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Helpful Hints/Experiences 1st time Italy Traveler

Hello everyone - I want my 1st trip to Europe/Italy to be memorable. I'm trying to obtain as much info as I can to have the very best time. Does anyone have any tips on prevention of pick-pockets, use of buses vs taxi's, two women traveling alone, buying camera suplies, etc.

Posted by
1449 posts

Rick Steves book "Europe Thru the Back Door" is filled with travel advice; I'd recommend buying or borrowing a copy.

Posted by
486 posts

I would suggest you get cell phones to keep in touch with each other when separated. Worked great for me and my wife and made me feel more comfortable that she could let me know where she was. Some suggest using US carriers and paying roaming charges but if you find as we did that calling is really convenient, it gets expensive. I suggest getting unlocked phones and buying SIM cards in Italy so you have local (and less expensive calling) numbers. PMail me if you have questions.

For pick pockets, use the standard defenses. Keep strangers away; no purses; protect money/passports/CCCards in ???; keep your eyes open; no expensive jewelry.

Taxis are expensive and buses are safe. Join the locals.

Use a digital camera. Buy a card for it that is big enough to store all the pictures you will take. Take LOTS of pictures as you can weed them out when you get home.

Have fun. Remember it is a long trip to get there and the airfare is expensive so make the most of it and make it a long trip.

Posted by
486 posts

Sorry, the ??? in my posting should have been "moneybelt". In a senior moment, I forgot the word then forgot to put it in before posting.

Posted by
1507 posts

I suggest you learn the basic Italian words that will help you be polite. Do reading and research ahead of time to ensure you don't waste precious time trying to figure out what to do (for some, you can over plan, but in my book it's half the fun). Reserach how to use public transit - it's easy.

I traveled solo and with a group and felt quite safe. Money belt is really the best way to ensure your valuables stay with you. Type "moneybelt" in the search field on this site and you'll get plenty of advice. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Don't walk in dark alleys alone at night. Don't leave your bag gaping open while you take pictures of the Colleseo. If your gut tells you something is awry, you're probably right. That said, there were very, very few times I felt any discomfort at all (primarily on crowded buses and trains).

Take a million photos. And keep a journal - a friend and I traded back and forth on one trip and xeroxed it so we each had copy - great memories.

Posted by
127 posts

get the kind of digital cam that can take motion/short videos...after looking at my photos[pieta/colleseum/etc.] after 3 days: theu were BORING: i/you have already seen these via National Geographic, T.V. etc...it was the VIDEOS in naples, etc. that really was special, unique, and much more memorable.

Posted by
36 posts

EXCELLENT!!! Keep all the advice coming. I'm learning a lot. ATM's, did anyone have any issues with them? I know I need to notify by banks, and should I take at least 2 credit cards? Is one credit accepted more over another? Are Amex checks good or a waste of money/time?

Thanks for the tip on the cell phone. My girl-friend and I will be on a Cosmo tour for our 1st run in Europe. It will be 'The Best of Italy Tour'. Has anyone taken this one?

Is it true that I am not supposed to make eye contact with Italian men? I understand about the large crowds, and basically just to keep my eyes open for pick pockets. Also, I have been warned about small groups of children. Did anyone have any problems with them as wannabe pick-pocketers?

Posted by
36 posts

Kent - thanks for the encouragement. I'll try to focus on having the most fun of my life, and not the negative. However, I will be careful. The moneybelt for my valuables, is a sure thing. My girl-friend has already invested in 2 of them. I have read Rick Steve's thru the Back door, and it was very informative.

I am really a 'plan-a-ahead' type person. I dwell in a lot of research/background and all the pertinent info I can get my hands on. So everyone's input is very valuable to me.

We will be staying at the Pineta Palace in Rome. Does anyone know if this Hotel is on the outskirts of town, or where? I have purchased a street map of Rome. What I would ideally like to do for my 'free time' when I arrive is check-in at the Hotel, and go directly by bus to the Vatican City.

I have been told numerous times not to take a nap after arriving in Rome. That this will upset my sleep pattern for at least a week or more. So if I keep moving per se, I will be okay.

Posted by
2865 posts

On the topic of money: Many people will tell you they never had a problem.. This is not useful advice. You want to hear from people who did, so that you can plan and not get stuck. Maybe we just have bad atm karma; but we have had trouble in Italy, Spain (the worst- - 4 weeks, card never worked despite repeated calls to bank), Sweden, and The Netherlands. So, my advice is carry two credit cards and two atm cards. If possible, your friend should have all different cards. Visa is the most widely accepted. Never let your cash drop below 50 euros. Travelers' checks are worthless; almost no one will take them. The one exception to the foregoing is that as an AMEX card holder, I can get them free. I usually take $100 in tc's as an emergency fund. If all else fails, I can go to an AMEX office and exchange them for euros. You could do the same with real money. Oh, BTW, those bands of kids are not wannabees. They are real pickpockets.

Posted by
4555 posts

One way to avoid problems with ATM cards is ensure they have PIN numbers that are only four numerals long....and no letters. And advise your bank(s) that you will be making withdrawals in Italy so they don't freeze what they may consider to be suspicious transactions. Realize as well that you will only be able to access your chequing account. Clearing away these three issues should solve the vast majority of problems you might encounter with ATMs. Take two cards on two separate accounts, as recommended earlier, and keep them in separate spots, in case one gets lost or stolen. Leave "cross cheques" with someone trustworthy at home....if you lose one ATM card, or it doesn't work, you can call that person and get them to deposit the cheque from that account into your other account, so you won't run short of money.

Posted by
4555 posts

One other thing regarding ATMs. I've noticed in past postings that some American banks only belong to an ATM network that is widespread in the U.S. but non-existent outside the U.S. Make sure your ATM card has either the Plus or the Cirrus logo on it so it will work on ATMs abroad...almost every overseas bank will have one or the other. Cirrus is from Mastercard (worldwild ATM locator at http://tinyurl.com/rzbdy) while the Plus network is run by Visa (worldwide ATM locator at http://tinyurl.com/c75l3). I've used a Plus network ATM card overseas now for a decade or longer, and have yet to run into any problems.

Posted by
36 posts

Rosalyn and Norm - Thank you so much for the useful informative info on ATM's. Will definitely have two different accounts. Definitely, two ATM cards. And, Norm, great idea to have a check to deposit for another account, should something go awry.

So not to be rude, what does a person do when surrounded by numerous children? Just walk away, or try not to get in such a predicament? If I have a money belt on my body, then there should not be an issue, right?

Posted by
36 posts

Kent - I'm betting on the Tour Operators to kind of 'over-see' us, and to keep an eye on us all as much as possible. Hopefully, he/she will be able to give us all a few helpful hints. Thanks for your insight.

What about Health Insurance? Should I invest in it? It doesn't cost that much, does it?

Posted by
1449 posts

re-read carefully the chapter in Rick's book "Bus Tour Self Defense". Realize that when your tour guide urges you to buy at "the best shop in town" they're usually getting a kickback.

At your US bank or AMEX travel you can get some Euro's. It's a lousy exchange rate, but if you start with 50E in your pocket you'll be able to buy bus fare, water, etc. without first finding an ATM. When you return, try to bring back a similar amount for the next trip.

I HIGHLY recommend getting a sleeping pill prescription from your doc; Ambien CR for the first 3-5 days makes a huge difference.

You can find your hotel with a google search; looks like its 2 miles from the Vatican, 1/2 mile to the subway, and not that near the heart of Rome.

I carry a pocket-size digital camera. Its hidden away from sight in my pocket instead of a big 35mm around my neck, takes great daylight pics, and I always have it with me.

