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Italy Tours: What to know before you go

Apr 27, 2017 by Jamie Gallerani

Looking to soak in la dolce vita on one of our Italy tours? With countless icons to marvel at and vastly different regions from north to south, this awe-inspiring country is an ideal destination for both experienced adventurers and first-time travelers. To help you prepare for your unforgettable journey in Italia, we’ve rounded up some expert tips for traveling to Italy to read before you take off.

Pick the ideal Italy tour for you

Whether you want to soak in history in Rome, go farther off-the-beaten-path in the Puglia region, or discover the Dolomites on a stroll through Northern Italy, there’s so much to see and do in this captivating country. Follow your passions and consider what you personally want to uncover—there’s no doubt you’ll find what you’re looking for on one of our 39 trips to Italy. And, while exploring dream cities is always satisfying, seeing them in the ideal season makes the experience that much more memorable. If you ask us, visiting Florence in the fall is always a good idea, and there’s something magical about Rome in the spring.

Brush up on your Italian

One of the best ways to immerse yourself in a new destination is by learning a few words in the local language, and committing a couple Italian phrases to memory before you jet off will do a world of good. It not only makes it easier to get around during free time, but it also allows you to make quicker connections with the locals. Don’t fret if your pronunciation is off—simply learning how to say ciao (hello) or grazie (thank you) in Italian will show you’re making an effort and will be much-appreciated when you step into a cafe or cross paths with locals.

Prepare to cover up in churches

One of the top things to know about Italy before you go is bringing the proper attire for churches. With the world’s highest concentration of UNESCO World Heritage sites, Italy is a visual feast, and some of the country’s most stunning sites are the numerous churches. These architectural marvels are hard to miss, and covering up before stepping inside is a must. Bare legs and shoulders aren’t even permitted in some of the most famous places of worship—St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City springs to mind—and simply carrying a light scarf will ensure you alway have something to put over your shoulders if you’d like to duck inside. The good news? Scarves are easy to mix and match, and bringing a couple options is a good way to dress up an outfit while keeping your luggage light—a standout suggestion among our best packing tips.

Go with an appetite

Italy is known for world-renowned food and drink and no matter which part of the country you visit, one thing is for sure: You’ll never be hungry. Decadent cannoli bookended with candied fruit and fresh seafood pulled from the Mediterranean are gems of Sicilian cuisine. More delicious fish is caught along the riviera at the top of the Italian boot, and there are countless hidden restaurants in Northern Italy to try some of the best. If Tuscany is your region of choice, the truffles, Chianti, and rare steak known as Bistecca alla Fiorentina are not to be missed. Set out to find the best gelato in Florence or pop into a must-try Tuscan restaurant (hint: they’re all good!). While there are so many delicious bites to try, one of the best tips for eating in Italy is to get acquainted with regional dishes. Tasting iconic flavors made with fresh, locally grown ingredients is a satisfying way to learn more about the region you’re in.

Know when to get your coffee

Strong espressos, frothy cappuccinos, milky latte macchiatos—coffee is a cultural staple in Italy, and while there may be no wrong way to order a brew, Italians might say that there is a wrong time. There is an unspoken guide to drinking coffee in Italy, and knowing when to order your daily cup of joe will separate you from travelers who mistakenly order a cappuccino after noon. The milk-based brew is thought to be a breakfast drink, and it’s far more appropriate to order an espresso through the rest of the day—enjoyed standing at the counter, of course!

Learn the restroom rules

Keeping some spare change in your pocket as you explore Italy is always a good idea (hello, authentic leather boots). It also comes in handy when you need to step into a public restroom, which usually cost about 50 cents to use. They’re not too difficult to track down in larger towns and cities, and you’ll often hand your cash to an attendant at the door. No restrooms in sight? Not to worry! Simply swinging into a restaurant or bar for a quick espresso or a bottle of water will make you a paying customer, and you’ll be more than welcome to use the facilities.

Equip yourself with currency

Swiping your credit card at an Italian cafe without letting your bank know you’re even out of the country could result in a fraudulent flag on the purchase or a hold on your card. Skip the hassle by looping your bank in before departure and letting them know which cities you’ll be visiting, even on layovers! And, while it’s also a good idea to have a few euro in your pocket before you even get on your plane to tour, it’s easy to find ATMs in your travels. Figure out the currency exchange rate before jetting off and seek out tips from your Tour Director for withdrawing money on tour.

Ready to embark on a dream trip to Italy? Tell us which cities you want to visit and how you’ll make the most of your trip on Facebook!

About the author | Jamie Gallerani
It was Jamie’s homestay in Germany that made her fall in love with travel (and her studies in Florence that really sealed the deal). When she’s not writing and sharing the magic of seeing the world with others, she’s usually on the lookout for her new favorite memoir, testing out recipes at home, or visiting her family on Cape Cod.

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