Ciao dolci amici!
Ever since Lizzie McGuire ventured off with her 8th grade class to Rome, I have always dreamed of the day that I would take my first trip to Europe. Now, if you had asked me two years ago to name the top 5 places I would want to visit, Italy wouldn't have been one of them. However, Italy quickly captured my heart in the Summer of 2014 when I got to take the trip of a lifetime and visit Italy for two weeks. My Grandma and I stayed with my super cool cousin who manages Rome's U.S Embassy for most of the trip and had a blast.
Now, I didn't meet an Italian Pop star, fall in love, and perform for thousands of people at the Colosseum like Lizzie, (sigh) but we had a great time! Here are some of my favorite snapshots from our trip:
So with out further ado, here are my top tips for any lucky person out there visiting Italy for the first time. Learn from my mistakes, as many of these tips I would have loved to have known before visiting my first time. (see #8) As repayment...you can ship me some chocolate croissants! : )
1. Be Prepared To Cover Up When Visiting Italy's Churches
Most churches in Italy will not allow you to enter if your knees or shoulders are bare. My first time visiting the Capuchin Crypt, (BEYOND CREEPY by the way!) I was denied entry for wearing shorts. I recommend always bringing a scarf that can be pinned as a skirt or used as a shawl in case you decide to pop in a church as you explore the cities.
2. Buy The Tour!
Odds are you aren't an expert in Italian history, and odds are you don't like waiting in line for hours. When you arrive at a popular attraction (Coliseum, Vatican, etc.) buy a tour from the (sometimes sketchy) people selling them! You will be able to bypass the seemingly endless lines and go right in! Plus, every tour guide we had did a phenomenal job!
3. Drink From The Nasoni!
Bring a re-fillable water bottle in your day bag and you will save a lot of money on your trip! There are over 2,500 public water fountains in Rome called Nasoni's. Many people do not realize that it is clean, chilled water and completely safe for drinking! So bring your water bottle and fill up whenever you spot one!
4. When Ordering Bottled Water- Be Specific!
I cannot tell you how many times I bought a bottle of water and was disgusted when I took a sip of sparking water. The Italians love it, but if you prefer non-carbonated water, be sure to ask for aqua naturale.
5. Pack Light- Or Regret It!
On my two week trip, I packed two carry-on sized suitcases and a large handbag as my personal item on the plane. I thought I packed light... until I had to lug my bags through the cobblestone streets of Florence, and later carried them up and down who knows how many bridges in Venice! In the future, I will take no more than a backpack and carry on suitcase for any trip, no matter the length. Remember, laundry is always an option!
6. Beware Of Pit-Pockets!
Luckily my Grandma and I didn't have any trouble with pit-pockets, but we took precautions! I highly suggest either purchasing a money belt or carrying a very secure bag with you when venture out to the especially touristy places! (Train stations, major attractions, restaurants, etc.)
We were very careful, but I have heard numerous stories of stolen cameras, money, phones, and credit cards. Take your precautions, because a stolen wallet can sure put a damper on any trip!
7. Try To Blend In With The Locals
Now this isn't really an essential tip, but I have to say- you could definitely pick the Americans out from a crowd in Italy. The Europeans, especially Italians, are known for being the some of the most stylish people in the world. If you wish to blend in with the locals, avoid wearing major American brand labels (leave the Nike's and Abercrombie at home) and opt for a comfortable but stylish walking shoe, and more understated fashion choices. Avoid colored sneakers, flashy American brand labels, white capris, and visors. Not a necessity, but it sure if fun to try and make people guess if you're a local or a tourist!
8. Carry Around Hand Soap & T.P.... Trust Me.....
Just a handy little PSA, apparently a lot of free public restrooms in Italy don't always provide hand soap and/or toilet paper. Luckily my "prepared for every possible situation" Mother found these little travel sized dissolvable hand soaps and toilet paper roll for me to take with me on my trip. I thought it was silly to carry around with me, but she knew what she was doing! As a germ freak, I HATE not being able to wash my hands... and toilet paper is just a basic human necessity soooo, thank goodness for Mom's! Take my advice, and be prepared. Also, it is common to have to pay a small fee to use public restrooms, so be prepared for that also. Public restrooms in Italy are few and far between, so whenever you see one, just go! Because it may be awhile before you come across one again.
9. Buy Tickets For Popular Museums In Advance!
Luckily, we were able to tour the Accademia Gallery in Florence, but if you are an art connoisseur; I highly recommend buying tickets to the more prestigious museums in advance! My Grandma was dying to tour the Borghese Gallery in Rome, but each time we tried to visit they had sold out. Therefore, you should do your research in advance and buy your tickets online whenever possible! It will also save you time by not having to wait in lines, thus, more time to eat gelato. Speaking of gelato....
10. Calories Don't Count In Italy
Italy is a country to explore on foot. You will be doing a LOT of walking. Therefore, I've decided that calories don't count in Italy! So eat as much gelato, pizza, and croissants as your heart desires!
Stay tuned for my Rome, Florence, Venice, and Capri city guides coming soon!! Also, like my Facebook page and check back often to see when they are posted! Arrivederci!