So You Want To Go To Italy...
There are few things in this world that I love more than traveling. I think it's something every single person should do because it widens your perspective, gets you out of your comfort zone, and let's you experience things that are outside of your daily bubble. Recently I was fortunate enough to go to one of my bucket list spots, Italy. I went with a big group of my family and a tour group to the Big Three in the North of the country - Venice, Florence, and Rome. Now, I'd like to share some tips and suggestions for your first (or next!) trip to Italia.
Go Off Season
While you might not get a tan, you also won't have to fight with the humid summer heat and hoards of tourists - Venice alone gets about 20 million visitors a year! We were able to leisurely stroll through the Piazza San Marco in Venice (and enjoy the incredible Carnival costumes!). I was able to get right into the Galleria dell'Accademia and up close to the magnificent sculpture of David. We even got to go to the world's best gelato shop in San Gimignano, which, according to our guide, is this side of impossible in peak tourist season. Bring a warm coat and a poncho and enjoy the space and freedom of off season travel.
Learn Some Italian
While you will mostly likely find people who can speak at least a little English in the bigger cities, Italians absolutely love when you speak their language. I had studied for a few months before going and I can't tell you how many wonderful connections and perks I got from the little Italian I learned. I think language might be the greatest connector between us humans, and making
that little extra effort goes a long way. It's also good for your brain and doesn't have to be expensive. I used the Duolingo app and audiobooks I borrowed from the library and, while I am far from fluent, it was enough to get by. A few good words and phrases to know are:
- Buongiorno - Good morning/Good day
- Buona Sera - Good evening
- Arrividerci - Goodbye
- Grazie - Thank you (pronounced gra-tzee-eh)
- Per favore - Please
- Prego - You're Welcome (also used by shops and restuarants as a way to say "what can I get you")
While "ciao" is probably the one Italian word everyone already knows, it is technically an informal hello/goodbye used between friends. However, if shop owner or bus driver said it to me, I'd say it back. Don't worry about being perfect. The effort is enough and I found the Italians happy to kindly correct me if I needed help.
Go With A Group
As much as I love traveling, I hate logistics. I am not one of those people who enjoys figuring out what hotels to stay at and which transportation to take. If you're like me, I highly recommend going with a guided tour group (like Go Ahead the one we went with). To be honest, I had my doubts at first. I had this image of a sheltered tourist experience, but not only did we get our own tours through places like Duomo and the Vatican, but we also got things like an impromptu night tour of Rome and a private four course meal with opera singers (that even non opera fans would love). We were also able to go to the Tuscan countryside, and see a master glassblower work at the actual Murano Glass Factory in Venice. Sure, these are things you can do on your own, but boy, is it nice to just show up and enjoy the ride!
Food, Oh Glorious Food
I don't know what this says about me, but one of the things I was most excited for on this trip was eating. Wherever we went, we were within a stone's throw of at least three spots to experience the rich Italian food culture. While walking around, you can stop in a Bar for a cappaccino (only before 11am) or an espresso, maybe a pastry or sandwich, and a newspaper. Look for a Trattoria for a cozy, casual, family style place with inexpensive but totally stellar food. Ristorantes can range from casual to expensive but, because Italy's food culture is so treasured, bad restaurants just don't make it. Wherever we went, we had good food. If you're in a tourist hot spot, walk a few blocks off the main strip to find the hidden (and usually less expensive) gems the locals frequent. Be aware that some places have an extra charge for food and drink if you sit at a table (you'll know if there's counter space people are using, there's probably a charge to sit). Oh, and definitely check out the Auto Grill if you travel the highways. While they are essentially gas station rest stops, some of the best food I had in Italy was at the Auto Grill.
Whether you like history, art, fashion, food, scenery, language, or all of the above, Italy is a must see. I can't wait to go back and explore more of the country, learn more of the language, and meet more of the people. I hope you make the journey there or wherever your travel bug is telling you to go. Buon viaggio!
More About Emma
Emma is a gal of many interests and talents. A former ballet dancer, she currently works teaching yoga and Zumba and helping small businesses with graphic design and social media. She also has a passion for genealogy, travel, cooking, and photography. Keep up with her on: