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Italy: First trip, what we Learned

  1. The trains are wonderful. Clean, efficient, fast, and ticket-buying is super-easy.
  2. Bread is served at most restaurants, but you have to ask for butter.
  3. You don’t need an abundance of clothes. For our next trip I’ll take two pairs of pants, 3 shirts, and some scarves that will all coordinate.
  4. It is possible to find laundromats to wash clothes.
  5. Driving is not the fearsome feat we envisioned. Road signs are fairly easy to interpret and if you do your homework ahead of time, you’ll be fine.
  6. Airports are huge and require a lot of walking to make connections.
  7. Sometimes airplanes are late, which make it hard to make connections on time (see # 6)
  8. The walking in hill towns in Italy is mostly uphill. Hill towns=uphill.
  9. Even if a gate agent at the train station tells you you don’t need to validate your ticket, don’t take his word for it. Or you’ll be answering to the man on the train with the hat (the conductor).
  10. Many of the showers are VERY small. Be prepared.
  11. Iced tea will be bottled tea with flavoring. Water is available either bubbly (like sparkling water) or flat (like tap water) and both come served in beautiful bottles and are priced accordingly. (Usually 1,6 € if I remember correctly).
  12. The Italian people are friendly and accommodating.

Italy is as beautiful as the guide books and your friends say it is, and more. We wish we had not waited so long to see this beautiful gem of the Mediterranean. History surrounds you on every corner.

We celebrated our 50th anniversary there this year, and thought it would be our only trip. But we’re planning to go again in 2019 and every year we can until we aren’t able to go anymore.

Posted by
1053 posts

I'm so glad you enjoyed your trip!
Wishing you many more.

Posted by
1161 posts

You can ask for tap water (#11). Smile, say acqua di rubinetto, per favore. They may not be enthusiastic about providing it, but it is available. Italian water is also very safe even from public fountains unless marked non potable.

Posted by
235 posts

Italy stole our heart, also!! We are now planning trip # 4. Italy is a magical place, to us! We will be sad, when we can no longer visit.

Posted by
6570 posts

Don't forget that Italians run on their time. They don't move as fast as Americans.
Expect getting from Point A to Point B to take longer than you initially estimated.
English is spoken in places where there are tourists. But don't expect gas station attendants in rural areas to speak one word of English.
The big tourist sights are best if visited at off peak hours on off peak days. Tuesdays at 4:30 pm in San Gimignano, the city is actually enjoyable.
And don't expect all the wines you drink in Tuscany to be good. Our agriturismo sold huge jugs of wine to someone, and it was very low quality. They made it in the basement of their house.

Posted by
4729 posts

Thanks for your report, stayclose. We, too, fell in love with Italy the first time we went. We've returned 6 times (I think) since that first trip, and never tire of it. We also just celebrated our 50th with a trip to Europe, and yes, we intend to return every year, as long as we are physically able.

Happy travels!

Posted by
6875 posts

Sometimes airplanes are late, which make it hard to make connections on time (see # 6)

You must not ever travel as this is not unique to Italy

Posted by
3565 posts

A small expansion:
In Rome, bread may come unasked, accompanied by a cover charge. Daily lunch specials can be a good deal, but the offering on the chalk board outside may not be mentioned by the menu so you have to ask.
I agree about laundromats and will pay a little extra for an attendant to run the machine while I do something more interesting. Even so, I like laundromats even when befuddled by the controls. A local will help you.
Even in hill towns, what goes up must come down.
Glad Italy lived up to your expectations, and usually to mine.

Posted by
1302 posts

So glad you had a wonderful time. And however late in life we arrive in Italy, it’s good to have been there!

Posted by
14 posts

3& 4:
That is smart. Carry-on only on the way to destination. Checking bags is acceptable on the way home to accommodate souvenirs and wine.

6 & 7:
The later your arriving flight is, the higher the likelihood that your connecting flight will depart on time, and will be at the farthest possible gate from where you arrived. If you have carry-on only, the tight connections are not going to cause a problem with luggage going astray.

8:
It's usually uphill in both directions. ( I haven't figured out how they do that).

Tim

Posted by
996 posts

I'm so glad that you had a wonderful anniversary trip! Italy is like magic, isn't it? Next year will be my 5th (!!!) trip to Italy, and I can't wait. :-)

Posted by
4403 posts

As a fellow Tar Heel, I deeply appreciate #11. Even after 18 years living abroad, I still miss real iced tea (and the free refills and the endless ice). My son now drinks the bottled peach flavored tea here and the Southerner in me is horrified.

Posted by
1549 posts

Glad you are hooked! My first trip to Italy was in 1983 as a 25 year old and hated it. Came back in 2011 with my husband for our 25th anniversary and we both fell in love with this country. We now are retired and live here, and your assessment is spot on. As long as the few negatives are looked at with humor and patience. (Bureaucracy, drivers, and lack of urgency)

My husband was watching an episode of Comedians in Cars Having coffee (Jerry Seinfeld) on net flix and he described Italy (not word for word) as “Italy is like a young beautiful woman that never gets old and the allure has you coming back for more”. Episode with Fred Armisen.

Posted by
6904 posts

I'm so glad you went for your anniversary and have experienced Italy.

I've come to accept over the last year or so that my parents' trips to Europe are over, that our trip all together (with my husband, brother and his wife and their kids) to Scotland and France two years ago to celebrate their 50th anniversary will have served as their last trip abroad. We saw so many things across France in the years they came to visit me, but missed still more — and never made it to Italy, which pains me not only since it is a world-class destination with so much of our Western heritage, but also because it's where my husband is from and they will never have seen where he's from and that makes me sad.

so yes, it's absolutely wonderful that you've had your first taste of Italy and are looking forward to more! And I enjoyed very much your “lessons learned” list.

Posted by
6855 posts

We have recently returned from our 8th trip to Italy and were hooked by our first trip. There are so many diverse regions to explore.
Forget the butter for your bread; ask for olive oil.
Enjoy planning your next Italian adventure whether it is the Dolomites or Puglia!

Posted by
10265 posts

Forget the butter and the olive oil. That's Italian-American. Italuans only have bread with olive oil during the new pressings in October.

Posted by
14449 posts

I learned on my most recent trip to Italy that although the bread is put on the table at the outset, it is to be eaten only at the end of the meal! Nibbling on it before the "real" food comes is bad form since it ruins your appetite for what should be the highlight of the meal. The bread is for sopping up all the remaining sauce on the plate.

On that trip, I also learned that buses in Rome on Sundays are next to non-existent.

Posted by
430 posts

Congratulations on your anniversary and I enjoyed the report. Glad to hear that driving was better than expected

Posted by
6171 posts

I could be wrong but I think that restaurants that frequently serve American tourists, lean towards accommodating American preferences.

Posted by
681 posts

Congrats on lessons learned, enjoying Italy and finding passion in Italy and marriage. May you continue with many more Italian travel experiences.

Posted by
981 posts

Congratulations on your anniversay and may you have many more in the future! I’ve been to Italy twice and plan to return as soon as I can.