At last! Some inside, honest Italy tips. Just when you thought you might know everything there is to know about Italy, these 35 travel tips may take you completely by surprise. Not many travelers are willing to share such secrets so you are in for a treat with this blog post.
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I have been to Italy more times than I care to remember.
I love it.
Last year, as part of a year-long backpacking trip around the world from our home in New Zealand, we took our kids (now teenagers) to Italy to experience it through their eyes.
Italy is one of those rare countries that ticks every box. It has more than it’s fair share of underrated and unique places to visit. It has architecture, weather, history, wine and pasta.
Lots of pasta.
I told you it was perfect.
I first discovered Italy as a twenty-something backpacker and then a few years later my husband proposed to me in Verona. I was so glad he did it there. I find Italy incredibly romantic.
As our family grew, I came to realise that taking kids to Italy is a dream. The Italians adore children – they are very family orientated which makes the family travel thing so much easier.
Through the grapevine and by reading other travel blogs about Italy, I have heard a lot of so-called tips that just aren’t true; so I thought I would give you my own version of what you can expect when you to travel to Italy; a few secret valuable tips that you can use for when you visit Italy alone, with friends, or as a family.
35 Italy Tips to Help Your Trip To Italia Run as Smooth as a Caffe Crema.
# Italy Tips – Transport
Hiring a Car
- If you are thinking of hiring a car in Italy, then know that Italy is the cheapest place in Europe (apart from Croatia) that we found for car hire. Hiring a car in Italy is inexpensive and easy, and as long as you don’t try to drive around the major cities (use public transport for that), you will find hiring a car gives you a greater sense of independence and is a relaxing way to see Italy.
- Talking of cars, be careful of parking in the major cities. More than once we had scam artists come up to us in Florence and said that we needed to pay for them to ‘keep an eye on our car.’ Don’t be intimidated by these people; they are simply trying it on. We said no every time, and they moved right on to the next car. It’s not a big deal but something to be aware of.
Driving In Italy
- Driving in Italy is easy, just remember to stay on the right side of the road! Talking of roads, these are definitely better in the North of Italy than in the South – not so many potholes! We have driven the entire length of Italy and never had any problems.
- Italian drivers can get a little heated in the big cities, but apart from that, they were courteous and friendly.
- When driving around Italy makes sure you come off the main Highways and find one of the many idyllic picnic spots that can be found by using Google Maps. Italy tip: Don’t bother using the picnic areas on the main highway, they stink of wee and are full of rubbish. Yuck. Instead, take a 5-minute detour, and you will find what you are looking for.
Trains in Italy
- Our experience with Italian trains was fabulous. Although we spent two months driving around Italy (more on that later), we took trains from Venice to Pisa, and we used the subway around Rome. Both were easy, clean and friendly.
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# Italy Tips – Wine, Food & Coffee
I love wine, and food and I am guessing that if you are traveling to Italy, then you do too!
Both wine and food are cheap and plentiful in Italy, but here’s a little travel tip that you might not be aware of.
- Aperitivo takes place in bars generally between 7 – 9 pm. Think of it as ‘Happy Hour’ (I certainly was) in England but just with a touch more class.
- If the bar is advertising ‘Aperitivo’ (we found this practice mostly happened in Northen Italy) then pop in, order a glass of wine, and enjoy the dishes of free nibbles that are placed in front of you. Olives, nuts, plates of cured meat.
- At first, I was too scared to eat them as I thought we’d be charged a fortune, but no. Rest assured, they are all part of the price. For around 10 euros you can have wine and the best part of a meal!
- Wine is everywhere in Italy. I think this is the reason why I love this country more than any other in Europe. I tell myself that the reason the Italian women are so beautiful is because they guzzle so much wine. That theory works for me anyway, so I’m sticking to it.
- Know that you can pick up a bottle of wine in any supermarket for 2 Euros.
- And the food… we have taken our kids to some of the best cities in Europe and Italy is where they would have been happy to eat for the rest of their lives.
- Food is incredibly cheap to buy in the Supermarkets. If you are traveling to Italy and are on a budget as we were, then you will love the fact that you can get a delicious picnic for four people for less than $20
Eating Out In Italy
- Eating out in Italy is also a lot less expensive than I first anticipated.
- While it’s true that we didn’t eat out often – we spent a good deal of time Housesitting in Italy – if we weren’t housesitting we rented self-contained accommodation, both meaning that we cooked our own meals, but, when the kids did moan so loudly that I could take no more and submitted to their pleas of eating at a cafe, I was pleasantly surprised at the cost and I think you will be too.
