Italy Travel Tips & Killing Bad Advice

by Bianca @ Italian Fix

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Behold — straight up Italy travel tips that will make you instantly more confident than 90% of your fellow vacationers.

Bold statement? Yuppers.

But clarity is so sexy. And killing bad advice on the internet is so addictive.

Italy Travel Myth #1: Driving a car in Italy is dangerous.

Reality Check: Driving a car anywhere in the world can be challenging — when it’s crowded.

I was driving my shiny grey Citroën rental in Sardinia last week, and it wasn’t dangerous, or busy, or hard (follow our Instagram Stories for more Sardinia). In fact, it couldn’t be easier — just watch for the sheep and donkeys on the roads. Of course, even confident drivers will want to tear their hair out in Rome and Milan and busy, looping exits on freeways.

Solution: get a GPS with your car rental — it’s mandatory (your phone isn’t as good as you wished it was). With a dash-mounted GPS, some patience and courage — you’ll be whipping down the dusty trail in your own Citroën, too.

Italy Travel Myth #2: You don’t tip in Italy.

Reality Check: Don’t be a cheap ass — globalization is here.

You’re gonna get into a fist fight if you go to a Positano restaurant and run the waiters around with your “foreigner” requests and don’t leave a coin on the table because you read in some Fodor’s guide ten years ago that Italians don’t tip. The world is international now — the menu is probably in English (as well as German and French) — the waiters will be speaking your language, and you should leave something on the table. You’re not Italian (unless you are!), so don’t pretend you are when you see the bill.

Italy Travel Myth #3: It’s simpler to stay in the big cities.

Reality Check: You’re missing the point. Don’t compromise.

Those questions usually sound like, “Should I stay in La Spezia instead of the Cinque Terre?” or “Should I stay in Naples instead of Positano?”. I believe that’s just you “getting scared” you won’t find a place or it’ll be too hard of a commute after your travels. Figure out a way to stay where you want — always. Just do what you gotta do to make it happen (private driver, better train schedule, etc.).

Oh, and my answer regarding staying in La Spezia instead of the Cinque Terre: dear god — don’t do that! Staying in La Spezia is a super crappy idea. I see people touting this on TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet threads, and it makes my blood boil to hear rookies say “do this cause I did it” instead of what is actually sensible in the first place. I own a house in La Spezia and say this with confidence — La Spezia has .001% of the charm as sleeping in the Cinque Terre villages. Get more expert Cinque Terre advice here.

Italy Travel Myth #4: Don’t travel Italy in August.

Reality Check: Every month is an excellent month in Italy — somewhere.

That question usually sounds like, “What’s the best time to travel to Italy?” But that’s the wrong question. Instead, ask yourself what month you’ll be able to travel to Italy. Then, design your trip around that. Not every region is perfect 12 months of the year.

For example, going to Sardinia or the Cinque Terre (places that are beautiful because you can swim) should be visited in May-October. The “big 3” places (Rome, Florence, Venice) — I advise avoiding those places (if possible) in the peak travel months of July and August. Reason being heat and crowds. In August there are so many perfect places to be in Italy — go there instead. To recap — create your itinerary based on what time of the month you’ll be there. If you have carte blanche — decide what you want to experience in Italy, then plan your travel dates around those dreams.

Italy Travel Myth #5: You should see as many places as you can.

Reality Check: This isn’t the Olympics — speed is not the point.

The question “How many cities should I see?” is one we see discussed a lot. A simple rule of thumb and my fave Italy travel tip — plan to be in each hotel 2-3 nights minimum. The only exception is on the “transit nights” like flying in and out of a specific city (you don’t need two nights in a Milan airport hotel unless you like views of asphalt).

To recap — the sweet spot on a 14-night stay is 4-5 places/hotels. Less is more in my world. Less time moving hotels = more time enjoying your vacation.

Loving these Italy travel tips? Check out more.

Bonus tip to save you $$$

Uggg — this is so annoying! It irks me to see banks charging unassuming people by using deceptive language on the credit cards machines in Europe. Beware of the sneaky currency conversions when paying by credit card.

When swiping your card, you’ll be prompted on some machines to “convert” your currency. Always say — hells no. Use the currency of the country you’re in — don’t convert it to yours. If you do you’ll pay a hidden fee.

Well, there you have it! Tell me what you think in the comments below of these 5 Italy travel tips for insta-clarity? Feeling sexier and smarter yet?

Image credit: Stefano Buttarini (top)

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Salim
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Salim

Ciao Bianca!

I hope you are well.

I continue to read your excellent advice and wish to acknowledge how much you have educated me about traveling to Italy.

Grazie mille.

Cordiali saluti,

Salim

Sharon
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Sharon

Ciao Bianca I am so glad I found your website and love reading your travel tips. We were planning on staying in Cinque Terre for only a couple of nights but changed it to 4 nights because of your advice. (My husband decided on Monterosso and we commute to the… Read more »

Lois
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Lois

Thanks Bianca for your advice.
With regard to Cinque Terra we have decided to stay in San Terenzo instead and commute to the other Cinque Terra villages…hoping we have made the right decision. (Despite being told by friends that La Spezia was the best place)!
Thanks, Lois

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