this section I give you tips on traveling, driving, packing, eating,
drinking and enjoying your trip to Italy. As many times as Ive
traveled to Italy, I learn something new each and every time. Each
trip I make gets better and better I think its because
I keep jotting down things that make my travel life easier
Im more relaxed and less intimidated by the differences between
our countries the more times I visit Italy. Im happy to pass
that information on to you. Its quite a learning experience.
Ill let you in on the joys, mishaps, challenges, discoveries
and funny tales of what can happen on a trip to Italy.
we go with the TIPS
WHO TO TRAVEL WITH AND HOW: Make sure you travel with people
you know and like, family, friends easygoing, interested, non-complaining,
adaptable good people. Nothing ruins a trip faster than traveling
with someone you have little in common with, people who are upset
at the least inconvenience, folks who are demanding (inappropriately
so) and rude. I have been there and it was upsetting to say the least
little we know each other until weve shared a room and a few
meals (and a few enlightening moments who knew?)
be tolerant, remember youre on vacation relax
some stuff "go" be true to yourself.
usually the person who plans the travel for me and my friends, if
theyre disappointed in something, I take it personally
I so want them happy and enjoying themselves (as I am), that I feel
Ive let them down when something isnt just perfect. Things
do go wrong and there are disappointments just move on, get
beyond youre in Italy! Also, if you are the travel planner,
youre not the tour guide and you dont have all the answers
its your time to enjoy and relax too. Your friends and
family need to know this. Less stress less pressure
less fallout. Remember: any time you travel with a person or
people, you will get tired of them if its a prolonged trip
take a day or a half day on your own - go in to the trip knowing this
and discussing it in advance. Youll be surprised how happy you
are to meet your friends and family back at the hotel for a drink
and dinner to discuss your solo adventures.
WEATHER: Now this is just me, but I like cooler weather
cool and cold (refreshing) is no problem for me. I also love
spring-like weather and you can get both when traveling off-peak.
For example, Ive been to Rome in February when all I needed
was a sweater during the day and a light jacket at night
been to the Amalfi Coast in December and sat on a beach (not normal)
been to Venice in April and only needed a light jacket and umbrella
Ive been to Tuscany in October and worn gloves
here is you get what you get, you need to layer your clothes and plan
in advance. All the charts in the world for "typical" weather
can simply be thrown out the window on any given day. My feeling is
this: when youre standing in line at a museum, or shopping a
market or touring a cathedral why not do it when you dont
have to sweat?!?! The summers are hot just like in the
.the only respite you have in Italy is the Mediterranean
effect (which does, in fact exist). Here are a few sites I use for
- www.accuweather.com -
you can also check your local internet site and do a search. Its
a good idea to check these sites just before your trip youll
have some idea of what to expect upon arrival and a few days beyond.
Its key to layer your clothes, bring gloves and an umbrella.
Here are some general weather guidelines:
Italy: January: 30s and 40s (warming up as you get
in to March) April: 50s and 60s (warming up as you get in to
June) July: 70s and 80s (getting hotter as the summer progresses)
October: 50s and 60s (cooling as you get in to November and
December). The further north you travel the cooler it becomes.
Italy: January: 30s and 40s (warming up as you get
in to March) April: 40s, 50s and 60s (warming up as you get
in to June) July: 70s and 80s and sometimes 90s (getting hotter
as the summer progresses) October: 50s and 60s and 70s (cooling
as you get in to November and December).
Italy: January: 40s, 50s and 60s (warming up as you
get in to March) April: 50s and 60s (warming up as you get
in to June) July: 70s, 80s and 90s (getting hotter as the summer
progresses) October: 50s, 60s and 70s (cooling as you get in
to November and December).
The word is casual and comfortable. Travel light within reason.
No need to buy new clothes for your trip take what you love
and whats comfortable on you. Id suggest trying everything
on prior to the trip to make sure you like it and are comfortable
in it (does it fit and does it go with several items that Im
packing?). Its a casual country no need for a tie or
anything dressy (unless youre going to a fancy restaurant
Ive found a black skirt or slacks and sweater usually do the
trick in that instance). Take a couple pair of pants (or 3 pair of
pants and a skirt) and alternate with your tops/sweaters. One jacket
or overcoat a barn jacket works well depending on the season.
Bring gloves, hat and an umbrella (small). I usually pack my clothing
in a duffle on wheels that is most comfortable for me (personally).
Its a good idea to share toiletries if youre traveling
in a group no need for several shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes
etc. Tip: make a list of needs and divide these items between/among
those traveling with you. You can combine and put in an extra bag
for ease of finding these items when needed. Usually 2 pair of shoes/boots
works best in fall and winter no tennis shoes
too American (and I mean that in a positive way just dont
do tennis shoes youll see youll understand).
Ive been accused of being a snob about this and maybe that is
so, but Italy is a country that makes some of the best shoes in the
world I respect that. If youre planning to hike or bike
proper shoes and sneaks of course. Tip: pack an extra
bag that can be made small (rolls up/folds up I have a great
Longchamp bag that is perfect for this there are also knockoffs/copies)
to put your purchases in I suggest this twice because you dont
want to have to buy a tote while youre there
.which I have
done in the past. Another item you might consider bringing is a tube
(about 24 to 30 inches long). You can buy these at your local art
store or packaging store. This tube will protect any art, placemats,
menus anything youre thinking about framing and dont
want to ruin with constant packing and unpacking. I use mine over
and over reinforce it with tape as the years go by or just
buy a new one for a few dollars.
MEDICATIONS: Carry all of your prescription medications
on your person (pockets) or in your carryon bag. I think this
is an obvious tip, but I give it special emphasis as you don't want
to risk an illness or an exacerbation of any health issues. Plus,
there are delays in baggage and flights better to have your
"stuff" with you.
MEDICINE/EMERGENCY KIT: I always carry a small
emergency medical kit. In the kit I have aspirin/ibuprofen,
immodium, pepto bismol, cold/allergy pills, bandaids, some alcohol
wipes, bacitracin/neosporin and flu medicine. I've been fortunate
on most of my trips, but friends and family have been very glad that
I had the "stuff".......
TRAVEL/THOSE IN LESS THAN PERFECT SHAPE (most of us): Be aware
that Italy is filled with ancient towns and cities that require some
climbing and some of it can be quite strenuous
not in the best of shape, tire easily or have a health condition that
limits your physical activity plan your travel accordingly
give yourself time to tour, take your time relax and
enjoy. Italy is a wonderful destination, an ancient destination that
is not totally (or thoroughly) prepared to deal with handicapped folks.
Even though the legal system in Italy requires train stations, airports,
public restrooms, museums, restaurants etc. to comply with regulations
that assist the disabled and the disabled traveler you will
run in to places that are difficult to navigate in a wheelchair. The
modern hotels have it covered and if the hotel has an elevator
youll do just fine. My suggestion is you inquire when making
your reservations. Italy does have an association that works closely
with the government to assure that regulations are adhered to and
that improvements continue in that area it is called
Nazionale Guida Legislazione Andicappati Trasporti
- the website address is www.anglat.it
and you can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
the major towns are rather well-prepared, the smaller towns are working
toward becoming prepared. Its just difficult to take ancient
cities and add elevators (which they have), wider stairways (close
to impossible in some cases) and services for the handicapped. Youd
be surprised and happy at the elevators on many of the bridges in
Venice. I offer this warning as I have a sister with MS and she would
have a hard time in many of the towns that I visit however,
were planning a trip!
TRAVEL: Ardith Luke is an RN who has lived abroad and
traveled extensively. She assists those who desire to travel, yet
don't have the patience to deal with the "rigors" that are often involved.
