First and foremost DON’T try to see all of Italy on one trip unless you are there for a year! The single worst mistake a tourist makes is to try to see too much. The second biggest mistake they make is to join an organized tour group. The third mistake is people have funny feelings about bars.
Italy is good so more of Italy is better RIGHT? WRONG! If you haven’t been to Italy pick a large city to be your center of focus:
- Venice – for the unusual city it is. The canals instead of roads. The food and the history.
- Florence – for the museums and history. The Renaissance started here.
- Rome – because there is no other city like it in the world. The history the architecture and the food.
- Naples – because many Italian-Americans came from here. The food and the pizza.
These cities are all great in history, food, wine, architecture and people. Pick one and enjoy it. From there you can do small trips out to see smaller cities or sites like the Alps. All of these cities have airports but with the exception of Rome, you will have to make a connection somewhere in Europe.
Organized large tours are not fun. They feel safe for some and that is why most people join them. I hear excuses like: “I don’t speak the language”, “I will get lost”, “I might miss something import” or “Where will I stay”.
- I don’t speak the language – If you learn simple phrases like Buon Giorno, Buona Notte, Grazie, Quanta costa, etc you will do fine. Most of Italy’s large cities have people who speak English to some degree especially in the tourist areas.
- I will get lost – With todays smart phones and GPS you can’t get lost. Program in your hotel’s address so you can always get back. Look up each attraction you want to visit in a day and place addresses into the GPS. Now simply look at your map to determine where each is relative to the others. Pick your first attraction and go. Then the next and so on until you are done. Then select your hotel and return to it. For longer distances you can take a bus or subway. They are safe and fast. Your hotel can help you select the correct line and understand how to get a ticket (biglietto).
- I might miss something important – There are many tour guide books at your local book store or online. Pick one that is for the city you have chosen (not a general Italy book). Some list top ten attractions and then top ten things to see at each attraction. You will see more than any organized large tour and you can spend as much or as little time at each place as you like. This is important since we are all different. You never know what will attract you until you are there.
- Where will I stay – Hotels are everywhere! Go online and search for deals. Make sure you get one in the city near the attractions and not at the airport. Get one with a private bath. Size shouldn’t matter (at least with hotels). Hopefully you are there only to sleep. Get out and enjoy the city and the life within it.
Italian bars are NOT like American bars. They are not places to get drunk in (although you can). They are family places. In the morning you get your breakfast here (if it was not included in your room). Coffee and a sweet roll. At lunch you can get a panini (sandwich) or sometimes pasta and a soda, beer or wine. Most bars have gelato as well. In the evening you can have a cheap meal r sandwich and a glass of good wine. Italians do not believe in drinking without food. It is bad form. Happy hours serve drinks and small plates of food to be eaten along with your drink.
George & Jo Anne