I spent two weeks in Italy in October–a week in Lucca, a few nights each in Venice and Lake Como. It helped me to stay in B&Bs where the staff spoke English. I got my place in Lucca through a travel agent who had been there and my little apartment felt like home. I would highly recommend Karen Rowley at Manymoretravels.com. The owner of the B&B and her assistant helped me with taxis, directions, even purchasing concert tickets. I also made my train reservations online in advance.
Get a decent map as soon as you arrive in a new place–although the maps in Italy didn’t have all the streets on them! I often go on a city tour to start out–it’s a good way to get the lay of the land and maybe even meet some new friends.
Contributor: Lenore Hirsch from http://www.lenorehirsch.com/