Help with meds, activities, health monitoring and maintenance (while
traveling) - it's simple peace of mind for those who continue to travel
and explore, yet need a helping hand. Her email address is: email@example.com
BAGGAGE IDENTIFICATION: Interestingly, about 85%
of all baggage/luggage is colored black. The possibility to
take a bag that looks like your bag, but belongs to another person
is there.....I have several brightly colored nametags on the outside
of my baggage and a nametag on the inside - just in case.....I've
seen folks with brightly colored straps around their bags, colored
ties, unique bag tags - the gamut. Anything that will help you
to identify your baggage is key....don't forget to check the tags....and
watch for others who might make the same mistake.
BAGGAGE SAFETY: You can no longer lock your bags
on flights but you still need locks (or so I think). I like
to keep my bags locked when I am away from my room or when Im
on a train. So, I put the locks on when I get to my first hotel. Read
about train travel locks in the section on Train Travel.
JUST IN CASE: I always pack a needle and thread
(usually black and white colored thread). I've ripped a couple
of items and have been able to make repairs on those items by having
the needle and thread handy.
I ordered these from QVC on a "lark"
work. Theyre these bags that you put your clothes in, then compress
or roll the items, the air release valve opens and all the air goes
out making items (especially bulky sweaters) small (they look almost
freeze-dried)! This tip is for people who tend to overpack. These
bags do work, your clothes recover after a few minutes in the air
or hanging up, they are reusable and they do add room to your luggage.
They are very cool. Web addresses: www.packmate.com
Obviously you need a passport to get "in" to Italy. Heres
a safety measure just in case you lose your passport while traveling.
Make a photocopy of your passport and leave it at home or with a friend.
Make another photocopy and put it in a safe compartment with your
luggage. If you lose the passport, you have a copy of your document
and can expedite the replacement. Keep your real passport in your
waist wallet for absolute safety.
AMERICAN EMBASSY LOCATIONS: Its not a bad idea
to have a list of the American Embassy locations and phone numbers
with you when you travel. If you lose your passport, if you need shelter
or assistance in an emergency, youll have the numbers, addresses
and email contacts right at your fingertips. Less hassle, less stress
and in a real emergency youll be glad you have the information.
Be safe out there. The website for this information is: http://usembassy.state.gov/
Ive been asked about travel insurance for tense political times
(war, terrorism, fear, etc.). Heres my take: first, trip-cancellation
and/or trip-interruption insurance really does not protect you. If
youre on a trip and war is declared there is not a policy
that will protect you. If youre looking for guarantees, Id
shop around and understand that the price you pay will be very very
high. I also advise you to do some research and read the agreement
youre signing (repeat: you are signing and agreeing to their
terms and conditions). A website I use that offers the most information
and options is: www.mytripinsurance.com
ABOUT THE TRIP
ACROSS THE "POND": Sleep. Take 2 or 3 Excedrin PM/Tylenol
PM or whatever pill you take to make you sleep. Dress comfortably
youll be in those clothes the day you leave and the entire
first day of your trip. Eat the dinner they offer on the plane (or
bring your own sandwiches)
.Im mixed on the wine that you
get on planes
.International flights give you free alcohol/mixed
drinks (this has changed recently in some cases you pay for
the drinks). I usually dont drink too much on the plane because
one drink is like two and a half drinks on land (altitude and pressure).
So, while I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner, I dont recommend
it if youre going to take the pills
.and a good nights
sleep wins with me
youve got plenty of days to enjoy the
wine of Italy. I truly suggest you sleep. Another suggestion is to
get up very very early on the day youre leaving for Italy (for
example get up at 3 or 4 am and start getting ready for your
trip). When you get on the plane and through the night youll
definitely be tired and will most surely sleep (in fact, youre
setting your internal clock when you do this). Make sure you stay
hydrated on the plane its good for your body the
flight attendants will come through the plane repeatedly with water
and juice take the water. I also like to do some "movements"
during the flight to keep my body from "cramping": for example
stretch your legs out (either in the aisle when no one is there or
under your seat), do ankle circles, roll your shoulders forward and
backward, stretch your arms, wiggle your toes, roll your neck
youll be surprised how much better this will make you feel.
There are those that like to walk the aisles thats good
too. When you land, if you feel you need a caffeine push do!
Another thing I do is bring an old washcloth in my purse or carryon
bag. Once Ive made it through customs and am ready to go in
to the city or go to get my rental car, I stop in the bathroom, wash
my face and moisturize and put on new/clean makeup. Youll last
longer and feel cleaner throughout this first day. And speaking of
the first day, you have to fight the urge to sleep the first day of
your trip the desire to take a short nap is unbelievable
dont. When you check in to your hotel put your
bags down, get refreshed and go see the sights at least take
a stroll! The key is to stay up until 11pm (or later) the first day
and the jet lag is gone by the following morning. I swear if you take
a nap you wont know your name for 3 days!
THE TICKET RULES
AND CONDITIONS: There are a lot of rules written on the back
of your ticket
.however, with etickets and paperless travel,
much is lost in the translation
.not to mention what is printed
on the back of your ticket is actually an abridged version
here are some rules and rules of thumb:
Rule: 240 Delayed
Flights: If your flight is delayed, you are to be booked on the
next available flight where space is available. If the delay is over
2 hours, the airline is to allow you a free 3-minute phone to alert
your friends, family or business associates. If the flight is diverted
to another airport and your delay is over 4 hours and its after
10pm, the airline will give you a hotel voucher and transport to the
Lost Baggage: If an airline loses your baggage, they (the airline)
will pay you the amount of the items in your suitcase (you must have
proof) up to $2,500.
Rule: 260 Airline
Flight Refunds: If your airline fails to depart, because of mechanical
problems/difficulties or because they have overbooked the flight,
they must offer you a refund on your ticket. And, on the other hand,
if your plans change the airline may charge you fees depending on
the type of ticket you purchased.
I usually call AutoEurope for my car rentals
..the number is
800-223-5555. They also have a website: www.autoeurope.com.
When you rent from them you get all insurances included in the price,
unlimited miles and great deals. You also get a number of rental
companies like Avis, Europcar etc. Ive never had a problem with
them no hidden charges nothing. For long term rentals
there are deals from Renault Eurodrive you basically lease
a car while youre there very good pricing fine
cars (new). The website is www.renaultusa.com
and the phone number is 800-221-1052.
I consider the Italians very good drivers. They stay in the right
hand lane unless they are passing. You must do the same. When youre
overtaking another vehicle quickly go out, pass and return
to the regular lane. The Italians drive fast and pass to get around
slower vehicles theyll flash their lights and expect
you to move so move! Stay right and youll have no problems.
Autostradas are marked with green signs and smaller roads are marked
with blue signs. Once you get the hang of it, youll know to
head for the city that is above the one you wish to go to (thats
on the map and on the signs also follow any signs that direct
you to the city you are going to). Follow the map, get lost and its
easy to get found. Sometimes to get to a location it seems like youre
going south to get north its just that youre trying
to reach the autostrada that will take you where you wish to go. The
roads are good and well marked for the most part. Sometimes you just
follow the sign that says tutte directions that means youre
going to an area that can take you just about anywhere a good
Note: on the
pavement on the autostradas youll see the cities written in
white thats just a bonus bit of help if you cant
see the signs.
MAPS: I suggest
purchasing a good Italian map from a bookstore. Even though your rental
agent will supply you with a map youll need a second
one with more detailed information (again youll use it trip
after trip and so will your friends). Plus, when youre pulled
over and trying to read the map its best if at least
two of you have a map. Internet sites like Mapquest and Mapblast can
give you directions from one address to another in Italy. And, while
these directions work (thank goodness), sometimes there are more direct
ways to reach a destination. Have a good map and you can get where
you need to go. You may also want to get off the autostrada and drive
through the countryside DO! You cant imagine the places
you discover, the trattorias you get to dine at and the small villages
you get to visit (however briefly). I consider staying in these off
the main road towns and villages the next time I plan a trip (take
notes). Check out www.bn.com
for a good selection.
