Useful tips are everywhere; especially travel ones. We are hoping that these useful tips are ones that are not usually covered but are just as valuable. Please let us know if you have one we should add to this post!
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1. Bring or Not To Bring – – That is the question!
These are just a few things we seem to bring on every 90-day trip to Italy. It always seems when we are there that I need a few things that I am just used to having around my home kitchen. For example, Italians don’t really use salad dressing. For them, oil and vinegar and the answer. We both like that but I like to add a few more things like mustard, lemon, and herbs. I found a cute little plastic container to make my own dressing at the Container Store that I really like to use and it’s easy to pack. Another example is ice cubes. You would think every apartment we rented had ice cube trays but they don’t. The Dollar Stores in town sold ice bags that you fill and are disposable; they were a pain!
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Ice cube trays
- Ziplock bags, of various sizes
- Microfiber towels
- Plastic container with a spout to make salad dressing
2. August in Italy
Italy can be hot during August and a great deal of the tourist spots are crowded. The other thing to note about August is that many places might be closed. August is the month that Italians take their summer family vacations. You will notice many small shops, cafes, and restaurants will be shut down. Most museums, art galleries, and such should be open but you will want to check ahead of time on their days and times as they might be adjusted.
3. Traveling by Train
Don’t be afraid of using the trains in Europe; they are an excellent way to travel. Growing up on Long Island, New York I will tell you that the trains in Europe are nothing like the Long Island Railroad! They are reasonable and a very relaxing way to see the countryside. I will also say that the food and coffee are fantastic! We had instant coffee from a tube that we thought was freshly brewed; it was that good.
Both these books beautifully capture the essence of Italy, its people, and the strong sense of community that defines life in small Italian towns. With lyrical prose and reflections, Ilene & Gary invite readers to accompany them on a journey of self-discovery and transformation in the heart of Tuscany.
The high-speed trains (Eurostar) are a great way to get to your destination fast. So you don’t deal with lines and crowds at the stations, you can purchase your rail tickets online. If you are going to be traveling around the country, Rail Europe offers some great bargains and you can even save sometimes up to 80% by purchasing the tickets way in advance.
Another useful tip regarding train travel was a previous post published on May 11, 2017. You can take a peek at how to save money https://ouritalianjourney.com/important-save-money-tip-train-saturday/
Our 5 Useful Tips Continues…
4. Validating Your Tickets!
You must validate your ticket before you get on the train. There is a small box (usually yellow or green in color but not always) that you put your ticket in to validate. It puts a time stamp on the ticket. Take a moment and make sure that the ticket has a time punch written on it. A few times I heard the “click” of the machine but never saw the time-stamped. You should stamp the “underside” of the ticket too. If you are unsure which is the underside, a timestamp is better than no stamp!
If you are going on a regional train (not one that gives you a seat number), you need to stamp your ticket versus a Eurostar train in that you are assigned a seat. To be honest, we stamp our tickets regardless. It is just a good habit to get into and there is no harm in stamping any ticket! If you get on the train and the conductor checks your ticket and you have not validated it, you might be charged a fine. The fine can be whatever the conductor feels is appropriate. I’m not sure but I believe fines are paid in cash (Euros).
This also applies to bus tickets, stamp them in the machine on the bus as soon as you get on. Although inspectors on the busses are not as conspicuous as they are on trains, they do exist and they do issue fines, both to locals and tourists.
4. Entrance Tickets to Museums
Another useful tip is about your precious vacation time. Lines are usually long and depending on the time of year you go, it can be hot standing in line to get into a museum. This is one reason for organizing your trip is so important.
A perfect example was the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. We had already purchased our tickets, knowing the day we planned to be there. When we passed the museum, the line was crazy long. We went into the office, showed our receipt, and collected our tickets. We walked right into the museum. Rick Steves’s travel books are wonderful for providing information such as this (he’s not a relative or anything!)
5. Document Backup
Our last useful tip is to keep your documents safe and backed up. This might be the most important tip of all. We always take photos of our travel documents (passports, visas, driver’s licenses, birth certificates, insurance (and health and travel), and keep them on each of our smartphones. I also make a Word document (then convert it to a PDF) and list all of the emergency phone numbers of places (cities) we will be traveling. For example, if we are going to be in Florence, the US Embassy, the local police, and other important phone numbers and their addresses. We also upload these JPEG or PDF copies to the cloud. Since we travel with our laptops, I put all of these documents on a thumb drive too.
When we are walking around town, I carry both our physical passports. We also carry a copy of each other’s passports, just in case.
The police (Carabinieri) at times do random checks against your travel documents. It might be difficult to communicate that you have left them in your hotel room. Save yourself the possibility of a tense moment.
This just might be considered #6 in useful tips but I wanted to include a simple sample of itineraries we use when traveling. They are in a simple format (you can use MS Word or Excel) to create and something that is easy to reference. We always include costs and whether we have already paid for admission. A good way to include days you need to order tickets or make reservations. Also, museums especially are not open every day of the week. I always include the operating days as sometimes the weather would change what we wanted to visit that day. By looking at our itinerary, I knew we could switch one event for another.
We now have 14-day travel books that I have designed and created available. I have to say, I use these now…