Ty and I just arrived back in the states from Europe last night!! We spent last night at his parent’s house considering it was 1AM back in Italy when we arrived! We were exhausted after traveling since 5:30AM Italian time!! Whew, what a day!!! While we’ll be spending the next few days acclimating back to EST and probably catching up on a little bit of sleep, we’re stoked to get back into our routine and kick off our fall wedding season this weekend at the Greenbrier!!!
One of my favorite things to do before we travel is to research blogs where people have shared about their journeys – what they did, what they loved and even what they would do differently if they could go back!! I’ve traveled quite a lot in my short few years of life, but I still feel like I learn new things every time we go somewhere!! And this trip was no different!! So here we go –
5 Do’s We Learned On Our Italian Adventure
- Do check site closings, transportation activity (like strikes, if you can or cannot drive in a certain city, tolls + cost of tolls, etc) and any other major road conditions that may hinder your travel!!
- This is super important if you plan on driving around the country!! We didn’t do a great job at this and kinda just went with the flow. The good news is that 9 times out of 10 this worked well for us!! That is until we were on our way to Venice and had planned to stop through Florence on the way. We knew we had a water bus that we had to catch by 4PM in Venice, so we were on a bit of a time crunch.I was reading my Rick Steves Italy book as we were approaching the outskirts of Florence and realized that we couldn’t park inside the city unless we had a special pass issued by the government. That meant that we would have had to park in a garage outside the city and taxi 20 minutes into the city. We really only had 2 hours of wiggle room before we had to be on the road to Venice and the risk was too great. So we didn’t get to see Florence – sad day!!! I was definitely bummed because Florence is one of my favorite cities in Italy but we definitely could have avoided this if we had done more research beforehand!! Also, the statue of David is closed on Monday and that’s one of the main things we wanted to see in Florence…also didn’t know that until we were driving in!! The other thing that we ran into was a water strike that was happening in Venice on the day that we arrived. Luckily our amazing AirBnB host reached out to us to let us know there was a strike and helped us make other arrangements to get on the island!! We had to reserve a parking spot in a garage and rent a private water taxi to take us from Piazzale Roma to the Rialto Bridge!! And after all that was said and done, we realized we totally could have returned the rental car to the airport and then taken a water taxi back to the Rialto Bridge. Laws. That would have saved us some money!!
- Do eat at as many different restaurants as you can
- We didn’t eat one meal at the same place twice and I’m SO glad that we were intentional about this!!! We didn’t have a bad meal in all of Italy and we all loved trying so many different things!! While we did have a lot of the same things like pasta and pizza (and I may have ordered bruschetta at every single dinner) it was all different!! By far our favorite meal was in Panzano!! We hadn’t planned to drive through here but one of our waitresses one night recommended that we should!! It was AMAZING!! We randomly walked through the town square and picked a little restaurant with outdoor seating. I had the best pasta with tomato sauce and greek salad (sans chesse) that I had on the whole trip!! SO good!! Also, my favorite find was dairy free gelato!! One place even had vegan options!!! Many of the fruit based gelatos were dairy free and I’m still dreaming over a mixed berry flavor that I had in Venice that I could literally eat every day!!
- Do bring bug spray – especially if you’re traveling during the summer months
- Originally, I never would have thought to bring this. Our AirBnB in Venice didn’t have air-conditioning, which we were totally prepared for!! What we weren’t prepared for was living in close quarters with mosquitoes because the windows that didn’t have screens in them. But we didn’t have a choice on whether to leave them open or not because we would have roasted to death! I’ve never had so many mosquito bites in all of my life!! Next time, bug spray will FO SHO be in our luggage!!!
- Do plan some down time (like sleeping in, having a slow morning, or going to bed early!!) into your itinerary. Specifically when traveling to various places within Italy with long road trips!!
- We did ok on this but we definitely could have done better!! The truth is excitement takes over as you plan trips like this and it’s easy to think you’ll just have the stamina to do it all and see it all once you’re finally in country. What you forget about is that you’re still human and you still need sleep!!! We planned this trip strategically between our summer and fall wedding season because it was the only streak of time that we had that stretched further than a week!! But after looking back over our itinerary, we really needed at least one more day at each spot to fully be able to take it in and still be pleasant, happy go lucky humans ;] Rather than just continuously running on fumes!!