There are a couple of websites that I use just in case I feel the
need to have exact directions from one town to another: www.mapblast.com
Go to the driving directions section on each site and you can be as
specific as you want or just map from town to town.
Check out www.autostrade.it
for directions to and from all towns.
CITY DRIVING TIP:
Okay, youve gotten to a city you wish to visit and youll
see signs for parking (a big P)
.in your mind you know what you
really want to do is go further on in to the city do! You can
always turn around if you have to or need to. The key is to not
to lose your car by parking so far far away. Youll see the locals
going up in to the city and parking in the best spaces, while the
tourists park below and walk for eons to get to the sights (and in
some cases you do have to park outside the gates of a town). But,
when you feel you just want to see whats up there before you
park, proceed forward and move the car later if you have to
look how smart (and lucky) you are. Keep heading for the Citta
Centro (City Center) and youll get where you need to go.
Heres a good idea and a recommendation: If youre traveling
in a group (of 2 or more), each of you should put some euros in a
"kitty" (an envelope or zippered pouch) keep it separate
from all other money. This money is to be used for tolls, gas, parking
etc. When you run low, you each add some euros. Trade off keeping
control of the money. He who drives drives. He who sits in
the passenger seat controls the "kitty". When you come to
a toll, read the amount on the toll sign and have it ready for the
toll taker. Its a bit daunting at first youll get
used to it. Dont worry about taking time at the tollbooths either
- take your time and relax
.what do you care? Youll get
the hang of it.
Gasoline in Europe is
sold by the liter. Most people drive small cars and theyre great
on fuel. Were a bit spoiled in the states. Even though gas prices
are high (to us), the gas prices in Europe are much higher. Thats
one of the reasons they have such small cars! Unleaded is senza
piomba. 30 liters equals 8 gallons. As for mileage, youre
dealing with kilometers. 10 kilometers equals 6 miles. TO
TELL THE GUY AT THE GAS STATION TO FILL IT UP JUST SAY PIENO.
Fuel prices are regulated by the government so there is no
need to shop around for gasoline/fuel at better prices. Do keep in
mind that gasoline on the autostrada is a bit higher than in towns
again, government regulated.
TICKETS: If you get a parking ticket, you pay at any
post office. You simply hand them the ticket, the payment and they
give you a receipt.
Make sure you have the phone number for the rental car company youre
doing business with quite often they have an office in a town
nearby that can assist you with any automobile problems. Do note that
on the Autostradas youll see phone boxes about every 2 kilometers.
If you have a breakdown, simply dial 116 and the local Automobile
Club Italiano (their version of AAA) will assist you.
I do a lot of driving in Italy
.the following list of "drive
times" are my best times
.I usually add about 20 minutes
(for getting lost-getting started-and reading the map)
a tendency to turn right when Im in doubt sometimes thats
not the way to go
.so, use these times as a general reference
to Alberobello 5 hours
Rome to Amalfi - 3 hours
Rome to Assisi - 3 hours
Rome to Bari 4 hours and 20 minutes
Rome to Bologna - 3 hours and 40 minutes
Rome to Cortona - 3 hours
Rome to Deruta (pottery) - 2 hours and 30 min.
Rome to Florence 2 hours and 45 minutes
Rome to Frascati 30 minutes
Rome to Matera 5 hours
Rome to Milan 5 hours and 30 minutes
Rome to Naples 2 hours and 20 minutes
Rome to Orvieto 1 hour and 30 minutes
Rome to Perugia - 2 hours
Rome to Pompei 2 hours and 20 minutes
Rome to Portofino 5 hours
Rome to Scanno 1 hour and 45 minutes
Rome to Siena 2 hours and 40 minutes
Rome to Sorrento - 2 hours and 30 minutes
Rome to Venice 5 hours
Rome to Villa San Giovanni (ferry to Sicily) 6 hours and 30
Florence to Amalfi 5 hours
Florence to Assisi - 2 hours
to Bari 6 hours and 30 minutes
Florence to Bologna - 1 hour
Florence to Cinque Terre 2 hours
Florence to Lake Como 3 hours and 20 minutes
Florence to Milan - 3 hours
to Perugia 1 hour and 35 minutes
Florence to Pisa - 1 hour
Florence to Portofino 2 hours and 15 minutes
Florence to Rome 2 hours and 45 minutes
Florence to San Gimignano 45 minutes
Florence to Siena - 1 hour
Florence to Venice - 2 hours and 30 min.
Milan to Bologna 2 hours and 15 minutes
Milan to Cinque Terre 2 hours and 30 minutes
Milan to Lake Como 45 minutes
Milan to Florence - 3 hours
Milan to Linate Airport - 25 minutes
Milan to Malpensa Airport - 1 hour
Milan to Orvieto 4 hours and 25 minutes
Milan to Perugia 4 hours and 25 minutes
Milan to Portofino 2 hours
Milan to Positano 8 hours
Milan to Rome 5 hours and 30 minutes
Milan to Siena - 4 hours
Milan to Venice 2 hours and 45 minutes
Venice to Amalfi 7 hours and 20 minutes
Venice to Bologna 1 hour and 30 minutes
Venice to Cinque Terre 4 hours
Venice to Lake Como 3 hours
Venice to Florence 2 hours and 30 minutes
Venice to Milan 2 hours and 45 minutes
Venice to Orvieto 4 hours
Venice to Perugia 3 hours and 50 minutes
Venice to Portofino 4 hours and 10 minutes
Venice to Positano 7 hours and 20 minutes
Venice to Rome 5 hours
Naples to Amalfi 1 hour
Naples to Positano 52 minutes
Naples to Ravello - 1 hour and 30 minutes
to Rome 2 hours and 20 minutes
Naples to Sorrento - 1 hour
Positano to Amalfi 15 minutes
Positano to Naples 52 minutes
Positano to Pompei 45 minutes
Positano to Sorrento - 30 minutes
Amalfi to Matera 2 hours and 45 minutes
Amalfi to Pompei 50 minutes
Amalfi to Positano 15 minutes
Amalfi to Ravello 8 minutes
Amalfi to Rome - 3 hours
Amalfi to Sorrento - 1 hour
Amalfi to Villa San Giovanni (ferry to Sicily) 4 hours and
Ravello to Amalfi 8 minutes
to Naples - 1 hour and 30 minutes
Ravello to Sorrento - 1 hour and 30 minutes
Sorrento to Amalfi - 1 hour
Sorrento to Naples - 1 hour
Sorrento to Positano - 30 minutes
Sorrento to Ravello - 1 hour and 30 minutes
Sorrento to Rome - 2 hours and 30 minutes
Siena to Assisi 1 hour and 40 minutes
Siena to Cortona - 1 hour and 10 minutes
Siena to Florence - 1 hour
Siena to Milan 3 hours and 50 minutes
Siena to Perugia - 1 hour and 30 minutes
Siena to Rome 2 hours and 40 minutes
Siena San Gimignano - 45 minutes
to Agrigento 2 hours and 50 minutes
Messina to Caltagirone 2 hours
Messina to Catania 1 hour
Messina to Enna 1 hour and 45 minutes
Messina to Erice 3 hours and 40 minutes
Messina to Palermo 2 hours and 30 minutes
Messina to Siracusa 1 hour and 45 minutes
Messina to Taormina 32 minutes
Palermo to Agrigento 2 hours
Palermo to Caltagirone 2 hours and 15 minutes
Palermo to Catania 2 hours
Palermo to Enna 1 hour and 30 minutes
Palermo to Erice 1 hour and 10 minutes
Palermo to Messina 2 hours and 30 minutes
Palermo to Siracusa 2 hours and 40 minutes
Palermo to Taormina 2 hours and 30 minutes
TRAVEL: Ive traveled by train on many occasions.
