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Tips for Traveling in Italy

Tips for Traveling in Italy

Posted by Will Nagengast on 29th Apr 2024

It has been several years since we've done any long distance travel, and I imagine it may be the same for many of you as well. Amanda and I have been fortunate to have traveled a lot in our earlier lives, including to some very challenging travel destinations, but having children and the pandemic put that on hold for the past 6 or 7 years. While we like to think of ourselves to some extent as expert travelers, there were times during our recent trip to Italy that we found we had forgotten or disregarded some important rules of traveling. With the trip still fresh in mind, we wanted to provide a list of tips that might help both the beginner and expert traveler. 

Tips for planning your trip: 

  1. In the early stages of planning your trip, I find it very helpful to look at flights on Google Flights ( They have a feature that shows you the lowest available prices for any given day that you'd like to travel, and this is an easy way to scan through several months to see when it might be least expensive to fly. While this feature isn't exhaustive, and doesn't search through every airline, it usually gives me a good high-level overview of when it will be cheaper or more expensive to fly, which usually correlates with how busy and expensive I can expect the destination to be once we reach it. For example, it's quite easy to tell when the European summer holidays begin and end, as airline prices go up significantly for a few months. 
  2. Bundling our flights with a hotel or car rental for a portion of our trip through a site like Expedia or Travelocity was a complete revelation for us on this trip. In the past, I've always booked everything separately. However, this time I bundled flights and one of the hotels we stayed at for a few days. Amazingly, by bundling these together, we got our round trip plane tickets, and several nights in an amazing hotel, for about $600-1000 LESS than I had expected to pay for our airfare alone! I will always check bundling options in the future. 
  3. Don't overbook yourself: My rule of thumb is that it will take half of a day at a minimum to get from one location to another while in a foreign country. If you've got 5 different cities planned for 5 days, what this means is that you'd spend almost your entire trip in train or bus stations, stressed out and hauling your luggage around, spending time finding and checking into your hotel, etc. Personally, we much prefer to visit only a couple of locations on a trip, so that we actually have a little time to get familiar with the area, relax, and enjoy the destination! The travel days are the most exhausting and stressful days on a trip, where the most can go wrong, so try to minimize them if you can. 

Tips for traveling to your destination:

  1. Pack a change of clothes and important toiletries in your carry on luggage: Seriously, it might seem nice to avoid the hassle of pulling out toiletries during security checks, but when our flight from Kansas City to Atlanta took a mid-air detour to avoid a storm and landed 45 minutes late, we missed our flight from the US to Milan and were kicking ourselves for forgetting this basic travel tip. It really would have been nice to be able to brush our teeth or change into some fresher clothes when we ended up having to spend almost a whole extra day in transit!
  2. Plan multiple ways of getting to your destination once you land. The recent train strike in Milan meant that the lines to get a bus from the airport were out of control. We only had one day in Milan, so after waiting for over an hour with no movement in the line, we instead opted for a taxi ride to the city center. This was more expensive, but the time spent in Milan instead of waiting in line for a bus was well worth it, and we were glad to be able to pivot.
  3. If traveling to Italy, be aware that there may be transportation strikes. Did you know that most of these are planned in advance? A quick search can tell you if a planned train or bus strike is expected during your trip. Regardless, it is always a good idea to at least have a basic idea of a couple of different ways to reach your destination if you will be relying on public transportation.

Tips for when you're there:

  1. Visit a grocery store: Italy is well known for wonderful food and this does not exclude grocery stores. While a market is obviously preferable, we love seeing what is offered in local grocery stores. This is a chance to see what living in a different country is really like and offers an affordable way to put together a picnic with lots of fresh local food options.
  2. Build in some flexibility to your schedule: if you've got an exhaustive list of activities to do and sights to see, planned out to the minute, all you've done is set yourself up for disappointment when something is inevitably delayed or you're unable to make an activity. Instead, we find it more enjoyable to have at most one or two planned activities per day. This gives us time to enjoy ourselves a little more during the activities, instead of stressing about them running over time. Then, if we've got extra time during the day we can try to slot in extra activities or just go with the flow if we discover something we'd rather do instead.

One final Golden Rule of travel:

  1. Keep Calm and Be Kind to the people that can help you: It doesn't change your circumstances to panic or be rude when things don't go as planned. It can be scary in a foreign country when a flight is missed or the trains aren't running, but being kind and polite to the customer-facing employees is a far more reliable way of getting your trip back on track than screaming at them. The loud and angry customer, with whom these people deal with hundreds of every day, typically get only the most basic and perfunctory service. If you're being unpleasant, these lower level employees, who are certainly not at fault for whatever problem arose during your travel, will just be trying to move you on and get you out of their face. If you're kind, understanding, and patient, we have found that these employees are so relieved that they are liable to bend over backwards to help you solve the problem you're facing!