How to prepare for a trip to Italy

How to prepare for a trip to Italy

We are in the process of planning our honeymoon to northern Italy. Check out our 2 week northern Italy honeymoon itinerary if you haven’t already. Italy is a traveler’s dream! How could you not want to travel to Italy. Whether you’re thinking of traveling or you already have your plane tickets in-hand read on about how to prepare for a trip to Italy.

These tips are written in order of preparation timeline.

Check out other trip planning posts:

How to prepare for a trip to Italy

Check visa requirements

This is the first thing you should always do when looking into an international trip: do you need a visa? I recommend always checking out the U.S. Department of State (for U.S. citizens) for information. They have a page for each country around the world with a summary of the information you need to know.

As a U.S. citizen you do not need a visa for Italy if you’re traveling for less than 30 days.

Get/update your passport

Again, visit the U.S. Department of State if you need to get a passport or renew it. A couple important things about passports:

  • You usually need 2 blank passport pages when flying into a new country
  • Your passport must be valid for at least 3 months from your departure date to your destination (I have also heard you need 6 months validity….)

Monitor safety guidance

Again, find safety information, and any travelers alerts on the State Department’s website. You can look at safety alerts for specific regions of where you will be traveling in Italy. They give you important information about what events might be coming up where you may need to exercise increased caution.

For example, I have seen “security alerts” about soccer matches where there may be large crowds — where increased vigilance is important.

Check traveler’s health and public health recommendations for Italy

You can find this on the State Department’s website for Italy as well as the CDC’s Traveler’s Health website. As of June 2023 there are no traveler health notices for Italy.

Get vaccinated?

Two things:

First, using the same CDC website you can find information on vaccinations that they recommend you get for your own health while traveling to Italy. They just recommend routine vaccinations (including COVID)

Second, using the State Department’s website, check out what vaccines are required for entry into the country. As of June 2023, there are no vaccine requirements (COVID vaccine is not required at this time).

Learn/practice Italian

This is personal preference, but I recommend learning some phrases before your travel. You can check out my post on tips for learning a language for travel.

Duolingo is my go-to for learning some of the language. Right now my husband and I have a competition set up against each other through the app to learn Italian. It’s so fun!

With that said, Duolingo doesn’t necessarily teach you specific phrases useful for travel. So I also recommend looking up and learning how to say some basic phrases:

  • Thank you
  • Hello/good day/good morning
  • Please
  • Can you help me please?
  • Do you speak English?
  • I don’t speak Italian (insert language here)
  • Where is the bathroom

Research destinations

This is my favorite part of the travel-planning journey! Have fun researching the places you want to travel! Watch Youtube videos, read books, and check-out blogs. Just get inspired!

Note: if you don’t enjoy this part, maybe ask a friend or travel companion to take the lead on this. You could also hire a travel advisor to help you with this step and some of the following steps.

Create a rough itinerary

From your research, I recommend creating a very “rough” itinerary. By that I mean:

  • What cities do you want to spend your time in
  • What airport do you want to fly in and out of
  • Do you have any bucket list items
  • How long can you get off of work
  • When will your trip by?

Book plane tickets

Once you’ve figured out your rough itinerary, book your plane tickets!

This might involve a little time. If you are on a budget and want to wait for a good deal, you can do this if you give yourself enough time. Set up Google flights to notify you of deals on your route. But if

But if you are already 3-4 months away, you might just have to take the plunge and book the tickets.

Create a more detailed itinerary

Once you have your plane tickets, create a more detailed itinerary. You don’t have to be super detail oriented or a planner to do this. But I do recommend confirming the routes you want to go and how long you want to stay at each place. This is important for the next step.

Book accommodation

Book your accommodation! While I am a supporter of spontaneous travel, Italy is a popular destination and books up REALLY fast. For Italy, I would not advise to booking last minute.

You can check out my post on some great resources for travel bookings. We have had great experience with international Airbnb bookings. With that said, we are doing mostly hotels this time in Italy (through Booking.com).

One reason we are doing more hotels on our Italy trip is because of some of the conveniences that come with this (early arrival luggage storage, breakfast included, concierge for travel recommendations, etc.). With that said, I have only amazing things to say about Airbnb.

Book inter-country transport (car rental, airfare, train, etc)

We are renting a car for half of our trip and then traveling via train for the second half.

