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Discover Italy: 21 Priceless Tips For Travellers To Italy

Photo by Karsten Würth (@inf1783) on Unsplash

Taking a trip to a foreign country can be a daunting experience for some. There are various cultural and social differences which can throw on a load of unwanted stress within your trip.

We have pulled together some of the best experts to list their must-know tips and tricks for those traveling to Italy, guaranteeing you the smoothest and most enjoyable adventure possible.

#1 Watch Out For The ZTLs

Our number one tip for visiting Italy after our last visit is DO NOT enter a ZTL  in your rental car. The zones can be badly signed and easy to enter, we did it twice without noticing and ended up with $297 of fines.

(A ZTL fine is automatically issued to a vehicle that enters a restricted area they are not permitted to enter).

Contributor: Lee Hopkins from onetripatatime.com

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#2 Take A Guruwalk

If you are travelling to Italy, the best way to discover the main landmarks of a city is talking a guruwalk.

It's a 2 - 3 hours walking tour, and you don't pay anything upfront, you just give a tip at the end depending on how much you liked it. But because of the tips, the tour is usually really fun and entertaining. Plus, you can get to know other travelers from all over the world in the same group.

Contributor: Juan Castillo from GuruWalk

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#3 Comfy Style

Men - Carry a man-bag when you are traveling! It makes your life so much easier, you will fit in and not get funny looks like you think you would in the US. The Italian men all use them!

Wear comfy shoes but NOT at the expense of style! They ALL believe in comfy style! In Italy you will find many women wear wedge heels. They work so much better on cobblestones! Leave your stilettos and skinny heels at home!

Contributor: Dorina Lantella Martirano from dorinaskitchen.com

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#4 Think Footwear

Shoe choice can literally make or break your vacation. In Rome in particular, there are so many historical site you want to see and SO many cobblestones you need to trot across in order to get there -- and they can really take a toll on your feet. Pre-trip, spend time finding a really good shoe (avoid sandals) and wear them before your trip to break them in and avoid blisters.

Contributor: Kelly Piero from theromanguy.com

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#5 Copertos

When you order an espresso or snack, if you don’t want to pay the coperto (service charge) then don’t sit down at a table. Once you sit, you are charged the fee. If you drink the coffee and eat your snack at the bar (this is common and you will see locals doing it all the time), you’ll avoid the coperto (which is typically €2 per person).

Contributor: Lisa Romanov from culturalfoodies.com

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#6 Get An Italian SIM

The best solution is to buy an Italian SIM Card before you leave. It costs just $49.95 and has 12GB of high speed data, minutes and texts. it works in Italy and also in more than 30 other European countries.

Contributor: Nick Brennan from myuksimcard.com

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#7 Watch The Summer

If at all possible, avoid most of Italy in the summer -- cities like Rome are painfully hot in summer. However, smaller cities and towns in the mountains can still be pleasant. The weather in Umbria was beautiful while I was there in August.

Contributor: Matthew Lubin from BoozeFoodTravel.com

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#8 Don’t Be Afraid To Get Lost

Be OK with getting lost. Not only is it refreshing to have a digital detox, but you never know what beautiful ally you'll end up in or picturesque cafe.

Contributor: Kelly Piero from theromanguy.com

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#9 Let The Experts Take Control

Come with an empty belly and open mind (leave with full heart): Let the waiter take control of your food choices. They will know what is the best (especially depending on the region you visit) and your overall experience will be more authentic. Also, don't make substitutions, let them lead the way. Italian cuisine is purposeful where every ingredient serves a role in the dish.

Contributor: Kelly Piero from theromanguy.com

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#10 Travel By Train

Train travel is a great way to see the country for first time travelers: Italy is so connected via high speed and regional trains it takes the stress out of travel. You can see a broader range of place in less time, let's say if you were to drive. Plus, train travel is cushy. There is no fuddling around with a GPS, translating road signs, baggage fees, lines or arriving two hours early. It’s a sit back, relax and enjoy the sentimental aspects of traveling by train.

