5 lessons learned from traveling Italy

5 lessons learned from traveling Italy

You’ve probably read about all the things we LOVED about Italy. Italy is such a beautiful country — and we thoroughly enjoyed our time! With that said, there are some things we would have done differently. If you’re traveling there soon, check out these 5 lessons learned from traveling Italy!

And if you haven’t read about all the things we loved about Italy yet, check these posts out:

5 lessons learned from traveling Italy

Let’s jump right in!

Ask questions!

Especially if this is one of your first times traveling in Italy (and/or Europe) — you might have questions about how things work.

Where do I sit on the train? Who do I ask for the bill? Where can I find the timetable for the ferry?

Just some examples! But we learned that if you have questions — just ask!

We had a situation on one of the trains where we didn’t sit in the right car. It didn’t seem very clear to us, but after some discussion between the two of us, we asked a nice person nearby. They directed us to the right car.

You can solve a lot of things by asking questions!

Always double check your tickets after your order

This piece of advice, is coming from one bad experience we had.

We were buying an all-day ferry pass for the central of Lake Como. I purchased two tickets. She gave me a receipt and what I thought were two tickets. A few minutes later when we sat down for an espresso, I realized I just had one ticket. I still don’t know if I dropped one ticket somewhere or if she accidently dropped it.

Either way, this could have all been mitigated if I double-checked the tickets and receipt that she gave me — right then and there.

It was a headache to get that second ticket….

This isn’t necessarily specific to Italy. But it’s a good piece of advice anywhere you travel: always double check your tickets!

Learn some basic Italian

We learned some basic Italian before traveling to Italy. I found that it was really helpful, useful, and appreciated especially in the Piedmont region, northwest Italy. In that region there was more of a language barrier.

So baristas and store staff always appreciated us trying to speak Italian.

“Mi scusi” — I always said this before jumping into a question — excuse me.

“Per favore due espressi” — my favorite thing to do was to order two espressos!

“Grazie mille” — always say thank you!

“Buongiorno” or “Buonasera” to always say hello, either good morning or good evening.

In other parts of Italy, we noticed that our Italian was needed less and maybe even less appreciated because it was easier to just speak English.

But I still feel strongly that it’s always a good idea to try the local language.

Buy all train tickets in advance — whenever possible

Through most of our travels in Italy, we bought train tickets in advance. We booked through ItaliaRail.

The experience was excellent — you can purchase online in advance and then you get QR codes with your train tickets emailed to you.

I downloaded the tickets as well as took screenshots of the QR code just to make sure we had multiple options.

We had NO issues with this at all traveling through Italy. So I highly recommend doing this in advance — at least if you know where you’re going and when.

You can do things spontaneously for sure! But even then — it might still help to purchase your tickets in advance.

There was one train ticket we didn’t purchase in advance and — of course — we ran into some issues.

We had some confusion in Cinque Terre where we wanted to train hop between the five villages. We read that there’s a full day train pass you can buy to hop around. But when we got to the train station early morning to purchase the ticket, it was too early so staff weren’t there. We had to purchase on the kiosk and we totally sure we bought the right ticket.

We went through the day thinking it was the right ticket — and even asked a staff — albeit with a language barrier.

Long story short — a random train ticket checker found that we didn’t have the correct tickets….

This was another headache…

For those interested, a full-day pass hopping from village to village in Cinque Terre (that also includes the hiking option) is called the Cinque Terre Treno MS Card. It should cost about 18 euros.

It is well worth it!

Google Translate!

The last of the 5 lessons learned from traveling Italy is to use Google Translate!

Like learning the language — Google Translate helped us in many scenarios — most of these in the Piedmont region.

We actually didn’t have international data, so we unfortunately couldn’t use Google Translate in real time. But if we did have it — we would have used it!

Instead, before we would leave our Airbnb or our hotel, we would use Google Translate and save the translation in our notes.

This was particularly useful when we were doing some genealogy stuff in the rural Piedmont area and we had questions we wanted to ask the city-hall staff.

There were language barriers, but we were still able to read from our notepad OR just show them our phone. It helped us out a lot and we even got some great connections out of it!

Like I said at the beginning, we had a phenomenal time in Italy! I want to live there 😉

But no matter where you go there will be challenges an frustrations. These things don’t frame my trip experience. But after reflecting we want people to know some of these tips so they can mitigate any hiccups on their amazing Italy trip!


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