7 Things You Need to Know About Traveling to Italy!!!
Pasta, wine, and gelato, yes, please! Italy has my heart! Of all the places I’ve traveled to Italy and Greece are countries that I can’t seem to get enough of!
I’ve traveled to Italy twice now, with a scheduled return back in March 2020 to explore Sicily!
My first time traveling to Italy was nearly 7 years ago, long before my career as a travel advisor! It was only natural that my very first trip to Italy was spent feeling my way around, with a few snafus (and one ticket) along the way.
I am breaking down the ins and outs of planning a trip to Italy, in this post! I was able to round up must-do activities, as well as things to avoid.
I’ll go over booking a tour in Venice with small children, navigating the busy history & streets of Rome and more!
Keep reading to discover the 7 things you need to know about traveling to Italy!!
1) Cities in Italy
Most first-time travelers visit the classic three when touring Italy: Rome, Florence, and Venice!
All of which are beautiful cities that I highly recommend visiting! However, if you are looking for an experience that is a bit more extraordinary I recommend Puglia, Cinque Terre, or Sicily.
PS there is a whole section dedicated to traveling through Cinque Terre below!
Puglia, Cinque Terre, or Sicily are also incredibly steeped in history and gorgeous architecture, but provide a different experience far away from the crowded more well-known cities!
2) Your First Day in Italy
My first trip to Italy was with my husband, his mom, and our two sons. We spent two weeks and saw so many beautiful sites in this gorgeous country.
We started our Italian adventure in Venice, and yes, there are no cars in Venice, you must take boats everywhere. It’s pretty magical! There are public boats or you can hire a private boat. If you are honeymooning then you don’t want to miss out on riding a romantic gondola!
During our trip, we only had a few days to spend in Venice so we wanted to get the most of it.
My husband is into history and wanted our boys to learn as much as possible during our time there. Naturally, we hired a private tour guide which was scheduled directly after the arrival time of our international flight.
That was a big mistake!
We were all tired and falling asleep. That was a tough lesson to learn! As a travel advisor, I make sure that my clients are not booked for tours on their day of arrival!
I always recommend taking a quick nap upon arrival before wandering around town. Since the hotels’ check-in time is at 3 pm, I always recommend paying for the night before so you can have your room ready when you arrive at 9 am. Be sure not to schedule anything because you will most likely be jet-lagged!!! You don’t want to miss out on the full experience of your tour unrested and falling asleep.
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3) Booking a Tour in Venice
My husband really wanted a history tour, so he did the research to find one that fit his criteria. Unfortunately, he was the only one in our group that wanted to learn ALL the history of Venice.
This particular tour was so full of history that the guide was not able to keep the attention of our children; 13 and 11 years old at the time. There was some obvious boredom, and even a few naps, yikes!!
Now I know what to look for when hiring guides for myself and my clients. If my clients are young I hire young, hip guides, if my clients are interested in food, I hire a foodie guide!
During the planning process, I always ask in-depth questions about my client’s interests. Asking these questions helps me get to the root of who would best be suited to provide them with an unforgettable experience.
I then look for a guide that will align with my client’s interests and personalities.
Don’t be afraid to express your personal interests in-depth with your travel advisor so that they can match you with the best guide, activities, and tours!
Also, when I have clients traveling with young children, I always make sure the tours are the proper length of time with lots of breaks for the kids to enjoy a playground or a snack break.
For honeymooning couples, I love recommending cooking classes, wine tours and food tours in Italy. These fun activities are great for bringing couples together and they are also amazing for friends’ trips!
The second day we explored Venice by ourselves. There were so many amazing narrow alleys, and the great St Mark’s Cathedral. We took some gorgeous pictures of the Grand Canal from the Rialto Bridge, and ate lots of pizza and pasta paired with amazing wines!
4) Cinque Terre
After our time in Venice, we were off to Cinque Terre. Many people are not too familiar with the name Cinque Terre but I would guarantee you’ve seen pictures of these five fishing villages. This town is frequently depicted on the cover of many Italian travel guides!
Cinque Terre (5 villages) is a stretch of the Italian Riviera coastline made up of five picturesque seaside fishing villages. They are composed of Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
Cinque Terre was everything I imagined and more!! Each Village is spectacular and along the way, there were many quaint cafes and small restaurants, which served the most delicious fresh seafood.
