1. Visit Rome, Florence, Amalfi & the uber popular tourist areas during shoulder season. If you do go during high season, plan on starting at the crack of dawn. If you start the day past 10 a.m. it will be you and a sea of selfie sticks. April through mid-June and September through October are the shoulder seasons. You will still enjoy mild weather and the crowds will be somewhat smaller. Although.. there are some places you just can’t win…i.e. Trevi Fountain!
2. Rent a car. You will see sooo much more. I have driven in 9 countries in Europe, up mountains in Costa Rica, through a storm in Iceland and resided and drove in NYC. Italy is really not that bad. Well…driving the Amalfi Coast takes a few years of your life, but still worth it! I usually use Auto Europe, but this time I changed my reservation in Rome to book directly through Hertz. It worked out much better. Auto Europe is a middle man. The prices may be lower, but the customer service is not the greatest. Drive a manual…it is so much more fun! Get a small but not a tiny car. It is convenient to have a small car for parking, but tiny cars have no pick up, and there are tractor trailers in Italy. If the driving part still makes you nervous, use the trains which are fabulous & fast. Oh…MOST IMPORTANT..Download Google Maps offline in every region you visit.
3. Stay in unique boutique hotels and or a vacation home rental platform like Airbnb or Homeaway. Sometimes the accommodations are not perfect, i.e. no top sheet on the bed, because Europeans often use just a duvet. Or, a shower that is not perfect, or only a Bialetti for coffee making (which I just purchased one when I arrived home..such a good cup of Joe!). These things help to make your experience authentic and real. Staying in a hotel chain seems on par with eating Big Macs while in Europe. I also like that you can cook some of your meals at home. See next bullet point.
Read here – How to pack for an Italian 3 week adventure
4. Cook at home some nights, and shop at the local markets (and Lidl..lol) Whenever I travel in Europe, I make a point of cooking at home a few nights a week. Grocery shopping in Italy is a treat. This is a country where they grow their own produce in the back yards and organic food costs less than non-organic. The food is so fresh and delicious and priced so affordably. I love seeing the local products, and the majority are grown and made in Italy. Preparing a meal is just as fun. The best part is al fresco dining in the Mediterranean climate. We discovered Lidl in Italy which I understand is already on the East Coast of the U.S. & we will be arriving soon on the West Coast!! Similar but better than Aldi.
5. Visit the Puglia (Apulia) Region. This sleepy region on the Adriatic Coast is a delight. We visited in May and the seaside resort towns were just unshuttering from the Winter. Early May was a wonderful time to visit. There were very few American tourists. It was mostly locals and Europeans. The locals were so hospitable, the sites were amazing, the food was divine and the non-touristy atmosphere was perfect for getting around & experiencing their culture. My favorite stops included Peschici, Monopoli and Otranto. Each town has a different vibe. Peschichi the Northernmost town in the Gargano Promontory is known for the coastal watch towers and is situated in the spur of the boot heel. Monopoli definitely has a Greek influence with white buildings and blue shutters. Monopoli also had a vibrant old City center. Otranto is extremely historical dating back to the 1100s. In 1480 Otranto was sacked by the Turks, and 800 residents were killed for not converting to Islam. There are so many other amazing small towns and cities like Alberobello, Polignano a Mare and Lecce.
Read here for the 10 reasons why Helsinki should be on your bucket list
Read here for a self-guided walking tour of Copenhagen
6. Try to speak a little bit of Italian. Before blurting out something in English try “Parli Inglese?” Do you speak English. Most Italians we met said, “Un po or poco” a little bit. After that it may become a game of charades, but it shows an effort on our part as tourists. Also you never know who you will meet by trying to communicate effectively.
7. Do not expect to have dinner or shop between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. In the less touristy areas we visited the locals take their Siesta seriously. We would eat a nice meal around 1:30 p.m., and then be ready for dinner at 8 p.m. or later. After a week in Italy this ritual became routine, and I enjoyed it. The residents of the small towns (and cities) participate in La Passeggiatta or the Evening Promenade from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Families go out with their children and babies in prams and walk the streets and visit with their friends. It is such a wonderful tradition, and I wish we had something similar in the U.S. You can really feel the sense of community in Italy.
The best part of travel for me is meeting the locals and trying my best to live like them for the period of time I am in their Country. Overall, Italy has been one of the most hospitable countries that I have visited. The people are so warm and I had several experiences of Italians going out of their way to help me when I was looking for something, or could not understand a street sign. I look forward to traveling back to Italy to visit the regions I did not make it to during this adventure. I hope this blog entry gives you some tips and that you get the opportunity to travel to this wonderful Country.
If you enjoyed reading this post pin it to Pinterest and share it on Facebook