Backward Planning to Your Departure

BACKWARD PLANNING TO YOUR DEPARTURE

Travel Planning for Italy

There's a lot to do when planning a trip, and a helpful order in which to do things. I find that the one thing that keeps me up in the final few nights before a trip is not so much the excitement over the impending trip as it is going over and over (and over) in my head the list of things I still need to do. Simply writing this list down goes a long way to help keep it off my mind.

Here is a step-by-step list of everything you need to do to get ready for your trip, starting with getting a passport (if you don't already have one) and booking your flights, hotels, tours, etc., then on to the final days of packing and preparation, and then the day of travel itself. Once you're on the plane, you're on your own. (Well, OK, here are a few tips to help make the trip more comfortable.)

This list is detailed, but it doesn't hurt to be reminded of the little things, the dumb things, and the overwhelmingly obvious things. In all honesty, I've left for the airport without my wallet several times and had to turn around.

2–3 months before your flight- Get a passport. They say it takes six to eight weeks to get one (though it often arrives before that), so plan accordingly. If you already have a passport, be sure it's valid for at least six months beyond the date of return for your trip, as many countries won't let you in with a passport that's about to expire.

8–10 weeks before your flight- Starting looking into airfares. You don't want to book them just yet, just get a sense of what the going rate is so you can keep an eye out for deals—unless you run across a phenomenal fare (from the East Coast, anything under $500, including taxes, qualifies for early purchase; from the Midwest or West, anything under $700 to $800).·

6–8 weeks before your flight- Buy your plane tickets. Now is the time to lock in the best price you can find and buy your pane tickets. Congratulations. The trip is real now.

3–8 weeks before your flight- Get guidebooks. Actually, you could get these later, but since the next step is booking hotels, you'll want the advice in the guidebooks on that.·

3–8 weeks before your flight- Start booking places to stay. After you have your airfare locked in, feel free to start booking those key hotels (or hotel alternatives). If you're booking a longer-term stay like a villa or an apartment, do it as soon as your travel dates are locked in (i.e.: right after you've booked the airfare). Sure, you can wait a bit longer on hotels—or leave the trip more wide open to juggle your itinerary as you go. However, (a) it's always wise to book at least the first and the last nights, and (b) if there is a particular lodging you want to be sure you get, or are already comfortable with your itinerary, the sooner you book hotel rooms, the better your chances of getting your first or second choices (hotels that are cheap and central sell out quickly).·

2–3 weeks before your flight- Start packing. Yes, do its this early. There are two reasons: (1) This way you won't end up frantically packing at the last minute, which always seems to take five times as long as you'd thought and keeps you up way past midnight. More practically, (2) you'll find there are specialty travel items you need (electrical converters, travel clothes, etc.) that will need to be ordered from a catalog ahead of time, and who wants to pay for rush delivery?·

2–3 weeks before your flight- Look into tours. If you want to sign up in advance for a walking tour, guided day trip excursion, something fun like bike ride along the Brenta Canal or a hike in the Piccolo Dolomiti, or arrange for a private guide, go ahead and do it now.·

1–2 weeks before your flight- Book entry times to key sights. There are some sights—like Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper in Milan, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and the Galleria Borghese in Rome—that sell out days, even weeks in advance. Book them now or risk not getting to enter them at all.·

There are others—like the Colosseum in Rome; the Uffizi Galleries and Accademia (The David) in Florence; the Secret Itineraries tour of the Doge's Palace in Venice; the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua—that are wise to book ahead since they will save you up to an hour or two of waiting in entry lines once you're there.

Again, go ahead and book those first three (LeaningTower, Last Supper, Galleria Borghese) now. For summer travel, I'd say also book at this point any of those others mentioned above you want to see, since entry times sell out fast in high season. At other times of year, if you prefer to keep a looser schedule, you can wait on booking any of the others until you're there; just try to do it at least two or three days ahead of time so you won't be disappointed.

2 nights before your flight - Finish packing. Seriously. Have everything in your bag and carry-on except your wallet and cellphone. Again, it will take longer than you expect, and this way you won't be up until 2am on the night before your flight. You'll be up until 2am on the night before the night before your flight. Trust me on this one.·

The day before your flight- Prepare to leave. If you have note already done so, make your backup info sheets and leave copies where you need to. Call your credit card companies to let them know you'll be using the cards overseas (crucial if you don't want them to freeze the account when, from their point of view, you card suddenly starts acting suspiciously—like making large purchases in another country). Contact the post office to hold mail and put a hold on the newspaper delivery service. Make sure the neighborhood kid you hired to walk the dog and water the plants knows the difference. Check your flight times to make sure everything is still on track.

24 hours before your flight- Check in online. If online check-in is available for your flight (not always the case with international flights), do it as soon as it is allowed—usually 24 hours ahead of time. Just go to the airline's website, follow the instructions, and print out the boarding pass (I always print two—one for my pocket, one to stow in my carry-on—just in case). Doing this gives you peace of mind, ticks one more thing off the to-do list, and comes with several perks at the airport: With some airlines, this slightly reduces the cost for your checked bags (if the airline charges for this).

  • It might save you time at the airport, since there is often a fast-track line for people who only have to check bags and not check in (works with Skycap service, too). Even better, if you travel with just a carry-on (no checked bags), you can just breeze right up to the security line with your pre-printed boarding pass.
  • The last person to check in for a flight is the first to be involuntarily bumped if (when) the flight becomes overbooked. Check in early.
  • Four hours before your flight- Leave for the airport. This is assuming you live within about 30-60 minutes of the airport, and are therefore budgeting an hour of travel time. I always aim to be at the airport three hours before my flight. Yes, that is way more time than they say necessary—technically, depending on the airline, you need to check in 60 or 90 minutes before your flight.

Most people say to be at the airport two hours early. I perfer three (plus a generous amount of time to get there), because adding an extra hour will reduce stress levels—and air travel is ferociously stressful to begin with. That extra hour allows plenty of padding for delays, traffic, and long lines.

I have, on any number of separate occasions, spent more than an hour in (a) traffic, (b) check-in lines , and (c) security lines. I've also waited half an hour for a tardy car service to show up, and been to airports where it literally takes 20–30 minutes to walk to where you need to be.

Now, imagine if the stars of misfortune aligned and all of those delays happened sequentially. You'd miss the flight. If even only one or two happen—or there's, say, 15 minutes waiting for the car service, 30 minutes of traffic delay and a combined 45 minutes of waiting in airport lines. Suddenly, you're getting to the gate with barely enough time to hit the bathroom before boarding starts. Leave early, and you'll be happier. Just pack a good book and maybe a magazine or two to help kill time at the airport.

Two hours before your flight- Plan to be at the gate. You should have already picked up some snacks and extra reading material, filled up the empty water bottle you brought with you through security, and visit the bathroom. Remove from your carry-on everything you actually want at your seat (as opposed to in the overhead—guidebook, a novel or magazines, snack, drink, gum, neck pillow, noise-canceling headphones) and put those into a small plastic bag so you can just sling that into your seat when you get to your row, stuff your carry-on into the bin, and sit down quickly.

That's it. You're ready for your flight. Just open your book, and wait until you hear your row called. Try to get some sleep on the plane; if you are traveling with me I will see you here in Italy, if not enjoy your vacation and I hope this information helped.

Remember that if you want to train hard and ride strong, I can take it from there and plan your vacation for you.

Budgeting for Your Italian Adventure

BUDGETING YOUR VACATION IN ITALY

There are many ways to see Italy and many experiences to be had, but just like when I go to New York or New Zealand, there is a choice to be made between paying more and following someone else, going on my own, or getting some good input and learning the ropes from a local. Each has a cost associated, a convenience factor, and time investment on somebodies part. You have to do your own calculations to ensure you are getting the best deal and to make this a personal adventure, since we live in a commercial world and we are bombarded each day with the new thing or old thing with a different twist, and not everyone is 100% honest, a little research will help you with selecting a service provider, venturing out on your own, or spending time in a Italian chat room trying to make friends with someone who will show you around when you come over. 

These are the items you need to consider as you budget your vacation:

BUDGETING FOR YOUR AIRFARE

The cost of a flight to Italy can vary considerably, usually depending most on two factors – when you intend to fly, and where you’re flying from. The most expensive time to fly to Italy is the high summer season, which usually runs from mid-May through mid-September (with a slight dip in August sometimes), and as you might guess the cost of a ticket goes up the further away your home airport is from Italy. (see Flying to Italy)

Generally speaking, airfare will be cheapest during the winter months – in January and February especially it’s not uncommon to see seriously discounted fares to Italy. If cold weather isn’t your idea of a great Italy trip, however, you’ll usually find the best equilibrium between good weather and lower prices on airfare if you plan your trip for the shoulder season months – in Italy, that’s typically March, April, and October. (see Flying to Italy)

For some reason, flying to Italy from North America is often more expensive than airfare to other countries in Western Europe. If budget is your primary concern in travel planning, you can look at flying into a major international airport like the ones in London, Paris, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt – if you find a particularly great deal on a flight to one of those countries, then you can look for a second flight on a budget airline that flies to Italy to get you the rest of the way there. (see Flying to Italy)


In the summer, you can expect to pay $700 or more to fly round-trip from New York to Rome.  During the Winter it is not uncommon to see fares from the U.S. east coast to various cities in Italy that are less than $300 round-trip (winter fares from the west coast are still higher, but they start closer to the $600-800 range). Since this is the biggest part of your travel budget, it pays to do your research here to make sure you’re getting the best deal. (see Flying to Italy)

HOW MUCH DOES LODGEING COST IN ITALY

This is one of the parts of your Italy travel budget with the widest potential for variance, but most of the factors that make the cost of Italy accommodation vary are within your control. As is the case with airfare, accommodation costs fluctuate quite a bit depending on when you’re traveling. Hotels and hostels in Italy tend to be at their peak cost-wise during the summer months, and also around major holidays. In particular, the holidays of Easter, Christmas, New Year’s, and (in Venice) Carnevale are times when accommodation prices go up – but every city and region has smaller festivals and events that can make the prices go up as well. Paying attention to the holidays and events calendar for Italy will help you at least understand why room rates seem higher than usual. (see Selecting Accommodations in Italy)


On the budget end of things, hostel beds range from $15/night up to $40/night depending on the city you’re visiting and the month you’re traveling. Midrange hotels (2-3 stars) can be between $60/night to $200/night (and of course you can pay far more than that if you’d like!). Staying in less-popular cities, or away from the main attractions, can make the price drop significantly. To save even more in major cities, look for the word “camping” – campsites in big cities are often just outside the city center and nothing like the tents-and-campfires scenario most of us think of when we hear the word. In the countryside, consider renting an apartment or staying in an agriturismo. (see Selecting Accommodations in Italy)

HOW MUCH TO BUDGET FOR TRANSPORTATION IN ITALY

Italy gives you lots of options when it comes to how to get around – and the best mode of transportation for your trip will depend largely on where you’re going and how many people you’re traveling with. A solo backpacker sticking to larger cities and towns can get along just fine with trains and (sometimes) buses, but a family or group of 4+ venturing into the countryside will likely need to rent a car. 

Train tickets in Italy used to be cheaper than they are now, but getting around Italy by train still tends to be the best combination of convenient and cost-effective. Whether an Italy Rail Pass or point-to-point tickets is the better option for you requires that you have a tentative itinerary in mind and that you do some math to compare costs. Using the bus is often even cheaper, but buses in Italy aren’t country-wide, so getting from (for instance) Rome to Venice by bus is more challenging than it’s worth.

Driving in Italian cities can be a huge headache, and outside the cities it can be the best way to get around. If your itinerary is mainly larger cities and towns but you’d like to spend a few days driving aimlessly in (let’s say) Tuscany or Sicily or Piedmont, you can very easily use Italian rail for the majority of your trip and rent a car for just the few days you need it. This option can make renting a car feasible even to budget travelers, for whom car rentals are usually too costly to consider. Note that the cheapest cars available for rent are manual transmission – automatic cars cost more. Also keep in mind that there are some “train + drive” rail passes that include a few days of a car rental in addition to train travel.

What will transportation in Italy cost?
 An Italy Rail Pass good for seven days of train travel within two months costs $307 for 2nd class and $379 for 1st class (there are other options, from three days to 10 days, and passes for those 26 years and younger are cheaper). The cost of train tickets is impossible to narrow down to one figure, but it’s easy to figure out how much tickets will cost for any given route you want to travel. Rome-Venice, for instance, can be €90 in 1st class on the high-speed train or €40 for 2nd class on a slower train. An economy-sized manual transmission car rented in Florence for a few days of exploring in Tuscany can cost as little as $50/day in the high season (it can be closer to $40/day in the shoulder season).

COST OF EATING IN ITALY

Even if you’re not a serious foodie, no trip to Italy is complete without sampling the cuisine the country is so famous for. The good news is that it’s not terribly difficult to eat well in Italy without spending a fortune. You can potentially save money if your hotel or hostel provides some kind of breakfast free of charge (and the room rate doesn’t go up to compensate), and you can save even more if you shop the markets for picnic-style lunches or make use of a guest kitchen in a hostel or vacation rental to cook some meals. Checking out the fresh foods at outdoor Italian markets is an excellent way to find out what’s in season and what’s produced locally, whether you’re buying anything or not, but it’s easy to whip up a feast in a hostel kitchen for just a few euro.

When eating out, knowing what dishes are in season and local will help you zero in on not only the cheaper dishes but also the ones that are likely to taste best. A whole pizza in a pizzeria, for instance, can cost under €5. Avoid places with menus translated into several languages and you’ll pay less and eat better food. In restaurants that serve both lunch and dinner, you might want to try to eat your biggest meal of the day at lunch when prices are lower.

Note that in Italy, vegetables and salads aren’t typically included as part of the main course when you order – they need to be ordered separately (and salads aren’t eaten before the meal, either, so don’t be surprised when they arrive with or even after your main course). Don’t feel compelled to order something from every part of the menu – if you’re not a big eater, getting just an antipasto and a pasta dish or just a main course and a salad is perfectly fine. Not all Italians do the whole antipasto, primo, secondo, contorno, dolce routine – except on special occasions.

Ordering water in an Italian restaurant always means bottled water to the wait-staff, so if you don’t want to pay for water then you need to ask specifically for tap water, or acqua del rubinetto (and be aware it may have a distinct mineral-rich flavor). The house wine, brought by the carafe, is typically excellent, local, and cheap.

What will food and drinks in Italy cost? 
Breakfast in Italy is the cheapest meal of the day, since it’s only a coffee and a pastry (assuming you’re not getting a bigger meal included with your hotel or hostel stay) – €2-3 for breakfast is common. A pasta dish can range from €7-12 depending on what’s in it and where you are, and a main course (typically meat) can range from €9-18. Gelato tends to cost €1-2 per scoop, and a pick-me-up shot of espresso mid-afternoon will usually set you back €1-1.50 (you’ll pay more for coffee if you sit down at a table, so to save money drink your coffee standing up at the bar).

Note that many Italian restaurants include a cover charge of €1-3 per person – it’s clearly noted on the menus and on the bill – and that most Italians don’t tip more than €1-2 at a sit-down restaurant. If you’re really splurging on a meal or the wait-staff has been particularly outstanding, you can leave a bit more – but don’t feel like you need to calculate some 15-20% tip for each meal. Also pay attention before you go into a restaurant to see whether or not they accept credit cards – not all of them do.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BUDGET FOR ATTRACTIONS

While the amount each traveler spends on the “what to do” portion of an Italy trip will vary significantly depending on what’s on that traveler’s to-do list, it’s at least easy to figure out a better-than-rough estimate before you get there – you can look up the admission prices online or in a good guidebook for the main museums, galleries, monuments, and other attractions you know you want to include in your itinerary.

Sometimes the top attractions in a given city are free – including St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican, St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and the Duomo in Milan – which is always music to the ears of a budget-conscious traveler. Churches throughout Italy contain art that would be the masterpiece of many museums, and in most cases you can get in for free or for a small donation (which is why poking your head into just about any church that looks open is always a good idea, regardless of whether or not you know what’s inside).

Most cities (including Rome, Venice, and Naples) have special passes that include several attractions and (sometimes) transportation around the city, so if you’re staying in one place for more than 24 hours it’s definitely worth looking into – check online, in a good guidebook, or with that city’s tourist information office to find out whether there are tourist passes and what they’ll get you.