The villages are linked together by trains, with some villages accessible via hiking through. While in Cinque Terre we hiked from Manarola to Riomaggiore and the views were absolutely breathtaking!
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5) What Time of Year to Visit Italy
When we first visited Italy 7 years ago, we visited the first week of March (off-season) to avoid crowds and enjoy the lower prices.
But what we didn’t know booking that first trip, is that almost everything closes for the season in coastal towns during their off-season, I should have used a travel advisor!
Today I know not to book trips for myself or my clients to the Italian coast during their “off-season”
Some of the coastal towns that close for the season alongside Cinque Terre are Capri, the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento, Positano.
Needless to say, the poor timing on our part meant that Cinque Terre was a ghost town dampened with rain and cold weather and some of the hiking paths were closed. It was not the best time to visit at all.
We found the only restaurant open and luckily for us it was the best one in town! Today I still recommend it to all my clients!
Cinque Terre is very rustic and offers nothing in the way of luxury hotels. Most people go on day trips to Cinque Terre because of the lack of great hotels.
It is still a gorgeous place to visit with amazing views of the Italian Riviera, however, I recommend going in early May to avoid crowds.
Cinque Terre opens for the season in April, but the best months to visit weather-wise is late in May and mid-September through early October. These months can vary depending on where in Italy you plan on vacationing, be sure to check with me or your travel advisor before booking!
6) Driving in Italy
After a couple of nights in Cinque Terre, we headed to Florence. In Florence, we decided to rent a car because we were also planning to spend a few days in Tuscany. Most of the gorgeous small towns in Tuscany are not connected by trains so the options for travel around Tuscany are to rent a car, join a big tour or hire a private driver.
Driving through the towns in Italy have many restrictions that most Americans are not aware of or do not understand. There are also many roads that you cannot drive on during special hours, or unless you have a special permit. For example, in Florence, we received a ticket for driving into a restricted area which was in the middle of the town! Who would think?
I also would not recommend driving in Rome at all!! In Rome, there are scooters and motorcycles everywhere and the drivers are pretty insane. I would also avoid driving in the Amalfi Coast and Capri as well. Feel free to drive around Tuscany, we had a lovely few days exploring as we drove our way around.
7) When in Rome – Hire a guide
Pretty soon it was time to return the car and head to Rome.
I highly recommend hiring a tour guide to show you all around Rome!! There is so much to see in Rome; museums, ruins, gorgeous fountains and the Vatican! If you only have a few days to spend in Rome, please hire a guide! We hired a tour guide in Rome for a day, but I wished we had hired him for two. We feel that we missed so much by not booking in an extra day.
My second time traveling to Italy was just a few years ago and I went to the Island of Capri, Anacapri, and Rome. I was personally invited to join a group of travel advisors to check out the hotels and tours offered. This time around I got to see much more of what Rome had to offer.
I also loved Capri! The island is gorgeous and I highly recommend it, but you have to make sure that you visit at the right time of the year, otherwise, it won’t be fun and it’ll likely be very expensive! You must book your trip to Capri and The Amalfi Coast very early to find good hotels and prices. I would recommend at least 8 months – 1 year prior.
While visiting Capri take a tour, or hire a private guide/driver. Don’t forget to take a boat trip! There are so many beautiful towns and beaches in the area along the Sorrento Coast that are well worth the trip.
Those are the top 7 things you need to know about traveling to Italy!
The lesson I learned from my first trip to Italy, was that I should have hired an educated Travel Advisor!
It takes a lot of work to plan a trip to Italy with countless booking choices online which ends up costing big bucks for a not so perfect trip! While we were able to plan a lot of things that went amazing (like great hotels) the logistics of putting a trip together in an amazing country like Italy involved planes, trains, boats, and cars. It was very time consuming to plan a trip to Italy and have it turn out as anything less than a perfect experience!
I’ve learned so much in my last 5 years as a Travel Advisor, not only when it comes to planning trips to Italy, but all over the globe!!
I have participated in countless destination training and study tour trips, of which I was personally invited.
My travel education is constantly evolving so that I can ensure each of my clients has the trip of a lifetime. I am constantly taking classes, webinars, and visiting destinations to best serve my client’s multifaceted needs! I help newlywed couples plan their honeymoons, I help plan special occasion trips and I help families plan unforgettable vacations.
Please >> contact me << so that we can plan your trip to Italy or beyond!!