Ice Cream In Italy
- I’m not an ice cream connoisseur but my kids are and so, everywhere we visited in Italy, they wanted ice cream. The trouble with this little treat is that it can end up being pricey.
- I’m not saying don’t treat yourself to a gelato while in Italy, of course not, just know that, like anywhere in the world, you can go to the local grocery store and buy a pack of six ice creams for the same price as one Gelato and my kids said they tasted just as good.
Breakfast In Italy
- Breakfast in Italy is a very sweet affair. In fact, Italy is pretty sweet full stop. Know that you won’t be getting a fry up for brekkie in Italy, more like a biscuit (if you are staying with an Italian host) or else a sweet pastry.
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Cafés in Italy
- Cafés are plentiful in Itay and the entire country embraces the wonderful coffee scene. Expect to pay no more than €1.50 for a cappuccino and remember! DON’T order a Cappuccino after 11 am! (apparently, the Italians believe the milk messes with your digestion)
- We didn’t have one bad cup of coffee in Italy, but, the places where we found to have the best coffee and pastries were those that looked a bit rough from the outside.
- Italy travel tip! Don’t judge a book by its cover when it comes to getting a coffee in Italy. The places that look a bit dodgy are often the ones that give you the real Italian experience for the best price.
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# Italy Tips – The Seasons
What To Bring To Italy For Summer Travel
- Italy is hot in the summer but don’t let this put you off. We were traveling around Italy for two months between May and July, so we saw both the shoulder season and the peak and yes, it was very hot but if you were prepared for it
- Everyone uses an umbrella to protect themselves from the scorching sun in Italy, especially if you are standing in line for something. Don’t risk getting burned, take a travel umbrella and know that you are protected and more comfortable. My favourite travel umbrella is this one. It is light to carry, easy to pack and looks rather lovely.
There was a time when the lowly poncho was only for unfashionable tourists. Not in Italy!
There are some gorgeous waterproof ponchos that are a stylish and classy way to stay dry without carrying around a soggy heavy coat.
If you are traveling to Italy in the shoulder seasons there is a chance that you will experience a few showers. Take a poncho. they are light, small, cheap and super stylish – Pair with some big large sunglasses and you’ll look and feel very Italian!
Fauna & Flora
If you are a flower fan, then you will love all the wild poppies that grow wild throughout Italy in May. If this is your thing, then the month of May is for you!
#Italy Tips – Souvenirs
- If you are buying souvenirs in Italy, then here’s a tip for you.
- If you want to buy one of those very swanky Italian coffee percolators and take it home for a gift for someone who loves coffee, then please don’t buy one from one of the many posh kitchen appliance shops that you see in Verona or Rome or Florence. They sell the same thing, only a good deal cheaper, at any hypermarket. Don’t you just love me??
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# Italy Tips – Places To Visit In Italy
- Venice is renowned for being pricey and busy but we found ways to make it neither. Here’s a tip. Put some comfortable walking shoes on and turn away from the crowds.
- Venice is a maze of beautiful windy lanes a mass with ornate bridges. Look for these bridges and at the side of each one, you will see a set of shady steps used for the small houseboats of Venice to pull into. Get a picnic from any one of the small supermarkets in Venice and take your seat.
Gondolas In Venice
Talking of Gondolas, unless you have a really strong desire to see Venice from a boat with lots of other tourists, I’d avoid. They are pricey and, without being rude, a little bit tacky.
Cool off in Venice!
- Rather than pound the hot streets of Venice, get down to the waters front where all the cruise ships are sailing past, take your sandals off and cool your feet in the water. We spent an hour people watching – it beats paying $100 for a gondola ride!
Rome For Free (or very Cheap!)
If you happen to be in Rome on the first Sunday of the month (as we were – Hurray!) you will be delighted to know that entrance to the Colussium and other museums in Rome are absolutely FREE!
- To avoid the big line that snakes its way outside the Colosseum, make sure you get your free ticket from the PALATINE HILL/FORUM entrance which is 5 mins from the Colosseum entrance. This ticket gives you admission to Palatine Hill, the Forum & The Colosseum.
- Once you have your free golden ticket, go straight to the reservation entrance of the Colosseum and walk straight in! You’ll walk past the unknowing line of people who think they have to get their free ticket inside the Coluusium. (should have read this Italy travel tips blog post!) Just scan your ticket at the gate and enjoy the Collusium!
Best Place To Picnic In Rome
- If you are looking for somewhere lovely to have a picnic lunch while in Rome then I can recommend this tip.
- Come out of the Coluusium and turn left. Walk in an anticlockwise direction. You will see a small supermarket on your right. Go and buy all the delicious picnic ingredients you need. Come out. Turn right (with the Colussium on your left.) After about 100 meters you will see a park on the hill to your left. Go to it, eat and enjoy the view!
