7 Tips for Traveling in Italy You Should Actually Use
LESSER KNOWN SECRETS OF TRAVELING ITALY
Let’s be honest, most travelers know about the canals of Venice and the Colosseum in Rome but just as many miss out on the hidden gems or lesser known attractions in Italy. It’s true, we often travel in search of new experiences, but then we wind up doing the same thing and visiting the same places. At the same time, Italy is also rather expensive and busy with high-end restaurants charging exaggerated prices and hordes of tourists crowding the overall experience.
But what does all this mean exactly and how can you get the most out of your trip to Italy?
Well, it simply means that many of the most interesting encounters are off the beaten track but with some decent research, you can create a more meaningful experience and even save some money in the process. For those with dual citizenship, you are allowed to stay in Italy for as long as you like and enjoy all of the benefits of being an Italian citizen has to offer. You have all the rights and privileges of those born in Italy. For those with an American passport only. You are allowed to visit Italy (or any other country in the European Union) for 90 days before having to leave. Once you're out of the European Union for 90 days you are then allowed to return to the EU.
As for getting the most out of your trip, let’s take a look at some tips and tricks for traveling in Italy:
1. Rise Early in Rome and Research the Lesser Known Attractions
With incredible museums, iconic landmarks, sublime cuisine and ancient ruins at every turn, it’s no wonder millions of tourists descend on Rome every year. However, in such a fascinating place, a little research goes a long way and the Eternal City is a much more interesting visit when you explore the lesser known encounters.
Now, that’s not to say the Colosseum or the Roman Forum is not worth your time but rather to explain how the hidden gems in Rome are often more enjoyable. What’s more, these experiences are often more affordable and certainly a lot less busy than the better known attractions.
For example, Piazza Navona might be the most recognizable square in the city but Campo de Fiori is just a few minutes further and offers a much more authentic example of a vibrant town square. Similarly, the Capitoline Hill is the most popular of the seven hills to capture a memorable city view but the summit of Janiculum is just as impressive and without the crowds of tourists. Meanwhile, when you leave the Centro Storico, you can find some wonderful attractions such as the ancient catacombs or Zaha Hadid’s stunning art gallery.
That being said, you really should visit the Trevi Fountain, St Peter’s Square and the Roman Forum but if you want to really get the most from the experiences, rise early and avoid these places in mid to late afternoon.
Takeaway – Rise early for the popular attractions and take time to research the alternative places to visit
2. How to Save Money on Food and Drink in Italy
It’s true, Italy is not the exactly budget friendly and you can expect to pay a premium for most things. However, there is also such thing as throwing money away and the tourist areas are a great place to do so.
With this in mind, steer clear of the main piazzas and any cafés, restaurants or bars next to the main tourist attractions. When it comes to restaurants, it’s also a good idea to avoid eateries where the menu has multiple languages, for these are precisely the places which lump a ‘tourist tax’ on the price tag.
Instead, venture one or two blocks away and seek out smaller restaurants in side streets and alleyways. As you might expect, the experience is often more authentic or enjoyable and the price will most certainly be less.
On the other hand, it’s also worth checking out the locals bars after dark. You see, many of these bars provide an evening spread with Parmesan, crostini and even prosciutto. Needless to say, it will cost less than a standard meal and if you order drinks at the bar, you can also avoid a rather hefty surcharge for seating!
Takeaway – Avoid eating or drinking in tourists areas. Walk a few blocks away and eat with the locals.
3. Choose Local Transport and Self Catering Accommodation
Believe it or not, local transport is relatively cheap in the towns, cities and countryside in Italy. In fact, you can even avoid airports and travel between cities on the impressive Trenatalia rail system which can cost a fraction of the price. As if that’s not enough, these trains are very comfortable and feature many services including high-speed Wi-Fi.
As for accommodation, most visitors opt for centrally located hotels but self-catering apartments are much better value and the location is often just as central. What’s more, with so many vacation rental sites available, there is always something affordable on offer and this is certainly true if you can travel in the off-season. With this in mind, travel between October and June will always results in better rates for accommodation in particular and when you think of it, this will also help you avoid the inevitable tourist crowds in peak season.
