10 Things You Need To Know Before Traveling To Italy

We don’t yet know for sure when we will be able to travel to Italy again, hopefully it will be later this summer. Regardless of when we can go, whether it will be your first time or a return trip, the following 10 things are really important to keep in mind. In fact you can file them under things you wish you knew before you went to Italy!

10 Things You’ll Wish You Knew Before You Traveled To Italy

Milleluci, Colle Val d’Elsa, Tuscany

Pack Light

It took me a while to get on board with this but you really do need to pack light. I advise my travelers to pack half of what they think they need.

Most travelers will have to get their suitcases on and off trains, lift them onto train or ferry luggage racks, carry them across cobblestoned streets (notorious for breaking suitcase wheels) and sometimes up multiple flights of stairs. Your hotel or accommodation may have an elevator, but that doesn’t mean it will be working. Many train stations don’t have escalators or elevators so you can find yourself carrying heavy suitcases down one flight of stairs and up another if you are changing trains. Trust me, it’s a nightmare.

Cars are smaller over there so taxis and rental cars may not fit excess or large luggage.

Also shopping in Italy is fantastic. You will want space in your suitcase to bring things home. (Checking a second suitcase should you need to buy one while there will cost you an additional 100 euros)

image via cntraveler.com

Plan Your Outfits

Don’t pack any just-in-case items. Plan your outfits ahead of time. Separates give you the most options, with the ideal 4 tops for one skirt or pair of pants. Pack easy to wear, easily packable items. Sundresses and travel dresses are ideal, with a light jacket or sweater in case it gets cold.

I normally get my travelers to plan an outfit for each day. This makes the process so much easier and really helps to condense your packing.

At the moment post-pandemic there is talk of the airlines not supplying blankets and pillows inflight. I always travel with a large pashmina/shawl that can double up as a blanket. My best travel tip for flying is to wear a long sleeve merino base layer. See here and here and here This lightweight fabric is super warm but regulates temperature to keep you comfortable from sub-zero temperatures to around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It also wicks away moisture, so you won’t get sweaty or smelly.

Bring Good Walking Shoes

Italy is all walking, much of it up and down hills, most of it on uneven or cobbled streets. My average day in Italy involves walking between 8 and 10 miles, and I’ve had plenty of days when we’ve walked double that.

Really good, supportive walking shoes are essential.

RELATED POST: THE BEST SHOES TO WEAR IN EUROPE

The Sofft Mirabelle has been my go to sandal for Italy for several years.

I recommend one stylish pair of athletic shoes (well, as stylish as possible – try to avoid the big, clunky, ugly ones) and one pair of sandals. I typically wear the Mirabelle by Sofft see here as they don’t need any breaking in time and can take a beating. My last pair did over 300 miles of walking in Italy and are still going strong, although I have since replaced them with a new pair.

Always break in and sneakers/athletic shoes before coming, and I suggest putting insoles in as well see here.

Ideally only bring only 2 pairs of shoes, and plan your outfits around them. Leave high heels, wedges and platforms at home – the chances of you braking or spraining an ankle in them are huge.

Bring Currency

Any time you are traveling to a country with a different currency you should bring some of that currency with you. Airports normally have ATM machines but they may be out of cash and definitely will have the worst exchange rate.

Order a small amount of foreign currency from your bank prior to leaving for Italy. I recommend bringing 100 euros cash, in small denominations. Many vendors will not have change for a larger bill and may not want to risk accepting a counterfeit bill. Your best bet is to bring an assortment of cash in 20 euro notes and smaller.

Arriving in Naples, June 2019

Use The Trains

The train system in Italy is fantastic. It is really efficient and very affordable. I advise taking the train across country rather than flying. On the rare occasions that I fly internally there are invariably flight delays and it would have taken just as long by train!

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

I recommend buying tickets for the high speed train online ahead of time. Tickets typically go on sale around 3-4 months prior to departure with the prices going up as you get closer to the date.

Intercity and regional train tickets can be purchased at the station the day of travel.

Plan Your Airport Transfers

Plan your transport from the airport ahead of time. Especially if this is your first trip to Italy you can be exhausted after the long flight and find the arrival overwhelming.

If flying into Venice you will need to pre-book passage from the airport to the city on the Alilaguna boat see here. If flying into any other major city either plan for a private driver transfer (recommended) or a taxi. Your accommodation will be able to advise you on car companies and taxi fares.

If flying into Florence or Pisa see this post, if flying into Rome see this post.

Never accept a ride from a driver soliciting business inside the airport. Taxis are required to come through the taxi stand outside the arrivals terminal. They all have the correct insignia for that particular city and will have fares posted. There is always a set fare from the airport into the city.