Posted by
710 posts

I have a Cannon "Elph" digital camera. Following advice here from people I bought extra Digital cards for the trip. I also bought an extra battery and charged both each evening. I bought an adaptor plug for Italy. You don't need a convertor for this camera. We took lots of pictures and short video clips. We chose the best and my husband put them on our Mac Computer. My husband turned it all into a DVD memory of our vacation. Do wear and use your money belt. Make a photo copy of your passport and give it to your friend to carry with her. Have her do the same and keep it with you. Leave a copy of your credit cards and the phone numbers you might need to call to report a lost or stolen card with someone you trust at home.
Just be careful in train station and large crowds. Carry any meds you might take in your pocketbook or carryon on the plane. Take a change of underwear in you carry on in case your suitcase does not arrive with you. That has happened a few times. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
36 posts

I've will definitely have a copy of my passport. I never thought about giving it to my traveling friend, and vice versa. Thanks for that tip. Are there hotel safes? Or, just keep everything of value with me? Kent - thanks for the insurance email. My travel agent's company offers health insurance. When I ask her for a quote, I'll have something to compare with. I bought myself a Panasonic Lumix for Christmas, and plan to get to know it for the next 5 months. I'll look up Hotel's address on Google as instructed. My first day in Europe and my last day of the trip will be my own time. I don't want to waste a minute. As I think of more questions, I'll look for you all as resources. I can't thank you enough.

Posted by
4555 posts

The roaming groups of kids are a lot less of a problem than they were 15 or 20 years ago....police seem to take attacks on tourists much more seriously now, and move in to break them up. With more police presence on the streets now, you likely won't find them swarming you in very public tourist places...it's the side streets that may be a problem. If you see a group of kids coming towards you, cross the street and head for a restaurant or shop. If there's none around and they chase after you, just start flailing away and yelling at the top of your lungs. I got caught many years ago in this situation, with the kids grabbing and pinching me so hard it hurt...that's the distraction they use. But a little old lady nearby came out shouting and waving her cane, and whacking the kids on the head, and they took off.

Posted by
710 posts

All and the hotels we stayed in our Sept. trip had safes. When we do bed and breakfasts they do not have safes. All our Italian hotels had tiny showers the size of phone booths. My husband likes to have a washcloth, and not all European places provide one. He took a small cheap one with him and used it. This year we used one of our hotels laundry service half way through the trip, since we were gone 2 1/2 weeks. Usually we find a local laundermat. It is a fun way to meet alot of different people you might not usually get to talk to. Some laundermats have a drop off service, great if we are short of time. We used taxi's in Rome to get to St. Peter's and the train station. When my sister was in Italy a few years ago she left her camera on a table while having lunch. When she turned around it was gone. I'd recommend keeping it in your purse and keeping you purse safely with you at all times. It is good to be cautious.

Posted by
143 posts

Most restaurants have some daily specials written on a chalkboard near the entrace, often in Italian only. Order these rather than what is in the menu - they reflect what is seasonal and what looked good in the market that day - I had some terrific food I never would have tried otherwise.

Learn as much Italian as you can - even though people invariably replied my bungled attempts at the language in English, I think at least trying goes a long way in setting up positive experiences.

If are going to visit more than one place, travel by train rather than plane - my train trips were one of the highlights of my visit. Great fun to watch the countryside roll by for a bit.

Posted by
711 posts

Hi Elizabeth... Are you going just to Italy ? My husband and I have travelled a lot, but actually went to Italy for the first time in May. ..the whole month. We loved it . Don't try to go too many places. It gets really tiring moving around , packing and unpacking, etc. We flew straight to Venice, spent a week,got a car and drove aroundTuscany and Umbria, and dropped off the car in Le Spezia, and then trained to Vernazza and stayed there a week. We trained to Pisa, and then flew home. I know not many people have a month ( my husband is a photographer and we got wonderful photos.) I guess my point is , and others have made it on this website... don't try to cram in too much. We always wear money belts ..no matter what. Never had a problem. I, too, however, have had a problem with ATM's in Italy/Never any where else. In Tuscany, around Cortona,ours would not work for two weeks. We tried and tried-- then as soon as we went to Vernazza, out came the money.

Posted by
711 posts

Sorry this rant is so long. But , every one acts like one will never have a problem with ATM cards. We called our bank and they said the request for money never even registered... our cards were not denied... they just would not work for two whole weeks.And yes our bank knew we were there,it was just a fluke. My point is think about taking a variety of money, euros, credit cards, ATMs, maybe a few hated travellers checks. Now if you are going for a week or two you will probably naver have this problems, but they do happen. We stayed in 3 great places.Remember, if you use Steves' books that the lodgings book up a year or more in advance.Email me if you are interested in the marvelous places we stayed. You will love Italy.