Also keep in mind that if you take a guided tour anywhere, reserve a couple euro coins to tip your guide – even if you paid for the tour, tipping a guide who’s done a good job is the right thing to do.

What will attractions cost in Italy?
For a few points of reference – a ticket to get into the Colosseum in Rome costs €12, a ticket for the Vatican Museums costs €13, a ticket to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa is €15, a ticket to the Uffizi in Florence is €6.50, a ticket to see The Last Supper in Milan is €6.50, and a ticket to get into Pompeii is €11.

SHOPPING IN ITALY

Only you can determine how much you intend to spend on souvenirs, clothing, and other trinkets when you’re in Italy. It can be hard to resist the pull of that pretty Prada store in Milan’s Galleria, but in this case the old adage applies – if you have to ask how much it is, chances are you can’t afford it.

In popular tourist cities, there are street vendors with carts that overflow with cheap souvenirs and postcards; they’re often cheaply made and may not be worth even the few euro they’re charging. You can often find great souvenirs at the outdoor markets that pop up once or twice a week on the streets of most cities around Italy, including clothing, handbags, and even shoes – but if it’s miniature gondolas or Davids you’re looking for, you’ll pretty much only find those in the tourist-oriented shops.

Do a bit of research before you go to Italy to find out what the cities and regions you’ll visit are known for product-wise, as it may be an excellent opportunity to pick up something on-site that would be several times the price back home. I’m talking here about things like ceramics from Deruta or glass from Murano – things that are big-ticket items even if you buy them in Italy. Remember to read up on how much you can bring back home with you before you’ll pay an import tax on it, however.

What will shopping in Italy cost? 
Only you can determine the answer to this one!

WHEN IT IS WORTH SPENDING A BIT MORE (SPLURGE) WHEN TRAVELING IN ITALY

I’m not about to deprive myself of a travel experience just because the pricetag is more than I’d normally pay – if I think it’s worth it. Of course, what defines whether something is “worth it” or not is completely subjective. While I’m happy to pay what others might consider exorbitant prices for a ski pass, I balk at paying more than €100/night in most hotels, a meal at an expensive resturant.

You know yourself best, so you’ll be able to figure out what areas of your budget – which categories listed above – you’re comfortable scrimping on and which you’d like to splurge on. Generally speaking, however, here are a few areas where I think a splurge is worth the extra money.

  • Venice hotels – Venice is one of those cities where it really is worth it to pay more and stay right on the islands. It’s still not a “pay more and you’ll get more” situation – you’ll be paying more for a 2-star hotel in Venice than you might for a 3-4 star hotel in Naples – but this splurge is all about location. It’s cheaper to stay on the mainland, but you miss out on many of the things that make Venice wonderful. If you’re seriously strapped, stay just one night on the islands, in the cheapest place you’re comfortable with (there are hostels in Venice).
  • Tour guides – I can’t say enough how much a good tour guide can make an already amazing attraction that much better. You can do self-guided tours of Pompeii and the Vatican Museums, and you can appreciate cities like Venice and Naples just by wandering with your thoughts. But there is absolutely nothing like an engaging tour guide explaining not only what things are but why you should care to make any of those experiences exponentially more meaningful. There are lots of great individual tour guides in just about every Italian city.
  • Transportation, sometimes – I love public transport in Italy, and regularly use the public trains and buses to get to and from airports and train stations to wherever I’m staying in that city. When I’m carrying luggage of any kind, unless it’s a small day pack, and especially if I don’t know a city or I’ve just arrived after a long travel day, I’m usually quite willing to splurge on a taxi to get where I need to go. I’ll still take a train or a coach from the airport into the city center, but from there to my hotel? Taxi, please. I’ll spend a bit more cash for that option, and what I save in personal hassle and discomfort makes it more than worth it in my book. In other words, don’t beat yourself up if you wait until your second day in Italy to figure out the city’s bus system!

 

Dealing with Money, How to Pay for Things When Traveling in Italy

PAYING AND BUYING THINGS IN ITALY

Buying and Paying in Italy

It’s not easy tricky to travel on a budget but with the changing Global market it is getting easier to use our money.  When traveling to Italy you should keep the following tips in mind.

TAKE CASH BEFORE YOU LEAVE

First, I recommend that you have a couple hundred EUROS with you before you leave the US. That is to ensure that you have some cash handy for your first expenses: taxi cab, sandwich, phone calls, etc., most small shops do not take a credit card for small payments. Also during your entire travel I would suggest this small amount to be kept and pay with your credit card as much as possible.  Each Region you travel in will have different quantity of Bancomat dispersed in a town, the Euro is the ONLY currency used in Italy.

USING YOUR ATM CARD IN ITALY

ATMs (Bancomats) are the best way to take cash out once you are in Italy, but the daily limit is 250 Euros (banks do that to prevent fraudulent transactions), so again, make sure you have enough cash before you leave.
Banks have very strange hours to say the least (some, but not all, follow this schedule: 8:20am-1:20pm and then from 2:35pm-4:05pm), so it’s not always easy to find one open while you’re out. Make sure to tell your local bank the dates you will be gone so your check card doesn’t get blocked!! Also, make sure your PIN number will be good overseas, some banks require a different PIN, so again, ask your local branch. DO NOT take Traveler's Cheques, they are VERY hard to change, many banks off the tourist track do not accept, so avoid the whole trouble by not taking any.

USE YOUR CREDIT CARD


Most stores in the bigger cities take credit cards, but not the majority when you’re in a small town. Also, stores are more willing to give you a small discount onprice if you paycash! MasterCard and VISA are the most commonly accepted cards. You will get a better exchange rate by using your credit card, as opposed to exchanging US dollars in Italy. Keep in mind that if you pay cash, you're more likely to get a discount in an independently owned store, if you ask for it.  However, when you pay by credit card you'll be able to track your spending better and dispute a charge. Each credit card company has their own policy about international exchange rates and many may even add an international exchange fee on top of the exchange rate.  Make sure you check with your bank or credit card company about their policy.

DON’T BRING CASH US DOLLARS

A note: use your credit card, use ATM machines (which in Italy are called “BANCOMAT”), but don’t exchange your cash dollars, unless it’s an emergency, because shops will give you a terrible rate and you’ll end up paying a commission. Stay away for the exchange booths in the Airports near train stations in the major cities.  You will not find Money Change Shops in smaller cities and most smaller bank branches do not even have dollars on hand.  Remember, can you just walk into any American bank and exchange for Euro's?

GET MONEY BACK BY ASKING FOR A TAX FREE FORM


A great way to save money is to fill out a “Tax Free Form”, which you can ask for in many retail shops around Italy. The 20% SALES TAX (VAT) is already INCLUDED in the merchandise that you are purchasing, so if an item is 10 Euros, that is what you’ll be paying at the register (tax is not added at time of payment like in the USA). You will need to fill out this form completely, with your address, passport number, and other personal information, but this is legal and controlled by the government.
 The Italian government encourages foreigners to spend by refunding a little over 13% of the sales tax. In order to qualify there is a minimum purchase amount of 150 Euros, either as a single item or total purchase price of multiple items in one single store. By filling out the form and keeping the original receipt, you can present it and the tax form at the airport information desk  at your departure airport. You will get roughly 13% refund of the tax you’ve paid on the reciepts you present. The refund is given as either cash (Euros or Dollars) or by crediting your credit card (this may take longer while the cash refund is instant). Note that this refund doesn’t apply to food expenses, restaurants, hotels, car rentals, and other tourist services.

December Travel in Italy

TRAVELLING IN ITALY DURING DECEMBER

For some, the appeal of seeing Italy decked out for Christmas or hearing Christmas mass in one of the many beautiful and historic churches in the country is enough of a reason to plan a December trip. For everyone else, there are still good reasons to go to Italy in December.

Even though the Christmas holidays draw more visitors to Italy than might otherwise be in the country during the low season, the crowds are still overall much smaller than during the high season. If you’re going to Christmas mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, prepare for crowds – but if you’re visiting smaller towns and cities and you just happen to be there around Christmas you’ll find Italy much quieter than it is at its peak tourist season.

As far as the expense of an Italy trip goes, December is a mixed bag. Early in the month can be a very budget-friendly time to visit – the country is in its low season, and the cost of air tickets to Italy and hotels in Italy fall as a result. As Christmas gets closer, however, hotels and hostels in Italy in particular raise their rates back up a bit because of the increased demand. It’s a bit of an exaggeration to call Christmas a mini-high season in Italy, but there’s definitely an upward spike in the cost of accommodation in the more popular cities.

The primary drawback to visiting Italy in December is the weather. It’s cold and often wet, and that’s not exactly conducive to strolling through medieval cobbled streets or slowly exploring the ruins of Pompeii. For anyone who’s on a budget and who doesn’t mind adapting an Italy itinerary as the weather changes, however, December can be a good month to visit.

Keep in mind that although most of Italy is in its low season in December, its ski resorts are just beginning their high season – so if you’re thinking about a ski vacation in December in Italy, remember that the prices will be raised accordingly and you’ll need to book in advance to get the best deals on accommodation.

THE WEATHER IN DECEMBER

Italy in December is cold – there’s snow in the mountains along the northern border of the country and in the mountain ranges that run down the length of the peninsula, and there’s even sometimes snow in the cities that are not up in the mountains. Where there is not snow, there tends to be rain, and the temperatures have usually dropped quite a bit from November.

As is almost always the case, southern Italy remains warmer than northern Italy even in the country’s coldest months – but that does not mean December is beach weather in Sicily. The good news is that throughout Italy, there are lots of reasons to duck into bars and cafes for a little something to warm yourself up with – in addition to the usual quick espresso you can get year-round, winter brings out the hot wine called 'Vin Brule'. It’s especially common in northern or mountain towns.

December is not the time to plan hiking trips through Tuscany, but it is the time to plan the ski season’s first trips to the slopes. When the ski resorts in Italy really get going depends a bit on the snowfall that year, but skiers may want to check with the ski areas nearby during a December visit. Also note that many ski resort towns are home to natural hot springs and spas – and you don’t have to spend a day skiing to enjoy a restorative dip in a hot spring on a cold December day.

Temperatures in December vary depending on where you are in Italy, but as a general rule of thumb these are the ranges:

  • Northern Italy: 25-45°F (-4-5°C)
  • Central Italy: 40-55°F (5-13°C)
  • Southern Italy: 55-60°F (13-16°C)

Driving In Italy Can Be A Fun Experience

DRIVING IN ITALY

Driving in Italy does not have the appeal of the open road as does driving in the US. There is a speed limit, there are lots of televox cameras (police camers) in the cities and urban areas, gas is expensive and all autostrada are pay or toll roads.  Add in the cost of parking in the city, the congestion, possibility ofaccident and just the added stress of dealing with the worry of getting the car I do not advise people to rent a car.  The public system is very good and if you want to explore the smaller reaches of the country do so by bicycle or foot.

But if you do decide to use a rental car here are some tips on renting a car in Italy.

  • Book from home. Don't wait until you're over there to rent a vehicle. It is invariably cheaper to rent a car from the United States. Most major European rental agencies are now part of, or affiliated with, the big U.S. agencies (Hertz, Avis, etc.), so going direct to the Italian ones doesn't yield a better deal.
  • Use an aggregator to determine a base fare. Research the going retail rates at various major rental outfits, booking sites, discounters, and travel agencies by using a meta–search engine called an aggregator: RentalCars.com , AutoSlash.com, Momondo.com, Vayama.com , Kayak.com, DoHop.com, Mobissimo.com. Then see if you can beat them with a consolidator (next step).
  • See if a consolidator can beat those prices. Auto Europe (www.autoeurope.com) - offers consistently lower prices than the Big Five, Auto Europe actually works a bit like an airfare consolidator, so you still pick up the car at some local European office of, say, Avis or Euro car...you just end up paying less for it. This is almost always my first choice when I need to rent, and since they now do leases as well, it's the best one-stop-price-shopping for the best option.
  • Always get the full rate. Rental companies love to stick it to you with low initial per-day rates, and then add on all sorts of bells-and-whistles at the last moment (insurances, taxes, road fees, one-way charges to pick up in one city and drop of in another, etc.). Italy has an annoying law that require you to buy the CDW (collision damage waver) and TP (theft protection) from the car rental company. You just have to suck that one up. Also, don't forget to inspect the car before you drive off. If any pre-existing nicks, scratches, dents, or other damage is not indicated and initialled by a local employee on your rental form before you leave, you will be liable for it when you return the vehicle.
  • Don't rent more than you need. We're talking both the time you'll need the car, and the kind of car you'll need. First, rent for as short a period as possible. Don't rent a car for the full two weeks if you're spending your first four days in Rome. You don't need a car in Rome (driving is insane, parking impossible to find, and garages expensive). In fact, you don't need (or want) a car in any major city: Naples, Florence, Milan, Palermo, Genoa—and you literally can't drive one in Venice. Public transport in cities is fast, efficient, and cheap. Arrange to connect major cities by train, and just rent the car for the shorter period when it is truly useful (hill towns of Tuscany & Umbria, say, or exploring Sicily or Apulia). Second, don't rent more than you need when it comes to the car itself. A smaller car will give you better gas mileage, cutting down costs (and make it easier to navigate the winding road and narrow streets). If you can drive a manual, stick-shift is always cheaper than automatic (and also gives better gas mileage).
  • Forget driving in cities. Most cities now have constricted traffic zones and without proper authorization you are subject to a fine.
  • Look into short-term leases. If you're renting a car for 17 days or longer, look into a short-term lease. All things being equal, this will usually cost less than a similar rental (especially as the period gets longer; at 30 days or more, only a fool would rent rather than leasing), plus it comes with all insurances, no deductible, and a brand new car.
    Consider a rail-and-drive pass. Just need a car for a few days of a longer trip (such as to tour the Tuscan hill towns in the middle of a longer trip spent taking trains between the big cities)? Look into the Italy Rail n' Drive Pass that get you several days of unlimited rail travel along with several days of car rental. You can add car days as needed to customize the pass to fit your schedule.
  • Follow all driving rules and regulations and road signs. OK, so everybody else speeds in Italy. Doesn't mean you should. You should drive defensively and cautiously. Yes, Italian drivers are aggressive. Do not attempt to imitate them. Obey all no-parking signs. Italian cops have gotten brutal about ticketing (and even towing) illegally parked cars (and any unpaid tickets will find their way to you via the car rental agency, which will attach a fee for their troubles, along with the probable late penalties on the ticket itself).

Useful Italian phrases for car travel

car - automobile (ow-toh-MO-bee-lay)
gas -  benzina (ben-ZEE-nah)
diesel - gasolio (gah-ZOH-lee-oh) / diesel (DEE-zell)
Fill it up, please - al pieno, per favore (ahl pee-YAY-noh, pair fa-VOHR-ray)
Where is... - Dov'é (doh-VAY)
...the highway - l'autostrada (lout-oh-STRA-dah)
...the road for Rome -  la strada per Roma (lah STRA-dah pair RO-mah)
to the right - à destra (ah DEH-strah)
to the left - à sinistra (ah see-NEEST-trah)
straight ahead - diritto (dee-REE-toh) / avanti (ah-VAHN-tee)
keep going straight - sempre diritto (SEM-pray dee-REE-toh)

Exploring the 20 Regions of Italy

20 REGIONS OF ITALY

Regioni d'Italia

Italy is divided into 20 separate regions, regions are similar to states of the United States, and each has it own unique history, culture, and way of doing things.  There are also two independent states within Italy: Vatican City and the Republic of San Marino.  Most visitors to Italy want to visit the big three: Roma, Florence, and Venice, but there are unlimited adventures awaiting outside these major cities that will give you a true taste of Italian life.  

Geography has played an important role in the development of the Italian peninsula for centuries, with the mountains of the Alps, Dolomites, and Appennini, and major riversinflunencing the flow and settlements of people.  It has only been in the past 60 years that Italy has become a modern state.  The Risorgimento was over 150 years ago when the modern Italian state was formed, but the country is still in the process of forming and becoming a united country.  There have been two major empires constructed on the Italian peninsula, the Roman Empire and theRepublic of Venezia. Around these two major empires has been the groups carving out small kingdoms and city states to attache themselves to the glory and prestige of the Roma's or to later trade with theVenezian Republic. This has resulted in distinct  region cultures and ways of life, this very variety is what makes Italy so unique and place that can offer a lifetime of exploration.

Travel guide to Italy, map of italy

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU TRAVEL IN ITALY

The Italiaoutdoors Italy Travel Guide is being written with the active traveler in mind.  This guide will continue to grow and be up-dated as we travel around the country.  Things will change and sometimes our view point may differ from common guide books.  The goal is to give you good planning information so that you can organize a great Italy Adventure.  There is no other place that you have the same level of culture, history, nature diversity, plus food and wine is such close proximity.  

Have a great time Bike Touring, Rock Climbing, Hiking, Ski, SCUBA Diving, and other Outdoor Recreation Activities while taking time after, to relax and sip an expresso in the historical square. Do not forget the great food and wine to refuel on for the next days activities.  Italy offers one of the best travel destinations of varied level of recreation enthusiast and makes a vacation compromise easier, you can be active, tour amazing cities, eat and drink well and still have time to relax and recharge before returning home.

REGIONS OF ITALY

  1. Exploring the Veneto Region of Italy
  2. Exploring the Trentino Alto Adige Region of Italy
  3. Exploring the Friuli Venezia Region, Italy
  4. Exploring the Emilia Romagna Region, Italy
  5. Exploring the Aosta Valley Region, Italy
  6. Exploring the Lombardy Region Italy
  7. Exploring the Piedmont Region Italy
  8. Exploring the Liguria Region Italy
  9. Exploring the Tuscany Region of Italy
  10. Exploring the Umbria Region Italy
  11. Exploring The Marches Region Italy
  12. Exploring the Abruzzo Region Italy
  13. Exploring the Lazio Region Italy
  14. Exploring the Sardinia Region Italy
  15. Exploring the Campania Region Italy
  16. Exploring the Calabria Region Italy
  17. Exploring the Puglia Region Italy
  18. Exploring the Sicily Region Italy
  19. Exploring the Basilicata Region Italy
  20. Exploring the Molise Region Italy

February Travel in Italy

TRAVELLING IN ITALY DURING FEBRUARY

February is part of the country’s low season, when prices on everything from airline tickets to Italy to Italy hotels to vacation packages in Italy are often at the lowest end of the spectrum. If a shoestring budget has been the biggest factor keeping you from visiting Italy, then rest assured your money will go much further during February.

The dreary weather in February brings another perk, and that’s smaller crowds. Even though the prices are sometimes spectacularly low, the weather is such that most people still avoid going to Italy during the winter. That means not only will you pay less for your trip, you also won’t find the usual long lines to get into popular attractions.

Keep in mind that during the winter many attractions change their open hours so they’re not open as long each day, and prices won’t be low in places where there’s a big event going on (like Venice during Carnival) or where the winter is the high season (like in the mountain ski areas).

Italy's Weather in February

While January tends to be colder overall than February, the two months are fairly interchangeable weather-wise. The northern parts of Italy and other mountainous regions are often snow-covered, and rain usually dominates the forecast in other areas.

Still, in some places February is when Italy is beginning to shake off its winter cloak. As is nearly always the case in Italy, the further south you travel in February, the warmer it gets. The mountains will still be cold and likely still snowy in February, even in southern Italy and the islands, but the more temperate coastal climate reaches quite a ways inland. That usually translates into rain in February in the places that don’t get snow, but the rain can very well be broken up by a few hours or even a full day of clear weather, too.

Planning a trip to Italy in February when your to-do list includes things like hanging out on the beach, hiking through Tuscan hills, or exploring ancient excavations outdoors may not be a good idea – those things aren’t very pleasant when it’s cold and wet outside. But if you’re looking for a ski vacation in February, Italy is a great option. The mountain resorts in the north and central Italy in particular are popular with skiers – and because February is a less popular time for most ski trips than January, you may find better deals.

Temperatures in February vary depending on where you are in Italy, but as a general rule of thumb these are the ranges:

  • Northern Italy: 25-45°F (-4-5°C)
  • Central Italy: 40-55°F (5-13°C)
  • Southern Italy: 50-60°F (10-16°C)

Flying to Italy

FLYING TO ITALY

Airports in Italy

Italy has more than 130 airports throughout the entire peninsula and islands, services have gotten better and with the cost of gas and train tickets, there are several great options to connect your travel destinations by air. The two major direct international gateways in to Italy are Rome and Milan, and there are several other airports that serve as primary hubs for their regions many offering limited direct international connections.  Many of the smaller Regional airports can be reached by flying into an European hub first, this gives you many more options on ticket prices.

The list below is of the major airports in Italy, this is a working list so it is not 100% complete and there is constant change of services that I can not keep up with.   Depending on where you’re coming from and where you’re going in Italy, there may be a smaller regional airport that would also be a good option for you (you can often find these by looking at Google maps and zooming out a bit until you see an airplane icon, or by consulting the official website for the city you’re visiting).

For each airport listed below, there are also a few airlines listed that serve that airport – that’s also not an complete list, so be sure to check all your options for whatever airport you’re considering.

Airports in Italy Listed by Region

Abruzzo, Italy

  • Abruzzo Airport (PSR) – Located near Pescara; served by Alitalia, Air Transat, Ryanair

Aosta Valley, Italy

  • Aosta Airport (AOT) – Located in Aosta; served by Air Vallée

Basilicata, Italy

There are no commercial airports for tourist use in Basilicata. The closest airport for most visitors is Bari Airport in Puglia.

Calabria, Italy

  • Lamezia Terme Airport (SUF) – Located near Catanzaro; served by Air One, Alitalia, Blu-Express, easyJet, Ryanair
  • Reggio Calabria Airport (REG) – Located near Reggio Calabria; served by Alitalia, Air Malta, Trawel Fly
  • Crotone Airport (CRV) – Located in Crotone; served by Alitalia Express, Danube Wings

Campania, Italy

  • Naples-Capodichino Airport (NAP) – Located in Naples; served by Air France, Alitalia, Air One, British Airways, easyJet, Germanwings, Lufthansa, Meridiana Fly, Spanair, Transavia.com, Vueling, Wizz Air

Emilia-Romagna, Italy

  • Bologna-Borgo Panigale Airport (BLQ) – Located in Bologna; served by Aer Lingus, Air France, Alitalia, British Airways, Czech Airlines, easyJet, Germanwings, Iceland Express, Jet4you, KLM, Lufthansa, Meridiana Fly, Royal Air Maroc, Ryanair, Scandinavian Airlines, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines
  • Forlì Airport (FRL) – Located near Bologna; served by Belle Air, Wind Jet, Wizz Air
  • Parma Airport (PMF) – Located in Parma; served by Belle Air, Ryanair, Wind Jet
  • Rimini-Miramare Airport (RMI) – Located near Rimini (nearest airport to Republic of San Marino); served by Air Vallée, Albanian Airlines, Ryanair, VIM Airlines, Wind Jet

Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

  • Friuli-Venezia Giulia Airport (TRS) – Located near Trieste; served by Alitalia, Belle Air, Lufthansa Regional, Ryanair

Lazio, Italy

  • Rome-Fiumicino Airport (FCO) – Located near Rome; served by Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Air Canada, Air China, Air France, Air Malta, Alitalia, American Airlines, Austrian Airlines, Baboo, Blue Air, Blue1, Blu-Express, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, easyJet, EgyptAir, El Al, Emirates, Finnair, Iberia, Jet2.com, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Luxair, Malaysia Airlines, Meridiana Fly, Niki, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Scandinavian Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SriLankan Airways, Swiss International Airlines, Transavia.com, United Airlines, US Airways, Vueling Airlines, Wind Jet, Wizz Air
  • Rome Ciampino Airport (CIA) – Located near Rome; served by easyJet, Ryanair, Wizz Air

Le Marche, Italy

  • Ancona-Falconara Airport (AOI) – Located near Ancona; served by Alitalia, Belle Air, Lufthansa Regional, Ryanair

Liguria, Italy

  • Genoa Airport (GOA) – Located in Genoa; served by Air France, Air Italy, Alitalia, Blu-Express, British Airways, Lufthansa Regional, Ryanair
  • Villanova d’Albenga Airport (ALL) – Located in Albenga; served by Air Vallée

Lombardy, Italy

  • Milan-Malpensa Airport (MXP) – Located near Milan; served by Aegean Airlines, Aeroflot, Air Algérie, Air Berlin, Air China, Air France, Air Italy, Air One, Alitalia, American Airlines, Atlasjet, Austrian Airlines, Blu-Express, Blue Air, Blue1, bmi, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Bulgaria Air, Cathay Pacific, Continental Airlines, Cyprus Airways, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, easyJet, EgyptAir, El Al, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Finnair, Flybe, Germanwings, Gulf Air, Iberia, Icelandair, Jet Airways, Jet4you, KLM, Korean Air, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Malév Hungarian Airlines, Meridiana Fly, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Sky Airlines, Singapore Airlines, SriLankan Airways, Swiss International Airlines, Syrian Air, TAP Portugal, Thai Airways International, Transavia.com, Turkish Airlines, Twin Jet, Ukraine International Airlines, Uzbekistan Airways, Vueling Airlines, Wind Jet
  • Milan-Linate Airport (LIN) – Located in Milan; served by Aer Lingus, AirBaltic, Air France, Air Malta, Alitalia, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Carpatair, easyJet, Iberia Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Meridiana Fly, Scandinavian Airlines, Wind Jet
  • Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport (BGY) – Located in Bergamo; served by Air Arabia Maroc, Air Italy, AlbaStar, Alitalia, Amsterdam Airlines, Belle Air, Blue Air, Carpatair, Danube Wings, Eagles Airlines, Meridiana Fly, Pegasus Airlines, Ryanair, Wind Jet, Wizz Air

Molise, Italy

  • There are no commercial airports for tourist use in Molise. The closest airports for most visitors are the ones in Naples (Campania), Foggia (Puglia), or Pescara (Abruzzo).

Piedmont, Italy

  • Turin-Caselle Airport (TRN) – Located near Turin; served by Air France, Air Italy, Albanian Airlines, Alitalia, Blue Panorama Airlines, Blu-Express, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Darwin Airline, Iberia Airlines, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Meridiana Fly, Royal Air Maroc, Ryanair, Turkish Airlines, Wind Jet
  • Cuneo-Levaldigi Airport (CUF) – Located near Turin; served by Air Arabia, Belle Air, Blue Air, Ryanair, Wizz Air

Puglia, Italy

  • Bari-Palese Airport (BRI) – Located in Bari; served by Air Berlin, Alitalia, British Airways, easyJet, Lufthansa, Meridiana Fly, Ryanair, Spanair, Wizz Air
  • Brindisi-Casale Airport (BDS) – Located in Brindisi; served by Air One, Alitalia, easyJet, Ryanair
  • Foggia Airport (FOG) – Located in Foggia; served by Alidaunia, Darwin Airline

Sardinia, Italy

  • Cagliari-Elmas Airport (CAG) – Located near Cagliari; served by Alitalia, British Airways, easyJet, Edelweiss Air, Germanwings, Luxair, Meridiana Fly, Ryanair
  • Olbia-Costa Smeralda Airport (OLB) – Located in Olbia; served by Air Alps, Air Berlin, Air Italy, Alitalia, easyJet, Edelweiss Air, Helvetic Airways, Iberia, Jetairfly, Lufthansa Regional, Meridiana Fly, Transavia.com, Welcome Air
  • Alghero Fertilia Airport (AHO) – Located in Alghero; served by Air One, Alitalia, bmibaby, Meridiana Fly, Ryanair, TUIfly Nordic

Sicily, Italy

  • Catania-Fontanarossa Airport (CTA) – Located near Catania; served by Air Berlin, Air Italy, Air Malta, Air One, Alitalia, Blue Air, Blu-Express, British Airways, Cimber Sterling, Eagles Airlines, easyJet, Germanwings, Lufthansa, Meridiana Fly, Transavia.com, Smart Wings, Trawel Fly, Wind Jet, Wizz Air, XL Airways France
  • Palermo-Puna Raisi Airport (PMO) – Located near Palermo; served by Air Berlin, Air Italy, Air One, Alitalia, Blu-Express, Darwin Airline, easyJet, Iberia, Jetairfly, Lufthansa, Luxair, Meridiana Fly, Norwegian Air Shuttle, Ryanair, Thomas Cook Airlines, Tunisair, Vueling, Wind Jet
  • Trapani-Birgi Airport (TPS) – Located near Trapani; served by Air One, Meridiana Fly, Ryanair

Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy

  • Bolzano-Dolomiti Airport (BZO) – Located in Bolzano; served by Air Alps

Tuscany, Italy

  • Pisa-San Giusto Airport (PSA) – Located in Pisa; served by Air One, Albanian Airlines, Alitalia, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, easyJet, Elbafly, Germanwings, Jet2.com, Meridiana Fly, Ryanair, Transavia.com, Vueling Airlines, Wind Jet, Wizz Air
  • Florence-Peretola Airport (FLR) – Located near Florence; served by Air Berlin, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airways, Baboo, Brussels Airlines, Cimber Sterling, Lufthansa, Meridiana Fly, Swiss International Airlines

Umbria, Italy

  • Perugia-Sant’Egidio Airport (PEG) – Located in Perugia; served by Belle Air, Ryanair, Skybridge AirOps

Veneto, Italy

  • Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE) – Located near Venice; served by Aer Lingus, Aeroflot, Air Berlin, Air Corsica, Air Europa, Air France, AirBaltic, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, bmibaby, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Cimber Sterling, Croatia Airlines, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Eagles Airlines, easyJet, Emirates, Finnair, Iberia, Jet2.com, Jet4you, KLM, Lufthansa, Meridiana Fly, Qatar Airways, Scandinavian Airlines, Spanair, TAP Portugal, Thomson Airways, Turkish Airlines, US Airways, Vueling Airlines, Wind Jet
  • Treviso-Sant’Angelo Airport (TSF) – Located in Treviso; served by Air Arabia Maroc, Belle Air, Germanwings, Ryanair, Transavia.com, Wizz Air
  • Verona-Villafrance Airport (VRN) – Located near Verona; served by Aeroflot, Air Dolomiti, Air France, Air Italy, Air Malta, Air Moldova, Alitalia, Belle Air, bmibaby, British Airways, easyJet, Lufthansa Regional, Meridiana Fly, Mistral Air, Neos, Royal Air Maroc, Ryanair, Transavia.com, Vueling Airlines, Wind Je

Tips on Using the Major Carriers—Alitalia and other major airlines

There are two ways to fly into Italy:

  • Using any major U.S.airline, Italy's Alitalia (or one of its code-share partners), or a major European airline like British Airways, Air France, or Lufthansa
  • Using the low-cost carriers and doing lay-overs in hub cities.

This is the old-fashioned and still standard way to fly to Europe: on some major airline you've already heard of. Most major U.S. airlines offer flights to Italy—direct from the East Coast and other major cities; if not, at least connecting through· New York. Then, of course, there is Alitalia (www.alitalia.com), Italy's national airline. Alitalia is no better or worse than any other major airline out there, and, as you'd expect, tends to have the largest number of direct flight from the U.S. to Italy:

Alitalia flies direct to Rome from New York, Boston, and Toronto daily, Chicago six times a week, and Miami regularly, as well as from Buenos Aires, Caracas, and Saõ Paolo.
Alitalia also flies direct to Milan from New York and Saõ Paolo, Brazil.
Alitalia also code shares with Continental (if you book an Alitalia flight that leaves out of Newark rather than New York's JFK airport, you'll almost certainly be aboard a Continental jet), is now a strategic partner with KLM/Air France, and is a member of the Sky team alliance (www.skyteam.com), which includes Delta.

All of which means you can probably book a ticket on any of those carriers (and accrue your frequent flier miles) and still fly Alitalia to Italy.

You can also often fly to Italy on a major European airline, usually connecting through a hub in their home country (say, London on British Airways, Paris on Air France, or Frankfurt on Lufthansa). Why bother? Sometimes a European carrier will be having a system wide sale that drops its prices lower than even U.S. ones. It always pays to check.

One of the major benefits to using a major airline is that you can often arrange to fly "open jaws"—into, say, Rome and back home from Milan—which will save you at least several hours of backtracking and probably a day's-worth of vacation.

