Essential Travel Information Before Going to Italy
Italy travel: Weather
The climate in Italy varies throughout the year with November seeing the most rainfall and July being not only the driest but hottest month, with temperatures rising into the 90s. January is typically Italy's coldest month with an average high of 44 degrees Fahrenheit in northern Italy and 59 in southern Italy.
If your plan is indoor activities anyway, be aware that late spring through early autumn will have the biggest crowds and the highest prices, and the colder months are far more travel-friendly for Italian attractions.
Italy travel: Language
Italian is the language of choice in Italy; however, you will find many English-speaking locals in the busier tourist areas. Having a translation dictionary is a good idea for traveling anywhere off the beaten path, including many restaurants -- make sure your dictionary has an extensive food section! The Italians have so many different preparations of food, you might not recognize a single dish on a menu.
Here are a few basic words you'll need to know when you travel to Italy. Flip the R's.
Yes - Sì ("SEE")
No - No ("NO")
Please - Per favore ("pair fah-VO-ray")
Thank you - Grazie ("GRAHT-see-yeh")
How much is this - Quanto costa ("KWAN-to CO-sta")
Bill please - Il conto, per favore ("ill CON-to pair fah-VO-ray")
Restroom - Toilette ("toy-LEH-tay")
Italy travel: Money
Italy is on the euro. Sorry, America. You should expect a euro to go about as far as a dollar, but unfortunately, it costs more. Also, if you haven't dealt with euros before, be aware that your change can be worth a lot of money, with coin values up to 2 euros being quite common -- keep an eye on it!
Italy travel: Food
Italian food is not American-Italian food. If you're bored by pasta in the USA, be sure and try the unbelieveable handmade stuff here at the source. Futhermore, it's served as an appetizer. Well, actually no -- antipasti would be considered an appetizer, and pasta is its own course. Don't worry, everything's usually listed on the menu in the order in which it is served. You'll notice that salad comes later in the meal, as they believe the ruffage helps digest all the starch. Also, find yourself a gelato shop where the fragola (strawberry) flavor looks nice and dark, and you may end up skipping meals in favor of huge cups of gelato. Hey, you're on vacation!
Italy travel: Voltage
Italy is wired for 220V, 50HZ electricity and the outlets fit two skinny pole prongs. Adapters can be purchased in most Italian markets, and pretty much no laptop, phone or camera produced this millennium comes without an internal converter. The only regular appliance likely to give you trouble is your curling iron.
Italy travel: CulturalDifferences
Like France, Italy pretty much shuts down during August, but the tourist attractions in Italy will still be up and running. In other words, don't expect to meet many Italians if you're going to Italy in August; they're all on vacation. Also, you can expect businesses to shut down for two hours each afternoon for lunch. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day in Italy and most businesses take one hour to eat their lunch and use the second hour as a naptime. Most businesses remain open later into the evening to compensate.
If you don't speak any Italian, the Italian people may be short with you and you may well find shopowners and waiters who will pretend not to speak a word of English. However, if you use your dictionary and make an effort, you'll find that most Italians are very accommodating -- though not always patient. Don't take it personally.
Italy travel: What you can bring back
You're likely to fall in love with Italian food and wine. The good news is, you can bring some back! The bad news is, there are limits. Regulations stipulate that you can bring two liters of wine per person back into the United States; in your checked suitcase of course, due to liquid regulations. Do people get away with bringing in more? Certainly, but it's a risk and illegal. If you want to bring more wine back, have it shipped.
As for pasta and other foods, you can generally bring home anything that's dried, and even cured cheeses if they're vacuum-packed, but definitely no meat (not even cured or vacuum-packed meat). If you're unsure about what you can get away with, save your take-home food shopping for the Duty Free shop at the airport, where they'll seal everything in a special duty-free bag and no one will give you any trouble. It may cost a little more there, but at least you won't risk having all your edible souvenirs confiscated.
Photo by Annie Scott.