Eat Regionally

In Italy food is regional. Each region has its own specialties, and other than at tourist restaurants you won’t find American Italian items on the menu. Rather than trying to order pizza and lasagna everywhere you go, order the food from that area. My best seller Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy breaks down what foods to order in each region as well as which wines to order by region.

Fattoria la Tagliata, Positano

It also gives you expert advice on how to choose a restaurant, how to order coffee, what to do if you get sick, how to get your sales tax back – loads of essential information for travelers. It is available worldwide on Amazon.com

Learn A Little Italian

Over the years Aldo and his wife Lidia have become dear friends of mine.
Capri 2019

Before you travel learn some basic things to say in Italian. Things like hello and goodbye, please and thank you, and a few other easy bits and pieces. Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy also has a section on basic phrases and how to say them.

Slow Down!

Don’t pack your itinerary with too many things. Plan to see fewer things in fewer cities. Don’t waste time standing in line for hours to see the major attractions. Pick one or two per city and then spend the rest of your time seeing the places the tour buses don’t go.

Long lunches with a view.
Montalcino, Tuscany

St Peter’s in Rome is great, but there are no end of other churches just as fantastic with no line to get inside. The Duomo is Florence is ok inside but there are so many staggeringly fantastic churches in the historic center of town that you can walk right into. St Mark’s Basilica in Venice is incredible and is worth waiting in line for.

Every city in Italy has vastly more to offer than just the main attractions. Spend your time wandering and exploring these lesser known sites, stop for a coffee or a gelato, enjoy a long lunch somewhere with a lovely view.

Even in the busiest cities you can find places to chill out and just wander.
Rome 2019

My second book, Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome is also an international best seller. It gives you more than 101 incredible things to see and do in Rome, all within walking distance of the big attractions, and most with very few tourists. I have a new book coming out soon with 101 Fabulous Things To Do in another famous Italian city. To get a heads up on it and when it’s coming out join my Private Member Newsletter here. You can unsubscribe at any time.

10. Buy Artisanal

Sandal maker, Positano

Whether you are buying a gelato or whether you are buying souvenirs, or anything (and everything) in between, don’t buy from the high street shops, buy from the artisans. This post explains why you must only ever buy artisan gelato. Don’t worry, there are artisan shops everywhere and they cost the same.

Gelateria del Teatro, Rome

RELATED POST: WHY YOU SHOULD ONLY BUY ARTISANAL GELATO IN ITALY!

Buying from artisan boutiques, shops, workshops and markets helps keep the trades Italy is famous for alive for more generations. From shoe shops to leather bags to clothing, jewelry and crafts – everything you can think of, it’s all available in cheap Made in China imitations, or as the real deal. Don’t support the made-for-tourists merchandise, support the true Italian merchandise. It is all very easy to find and centrally located.

This artisan weaver makes exquisite scarves in Colle Val d’Elsa. She took time to show us how she sets the loom and makes her beautiful designs. We all bought gits here.

Check blogs, ask google and ask your landlord or hotel where you can buy artisanal products. They will be happy to guide you!

Did you find this post helpful? My Private Members Newsletter comes out twice each month and is full of great information for anyone planning a trip to Italy, now or in the future. You can join the group for free here.

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10 things you need to know before you travel to Italy

How To Plan Amazing Travel With Pinterest

During this time of Coronavirus pandemic it is hard to imagine we will ever be able to travel again. But we will. After 9/11 it seemed as though international travel was over forever, but it wasn’t. We just had new restrictions that in no time at all became our new normal. SARS 1 back in 2002-2003 looked like it would stop travel forever too, but it didn’t.

There is no knowing when we will be able to travel again, whether it will be months or years from now, but when that window opens we need to be prepped and planned and ready to go. It may only be a matter of time before another epidemic / pandemic /major world event occurs, so we may only have a short time to see the world and experience the magic of international travel before it all closes back down again. Or maybe once this is over the world will adjust to the new normal, and we will be back to traveling freely. Regardless, there will be a time when we can travel again. So let’s get ready.

Most people think of Pinterest as a social media place for recipes and DIY/Craft ideas. Although both are prevalent they make up only a tiny fraction of what is on Pinterest. Pinterest is not a social media platform, it is one of the largest search engines in the world. And it has pictures. So whatever it is you want to know you can pretty much find it on Pinterest, the difference is that when you enter your search terms you don’t get a typed list of options to click on, you get a series of pictures with text. These are called pins.

