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First Trip to Italy...Am I forgetting anything??

I am headed to Italy with my wife for the first time. Through a lot of help from people on this site, I feel like I have covered all the big things I need for my trip. However, I want to check and make sure I am not missing anything.

Flight: I have make ticket reservations flying out of Atlanta into Milan. We are flying out of Rome and into Atlanta. My wife and I have our passports.

Driving: We will be driving. I have car reservation and IDP in hand.

Hotels: I have reservations at all hotels we are staying at.

Gallery Tickets: We have gallery ticket reservations for everywhere we feel we need them (Last Supper, Uffizi, Accademia in Florence, Vatican/Necropolis)

Is there anything I haven't thought of??

TIA

Posted by
586 posts

Have you called your credit card company and bank so they know you'll be there spending money? How about made photo copies of these cards and your driver's licenses and passports to bring along in the event of an emergency/property loss? Driving directions lined up with good maps? Any basic tourist Italian language study, do-it-yourself? Really does make things smoother, and help you connect a bit with locals. Have a GREAT trip!

Posted by
239 posts

Hi Mike--Have you notified your bank to expect debits coming from Italy so they don't refuse them? Have you left copies of your passports with trusted friends or family at home in case something happens to your originals? Do you have an extra memory stick for your camera or a cord so you can download or send pictures home (you will be amazed at how quickly you will fill up your camera's memory stick!)? Make sure you budget lots of time for romantic strolls! You're going to love Italy! Elizabeth

Posted by
576 posts

Do you and your wife each carry DIFFERENT credit card accounts in case you would have to cancel one? Also, we now travel with several DEBIT accounts in case one won't work. Last summer when my daughter went to Spain (even though we had notified the bank) some kind of security measure was NOT lifted and her card was refused. Luckily I was back home and able to get the bank to resolve the problem for her.) I feel much more secure when I have several back-up ways to get cash or pay for things...just in case.

Posted by
891 posts

A friend of mine lost her passport (to a thief) and when she went to the US Embassy to get a new one, the hardest thing to get was the new picture. We now travel with extra passport photos, although we are VERY careful with moneybelt & such, an extra passport picture takes up no room, so we have them.

You say that you have been reading this site a lot, so I am assumming that you know about the "No traffic zones" in many cities and about the traffic tickets that many of the posters have received in the mail after they get home. If not, check this info out on the helpline.

Pack light! Very light, because it will get heavier as your trip progresses!!

Have a Great Trip!

Posted by
3259 posts

Hi Mike,
It sounds like you're doing a great job of being prepared! Rick Steves has a great "Essentials Packing Checklist" in the Appendix of his books--it's really a great way to make sure that you've packed everything you need.
Have a great trip!

Posted by
864 posts

Sounds like you're on target. Agree with notifying your bank and my husband and I always take separate ATM cards (which must be linked to your checking NOT savings account). My husband had his VISA card ripped off (in an ATM machine) but by calling the bank they only cancelled his card, not mine as well. Finally, PLEASE PLEASE buy a good road atlas in country. Yes, it's probably $30 but is well worth it. Take a yellow highlighter with you. Mark out the days trip before you start driving. You are going to have so much fun! Yeah for you and the best wishes I can send for a happy trip. Have a great time.

Posted by
8870 posts

Hopefully some of these suggestions are helpful reminders:

  1. Make certain your debit card(s) pin # is just 4 numbers. Many ATMs in Europe won't recognize larger numbers.
  2. Have you gotten your money belt?
  3. Do you wear glasses? Bring a copy of your prescription and a 2nd pair of glasses.
  4. Do you have medication you must take? Bring a copy of your prescription.
  5. Will you be using a PDA to confirm your reservations the day before your arrival? Don't forget a charger and adapter. Also have you saved your reservations to your PDA?
  6. Will you be taking a digital camera? Don't forget the charger, extra disk and extra battery. 7.Did you get GPS for the rental? Might bring along a Michelin map as a back up. 8.Bring a small flashlight. 9.Comfortable shoes
  7. Sense of humor

Have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
345 posts

Mike, tell us where you are driving so we can warn you about any pitfalls for that town/route.

In general: The directions you get from some of your accomodations can be challenging, perhaps inadequate for a first time visitor to Italy. Spend a LOT of time with google maps before you go. Buy a good map when you get there(you can probably get them at the airport)and plan your daily driving.

Visit http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/driving/index.htm
and read about parking, driving, getting gas, driving on the autostrada etc. It shows what the traffic cameras look like too.

Posted by
15 posts

Thank you all so much for your reply's. I will definitely call the bank and my wife and I have set up a different account in a different bank with another set of cards.

I do know about the ZTL's. We will be parking at the train station in Florence (our hotel is two blocks away), to avoid any chance of a ticket. Our hotel has been very helpful on what streets to come in on, as the ZTL borders the train station. We are dropping our car once we get to Rome (based on this sites recommendations) outside the ZTL and taxiing in.

