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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!

 

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)

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.

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)

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.

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

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 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.

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