When you’re spending the money and your precious holiday time to travel to Italy you want to be sure to make the most of your time away. Here are a few tips that will help you make the most of your Italian vacation:
When to Go
There isn’t really a wrong time to travel to Italy but you need to look into the climate for your intended destination because the country’s climate varies north to south. Be aware that the entire country does not have the Mediterranean climate that you will find in the south (the tip of Italy’s boot) and on the Islands of Sicily and Sardinia. There you will find hot and even humid summers and mild winters, but as you travel north of course the winters are not so mild. In Rome you can expect very hot summers and more moderate winters, requiring a heavy coat even though snow is rare. The further north you travel of course the more extreme the winters all the way up to the Alps where the first snowfall is typically in November. Climate change has had an impact on the skiing in the Alps in recent years, so you may want to check ski conditions before booking time at a ski getaway. Knowing what weather to expect is necessary of course as you plan what to bring.
Keep it Light
Obviously the change of seasons and your travel itinerary will determine what sort of clothing you will require. Try to keep luggage to a minimum. One suitcase and one carry-on are ideal for travellers to this beautiful country known for its rich history, art, architecture, food and fashion. With so much to see and do you don’t want to be carting heavy bags on and off tour buses, along cobblestone streets or up and down the steps of stately palazzos. Many accommodations, train and metro stations don’t have escalators or elevators. If you can’t carry everything yourself, start purging or count on some serious weight-lifting endurance challenges and sweaty arrivals. Also, remember to leave enough room to bring back your souvenirs and any fashion finds you may discover in the land of Armani, Fendi and Gucci.
What to Bring
Seasoned travellers know the tricks of packing light: Choose items that you can layer to prepare for changeable temperatures, things that match so you get several different outfits out of a few pieces and garments you can wear casually or dress up a bit for eating out or going to the opera. A rain poncho takes little space in your suitcase the same way a few nice accessories help to stretch your wardrobe without taking up a lot of space.
Since many of the popular sightseeing stops across Roman Catholic Italy are shrines and churches, keep in mind that these sites are sacred spaces and require visitors to dress appropriately for a place of worship. From the Vatican to smaller churches visitors are typically asked to wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knees – and this applies to both men and women. Women may find a nice skirt or dress the perfect option, with a cardigan or shawl to cover their shoulders while inside the religious sites. Men may opt for long Bermuda shorts or the zippered pants that will gain entry to a church and can be quickly converted into shorts afterward.
Good for the Sole
Walking is an integral part of daily life in Italy, particularly in the older centres such as Rome, Venice and Florence. You will need very comfortable walking shoes to ensure you are able to enjoy your sightseeing as you navigate old-style streets, stairs and bridges. You do not want to be breaking in a pair of shoes while you are away! Waterproof shoes are a smart choice for any footwear you choose for exploring the cities or countryside. Be mindful of the season and pack essential footwear—warm boots for winter in the mountains versus comfortable sandals for the beaches in the south—before your dressy shoes.
Italians are known for their love of the good things in life, most importantly family and friends. While the birthrate has declined drastically in recent decades to the point that Italy has a negative birth rate, it remains a culture that celebrates and welcomes children. Meals are not rushed and people tend to dress up a bit for nights out. The evening meal is later, typically 8 p.m. And of course the food and wine of this country are celebrated round the globe! Overall travellers find Italy friendly and welcoming.
Learn the Lingo
It’s always a good idea to learn some of the essential phrases before visiting anywhere foreign. Survival phrases such as, “Mi sono perso” (I am lost), “Dov’è il bagno?” (Where is the bathroom?), “Non capisco” (I don’t understand) and “Quanto costa?” (How much does it cost?) make exploring a little less daunting. Knowing how to be polite goes a long way, showing people you are grateful for their hospitality. Memorizing pleasantries like, “Mi scusi” (Excuse/pardon me), “Per favore” (please) and “Grazie” (thank you) is invaluable. And while some industrious travellers invest in the Rosetta Stone to try to learn Italian before they take a holiday, the Internet makes mastering a few essential phrases easy. You can even find lessons (the first few free on this site) and hear a native-born speaker pronounce common Italian phrases.
Buone vacanze! A presto!