I like it! Sometimes I combine it with my car rentals
what you need to know: the train system in Italy is very good
timely, efficient it totally works for me. You
can get from point A to point B easily, but sometimes there are stops
along the way and youre dependent on or at the mercy of the
train schedules. Investigate prior to your trip see if
it makes sense to train around Italy. FYI: You dont need
a car in Rome, Florence or Venice if these towns are your entire
trip take the train and enjoy these towns.
use both www.trenitalia.it
or www.fs-on-line.com to
check train schedules from one town to the next and in some cases
to buy my tickets (its not always possible to make a purchase
however). These sites give you times, dates, schedule, type of train,
stops (if any) and the ability (sometimes) to buy your ticket online/reserve.
If youd rather have the ticket right in your hand prior to leaving
the USA call RailEurope: 800-848-7245. Keep in mind there are
service charges for purchasing tickets in advance (a $27 ticket goes
to $40 or higher) but the ticket is sent right to your home
or office by courier. You can also buy from these sites: www.raileurope.com
or www.dertravel.com or www.cit-tours.com
(again with the service charges).
other way to get rail tickets is to do it when you are in Italy.
I find this somewhat time-consuming, but its less expensive
and you just make time for it in your day of touring. You can also
buy from travel agents that are located in the train stations
they usually do not charge service fees they will have this
posted and you should also ask to double check. In busy times,
trains fill up I had to sit on the floor (with bags) on a recent
trip from Rome to Florence the train was crowded at the time
I wished to travel (peak time) and I wanted to leave right then
I could have waited for the next train and gotten a seat, but I chose
to sit or stand.
.Keep in mind, some well-traveled routes offer
very regular departures others offer only one or two
investigate prior to the trip to assure you get your ticket or at
least the train times. My suggestion for train travel is to pack lightly
if possible (and I know it is not always possible). Allow time for
schlepping your bags and getting on and off the trains.
Whenever you have doubts go to the Information Office
at the train station. Early on in your travels you might be confused
about reading the schedules or finding the right track so,
go early, see an agent who speaks English and youll be assured
of boarding the correct train.
There are some busy stations where folks come up to you and offer
assistance go to the Information office. Unless a person
has the official name tag/badge for the station they are not
an official employee and they are either scamming you for a tip or
checking to see if they might be able to rip you off (keep your money,
passport and everything else in a SAFE PLACE).
When you board the train, quite often your bag is too large to fit
over your head or right near your seat.....do note that you can stow
it between seats if that space is not already taken. So, quite often
you have to stow your bag in the baggage compartment of the car you're
seated in.....You can't keep your eyes on that bag at all times so
I find that a lock with a cable works wonders for my peace of mind.
Magellan's Catalogue has a couple of styles at good prices.
The cable is connected to the lock, you connect it to your bag, wrap
it around the train rack. Just remember to go to the bag car to unhook
the bag prior to arriving at your station people are anxious
to get on and off the train and you dont want to be jostled
and made nervous by doing this at the last minute.
HOTEL RATING SYSTEM: Hotels in Italy are given star rankings
from the government. A hotel will receive a ranking from 1 to 5 stars
(5 being the best). Every hotel must display their star ranking on
the façade of the establishment. These star rankings will become
very familiar to you as you go through Italy. The ranking takes in
to account the various levels of service, amenities and comfort offered
by the hotel. A one star hotel is basic, simple and usually offers
a shared bathroom. A two star is a step above. A three star will normally
offer simple comfort with a private bath and four and five star hotels
are deluxe accommodations. When you book a room, be specific about
your needs and you will not be disappointed. If a private bath is
important to you, then state that on your reservation request. Ive
stayed in 2 star hotels that offered a wonderful level of comfort
and a private bath. Ive had as many good nights in a 3 star
hotel as I have had in 4 and 5 star hotels. Off peak allows you the
option to choose or mix it up at better (lower) rates. Its the
sublime to the ridiculous for me. You will not find star ratings on
most agriturismo/farms however, there are some farms that offer
amenities beyond what you get at hotels. Check out the websites of
each for your best gauge.
Know this your hotels in major cities (Rome, Florence and Venice
for example) and resorts will cost more money than in smaller towns
and in the countryside. These are must-see cities and knowing this
in advance will allow you to plan your trip better. Plus, my knowledge
of the hotels offering the best value, comfort, style and convenience
make it easier to spend your money wisely.
THE FIRST HOTEL: If your first city is Rome, Florence or Milan,
and youre going to cab in to the city, have a card printed with
the name and address of the hotel to give to the taxi driver - unless
youre able to communicate in Italian which Im sure
you can but, just to be sure
..use the card. This way
you give the driver the car and you can sit back, relax and enjoy
easy option (and quite often offered to you by your hotel) is a limo
or car service that will pick you up at the airport. The hotel will
quote you a price which is almost always the same as a cab/taxi (and
if there is a small difference no biggie the convenience
often outweighs the cost difference). For taxis when you arrive
at the hotel, look at the meter and round up the fare. If theres
any question, go in to the hotel and ask a hotel employee to assist
I recently had a taxi driver (one bad apple) try to pull a EURO-SCAM
I gave him a 50 euro note for our ride to a hotel
near the airport, I asked him for a certain amount back and he pulled
out a 10 euro note and said Id given him that amount (a 10)
and not a 50
.Well, I knew what Id given him and I knew
I had no 10s in my wallet, so I started to argue with the driver.
He would not give in, so I told my friend what the driver had done
and she pulled out her pad wrote down his car number, went in to the
hotel and told the hotel employees what the driver had done and wouldnt
you know it all of a sudden the driver finds a 50 euro bill
in his back seat! I asked for a receipt and when I got home I wrote
a letter to the taxi commission in Rome.
YOUR HOTELS: Youll notice in many cities they have yellow
signs with black letters with hotel names on them (sometimes theyre
white with black letters). Just head toward the direction of your
hotel and youll have no problem. When you cant find your
hotel just ask a person on the street theyll point
and youll eventually get there. Its half the experience
and the fun (and the frustration) of traveling in a foreign country.
(dove albergo ________? Means wheres hotel________? And is pronounced
dovay al-bear-go_________?) again with the long os.
IN AT HOTELS: When you check in at hotels, they ask for your
passport. Have your passports (all of you) ready and available for
the desk clerk. Its a government requirement. They may keep
the passports for a few minutes or for an hour. Just make sure you
retrieve them and put them in the safety of the waist wallet once
they are returned to you.
KIND OF HOTELS: Anyone who has ever traveled with me knows
my choices are from the sublime to the ridiculous (I believe I mentioned
that earlier)! Ive stayed at some of the worlds best hotels
and some of the most charming hotels and some of the most unique hotels
and some places Id rather not stay at again
and you learn. The trick is to write down places you wish to stay
at (the next time) as you go. Dont be freaky about it, just
note the hotel name and address. I like to stay in the medieval center
of most cities because I can then walk to everything. If I stay outside
a town, I want it to be a special place, a new experience, something
I can tell others about. I wont steer you wrong trust
me all of the places Ive chosen here are unique and wonderful
places totally described with websites so you can get
an idea of whats in store for you. Its all about adventure!
So, you want to stay at a farm
these places can range from rustic
.the choice is yours. My first warning is that
some farms take credit cards and some do not (even if they ask for
a credit card to confirm your booking), be prepared to pay cash
dont expect the concierge (theres not one) or porter (theres
not one) to carry your bags to your room youre on your
..third, the food is usually plentiful, delicious and dining
is communal (in many cases)
.fourth, the families who own and
run these places are warm, welcoming and will leave you on your own,
but will also assist you with local history, sights and dining (if
you wish). I usually stay at one of two farms per trip and am always
so pleased with the food, the décor and the service
correspond with quite a few of the families who have welcomed me in
to their homes TRY IT!