We will be driving from Milan to Varenna, Varenna to Venice, Venice to Florence (taking the train from Florence to Cinque Terre), exploring Volterra, San Gimignano, Cortona, and Orvieto, on our way to Rome.

Thanks again for everyone's help.

Posted by
52 posts

I would also recommend getting about 100 Euros or so from your bank, so you don't have to pay the ridiculous fees at the airport to change money. You'll be able to pay for the taxi to your hotel and any incidentals you might need until you can get to an ATM or bank with a favorable rate.

I checked with my bank on Saturday and the exchange was 81 Euros for 100 dollars. Get as many exchanged as you feel safe carrying (in your money belt).

Posted by
1201 posts

Mike - Not a criticism, just an observation. The only real spot in your itinerary where having a car would be a plus rather than a minus would be your time in Tuscany. Having a car there gives you more flexibility.

All of your other spots are easily reachable by train and my guess is once you get there, you'll park the car and not want it again until you leave.

You might want to consider doing the train until Florence. Get the car for Tuscany and drop it at Orvieto. then take the train to Rome.

I think as Americans we are hard wired for a rental car on vacation. In Italy the train is many times a more viable option.

Posted by
12172 posts

Don't forget a GPS for driving. I recommend buying it here, getting accustomed to using it and packing it with you.

Posted by
1589 posts

Do you have reserved parking in all of those places?

Posted by
345 posts

I agree with Ron. I am wondering why you want a car for those destinations?

Posted by
1 posts

My friend and I drove all over Italy in 2007 and that included getting out of Rome. Our saving grace was my hand held Garmin GPS that was loaded with international maps. Saved tha hastle of folding and unfolding maps. If we made a mistake we were quickly put back on track - the nice thing was we could use it for walking around all the bigger cities just by changing the setting from auto to walking. Good luck and enjoy!

Posted by
15 posts

Ron, Linda, and Kent,

I took your advice and looked up Eurail passes for 4 days for 4 adults (I failed to mention that we have friends traveling with us). Cost through their booking engine was $532. I thought that was pretty good considering I got my rental for $400 plus gas, tolls, parking, etc...

My issue is Tuscany. My wife (and her friend Lorna) want to see Volterra, San Gimignano, Cortona, and Orvieto. To rent a car for two days through Europcar or Hertz is $300 vs. $400 for the week. This is with me picking up in Florence and dropping in Orvieto the following day.

Does this seem about right?? It seems like I am now paying quite a bit more for transportation. Is there other train options or does the price seem correct?? Other advice for rental car, tours, or other ways to see Tuscany??

Thanks for any help.

Mike

Posted by
527 posts

I copy & scan all of my documents and send them to my email account. Works great. I like Autoeurope's flexibility & prices but they have a three day minimum I believe

Posted by
1201 posts

Having four people obviously makes the train fares more expensive than just two. But it is not just a straight apples to apples comparison. With the car you will have tolls, the price of fuel (not cheap) and the cost of parking. In Venice it can be around 20 to 25 euros per day to park the car.

In addition. hit a ZTL and get a ticket or two and the price mounts.

Point to Point train tickets are generally cheaper than passes. So there might be some wiggle room there as well.

But as I mentioned just trying to open up the possibility.

Posted by
7711 posts

My only observation would be that Italy is one of those countries (Greece and Spain come to mind as well) that just about any itinerary breaks down quickly and you find yourself wanting to just sit in a cafe with a bottle of wine rather than rush to the next scheduled stop. The Italians will also expect you to linger, leading only to frustration on your part or theirs. If you keep flexible, be prepared to change a night or two of reservations, maybe realize that you may have to let something drop, then you will be fine. The best part of Italy is letting yourself be sucked in to "la Dolce Vita".

Posted by
10344 posts

Florence, Rome and Milan are not places where you want to have a car. That is something about 95% of the travelers posting here seem to agree on--the reasons why are difficult to describe briefly but have been discussed here recently in other topics. I agree with Ron that a straight cost comparison between car and train--for an itinerary that includes Florence, Milan and Rome--will not necessarily lead to the best decision.However, it's just the opposite for exploring the Tuscany hill towns: most travelers reporting here have chosen to rent a car to see the Tuscany hill towns. They train it to Milan (or fly into Milan), then train it to Varenna, Venice, and Florence. Then they pick up a rental car up after Florence and drop it off before getting into the city of Rome, drop off locations chosen by travelers here include Orvieto or the Rome (FCO) airport.Please feel free to send me a Private Message if you'd like to get more details of why I give this advice.

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks to all. A lot of great advice.

Posted by
3 posts

It will be my first time too when I go in April 27 to May 18, 2009 in Italy and France. And I will bring with me a battery recharger and an adapter.

