Sunday, June 28, 2009

Things I wish I'd known before going to Italy...

Here is my "Top Ten" List, but it's really more than 10 things. Really it's things I wrote down over there that I wish we'd done differently, or things I wanted to remember for our next trip to Europe. A lot of these things, you just don't know until you go. So, hope I can save someone some trouble and make their travel a little easier. You may not agree with me, but this is what I'll do differently next time.

1. (Personal Preference) Stay at hotels that are centrally located so you can just walk most places you want to go. I think it's worth the extra money to avoid public transportation.
2. A hotel with an English speaking "concierge" or something like that would be extremely helpful.
3. Hotel with a light breakfast or at least coffee, also a big plus.
4. Bring a print out of the train schedule on your travel days so you'll know departure times and prices. Not all trains are the same price, they actually vary greatly. Of course if you have internet access, this would not be necessary I guess.
5. Don't buy train tickets ahead of time, just buy them at the self serve kiosk when you get there (to avoid a service charge). And don't forget to reserve seats. We somehow didn't reserve seats on one train and had to change seats 3 times during the trip and ended up not sitting anywhere near eachother. Also, don't forget to VALIDATE them in the little yellow machines, you'll pay a hefty fine if you don't.
6. Bring a moneybelt and get cash from a Bancomat/ATM rather than Currency exchange places. Better yet, get some from your bank before you go, the exchange rate is better surprisingly (for us at least it would've been) and the service fees aren't as much.
7. Don't try to do too much in one day.
8. Bring good comfy shoes, don't worry about what they look like as long as they're comfortable.
9. Pack your things in a backpack if at all possible. Rolling suitcases are a pain in the you know what when you're getting on and off trains, going up/down steps, riding teeny tiny elevators...
10. Keep valuables on your body at all times (camera, money...) Don't bring any nice jewelry either.
11. Don't carry a purse on your shoulder. Use a backpack and just put it in front of you in crowded places.
12. Definitely do a bike tour in Tuscany, it is GORGEOUS!
13. Piazza Michelangelo (Florence) in the evening/sunset is a definite must.
14. Buy your drinks/water from a supermarket away from touristy places. You'll pay ten times less for it.
15. Bring a converter plug for European outlets, extra memory cards for camera, and battery charger for camera. Keep the memory cards in your money belt.
16. Take a tour at the Vatican Museum. You won't regret it!
17. Don't eat much at touristy piazzas, places on the side streets tend to be MUCH better and not ridiculously expensive.
18. Don't check out of a hotel and leave your bags unless they are securely locked up somewhere and the hotel will be responsible if anything is stolen!

Hope this helps!

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