Updated: Oct 5
Guest post written by Frances Litten. Frances is a touring musician, food lover and travel addict. She currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa and posts music and travel tips on her blog www.francesclareband.com. Find her on Spotify, Apple Music or Youtube.
Do you like mind twisters? Here’s one for you: A woman goes on holiday, walks for about 4 hours a day and somehow manages to gain 10kgs. Where did she go? To Italy of course!
Last year in June I was touring Europe with my guitarist when, due to visa issues, we found ourselves with 10 extra days. Instead of being upset we were thrilled and decided to spend the time exploring a different part of Italy each day. Here are some tips that we learnt along the way!
1. You can’t do everything (although you can try)
Trust me when I say this! Not only is Italy massive but it is full of landmarks and cultural hotspots. We picked to travel to a new town each day which meant that we ticked off a lot of boxes. However, the downside is that we couldn’t spend much time in each place because we had to factor in travel. You’ll soon find that you have to make tradeoffs- especially if your time is limited. That said, in a week we visited Milan, Verona, Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Naples! I recommend thinking about some landmarks that you might want to see and linking them on a map. From there you can realistically plot out a plan of action. A cool tip that worked for us is using night trains to minimise day travel.
2. Don’t trust trains
I know I just recommended trains and don’t get me wrong, the trains are a million times more trustworthy than South African ones. But if you’ve been travelling in Europe like we had then this is a warning to reign in your expectations. The trains are safe, comfortable and operative. But we did find that almost all of them were delayed by quite a substantial amount of time. Also, the moment we crossed the Swiss border over into Italy the wifi and aircon seemed to magically disappear. Italy is a huge country, some of the most beautiful sights can be found by taking your time and travelling on regional trains. Just make sure that you have plenty of water (for when the aircon stops), data (for when the wifi dies) and patience for when you’re a bit late.
3. Budget for Tourist Tax
This one took us completely by surprise! At first I thought that it was a shrewdy Airbnb host’s attempt to score a few extra euros. However, upon doing some research we realised that Tourist Tax actually is a thing. Through well known destinations in Italy, the tax per person varies depending on the area. I recommend googling a list of the different prices and adding them into your budget. Also, hosts and hotels often ask that you pay your tourist tax in cash so come prepared!
4. Bring two pairs of Jeans
It’s Italy! I highly recommend bringing a pair or two of stretch pants and a larger size of jeans. Pizza, pasta, gelato...Just thinking of the food makes me feel like I need to undo the top button of my pants! True, you will spend a lot of time walking around- we once walked from Roma Termini to the Vatican and back in the same day- but you won’t believe what we ate on the way. If you are someone who is normally careful to stick to a max calorie limit or eat a balanced diet then you are completely unprepared to sit down in the world’s best pizzeria in Naples. Give yourself a free pass by packing some larger pants!
5. You need a camera
One of the biggest regrets that I have about my trip to Italy is that I thought a phone camera would suffice. In a last minute attempt to be practical I ordered a polaroid camera which we used as our travel companion. The polaroids are still in my room above my bed but oh how I wish that I had captured the moments in HD. Travelling with a camera can be a security risk but I recommend investing in one- it’ll help you hold onto the moments. Italy offers some of the most incredible photo opportunities, don’t miss out on them!
My ten day detour in Italy is right up there with my favourite adventures. Watching traditional glass blowers on the island of Burano in Venice, eating gelato next to the Colosseum, climbing Mount Vesuvius in Naples (that one is another story on it’s own!)... I hope that these tips help you to make the most of your time in Italy!