Visiting Italy

Image by Kjrstie from Pixabay

Our first trip to Italy was to Rome in March 2023. Since all three of our family members are eligible for Italian citizenship, it’s unlikely to be our only trip. We are still working out the timing and details for trip #2, so we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves just yet.

Here are our discoveries from our first trip, which we hope will be added to and improved as we continue to explore the Bel Paese. You have plenty of time to catch up with us!

This page contains the general tips and information we discovered that apply to all of Italy. Near the bottom of this page, you will also find links to our articles specifically about Rome, Learning Italian, and so forth.

Italian Culture & Customs

There is so much to learn about Italy! We are listing the top tips that helped us have a smoother visit as a starting point for you. There really is no reason to keep repeating the same dumb tourist mistakes as everyone else or get off on the wrong foot. It’s all right here on the Internet to learn about before you take off!

Il Bar – is where you get coffee and maybe a simple pastry. It is faster and less expensive to stand at the bar and have your caffè, which will be what we call an “espresso” in the US, by default. In fact, most names of coffees that we use in the US are not what they call it in Italy. Learning a few simple phrases, going to Il Bar and ordering and speaking in Italian, was of the more meaningful and memorable experiences for my spouse.

Italian Foods That Aren’t Italian. It’s not just “espresso” – we Americans pretty much don’t use any Italian words right in English. Watch this video from Easy Italian. It’s hysterical! 9 Italian Foods That Aren’t Italian

Milk is for mornings. If you can’t live without it in your afternoon tea or coffee, have it in your hotel room or appartamento; what the locals don’t know won’t hurt them! 🤣

If You Drink Tea and Not Coffee, you have my empathy and condolences, which is why I wrote the Tea Lovers Survival Guide to Rome / Italy

Italians eat late dinners & small breakfasts. In the touristy areas, it’s not as big of a deal because there are too many tourists to feed to start late, but don’t be surprised if the ristorante you really want to try doesn’t open until 8PM.

Heat AND Air Conditioning

Accommodations in Italy may not necessarily have heating and/or air conditioning. If the listing does not specifically state “heat” (even if it says “Air Conditioning”), there may not be heat. Since we were traveling during the spring “shoulder season”, we wanted both heating and air conditioning and looked for listings that specified both.

Security At Attractions

To enter many popular attractions, you may be subject to security scans where you have to empty your pockets completely. If you are carrying things like keys and coins in your pockets, bring your own small pouch that fully zips or clasps to put loose items into for security scans. Not all of the attractions provide a bowl or basket for you to place the loose items in your pockets, like keys and coins, in order for them to go through the conveyor belt style security scanner.

Wifi/Cellular Service

There isn’t a lot of free wifi in Italy, not even in Rome. Our service provider at home is Verizon. For travel abroad, Verizon charges by the day for each person. Which is fine for one person, but gets spendy when you have several household members. (Note: the travel plan is still less expensive than not using anything at all! I don’t recommend taking off for Europe without a cost-effective cellular plan).

I used the Verizon travel plan so that the house sitter, etc could get ahold of me as usual, and so we had one phone with full cellular phone & wifi access.

Mike & Ami got Hola Fly eSim cards. They were both very happy with it. I didn’t hear any complaints and we were all able to communicate by text and social media when we needed to.

Travel Insurance

The pandemic is ending, but mishaps still happen. Perhaps even more so with the amount of “revenge travel” happening right now. We opted for World Nomads travel insurance which was recommended to us by Michele from The Intrepid Guide and also a friend from snowboarding who uses it for their “adventure travel” coverage. When one of our flights got canceled, our trip re-routed on a plane that didn’t even have enough room for carry ons, and our bags got lost, it was a little peace of mind that helped us stay calmer. Everything turned out alright this time and we were glad we had the coverage.

Shopping & Tax Rebates

If you plan to shop in Italy, you can get a rebate on the GST taxes if you are not from the EU. Bring your passport with you when you shop, so that the store can help you with the application. When you depart, you will need to stand in another line at the airport, after all of the other baggage/check-in, security, and passport lines, to receive the rebate. I need to do some research on this because there may be an app you can download so you and the merchant can just use the app, that may allow you to skip the line at the airport. While we were in Italy, my family members specifically wanted to shop for suits and shoes. I wasn’t planning to shop, but I found an Italian “comfy clothes” store (Rega Roma) that I couldn’t resist and they were the ones that helped me with the rebate application. Glad I had my passport with me! This rebate may apply to anything where GST is added, so ask if you are making a purchase of more than just a few a trinkets.

Daylight Savings Double Whammy

Just when we were about to get over the jet lag we were greeted with a second “spring ahead”. Ooof. Italy (and most of the European Union) has different dates for “spring forward / fall back” than the US. So, we had one in the US before we left and then another while we were in Italy. I still think spring is a really good time to visit. However, I plan to check the spring forward calendars and be a little more prepared next time. Here is a link on Wikipedia.

More On They/Them Travel:

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