- Do check out the international plans through your cellphone provider!!
- This was a LIFESAVER for Ty and I!! So much so that I might blog about it separately!!! We have Verizon and our sweet friends Katelyn + Michael told us about the Verizon TravelPass. This allows you to use whatever plan you have stateside, internationally for $10 a day per line. This was PERFECT for what we needed!! We knew we would probably need GPS to navigate around while driving and walking and having this was so convenient. We were all thankful that we didn’t have to lug around huge maps like true tourists and could blend in more with the locals ;] It was also nice to have a way to call/text our AirBnB contacts when we were arriving as well as other things we had to reserve like the water taxi!!
5 Don’ts We Learned On Our Italian Adventure
- Don’t forget to check the exchange rate. It may be cheaper to get euro out of the bank rather than exchange USD!!
- Ty and I had originally planned to just use our card for all of our purchases while we were abroad. This worked great in Iceland because there weren’t any little street vendors or really any reason why we would have needed cash. But Italy was a different story!! It was so much easier to have cash on hand when we wanted to buy a $2 gelato or bottle of water than to have to put such a small amount on our card!! So we got money out from a bank using our bank card. This worked great for us!! Trevor and Kari brought USD that they exchanged to euro and that worked great for them!! Check with your bank for international fees and compare the rates.
- Don’t keep wallets, phones and other valuables in your back pockets. Keep them in the front or in a cross body bag with the bag on the front of you hitting your thigh when you walk!!
- I warned everyone about the possibilities of pick pocketing after being in Europe numerous times before and having it almost happen to me twice! So we were all super, probably hyper aware of this!! I went so far as to push my zipper pull into my purse and the push the zipper as far over as I could so there wasn’t anything easy to grab!! We only had one little run in on a bridge in Venice when I was trying to take an iPhone shot of a gondola and an older man came up to me and was trying to put his arm around me to “get in my picture” and then strategically placed his other hand right on the zipper of my bag. YIKES!! Needless to say I bolted immediately! Just be aware of your surroundings and what you have with you!
- Don’t over pack
- This one is HUGE…pun intented ;] There were many, many times that we had to lug all of our bags through cities. Like in Rome when we arrived and had to transport our luggage to the rental car place that was about a half mile away walking in the airport. Or when we had to carry all of our bags from the parking garage to the water taxi and then from the water taxi to our AirBnB in Venice!! Have bags with wheels was our saving grace but there were still a lot of stairs to carry things up and down!! Ty and I are very intentional about what we packed for this trip because we knew we had to have enough room for gear. But even still we could have packed less!!
- Don’t forget to drink water
- Ty and I brought our S’well bottles with us on this trip! We both prefer cold water to lukewarm water and this allowed our water to stay cold for hours. This was especially helpful on really hot and humid days in Venice!! But we also didn’t hydrate enough. I’m always leery about drinking water out of the tap in foreign countries since my experience with an amoeba in Honduras. I did drink the water in Iceland because everyone raved about how good it was and in Tuscany but in Rome and Venice I couldn’t get past the smell of it. This resulted in me drinking way less water than I should have!! So friends, drink a lot of water! Especially if you’re walking a lot!!
- Don’t forget to have a plan
- Hindsight is always 20/20, right? At the end of every trip we go on, I always look back and say, “oh man, we probably could have planned that a little better”. I think I feel this way more so after this trip because we had more “ideal” plans and less concrete things. We knew that we were for sure going to Italy and for sure staying in Rome, Tuscany and Venice but we didn’t do the best job at planning excursions or optimizing our time in each place!! It was very carefree which is my tendency but isn’t always kosher for group trips with a variety of personality types ;]
There ya go!! I hope you find this helpful in some way if you’re planning a trip to Italy soon!! I’ll be sharing more from our itinerary and what we did next week!!! Happy Thursday sweet friends!!