Posted by
3112 posts

Elizabeth - Looked up Pineta Palace Hotel on the web. It's well outside of central Rome, 5km from Vatican according to them. If you decide to visit Vatican on your own, the metro is a better transportation choice - A line with no changes and same price as bus. Your Cosmos guide will likely be selling an optional tour, so they may not be very helpful with ideas if your plans compete. A co-worker took a Globus tour a few years ago and said that every tour member purchased every optional tour, so they wound up with no free time in any city.

Posted by
11432 posts

Elizabeth, I have only been to Italy once, but I have been to Europe at least 6 or 7 times , so I will offer my own advice that I imagine is useful everywhere.

First , trust your instincts, if you feel anyone is too close to use, push them away. The only time I was " almost " pickpocketed was years ago in Paris . I was walking down the street and realized that a man was walking too close to me, at first, I did not want to seem rude, the sidewalk was a bit crowded, but all of a sudden I realized this man was too close. I looked down at my purse, which had been firmly zipped close,, to see it gaping open, I immediately realized what was happening, yelled and screamed at the man and pushed him away. He yelled at me, but then when friends who were walking behind me ran up to us, the man ran away. That was close.
Don't let kids get close to you either, what the heck are bands of kids doing wandering around town by themselves. Believe me,good Italian parents do not think it is ok ,cont

Posted by
11432 posts

their children wander around town anymore then good American parents. So , those kids are not innocents, they are pick pockets, and they are good at it, coached by their parents, who are not good people.

I haven't taken or used travellor checks in at least 15 yrs. My atm has always worked.
I do use the hotel safe, I only carry a days worth of cash with me when I am out and about, now, for you, on a tour it may be difficult as you will change hotels often won't you?

I also agree, do not make eye contact unless you want to seem like you are flirting. I know you are not flirting, but, I find many Europeon men( not just Italians) don't get this. Chat away with your waiter, but forget chatting with strangers, unless they have their wifes and chidlren with them, LOL

Have you already booked tour?

Posted by
1449 posts

If you want to learn some basic italian then get the Pimsleur tapes from your local library. Don't take a class. I've done the class at a local CC and it is inexpensive, but also not much use. First off, it probably meets one nite a week. You need to practice a foreign language daily to learn it. People relying on class time alone don't learn much. And in the class you use a book. Problem is you don't know how to pronounce the words. Your teacher will read thru the vocabulary list once or twice, and if you can learn a language that quick then you don't need to take a class anyway. So you don't know how to say the words, and its boring reading the same 7 pages over and over. Language tapes such as Pimsleur drill you over and over until the understanding and right response is second nature. With Pimsleur do 1 30-minute lesson per day (I repeat the lesson 2x or 3x that day). A conversational class is useful once you have some basic proficiency, but not at the start!

Posted by
3112 posts

Elizabeth - The hotel staff can assist you with directions and may even have metro/bus tickets for sale. They can also tell you whether Metro line A or bus #994 is the better option. Bus stop is closer to the hotel (about 100m) while the metro stop is further away (about 500m). If taking the metro, get on at Cornelia and get off at Cipro for Vatican Museum or next stop Ottaviano for St. Peters. Be sure to check your direction before boarding - go toward Termini on way to and toward Battistini on return. Hotel website is www.hotelpinetapalace.com. It has a nice interactive map of the area around the hotel on How to Reach Us page - zoom twice to see the bus and metro stops.

Posted by
11432 posts

Hi again Elizabeth,
I am from the school of " have a bit of money on you before you arrive" .. there are people who do not agree, but I always figure if ATM at airport is out of order, how will I pay for a cab into town, or train tickets. So I always carry at least 100 euros to start.