Tips for finding the least expensive airfare

  • Know where the deals are (E-savers; fare alerts; deals newsletters)
  • Know that timing is everything (high season is summer, X-mas; buy 6–8 weeks out; be flexible)
  • Don't pay retail (airfare aggregators; wholesale consolidators; Priceline & Hotwire - bidding & opaque fares)
  • Deploy insider secrets ( vacation packages; frequent flier miles; the London Switch)

Getting Around In Italy During Your Vacation

HOW TO GET AROUND IN ITALY

Picture of Passo del Stelvio

USING THE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS IN ITALY

Asyou plan your vacation to Italy you need to understand how you are going to get to your destination and then move around while you are there Italy has a very good public transportation system and it has only been during the last 10 years or so that the usage has gone out of vogue (it is estimated that there are now 3 cars for every Italian family), however, there is a migration back to the public services.  When you consider gas is at $10 a gallon, allautostrade highways are toll roads, and parking can cost you 20 to 30 euro a day, using public transportation is one of your best options. 

TYPES OF TRANSPORTION SYSTEMS IN ITALY

  1. How to Use the Train in Italy
  2. How to Use the Bus in Italy
  3. Driving In Italy Can Be A Fun Experience
  4. Traveling by Boat in Italy
  5. Flying in Italy

How To Dress of Mountain Hiking and Climbs

 HOW TO DRESS FOR THE MOUNTIANS AND CLIMBING

Hiking Italy, Italan Dolomite's

Having the right clothes significantly increases your comfort and also your chances for success when alpine climbing. Weather conditions and temperatures changes extremely quickly in the Alps summertime. You need to be able to stay dry and maintain the right degree of warmth frommorning till the afternoon, without bringing your whole wardrobe in your backpack.

Being too cold, too warm, or wet quickly becomes an additional factor of fatigue. Moving around with badly adjusted clothing and equipment costs you precious climbing time, and time is safety in the mountains.

Following is a list of clothing that we suggest that you bring for all mountain hikes.

Base layer: Long-sleeve underwear top and long johns made of wool or synthetic materials is best to wear close to the body. Avoid cotton since it tends to get cold and clammy when wet. Depending on temperatures and your type of mountaineering pant, the long johns can be worn underneath or not. However, a long underwear top and one layer of long pants is always worn in order to protect our skin from the snow and the strong sun radiation in the mountains.

Pants: A thin pair of soft shell mountaineering pants, such as the Norrona Svalbard pants, are comfortable with or without a base layer and practical to wear most days. Additionally, bring a light pair of shell pants for rain, snow and wind protection. Instead of baggy gore-tex ski pants, bring a light pair of rain pants that you can pull on without taking off your boots and crampons (really handy when standing in the snow). For example the Falketind pack-light pants.

Jackets: As insulation layer, both a thin and a thick fleece is good to have; the choice of the day depends on the temperature. Norrona 29- and Narvik-series provide various thicknesses and have hoods, which can be used as sun and wind protection. Wind stopper fleeces are less convenient since they are heavy and do not breathe as well as a fleece, and you need a wind and waterproof shell jacket anyway.
Always bring a thin gore-tex shell jacket or a light rain jacket for rain and wind protection. We recommend the Falketind pack-light or the Bitihorn rain jacket from Norrona. When going as high as Mt Blanc, a light down jacket is also nice to have since is can be very cold with the wind chill.

Hats: Sunhat and beanie are both indispensable for long summer days in the mountains. The face also needs to be protected with 30-50 sun cream, and the eyes with sun glasses (preferable category 4). For climbing Mt Blanc, also bring skiing goggles to keep the face warm in case of cold winds.

Gloves: You need a thin pair of waterproof gloves, impregnated leather is good. For cold days and high peaks, bring an extra pair of warmer gloves too.

Boots: A pair of gaiters to link pants and boots is always good. Even if the snow is not very deep, the gaiters will prevent you from ripping your pants in pieces the first day you are using your brand new, super sharp crampons.

For most summer mountaineering we use a light and comfortable boot such as the Scarpa Triolet. It is very nice for walking and works well for all the climbing except for very technical ice routes. It is ideal for our Matterhorn courses.

For climbing Mont Blanc, a warmer boot is recommended if you easily get cold feet. La Sportive Nepal Top and Scarpa Jorasses GTX are all round boots that work well for both for summer and winter climbing in the Alps.

Scarpa Phantom Lite is an option for those who are concerned about cold feet. It might be good on Mont Blanc, but for all other summer mountaineering in the Alps it is unnecessary warm and heavy.

There is a lot to choose from on the market when it comes to alpine climbing boots. You just have to try them out and see what fits your feet best. For a first time mountaineer, renting boots to try out the first week is a good option.

SLEEPING SHEET:It has become standard practice in the Alpine refuges to use a personal sleeping sheet during overnight stays: enforcement is varied but in SAT huts it is obligatory. Using a sleeping sheet helps to save precious resources (electricity and water) whose supply is difficult in itself because of the mountainous environment as wall as contribute to the overall hygiene of the refuge, and mattresses and blankets used in the rooms. Sleeping sheets can also be purchased directly from the refuge

How to Pack and Organize Your Backpack

HOW TO PACK AND ORGANIZE YOUR BACKPACK FOR LONG HIKES

Loading a backpack is pretty simple. If possible, first load your backpack at home. You can spread out your gear on a clean floor, visually confirm you've got everything and feel less rushed as you load up.

Use a checklist to ensure you've got everything you need. This lessens the chance something gets left behind.

THE BASIC WAY TO PACK YOUR BACKPACK FOR LONG TREKS

As with anything this suggestion is a good starting point.  Most individuals tend to find this method works well, each hiker may wish to make adjustments based on their body shape and individuals likes.  However, I would suggest packing close to this method for the first days of walking to get a good feel of your equipment and how to make best use of your backpack. 

The Bottom of the Pack

Virtually all backpacks have large openings at the top and are known as top-loading packs. A seldom-seen alternative is a panel-loading pack which uses a zippered sidewall flap.

Most backpackers shove their sleeping bag into the bottom of the pack. On some packs, there is a zippered opening at the bottom of the packbag, known as the sleeping bag compartment, for this purpose.

The bottom of the pack is also a good place for other items you won't need until you make camp at night: long underwear being used as sleepwear, for example; a pillowcase; maybe a sleeping pad, if it's the kind that rolls up into a tiny shape.

Any other needed-only-at-night items can go down low except a headlamp or flashlight. Always have your light source in a readily accessible space.

The Pack's Core

Your heaviest items should be placed 1) on top of your sleeping bag and 2) close to your spine. Usually these items will be:

  •  Your food stash, either in a couple of stuff sacks or in a bear canister.
  •  Your water supply, either in a hydration reservoir or bottles.
  •  Your cook kit and stove might also go here,though both could be wedged into the periphery of the load if small and light enough.

Carrying a hydration reservoir? Most newer packs include a reservoir sleeve. This is a slot that holds a reservoir close to your back and parallel to your spine. It's easier to insert the reservoir while the pack is still mostly empty, so that leaves you 2 choices:

  • If you prefer efficiency, insert it at home. You'll have a loaded pack ready to go as soon as you reach the trail head.
  • If you want the coldest water possible, carry the reservoir in a cooler and load it and your other middle- and upper-pack contents at the trail head.

Heavier items should be centered in your pack—not too high, not too low. The goal is to create a predictable, comfortable center of gravity. Heavy items too low cause a pack to feel saggy. Too high and the load might feel tipsy.

In the past, traditional pack-loading advice recommended that for trail-walking, heavy items should be carried a little higher in a pack. Today, with most packs designed to ride close to the body, it's best to simply keep heavy items close to the spine and centered in the pack.  If you have an older style of pack with external frames you might wish to move heavy items a bit higher.

On the Outter sides and Outsides of the Pack

Wrap softer, lower-weight items around the weightier items to prevent heavier pieces from shifting. What items are these? Your tent body,rainfly, an insulation layer, a rain jacket. These items can help stabilize the core and fill empty spaces.

Stash frequently used items within easy reach. This includes your map, compass, GPS, sunscreen, sunglasses, headlamp, bug spray, first-aid kit, snacks, rain gear, pack-cover, toilet paper and sanitation trowel. Place them in the pack's top pocket or other external pocket, if one exists. Some packs even offer tiny pockets on the hip-belt.

If carrying liquid fuel, make sure your fuel bottle cap is on tightly. Pack the bottle upright and place it below your food in case of a spill.
Other Tips

  • Fill up empty spaces. For example, put utensils, a cup or a small item of clothing inside your cooking pots. Fill up your bear canister.
  • Split the weight of large communal items (e.g., tent) with others in your group. You carry the main body, for example, and your friend can carry the poles and rain-fly.
  • Tighten all compression straps to limit load-shifting.

The Desired Result

Ideally, a well-loaded pack will:

  • Feel balanced when resting on your hips.
  • Feel cohesive, a whole unit, with nothing shifting or swaying inside.
  • Feel stable and predictable as you walk, at one with your upper body.


Other Packing Tips

  • Tent poles: If your pack offers elasticized side pockets, place the poles down one side of the pack, behind one or more compression straps, with one end of the poles in the pocket.
  • Sleeping pad: You may need an extra set of straps to attach it to a lash point on the top of the pack or near your waistline on the outside of the pack. Another option: Put it beneath your top pocket (lid) and the top opening of the pack, then tighten the lid to the pack. The pad may be vulnerable to slipping out either side, so secure the pad to the pack with an extra strap or 2. Note: It's fine to carry tent poles and a sleeping pad inside a pack if you have the space.
  • Trekking poles: Same deal; just put the grips in the pocket and the tip pointing upward.
  • Ice axe: External tool loops make it possible to carry an inverted axe on your back until it's needed.
  • Crampons: Carry them inside your pack in a protective case. Or, lash them to the outside of the pack as long as you use protective point covers.
  • Other tools: Some packs offer a series of external stitched loops called a daisy chain. Use it to clip or tie small items on your pack.

Note: Minimize the amount of gear you attach to your pack's exterior. External items can potentially get snagged on brush in areas of dense vegetation. Too much external gear could also jeopardize your stability.

  • Carry a pack cover. Though some backpacks are made with waterproof fabric, they have seams and zippers that are vulnerable to seepage during a downpour. A pack cover is worth its weight when rain becomes persistent.
  • Bring a few repair items. Wrap strips of duct tape around your water bottles or trekking poles; in case a strap pops or some other disaster occurs, a quick fix could keep you going. Take along a few safety pins in case a zipper fails.
  • Consider a camera case. The need for one depends on your camera and your desire for quick access when shooting.

How To Tell Time When You are in Italy

 TELLING TIME IN ITALY

Risposo in Italy, Telling Time in Italy

Time and Opening Hours in Italy

As you travel around during your visit you do need to adapt to the Italian rhythm of life, it is still (luckily) not as fast and in the US.· Plan your day around these hours are you will get stressed out, remember to relax and slow down your pace, plus plan ahead. Sights, museums, restaurants, shops: When the are open, when they are closed, and when they take a riposo (siesta)

Open hours are posted at most Italian businesses, shops, and sightseeing attractions—sometimes helpfully in both Italian and English.· Note that almost all activities have a riposo period.

The riposo - Italy's midday siesta

You know how you naturally get sleepy in the middle of the afternoon? Well, Mediterranean (and Latin American) countries have always kept attuned to the biorhythms that American culture tries to ignore, and they've found a way to work around the body’s internal clock. You might know it as the siesta. In Italy, it is called riposo. Duringriposo, most museums, churches, shops, businesses—just about everything except restaurants—lower the shutters and lock the doors so that proprietors can either go home (or head to a local trattoria) for a long lunch and perhaps a snooze during the day’s hottest hours. This traditional early afternoon shutdown varies from business to business, but usually lasts about 90 minutes to two hours. It may begin anywhere from noon and 1:30pm and run until anywhere from 2:30 to 4pm.

At first this break can be extremely annoying to you at a visitor, especially if you’re on a tight sightseeing schedule, but after a while you get used to it. Learn to take the riposo and revel in it. If your time is short, make sure you know which sights (often churches) will be open during riposo and save them to visit at that time. I generally bicycle ride·go for a run·during this period since traffic is slower.

The World Economic influence is slowly forcing the rest of the everyone·to live and work according to US's hectic, stressful, and non-stop schedule. Increasingly, there are commercial centers in most·cities that are staying open through the middle of the day. It’s good news for shoppers, but bad news for the general pace and quality of life.

Typical open hours

Very broadly, here are the open hours for most things a·traveler will want to do in Italy. Keep in mind that these can vary dramatically. Some sights may only open from 11am to 1pm two days a week; other may be open daily from 7am to 11:30pm (in summer, major sights sometimes post such extended evening hours). Still, this will give you a ballpark.

Remember: churches—crammed with frescoes, oil paintings, mosaics, and sculptures—tend to be major sights in Italy. Also, I'm giving just the serving hours for restaurants; though the kitchen may close at 10pm, but the establishment could·stay open until midnight or later.

When it is  written "6:30am/8am" it means that a place might open anywhere between those two bookend times.
Since the precise hours of ariposo vary so much, rather than less multiple the times below with ranges forriposo, I have inserted the word [riposo] remind you that things are likely to be shut for a few hours in the middle of the day.

  • Museums & monuments: 8/9am [riposo] to 3:30pm (minor sights)/7:30pm (major)
  • Churches: 6:30am/8am [riposo] to 5pm/7pm
  • Shops: 8am/9am [riposo] 7pm/9pm
  • Non-retail businesses: 9am [riposo] 5pm/7pm
  • Restaurants (kitchen hours): lunch noonish/2:30pm, dinner 7pm/10:30pm (most Italians start dinner around 8pm–9:30pm)
  • Bars: 5:30am/6am [riposo] 7pm/midnight (an Italian bar is not only where you get a drink after dinner but also anaperitivo in the early evening, an espresso before work, and a cappuccino during your morning break).
  • Keep in mind that Italy uses the 24-hour clock—what we call "military time"—rather than am and pm. So if a posted hours sign says, say "Feriali 10–18, Festivi 11–13," that means "Open Mon–Sat 10am–6pm, Sun and holidays 11am–1pm." Ah, but what do "feriali" and "festivi" mean?

That's one more difference to note. Many businesses, museums, railways, and other places that post schedules dealing with days of the week don't use specific days, but rather something more akin to what we would term "weekdays" and "weekends." However, they don't divide the week up quite the way Americans do. Here's how to interpret signs, train schedules, and other places with posted hours:

  • If you see giorni feriali, simply feriali, or a symbol of a hammer crossed with a sickle (it's not Communist; it just symbolizes "work"), that means Monday through Saturday.
  • If you see giorni festivi, simply festivi, or a tiny cross, that means Sundays and holidays.

Typical closed days

Italian holidays when everything closes

  • Most offices and shops in Italy are closed on these public holidays: January 1 (New Year’s Day), January 6 (Epiphany), Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, April 25 (Liberation)
  • Most offices and shops in Italy are closed on these public holidays: January 1 (New Year’s Day), January 6 (Epiphany), Easter Sunday, Easter Monday, April 25 (Liberation Day), May 1 (Labor Day), August 15 (Assumption of the Virgin—much of Italy takes its summer vacation Aug 15–30), November 1 (All Saints’ Day), December 8 (Feast of the Immaculate Conception), December 25 (Christmas Day), and December 26 (Santo Stefano).

Christmas holidays

  • Most Italians' Christmas holidays last from December 24 though January 6

Saint's Days - Most oftown shuts down on the feast day for its patron saints (though there's also usually an excellent procession and public festival happening).
Here are the dates (and saints) for major cities:

  • Rome, June 29 (Sts. Peter and Paul)
  • Venice, April 25 (St. Mark)
  • Florence, Genoa, and Turin, June 24 (St. John the Baptist)
  • Milan, December 7 (St. Ambrose)
  • Palermo, July 15 (St. Rosalia)
  • Naples, September 19 (St. Gennaro)
  • Bari, December 6 (St. Nicola—Santa Claus!)
  • Bologna, October 4 (St. Petronio)
  • Trieste, November 3 (St. Giusto)
  • Cagliari, October 30 (St. Saturnino)

Sundays in Italy

  • On Sundays, most shops are closed, as are many restaurants (though some will open for lunch).
  • Some museums are closed Sundays, and many others have curtailed hours (usually open mornings only).
  • Most churches will be closed to tourists in the morning since, though they are often among the biggest tourist sights in town, their primary purpose is as houses of worship. (You're welcome to attend the services, of course; just don't be a tourist about it: sit politely in a pew, don't wander about gawking at frescoes and altarpieces, and for goodness sake don't take photographs.)

