The important element, that comes into play, for anyone planning a trip to Italy is common sense. It can be easy to allow yourself to become overwhelmed and stressed during the pre-planning, which can carry over into your entire trip experience. Stay calm, be organized, and acquire enough information so that your trip will definitely be memorable. The following is a helpful and useful list of tips and advice to help implement a successful Italy excursion.
Cycling is seen as more of a sport than a way of getting around in much of Italy, but as well as racing clubs on the move you’ll see mountain bikes, touring cycles laden with panniers, and people of all ages on shopping bikes, often with a toddler balanced on the cross-bar. Italians in small towns and villages are welcoming to cyclists, and hotels and hostels will take your bike in overnight for safekeeping. Although there’s usually a good cycle shop in most small towns, tyres and wheels for touring bikes (700mm x 28 or 30mm) are hard to come by. On the islands, in the mountains, in major resorts and larger cities it’s usually possible to rent a bike, but generally facilities for this are few and far between.
Parking is very often a headache. If you get fed up of driving around and settle for a space in a zona di rimozione (tow-away zone), don’t expect your car to be there. A handy gadget to have is a small clock-like dial which you set and stick in the windscreen, to indicate when you parked and that you’re still within the allowed limit: rental cars generally come equipped with these, and some tourist offices have them too.
Italy has a well-developed network of ferries and hydrofoils operated by a number of different private companies. Large car ferries connect the major islands of Sardinia and Sicily with the mainland ports of Genoa, Livorno, La Spezia, Civitavecchia, Fiumicino and Naples, while the smaller island groupings – the Tremiti islands, the Bay of Naples islands, the Pontine islands – are usually linked to a number of nearby mainland towns. Fares are reasonable, although on some of the more popular services – to Sardinia, certainly – you should book well in advance in summer, especially if you’re taking a vehicle across. Remember, too, that frequencies are drastically reduced outside the summer months, and some services stop altogether. You’ll find a broad guide to journey times and frequencies in the “Travel Details” sections throughout the guide; for full up-to-date schedules, and prices, contact the local tourist office.
Travelling by car in Italy is relatively painless, though cities can be hard work. The roads are good, the motorway, or autostrada network very comprehensive, and the notorious Italian drivers rather less erratic than their reputation suggests – though their regard for the rules of the road is sometimes lax to say the least. The best plan is to avoid driving in cities as much as possible; the congestion, proliferation of complex one-way systems and occasional incidents of naked aggression can make it a nightmare.
Trains don’t go everywhere and sooner or later you’ll have to use regional buses ( autobus ). Almost everywhere is connected by some kind of bus service, but in out-of-the-way places schedules can be sketchy and are drastically reduced – sometimes non-existent – at weekends, especially on Sundays, something you need to watch out for on the timetable. Bear in mind also that in rural areas schedules are often designed with the working and/or school day in mind – meaning a frighteningly early start if you want to catch that day’s one bus out of town, and occasionally a complete absence of services during school holidays.