Traveling in Italy
We loved Italy. So much so that we went
back four years in a row.
Attribution: Please credit William Porto and
include a hyperlink to
Everyone has different tastes and every place
has a good night or week and a bad one. I may love a meal only
to return the following week and think it sucks. The service at a
place may be great and the following season the new staff sucks. I
make no guarantees that you'll like what I like.
What this is and what it isn't:
This isn't a tour guide. If you're looking
for travel advice or historical background, go no further than this page.
There are plenty of books and web-pages that'll provide hours of reading and
fascinating historical facts. But if you're interested in reading
travel tips that you may not find elsewhere, enjoy!
Now onto the tips....
Before your trip:
One Word: E-Ticket! Don't get paper
tickets unless you have to!
You used to get the best exchange rate by
using your credit card instead of cash. Not any more! Many
financial institutions have begun the practice of adding a "per
transaction fee" on top of the cut they're getting for the foreign
exchange, so you could wind up paying $1.00 or more each time you charge
something or use your ATM card. Check with your bank and see if they
charge a foreign exchange per transaction fee and how much it is.
Call twice to verify what they tell you.
Xerox or scan your passport and give a copy to
someone at home. They'll be able to fax or email it to you if you
lose yours. Take a copy with you and keep it in your suitcase.
You won't find this tip anywhere else! (YWFTTAE!)
Make sure your ATM pin is a four digits and
know the what the numbers are - not the four letter acronym!
European ATMs only accept four digits and many of them don't have the
three letter codes on top of each key. YWFTTAE!
Travel light. One suitcase of clothes
should be enough. Two max!!
Bring your own soap and shampoo. You may
not like what the hotel provides. If you're very sensitive, you may
even want to pack a roll of toilet paper. You can always toss it if
you don't need it. Also note that the mineral content in water
differs from city to city, so when you take a shower you may not lather up
the way you're used to at home. YWFTTAE!
Find out if your medical insurance covers
accidents abroad and what you should do if something happens.
Read up on food, etc... Learn what
things are called. Sometimes the menus will only be in Italian.
Our favorite guidebook is the
Eyewitness Travel Guide to Rome. The maps alone are worth it.
Dinner reservations are a must! Make
them early in the day!
Have wine every night!
Don't be cheap! Enjoy. Spend.
Pay it off later!
Take 100s of pictures. This is where
having a good digital camera and lots of RAM comes into play.
Pictures are man's means of reawakening our memories.
Make use of the safe that many hotel rooms
provide. I always do and I've never had an issue. It beats
carrying around tickets and things. The housekeeping staff does not
have a means of opening it but the front desk does.
You will have to hand over your passport when
you check into the hotel - but you can get it back an hour or two later.
Keep it with you at all times. It's your guarantee home and
it's your only real means of identification.
I recommend that you don't walk around with
tons of stuff, like three cameras, a camcorder, batteries, an umbrella,
guidebooks, etc... You're going to ruin your own trip by having to carry
too much stuff everywhere. Why carry around 10 lbs. of stuff when a
10 oz. digital camera will do? If you have to carry a lot of equipment,
use a backpack.
If you go on a shopping spree - buy extra
luggage while there to take it all home.
When you order gelato or coffee or whatever,
you pay for it first, get a receipt, and then hand that to the server.
YWFTTAE! Well, you might find this tip
Always have a bottle of water with you at
night in case you get thirsty. YWFTTAE!
What to take
A digital camera
Buy a lot of RAM - have at least 512Megs! At 4 mega-pixels, that'll
be 300 shots! At 3 megapixles, you have room for something like 500
Many of the photos here were taken with a dinky 2 mega-pixel camera and
they look great! 14 rolls of film (at 36 prints per roll you get 504
pictures) would cost you more than the price of extra RAM.
If you have an iPod, you can get something like the
Belkin Digital Camera Link - but make sure you get the right model for
your make of iPod. And if your camera uses rechargeable batteries, you may
need to take an electrical converter as well. See "an electrical
plug adaptor" below.
Dudes - leave the laptop at home. Learn some patience and wait until
you get home to look at your photos. "But William," you cry.
"I want to review my pictures and decide which ones to delete." My
response? Buy more RAM and Get a life! If you have to
take your laptop with you - you aren't on vacation! I don't care
what silly rational you have. Unless you're savings lives over email, you
can wait. Besides there are a zillion internet cafes all through
Italy. If you do bring your laptop, you might as well stay home and watch
the travel channel.
While we're on the subject of photos, ask yourself, "Am I on this trip to
take photos or to experience new surroundings?" Do you want to spend
more time looking though a viewfinder or through your eyes? Look at
the sites around you and photograph them for your memories. Don't
spend the trip looking through a viewfinder framing the right shot.
Learn how to read your camera. Once in Italy, your camera should be
able to tell you how many photos you've taken and how many more it can
hold. If you happen to be somewhere where you want to take dozens of
photos, drop the resolution down by 1 or 2 mega-pixels. A 256
meg card can hold like 500+ pictures at 2 mega-pixels each! Don't fret
about blow-ups. How many 8x10s do you actually own?