I had a friend years ago who longed to go to Paris, an opportunity arose, and off she went on her own. She said she didn't like it , I was stunned, why I asked, well , she said the men were "constantly after her". Well, I love my friend, but, she was middleaged, and a tad "fluffy" and well, really no head turner. I couldn't understand why she was " constantly being hit on" and I never experienced this, then as I chatted with her I realized, she is a very friendly person, she chats with everyone, even made a date with a gardner her once when she was on her way into a cancer treatment center for chemo, seriously, she stops and chats away , and viola , a date.
She said in Paris everytime she smiled

Posted by
11432 posts

or exchanged a few words with a man , he would follow her and flirt outrageously,, she never felt " in danger" she felt overwhelmed.
She just didn't get that one had to keep their " friendlyness" to themselves, and that especially as a women alone she seemed to be " searching for company" . I know she didn't mean to come across like that, but, there it is.. that is how she was percieved.

PS I am blonde, and when I was in Italy in 1985 my friend and I were hit on constantly, of course we were young and in nightclubs, etc, so what does one expect of the men then, LOL

Posted by
36 posts

Pat & Jane - Thank you ever so much for your insightful experience information! And, everyone else, too. Yes, this is my first trip to Europe, and I have chosen Italy as my first country to explore. I've travelled on my own in the States and Mexico. I've never been anywhere else. However, I'm a researcher 'nut', and if I can avoid a potential issue/problem, I will do the leg work. I'm a friendly gregarious blond tall American 49 yr old female. This trip is my birthday gift to me for my 50th year of life. I have issues with American men as they perceive my 'friendliness' as a 'come on'? So I know I am going to have to curtail my lively energy zest for life 'presence' in Italy. My girl-friend just lost her fabulous husband of 45 years 3 months ago. So this will be an awakening of life treat for her. She, like myself, have never been over sees and just traveled in the States. While her husband was still alive, we did a short work related Mexican cruise and survived.

Posted by
36 posts

Elizabeth continued. We know we can survive an Italian 14 day land tour together. She's pretty tough, having 4 children and experiencing her husbands recent death.

I plan on learning some basic Italian, either thru car tapes, or hopefully at a local night HS or Jr college. These learning tools can be very expensive?
Upon settling in on my first day, and before we meet the rest of the tour group that night at a local restaurant, I would really want to spend some hours at the Vatican City. My girlfriend is Catholic to the bone. Myself, I kind of 'drifted', but would love to shop thee and look around.
Taking the metro from the Hotel to the Vatican is a good suggestion. Thank you. The Hotel staff will give us proper directions on how to go? I'm counting on the Italian people to help my girl-friend and I, and of course, my own common sense. Yes, we will be packing and unpacking. I'm pretty independent and might not delve into too many 'tour's'. I'm adventurous.

Posted by
36 posts

Frank - Thx for the direction info from Hotel to the Vatican. Definitely, will do the Metro, if we're not totally wiped out of jet lag. I will try desparately to calm my excitement, but I know as the date gets closer, I'll be spinning.

Posted by
36 posts

Should I obtain a few Euro's before going over to Italy? I know I get the Royal screw for the exchange rate from the US, but at least I won't be running around looking for an ATM right away. What do you think?

Posted by
36 posts

Kent - A local Amex office in SFO? or a local Italian bank would have Euro's. Where do you suggest I get them? I figure about $50 to go over with, and not obtain this until a week before I travel. I want to learn about the denominations paper and coin. Thanks, Elizabeth

Posted by
36 posts

Thank Kent. I would probably have maybe $100 to $150 on me going to Chicago. Yikes! only 32 euros? Well, it's my birthday treat to me, so okay, whatever I have to do. Thanks.

Posted by
525 posts

My husband and I did not "encounter" pickpockets BUT how would we know. They do it so cleverly that you don't realize you've been a victim. We didn't have anything for them in our pockets so we don't know if it had been attempted. The metro was so packed that even the pickpocket probably couldn't move their hand. I put a twist tie on my day bag and held onto it on the metro or in crowds. The buses again were very packed. We couldn't get on it even if we had wanted to. But then I couldn't figure out where to purchase the ticket. Keep your hand on your day bag whenever you are sitting down eating. Just carry your digital in your hand or pocket and keep your hand in your pocket. In Italy we did not feel at all threatened by our surroundings. It is easy to get around the city (Rome) by walking or take the metro. Florence was easy walking from our B&B - across from the Baptistery. No matter how much you are prepared you will miss something or your itinerary will change.