Olivia

Posted by
2030 posts

Cortona and Orvieto are easily accessed by train.
I would not drive anywhere in Europe without a GPS. I have a friend who drove all through Europe a couple of years ago, who extensively researched routes via Google maps, and still got lost on several occassions.

Posted by
525 posts

Have you looked at Autoeurope for pricing? Also look at 1Car1. I know Rick's staff uses them but don't know what their availability is in Italy. We rented from this last June for England and Wales.
With Autoeurope, if you see the rate goes down, the company will re-issue your reservation at the lower price. And, if the price goes down again by you watching the ads on the internet, they will give you the lower price. Make sure you get the lowest deductible you can. Some companies do not give you the Zero deductible.

Posted by
345 posts

Hi Mike,

Ah, yes, I understand that moving four people changes the finances of these things, but consider the full financial cost of driving vs. point to point train tix as others have said. I hate to lecture you, but make sure you read Kent's previous post about "Why you don't want to drive in Florence" and make sure everyone in your party understands these risks before you go. Also, give some consideration to safe and attended parking lots. Make sure there isn't so much as a piece of paper left in your car when you park and keep the glove compartment open and empty. Then sit up straight and eat your peas.. Oh, wait, sorry, that was for someone else.

Now for more fun advice, I noticed most of your desired Tuscany stops are well served by public transportation, which means you are not using your car to full advantage. The best part of having a car in Tuscany is getting off the beaten path and seeing the small towns. The small towns are also easier to visit by car and don't have the dreaded cameras.

Posted by
15 posts

After lots of research yesterday (and additional coaching from Ron and Kent) I have decided to for go the car and train my way through Italy. I have found that by going with point to point tickets and renting a car for one day, it is actually going to be cheaper for all four of us.

This is why I love this site. I have come here everyday since November, when we decided to go. The amount of help I have received in this thread and private messages has been priceless (cue the mastercard commercial).

Julie (my wife) really wants to explore the Tuscan hill side. She wants to bring a blanket, buy some cheese, crackers, and some Chianti Classico, and just have a picnic (somewhere between Volterra and San Gimignano) on the side of the road.

That is what she is most looking forward to.

A sincere and heart felt thank you to you all. This site has made this a much more enjoyable planning process.

Posted by
891 posts

Mike, now that you have decided to train your way through Italy, you may end up having a more relaxing time. The driver of the car doesn't always have as relaxing a day as the passengers.

Please come back on this site and let us know how your trip was. I would love to hear what your wife's thoughts on the picnic were. I hope that when you come back on, you all have had such a great time that you are planning your next trip!

Posted by
186 posts

Mike,
Nice itinerary. Here's a nice aside. Try or buy some of the local Vernaccia grape wine while in San Gimignano. Good news is, you can actually find some here in the US some places.

Posted by
9 posts

I'd find a really good restaurant and made reservations for dinner somewhere in advacne.

Posted by
1170 posts

Reconfirm all your reservations a week or two in advance. I have had to have soooo many reservations corrected because they did not have the right month, day, or even year! I think that the way we format our dates differently is somewhat to blame. Although, I think carelessness is more likely the cause.

DO NOT DRIVE INTO THE CITY CENTERS OF MOST OF THE HISTORIC CITIES!!! They have "limited traffic zones" (ZTL) Zona Traffico Limitato. Check out this helpline to get more information. For instance, The entire central part of Florence is a ZTL. But it consists of several different zones within. Every time you pass from one zone into another, a camera will snap your picture and you will get a $125 fine!! One drive across the city center will net you several fines. You can be billed up to one year later and your rental company will turn you in (for a fee), or they will just charge your credit card. One way to avoid this is to have whatever hotel you are staying at within the zone notify local authorities that you have legitimate business there. But, double check to make sure that this has been done. If you are not staying there, you should park in a structure outside the zone and walk or take a taxi to your destination.

On the advice of my neighbor who lives permanently in Italy. Don't dress like a tourist (ie shorts, sandals, t-shirt, sweat suit, white sneakers, etc..), pack lightly (I learned my lesson), wear your clothes more than one day (no one will ever know), watch your luggage on the train, don't accept anything from strangers, walk across the street with authority (but watch out!), and put away your valuables (neck wallet or money belt), or better yet lock them up in the safe in your hotel room, and leave the expensive watches and jewelry at home (thieves can spot a fake Rolex from 6 ft. away).

Since you are driving, I strongly recommend using a GPS.

Posted by
1170 posts

PS--I whole heartedly agree with previous posters about just using a car to see Tuscany. A car will be a hindrance anywhere else and public transportation would be much, much less expensive and more convenient. Italy is just not that conducive to driving, especially for a "first timer". Taking trains between cities whenever possible is so much faster (except during a strike) and less hassle when you figure in the time you might take getting "unlost". By the way, most of those Tuscan towns you listed have ZTLs. Seriously, you don't need to be driving in the larger cities.