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Getting to Know Italy

An Italian vacation is the stuff of dreams – it’s the kind of trip people discuss in “once in a lifetime” terms, although many make multiple trips over the years. Even if you do end up going back, you want your first trip to Italy to be the sort of experience that will, years later, make you swoon at the memory.

Unfortunately, that sort of experience doesn’t happen by itself.

We hear about Italy so much it’s tempting to assume that having a storybook holiday there would be almost second nature. It’s true that there are far more difficult places to visit in the world, and that if you stick to the relatively popular path you’ll find a tourism infrastructure that does make it easier, but there are still things you should know about Italy before you hop on a plane. Here are just a few.

  • Everyone wants to go to Tuscany – and then they want to go to Florence. As it turns out, that’s redundant – Florence (the city) is the capital of Tuscany (the region).
  • Speaking of Tuscany, did you know that the biggest airport in the region isn’t in the regional capital? Instead, you’ll almost always find better deals on airfare to Tuscany by looking at flights to nearby Pisa.
  • Flying to Tuscany isn’t usually the cheapest option, but you’ve got more choices than just Rome and Milan – there’s an international airport in Venice that often has better deals than either of the two bigger cities.
  • What most of us think of as “Italian food” is really a mix of different regional cuisines, and while you can find pizza pretty much everywhere you’ll eat better if you’re eating what’s local to a city or region. (Hint: pizza was born in Naples.)
  • Italians are, for the most part, very forgiving if you struggle with the language – but learning a few polite words and phrases will go a very long way. Get away from the main tourist cities and fewer people speak English, so a little Italian is crucial.
  • Italy is famous for its fashion sense, so it may not surprise you to learn that Italians don’t typically wear shorts and T-shirts around all summer long. If you’d like to try to fit in even a little bit, learn more about packing for summer in Italy before you leave.

Have you visited Italy before? What are some of the things you think people should know about Italy before they go for the first time?

photo by curran.kelleher