This is a pin that links to a blog post about Civita di Bagnoregio near Orvieto

When you click on one of these pictures or pins it will take you into a website, magazine article or blog, the same way as clicking on an item on a google list does.

This is an example of a pinterest travel board.
I can keep adding as many pins as I want to each board,
keeping all the pertinent information in one place,
with pictures for quick reference.

When you set up a Pinterest account (they are free) you create a series of boards which function like a cork board. When you find a pin that has information relevant to your search and that you want to keep for later reference you then pin it to the board it goes with.

If you eat a paleo diet you might create a board for Paleo Recipes, search them and then pin the recipes you like or want to try to your Paleo Recipes board.

The same works with travel and planning travel. You create boards for things that apply to your future travel plans and dreams, and then wherever you might be on the internet, whatever article you may read in any publication, you can save to its appropriate board. Almost every article will have either the pinterest symbol at the bottom of it, or if you hover over one of the pictures in the article will offer you an option to save it to your pinterest. If you take that option it will bring up your Pinterest boards and ask you which one to save it to, so all your pins are saved to their corresponding boards.

My Morocco travel board

I use this for all travel I am planning or just dreaming about. For example, I have a board for Morocco Travel and another for Jordan Travel Tips. I may never end up going to either, but both places are fascinating to me. These boards have a collection of pins with all kinds of interesting things to see and do and eat and drink in these countries, as well as information about unusual things to do there, random little towns and villages I otherwise wouldn’t know to visit.

My Jordan Travel board

You can check out my Pinterest boards here and click around to see what I have saved.

If you want a travel experience beyond the big bus tours, or if you want to get information on things to do when your cruise ship comes into port, Pinterest is a phenomenal resource.

Even better, although the regular travel agencies have a presence on Pinterest you will find vastly more incredible information from professional travel bloggers. This can save you a small fortune by giving you better and much more affordable excursion options from your cruise. This is also where you find great information about towns you had never heard of, great places you can reach easily and not be overwhelmed with tourists.

The mass travel organizations like cruise lines and big bus tours are not in the business of showing you random, interesting things. They are about whipping you round the main sites and then getting you back on the bus or the boat. This isn’t always a bad thing, but maybe you want more, or maybe you want more information about the options they are offering. You can find all of this on Pinterest.

Chances are after the coronavirus pandemic mass tourism will disappear or take a long time to come back. This will mean smaller, more sustainable travel will take the lead. There will be more small tour providers like me with my Glam Italia Tours, as well as travelers wanting to just go it alone and have the big experience but without the crowds.

If you are thinking about planning some travel on your own or doing some small tour travel, this list of The 30 Best Travel Bloggers gives you lots of great reading. It’s fun to read the stories of really interesting people heading out there in the world, discovering fantastic places to travel and telling you all the ins and outs of how to get there, where to stay and what you mustn’t miss!

Pinterest is a genius tool for planning your own travel. If you want to go to Paris but aren’t sure what to do there you can ask the Pinterest search bar What to do in Paris or Things to do in Paris and hundreds of pins will populate for you to scroll through and look at. There will be some dingbats telling you to visit the Eiffel Tower, eat a croissant and walk the Champs Elysees. But there will also be lots of travel bloggers who tell you about unusual things to do in Paris or cool things to do in Paris that take you away from the tourist crowds and show you something really special.

There are always pins linking to blog posts that tell you how to do things in any city, from which events you need to book in advance to how to use public transport. You can find out how to use the metro to get around (it’s super easy) and how to see some of the famous sites without booking a tour. Why pay extra to do a package tour of Versailles when you can buzz out there on the train, pick up an audio guide and make your own way around the palace and its gardens?

If planning a trip to Italy (my specialty) set up a variety of boards for different regions and/or cities you are interested in seeing. You may also what to set up a travel packing board. Just type What To Wear in Italy in April into the search bar and endless pins will pop up with outfit ideas and packing tips.

This is my travel packing board.
I’m pretty much set for what to pack for any country ant any time of year!

One of my favorites is to search Unusual Things To Do In (add city or country). This will vary from simple things to do that are not on the mass tourist radar, to really offbeat and unusual things.

Type in What To Do In Rome and you will see endless pins about the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. Type in Unusual Things To Do In Rome and you will discover fascinating things to see such as Domus Transitoria, the Porticus of Octavia and the Pyramid of Cestius. Even better, when you actually go to these places you will not only find them amazing, but there will be very few tourists there so you won’t be squashed in with crowds and will actually be able to see and experience these amazing places. For more fabulous things to do in Rome check out my international best seller Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome, available world wide on Amazon

It is always good to be planning your next trip, even if it doesn’t happen for years. It gives you something interesting to do (especially while on quarantine!) and gives you something new to dream about and look forward to. Pinterest makes it much easier.

