Italy Vacation: Introduction & Travel Tips

5 Cities
4 train rides
3 hotels
2 Airbnb’s
2 DMB concerts
Countless pizzas, sandwiches, bowls of pasta, and glasses of prosecco and aperol spritz

…And 142,911 steps!  Guess that kind of makes up for the food and drink indulgences.

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Rialto Bridge, Venice Italy

My husband and I both agree that this was one of our favorite trips yet, and we are already talking about going back.  There is just so much to see, do, and taste in Italy that 10 days wasn’t enough.  We did, however, manage to cram a lot into those days and experienced as much as we could.

I’ve broken down my Italy Travel Blog into 6 sections:  Introduction & Travel Tips, Venice, Padova, Bologna, Florence, and Rome. Hopefully you will enjoy the stories and pictures, and if you are planning a vacation to this wonderful country, the tips I’ve included are based on both what I read during my research prior to leaving as well as our actual experiences while there.

Top Tips

  1. Do your research and plan ahead. Sure, being spontaneous is part of the fun as well, but mapping out your days will maximize your time there.  Additionally, many of the sites require tickets (that do sell out), so don’t waste your time waiting in long lines.  Plan ahead, and buy tickets in advance when you can.
  2. Be prepared to walk! I hate to say this, but if you are mobility-challenged, you may find yourself frustrated in Italy.  The age of the cities and buildings does not make them friendly to folks with wheelchairs or strollers (although I was stunned at how many families we saw with strollers).  I can’t say this enough: Comfortable shoes are a must!
  3. Visit more than one city. Italy has a fabulous train system so I highly recommend visiting multiple cities traveling by train.  The trains are clean and comfortable, the system is easy to navigate and relatively inexpensive.  And, they get you there fast!
  4. Pack smart. I go into more detail below, but remember that the old, narrow walkways of Italy can be difficult to traverse with lots of big, heavy luggage.  Take no more than a good backpack, and a quality rolling suitcase that can withstand cobblestones and bricks and make sure it is a 360 spinner so you can easily get through the crowded streets.
  5. Learn some key Italian words and phrases.You’ll be surprised at how appreciative the locals are when you can greet them and thank them in their language. Learn numbers for shopping, ordering food, and getting to specific addresses as well as the common greetings used in the day, evening, and when leaving.  And of course, please and thank you are a must!
  6. Open your mind and explore. Eat things you’ve never eaten before.  Learn about local culture and customs.  Try an Airbnb instead of a hotel.  Don’t just rely on cabs, try the bus or subway (unfortunately, there was no Uber or Lyft when we visited).  Strike up conversations with folks who speak English, ask for recommendations, and show interest in what they have to say.
  7. Have a plan for souvenirs. You don’t want to forget anyone, so make a quick list of people you want to buy for, and get something of local flavor (not just cheap trinkets from a vendor or I LOVE ITALY t-shirts).  Think about bringing back items actually made in Italy like wine, limoncello, leather goods, pasta, and other items.  Make sure you understand customs laws when it comes to re-entering the U.S. (or your local country).  We did not attempt to bring any meats or cheeses, but we did bring back plenty of wine and pasta!  Also, think about how to get it home.  I shipped a box from a Mailboxes Etc. store (they’re all over Italy) for $100.  We also purchased a cheap rolling suitcase from a vendor for $20 and checked it as an extra bag (which also cost $100 with United Airlines).  So we spent over $200 just getting the souvenirs home.
  8. Speaking of money, get your currency (Euros) from an ATM once you get there. There is really no need to order currency from your bank ahead of time, and the exchange places at the airport are a rip-off.  Use your bankcard at an ATM and most likely you’ll just have to pay the out of network ATM fee charged by your bank and/or the ATM fee.  You can use a credit card at most places, including in most taxis, but you’ll need cash as well.  And, make sure you always have a few 1 Euro coins in your pocket because some bathrooms require payment.
  9. Get an international data plan. Contact your wireless provider and choose a plan that is right for you.  Mine was a flat rate of $10 per day, plus what I normally pay.  I warned my husband about the cost of international roaming, and sure enough, during our first day in Venice he received an alert that he had already spent over $100 roaming.
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Botanical Gardens, Padova Italy

Italy Vacation:  Packing Smart

I have a very hard time travelling light.  I always over pack and end up lugging around large, heavy suitcases.  I was determined not to do that this time, especially since I knew we’d be hopping on and off trains while visiting multiple cities. All I wanted to take was a good backpack, a small crossbody purse, and a 20” rolling suitcase.

The Gear

My mom bought me this awesome SwissGear backpack for my birthday.  It was perfect for this trip.  The straps are super comfortable and there are lots of pockets and compartments.  It has a special section for a laptop and a pocket for your tablet (I did not bring my laptop but I did bring my iPad). I kept my camera, all of my charging cables, plugs, and European power converters (bring more than 1!), my iPad, travel pillow, medications, snacks, glasses & sunglasses, and a small cosmetics bag in my backpack.

italy-backpack

I normally carry large handbags, but for this trip I wanted a small crossbody that was more useful than stylish, but still looked good.  I chose this Travelon Anti-Theft Heritage Small Crossbody and it was perfect.  I fit my passport, credit cards and money, sunglasses, tissues, lip balm, Tylenol, and even a small umbrella in it.  It is slash-proof and has an RFID blocking pocket as well as a tiny little LED light so you can see what’s inside in the dark!  This is definitely the perfect travel purse.

italy - crossbody

I have a few different suitcases, but chose my London Fog 21” hardside expandable spinner since it’s smaller, but sturdy and the wheels on it glide smoothly.  Let me tell you, that baby rolled along cobblestones like a champ! I also like that it has a TSA approved lock on it, so I always felt like the contents were secure.