Mondays in Italy

  • Mondays are worse. You're usually fine on churches and shops, but most museums and many restaurants are closed entirely.
  • (By law, most restaurants are forced to close at least one day a week—though, increasingly, many are finding loopholes to get around this—and the vast majority pick Monday.)
  • There are some other varied rules and habits (like the fact that most grocers in Vicenza close on Wedensday afternoons), but nothing that will impact your trip enough to worry about.

What to do about "closed days"

  • How do you deal with Sundays and Mondays? First, be sure Monday is not the only day (or one of your only two days) in a city or town filled with museums. Second, plan to do about half as much on Sundays as you would on a weekday.
  • Most importantly, find the sights and restaurants in town that are open on Mondays or on Sunday afternoons and save them for those times when everything else will be closed.
  • Chiuso means closed—Reading posted open-hours signs
  • Here's how to interpret closed signs posted at restaurants, shops, and sights. Since it will also be handy to know which days a particular shop is "chiuso per turno," there's a list of the days of the week in Italian in the box on the right.

The Italian week

  • Lunedí - Monday
  • Martedí - Tuesday
  • Mercoledí - Wednesday
  • Giovedí - Thursday
  • Venerdí - Friday
  • Sabato - Saturday
  • Domenica – Sunday
  • Chiuso per riposo - Closed for the midday siesta (noonish–3ish). Note: if it says chiuso per giorno di riposo (or any of the variants in the next entry), it means they're closed all day.
  • Giorno di chiusura, giorno di riposo, or chiuso per turno - The day of the week a restaurant or other place is closed for business.
  • Chiuso per ferie - Closed for vacation.
  • Chiuso per restauro - Closed for restoration. This is a state that can last for years.
  • Note: On Italian signs, the word "per" is often abbreviated "x"—which makes sense when you know that "per" (which can mean "by" or "for") is the preposition Italians use as shorthand for "multiplied by."

By remembering many of these simple tips you can reduce your travel stress.

How to Use the Bus in Italy

HOW TO USE THE BOAT IN ITALY

When you’re getting down to the kind of small-town travel this site describes, you’ll probably need to use regional buses at some point. Regional inter-town buses are called pullman, though autobus, the term for a city bus, is also sometimes used.

All things being equal, if you want to connect any two reasonably-sized towns or cities in Italy, the trains will be faster, more frequent, and more convenient than the buses, and will cost about the same, on average (which is to say: sometimes less, sometimes more).

There are few notable exceptions, like the Veneto or some beach communities along theAdratic (some of which are isolated far from train stations—Asolo, Jesolo,andChioggia, and others of which are simply more convenient to get to by bus, like Soave).

Useful Italian for bus travel

ticket - biglietto

  • one-way - solo andata
  • round-trip - andata-ritorno
  • intercity coach - pullman
  • city bus - autobus, bus
  • bus stop - fermata
  • excuse me (in a crowd) - permesso
  • I'm getting off! - scendo!

In other words: unless you're trying to get to a tiny town off the beaten path (and off the rail lines), it makes far more sense to take the train.

When to take a bus in Italy...

Using The Bus In Italy

You can get just about anywhere through a network of dozens of local, provincial, and regional lines, if you learn a few simple rules and you are not in a hurry.

Every province in Italy has its own bus system; there are a few regional ones as well. (An Italian regione, or "region," is like a U.S. state—Veneto, Trentino Alto Adige, Emilia Romagna —while a provincia, or "province," is more like a U.S. county, and usually describes the smaller towns and territory surrounding a major city or town—for example,Veneto includes the provinces of Venezia, Vicenza, Padova, Verona, Belluno, Rovigo, and Treviso)

The only Italian coach company with national scope is SITA(www.sitabus.it), which runs regional lines in the·Veneto (home to Venezia, Vicenza,·Padova).

Things to Consider:

  • Bus schedules aren't always easy to come by or always to figure out—the local tourist office usually has a photocopy of the schedule, each stop has that lines schedule posted, and in cities some companies have offices.·
  • Buses exist mainly to shuttle workers and schoolchildren, so there are more running on weekdays, early in the morning and usually again around lunchtime. Sometimes there will be only one or two runs per day.
  • A town’s bus stop is usually either on the main piazza, by the train station, or (especially in smaller towns) a large square on the edge of town or at the bend in the road just outside the main city gate.
  • You should always try to find the local ticket vendor—if there’s no office, it’s invariably the nearest newsstand or tabacchi (signaled by a sign with a white T), or occasionally a bar—but you can usually also buy tickets on the bus. (this only applies to regional buses not the orange city buses).
  • You can also flag a bus down as it passes on a country road, but try to find an official stop, the bus will not always stop for you.
  • To get off the bus you need to ring the 'prossima fermata' sign or advise the driver. This means you need to at least know where you are going related to the stops being made by the bus. Just follow the order of stops posted on the schedule.
  • Bus schedule times are generally posted by the time it departs from the start point and time of arrival at destination. There may not be a precise time for the bus to stop at a specific town. You need either to go to the stop at the start time, guess-a-mate the time it will take to arrival, sit at the bar and have a coffee if there is one nearby and wait for locals to start to gather at the stop.

How to Use the Train in Italy

USING THE TRAIN IN ITALY

While moving from place to place in Italy the Italian Train System is a great option. The trains in Italy are normally on time, clean (some holidays you will find the train with some trash) and comfortable to travel on. To have a successful vacation using the Train all you need to do is; understand how to use the system, have a general knowledge of the Geography of Italy, and be able to read thetrain schedule.

Italian trains leave on the time posted on the departure schedule so always be at the station in time to buy your ticket and walk to the appropriate track.  Stations in larger cities you will need more time than the out of the towns. There are times trains can be delayed or there is a scheduled strike, you can always get information at the ticket windows.

I normally plan my trip by going to the 'Train Italia' web site, see what the generaltrain schedule is for my destinations (daily schedules are based onseasonal, times are adjusted with spring and fall daylight saving time), and then by the tickets at the train station as I travel. 

Things to Consider

1. Know the name of your destination - To read Italian train schedules, it helps to know the Italian name for major cities and towns. Most are pretty obvious, but a few are a bit trickier (plus, in these big cities you need to known the name of the main central station), examples:

Roma - Roma Termini
Florence - Firenze Santa Maria Novella
Venice - Venezia Santa Lucia
Milan - Milano Centrale
Genoa - Genova Porta Principe
Naples - Napoli Centrale 
Turin - TorinoPorta Nuova

Almost all Italian trains operate under the control of the Ferrovie dello Stato, the State Rail System. You can get detailed timetables and ticket prices at www.trenitalia.com. Be sure to use the Italian spelling for city names in the search engine, along with the name for the central, main station you'll want in the big cities.

2. You do NOTneed to book train tickets ahead of time. At least, not before you leave on your trip. Just buy as you go; it gives you more flexibility with your schedule. It is, however, sometimes useful to pop into the station and buy a ticket a day or two before you leave town if you must have a seat on the high-speed trains that require seat assignment otherwise you could find it full.

3. Most train stations in Italy now have automated ticketing machines. These use touch-screens, have an English-language option, are intuitive, make selecting all your options easy, and accept cash (euros) and credit cards. Failing that, there's always the ticket window, though lines can be long, and they now only open at specific times.  Small stations are now closing after 19:30 and re lie only on automatic ticket machines.

4. Always travel second class. The first class cars don't get there any faster; all they do is provide a bit more seat padding—but at 20%–30% increase in price. The only time I use the First Class, is if my travel day is a holiday and I know the 2nd class section is going to be full.

5. Be sure you stamp one end of your train ticket at one of the little yellow boxes usually located in the passageways leading to the tracks and strapped to a column at (or near) the head of each track. If you do not, the conductor will fine you (they sometimes give tourists a stern warning, but more and more they are simply imposing the fines regardless).

6. Every station has two types of time schedule posters displaying, on one, all departures (partenze; on the yellow poster) and on the other, arrivals (“arrivi”, the white one). It will mention which “binario” (track) you need—though this can change (check the automated boards, and listen to announcements). The slot for each train on the poster lists all intermediate stops in tiny type and only the terminus station in bold; your train to Vicenza will probably be heading to Milano or Verona if you are leaving Venice (Venezia) so you will find the time the train stops in Vicenza in the smaller destination listings.  Many of the faster trains save you time not by speed but by making fewer stops. 

7. Railpasses can be useful if you'll be taking several long rides or exploring more of Europe beyond Italy. If you plan to work your way across Italy in small sprints from town to town, it will probably make more sense to buy tickets as you go. However, for the most typical trip—one that hits the major cities plus a few days exploring hilltowns—the Italy Rail n' Drive Pass· might be perfect. Jot down your intended itinerary, do some quick calculations on prices, using www.raileurope.com to research railpass options and www.trenitalia.com for point-to-point tickets, and see what will work best for your trip. If you use a railpass, be sure you purchase any seat reservation (indicated by an "R" on the schedule posters) and pay any high-speed supplement due. This will usually on the order of $10 or less each (long rides maybe up to $20).

8. You do not save that much time on the Eurostar trains for the extra cost if you are traveling a short distance. If you are travelling from Venice to Roma and want to catch an afternoon train the Eurostar is a great option, but if you are going from Venice to Verona, the Eurostar may offer more departure options but you pay three times as much for the ride and save 20 minutes of travel time.· Plus the Eurostar does not stop in minor townships.

Italiaoutdoors di Vernon McClure's Travel Style

Italiaoutdoors di Vernon McClure's Travel Style

When you are planning your vacation it is important to understand the way of thinking of the planner.

It is About Life, Style is an Option

I believe travel should be interesting, fun, intimate and an enriching experience, where one is confronted with new cultures, different languages, alternative ways of thinking, as well as splendid natural panoramas. All it takes for one to be propelled into the unfamiliar is a keen sense of curiosity, and an open and absorbent mind ready to question and understand, as well as to grow from a full-immersion experience. I also firmly believe that travel to a foreign country should be a safe, stress- and worry-free experience where one feels as comfortable and relaxed abroad as when travelling in one’s own hometown.

Integrity, Passion and Enthusiasm.

I do not sell any trips or destinations if I am not passionate about them, and I focus on the regions I know best. I envision how I would like to travel and the kind of journeys I would like to take, then with extreme curiosity, enthusiasm, spirit of adventure, spontaneity, and sense of challenge drives me to create and guide a memorable active vacation.

Quality and Authenticity.

Nowadays, quantity and generic products seem to be the norm. I opt to offer less in number, but more in careful design and attention to the smallest details in order to provide a signature vacation. I explore areas yet to receive the recognition in the main stream guidebooks, but like hidden shrines they house many unexpected and exquisite treasures. I research the distinct characteristics and unique activities available on every one of our trips in order to provide an authentic experience. Of course, I never ignore those “not to be missed” classic journeys, where you venture to see a world-renown site. But as I mentioned before once you have "been there and done that" we move on to discover the hidden nooks, local hangouts, and special significance of these less familiar places or the forgotten history that made a sight special, before great marketing.

Intimacy and Safety.

I like to travel in small groups of people, and I encourage private parties of family or friends. I find that this fosters an incredible sense of intimacy and camaraderie among the participants, and it facilitates contact with the local people in the places we visit. Any outside resource I utilize during our programs are professionals, well experienced and who love what they do. During our programs you will understand that I know the territory and never take chances or cut corners, keeping in mind at all times your well-being and safety.

Responsibility and Awareness.

Nowadays, you hear or read about eco-travel and green-travel everywhere but the best way to interact with a host country is to be a “Responsible Traveler”. Responsibility towards the environment as well as the local people we visit, their culture and their customs. Where possible, we opt for public transportation for our transfers, such as trains and buses. When it’s not logistically feasible, local private companies provide the service, but the use of vehicles is kept to the essential minimum. Hiking and trekking follows official trails or bike routes along local club riding routes and bike paths. Where possible, we utilize·hotels that respect energy-efficiency standards; we support local restaurants recognized by the Slow Food movement (www.slowfood.com) for their commitment to sustainable farming and agriculture; we purchase locally grown produce and locally produced delicacies.··

Lots of Fun.

I like to research and develop your trips. But, most of all, I enjoy the fun of exploring and helping you get to know the Italy that I have called home for over 20 years.

January Travel In Italy

TRAVELLING IN ITALY DURING JANUARY

The January weather is definitely a deterrent for many, as it’s common to associate sunny weather with the word “vacation.” But even if you’re not a skier, there are a couple of great reasons to visit Italy in January – the cost and the crowds.

Italy is by no means an inexpensive country in which to travel, but the price of pretty much everything a tourist will be spending money on drops dramatically in January. You’ll pay a fraction of the high season cost for your airfare to Italy, your hotels in Italy, even sometimes the Italy day tours you sign up for. Travelers for whom money is the foremost consideration will definitely find Italy much more budget-friendly in January.

Despite the overall cost of an Italy trip being lower in January, the weather keeps enough people away that it’s still relatively crowd-free. You won’t be waiting in long lines to get into the Vatican Museums or the Uffizi, for instance, and it’s much easier to find hotel vacancies in the parts of town where you’d like to stay.

The downsides to a January trip to Italy – besides the weather – include the fact that many attractions keep shorter open hours and some places (particularly hostels) close altogether. Also note that if you’re planning to do any skiing in Italy, January and the winter are the high season – so hotels and other accommodation in ski resort towns won’t be cheap.

Traveling in Italy in January is often a mixed bag – the weather can be dreary, cold, wet, and gray, but with prices (and crowd levels) at about the lowest point you’ll find them all year it might just be worth packing a raincoat and a scarf.

Weather in January in Italy

Parts of Italy do get covered in blankets of fluffy, white snow in January, while others get inundated with fog and rain – it depends primarily on what part of the country you’re visiting.

As with any other time of year, the temperature will get warmer as you go south. The mountains that line the border of northern Italy tend to be the coldest areas during the winter, although any mountainous parts of the country (and there are many) are where you’ll find colder and snowier conditions.

It’s less common to get snow in the coastal regions (and when it happens it’s something of an event), but instead of snow these areas routinely get rain in January. Because the Italian peninsula is so narrow, the coastal climate extends quite a ways inland on both sides – meaning even if you’re as far inland as Rome, for instance, you’re more likely to get rain during the winter than snow.

Although the cold and damp can make some tourist activities less enticing (wandering the ruins of the Roman Forum or Pompeii in the rain doesn’t sound very appealing), one activity in particular is only available in the winter months like January: skiing. The mountains that line the northern border, as well as those that run down the center of the peninsula, are often packed with skiers and snowboarders in the winter. Not only that, many of the ski resort towns in the Italian mountains are also home to hot springs and spas – and there’s nothing like a dip in a natural hot spring to take the January chill right off you.

Temperatures in January vary depending on where you are in Italy, but as a general rule of thumb these are the ranges:

  • Northern Italy: 25-45°F (-4-5°C)
  • Central Italy: 40-55°F (5-13°C)
  • Southern Italy: 50-60°F (10-16°C)

July Travel in Italy

TRAVELLING IN ITALY DURING JULY

Summertime in Italy is exceptional, so it’s no wonder that in the month of July in Italy it seems like every  tourist on earth has descended onto the major cities. However, if you know where to go and want to get away from the crowds there are plenty of great escapes, despite the higher cost and higher temperatures.

Weather in July in Italy

July weather in Italy can hot from the top of the boot to the toe – there’s no getting around it. Temperatures typically go up as you go south in Italy year-round, but July is a bit of an aberration in that regard – for some reason, July is often the hottest month of the year in northern Italy. Now, that’s not to say that it won’t be hotter in southern Italy in July than it is in the north, but the south still has August up its sleeve…

Beaches in Italy get more and more crowded starting in June (and sometimes May), and by July they’re packed every weekend and during many weeks with both locals and foreigners. Italians are likely to be getting out of the hot cities every chance they get, taking advantage of any long weekend (or even short weekends) to spend a few days in the mountains, the countryside, or on the coast – so you may be competing with not just foreign tourists but also Italians for hotel space and seats on trains.

