAdvisor as most restaurants are not ranked – ask locals for their opinion instead.
Remember that Italy is not only about pizza and pasta – depending on the region you can try out great seafood, risotto, polenta, wine, several licors (like Limoncello or Spritz) and many other things! Tipping is not mandatory.
Ask for an “acqua naturale” at restaurants if you don’t want a sparkling water – and check the label once it’s delivered to you!
Here you’ll learn how to drink coffee. Don’t expect to find a Starbucks on every corner – in fact, you won’t find one anywhere. Italians love coffee and you can find a wide variety of delicious beverages in lovely little cafés.
Don’t forget to grab a gelato but… don’t go to the ice cream shops with a wide display of flavours and brightly coloured ice creams with toppings as these aren’t the best shops. Try find artesanal gelato shops and taste Amarena flavor (creamy base with bits of maraschino cherries) – it’s our favourite.
Italy has a national railway network that connects many cities and makes it easy for tourists to visit several cities.
You have several trains to choose from: the high speed train Frecciarossa, which goes from Turin-Milan-Bologna-Rome-Naples-Salerno; Frecciargento (Rome-Venice-Verona-Bari/Lecce-Lamezia Terme/Reggio Calabria); Frecciabianca (Milan-Venice-Udine-Trieste and Milan-Genova-Rome and down to Bari/Lecce). Tickets need to be pre-purchased (Trenitalia website) and are only valid for the specific journey you purchased.
You also have Regional trains with affordable prices. They have open seating and can be used at any time. Regional tickets must be validated by inserting them in the yellow box at the respective platform.
Remember to pack comfortable shoes, not only because you’ll certainly walk a lot, but also because streets with cobblestones and stairs are common.
Keep in mind how you are dressed before entering churches and other religious places – try to wear conservative clothing.
Always carry enough cash with you as most places in Italy do not accept credit cards. However, keep in mind not to keep too much money with you as your loss will be larger if you get pickpocketed.
Dont buy common souvenirs impulsively – you’ll very often find the same item in the next corner for less.
Watch your bags and don’t let anyone help you with your luggage on the train. Although Italy is a generally safe country you should still be aware of pickpockets.
Avoid walking alone at night in large cities.
Final Tip – Dare to get lost
You don’t need to follow the route you planned. Getting lost and discovering new things, and searching for unknown places is one of the best things you can do. Be an explorer and not the tourist that only pays for sightseeing tours.
Here’s some basic Italian
Hello – Ciao
Goodbye – Arrivederci
Please – Per favore
Thank you – Grazie
You’re welcome – Prego
Pardon me – Mi scusi
English – Inglese
Yes – Sí
No – No