Italy - suitcase

Now, I’ve always considered myself an ace at rolling up clothes – I can get a lot of clothes into a suitcase.  The problem is finding what I’m looking for and having to unpack half of it to find that one top, and then re-roll and re-pack everything.  When I’m travelling to just one destination for a week, I unpack and hang stuff up, so it’s not a huge deal but knowing we were going to be on the move, I realized I had to have another option.  I decided to try using packing cubes, and I am now a packing cube lover!  Why didn’t I use these bad boys sooner?  They really don’t add any weight to your suitcase and are great at helping keep everything organized.  I bought this set on Amazon for under $20.  It was awesome to have all my tops in one cube, bottoms in another, and underwear and sox in another.  They really helped me to not only stay organized, but also to maximize the space in my suitcase.  And, as I got towards the end of my trip I was able to use them to separate my dirty clothes from my clean.

italy - packing cubes

The Clothes

I had been watching the weather and reading about the climate and new it would be in the high 50’s to low 70’s during the day and cooling down to the 40’s in the evening while we were there in late March/early April, which is similar to spring here in GA.  Layers were going to be essential, so in planning my outfits, I made sure I had a combination of long and short sleeve tops as well as cardigans for layering. Because I wanted to pack as little as possible, I decided to choose pieces that I could mix and match and that were in a similar color scheme (mostly black).  This also helped me to limit shoes.

Shoes– this is where I usually go wrong.  I often end up bringing 6 or 7 different pairs to go with different outfits.  That was going to be impossible for this trip so I decided to take just 3 pairs (wearing 1, packing 2).  Knowing it was going to be cool in the evenings and that we’d be walking a lot, I chose to skip out on anything open-toed and anything with a heel.  Yep.  I did not pack a single pair of heels!  I have never travelled without heels, because I wear them at least 5-6 days a week.  Instead, I chose to bring a cute pair of black flats that worked with both skinny jeans and skirts, and a pair of stylish Steve Madden leopard print sneakers (to break up the monotony of all the black!).  I also purchased a pair of Rockport waterproof ankle booties specifically for the trip (which I wore on the plane so they didn’t take up space in my suitcase).  I did a lot of research and purchased what I thought were the most comfortable walking shoes I could get that were waterproof and didn’t sacrifice style.  They looked good with skinny jeans and leggings.  My feet never hurt and I never got any blisters from any of my shoes.

Outfits– I brought the following items, which I was able to mix and match for my outfits each day. I wore most pieces twice each. The only things I did not wear at all were the skirt and the short sleeve black sweater.  It was just too cool in the evenings for skirts, and we really didn’t dine anywhere super fancy.  I only wore the dress once – the rest of our evenings out were in jeans.

Bottoms:  2 pairs denim skinny jeans, 1 black leggings, 1 black skinny jeans, 1 denim jeggings

Tops:  2 long sleeve t’s (one black, one white), 2 cardigans (one black, one gray), denim button down, black blouse, olive green blouse, black/white stripe top, 2 graphic t’s, floral tunic length blouse, and 4 camis (2 white, 2 black).

Other:  2 scarfs (one leopard, one floral to add color and mix things up), 1 black dress, 1 black floral skirt, and a short sleeve black sweater. Also, socks, underwear, bras, and 1 pair of pajama pants.

Outerwear:  I brought a black jean jacket and a black raincoat with a hood.  I wore the black jean jacket nearly every day, and the raincoat came in handy for the 2 days that it rained!

Miscellaneous Items

Don’t forget the following when packing for a trip:

  • Raincoat and umbrella (purse size)
  • Small Ziploc with Band-Aids, Tylenol, Dramamine, antacids, wet wipes or hand sanitizer
  • Prescription medicines
  • Tissues
  • All of your charging cables and adapters/power converters for the country you are visiting (bring more than one, otherwise you can only charge one device at a time)
  • Earplugs and a sleep mask
  • Photocopy of your passport (in case yours is lost or stolen)
  • Hard copies of all of your reservations and pre-paid tickets (in case you can’t access them from your phone it’s good to have paper back-ups!)

Things I brought but didn’t use:

  • Selfie stick – I found all the tourists with selfie sticks in hand to be obnoxious and couldn’t bring myself to use ours. I kind of wish we did take at least a couple pictures together with one, but it never came out of my backpack
  • My good camera -I brought it out one day in Venice and found it much easier to just use my phone.  I have the latest iPhone and it takes great pictures.  I do like using my good camera, but it was big and bulky and just seemed cumbersome to carry around all day
  • Travel Hair Dryer – the hotels and Airbnb’s all had dryers, and honestly I only washed my hair twice the entire trip! Dry shampoo is the greatest invention ever!!!

Overall, I’m happy with my packing choices – I feel like I didn’t overpack, but I still had plenty to wear with some variety.

Itinerary for a 10 Day Italian Vacation

Day 1:  Travel Day
Days 2-3:  Venice (Venezia)
Day 4:  Padua (Padova)
Days 5-6:  Bologna
Day 7:  Florence (Firenze)
Days 8-9:  Roma (Roma)
Day 10:  Travel Day

Click here for Italy Vacation Part 1:  Venice

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1 reply

  1. Good tips. I especially agree with the packing light advice. We had some luggage disasters on a recent trip and decided to take only carry on luggage after that. It was not as impossible as I thought and I will always do that from now on. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

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