- AN OPTION JUST IN CASE: I recently encountered a hotel
situation that caused me to make a last-minute change. I had spent
the day in Tuscany and arrived at my hotel at dusk and in the rain.
This was a small town with few lodging options. My hotel was dark,
the street up to the hotel was under construction, so I left the car
and climbed up a steep hill to the hotel (my parents behind me), I
rang the bell and then the lights went...the owner greeted me, took
me to my car - my parents had to walk down to the car, we put our
bags in the owner's car and when I asked if I should park in his lot,
he told me I could not park my car up in the village - even though
there was parking. Perhaps it was me, perhaps it was the weather,
or perhaps the construction had something to do with it, but I didn't
wish to park my car on a busy thoroughfare and I didn't want my parents
climbing that steep hill every time we left the hotelÉit just didn't
seem right, safe or proper - and I was set to stay at this hotel for
several days. So, even though it was late, I thanked the gentleman
and told him I didn't wish to stay at his hotel under those circumstances
- he understood, apologized and my parents and I set out in search
of new accommodations. Now, remember it's late, it's raining and we've
had a fabulous day of touring. My mother suggested we head to the
autostrada and stay at a hotel there. We considered many things, but
knew we'd find a hotel open, with a restaurant and in good time. We
stopped at the first hotel - The Hotel Transit. Obviously, for those
in transit - truckers and people moving on down the country. Our room
was nice, the facilities private and clean - the dinner excellent.
The price! 3 people in a nice suite plus dinner with wine - 100 euros!
We slept well, ate well and saved money - I was shocked! Hotel Transit
saved us and I'd recommend this option when in doubt, lost, sleepy,
trying to save a few bucks and for the sheer surprise.
change Kilometers in to Miles you multiply the Kilometers
by .621; To change Miles in to Kilometers you multiply by 1.61;
16.1 Kilometers = 10Miles
change Liters in to Gallons you multiply the liters
by .264; To change Gallons to Liters you multiply Gallons by 3.79;
37.9 liters = 10 gallons
change Centigrade/Celsius in to Fahrenheit you multiply
the Centigrade/Celsius by 1.8 and add 32; To change Fahrenheit to
Centigrade/Celsius you subtract 32 from the Fahrenheit and multiply
by .555; 15.5 Centigrade/Celsius = 60 Fahrenheit
change Grams in to Ounces you multiply the Grams by
the .035; To change Ounces to Grams you multiply the Ounces by 28.4;
227.2 Grams = 8 Ounces
change Meters in to Feet you multiply the Meters by
3.28; To change Feet in to Meters you multiply the Feet by .305; 100
Meters = 328 Feet
change Kilograms in to Pounds you multiply the Kilograms
by 2.20; To change Pounds in to Kilograms you multiply the Pounds
by .455; 2.3 Kilograms = 5 Pounds
Women: Size 5 is 36 in Italy; Size 6 is 37 in Italy; Size
7 is 38 in Italy; Size 8 is 39 in Italy; Size 9 is 40 in Italy; Size
10 is 41 in Italy.
Men: Size 7 is 39 _ in Italy; Size 8 is 41 in Italy; Size
9 is 42 in Italy; Size 10 is 43 in Italy; Size 11 is 44 _ in Italy;
Size 12 is 46 in Italy.
Women: Size 6 is 38 in Italy; Size 8 is 40 in Italy; Size
10 is 42 in Italy; Size 12 is 44 in Italy; Size 14 is 46 in Italy;
Size 16 is 48 in Italy; Size 18 is 50 in Italy.
Men (Suits): Size 34 is 44 in Italy; Size 36 is 46 in Italy;
Size 38 is 48 in Italy; Size 40 is 50 in Italy: Size 42 is 52 in Italy;
Size 44 is 54 in Italy; Size 46 is 56 in Italy; Size 48 is 58 in Italy.
Men (Shirts): Size 14 is 36 in Italy; Size 15 is 38 in
Italy; Size 15 _ is 39 in Italy: Size 16 is 41 in Italy; Size 16 _
is 42 in Italy; Size 17 is 43 in Italy; Size 17 _ is 44 in Italy;
Size 18 is 45 in Italy.
MAPS: in Florence and Rome make sure you get a city map or
plan to make life easier. Your hotel will have these at the front
desk for free. This way you can gauge your time and sights
and get to those that are most important to you. And you can get home
(to your hotel) from wherever you are. The front desk is always helpful
at pointing out (on the map) the places youre interested in.
Even the smaller towns have maps get them.
USA AND ITALY: Italy is 6 hours ahead of the eastern
United States; 7 hours ahead of the central United States; 9 hours
ahead of the western United States. Italy does utilize daylight savings
time from the end of March to the end of September.
TIME: Italians are busy early and busy late. In between you
take your chances with time. Around 12:30/1:00pm places close for
a few hours. They re-open around 3:00/3:30pm and stay open until 7pm.
If you think you need gas and are in a small town get gas then.
If youre on the autostrada, the agips are open almost
all of the time. Just watch the gauge and if you get off the beaten
track you may have to stop at a kind of self-serve/insert money type
of fuel machine. Just be aware of the gauge and keep the "kitty"
MARRIED IN ITALY: The road to marriage in Italy can seem tedious
are two ways to go about it: the easy way is to get married by a Justice
of the Peace in the USA and then have a lovely ceremony in Italy
other way requires documentation and time heres what
you have to do: Four days prior to the actual wedding ceremony (plan
for this), you must appear before the Ufficiale Di Stato Civile
(Civil Registrar) of the city youll be getting married in;
you must file a declaration of intent to marry and you must have two
witnesses with you; you must also have the following documents: a
Passports; b Birth certificates
the actual birth certificate or a certified copy both parents
names must be on the certificate; c Evidence
that any previous marriages have been terminated divorce decree,
annulment decree or death certificate fyi: a previous marriage
by the bride must have ended (officially) at least 300 days prior
to this new wedding; d Sworn statement of consent
to the marriage by parents or legal guardians if the person who desires
to be married is under 18 years of age; e An affidavit
stating that there are no obstacles or impediments to this marriage
this affadavit must be notarized by the US Consular Officer
in Italy youll need an appointment for this fyi
this document is called a Nulla Osta there is
a charge for this as well; f the Atto Notorio
(you can get this is the US prior to departure it is recommended
that you get this in the USA) from an Italian Consular Officer in
the USA this is another sworn oath stating that there are no
impediments to the marriage under US law (two witnesses) these
documents must be translated in to Italian and must have an Apostille/Hague
Certification. If you cannot get the Atto Notorio prior to your
trip to Italy, you will go to the Prefettura/Pretura in the
town you are going to be married in (this requires an appointment),
go to the Ufficio Atti Notori you will need three stamps
for this appointment: two different Marche Per Atti Giudiziari
and the Marche Madre-Figlia (there is a charge for these
they can be bought at the local tabacchi shop). In order for the marriage
to be legal/recognized in the USA, the marriage must be registered
with the Prefettura/Pretura. Make sure you also have copies of all
certificates for yourself (affixed with the Apostille), youll
need them in the US (legalities, insurance, employment, etc.). Please
utilize the following websites, as this section is a guide only: www.italyemb.org/
THE AGIPS: These are the gas stops some are
large and some are small they all have good food. The big ones
(the signs have a crossed fork and knife and say ristorante) have
terrific and inexpensive lunches pasta! And salad! And wine!