Also buy a second battery for your digital camera! This way during
the day you can leave one at the hotel charging, and have a fresh one for
nighttime flash pictures. Always start each day with a fully charged
Another nice thing about a good digital camera is that you can change the
ISO/ASA without having to load a new roll of film!
You won't find this tip anywhere else!
Here's the latest model of the
camera I used to take all the photos you find on this webpage. It's
You might also want to look at the one I have, an
earlier model: the
or the next model up, the
What I like about these cameras are that they comes with a
fantastic rechargeable battery that's very small and that doesn't
require a power converter to recharge it! All you have to do is plug
the charger into a
prong adaptor and you're set! Buy yourself a spare!
A pocket compass
Why? Ever look at a map and try to figure out which way is what?
"Which way do we go? Left or Right? The map says it's north of
Pull out your compass, get your bearing, and you're on your way! In
Ireland where we would need to walk 1/2 a mile to figure out if we made
the wrong turn, it was super-useful! I wish we had one in Mykanos!|
Get a tiny one and throw it in your bag.
Just one guide book
You already have enough to pack! I know you've probably bought
16 travel books and read a zillion internet pages. Do yourself a
favor and only take a single book. You're probably only interested
in 20 pages in each guide, so Xerox them. Once you're done visiting
a particular place, you can toss out the copy and have less to carry.
An electrical plug adaptor
adaptor will convert your U.S. plug | | into an Italian one --0
but will not convert the currency from 220 to 110. Do you need a
converter? Depends on what your taking with you. My
digital camera (Cannon - see above) and camcorder (Sony) both come with
electrical adaptors that support 110 and 220 volts. (my iPod does as
well). All I've needed to take with me is a plug adaptor and not a
Only if you need them. You can always buy more in Italy.
My sister had gotten me one that shows two time zones. It's neat
since you often wind up wondering what time it is back home.
Take at least $200 worth of Euros in as small denominations as possible -YWFTTAE!
Think of how difficult it would be to buy stuff here in the U.S. if all
you had were $100 bills. Once in Italy you can use the ATMs to get
more Euros - but make sure you make large withdrawals so that you don't
get constantly hit with ATM withdrawal fees. By the way -your PIN has to
be four digits in length. Also if you use a word as a PIN, memorize
what the corresponding numbers are.
U.S. Dollars - the universal
Plus when you get back to the U.S., you'll need money for a taxi.
Document what you've done and seen before going to bed, while having
breakfast, or while traveling. Even if it's a few lines like "Tuesday -
went to Vatican, Had dinner at La Italian Restaurant (3 Via Veneto).
Ordered penne and house red - the best wine in Rome!"
YWFTTAE! Years from now you'll be glad
you kept a journal. "What was that name of the restaurant... hold
on, let me get my Italy journal..." You can also use it to write down
check-lists, names of people you want to buy gifts for, good and bad
places you've eaten, address...
Here's a sample page from our journal
An address listing of people you want to
send postcards to
Don't take your address book or Palm. Print out or write the
addresses in your journal (see above).
YWFTTAE! Once you've mailed your postcard, you can cross off
their name or toss the sheet. One less thing to carry.
Visa, Master Card, Amex - One of each
(if you have them) and that's it. Don't overload your wallet with
too many credit cards that you may lose! Three are enough!
Also before you go, check your credit limit and make sure you can charge
up a storm!
A backpack. You'll use it to keep
your camera, etc.. Believe me, it beats carrying a bag.
What are you afraid of? That you'll look like a tourist? Dude
- I have news for you - You're speaking English, taking photos, and
looking at everything. You're not fooling anyone. I often
carry a backpack in New York and take tons of photos of stuff - and I live
The international phone numbers of your
credit card company. Keep the numbers in your suitcase or in
your journal. This way if you lose your card(s) you'll be able to
cancel them. Some of the better companies, such as American Express,
will even issue you a new card at their local office in Rome! And
CitiBank once FexEx'ed me a card to the Greek Islands (now that's
service!) while Chase Bank left me without a card! Now's the time to
call your credit card company and ask them what international provisions
they have in case you lose your card. YWFTTAE!
Your ATM Card
Your Passport (duh!)
A small umbrella or raincoat. But
you can always buy one there
Driver's license - I don't have one :-)
but it would be a good thing to have to rent a moped or car.
Your toothbrush and toothpaste.
Comfortable shoes or sneakers!
This needs some explaining. Each time we've traveled, we've
often bought fragile items or paintings, etc... that we either have had to
carry on-board or wrap in clothes. On our last trip, we took a small
carry-on suitcase stuffed with bubble wrap. As we bought wine,
frames, clocks, etc.. we wrapped them securely with bubble wrap and placed
them in the suitcase. We had a bit left over at the end of our trip,
which we tossed before we left. YWFTTAE!
Where we've stayed:
If you like what you've read here
and wish me to continue, let me know by emailing me at