Posted by
36 posts

This might sound naive but is there any better time to ride the buses or metro than another? I've been told not to entrust in the Taxi's that it would be a rip off, but to save time and energy, it might be the way to go, and just split the darn bill between us? Miss B - definitely, I plan to keep my little hand held Panasonic Lumix with me at all times. The money belt on my person is a sure bet. I've been told to mail as much as possible to the USA as I can.

Posted by
7735 posts

Remember that these are functioning cities and that they have their own rush hours in the morning and late afternoon. When we took the Metro to the Vatican, we were right in the morning rush hour. The train line had stalled at an earlier stop, so there were no trains coming for about 15 minutes but people kept streaming down into the station to wait for their train. By the time the train arrived, we were almost literally picked up off our feet by the throng of people getting on the train. We were packed in so tight that I couldn't bring up my hands which were pinned down to my side.

On the plus side, we love describing that to people when we talk about our Italy trips. Remember, there are no bad experiences, just material for good stories. (^_^)

Posted by
36 posts

Michael - I'll remember that - arms to my sides! We arrive in Rose at 11:00 a.m.ish, so hopefully, we will be able to avoid a rush on the transportation scene. Maybe. However, thanks for the info.

Posted by
36 posts

Kent - Now that's funny. That did not cross my mind, but thanks for the 'head's-up'. Sometimes I just don't 'think'...a 'blond' thing I've been told! I'll be careful...definitely no eye contact!

Posted by
26 posts

I am not sure if anyone else has mentioned this but in regard to Health Insurance, you need to call your carrier to see if you are covered for medical expenses out of the country. My insurance company does cover for emergencies and yours might too.

Posted by
30971 posts

Elizabeth, one point regarding your previous post - "I want to learn about the denominations paper and coin".

AFAIK, all financial institutions here can only provide paper currency. You won't be able to see what the coins look like until you actually arrive in Europe. Also, if you return home with coins, you probably won't be able to convert these back to US currency. They will either be considered souvenirs or save them for the next trip.

Happy travels!

Posted by
36 posts

I appreciated the tip on obtaining and viewing the Euro's. As for the Italian coins, I have to be careful not to get old useless coins that are still in circulation and appear like the recent good coins.
Tell me truth in this day and age, do Italian men 'pinch' women who are without a male companion with them? I just can't believe this is true? There was something else I wanted to ask, but I lost my train of thought. Later.

Posted by
4555 posts

Elizabeth...Euro notes come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 Euro values. Coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cent values, as well as 1 and 2 Euro. Be careful with 1 and 2 Euro coins...they are two-coloured....the 1 Euro coin has a silver coloured center with a bronze outer ring...the 2 Euro coin is the reverse. Also, the coins may look slightly different, since each country gets to put its own design on one side of the coins it strikes. But they are all the same on the other side, and they're all legal tender in the 15 countries that now use the Euro. BTW, I've found my bank will take back 1 and 2 Euro coins but none of the smaller ones....but I end up keeping all my Euro currency for the next trip! See Euro banknotes at http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/the_euro/banknotes7483_en.htm and the coins at http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/the_euro/coins7420_en.htm

Posted by
11432 posts

You know, I have seen this question on medical insurance before , and I must say it strikes me as odd, I mean, in over 30 years of travelling, it has NEVER occurred to us NOT to get medical insurance.
I live close to the US / Canada border, and if I even think about going over for more then a day, I get the darn insurance.
Medical evacuation can cost 10's of thousands,, care may be just as good in another country, but really, once stable most of us would like to go home.

Posted by
36 posts

Frank - appreciate the detailed info regarding from Hotel to Vatican. I'm sure the Hotel staff will be helpful to two probably very tired travelers from California. I just won't take a nap or a drink. Just bottled water.