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The Spanish Steps In Rome
- The Spanish steps are a must see when in Rome, and a fabulous place to people watch (my favourite activity). If you go in the afternoon, you will find everyone clinging to the side of the walls trying to get some shade. If you haven’t done as I told you andbought a travel umbrellathen you will need to do the same!
- The Spanish Steps are a brilliant place to people watch. Don’t miss the rose sellers who try their hardest to sell their flowers to gullible tourists!
The Trevvi Fountain In Rome
- Know that the Trevi Fountain in Rome is at it’s busiest in the afternoon. If you wish to see this iconic Italien beauty without the crowds so that you can throw a con in for a wish, then I suggest you try in the heading over there first thing in the morning or at around 5 pm.
Italy Tips – More Places To Visit
Don’t believe everything you hear about Italy being mobbed in the summer and so should be avoided at all costs.
We didn’t find this to be the case at all.
There are many places in Italy where you can escape the crowds – we found a secret place in Florence that we spent heaps of time visiting. It would be wonderful if you can hire a car and drive out to the country – that way you get to go at your own pace and find hidden places.
The Wine Regions
- Go into the hills of any wine region (Soave is our favourite) and spend some time relaxing. You may come across a farmer but you will find they all very friendly and will stop to chat (learn a little Italian!) they are often more than happy for you to walk (carefully) in the shade of their vines.
- Don’t miss visiting Pisa while you are in Italy, but know that the leaning tower is very small!
- We were expecting a giant tower, but in reality, it is fairly average sized. Of course, it’s still impressive, but if you are traveling with kids like me, know how teenagers like to over exaggerate everything.
- Don’t be discouraged from visiting Pompeii by tales of crowds and Naples pickpockets. The day we spent visiting Pompeii was one of the most relaxing and calm days we had in Italy. You will love Pompeii, don’t miss it.
- If you are driving to Pompeii, use the carpark over the road called ‘Ristorante Versuvio’. It’s the cheapest and only charges you €10 for the day
- If you manage to visit Verona make sure you go to Juliet’s house a give her bosom a bit of a rub. It is free and it is good luck! My teenage son rubbed it a few times – just in case.
- If you are traveling to Italy with a football fan, then know that you will be in good company. The Italians LOVE their footy, so you won’t have to go far in any city in Italy to find a bar showing a live game.
- I personally would rather eat rocks, but the rest of my family are big Liverpool fans, so I have to be nice and play along. When we stayed in Florence, we passed a lovely evening watching a live game!
Housesitting In Italian Houses
We did a lot of housesitting in Italy and so we got to see some beautiful homes.
Italian houses are every bit as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside. Just gorgeous.
Try your hardest to get inside an Italian house, either through an Airbnb or sign up for Housesitting as we did.
Please. Don’t be thinking that because you haven’t done a Housesit before it is hard or it is just for seasoned travelers. It is super easy. Really. I don’t understand why more people don’t use this service.
You can grab yourself an apartment in Rome or Venice for two days or you can apply for a farmhouse in the Tuscan hills for three weeks and pretend you are Julia Roberts – it’s up to you!
Once you sign up (I think it’s about $90) then you are sent two emails a day with hundreds of houses worldwide that need someone to come and look after their property and maybe a pet.
We saved ourselves thousands of dollars by Housesitting in Italy. I highly recommend it. If you need any info on anything whatsoever to do with housesitting then please message or email me and I’ll help you however I can.
# One Last Secret Tip!
Her’s one Italy tip for those of you who love wine and people watching as much as I do.
- Do not miss the Pantheon. It is simply stunning. Of course, you won’t miss it. But. Here’s what to do should you fancy an evening aperitive while enjoying the ambience and the buzz amongst the early evening crowds.
- Come out of the Pantheon and look over your right shoulder. Here you will see a little shop that looks like a gift store.
- Inside, amongst other things, you can buy half bottles of wine for a very reasonable price, AND, if you ask the lady behind the counter nicely enough, she will give you a plastic cup.
- Yes, yes, all you save the planet people; I know plastic is evil, but it’s just this once. If it makes you feel better, take a paper cup in your bag.
- Take your place on the wall with the view and watch the show! Enjoy!
My list of Italy tips that will hopefully make things a good deal easier for when you travel to the gorgeous country of Italy! I’m sure I have missed a few things out so when I think of some more I will add to this blog post, but until then, have a wonderful time in Italy, and remember, PLEASE share this post for me to any friends that you think would benefit! Ciao!