Takeaway – Local transport is great value and self-catering apartments offer comfort at lower prices.
4. Plan an Alternative City Break in Trento
Aside from visiting Florence, Rome and all the obvious hotspots, it’s worth planning an alternative city break. But what does this mean exactly? You see, Italy is full of hidden charms and while this most often refers to lesser known attractions or towns, the same can be said for certain cities.
For example, Trento is like a much quieter version of Rome and this beautiful city is home to an incredible lineup of culture, food, art and friendly locals. From towering cathedrals and antique churches to Buonconsiglio Castle and the cobblestone streets in between, the city offers a very colorful encounter at every turn. More specifically, instead of squeezing in and out of the crowds, you will find that Trento is a very relaxed city which moves at a similar pace to the smaller towns in rural Italy.
Takeaway – Visit the major cities but don’t forget this beautiful alternative in Trento.
5. Venture into Small Town Italy and Enjoy the Great Outdoors
For many visitors, the major attractions and destinations are the highlight for good reason. That being said, just as many travelers seem to visit these places and forget about the benefits of getting off the beaten path.
Lake Como is one such place where idyllic villages are accompanied by lush landscapes and the mesmerizing lake offers the perfect opportunity to unwind. Alternatively, Puglia is a enchanting town with clusters of tiny stone buildings and the kind of village landscape you might expect to see in a fairy tale. Meanwhile, the stunning mountains and national parks near Castelmezzano are the only excuse you should need to take on the hiking trails and explore some of the most impressive outdoors scenery in Italy.
Takeaway – Venture into the smaller towns of Italy and take time to get into the outdoors.
6. Visit the Amalfi Coast but Avoid the Crowds
If you take a look at the pictures, you will see that the Amalfi Coast is one of the most stunning places to visit in Italy. However, this is also possibly the busiest tourist destination with crowded towns and plenty of traffic.
For many travelers, this is more than enough reason to avoid the Amalfi Coast but the truth is, the stunning scenery here is usually worth the inconvenience. That being said, there is also an excellent way to escape the crowds and feel even more immersed in the surrounding vistas.
You see, the Amalfi Coast is also the location for an excellent series of hiking trails. In fact, you can hike between most towns in the region on these trails which include the footpath of the Gods, Iron Mill Valley and the Valley of the Water Mills. For this effort, you will also encounter endless panoramas, quiet coves and isolated beaches where little more than the wind and waves can distract you from these beautiful scenes.
Takeaway – Witness the Amalfi Coast in full bloom by taking to the hiking trails along the coastline.
7. Arrange Cultural Experiences Instead of Looking for Them
At a time when tourism is flourishing in Italy, it can be hard to escape the noise and find authentic cultural experiences. For this reason, signing up for a local cooking class is a fantastic way to get a real taste of the local culture – no pun intended. As you might expect, these classed are focused on traditional and regional dishes with everything from breads, cheeses, and seafood.
As already mentioned, self-catering apartments are often the best option for accommodation but when it comes to the countryside, an agristurismo is a truly unique experience. In case you might be asking yourself, this an opportunity to stay overnight on a working farm and enjoy some special hospitality with a local family.
And then there are the many cultural events which take place in every town and city throughout the summer months. Whether this relates to food festivals, dance performances, live music events or art exhibitions, these occasions are always filled with locals and the kind of atmosphere which is often missing at the touristy attractions.
Takeaway – Authentic cultural experiences are hard to come by in Italy and often best arranged.
As you can see, traveling in Italy might seem expensive but there is often an alternative to keep costs down. What’s more, avoiding the crowds is often best way to get the most out of your trip and this is certainly true for the most popular attractions in town. Either way, many travelers seem to overspend and still miss out on the hidden gems in Italy but with a little bit of research and speaking to our IDC team, you should find a thoroughly rewarding experience.
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