From shoulder seasons and skipping the queues, to regional foods and hidden gems, these are some tips you won’t want to miss out on
There’s just no end to the wonders you’ll see in Italy. From Michelangelo’s David sculpture in Florence to the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and the Vatican in Rome, there’s just loads to see and experience.
Today, we’re looking at a few of our favorite insider’s tips and tricks to make your next trip as easy as pie (or crostata, when you’re in Italy!).
1. Book Early
One of our first tips to visitors is to remember the law of supply and demand. The longer you leave it to book your trip, the more the costs go up. Everything from flights to accommodation gets more expensive, so book early to save your money for the important things!
To help encourage you to get your booking in early, we’re even offering an early bird booking special this year. Book your semi-private vacation package in 2020—before 30 November 2019—for a discount of €50 per person.
2. Remember That Packages Can Save Time and Stress
On the topic of vacation packages: they’re a great way to save yourself loads of time and planning beforehand, as well as stress on your trip. Researching a trip can be fun, but it can also be overwhelming.
All packages aren’t created equal, either. You can book one that looks after all the details, a simple day trip, a walking tour, or a themed package, focusing on a particular interest. There are so many ways to use packages and tours to cut down on your stress!
3. Discover the Hidden Gems
Part of the joy of travel is experiencing a new place, and what better way than the local way? There are always some amazing experiences you’ll never find written about in guidebooks. The best cafe to get your morning espresso or the best pizzeria in Naples—only the locals will know that!
Your time in a new country is often limited, but you want to see the sights, right? Well, a semi-private vacation might be the way for you. All transfers and accommodation are private to your family or group. Only our very popular small group tours will be with people outside of your own group.
It’s also a great way to link up with local resources. Sure, there are the big box tour operators who are everywhere. But we always prefer to go with a local one. That way, you get to meet a local guide who actually knows all the hidden gems. Always ask your guide where to eat, they know all the best places!
4. Dress (and Pack) Well
The difference between a traveler and a tourist is slight, but there’s a lot in the way they dress and fit into a culture. It might seem like a cliche, but it is because it’s true. Italians like to dress well. If you want to fit into local places as though you belong there, you should too.
But you don’t have to wear couture suits or gowns every day. Try wearing a simple, stylish but comfortable pair of walking shoes, instead of gym shoes. Or a button down shirt for dinner, instead of a t-shirt, might work better for you.
5. Remember Shoulder Seasons
When your kids are in school or you work a high-powered job, your time to travel can be restricted to certain times of the year. But if you can, we’d urge you not to forget the shoulder seasons.
Spring and fall are much less popular times to visit Italy, but they are just as incredible! In fact, even Italians head out of the main cities in the height of summer! It’s just too hot and crowded, even for them.
In spring or fall, the temperatures are still friendly, you could even visit the beach in Sorrento on this trip to the Amalfi Coast. It’s also quieter and less crowded, so you’ll be able to enjoy the sights and take better photos.
6. Skip the Lines
Your time is limited. The last thing you want to do is waste time spending it in lines! Have you ever seen the lines for the Vatican? In high season, they appear to wind around the entire city-state!
When you book a tour like this one of Rome and Florence, you’ll get to skip the lines on tours to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, and see Michelangelo’s David sculpture in the Accademia museum in Florence. You’ll save yourself hours!
One other way to avoid standing in endless lines is to book in advance directly with the attraction. Give them a call ahead of your visit and ask what the options are to reduce your time waiting.
7. Getting Lost is Half the Fun
One of the most amazing things about visiting a new places is wandering around and getting lost! You might discover an incredible restaurant tucked away in a quiet courtyard, or try gelato from an out of the way store no map would ever have shown you. Getting lost can truly be half the fun!
But when you’re tired of getting—or being—lost, offline maps on your mobile device can be a lifesaver. Follow an online tutorial to save offline maps of the city or area you’ll be staying in. It’ll always work, even if you have no mobile data or you’re out of coverage.
Italy is known for its food, but did you know that so much of the food in Italy is regional? And so much of what you might know as Italian food isn’t even really Italian! One thing Italians love to tell visitors is this: if you see spaghetti bolognese on the menu, it’s not a proper Italian restaurant!
One great way to enjoy a new place is to try out the regional specialties in the places they originate. Try bucatini all’amatriciana in Rome; eat risotto alla Milanese in Milan; enjoy ragù alla Bolognese in Bologna.
Oh, and please don’t ask for tabasco or ketchup, unless you’re eating a burger and fries!
9. Don’t Worry to Tip, but Watch for Coperto
There’s a strong culture of tipping in some places, but Italy isn’t really one of them. Sure, if you really appreciate service and it’s really great, you can tip, but you can just round up to the nearest five or ten. That’s seen as plenty!
One thing visitors are sometimes caught out on, though, is coperto. This cover charge is pretty common and is part of what makes sitting down to eat in a restaurant more expensive. Coperto covers the table service (hence the lack of tip culture) as well as the ‘complementary’ bread that’s usually on the table.
You can even be charged coperto when you sit down to enjoy your morning coffee. It’s part of why most Italians will just grab their espresso at the counter!
10. Public Transport Takes Time
Whether you come from a place where there’s an efficient public transport system that you’re used to using daily, or if you routinely drive yourself everywhere at home, Italian public transport is different.
There’s a schedule, but it’s not always reliable. Strikes happen often and can seriously disrupt your plans, especially if you’re catching a connecting train or a flight. If you plan to use public transport, factor in extra time to get anywhere. The best outcome is that you arrive early and have time for a snack or a drink before you need to be somewhere.
But if time is a serious factor, then book a private transfer. The last thing you want is to miss your flight home from Fiumicino because you missed the express train and had to take the regional train, which was canceled halfway through your trip.
Shall We Go?
There are many great reasons why a trip to Italy is on so many people’s bucket lists! I hope these tips and tricks have given you some ideas for your next vacation in Italy.