Tuesday, September 25, 2007

18 Things That May Surprise You About Traveling To Italy

18 Italian Surprises

1. Italy can feel like one big tourist trap

While there are still plenty of remote areas, the entire country of Italy is a tourist economy. Because of this, you will be quite shocked by the high prices on things, and you will often be turned off in the more popular locations because of the concentration of vendors.

2. Italians like to throw in hidden costs

Not only should you check your receipts for extra charges, but you should also explicitly verify that there are no hidden expenses before agreeing to a service.

3. Public transportation is inexpensive and well developed

For most areas in Italy, you can use public transportation to get from one location from another. Trains connect major cities and because of the relative small size of Italy, you can usually hire a driver or take a taxi everywhere else.

4. Automatic vehicles are not widely available

It comes as a shock to most Americans, but Europe is still an area that predominantly uses stick shift manual gear changing. Expect to pay a massive premium and low supply if you want to rent an automatic car.

5. High expense of renting a car

Even if you can drive manual, the cost of renting a car in Italy, combined with the high cost of fuel, makes this solution less than ideal. You can expect to pay upwards of $120/day for a car rental.

6. Italian roads can be narrow and windy

Italians are known for driving fast. But in many areas, the roads are extremely narrow and windy, making many American tourists uncomfortable.

7. Cars get stolen in Italy at a high frequency

Unfortunately, it is true. You should consider getting an insurance policy to protect yourself against this real possibility.

8. Hotel costs are high

Look back at point number 1: Italy can feel like one big tourist trap. The ridiculously high price of hotels and bed and breakfasts reinforces this impression.

9. Museum tickets should be purchased ahead of time

In high and medium seasons, most tourists should consider pre-purchasing tickets to any popular museum (Uffizi, Academia, etc.). It is unlikely that tickets will still be available on the day of the visit.

10. Train tickets can be purchased ahead of time

Because of long ticket lines at the station machines, it is wise to pre-purchase train tickets using the Internet.

11. Breakfasts in Italy are meager compared to American standards

Italians don’t take their breakfasts very seriously. This is a cultural fact that can be disturbing to an American who takes his breakfast very seriously.

12. Italians take lunch and dinner very seriously

While breakfast is shunned, Italy literally shuts down from about Noon - 2pm and then again from 7-9pm. Almost all stores, besides restaurants, close down during these periods of time while Italians enjoy their world-renowned food. Make sure to plan accordingly.

13. Italian food is not just pasta and pizza

In fact, in Italy, pasta is often used as an appetizer in a multi-course meal. Depending on the region, the main course of a meal is almost always one type of meat or another. For coastal regions, expect seafood. Inland, you can expect ham (prosciutto), beef or chicken.

14. Waiters will not quickly and automatically bring your check at the end of a meal

Americans are used to promptly receiving their check at the end of a meal. However, in Italy, because meals are such long, several hour, festive events, most restaurants allow you to take your time. Some Americans get annoyed by having to wait on their check, so just remember that you will need to actively and agressively track down your waiter or waitress to receive your check.

15. Not all Italians are bilingual in English

There are many nations in the world where the majority of native people are bilingual in English. This is not the case in some locations in Italy. It really depends on the location. If it is a popular tourist destination, then you can expect for sufficient English communication. However, if you travel even just a little outside the major cities and into villages, chances are that you will need to speak Italian to communicate.

16. Hotels will often charge per person, instead of per room

Unlike the United States, many hotels in Italy will charge by the person, even if there are just two of you. Don’t be surprised if this causes your hotel bill to be much higher than you expected.

17. Too many twin beds, not enough doubles

It’s sad but true. If you’re a couple, you can expect that your “double bed” is actually two beds pushed together. This is actually quite unpleasant.

18. There so much more than Venice, Florence and Rome

We’re sure you know this, but the best parts of Italy are the countryside villages. Some of our favorite places include the outer villages of the Sienna region and the entire island of Sicily.

1 comment:

Bimbobello said...

Sienna region? Are you kidding?