Posted by
36 posts

For sure, Kent? I thought that the tap water might not agree with me? It's not chlorinated of course. But safe to drink without getting sick? I checked the web site for insuremytrip. The insurance quotes are cheap. Definitely, obtaining medical insurance. Thanks, Elizabeth

Posted by
59 posts

It is wise to check your coins. I got a "foreign" (non Italian) coin in change on this last trip and it looked like a 2 Euro but wasn't. That's a big hit for a worthless coin at these exchange rates. I showed it to the waiter in the restaurant and he gave me tips on how to pass it along when I paid for something else. I didn't do it thought. (I didn't get the coin at that restaurant and I thought it was funny how he told me to get rid of it.)

TAB

Posted by
25 posts
  1. Take more than one memory card for your camera and switch out halfway through the trip and store separately from your camera. Also, after taking a few hundred photos, go to one of the many internet cafes and they will burn a CD/DVD of your photos as a backup---store the CD separately from your camera or mail it home.
  2. We used the Eagle Creek money belts for our trip. They are an actual belt, not a belt/pouch you wear under your clothes. They hold 1800 Euros in 100 Euro notes. Although we had prepared to use ATMs in Italy, we managed to live off the Euros we carried with us. Buon Viaggio Ed in Seattle
Posted by
36 posts

Thanks Ed in Seattle. If my camera gets stolen in Europe, I'm not going to purchase another digital there. Maybe, if anything, a Kodak instamatic disposable. I was planning on bringing a couple of extra memory cards. Good idea to transfer already taken photo's to a dvd/cd, when I can. I'm thinking positive that my camera will not be taken, and being careful.

I can't thank everyone enough for all the useful information. Every bit helps me, so if you think of anything, please forward it on. Along with my Rick Steves' books, videos, books on Italy, I'm creating a binder for myself of all the tips. I'm going to be the most ready individual ever going over to Europe/Italy for the 1st time. Just 4 months and counting.

Again, thanks. Elizabeth

Posted by
710 posts

If by any chance something happens to your camera, a disposable camera is a great choice too. You can have your pictures developed to a CD from it and put them into your computer. One thing that happened to me at lunch in Rome is that I picked a fun looking outdoor restaurant for a light lunch. I didn't realize this particular restaurant had a surcharge of 3.50 euro for the bread they put on the table. I didn't even touch the bread. The next day I went to a different place and made sure it did not tack on this surcharge. Also don't be afraid to walk into a big hotel and use their bathrooms if necessary, I did that in Venice. They are nice and free. My husband used the public ones at St. Mark's and they charge him one euro (about $1.50).

Posted by
7735 posts

Italian tap water is as safe as US water. A word to the wise - Italians would be pretty insulted at any implication that their water isn't safe. Italy is in industrial western Europe, after all. It's not a third world country. :-)

Posted by
468 posts

I recommend that you read up on the local culture, particularly shops and restaurants. Examples: There are a lot of places in Italy that have food such as sandwiches or gelato behind a counter. You first look to see what you want then you go to the register to pay for it and then take the receipt to the person behind the counter who fills your order. It can be quite disconcerting to stand at a counter wanting to buy something with the person standing on the other side not responding to you. I think this might be one of the things that makes people think that Europeans are rude or don't like Americans. Also, when you walk into a shop or restaurant you should say buon giorno or buona sera. In a store, no matter what kind, it is best to ask if you can touch things before you start picking them up. Generally in a restaurant you have to ask for the check. Americans seem to think that they are being ignored, but I think they think they are rushing you if they bring it before you ask for it

Posted by
24 posts

Elizabeth....everyone is giving you good advice. We just returned from Italy in Nov. OUr first trip to Italy...Europe for that matter. Not to worry....it will be an interesting journey ! We had many "adventures " I did alot of research beforehand....this site is wonderful and informative ! I took waist moneybelt AND a neck one, and traded off depending on the weather as they did bother me, but felt good that my important things were not available to others. We had no problems with pick pockets, but could see how it could easily happen on the metro and buses. In hindsight, we would have taken more taxis to our hotels rather than hoof it with our baggage ( altho we traveled light ). The transist system is very good, but sometimes it seemed like we were wasting a lot of time waiting for buses and also while they made their stops inbetween. We had a 1 GB memory stick, and a smaller one, and it was enough for our 2 1/2 week trip. Guaranteed....you WILL have a memorable trip !