With the high heat of July also comes humidity, making the heat more uncomfortable overall. Keep in mind that while many hotels these days do have air conditioning, it remains more of a luxury than a standard amenity in cheaper accommodation and especially in Italian homes. In other words, it’s a good thing to confirm whether your hotel or hostel has air conditioning for a July visit.

Temperatures in July vary depending on where you are in Italy, but as a general rule of thumb these are the ranges:

  • Northern Italy: 65-85°F (18-30°C)
  • Central Italy: 65-90°F (18-32°C)
  • Southern Italy: 75-90°F (24-32°C)

Where to Road Bike in Italy during the month of July:

This is the month to challenge yourself on the classic climbs of the Alps and Dolomite's.  Do not be fooled, it may be hot in the valley but at upper elevation you can still find rough weather, I have ridden the Stelvio Pass in July and gotten snowed on a few times.  So the northern regions of Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto, Fruil Venezia, Aosta Valley, Piedmont, and Lombardy are your best travel destinations.

Where to Rock Climb in Italy during the month of July:

I have climbed throughout Italy during the summer and I actually enjoy hitting some of the southern sites during this month since the crowds seem to be less.  You will need to go early in the morning or late afternoon but since it does not get dark until 2100 hours, you have plenty of time to travel and visit and still get in a few climbs.

The season of course if for climbing the walls of the Dolomite's.  You will find plenty of good routes but as I mentioned above you can not take the weather lightly. 

Where to Do Water Sports in Italy during the month of July.

SCUBA Diving: July is a perfect month to dive in Liguria and explore some of the deeper wrecks and national parks, or dive along the northern coast of Sardinia.  There are also some good dives you can do leaving out of Trieste or just across the border in Slovenia.  Diving during this period is perfect, since the good dives tend to be at deeper depth you will have plenty of activities to observe during your surface interval on the beach.

June Travel in Italy

TRAVELLING IN ITALY DURING JUNE

June is the peak of the tourist season in Italy, when crowd numbers and prices are at their highest point. The temperature will climb later in the summer, but throughout Italy it’s plenty warm already in June.

Weather in June in Italy

Although the weather in May in recent years has felt like summer, the high summer season doesn’t technically start until June – and the word “high” applies to the temperature in June, too.
No matter what time of year you’re talking about, the mercury typically rises as you head south in Italy. In June, that means that if it’s hot in northern Italy then it’s even hotter in the south. June isn’t quite the time when Italians with the means to do so abandon the cities for the cooler mountains or beaches, but it’s definitely common for locals to take off for weekends in the countryside more often starting in June.
If you hadn’t already been taking advantage of the beach-friendly weather of May, then you will be in June. This is when beach resorts up and down both coasts (and around all of Italy’s major islands) start to get crowded with Italians and foreigners alike.

It’s worth noting that in many cases, humidity comes along with the higher temperatures throughout Italy. High humidity can make an otherwise-reasonable 85°F feel more uncomfortable, especially when you’re spending a lot of time outdoors. Even if you don’t think you’re susceptible to problems with hot weather, you may want to confirm that your hotel has air conditioning just in case.

Temperatures in June vary depending on where you are in Italy, but as a general rule of thumb these are the ranges:

  • Northern Italy: 55-80°F (13-27°C)
  • Central Italy: 60-80°F (16-27°C)
  • Southern Italy: 70-85°F (21-30°C)

March Travel in Italy

TRAVELLING IN ITALY DURING MARCH

When the weather is not miserable and the prices are still reasonable, that’s the definition of a shoulder season and March absolutely fits that description.

Prices on things like air travel to Italy and Italy hotels remains low in March, and although the cost may be starting to nose up slightly from the deals that were on offer in January and February it’s still well within reach of even those on a strict budget. Not only that, in locations where hostels in Italy close up entirely during the slow winter months, those hostels are usually opening up again in March – which means an even more budget-friendly option for travelers.

Crowd levels tend to be at their lowest during the winter in Italy, but even if there are more tourists in Italy in March than there were in February the overall numbers are still far lower than they are in the summer – so you’re still not likely to be stuck in long lines for even the major attractions.

The drawbacks of visiting Italy in March primarily have to do with the unpredictable weather – it’s no fun to plan a day of hiking through Umbria or exploring the outdoor ruins at Pompeii because you anticipate sun (or at least dry weather) and then to get drenched by an unexpected storm, but that’s very possible in March. If you’re a flexible traveler who’s able to adjust your daily itinerary based on the weather, you’ll be much better prepared for a March trip.

As noted above, it’s important to find out when Easter falls before you’re locked into an Italy itinerary – being in Italy during Easter can be exciting, but trying to travel from city to city during Easter weekend can be a pain. Knowing ahead of time when Easter occurs could save you a few travel headaches.

Weather in March in Italy

Shoulder seasons are often marked by weather that’s best described as “unpredictable,” and March in Italy is no exception. The weather can vary depending on where you are in the country, which is true year-round, but during March the unpredictability factor goes up even more.

March weather often means rain or generally damp weather, and in some places it can be quite cold (especially in early March) – but as you go south, the temperature goes up and the rain decreases. The second half of March is when it often feels like spring has arrived in Italy, and it’s not uncommon for late March weather to be warm and sunny. Of course, you’ll still see women in fur coats throughout the country – Italian wardrobes are based on the calendar, not the actual weather outside.

Because you can never be sure what the March weather will have in store for you, this can make packing for a March trip to Italy more complicated. Should you bring sunglasses? An umbrella? The answer is likely yes – to both.

Temperatures in March vary depending on where you are in Italy, but as a general rule of thumb these are the ranges:

  • Northern Italy: 35-55°F (2-13°C)
  • Central Italy: 45-60°F (7-16°C)
  • Southern Italy: 50-60°F (10-16°C)

My Italy Reading List

AN ITALY READING LIST

Over the past years I have become a student of Italy History and Culture.  Italy has so many layers of history that has influnced each Region.  Inorder to fully understood the why and how things came to be I continue to read and study.  Below is a listing of books I have read and a quick rating.  Hope you find the list helpful.

Book Title

 
 

The Eye Witness guides are excellent for those who just like a guide overview of what they see.

 

 

James Morris

 

John Haycraft

The Dark Heart of Italy

Tobias Jones

Italy and its Discontents

Paul Ginsborg

The Death of Marco Pantani

Matt Rendell

Fallen Angel Fausto Coppi

William Fotheringham

Across the River and through the Trees

Hemingway

Farewell to Arms

Hemingway

The Great Betrayal (Story of the Fourth Crusade)

Ernle Bradford

The Gateway to the Middle Ages Italy

Duckett

The Twelve Caesars

Suetonius

Italia Romantica

Roderick Cavaliero

War in Italy

John Kegen

The Cardinal’s Hat

Mary Hollingsworth

A History of Venice

John Norwich

GomorrahItaly’s other mafia

Roberto Saviano

This is an on-going list and I will update as I have time.

Panning a Custom Bike Tour to Italy

PLANNING A CUSTOM BICYCLE TOUR TO ITALY

Bike Tour Italy

Picture your ideal active cycling, skiing or hiking vacation in Italy - routes and activities selected just for you, world class food and wine, and immersion into authentic Italy.

Vernon McClure, recreational programming expert and developer of Italiaoutdoors online guides, uses his expertise to design very special holidays for small groups of 1-12 people. All activities; be they fitness, cultural, or food and wine based are selected and designed with your group in mind.

  • Your activity: cycling, running, hiking, walking and ski options range from easy tourist routes to the most challenging climbs in the Dolomites. Vernon's regional knowledge enables him to customize routes for each group.
  • Your pace:  the Northeastern Regions can support different route options for your group, so each individual guest has the perfect ride, walk or ski route just for them. There are plenty of alternate activities and excursions to be enjoyed when you and non riders.
  • Your guides: I (Vernon) lead each and every trip, we are there to insure it runs smoothly.
  • Your money: Private trips don't need to be more expensive than group trips - we can work with you to design something to fit your budget.
  • Your perfect trip: We can modify to adapt to the weather, your desires, or to take advantage of opportunities for any unforeseen adventures that we may discover along the way!

What do our guests say?

"I have been on 9 bike tours with various companies but I have learnt more about biking in a week with Vernon, than all the other trips combined.  A great plus is my husband to be is now as excited about riding as I am, thanks to the positive experience created during this trip." DH

"We can hardly find the words to explain what a fantastic trip this bike tour has been. We were looking for a memorable way to spend our anniversary and indeed we found it. The biking, cooking, eating and touring were all incredible." -BH

Click here to learn more about how we provide different route options for groups of mixed abilities.

Are you organizing a trip for a small group of 4-12, or a bike or walking club? 

Take a look at our suggested bike tours to get an idea of where you can go and what to do then I can help you custom your active vacation!

Private travel with Vernon- Italy by bike, ski and hike tours; active vacations are created and personally led by myself, I can make adjustments for you as you learn more about the area.

Please feel free to contact us to learn more about our services, and how we can work with your group to create your perfect bike, ski or hike holiday adventure in Italy!

 

Passport for Travel

GETTING A PASSPORT FOR TRAVEL

For an active vacation you still need the primary 4 items: passport, plain ticket, appropiate clothing, and equipment.

A valid passport is the only legal form of identification recognized around the world.Your driver's license does not do much for you in Italy or aboard, when I travel around I carry my Italian ID and my American Passport at all times. This makes document security much more important and the need to have copies of everything. 

You cannot cross an international border without a passport. You can cross through parts of the EU and never have to show, but there are always spot checks even crossing from Austria to Italy.  You must present to get into Great Britain and Ireland, Switzerland and Eastern Europe. This is due to the increased security for terrorist and the control of illegal immigration.  These rules have cut done on the number of people living aboard without proper papers so you can no longer be an expat you are either on vacation or registerd with appropriate documents.

Getting a passport is easy, but it takes some time to complete the process. Make sure you start the paperwork at least six weeks in advance of your departure. It'll probably only take 3-4 weeks (and there are ways to expedite it—for a fee), but don't tempt fate.

This process involves showing up in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility (which includes many major post offices, some libraries, courthouses, and other government buildings; the list is at travel.state.gov). You cannot  apply for a passport by mail, do not get caught by flake sites offering this service.

Since all the current details on how to apply for a passport are so readily available on-line, there's little reason for me to rehash it all here—just go to the excellent State Department site (travel.state.gov) and it'll walk you through the process. But here are a few useful pointers:.

You'll need two identical passport-size photos (2" X 2"), which you can have taken at any photo shop or most major chain drug stores. You cannot use the ID photo's from one of those photo vending machines. You'll need extras to apply for an International Driving Permit and student or teacher identification cards. Take a couple of the photos with you just in case you lose your passport and need amn emergency replacement.

You'll need to bring proof of U.S. Citizenship. This usually means a previous passport or a certified birth certificate with both parent's full names (not a photocopy, but a certified copy and a registrar's seal—usually raised or embossed—and signature; you can order one from the state in which you were born). If you are a citizen but were not born in the U.S., you can bring a Consular Report of Birth Abroad, a Certification of Birth, a Naturalization Certificate, or a Certificate of Citizenship. Note you must also bring a photo ID, so if you don't have an old passport, you must bring a driver's license or equivalent (military ID or other government-issued photo ID)

When you go to apply for your passport, bring two checks. For reasons known only to the federal bureaucracy, you have to fill out two separate checks (one is an Application Fee, the other an Execution Fee). Silly? Of course. Still, its impossible to argue with the federal government: just bring two checks.

You'll be given a choice of a Passport Book, and Passport Card, or both. What you want is the "Passport Book." This is the traditional, old school passport. The "Passport Card" was essentially designed as a low-cost alternative ($55 versus $135) for truckers and others whose business constantly takes them back and forth across the border with Mexico or Canada (though it is also valid for Bermuda and most Caribbean countries, so it is used by some cruisers and snowbirds who don't bother traveling anywhere else). You cannot use a Passport Card to go to Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, or anywhere else besides the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. It is, therefore, pretty pointless.

What if I need a passport in a hurry, there are three ways to get it faster:

  • You can pay the government a $60 expedite fee and they'll try to get the passport to you in 2–3 weeks.
  • You can pay for an expedite service like RushMyPassport.comRushMyPassport.com (see to the box on the right), where fees start at $99 to get a passport in 8–12 business days (up to $299 for 24-hour service).
  • If if is a life-or-death emergency, the government can get you a passport in 24–48 hours, but you have to apply in person at a Passport Agency (there are only 25 of those in the US) and bring poof of the emergency.  This applies for the lose of passport while traveling, the US Embassy will issue you an emergency passport, you just need to go to the closest agency.

PASSPORT SECURITY WHILE TRAVELING

Make three photocopies of your passport (the open page with all the personal data, not the cover). This is the main item on your backup info sheet (along with other IDs, the numbers to call if you lose your credit cards, etc.). Keep one copy with you at all times—separate from the original—another copy hidden in your bag somewhere, and leave the third copy at home with a trusted friend or neighbor who can fax it to you in case of emergency.

Keep your passport with you at all times securely in your money belt. The only times to give it up are at the bank for the tellers to photocopy when they change your traveler's checks, at borders for the guards to peruse (this includes giving it to the conductor on overnight train rides), when any police or military personnel ask for it, and briefly to the concierge when you're checking into your hotel (see next).

Hotel front desks will often want to keep your passport overnight. They have to register you with the police, and they like to pile all the passports in a drawer until the evening so they can do all the guests' slips at once. Smile and ask politely whether they can do their paperwork on the spot or at least let you come by in 15 minutes or so, after you check into your room, freshen up, and are on your way out to hit the town. I always tell them I need it to go exchange money at the bank, whether that's actually my plan or not.

If you lose your passport on the road, go directly to the nearest U.S. consulate (do not pass go, do not collect $200). Bring all forms of identification you have, and they'll get started on generating you a new passport. Needless to say, this is a hassle that should be avoided at all costs. I've listed Italy's consulates and consular agencies to the right; get updated information on them at usembassy.state.gov

Visa's

A visa is an official stamp or piece of paper granting a foreign national the right to enter a country. (It comes from the French, visée, because back in the day it meant that an official had "looked" over your travel and identification documents—precursors to passports).

A valid passport is the only documentation an American needs to visit Italy (or any other Western European country for that matter). Your passport will be stamped wherever you enter Europe with a temporary tourist visa that's good for 90 days of travel within the E.U.

If you plan to stay in Italy longer that 90 days, contact that country's consulate in the United States before you leave to get a specific visa, or any U.S. consulate once you are abroad. In practice, they usually don’t care if tourists spend five, six, seven months here.

At one time you could routinely exceed the 90 days (I have known people living in Italy 8 years without proper documents and no one ever questioned them).  However, with the new levels of security controls and even just functioning you can not longer be a lost citizen in Western Europe.  You are an illegal immigrant when your 90 days are up and you will be treated as such.

How to find consulates and embassies in Italy

U.S. consulates in Italy
Whenever you get in serious trouble abroad—like losing a passport—you head for the nearest U.S. Consulate—not the embassy. Embassies are for governmental negotiations; consulates are for helping citizens.

(Note: leave large bags and any electronic devices—cellphone, iPod, cameras, etc.—at your hotel, as they are not allowed inside embassy and consular building. Also plan on spending your day getting your business done.)

Rome
Via Vittorio Veneto 121, 00187 Roma
tel. +39-06-46741
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
rome.usembassy.gov
Walk-in hours: Mon–Fri 8:30am–12:30pm

Florence
Lungarno Vespucci 38, 50123 Firenze
tel. +39-055-266-951
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
florence.usconsulate.gov
Walk-in hours: Mon–Fri 8:30am–12:30pm

Milan
Via Principe Amadeo 2/10, 20121 Milano
tel. +39-02-290-351
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
milan.usconsulate.gov
Walk-in hours: Mon–Fri 8:30am–noon

Naples
Piazza della Repubblica , 80122 Napoli
tel. +39-081-583-8111
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
naples.usconsulate.gov
Walk-in hours: Mon–Fri 8am–noon

Venice (Consular agency)
Venice Marco Polo Airport
General Aviation Terminal
Viale Galileo Galilei 30, 30030 Tesserra (VE)
tel. +39-041-541-5944
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Open: by appointment only

Palermo (Consular agency)
Via Vaccarini 1, 90143 Palermo
tel. +39-091-305-857
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Open: by appointment only Mon–Fri 9am–12:30pm

Genoa (Consular agency)
Via Dante 2, 16121 Genova
tel. +39-010-584-492
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Open: Mon–Thurs 11am–3pm

For more info: usembassy.state.gov

US State Department (travel.state.gov) - This Web site is the best thing the government has ever done for travelers. You can download passport applications, research potential visa requirements, read consular fact sheets and travel warnings on the countries you wish to visit, and find out all about the services available to US citizens abroad. Great set of links to other governmental and non-governmental travel sites, too.

