Italy is a hot destination for many, but getting there and around can be tricky. Here’s some things our family learned while vacationing in Rome and in Tuscany this October. Maybe it’ll help your next trip!
- Bring cash. As in Euros. Our family has been living a pretty cashless life in the Netherlands, using our phones, and on rare occasion, our actual debit or credit cards, as payment when needed. Even sending our friends payments we do through mobile bank apps that immediately transfer the money from one bank account to the other. In Italy, many of the restaurants take cards, but some places, including a restaurant near the Colosseum require cash payment. Some others vendors who required it during our trip:
- our airport transfers from/to Rome’s FCO Airport
- the tourist/hospitality tax to our Tuscany AirBNB host
- the chefs who cooked at our villa (one was a full dinner, the other was a cooking class)
- our wine tour driver
- Be prepared for the smoke. I’m not trying to harp too much on this, but if you’re sensitive to cigarette smoke, you may want to keep a permanent mask over your face as there is little escape (except inside a museum, perhaps). I don’t think you can be Italian and not smoke. In our hometown in South Carolina, USA, smoking is basically prohibited in all public spaces. In Europe, and especially in Italy, inside is your only non smoking reprieve and even that is a stretch because the windows are open and all the smoke can come in from outside. We’ve experienced this in many of the European cities we’ve visited, but so far, Rome takes the cake. If you are a smoker, Italians are your people.
- Consider hiring a driver. Obviously in Rome, you can walk, easily get taxis, or use the buses if you want to get around. Rome has also now limited who can drive in the major parts of the city so if you rent a car to get to/from Rome, you may not be able to drive to your actual destination. Additionally, the drivers in Rome are all contending for positions on Formula 1 race teams and play some sort of car ping-pong or dodgeball game with mopeds. It is really nerve-racking if you aren’t used to it. Many of the roads in other cities like Florence, for example, changed their status recently to be one directional and Google maps has not caught up with that. So using your phone’s navigation is maybe 90% helpful with the last 10% a real nail biter. I think next time, we’d look into private transport to the cities we would want to visit. If you’re looking for one, I highly recommend the driver we used in Tuscany: Alessandro Torrini, Tourini Tour – +39 333 8140065.
- Get a tour guide. We had good luck even just hiring guides through Airbnb “experiences”. The guides were all experts and gave added knowledge that you wouldn’t get just guiding yourself around. Or bring your family’s art historian expert with you. That’s what we’ll do next time 🙂
- The photos you’ve seen won’t do it justice. The scale of the buildings in Rome and some other cities of Rome is mind blowing, but only once you’re there and feel the size staring down on you. According to one of our guides, Romans considered themselves descendants from the gods, so they wanted to present themselves that way by building these massive structures. It is hard to get good photos to do them justice, but your tour guides usually know the best spots.