Posted by
1313 posts

Hi Elizabeth!

I was in Rome for a week at the beginning of December, so hopefully a couple of my experiences will be helpful to you.

First, I was never harassed by any men (I'm 24) or pickpockets. One suggestion I heard was to wear sunglasses so you can look at people without actually making eye contact.

I kept my passport and money in a neck pouch, had my daily euros in a flat zipper pocket of my coat on my chest, and kept my hand on my camera in my pocket. I carried everything else in a largish purse/small tote bag that zippered across the top and tucked perfectly under my arm.

The metro could be really crowded, especially during rush hour (which also happens around 1-2 when everyone goes home for lunch). I kept my hand on the camera, my bag tucked under my arm, and (if possible) my back to the wall and it was fine. I never took a taxi.

The only time I was especially cautious was at the ATMs and I just was aware of my surroundings and made sure I was alone.

Posted by
30971 posts

Michael, I chuckled when I read your post "Italian tap water is as safe as US water". I mentioned the subject of drinking tap water to one of my Italian Instructors (she was from the Veneto region), and she looked at me with a horrified look and said "do you want to die"!

I've never had any problems with tap water in Hotels or other facilities in Italy, but I gather the "locals" have a somewhat different opinion on this. From what I recall, EVERY restaurant offered either carbonated (gassata) or regular (naturale) bottled water with meals, but most didn't offer tap water.

Elizabeth - one caveat regarding exterior water sources though - if a fountain (or whatever) states "non potabile", then it's NOT for drinking.

Happy travels!

Posted by
7735 posts

Ken, good point about the water. I was thinking of whether it was safe to drink in your hotel room (which it is), not whether it's safe to order at a restaurant. :-)

It's true that I don't recall seeing any Italians drinking tap water at a restaurant. Almost always it was bottles of mineral water. RS recommends ordering tap water in restaurants to save a few euros, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It was also fairly common (especially at lunch) to see Italians watering down their wine in the glass, using the bottled water.

And, of course, another way to stand out as a tourist is to ask for ice in your water. :-)

Posted by
7735 posts

Yep, always greet the shop owner or clerk when you walk into a store.

Here's a little tip if you're unsure whether to say "Buon giorno" (Good morning) or "Buona sera" (Good afternoon/evening, depending on the region): Just say "Salve" all the time. (Pronounced "SAHL-vay") It's a common way of greeting someone you don't know.

BTW, "Ciao" is much too informal to use with strangers such as the owner of a store you've just walked into. It's used only with friends and children.

Then smile and say "Grazie, arrivederci" when you leave.

Posted by
36 posts

Truthfully, folks I was getting a bit overwhelmed, and was actually a little apprehenivse as to what I got myself into. But thanks to the most recent Blog's, and everyone being so positive, I'm going to be okay and have a blast! It was very very encouraging to read that nothing serious had happened to the most recent travelers. I so appreciated the tips. I had an Italian customer not too long ago who was born and raised in Venice. He emphantically told me not to take a taxi. He told me it would be a rip off, and that I would enjoy the bus/Metro much more. However, he warned, just be careful, and know who is around you if you are packed in like sardines.

Keep all the information coming. I'm on my 'high' again. Italy, here I come!

Posted by
30971 posts

Michael, I often use "Buon Pomeriggio" for afternoon greetings and "Buona Sera" for the evening.

Although "Ciao" is a bit informal, I take a cue from the person I'm speaking with. If the local uses that form, I assume it's acceptable for me also.

For "goodbye" greetings, I use either "Arrivaderci" or "Arrivaderla". I'm still in the process of learning Italian, so always glad to find out more about the "finer points" of the language.

All this talk about Italy is prompting me to start making travel plans again!

Posted by
36 posts

I was told that Cosmos Tour's uses Hotels that are 'outside the city', thus the tour tips are less expensive. That would make sense, since our first day in Rome after arriving, will have to travel 5 km from the hotel to the Vatican City. Not a problem.