Contributor: Kelly Piero from theromanguy.com

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#11 Avoid The Tourists

I cannot help but recommend all Italian holiday seekers to look beyond the main touristy spots and head to less crowded places. Rome, Florence, and Venice are indeed wonderful but unless you are headed there in the shoulder or low season, I would recommend you to avoid them at all costs. Indeed, cities like Bologna, Milano, and Napoli are better choices to be based out of for your Italian adventures.

Contributor: Inma Gregorio from aworldtotravel.com

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#12 Know Your Specialists

Don’t order pizzas at a café or bar. I’'ve recently seen many Americans order pizza at any place just because they were in Italy. Go to a proper Pizzeria and have it there. The same goes with pasta and gelato. Don’t buy ice-cream from food stalls but pick a Gelateria.

Contributor: Valentina Di Bari from smartbuyglasses.com

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#13 Family Run Restaurants

Avoid restaurants and cafés in the most famous piazzas and places as well as restaurants that offer “tourist menus”. The quality of the food will be very bad as they need to cook and prepare dishes very quickly to cater a lot of people at the same time. Most of the times prices will be a rip-off. Look for family run restaurants and trattorias or choose a place which is at least 500m from the city center.

Contributor: Valentina Di Bari from smartbuyglasses.com

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#14 Learn The Language

Try to learn at least a few basic words or sentences. Many people won’t be able to speak English fluently and if they see that you’re making an effort to make yourself understood they will be willing to help you and might offer you a discount.

Contributor: Valentina Di Bari from smartbuyglasses.com

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#15 Get An E-Bike

If you fancy cycling holiday in Italy, particularly Tuscany or Umbria, take an eBike. Tuscany is officially 92% hilly!

Contributor: Tim Hudson 

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#16 Driving In Italy

Consider that our road signs have the opposite colour in comparison to Europe: Motorway or Highway are indicated with green road signs and Statali or Provinciali (regional road) are in blue.

Many parking lots require payment from Monday to Friday (that in Italian is giorni feriali) and they are free during weekends.

Contributor: Alessandra Granata from tips4italiantrips.com

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#17 Money and ATMs

An ATM is called Bancomat, and you can find them everywhere.

Visa is the most accepted credit card, followed by Mastercard and Amex.

You can pay by card nearly everywhere (even parking lots), but if you are travelling to small villages it's probably preferable to have some cash on you.

Contributor: Alessandra Granata from tips4italiantrips.com

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#18 Hostels

My biggest tip is to check out the hostels!

They aren't like the typical hostels, they are more like resorts. If you get to the out skirts, away from the touristy areas, you will find some real gems.

Contributor: Amy Honey from thehoneydare.com

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#19 Plan Your Journeys

Bus schedules especially change with seasons and even days of the week. If there's a holiday, the schedule will also be different. Double check the schedule and have a backup plan. We've been stranded at a train station several times because of some holiday unknown to us.

Additionally, be aware of strikes. These are announced in advance so you can plan around them, but there are often transportation strikes that leave very few options that day and they are always crowded.

Contributor: Melissa Mayer from WhyNotLetsGo.com

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#20 Handing Money

It is considered rude to hand someone cash directly. Next to each register I encountered, there was a little dish. When purchasing something, put the money or card in the dish, the cashier will swipe the card or take the cash and then put your change/card back in the dish for you to pick up. It took me a few weeks to figure this out, and fathom why I was getting dirty looks and eye rolls from cashiers when I handed them money nor why they'd sort of toss it in the dish or on the counter after. Hopefully it can help someone have a smoother trip

Contributor: Molly Conway

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#21 Go with the flow

Go with the flow, Italians work on their own time. Things close mid day for a siesta, the trains do not run on time. People eat at restaurants later there for dinner so do not ask for a 6pm reservation. They live in the moment and appreciate the world around them in a way that is lost here. They use all their senses all the time. Pay attention and learn a few new ways to relax and enjoy your life the way you do when you are there. It is a great way to keep a little part of Italy with you post vacation.

Contributor: Paige Arnof-Fenn from mavensandmoguls.com

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Written by James Metcalfe

Twenty year old writer living life on the south coast, struggles to tie his own shoelaces. Believes Toad is the real hero of the Mario universe.

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