Monthly Archives: May 2016

Tips to find the wonderful destination in italy

images (7)1.) When you book an overnight train, make sure you specify Mr. or Ms. on your ticket

Our last overnight train experience made for a funny story, but we don’t recommend following in our footsteps.

Scott had accidentally booked my ticket under the Mr. salutation. The employee almost did not let us on the train since all of the compartments are separated male and female (unless you book a private compartment). Even after we convinced the train employee to let us on, our bunk mate was not happy and we couldn’t communicate with him since we didn’t speak the same language!

2.) Don’t order insalata verde and expect anything more than a bowl of lettuce

Take it from us and learn from our mistakes. Normally, house or green salads in the States have varied vegetables included, so I was not prepared for just a bowl of romaine lettuce..

3.) Don’t make special requests when ordering at a restaurant

Italians usually take things as listed on the menu and you don’t want to be the annoying foreigner who asks for special items.

4.) Prepare to eat late

Many restaurants, especially the fancy ones, don’t open until 7pm or later.

5.) When browsing menus and deciding where to eat, pay attention to the “Il coperto” (cover charge)

The cover charge varies from restaurant to restaurant (usually a few Euros). This charge is often listed at the bottom of the menu. This way you won’t be surprised when you get the bill.

6.) ATMs & Money

It’s a good idea to exchange some money before you leave your home country. ATMs are the most economical way to exchange money while you are in Italy, but the airport ATMs may be empty when you land (especially on a weekend) and you don’t want to be forced to exchange your money at one of the expensive currency exchanges.

7.) Transportation strikes are common in Italy, so give yourself plenty of time if you need to catch a flight

Don’t be shocked if there is a strike of some sort that may affect your travel plans. It’s not uncommon for Italians to have train strikes, taxi strikes or bus strikes.

Strikes have become a part of the culture and way of life in Italy. Most strikes are announced ahead of time so you can usually plan around them. Just be sure to pay attention to signs in the local train stations about any upcoming strikes.

8.) Book accommodation outside of big cities to get the best deals and avoid crowds

If you don’t want to pay full price for your accommodation or if you prefer to avoid major crowds, oftentimes you can find a hotel, hostel or campground in a nearby town.

This came in handy during our travels in Cinque Terre. (To learn more about The 5 Villages, find out where to stay in Cinque Terre.) There was a train strike and if we had stayed in any one of the 5 villages, we wouldn’t have been able to get a train out. A fellow traveler said it cost him 50 Euros for a taxi to the next town so he could catch his train. Thankfully there were no taxi strikes that day!

9.) Train Travel

Book your tickets at the train station with an actual person whenever possible. Some of the booking options are not available online or in the station kiosks. Tren Italia’s website is also notorious for not working correctly.

If you want to book ahead of time to get the best price, but you don’t know your exact dates or time of departure, then get an “Ordinary Ticket.” You will have the flexibility of open ended dates and times. Just keep in mind that it does have an expiration date, so make sure to ask the customer service representative before you purchase.

Also, don’t forget to validate your ticket before you hop on the train to avoid fines!


In addition to the usual Europe packing list, make sure to bring these essential items:

Travel Umbrella: It’s always a good idea to pack a small travel umbrella — especially during the winter and spring.

Mosquito Repellent: I did not experience too many mosquitos, but mosquitos are not uncommon during the spring/summer months in many areas of Italy. Thistravel size spray pump won’t take up much room in your suitcase.

Earplugs: Bring your earplugs just in case you end up in a noisy location.

Nice Clothes: Many Italians are stylish, so don’t be afraid to bring some nice clothes. For the women, jeans and a cute pair of boots will be fine. For more travel packing tips, visit our guide on how to stay stylish while traveling.

Daypack: You’ll need something to carry around your camera gear and souveniers. Ladies, this oversized purse is stylish, comfortable, and it fits everything I need for a day of exploring Italy.

Italy Travel Tips - Packing Essentials


After traveling consistently for over 10 years, we’ve come to trust and rely on a few websites to help us find the best deals on flights and accommodation.


  • Momondo is the first place we check when searching for cheap flights. It searches hundreds of sites for the best fare and includes both standard and budget airlines. The price calendar feature shows the cheapest days to fly in your preferred month of travel.


  • offers savings on hotels, apartments, and villas in 80,000 destinations worldwide. You can browse hotel reviews and find the guaranteed best price on hotels for all budgets. We stayed here in Cinque Terre & loved it!

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9 Things You Should Know Before Visiting Italy

Do you have any Italy travel tips to add?

Tips to Find Best Castles and Vineyards

Our tiny car weaved through the country roads like a go cart on a race track. Elaine, our guide for the day, hails from New Jersey, but fell in love with an Italian and has called Italy her home for over ten years. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is the driving habits of the locals in Italy and it was soon clear to me how much of a local Elaine had become. I’m normally an anxious passenger, but I relinquished control and busied my mind by admiring the passing vineyards.

Despite my love for Bologna, I longed to see the countryside of Emilia Romagna. Under the Tuscan Sun propelled the vineyards of Tuscany into the spotlight, but what about the other wine regions in Italy?

As our car sped along the twisting roads, I felt at home, even though I was thousands of miles away from my country. The green mountains, sloping vineyards, fields of haystacks, and fluid rivers reminded me of my childhood and these wide-open spaces always feel familiar to me.

The province of Piacenza has hundreds of wineries and one of the highest densities of castles in Italy. I was sold on vineyards and wine, but castles too? I could barely contain my excitement as we left our apartment in Bologna that morning. The city of Piacenza is an easy train ride from the cities of Milan or Bologna, where travelers can then rent a car to explore the rest of the province.

Our first stop was Agriturismo Racemus in Ziano Piacentino, where we met a lovely couple who run the farmhouse and B&B, which is open to travelers wishing to taste homemade cuisine and wine. We spent the afternoon eating and drinking on their large covered porch, overlooking miles of vineyards. Laura was a gracious host, serving various fresh Italian dishes and copious amounts of wine from their own vineyard.

With full bellies and a bit of a buzz, we climbed back into Elaine’s car for another picturesque drive to our next location. It was time to visit a castle! At the top of a steep hill, our guide parked her car in front of the towering exterior walls of the Rocca D’ Olgisio.

The Rocca D’ Olgisio is one of the oldest castles in Piacenza, dating back to at least 1037. The Bengalli Family has owned the castle since 1979 and built five gorgeous hotel rooms inside the fortress. Tom, the castle’s “guard” dog, greets the guests of the castle and had no problem posing for multiple photos.

My time in the Piacenza province was brief, but I still felt a sentimental connection to this area of Italy. Emilia Romagna is known as the land with a soul, which isn’t hard to believe once you’ve spent a little time immersing yourself in this remote area of the region.