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Village Italy October 2017 - part III (Tips cont.)

Still in no particular order...
With a couple of exceptions tour food was decent rather than outstanding - although we were provided excellent info about how food is made and how it fits in with the Italian way of life. Except for a few foods, tour breakfasts were like hotel breakfasts all over the world - I skimped on breakfast so that I'd have room for "real" food later in the day, but at least one of our tour buddies liked breakfast best and the price was certainly right. A dependable food high point was Italian coffee, but do NOT, I repeat, absolutely do NOT get your coffee from pots on a burner - turns out the Italians cannot make coffee that way any better than any American hotel (so it could be absolutely terrible). All the hotels had coffee machines (which were great) and/or a coffee bar from which you could order breakfast coffee. Get your coffee from one of those two sources.

To find good food on our off days we did what we usually do on RS tours - look at TripAdvisor (and sometimes Yelp) in the language of the country we're traveling in. You don't even need to read the language (although Google Translate can help). Just look at the ratings (look at food and service in particular) and pictures and see if the restaurant is somewhere you might like to eat. We ate at quite a few excellent restaurants this way (almost none mentioned in Rick's book). The reverse is also true. Most RS-recommended restaurants were not among the highly-ranked choices. If you are traveling to a big city (e.g. Rome), look at the recommendations of American foodie expats who blog about food or if you have time, go on a food tour recommended on TripAdvisor, which can really help orient you to the food of the country you're in. To figure out if a restaurant is close to your hotel and to get to the restaurant itself, learn how to use Google Maps (including the offline map option). Google Maps will often work on your smartphone even if you don't have a data plan - it uses the GPS function of your phone and can find you and show you where you're walking even when your cellular data is turned off. Google Maps can be a lifesaver when navigating European cities in general. To try Google Maps without a data plan at home, turn off your cellular functions and test it out in your hometown. While it's not absolutely necessary to download offline maps, those can be helpful when you want to look up points of interest, including restaurants. We generally download maps before traveling to a new city and to save space on the device, delete the ones we no longer need.

Our guide warned us that we could not bring our own wine to public places (e.g. the lobby) if the establishment (e.g. hotel-ristorante combo) sold wine. But some places were fine with us drinking our own wine outside our room - if in doubt, ask the staff before buying your own wine.

I strongly recommend packing over-the-counter remedies for common conditions (colds, traveler's diarrhea, mosquito bites, motion sickness and the like). Despite liberal use of hand sanitizer, we got colds (Dave got two) and pretty soon everyone on the bus had a cold. It isn't necessarily easy to find what you need in a foreign pharmacy and some items which are OTC in the US require prescriptions in foreign countries; however, if you know the generic name of what you want, the pharmacist can usually help you out. A new issue I encountered this time is that an Italian and Spanish OTC remedy for a common condition turned out to have contained a substance so toxic it's banned in California - found that out after I googled the ingredients back in the states (and had used the product in Italy). Depending on the situation and availability of the internet, I will consider googling for information about unfamiliar ingredients in country in the future.

Posted by
5030 posts

Dave, thanks for the reviews. I love the idea of using Trip Advisor in the language of the country you're visiting. Thanks for the tip.

Posted by
7605 posts

HERE maps also works without a WIFI connection as GPS. I find it enormously useful - I use it the same way - download the map for where I'm going to my phone, work on my laptop while still back at home to populate it with sights/restaurants I want to see (and my hotel), sync to my phone, and then I have it when I'm in country. (you can also update the map while you're there of course). Provides great walking maps and driving maps too.

Sounds like this was a great trip. Like Jane, I like your savvy tip about looking at TripAdvisor in the local language.

Posted by
213 posts

I'm leaving this thread active because of Jane and Kim's helpful replies, but I'm taking great advice from Nigel to move my separate threads to part I as comments so the entire report is now together.