Finally! We made it to the one country that my wife and I have been wanting to go to for a really long time, Italy! We packed in a whirlwind 2 week long trip to 8 cities and had the time of our lives. Packed with history and tradition, we loved Italy in all aspects, from its food, to its people, to the sites and old ruins. We couldn’t have asked for a better vacation! This was planned as an anniversary trip and since both of us have been swamped at work the whole year, we were really looking forward to just get away for a while and spend some QT with each other. We also got a chance to hang out with my good friends, Paul and Melissa, at the tail end of our trip in Rome, which just made it all the better! I’ve decided to create my blog entries here so that I could share with everyone some of the tips and lessons learned throughout the trip so that everyone can have as much fun as we did on our trip! I highly recommend anyone thinking about going to Italy to just GO!! Drum roll please…. Here’s a list of all the cities we went to in the two weeks!
Lake Como (Tremezzo, Bellagio, Varenna)
Cinque Terre (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore)
Pisa (threw this in last minute)
We booked our flights through kayak.com. I love this site and it’s really simple to book your flights there. They scour the web and link back to all the major travel sites out there for the best prices. You can even do multi-leg trips on their site, and they really do get you the best prices. For our train tickets in Italy we went through directly to Trenitalia, which is essentially the main train company that runs through Italy. Their site is not as easy to use, but you get the hang of it after you book your first one. (Watch out cause there is a timeout on the site, so you have to book the tickets you are currently trying to get within 15 minutes i think) We decided to book all 1st class tickets b/c we were advised to, but really you don’t have to. A couple times we just sat wherever and they were pretty much all the same! Given its only a few bucks more to book the 1st class, I’ll let you make the judgement call on what you ultimately book. As for our hotels, we tried to use points as much as possible and since we had a ton of starwood points we decided to use them all for this trip. Good thing we had a lot though b/c the hotels were WAY more than what they cost here. (Averaging 25,000 points a night!) For tickets to museums and sites, we used Tickitaly (thanks Shui).
The site is pretty self explanatory and easy to use. Make sure you book some of the tickets early! Especially for the ‘Last Supper’ in Milan, Michaelangelo’s David in Florence, and the Ufizi Gallery in Florence. The lines there are madness and its funny, b/c you would think that it’s some kind of big secret to get your tickets early, but it’s really not! All the sites advise this and anyone you talk to also will tell you the same. Yet, when you get to these places, the lines are still redonkulous and people just wait for HOURS to get in. I don’t get it … haha Couple of things that i wanted to share with anyone that is traveling out to Italy or Europe for that matter
- If you’re going to rent a car, get an International Driving Permit! I didn’t get one cause I found out late about it, but DO IT! I’ts 15 bucks and piece of mind!
- Pack Light! We completely overpacked and wished that we would have packed lighter. When you are hopping on and off trains and jumping from city to city, the last thing you want to do is lug all your luggage around. We’re hoping from now on our that we just try and pack carry-on’s. Now of course if you are going to just one or two cities, go ahead and pack til your heart’s content, but I still think we always overpack… from now on out, I’m going to make a conscious decisions to underpack!
- Use Tripit! If you haven’t already heard of these guys, what you do is send your itineraries over to their site and they process them all and put it into a nice organized timeline for everything. Super useful and simple to use. After you create your account, add me as a friend!
- Scan all of your travel documents into a dropbox folder. This includes, your passports, credit cards, itinerary receipts, etc. this way you always have access to it if need be. Internet access is mostly available everywhere you go nowadays so its easy to get access to them. For iPhone users, install the app as well and then save the documents into your phone as well!
- Watch out for your layovers! We had a 1.5 hour layover and it was nuts. Leave yourself ample time to get to your next flight and remember that flights are always delayed! Also, you want to make sure you give your BAGS enough time to get from one plane to the other. I’d say 3 hours is just about right. i know it sounds long, but would you rather miss your connecting flight altogether and stay in the airport for a night? (didn’t think so!)
- When traveling internationally, I would recommend getting to airports 3 hours earlier for international travel. They seem to be a lot slower overseas, cause we got to the airport 2.5 hours earlier and we still were rushing to our gate at the end!
- Get your travel adapters! I got this one. And it was the best investment i made before we left! cheap and worked well. I also bought this one, and it broke! so screw the second one! Amazon prime members, 2 day shipping for free!
- If you don’t have a hotel credit card yet, GET ONE! they come in quite handy. Might as well get points for purchases you already make today.
- As mentioned above, book your museum tickets early! plan ahead and do some investigation on where you want to go!
- Do yourself a favor and get yourself this book. It’s awesome… Rick Steve, if you ever read this, THANK YOU. Your books are amazing and so detailed, the perfect companion for any traveler. After you get his book, download his iphone apps! the walking tours are sweet and free! so DO IT!
- For all the guys out there, get your audio splitters and pack in whatever movies you can into your iphone so you have something to watch and listen to during those long flights as long train rides! Share with the wifey and let her have her own earbuds, so you don’t have to do the lame “one in each ear” business. haha
Ok that’s about it for the intro! I’ll be going into detail on each of the cities so that they are all documented, with the hopes that these will come in handy for my Friends who go to Italy! Pictures of course will be plentiful , and I’ve noted down some of the key sites and restaurants that we went to as well! I’ve always counted on my friends recommendations more than any random review site out there so I hope these can one day be as useful as Rick Steves’ guides!