Your first trip to Italy is bound to be overwhelmingly beautiful and filled with adventure. My Italian Link wants to keep it that way. We’ve put together a list of basic travel tips for Italy. First time travellers to Italy won’t want to miss out! Here’s what you need to know before you go…
1) Cash Over Cards
Exchanging cash currency before you go is a must! Paying by card in Italy is not always an option, even in some restaurants. Many first-timers have found themselves in a pickle because of this! Local businesses pay fees for each card transaction they process. Generally, this is something shopkeepers like to avoid. However, hotels and train stations do have card facilities (nine times out of ten). It’s also good to know that ATMs are the most economical way to exchange money while you’re there. Be careful, though! Airport ATMs are sometimes empty – especially during peak season.
2) Learn Some of the Lingo
While Italians are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, many don’t speak English. You’ll have a lot more success if you memorise a few key phrases in Italian before you leave. Without a doubt, first-time travellers should carry a phrasebook or translator app. Simple phrases like Parla Inglese? (do you speak English?) are really helpful in a tricky situation.
3) Skip the Queues
Nobody likes standing in line. Unfortunately, if you haven’t pre-booked museum tickets, you risk queueing outside the museums for hours. This is especially true in summer during the peak season, and in the major cities. We’re not promising you won’t have to stand in line at all – there are still security checks. But buying your tickets in advance may save you hours of waiting in the heat. Most of the major museums sell tickets on their website. But if not, try through your choice of online ticket provider.
Bonus travel tips for Italy
Some attractions require you to book in advance! The Leaning Tower of Pisa or Da Vinci’s Last Supper, for example, can be sold out days, sometimes weeks in advance! Another useful hack is to time your visit for the first Sunday of the month. Many state museums don’t charge entrance on this day.
4) Italian Weather Can Be Intense
Italy’s winters can be biting. Its summers can be seriously hot. As travel tips for Italy go, this may seem obvious. However, arriving unprepared is easier to do than you might think. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the heat, especially if you’re from a hot, sunny country yourself. Remember, you’ll be active and walking around without cover for most of the day. Before you go, look up general weather forecasts and pack accordingly!
5) Dress Appropriately, Especially in Churches
That’s not to say that Italy is reserved! But in general, Italians don’t wear skimpy clothing. Especially when visiting churches and cathedrals, it’s considered inappropriate to show too much skin. As travel tips for Italy go, this one is super important. Italy’s religious history is rich and well-entrenched. Most religious monuments are not simply for sightseeing, they’re still still used as actual places of worship. Spaghetti string vests and micro shorts won’t cut it, even in the heat of summer. You’ll need to cover at least your shoulders and knees when visiting religious sites. Keep it classic. Keep it classy.
6) Avoid Driving in the City
It’s not that driving a car in the city is a bad idea! It’s just that renting a car to get around the city can be a bit of a challenge. Traffic can be intense, and finding parking can be nearly impossible. If you do rent a car, remember to buy parking tickets! You can get these from coin operated meters alongside or the road or in the tabaccherie (tobacco shops). Driving outside of city centres, however, is a great idea! The scenery is incredible, and renting your own car will mean you can stop and enjoy roadside villages at leisure.
Of all the travel tips for Italy we could give you, there’s one thing to remember above all else. Keep your itinerary simple! Don’t try to fit too much in, or you’ll miss out on simple pleasures. Take the time to wander down cobblestone streets and take in Italy’s enchanting atmosphere.
Want to know more? Read our travel tips on what to expect while you’re actually in Italy.