Among other things. Great if youre traveling to a city and its
a "long" day of travel (several hours on the road). The
small ones are great for a croissant and cappuccino in the morning
(they say bar very convenient and cost effective if youre
not getting breakfast at the hotel). At the small ones, you order
from the cashier, pay her, get a ticket and hand it to the attendant
behind the bar. In the large agips with the café or cafeteria
you pay when youve gone through the food line. Also, you almost
always exit through a different door than the one you entered
it keeps the traffic flowing and it is all about logistics
Id suggest getting the Pimsleur beginner tapes for a
slight introduction to the language. These tapes are great. Pimsleur
is the best one Ive used the most effective. Yes, many
people speak English, but its fun and polite to try to speak
their language. Ive even taken courses at the local college
to improve and to connect with others who love Italy. You cannot imagine
the new tips and ideas you get from other Italophiles. You can find
these tapes at www.amazon.com
whats more fun than sitting in the crisp, sunshiny air drinking
wine, eating fresh bread, cheese, fruit, veggies and sausages
did I mention olives? This is a great way to save money and
truly experience the countryside. When you pass a store that has fresh
items buy and store in the car. Sausage and cheese will keep
(and make the car smell divine the bread goes stale). Just
keep stuff wrapped up Tip: bring sealable bags. When
you run out or tire of your current fare get new stuff!
the Magellans catalogue or the Brookstone
Store have the following items get one for each of
you traveling: small collapsible cup (for drinking wine or water),
a fork, knife, spoon set, a corkscrew with a bottle opener. I have
also found these items at the local Walmart/KMart/Target
in the camping section. You can cut sausage, cheese, open wine and
eat olives for lunch (or in your hotel room in the afternoon
cocktail hour)! You can store the utensils in the glove compartment!
Keep some wet wipes for the cleanup.
Everyone should bring a camera and plenty of film. Everyone takes
plenty of pictures of everyone on the trip. Have your camera at the
ready so you get good shots. Buy both black and white film (for artsy
shots that are suitable for framing/gifts) and color film. Also have
an extra battery for the camera nothing worse than having to
buy an expensive lithium battery in Europe quite a bit more
expensive over there. Take pictures, dont be afraid to ask someone
to get shots of you, the two of you or the group
.offer to do
it for others and theyll usually reciprocate. Ive met
some nice (and grateful) people this way. And dont be embarrassed
to take pictures in front of fabulous sites youre on
vacation and its a must. And while Im sure youre
an excellent photographer think try to get you and your
traveling friends in photos theres nothing worse than
coming home, getting your film developed and finding youve taken
50 shots of the hills of Tuscany and no one not one PERSON
is in a single picture. Sure, youre going to take some shots
like that do I just suggest that the full feelings of
the trip are in the faces of those you travel with. I think you get
my drift take lots of pictures
..if you have a digital
camera, make sure you have the supplies required for your camera.
SAFETY: Airports/Airlines are increasingly and lawfully
utilizing (thank goodness) the high powered luggage scanners (for
checked bags only) to make flying safer for everyone. The drawback
is that film in checked bags can be ruined by these high powered x-rays.
Do not put your film - any film in your checked baggage.
Take your film with you in your carryon baggage. As an added
measure of preserving your film and pictures, I'd suggest that you
invest in a Security Bag from Magellan's. This bag is made of
a pliable lead fabric and is similar to the lead aprons that x-ray
technicians utilize when taking films for x-rays. The bags come
in two sizes: small and large. I purchased a large bag
so I can put my camera (which always has film in it) in with my film.
There's nothing worse than getting home from a trip and having all
of your film ruined by the scanning machinery at the airports. Tip:
before you head home, place all film in your carryon inside the lead
spiritual and religious
but as Ive researched the
many churches in France and Italy, Ive come across some terms
that I needed to look up to make sure I really knew what they were
hope these definitions will help you to tour the churches with a better
knowledge and understanding.
Over the doors of the church youll often see a decorated half-moon
or triangle shaped space its a tympanum.
The room just after the entrance and just before the main part of
the church (nave).
The main part of the church the body so to speak.
The part of the church that juts out from the main body of the church
creating a cross pattern/cruciform.
A semi-circular projection usually with a domed or vaulted ceiling.
The area around the altar that is reserved for clergy only.
A room in a church that adjoins the sanctuary where sacred vessels
and vestments are kept the vestry.
Where the choir/singers sit.
The upper wall area that usually encompasses the windows.
A maze or pathway sometimes on the church floor and serves
as a place to do penance (often on knees).
Located under the church/nave, this room is often a burial site.
Similar to a cloister a place to walk-think-contemplate, usually
220 volts ac youll need a converter kit. Your hairdryer
should have a button or switch for both 110 (America) and 220 (Italy)
volts this way you dont have to use the adapter but you
will need the plug. The adapter is the largest thing in the converter
kit. I use the hairdryer with the volt switch and a converter for
Europe (they are clearly marked). You simply plug the dryer into the
converter and the converter into the outlet. However, do bring the
adapter just in case
..better safe than sorry. My mother has
made a few mistakes in our travels
once her curling iron was
left plugged in to heat up it heated up fast and melted! On
another occasion, she blew the fuses in the entire hotel! Fortunately,
the hotels are used to this and they just flip a switch and were
back in business. This is why I either buy a dual voltage appliance
or I buy a hairdryer over there and use it when I travel (not that
CLOCK: Bring a travel alarm clock sometimes the hotels
dont do wakeup calls and sometimes there are no clocks
bring an extra battery for it as well
..its nice to know
what time it is!
CODE IN ITALY (FOR THE TELEPHONE): 39
to dial from the USA: 01139 and the number. Listen for the funny ring
HOME FROM ITALY WITH YOUR PHONE CREDIT CARD:
YOUR PHONE COMPANY IN ADVANCE (PRIOR TO YOUR DEPARTURE) TO GET THE
CODES YOULL NEED TO MAKE A PHONE CALL HOME
THE PHONE CARD YOU CAN BUY IN ITALY IS MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE.
Leave a copy of your itinerary with your friends and loved ones
you never know when they might need to get in touch with you. I usually
prepare one with the hotel name, the dates Ill be at the hotel,
the phone and fax numbers and if anyone needs to contact me (sometimes
my office does), they can fax a note and the front desk can deliver
the fax that way your family/friends/office dont get
the one night clerk who doesnt speak any English. Remind those
who might call you of the time difference and the fact that you might
be out all day thus, they may not get a return fax or phone
call until the next day.
PHONES: Your cell phone most likely will not work in Italy.
Not unless youve paid for the plan. Arrange with your provider
to add that feature if you must be in touch it will cost you.
BOOTHS: Buy a phone card at the local Tabacchi shop (other
places sell them) and youll be able to use the phone booths/kiosks
in the towns you visit very inexpensive. The cards come in
different denominations, I usually start with a 10 euro card. Make
sure you tear the corner tab off the phone card prior to inserting
it in the machine, then follow directions. As you use it, itll
give you a running total (in descending order what youve used
until its empty).
First things first get a waist wallet. There is a neck version
where the wallet hangs about your neck its also good.
Everyone on your trip may want one. This way you always know where
your ticket, passport and money are. TIP: At home (in the US),
empty your bag/purse and wallet of anything you dont need
and leave it at home. Each day you take out some money and put it
in your wallet or bag the rest stays in your waist wallet.
If you need to get out some money just lift your shirt/sweater
and get it out of the waist wallet. Youre safer and you worry
less about losses. As mentioned, I usually empty out my purse and
wallet anything that would bother me if my purse or wallet got ripped
off. I dont need all the stuff I carry on a day-to-day basis
here at home, so my bag is much lighter and I use the extra space
to carry a book or map
people prefer travelers checks and others prefer cash (me).