Embassy World (www.embassyworld.com) - A nifty little Web site that links you to every embassy and consulate Web site out there, so an Aussie can find not only the Australian consulate in Rome, Italy, but also Italy's consulate in Canberra so he can ring up about visa requirements.

U.S. Embassies (usembassy.state.gov)- Direct links to individual US Embassy Web sites around the globe.

Planning Your Vacation to Italy

PLANNING YOUR ITALIAN VACATION

madonna di idris matera

Italy may not be a large country, but there is so much to that it is impossible to discover in one or two weeks. You should narrow down your interest and places to visit prior to making your final plans, and gather as much travel information. The following are some travel tips that are applicable to the whole country that will make your vacation less stressful and more fun.

FIRST STEPS IN PLANNING YOUR VACATION TO ITALY

Even if you’re let's just go and worry about everything later, kind of traveler, there are probably some things you want to think about and/or take care of before you leave home and head for Italy.

GETTING TO AND GETTING AROUND IN ITALY

Flying to Italy -Planning your vacation to Italy, tips on selecting your airline tickets.

Driving In Italy - Driving is an option but if you are only visiting the major cities public transportation is better.

Travel by Train in Italy - How to use the train while in Italy.

Using Buses in Italy - Tips on using buses in Italy.

THINGS UNIQUE TO ITALY

Selecting Accomodations for Your Italian Adventure

 SELECTING ACCOMODATIONS IN ITALY

Hotels in Italy, Italiaoutdoors Travel Guide

Accommodation in Italy can take many forms – some of them have names you will be familiar with, others will be different. Sleeping in Italy is often expensive, so budget a bit more for this portion of your travel allowance or plan to try cheaper options like hostels or Agriturismo to save money. A good Travel Planner will have visiting your lodging selection in advance, but if you venture out on your own and you do not make reservations in advance, keep in mind it is always okay to ask to see a room before you decide to stay there.

ITALY HOTELS

Tips on Selecting a Hotel in Italy

All hotels use the official star classification system, from 5-star luxury hotel to 1 star accommodations. Room rates are based on single (camera singola) or double (camera doppia) occupancy, in every hotel room rates should be posted, (generally on the back of the room door).  Rates vary by season and sometimes special events and holidays specific to the region.  All hotels with a rating of 2 star and aboveshould have a private bath, 1 star hotels could have shared baths.

Most hotels included breakfast (prima colazione) within the room rate, but be sure to ask specific or request to do without and the rate is usually reduced 5-7 euros.  Breakfast is generally served in a communal room with buffet style service; pastries, bread, butter, jam, cereal, yoghurt, coffee, and juice.  Some hotels that cater to American and English travelers also serve eggs and other items, confirm if is included or not inroom rate or you may be charged extra.

Hotels for families and tourist areas offer half board ('mezza pension'), which is breakfast and dinner included within the room rate.

Booking is best done with the hotel direct rather or through a Travel Planner.

FARM HOUSE OR AGRITURISMO'S

Located throughout Italy are small family 'farms' called AGRITURISMO that offer simple rooms and meals based on the local gastronomic and wine traditions.  Many of the places offer many homemade products and local recipes and are a great way to experience the 'real Italy'.

BED AND BREAKFAST

B&B's are accommodations that provide a bed and breakfast in a private home.  There are now thousands of B&Bs throughout Italy and classified into 3 categories.  Some are located in historic towns centers, in the suburbs of the city, and in the country side.  Rooms for guests are furnished but do not always have a private bath. Quality varies greatly and there is very limited space so booking ahead is a must for the more popular areas.

HOSTELS

These are dormitory type lodging for student travels, check out the 'Let's Go' Guides for a listings.

VACATION RENTALS

Apartments, small homes, and villas now can be rented for a week at a time, some offer short term stays during off seasons.  Most of these are just homes with not addition services.  A great options of families and groups of friends who wish to explore a specific area while biking or hiking. 

FOR VACATION PLANNING SERVICES TRY THESE SITES:

Private Active Vacation Planning and Guide: McClure's Italy

Great Food and Wine Tours

Suggested Bike Touring Vacations in Italy

SUGGESTED BIKE TOURING VACATIONS IN ITALY

bike touring italy

Italy is one of the most bike-friendly countries in the world, it should be since half the Bike Industry is located in the country.  The USA has baseball, football, and basketball while Italy has soccer, cycling, and motor sports (and a mixture of other outdoor recreation activities). Any given day throughout Italy there are cycling events, individuals out training or just using the bicycle as a primary means of transportation.  Combine this passion for the bicycle with the diverse historical and cultural diversity, of the Italian Regions, you have a perfect destination for your active vacation.  

In this section you will find suggested bike touring vacations.  Great rides for every level of cyclist that I have conducted thought the years.  If you need additional information or find a program you would like organized for your private group click the photo below. 

 

Italiaoutdoors Food and Wine Bike Tours

WHEN TO BIKE TOUR ITALY

The bike touring season in Italy can start as early as April and finishes in late October.  When planning your bike tour, you need to understand the climate of the region you wish to visit and the tourist flow.

Examples are: riding the Italian Dolomites, you can ride as early as May but you could still find snow in the passes or be snowed on and there are fewer hotels open since this is the off season.  However, if you are an avid rider you will find many of the classic climbs traffic free and save on hotel costs.

Where as the Sicily Region it is best to ride during April and May, or in the fall late September and early November, outside these times you have the heat and beach tourism to deal with.  Any earlier or later you have rain storms and rough seas to contend with, and the road structure is not the best for riding.

Check out each region guide to find the best time to ride.

SUGGESTED CYCLE TOURING ROUTES

Veneto Region and Old Venice Republic Bike Tour, Northern Italy

Lake Garda to Venice Bike Tour, Veneto Region

Venice to Trieste Bike Tour, Northern Italy

Bike Tour Trieste and the Friuli Venezia Region of Italy

Bike Tour Venice and the Veneto Region of Italy

 

 

The Mountain Huts or Rifugio in the Italian Mountains

MOUNTAIN HUTS AND RIFUGIO'S IN ITALY

Rifugio Lagazuoi Dolomites

Rifugio – or mountain huts or refuges in English – are the classic accommodation for hikers, climbers, mountaineers, and ski mountaineers in the Alps. Set in spectacular locations high in the Dolomite's, Refugio are accessible only on foot (with a few exceptions that are reachable by car). These unique huts are open primarily in the summer (from mid June to mid September), with a select few in winter, and offer meals and sleeping facilities.

The Dolomite Refugio are considered the best in the Alps. While some are dormitory style with bunk beds, many meet the standard of a simple guest house with private rooms and en-suite bathrooms, and each has its own unique character and charm. Bedding and linens are provided, hot showers are available, and meals are served in common dining areas – like a small mountain inn set high in the mountains with the most incredible vistas in the Dolomite's. Whether you’re hiking in summer or skiing in winter, an overnight rifugio stay is not to miss on a Dolomite holiday.

Tips On Walking In Italy

tips on walking in italy

I keep saying that the best way to enjoy Italy is by foot and as you are planning your Italian escape look at these suggestion to help you in your planning.  You can be walking in the mountains,, along the coastline like Cinque Terre, or urban trekking through on of the regions of Italyhaving the right gear will make your trip more enjoyable.

san martino di pale 1

1. Invest in some trekking poles.

If you haven’t used trekking poles before, have no fear. You’ll figure out how to use them right away. The Dolomites Alta Via 1 is a difficult trail with varying terrain and steep ascents and descents while Venice has lots of bridges while . Trekking poles will help you power up hill, keep your balance when you slip in mud, and reduce the strain on your knees and feet with every step you take. I had good luck with Leki poles, but any type of poles will be better than none.

2. Pack light.

It you planning multiday hikes or train backbacking scrutinize every item you bring and bring only the essentials. Remember, you’ll be carrying whatever you pack for around 90 miles and for 6 – 12 hours each day through the challenging Dolomites.

dolomiti 2

3. Bring sandals.

Most the rifugios require you to remove your boots before entering the main areas of the hut. Also, you’ll want them for showering to avoid getting athlete’s foot. Plus, they are great for taking your shoes off on longer breaks or when you find a nice cold stream to soak them in.

4. Quick drying clothes.

Since carrying a full wardrobe would make your pack unnecessarily heavy, bring clothes that are quick drying so you can wash them at the rifugios at the end of each day’s hike. Ex Officio make some great clothes that will be comfortable and designed for adventure travelers. Don’t forget your quick drying towel either.

5. Don’t skimp on socks.

Be sure to bring multiple pairs of hiking socks. I recommend swapping them out for a fresh pair at lunch – I promise that your feet will thank you. Hang your old ones off the back of your pack so they will air out and dry. It’s amazing the difference that a pair of new socks can make for your comfort.

dolomites italy 1

6. Get a pack that fits comfortably.

A quality hiking pack that properly fits can make or break the comfort of your trip. You’ll most likely be carrying around 25-35 lbs for 90 miles, so get a pack that fits you. Gregory and Osprey both make some quality packs that are priced well. Go to a store and check them out by filling them up with gear and walking around for a few minutes to see if they are comfortable.

7. Prevent chaffing and blisters.

This a topic that most don’t want to talk about, but let’s face it, after hiking 90 miles there will be some parts of you that rub a bit. Whether it’s blisters on your feet or chaffing in your thighs, some preventive maintenance with products like chaffing creams and body rubs can prevent a miserable experience before it starts. Body Glide andGold Bond both make anti-chafe products that apply like a deodorant and work great.

rifugio italy

8. Trail runners vs. hiking boots.

Personally I recommend some comfortable hiking shoes or trail runners. Boots tend to be heavy, trap heat in, and after a long day in them you’re going to have some lazy feet (as I call it) and start stumbling on the trail. A pair of quality trail runners will be lightweight, comfortable, and give you great grip. I had great luck with my Vasque trail-running shoes but footwear really comes down to personal fit. Just make sure you choose something that fits well and give it a test hike prior to your trip. My last footwear tip is to ensure you trim your toenails prior to the hike. The steep downhills on Dolomites Alta Via 1 trails can put a pounding on your toes and even cause you to loose toenails over the course of the trip if they aren’t trimmed.

9. Get an early start.

Afternoon storms are the norm in the Dolomites and the northern areas in Italy, so start your hike early in the day. That leaves you a safety cushion should you get delayed during the hike and also leaves you more time to relax in the wonderful atmosphere at the rifugios.

10. Enjoy the food.

Rifugios make some great food that will certainly satisfy your appetite on the trail. If you normally eat a big meal, consider the half-board option. It usually comes with a pasta as a starter then a hearty meat course like goulash stew or local sausage. Plus, it comes with a dessert. If you don’t want to pack lunches for the whole trip, just plan your route to stop at a rifugio for lunch as well. They make some great sandwiches too.

Enjoy your trip and hope to see you in Italy.  For travel planning assistance or questions you can email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tips To Not Lose Your Bags

HOW TO NOT LOSE YOUR BAGS WHEN FLYING

bike cases

Over two million bags were lost, damaged, delayed, or pilfered in 2010, according to "mishandled baggage" reports made by the largest U.S. airlines to the Department of Transportation. (That's about 3.57 reports per 1,000 passengers.) Here's how you can prevent becoming part of this statistic:

Double-check: Ask the flight attendant handling your bag if you can see the routing information placed on the handle to verify its accuracy before she sends your suitcase down the conveyor belt. This is especially important if you have a connecting flight, because bags are not always routed directly to the final destination -- on occasion, it may be your responsibility to pick up your bag from the first leg of your journey and re-check it, and the best way to confirm this is to see what's written on the label.

Make yourself known: The key is to ID your bag in multiple places -- outside as well as inside -- by placing ID cards in various pockets and pouches. And then add another, using the paper tags provided by the airline carrier. Be sure to include your name, address, and phone number (preferably a mobile number).

Share your plans: Pack a copy of your itinerary (in a place that's not too hard to find) so that airline workers will know where to route your bag in the case they find it and cannot get in touch with you.

Document the evidence: Photograph or video the contents of your bag as you pack. Lay everything out on the bed or floor as you pack and go through your travel checklist.  Digital cameras are great for this easy task.  The photos will later help you to justify a claim.  Just like having a photocopy of your passport, if you never use it great but just in case.

Remove extras: Before checking your bag, take off any removable straps; this will decrease the likelihood of it getting snagged along the way.

Arrive early: If you check a bag within 30 minutes of your departure time, it may not actually make it onto the plane.

Stick to tradition: Finally, don't check your bag with the curbside baggage checker; go inside to the main counter to decrease the chances of a mix-up.

Embellish your bag: Whether you buy a colorful handle wrap or just add a few stripes of bright duct tape, making yours different from the others could draw the attention of a not-so-motivated airline employee. Another option is to purchase a bag that's not black or navy (like the overwhelming majority), making it easier to spot in a roomful of luggage.

Finally, what are your rights if your bag is lost for good?

In the event that your bag is lost for good, US airlines can be held liable for up to $3,300 for domestic flights. The airlines will not, however, simply pay you to replace your missing items. Instead, they'll decide the compensation amount based on original purchase prices, minus depreciation (this is according to the "contract of carriage," which you automatically agree to when you buy a plane ticket).  As of August 2011, a new law requires airlines to reimburse passengers for checked baggage fees (typically $25 and up) when said baggage is lost.

Top cities to visit in Northeast Italy

Top 10 Cities to visit in Northeastern Italy

Bike Italy - Travel Planning

I am asked many times what is there to visit in the area or what town is a do not miss location. It is not easy to pick the top 5 or top 10 cities to visit in the North of Italy. Each region has its on particular flavor and particular history to explore but that is what makes the area special.·There are a few places that stand out above all others. These are not in any specific order after Venice

1. Venezia or "Venice has to be the top city to visit on any one's list. But if you have not reviewed the history of the Republic, it is difficult to appreciate the uniqueness of Venice.

2. Bologna - A great city, to often overlooked, full of history and culture.

3. Verona- It has Roman, Venetian, and Austria-Hungarian ruins and influence, literary significance thanks to Shakespeare, and as a cross roads between north and south the old part of the city has maintained its charm.

4. Vicenza- Palladio villas and elegance is the best way to describe Vicenza, it is a nice surprise.

5. Bolzano- Mixed with the style of Italy and the efficiency of German-Austrian population Bolzano is abuzz with activity and things to do.

6. Ferrara -A Renaissance city that still holds it old style.

7. Udine -Not well know but the city has a lot of history.

8. Cortina -I would never visit in the winter, it is much over rated and priced, but a summer time visit is very enjoyable.

9. San Marino -Yes, I know it is a separate and independent state but it sits in the Emilia Romagna and should be visited.

10. Trieste - James Joyce, Illy Cafe, Austrian port city, cross road of eastern and Western European cultures. 

Each area is offer great active vacation choices, get out off the beaten path.

Travel by Boat in Italy

HOW TO TRAVEL BY BOAT IN ITALY

The traghetto (ferry) andaliscafo (hyrdofoil)

Italy has 5,275 miles of shoreline, a whole passel of islands—from giants like Sicily and Sardegna to smaller, popular vacation islands like Capri, Elba, and the Aeolians—some world-famous coastal regions (Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre), and several large lakes. Even in Venice you will need to use a ferry to get over to the Lido, if you are travelling by bike.