We are renting our car from Turin and dropping off in Florence through Sixt. We first rented a car through Sixt in Croatia (read more here!) and it was great! We had it for 2 weeks to drive throughout the country. It was a dream….

Then I booked our inter-city train tickets from Geneva to Turin, Florence to Cinque Terre, and Cinque Terre to Geneva. I booked tickets through ItaliaRail. Tickets are delivered right to your email. You can print them out or take screenshots of the ticket through a QR code. ItaliaRail and Trenitalia both come highly recommended for booking tickets in advance throughout Italy.

Book excursions

Book any excursions you want to do while you’re traveling throughout Italy. This is a really fun part. I don’t like to “overbook” ourselves with things. But I also like to set up 1-2 things in each place we go to orient us. I like to use sites like Airbnb experiences, Viator, and Trip Advisor.

We actually don’t have all our excursions booked for Italy yet, but these are some that I’m looking into:

  • Turin cooking class
  • Lake Como boat tour
  • Tuscany wine tour
  • Florence history tour
  • Florence sunset walking tour
  • Cinque Terre boat tour
  • Portofino boat tour

They’re simple and some of the same, but I personally don’t like to over-do the excursions in advance. I like to leave room for spontaneity and wandering down cobblestone streets.

Set up international texting/calling if you want

I usually just do a local SIM card or rely on Whatsapp through Wifi. But my husband usually sets up international calling and texting with his phone company.

Check with your phone company to decide what is best for you.

Create a packing list

Even though it might seem early, I like to create a packing list ~1 month out. Then you know if you need to buy anything. For example, do you need a new bathing suit or a new summer dress because it’ll be so hot?

This gives you time to order any new items you might need.

Download Google Translate and Google Maps

These are 2 of the best resources I always recommend having downloaded onto your phone when traveling in another country. Then you do not need to rely on data. You can use the maps you downloaded while you’re driving in a car, etc. The only catch is that it will not be updated if there is an update (ie construction or car accident).

But this has worked well for us.

Organize and distribute contact information/addresses for each place

I usually compile the addresses and phone numbers of all the destinations we will be staying at and the dates. This is for emergency purposes only. It’s not an exciting trip-planning step. But I do think it’s important.

I keep this on hand for us, but then we also text the information to our immediate family.

Make photocopies of passport and license/ID

Another boring step: make photocopies of your passport and license or ID. I usually have a printed copy that I keep on me (separate from my passport). You could also have photos saved to your phone.

In the event that anything is stolen, you can go to the U.S. embassy to get assistance. From what I’ve heard and read, a photocopy of your passport can be really important.

Get some Euros from your bank

If you’re able to, “order” some Euro’s from your local bank. You can carry this in your wallet and don’t have to worry about finding an ATM when you arrive in Italy all jet-lagged.

While in Colombia we made the mistake of not having local currency in cash right away. Our hotel had arranged a driver to pick us up from the airport. It was customary (and expected) to tip the driver, but we had no way to get cash out.

So if you’re able to get ~200 Euros out in cash, I recommend it. It’s good for emergencies and for tips.

It’s also helpful, because most hotels in Italy require a “tax” in cash to be paid (~3-5 Euro/person). I didn’t know this and would not have been prepared if I hadn’t done my research. So we will make sure we have some cash on-hand.

Notify your bank/cards of your travel plans

Some banks and credit cards require this. Some do not. But for most you’re able to make a travel notification on your app/account. Make sure you do this for those that require it.

The last thing you want while traveling in Italy is to have to worry because your card got frozen….

Pack!

I love packing! But not everyone does. But it is a necessary step, indeed. I would pack 2 weeks in advance, because I get so excited! But you might pack the night before if you’re “normal.”

Personally, I don’t recommend packing last minute, because what if you forgot you need to buy something. What if you have misplaced something… do yourself a favor and give yourself at least a day to pack….

Check-in online

If you’re able to, check-in for your flight online the night before!

Wear comfortable travel clothes

Finally, wear comfortable clothes and shoes for your long journey to Italy!

Writing this post has made me so excited for our trip to Italy — our 2 week honeymoon!!! I hope this inspires you to plan a trip to Italy. I hope it makes the trip preparation phase fun and enjoyable.

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