Travelers checks are not always accepted sometimes the
hours to get them cashed are inconvenient frankly, its
too much trouble for me. The waist wallet makes me feel secure and
Ive never had a problem. You can go to the bank and get cash
at the ATM (also safe), take credit cards and your bankcard
all can be used in Italy. If the first ATM machine doesnt work
try the next one. Your secret code should only be 4 digits
if its more than 4 go change it at the bank in
the USA prior to your trip you can even change it at your local
ATM thats what I did when I learned that the secret code
could only be 4 digits.
EURO: The EURO, the official currency of the European Union
was effective in January 2002 (literally effective it was actually
inaugurated in January of 1999). The EURO makes traveling between
and among the 15 European Union countries much easier. Only 12 of
the EU countries have adopted the EURO (Italy, Austria, Belgium,
Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands,
Portugal, Spain) and the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden have decided
to keep their own currencies (for how long no one knows).
CARDS: I recently had a situation where my credit card company
put a "fraud alert" on my card because I traveled to several
countries in a matter of days. Had I contacted the credit card company
prior to my trip, I would have had no problems (or inconvenience).
So, a good rule is to contact your credit card companies and let them
know that youll be traveling outside the United States. Youll
avoid problems this way.
CURRENCY CONVERSIONS: I have an electronic currency
converter that I keep in my bag so that I dont get confused
when making a buying decision
..I bought it from the Magellans
catalogue. You can get them at travel stores and general merchandise
stores too (Kmart, Target, Walmart). I have another method that works
quite well too: I go online to a currency converter site (for example:
and plug in numbers from a low figure like 1 dollar up to $500. I
then use excel (the computer program) and create a handy pocket converter.
I type in all the conversions, print it out and use clear heavy packing
tape on both sides of the printed conversions (makes it easier to
find and protects it from tearing etc.). I make a few of these and
keep one in my pocket, one in my wallet and give the rest to traveling
companions. Its simple and convenient. I feel like Martha Stewart:
"its a good thing"
Italy is completely safe. You simply have to be aware, use your common
sense and listen to your instincts. If you feel that a place is unsafe
get out. I lived in New York for many years, Ive traveled
Im alert. Be aware of your surroundings and look out
for each other. Ive never felt in danger when in Italy. A
lesson or two: Three years ago when I was in Italy my friend
Jan stopped to help an American read a map (in broad daylight)
we were in Florence right in front of the beautiful Duomo
was looking at the Duomo, Jan was helping the lost man and a pickpocket
was trying to open her backpack. I was standing right there and didnt
even notice (I was looking at shoes in a store window and my back
was to Jan and the man in need). Jan felt something "funny"
and turned around and grabbed my arm - we both realized what had been
.Jan, being a smart traveler kept her money in a waist
wallet and any valuables in a secret inside pocket of her backpack.
You better believe I created a stir so that others would know he was
a crook! I screamed and cursed at the man letting others know he was
a scoundrel. We moved on and were relieved that we were not harmed
or robbed. My friend Kia (a European by birth, has lived half her
life there and has traveled extensively) was in Amsterdam trying on
shoes when a guy nabbed her purse as she pranced about in her new
boots. This ruined a day and a half of her short trip to Amsterdam.
She had to go get a new passport, a new airline ticket and more money.
What a waste of time (and money)! If only shed had her waist
wallet. Ive never seen the so-called "gypsy children",
but if you get bombarded by them the key is to say no (loudly) and
get away quickly dont be nice to them, dont try
to talk to them, theyre a gang of thieves, not cute little children.
Definitely take an aggressive stance and move quickly away
Im not in to violence, but kick out if you have to teach
them a lesson. Another ploy is the beggar women youll see on
the streets, as they beg from you, they push in on an area of your
body to distract you (using cardboard or a newspaper) and as they
do this theyre nabbing your wallet because youre distracted.
Just dont talk to these folks. When they come near you, tell
them to get away loudly. Again, Ive never run in to them
another plus with off-peak travel. Once again, waist wallets
are the answer.
If you are at a fabulous restaurant and you love the placemat or wish
to keep it as a memory get the waitperson to give you another
- when you return home have it framed. Some of my favorite
wall hangings are menus (and memories) from my favorite places. Also,
I made a wonderful tray of memories from one trip I took a
rectangle frame with 4 openings for photos. I used photos from my
trip and then I saved receipts, hotel cards, brochures, money and
other items to go all around the photos just glue them down
around the photos. I then bought drawer pulls/handles from a hardware
store, screwed them in to the wooden frame and the "darn"
thing is a serving tray (one of my favorite possessions). Each year
I send Christmas cards with photos from my most recent trips. This
has become a tradition for me (8 years running). Just a thought
thing I suggest is getting a picture of each of you in front of all
of your hotels. This will be neat for your photo album I do
this religiously even in the rain! Even in a rush! Dont
forget! It sort of sets up my photo/memory album by day
PASSEGIATA: This Italian tradition takes place after the stores
open in the afternoon (around 3:30/4:00). Folks come out of the woodwork
and shop, stroll, show off, meet others and talk. Its a wonderful
tradition that youll notice especially in the small towns
the larger towns tend to be "open" most of the time.
I live by the Moscow rule of shopping (I learned this from the Born
to Shop books) "buy it when you see it because it wont
be there when you go back to get it" and you often dont
have the time to go back to get what you should have bought in the
first place. Repeated Tip: pack a small bag or tote in with
your belongings to carry back what you buy. No need to ship
carry it! Its a few hours of schlepping, but the instant gratification
of giving gifts and unpacking your "finds" and memories
totally worth the schlepping
ITEMS HOME AND DUTY: I always recommend that you bring an
extra bag for items you wish to bring home from Italy. As I purchase
and buy, I keep a tally of what I've spent in order to know if I have
to pay anything at Customs. Your allowances are: A U.S. resident is
allowed to bring $800 worth of foreign goods back to the U.S. duty-free.
These items must accompany the resident on the return trip home. If
you are a couple - you can share this allowance and get a $1600 allowance.
You can also mail an additional $200 worth of goods to a U.S. address
duty free - but only one parcel per day - remember no alcohol, tobacco
or perfume products worth more than $5. I've spent more than the allotted
amount on occasion and have had to pay duty on my return home (they
used to allow only $400 in foreign goods) and in some cases have not
paid duty based on what I was bringing back in to the U.S. To me,
honesty is the best policy - have your tally sheet available for inspection
and the whole process can be moved along. As mentioned there are items
that I frequently buy that are not part of the duty process - for
example, antiques (items over 100 years old), original works of art,
paintings, watercolors, drawings, sculptures - these do not get taxed
- this is one reason I have so much art! This is also why I carry
a tube for my original paintings and watercolors. You can list these
items on your tally sheet, but they are not to be added to your total
for shipping, ask the store if they ship - ask the price to ship -
ask about insurance costs - all of this makes me crazy, can cost more
than the "deal" you've just negotiated and takes time, so I usually
opt to carry my items in my extra bag unless it's just too big to
carry (a huge pair of urns I purchased in Vietri one year and a set
of china on another trip).
thing - Duty-free doesn't mean you don't get taxed. It's a common
mistake that travelers might make in Duty-free shops (at the airport).
Now, I love shopping in the airport on my departure day - but I know
that when I bring those items in to the U.S. that they are part of
my tally sheet and if I've gone over my $800 - I have to pay duty
on the total I have spent. In this case, duty-free means that if the
items had been imported in to the U.S. they would be subject to duty
and taxes (thus, buying a great bag/purse in duty free is often a
really great deal).
just because they sell it at duty-free shops does not mean you can
bring it in to the U.S. For example, certain meats are sold in the
freezer case in the duty-free shops. You pack it away, fill out your
customs form and when the customs official asks what meat you brought
back in to the U.S. and you show him or her....they confiscate it
because you're not allowed to bring in certain meats, fruits and cheeses!