That means, at some point, you will likely have to get into a boat to explore the best bits of Italy. If you are travelling by foot you are able to use any type of service, the aliscafo being the quickest.  However, if you travelling by bicyle you will only be able to utilize the traghetto to make your transfers (and many time these are much slower than the hydrofoil)

www.traghetti.com - Has a good listing of routes and timetables of most ferries in Italy.
www.aferry.to
www.traghettionline.com

Regional ferry lines

  • Campania - www.alilauro.it, www.caremar.it, www.snav.it, www.vetor.it (islands of Ponza, Ventotene, Ischia, Procida)
  • Sicily / Aeolian Islands - www.snav.it, www.gnv.it, www.siremar.it, www.usticalines.it
  • Sardinia - www.gnv.it, www.mobylines.it, www.saremar.it, www.corsicaferries.com
  • Liguria / Cinque Terre - www.navigazionegolfodeipoeti.it
  • AdriaticCoast - www.tirrenia.it
  • Lazio - www.alilauro.it
  • TuscanIslands (Elba, Giglio, Capraia) - www.toremar.it, www.mobylines.it

Ferries on the lakes

  • Major northern lakes (Lago del Garda, Como and Maggiore) - www.navigazionelaghi.it
  • LakeIseo - www.navigazionelagoiseo.it

Ferries to neighboring countries

Travel Information for Italy

ITALY TRAVEL INFORMATION

Venice and the Veneto Region

Do You have a Passport? Visa FOR ITALY


To enter Italy you need a valid Passport. For visits of up to 90 days, nationals from EU countries and passport holders from the following countries do not need to have a visa to visit Italy: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macao, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Switzerland, U.S.A., Uruguay, Venezuela.

If your country is not listed above or is not part of the European Union, you will need to have a visa to stay longer in Italy. 

IMMUNIZATIONS NEEDED IF TRAVELING TO ITALY


You will not need any shots to travel to Italy.

CURRENCY IN ITALY


Italy uses the Euro (€), just like all the EU countries (except the UK). Look for the coins to be nationalistic – each country stamps its own distinctive designs on the coins, but the bills are the same throughout the EU, and all the money is worth the same amount in every EU country. For more about using your money in Italy see Dealing with Money, How to Pay for Things When Traveling in Italy.

ITALY'S TIME ZONE


Italy is on Central European Time, which is GMT plus one hour. Italy does observe Daylight Savings Time – it begins the last Sunday in March and ends the last Sunday in October.

CAPTIAL OF ITALY


Rome is the capital of Italy.

LANGUAGE SPOKEN IN ITALY


As you might guess, Italian is the official language of Italy. What you might not know is that this has happened relatively recently and there was quite a bit of controversy about it. You will hear very diffenent dialects in each of the Regions you plan to visit. 

COUNTING AND NUMBERS


Dates in Italy are written with the day first, then the month, then the year – so the 2nd of May in the year 2007 is written 02/05/07. With written numbers, commas and decimal points are swapped from what you might be used to. So, three Euro and fifty cents is written €3,50 and one thousand five hundred Euro is written €1.500.
Italy uses the Metric system for measurements and Celsius for temperatures.

ELECTRICITY AND PLUGS


Italy operates on a 220V 50Hz electrical system, and the electrical outlets you will find will require European plugs with two narrow cylindrical prongs (sort of like a pig’s snout, only smaller). If your electrical appliances are not 220V 50Hz, you will need a converter (to convert the electricity) and adapter (to make your appliances fit into the Italian plugs) set so you do not start fires or explode anything. For most Smart phones and computers the charging system is dual voltage, however always check to be sure, you will on need a plug adapter to charge.  If you forget your adaptor a Ferramenta (hardware store is the place to find one).

BANKS AND ATM MACHINES


Travel is easier these days with bank cards which work overseas. Just be sure to notify your bank that you will be traveling in Italy so they do not assume someone has stolen your card and gone on vacation. An Italian cash machine is called a “Bancomat.” To use your ATM card in Italy you will need to know your PIN number in numbers, not letters (there are no letters on Italian bank machine keypads). American Express is not as common in Italy as Visa and MasterCard are, so do not rely only on your AmEx card to get cash during your trip.

Many Bancomats are enclosed in a glass enclosure in front of the bank, but not inside the bank (so they are still accessible when the bank is closed), and you may need to insert your bank card in order to get the enclosure’s door to open. This is safe, as it just shows that you actually intend to withdraw money and you are not trying to use the enclosure as a shelter for the night. Always pay attention to your surroundings when entering one of these glass enclosures and when withdrawing money.

Big hotels and restaurants will likely accept credit cards, but when shopping for souvenirs and eating in small local places you will be asked to pay with cash.

USING THE TELEPHONE IN ITALY


The country code for Italy is 39. To call Italy from the U.S., you will first need to dial out of the U.S. and then into Italy – so that is 011 + 39 and then the phone number itself. To call Italy from another European country, you will dial 00 + 39 and then the local number. To call an Italian number from within Italy, simply dial the local number as you have it. To call the U.S. from within Italy, dial 00 + 1 and then the area code and telephone number.

Public telephones in Italy do not accept coins, so to use one you will need to purchase a phone card. They are sold at most tobacco shops (the ones with the big “T” hanging over the door), post offices, some newspaper shops and sometimes machines near phone booths, and they are very easy to use. There are two common forms – one which you insert into a slot on the phone and which deducts time/money as you use it, and one which you dial a toll-free number and then enter a PIN number (printed on the card) to use. The former requires a phone which has a card slot, and the latter can be used with basically any phone – public or otherwise.

More and more travelers are using mobile phones when they travel, which is easy if you have an unlockable GSM phone or one where you can swap out the existing SIM card for an Italian or European one. You can also rent or purchase a phone which works in Italy to use just for one trip or every time you travel to that region. Most of these kinds of phones work by loading them up with prepaid minutes (on a prepaid SIM card) or by using them with prepaid calling cards. Getting a prepaid call phone in Italy is easy (click on that link for a video about how to set one up) and it’s pretty cheap.

Useful Telephone Numbers for Italy

Emergency (English-speaking police): 113

Emergency (military police): 112

Medical Emergency: 118

Fire Emergency: 115

Road Service: 116

Directory Assistance (Italian-speaking automated voice, costs €0.50): 12

Telephone Help (English-speaking, free) 170

Travel Tips on Selecting a Hotel in Italy

TIPS ON SELECTING A HOTEL IN ITALY

Hotels in italy, Vacation Guide Vernon McClure


Traditional Italian hotels tend to be simpler and have fewer extras than most American hotels. In Italy for example, few hotels below the moderate level will have TVs with an English channel, not even CNN or BBC, so do not expect Cable style TV or 100's of channels to select from.  But keep in mind, did you come all this way over to Italy to sit around in the room, a cafe in the square is a much more enjoyable way to pass your time.

Italian hotels tend to focus on cleanliness and friendliness over amenities. Many of the Hotels are old-fashioned, and worn around the edges, with small rooms and furniture that's functional, but not always the latest style, and you need to consider location, location, location above all else.

HOTEL RATING: DO NOT CHOICE BASED ON STARS

Italian hotels are rated from one to five stars (plus an extra "Five-Star Deluxe" category for places that really want to pad their prices).
As hotels get more expensive (four- and five-star), they get more similar to standard hotels in the US.

As far as the cheaper, more traditional Italian hotels, at the one and two-star levels, here are the "worst" of the differences you can expect to find.

The vast majority of the "complaints" about Italian hotels I read or hear about have little to do with the hotel, but expectations presented by the booking site and personal travel expectations.

You should not go into a foreign country expecting everything to work exactly the way it does at home. If that were the case, there would be no reason to travel in the first place. You will need to put aside your assumptions and expectations and learn to judge and value an Italian hotel on its own merits according to Italian standards, not American ones.

Read user reviews with a grain of salt, and keep in mind, there are always more complaints then praise, and remember thatHotel websites are paying for the photo-shop pictures that makes a room look grand.

HOW HOTELS IN ITALY DIFFER FROM U.S. HOTELS

One major factor you must understand many about hotels in Italy (all of Europe, actually) isspace. In the US there is lots of space and rooms tend to be large, whether they are roadside chain motels or hotels in city centers. Even a cheap, grungy, off-brand motel in the States will usually have two double or queen beds in it, separated by an end table with a TV remote control so you can watch your "Free HBO!"

In Italy, most hotels—at least, most of those in the historic city centers and small towns tourists love to stay in—are converted from existing buildings, many of them hundreds of years old. Rooms were smaller back then, and it is often impractical (and, in many cases of historic buildings, illegal) to enlarge them.

Also, indoor plumbing is a recent phenomenon, Renaissance architects didn't plan for a private bathroom in every chamber of the palazzo.  So bathrooms tend to be small, modular units that are wedged into one corner of the existing room.

So, expect the following from hotels in Italy (hope for the best but expect the worst):

  • Rooms will be small. No, even smaller than you're thinking.
  • Bathrooms will be even smaller (and given to all sort of other "shortcomings")
  • Lobbies and rooms rarely agree. Never judge a hotel by its entrance; expensive hotels almost always invest heavily in the lobby, often skimping on the rooms, whereas cheaper hotels may just have a dingy desk in a hallway, but spotless, fine accommodations.
  • Beds are a bit narrower than in America. Also, a standard "double room" in Italy comes with a single double bed, sometimes a queen—never two queens side by side with an end table in between; you're thinking of an American motel. Even at that, "double beds" are often two twins shoved together under a single top sheet and blanket (or two twin sheets made up to overlap).  In really cheap hotels and many B&B's, the beds may have the old style bed springs, bowing deeply in the center , or bulging up and bucking every time you move.
  • Elevators are a nice bonus, not a given. (Medieval architects did not foresee elevator shafts when designing the buildings: just lots and lots of steep staircases. Look at it as a chance to get more exercise while you're on vacation.)
  • Walls will be thin. 
  • Breakfast will likely be light—rolls and jam with cappuccino at worst; more likely packaged pastries and cappuccino—and maybe some fresh brioche (lightly sweetened croissants). Sometimes you get a table laid out with ham and salamis, cheese, boiled eggs, yogurt, and fresh fruit. Occasionally muesli (a Swiss granola that tastes like slightly sweetened home insulation material) will make an appearance, but don't expect American cereals or omelettes and bacon.

Selecting a hotel for your vacation takes some research and it is best to deal with someone who has actually been in the location, not just review it on a computer screen or travel book. The wrong location can end up costing you time and money. Remember the good deals on the booking web sites are good deals for a reason.  Those places in Italy that provide great service and have a great location, are usually booked well in advanced. 

 

When Are The Best Months to Visit Italy?

WHEN ARE THE BEST MONTHS TO VISIT ITALY

When to Travel in Italy

Everyone seems to have a time to avoid travel to Italy. Of coursethe best time in general would be Spring or Fall but which month or week when there is perfect weather. In the last few years no one can really tell you exactly. We are only being conditioned to travel during the spring and fall because the powers that be wanted to take advantage of those markets windows. Just like we are conditioned to be off on Sunday and maybe Saturday and week starts on Monday, we tend to follow patterns set for us. You can travel at anytime during the year but if you plan on spending your time visiting sites each day and hanging out on the beach, you would not want to be here in Trieste during December (if you were visiting southern Sicily you might catch a warm front is coming through that allows you to meet your goal).

Italy relies on tourism and each year the services they are offering is getting better organized. It may still seem like uncontrolled madness to you but trust me it is getting better.  During the holiday periods (state and world holiday) the major cities are now organizing concerts and special opening of museums for travels and the local population that can no longer take off each year. The worst thing about the holiday periods and peak periods is that most places will inflate their prices.  (Example during the big church event in Roma this year they showed how hotels had made their cost 4 times the normal, or each May here in Vicenza when they have the gold fair rooms triple.) This is just one of those Italian things, they know they are taking advantage of you but if you are silly enough to pay they do not feel bad about it.  Look at the listing of Italian holidays when you are planning, and understand while here things just happen to change sometimes without advance notice, the further south the more frequent.

When is the best time to travel to Italy?

Actually. this is an easy question to answer! ANYTIME!! The weather is unpredictable anyway, so why delay? Spring and Fall have replaced Summer in being the highest travel season, and consequently, the most expensive in flights & accomodations. As the Summer months can be uncomfortably hot as far as temperature is concerned, more and more people are avoiding travel during July and August. This can translate into an opportunity to get discounted rates on hotels and other services. The same thing goes for Winter (except for the period between Christmas and New Year’s), as the weather can be rainy and cold in the low 40’s and 50’s, this is a great time for discounts, but alas, not a great time to be outside walking. You should keep this in mind when planning a trip to Italia: you will mostly be spending your time outside exploring the city streets so pack in accordance with the average weather guidelines.

TRAVEL IN ITALY DURING THE SPRING MONTHS: MARCH/APRIL/MAY:

As the season crosses from Winter to Spring, the weather can be quite unpredictable, usually between the low 50’s and mid-70’s, can be rainy, especially in the Northern & Central regions. This is the time that most schools have field trips, so expect to see a lot of students around. The landscape turns luscious green, can be quite beautiful with fields covered in spring flowers in bloom.

National Holidays (i.e.: everything’s closed):
Easter Sunday and Monday - Pasqua & Lunedi dell’Angelo (also called “Pasquetta”)
Worth Seeing: Easter in Florence – “Lo Scoppio del Carro” (if the mechanical dove lits the Carro, it will be a good year for crops).
Liberation Day “Festa della Liberazione” – April 25th
Labor Day/Annunciation Day “Festa del Lavoro/Annunciazione” – May 1st

TRAVEL IN ITALY DURING THE SUMMER: JUNE/JULY/AUGUST:

The weather can sometimes become unbearably hot, remeber that most italian homes do not have air conditioning! This is the time that Italians (and many other Europeans) go on their own vacation. Where? At the beach, of course! So, the beaches are very crowded, but the cities are infact deserted. So if you can stand the heat, this is the best time to visit the big cities: no lines in museums, hardly any traffic, quiet and peaceful piazzas that would otherwise be hectic and chaotic during the rest of the year. I would advise to avoid Venice during this time, as a bad odor can rise from the water and make the experience quite unpleasant.

National Holidays (i.e.: everything’s closed):
August 15th – “Ferragosto”, also the “Festa dell’Assunta” (Assumption Day – Christian Holiday).
Worth Seeing: The “Palio” takes place in Siena, a medieval horse race among the old districts of the Tuscan city.
Sales events beginning in July in stores all over Italy, great time to shop!!

TRAVEL IN ITALY IN THE FALL: SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER/NOVEMBER:

September and October are excellent months to go as far as weather is concerned, but for this reason prices can be very high overall, and services book up very quickly, so make sure you give yourself several months to plan your trip if you are counting on going this time of year. If you are planning on staying in the countryside, September is the month of the grape-harvest, so a unique time to be in areas such as Tuscany. November instead is the beginning of the rainy season, which is very humid, cold, and uncomfortable.

National Holidays (i.e.: everything’s closed):
All Saints’ Day “Ognissanti” – Nov. 1st (you’ll see many people dressed in black to visit their loved ones who passed-away in cemetaries all over Italy)
Worth Seeing: Regata storica – Venice, Veneto – historic boats and gondola race 1st weekend in September.
Miracolo di San Gennaro – Sept. 19th Naples’ most important event celebrating their patron saint.

TRAVEL TO ITALY IN THE WINTER: DECEMBER/JANUARY/FEBRUARY:

During the winter months days are short, usually rainy and cold. Still, the past couple of years haven’t followed the usual average temperatures, so what I’m saying is that you should fly over with your fingers crossed. The good thing about this season is that hotels, as well as airlines offer great discounts. It may seem like the perfect time to explore Southern Italy, where the weather is very mild and sunny even in the Winter. But wait! BECAUSE it is not a tourist season, this is the WORST time to go to the South, as most services (ferries, trains, tours, hotels, etc.) are not open.

National Holidays (i.e.: everything’s closed) 
Immaculate Conception “Festa dell’Immacolata” – Dec. 8th
Christmas “Natale” – Dec. 25th - Midnight Mass on the 24th: all churches in Italy have mass at midnight. On the 25th: mass in Piazza San Pietro in Rome with blessing from the Pope.
Santo Stefano – Dec.26th – Italians rest and recuperate from all the food they’ve eaten on Christmas day.
December 31st- huge celebrations in the main cities, live bands, fireworks, etc.
New year’s Day “Capodanno” – Jan. 1st
Epiphany “Befana” – Jan. 6th - national holiday - Huge sales events after this day begin. 
Worth Seeing: Carnevale – Venice, Veneto – beautiful parade of highly crafted costumes and masks through the misty canals of Venice.