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Tips and Advice for Traveling Italy

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.

The passport. If you have never traveled out of country, you should leave yourself enough time to apply and receive your passport, about 3-4 months prior. For those who have a passport, make sure your passport is valid for at least 3 months beyond your planned stay, and that it will not expire during your Italian travels. A visa will be required if you are planning to stay, in Italy, longer than 90 days. Make at least two photocopies of your passport, and bring a few extra passport photos with you. This can come in handy if you happen to experience an unfortunate passport mishap, and can be an instrumental means of remedying the situation with ease.

It is suggested and recommended that tourists planning a trip to Italy purchase travelers insurance and medical insurance. The traveler insurance will cover things like lost luggage, emergency evacuation, trip cancellation, and other such issues, which may arise unexpectedly. Italy does not have a medical program that will cover tourists traveling from the United States or Canada. So, wisely, you should look into picking up a medical insurance policy prior to traveling, because it is better to be prepared for the unexpected.

Since you are traveling to a foreign country, you should become familiar with the custom regulations enforced in that country, in this case Italy. It will make for less confusion, and avoidance of time-consuming hassles. Upon entering and leaving Italy, your luggage is subject to examination. Most items you will bring would be considered duty-free and for personal use, but in case you are not sure the following are items that are considered duty-free personal effects, by Italian customs regulation standards: clothing, camping equipment, 1 pair of skis per person, 2 tennis rackets, CD players with no more than 10 CD’s, 2 cameras with no more than 10 rolls of film for each, personal jewelry, a movie camera, computer, 400 cigarettes and no more than 1.1lb (500 grams) of pipe tobacco, and a baby stroller. Also, 2 bottles of wine and or 1 bottle of hard liquor may be carried in or out of Italy duty-free. If Italy is not the first country visited, during your European vacation, you will be permitted to carry souvenirs from other countries, totaling a value of $500.

If you are planning to bring a pet, Italy does allow you to bring up to 5 pets, as long as you will be accompanying them, and have completed all requested health immunizations and certificates. It is advised to check with your vet on the proper protocol for getting your pet ready for a trip to Italy. Do not wait to last minute, as Italy requires the health certificate to not exceed 30 days prior to entry. Your pet will also have to be micro-chipped. When in Italy, it is a mandatory regulation that dogs be on a leash and muzzled, while in public places and transportation.

Packing for your trip can easily become your biggest headache. So, pack light, and pack smart. Do not bring expensive jewelry, instead, purchase a cheap watch and wear only that. For women, wearing your engagement ring and or wedding ring will not draw too much attention, as they are universally worn; and if jewelry accessorizing is a must, then, opt for costume jewelry pieces that can easily and inexpensively be replaced. Try and pack one carrier on luggage, which should include one or two outfits, your hygiene products and everything else of importance like medication. This way, if your main luggage gets lost, you will have some clothing to hold you over until you can remedy the situation.

The clothing and attire you plan on bringing should contain outfits that are casual, but nice, with one or two outfits for dressier evening events. Try to coordinate outfits that can be interchangeable, so that you do not over pack. For women, shorts and short skirts are not appropriate attire; instead, you can avoid looking like a tourist by wearing causal comfortable to the knee or below the knee skirts, nice slacks or nice looking jeans, or even Capri length pants. You will want to bring shoes that are comfortable, as your travels to Italy will include lots of walking, but try to stay clear of the “I’m a tourist,” white tennis shoe. Remember, while touring Italy, you will not be permitted to enter certain venues like churches and museums without the appropriate attire, that means no shorts, short skirts and sleeveless tops (men and women). If you are a woman and plan to wear sleeveless shirts, it is important that you bring along a shawl to cover up shoulders, when entering places that do not allow the attire.

Remember, the electrical current used in Italy is AC, with a cycle of 50 Hz 220 volts. So, if you are planning to bring an electrical appliance from home, you may need to bring a transformer, and or a plug adapter. Make sure your electrical product is able to be adapted for 220, or you might be in for a bit of a short out and electrical problem.

Once in Italy, it is a formality that you register your presence with the police. If staying at a hotel, it is most likely that they will carry out this procedure for you. However, if you are staying with friends, you will have to register at the local police station, in person, within 3 days of your arrival (interpreters are available).

When you arrive in Italy, you should become familiar with the emergency telephone numbers used there. It is also good to make a note of them, and keep it with you for reference. The following is a list of numbers that can be useful:

•    For directory information dial- 12
•    For the police dial- 113
•    For Carabinieri’s dial- 112
•    For medical emergencies dial- 118
•    For road assistance call the A.C.I (Italian Automobile Club)- 116
•    For the fire department dial- 115

Believe it or not, not all venues in Italy allow you to take pictures. Some churches, and many museums have an instituted policy of no pictures or videotaping allowed. This is generally due to them retaining all rights to photograph their kept works. Also, it is not acceptable to use a flash, when taking pictures in museums and other historically preserved sites, as this is not conducive to conservation of artwork.

A word about bringing or buying DVDs and VCR tapes, while in Italy, they will not work in American players. These items are formatted differently from the way they are in America.

When making a purchase, be sure to check it over extensively, because it is very uncommon to return a flawed item once the purchase is made. Interestingly enough, many clothing stores will not allow you to try on shirts and blouses, since these items are easily blemished during the fitting process.

Italian tap water tends to be highly chlorinated, and can contribute to stomach unrest. It is better to drink bottled water while traveling in Italy, and avoid unnecessary bouts of stomach irritability.

If traveling Italy by car, it is good to know that expressway roads are free, and highways do have tolls. When entering a highway, you will take a ticket, and upon getting off at your intended exit, you will pay the toll required. Making a right turn when the traffic light is red is illegal, as is talking on a cell phone while driving. Italians drive fast and tailgating is a very common practice, so you need to be consciously aware and take this into consideration.

Lastly, be observant of your surroundings, and the people around you. Pick pocketing is a common problem. So, take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your belongings. If you are using a backpack, you can purchase a little lock, which will make it harder for someone to slip into. The infamous ‘fanny pack’ is not a wise choice for putting money, and important items into, because they are easy to snag and grab. You are better off investing in a belt-pouch that can be worn under your clothing.

Your trip to Italy should be the most enjoyable experience of your life. Keeping stress down to a minimum will definitely ensure that it is.

Written by: Jan Castagnaro

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