If you buy that prosciutto - eat it on the plane! Why? Because you
cannot bring back fresh, dried or canned meats or meat products from
most countries. Now, these regulations change based on disease outbreaks
from different areas of the world. When in doubt, contact USDA-APHIS
at 301-734-7830 or check out http://www.aphis.usda.gov/travel/.
another site that offers great explanations on everything: http://www.customs.gov/xp/cgov/travel/vacation/know_brochure/
WORD ABOUT WINE: this is just my experience, but I always
go with the vino della casa either rosso red
or bianco white or both! I havent had a bad
wine in this country and vino della casa is the local wine of the
area youre in
.at the trattorias, the waiter can give you
a wine list, but will not be an expert on wine, so just order the
vino della casa. If you are in a restaurant and theres a bottle
of wine on the table dont take it right away
simply order the vino della casa. This (having a bottle on the table)
is done in some restaurants to take advantage of the tourist
its usually a much more expensive bottle of wine than the tourist
had in mind and you can end up paying a lot of money for that wine.
Make it easy on yourself, simply order the vino della casa (rosso
= red and bianco = white) which is very inexpensive and local and
almost always tasty. Sometimes the vino della casa comes in a bottle
(usually in a specialty restaurant), but more often than not it comes
in a pitcher or carafe. There are also inexpensive and good wines
on the menu order them as well. If it comes in a bottle and
you like the stuff the establishment will sell you another
bottle or so for enjoying at home or on your travels. I save bottles
from special restaurants too
DRINKS: Campari is a favorite of mine mixed with soda
or orange juice. Its definitely an acquired taste I like
it. The beers are Nastro Azzuro or Peroni.
The water is totally safe in Italy. In Rome, the water is piped in
from the hills always fresh. Throughout the cities in Italy
you will see little fountains for drinking go ahead
drink! The sign to look out for is ACQUA NOT POTABILE
THAT MEANS DONT DRINK THE WATER!
CAPPUCCINO, ESPRESSO: For breakfast, caffe latte or
cappuccino is the drink (they will bring you tea if you prefer that).
After dinner, if you wish to have a coffee drink, Italians usually
have just plain coffee (not cappuccino).
FOOD: Theres simply no better food on earth! When
in Italy I usually only eat at trattorias these are locally
(family owned) dining establishments with great food at great prices.
Usually menus are posted outside the restaurants. Do the math, youll
know if youre getting ripped off or not then decide if
the place will work for you. In Italy, dining is an all night experience.
They have primis, secondis, and other courses. Dont feel the
least bit guilty about going in and ordering an appetizer and a pasta.
Its done all the time. If you want the pasta and a meat dish
(secondi), fine I just dont want you to feel you have
to do as they do because they all dont. Was that clear?
Or just confusing? Great little book called A Taste of Trattoria is
both well written and one Ive used often. However, wandering
around is neat and youll stumble on finds of your own.
THE BUON RICORDO RESTAURANTS: These are restaurants
that provide great food, atmosphere, great wines and a bonus*
if you dine on the specialty of the restaurant (menu tipico). The
Buon Ricordo Restaurants are an organization of Italian restaurants
that serve the typical food of an area in Italy. The restaurants have
to qualify to become members. They are high quality dining establishments
that serve the best of the area, fresh, local foods, great wines and
have earned the right to be a Buon Ricordo. *If you order the specialty
of the restaurant, you receive a china plate that gives the name of
the city, the name of the restaurant and an illustration of the special
meal. They are charming! I have 18 of these plates! These restaurants
are wonderful and I highly recommend them. You must make sure you
ask for the plate. Theres a website you can see if any of the
places youre visiting are listed and make a special point of
having dinner or lunch there. The website is: www.buonricordo.com/english/home2.htm
CHARGES AND TIPPING: Usually you dont tip in Italy
the Italians never do
.however, the restaurants love Americans
because were used to doing it and its nice (for them!).
Menus usually say servizio incluso that means the service/tip
is included in the prices. When youre finished dining and you
wish to get the bill say: il conto and theyll
bring you your bill. If you get your lunch or dinner bill and theres
a pane or coperto charge do not tip
at least dont tip the 15 or 20% you were thinking of tipping.
Pane means bread and coperto means cover youve been charged
for both and its a standard charge. If you get especially good
service, leave a tip or some change otherwise dont.
In fine restaurants do tip. Cabs also usually include a tip
but give an additional 5 10% - no more.
THE CAR TO THE AIRPORT TIP: You may wish to drop off the luggage
and a person to watch the luggage at the terminal while the other
person returns the car. That way, if the car return is far away you
dont have to lug your bags all over the place. If the rental
return is off site (almost in another town as happened to me once),
make sure you have a good map and allow time to get lost. The word
for car rental is Autoleggio.
YOUR RETURN HOME: Sometimes you get a bad stomachache when
you return from a trip abroad. I suggest that you take Pepto-Bismol
when you get home, eat dinner and go to bed after unpacking. Start
the next day with another "swig" of pepto (if you have an
ache) and allow yourself a nap or two. Youll find that for 3
to 4 nights youll awaken several times during the night. This
is just jet lag, time changes and its effects on you.
FORM: Every person coming to the United States (regardless
of nationality) must complete a Customs Declaration form. For United
States residents that is Form 6059B. If you are traveling with other
immediate family members, you only need to complete one form per family
(this is father, mother and children) - immediate family. Follow my
instructions below. Note: To view a completed sample form click here.
Print your last name - this is your family name - in my
Print your first name - this is your
given name - in my case Robin.
Print your middle initial - in my case
2. Print the date of your birth - day/month/year - if
you were born on
August 31,1968, you'd put 31/08/1968.
3. Print the number of family members traveling with you
- if you are alone - put 0;
if you're traveling with your husband
and son - put 2; do not include yourself in
4. Print your current street address in the United States.
Print your city and state.
5. Print the name of the country that issued your passport
- in most cases that
will be the United States.
6. Print your passport number - this is found in the upper
right hand corner of
your passport on the page with your
7. Print the name of the country you live in - in most
cases that will be the United
8. Print the name or names of the countries you visited
on this trip - in most cases
that will be Italy; if you also traveled
to France, list France.
9. Print your flight number and airline - for example:
Continental Flight #41.
10. Since this is more than likely a vacation, mark box #10 as NO.
11. You should not be bringing fruits, plants or insects back to the
so mark the box NO.
You should not be bringing meats, animals
or wildlife products back to the
United States, so mark the box NO.
You should not be bringing disease
agents, cell cultures or snails back to the
United States, so mark the box NO.
You most likely are not carrying soil
back to the United States, so mark the box NO.**
**However, if you did visit a farm
and came in to contact with farm animals etc.
Be truthful and mark the box YES.
12. You probably didn't handle livestock, so mark the box NO.
13. If you are bringing $10,000 or more in United States dollars or
the equivalent in
foreign money - in this case Euros (or any
other kind for that matter) - mark the box
However, I find it doubtful that you'd
be bringing that kind of money back from a
vacation - so mark the box NO. If in
doubt, read the back of the form for clarification.
14. You should not be bringing commercial goods for sale back from
your vacation, so
mark the box NO. If you are, then mark the box YES.
15. If you are a resident of the United States (and in most cases
you are), put down
the total value of the goods you bought
and are bringing back in to the United
States. For example, if you bought a gold
bracelet for $125 and also purchased
some pottery for $75 and also purchased
some tourist gifts at $100 - then you put
down a total of $300. If you have receipts
- keep them handy.
X - Sign the form.
THE BACK OF THE FORM
Read the back of the form. There is NO need to fill in the blanks
on the back of the form - those spaces are for others.