I get lots of questions about living in Florence and emails asking for tips for traveling in Italy. So I finally decided to put all of my tips and advice together in one place! I hope you find them useful and please share any tips you have.
1. Plan and Pre-Book major sights and attractions whenever possible, especially if you are traveling in mid-March (spring break) or between May and July.
2. Don’t use third party booking websites or companies.
Companies like TickItaly will charge you an arm and a leg for a reservation you could easily make on the official museum website (or officially sponsored website) yourself. Here is a list of official museum/gallery websites:
Roman Forum and Colosseum (combo ticket)
Borghese Gallery (Rome)
The David (Accademia, Florence)
Last Supper (Milan)
Doge’s Palace (Venice)
St. Mark’s (Venice)
3. Avoid restaurants with pictures of the food.
You can read more of my tips for selecting restaurants in Italy here.
4. Make the most of the high-speed train.
It is only takes an hour and a half to get from Florence to Rome or Florence to Venice, and only thirty minutes to get to Bologna! Plus the trains are comfortable and reliable. They are my preferred way to travel around Italy. You can purchase tickets online or through a local travel agent in Italy. If you are in Florence, the lovely staff at FlorenceForFun can help you get great discounts!
5. Don’t let anyone help you put your luggage on the train or take it off.
This is a scam (mostly by gypsies) to force you to tip. If you are fine tipping, go for it, but be warned they are not the most upstanding characters.
6. Watch your bags as the train arrives and departs the station.
Just incase somebody tries to hop on and steal something at the last minute.
7. Be prepared to lug all of your luggage down cobblestone streets and up stairs (and on and off trains).
If your bag is too heavy or large to do this yourself, you need to rethink what you have packed! There are lots of streets and squares taxis can’t go down, so even if you cab it, you still might have another block or two to haul your stuff. Elevators can also be a rarity and you will often find random small sets of steps you have to navigate.
8. Bring a portable luggage scale, especially if you are traveling via discount European airlines.
They are serious about bag weight.
9. Get up early every once and a while.
Many cities, like Rome and Venice, have a completely different feel without the hoards of tourists. It is worth it to get an early start (especially in the hot summer) to get a different perspective of the city and to see many of the monuments not littered with people.
10. Always carry cash.
Most places will not let you use your debit or credit card for smaller purchases and restaurants don’t split bills.
12. Look up if your bank has any affiliations in Italy (i.e. Bank of America and BNL) to avoid service charges and fees.
13. Unlock your phone and pop in an Italian SIM card.
If you have an iPhone that is out of contract (i.e. over two years old) this is fairly easy to do and Italian SIMs are inexpensive.
14. Don’t forget sunscreen.
15. Don’t put cheese on seafood pasta.
Despite how delicious the cheese is here, Italians do not put it on everything. . . . .