You can get really specific too, so maybe you want information on camping in national parks in the US, or travel with small children, youth hostels in Europe or 5 star hotels in Singapore, hiking tips in Peru or ski trips in New Zealand – it’s all there. No matter what your travel style or travel dream is, there is something here for you, with pictures.

So even if it feels like a fantasy right now, and you can’t see how you could ever pull it off, have some fun exploring the world on Pinterest.

Happy pinning!

Not sure where to start with planning travel either for now or for the future? Download my Free Resources pdfs to help you get started building your perfect trip. You are welcome to print off as many copies as you need. Get your Free Resources HERE

Want more help planning a trip to Italy? My book Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy (Secrets To Glamorous Travel On A Not So Glamorous Budget) is an international best seller, available world wide on Amazon.com

10 Important Airport Hacks You Need To Know For Busy Travel Days

If you are flying during any busy time, from the holiday season to regular busy days/hours the key to avoiding stress and making it to the other end unscathed is to utilize these professional traveler, tried and tested airport travel hacks.

1. Always Check In Online

Checking in online 24 hours prior to your flight gives you several advantages. You are less likely to be bumped from your flight and you will already have your boarding pass. When you arrive at the airport unless you are checking a full sized suitcase you can move straight to the TSA checkpoint.

Airlines will let you gate check oversized bags for free, so you can save yourself $30 checked luggage fee by doing it at the gate.

2. Arrive Early

You may be able to get away with arriving later for flights during non-busy times, but during high traffic periods plan on arriving at the airport 2-3 hours early. The most stressful parts of flying on busy travel days are getting stuck in long lines either at check in or at the TSA check point. It doesn’t hurt to have some extra time up your sleeve – worst case scenario you have a coffee or something to eat once you have gone through the TSA check point.

3. Use The TSA App

Use the TSA app to see how long the wait times are. If they are looking excessive you can leave home earlier than planned.

4. Pack Your Carry-On Properly

One of the reasons that TSA gets so backed up is that travelers don’t think ahead when packing their carry-on luggage.

image via Smartertravel.com

If you don’t have TSA pre check you know up front that your liquids and laptops will have to be taken out of your bag before going through the x-ray machine. Save yourself (and everyone else) time and aggravation by having your liquids/skin care/makeup products packed together in see through bags packed at the top of your carry on.

RELATED POST: HOW TO PACK A SUITCASE LIKE A PRO

5. Be Ready For TSA

Another reason that lines get so backed up at the TSA checkpoint is travelers arriving not ready to proceed through.

*If you don’t have TSA Pre Check be sure to wear shoes that slip on and off easily.

* Remove all jewelry, belts, small change from your pockets, jackets, hats, scarves prior to entering the TSA line. Ideally do this before you leave home, and put on belts and jewelry after passing through the xray machines.

*Have your bags and coats ready to go through the xray prior to getting to the front of the line.

If you watch frequent flyers/professional travelers you will see that they have all of this thought out and prepared prior to arriving at the checkpoint.

6. Turn Left

Most people are right handed, so after having their I.D and boarding pass checked they turn right to the x-ray machines. The lines are always quicker to the left.

7. Bring Snacks

On busy travel days and busy flight times the lines at the terminal snack bars can get long. It is much easier and less stressful to bring your own snacks and just proceed to the gate.

RELATED POST: HOW TO LOOK FABULOUS AFTER A LONG FLIGHT

8. Bring A Phone Charger

Always arrive at the airport with a fully charged phone and a fully charged phone charger. You can’t rely on their being power socket/charging stations available, and even if there are phone charging ports at your seat on the plane there is no guarantee they will be working.

9. Bring A Refillable Water Bottle

Bring an empty water bottle and fill it at a filling station once you have cleared TSA. Should you encounter delays you will be glad you did!

RELATED POST: SUBSCRIPTIONS THAT MAKE GREAT GIFTS FOR TRAVELERS

10. Gate Check Bags

Most domestic flights now are fully booked which means they run out of overhead bin space. Save yourself the hassle of wandering up and down the aisle trying to find space for your carry-on bag by checking it at the gate.

There is no fee for gate checked bags and they get walked directly down to your plane, so unless you have a connecting flight you can be relatively certain your bag will arrive when you do.

FREE RESOURCES! Download my free travel resources PDFs. Check lists, planners and questionnaires as seen in my book, international Best Seller Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy (Secrets To Glamorous Travel On A Not So Glamorous Budget) GET YOUR FREE RESOURCES HERE